Tag: review

WRATH: Aeon of Ruin – Revisiting an early access boomer shooter.

Have you ever written a critique about something, then come back to it years later to see if it still holds up? I have that feeling with a lot of things I’ve played. Since I try to improve myself as a person, sometimes I have to reassess my opinions on something or if I’ve changed. With how games change from day one to day 365 thanks to the wonders of patches and Early Access, it has me occasionally revisiting stuff to see if it’s gotten better. And in this case, it’s going back roughly 4 ½ years ago… when the boomer shooter craze wasn’t at a fever pitch. I’m gonna look back at WRATH: Aeon of Ruin.

Developed between small indie studio KillPixel Games and slightly larger studio Slipgate Ironworks, and published by 3D Realms – the new one ran by Fredrik Schrieber, not the old one that gave us Duke Nukem Forever – the game initially came out in Steam early access in November 2019, the game went through a dormant dry spell before finally being released in February of 2024, nearly five years later.

A friend had gifted me the game back during that early access period, and I was… pretty darn harsh on the game. To quote my now out of date Steam review from that time:

This game, on the other hand, has problems. Lots of questionable design decisions that don’t make sense. Enemies that take too much damage, on arenas where circlestrafing is not an option. An unwieldy inventory system which is counter-intuitive to the style of gameplay this wants to emulate. And whoever thought that reviving the “save gem” concept from Daikatana was a good idea needs to be smacked in the head with a baseball bat […] I cannot recommend the game in the current state it’s in. It needs some balancing adjustments to be mentioned in the same breath as the aforementioned retro FPS throwbacks.

This game definitely didn’t have it’s balance set correctly in 2019. (Taken from the Early Access period.)

Basically I lauded the look and style of the game, while also feeling the gameplay needed some improvement. By 2019, the concept of a retro FPS/boomer shooter requires a type of finesse to make it stand out from the others. A lot of New Blood’s work, like DUSK or Amid Evil, is a good example of this. This is more important 2024, when we’re in peak Boomer Shooter Heaven, where everybody’s getting in on the craze. So let’s see how KillPixel and Slipgate Ironworks did to improve from their early access version.

I feel like I’m crossing the River Styx.

A quick story primer: You play as the Outlander, an unknown figure who meets with The Shepherd of Wayward Souls, where one must find the sigils of an area before fighting a big boss at the end of three episodes. The Outlander transports to levels and defeats any monsters in their way to get the sigil at the end. Basically a little bit HeXen, a little bit Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, with a pinch of Blood and Quake for flavor. (Fitting, since WRATH is made on DarkPlaces, a source port of Quake’s engine.)

Sharp. Pointy. Zoomy.

Much like other boomer shooters, the Outlander has a myriad of weapons at their disposal. First is the Blade of Ruination, a good go-to melee that also has an alternate fire where you lunge forward, which is great for getting past gaps and doing massive damage to certain foes. Then there’s your usual FPS arsenal of a handgun, a double-barrel shotgun, a “Fang Spitter,” which amounts to the game’s rapid-fire automatic weapon, an acid-spitting launcher and even a railgun equivalent. There’s other weapons too, but most of these are in those early episodes. All the weapons have an alternate fire that can be useful in sticky situations.

Doom Eternal: Time to Rip and Tear once again.

Something I’ve constantly talked about on this blog is how eternally behind I am in games. Procuring a massive backlog, buying games thanks to Humble Bundles, cheap Steam sales, and gifts of spare keys from friends has been the primary causes of my never ending back catalog.

Yet, I try to keep myself in arms’ reach of the current video game landscape, even if I’m not a fan of the direction the industry is going sometimes. This results in me playing the newest games usually years after their release. Anyone who’s been a reader of this site has seen me write about big popular games after their popularity, such as BioShock Infinite last year. But this time around I kept myself a bit closer to the zeitgeist this time, by playing a game a year or so after its initial release. And it’s from one of my favorite game developers.

Still fun as heck to this day.

Let’s talk a bit about id software. They’re the absolute pioneers of the first-person shooter realm: Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake. Important games that really made an impact on the industry as a whole. However, there was a sea change by the late 1990s. When John Romero left id on less-than-pleasant terms to form his own studio, there was a very clear change on how id Software worked as a company: Pushing technology at the cost of making games that while good on a technical level, were kinda boring to play.

Any excuse to use this screenshot again.

I’ve talked about Quake II a few times on here, and while my opinion has softened a bit in recent years, I still think that while a technical marvel was just boring to play.This was id’s MO during the age of John Carmack. Stuff like Quake III Arena, and Doom 3, while solid games, didn’t have the massive highs that their early works did. Indeed, their competition – Epic’s Unreal Tournament and Valve’s Half-Life 2 respectively – were making more of an impact on the industry in a way people could easily see.

Rage was sort of the lowest point of this era, the unremarkable first-person exploration game of which the only good things about it were John Goodman voicing a character and its reload canceling mechanics, of which I wrote about way back in 2016, and that was around the point id was no longer the amazing developer it once was. Hell, I even had doubts id Software were ever gonna release an awesome game ever again.

Then John Carmack left, a bunch of people got shuffled around, canned a version of Doom that was more like a big-budget shooter like Call of Duty, and gave us the 2016 Doom reboot. While the multiplayer beta was enjoyable but boring, the rest of the game turned out to be the return of id Software as an awesome company that could make good games. With an amazing game like Doom 2016, it’d be pretty hard to follow up. But in 2020 they decided to give it another try, with Doom Eternal.

Not to be confused with Eternal Doom, a pretty alright megawad for Doom II released in 1996.

The story of Eternal is a bit more pronounced than in the previous game: The Doom Slayer has noticed that there’s been Hell on Earth with demons destroying what’s left of the planet. In typical Doom fashion, the Doom Slayer must travel around Earth and Mars to eventually stop the Khan Maykr’s hell demons from invading everywhere once again. Pretty simple stuff.

It doesn’t help that you can customize the look of the Doom Slayer, thus making them look like an absolute goofass in serious, emotional cutscenes.

It’s kinda weird to see Doom Eternal go all in on story. While Doom (2016) had a story, it was just about enough of it to give motives on why the Doom Slayer must rip and tear and it worked. In Doom Eternal, they go all-in, with cutscenes that take place in third person, giving diatribes that would seem in line with many contemporary games. It’s not bad per se, but compared to the previous game where there was basically one motive — Stop the demons by any means necessary — it just feels a bit ridiculous here.

Some Weekend Writing about Far Cry 4.

I rarely abandon games. Mainly because of the infamous “sunk cost fallacy”: I spent money on this, thus I must play it in its entirety to get all of my money’s worth. Even for a person like me who doesn’t buy a lot of games these days, there’s that fear of wanting to not let even a game I bought on deep discount go to waste. With that thought process in mind, I would drag myself through a game that I wasn’t thoroughly invested in, just to see the ending and sit through a 30 minute long credits sequence.

This post talks about my most recent case of suffering from that sunk cost fallacy. Amusingly, it’s a sequel to a game that I’ve written about on this very blog in 2014, the year that game’s sequel came out.

One of the rare occurrences the fourth installment isn’t as good as the third.

Far Cry 4 is a game that basically pulled a bait-and-switch on me and a friend, and in many cases did things backwards compared to the previous game, which I thoroughly enjoyed. How can a sequel bungle so many things that the previous game got right? Well, let me explain why this game is a disappointment to me.

This was available for Patreon supporters one week early. Want to see this stuff early? All it takes is a dollar. Check out the Patreon here.

There are a handful of games I own that fall into this category of “here to play it in co-op with friends” than to be invested in the story or the characters. This doesn’t mean I don’t care about the game’s world, but I tend to use it more as a social experience to talk with friends rather than anything to be deeply invested in.

For me, Destiny 2 is a good example: While there’s a unique, interesting world with a rather neat amount of lore to it, I honestly couldn’t care less about any of it. Thus I just roam around areas and kill enemies with friends. Most “looter shooters” fall into this format with me, but at least Bungie makes up for it with cool designs and some rather picturesque visuals.

Friend of the site Bobinator from Hardcore Gaming 101 suggested that I get Far Cry 4 way back in mid-2018 as it would fit that criteria of “playing it in co-op with friends.” It being on deep discount for $13 probably helped too. The two of us have played games like the Saints Row series entirely in co-op and we had a fun time playing through them. Far Cry has a similar free-roaming nature of causing chaos in a digital world, so I took the plunge. What could possibly go wrong?

One of the few highlights during our co-op session. Don’t ask me why he has a shovel handle stuck in his arm.

A little Weekend Writing about Darksiders.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Weekend Writing post. The last one was BioShock 2 way back in July, in fact. While I may not do it every weekend, it did inspire me to write about things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. This one is no different, but it also spurred from a conversation a friend gave me.

Anyone who checks this site at a cursory glance may notice I often write about about action games and shooters. Hell, the last post was Rambo: The Video Game, literally a light gun shooter. I’ve written about them so much that some friends have called me a “shooter guy,” which makes me feel like I don’t write about anything else.

Today, we’re gonna change that. This ain’t about a shooter even though shooting’s in it. This is a game that’s a weird cocktail blend of everything, yet somehow it works without outright falling apart.

I’m probably not the only one who’s confused this with a handful of other games that start with the name “Dark.”

Darksiders is one of many games I’ve bought several years ago and only just now got around to. I got a free code from GameStop’s Impulse service many years ago, back when I had written about Stoneloops! of Jurassica. I never got around to it in 2012, but did end up with an extra code thanks to getting the Humble THQ Bundle, back before THQ got swallowed up by some German conglomerate and before Humble Bundle became Just Another Digital Storefront. Man, 2012 was a much different time. I eventually passed the Impulse copy to a friend since it came with a Steam key.

I played Darksiders through the more recent Warmastered Edition, which was given free to those who already owned the original, which was a nice thing on THQ Nordic’s part. Warmastered Edition is one of several times THQ Nordic gave punny subtitles to the names of their remasters of Xbox 360 and PS3-era titles. (SEE ALSO: Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition, Red Faction Guerrilla: Re-Mars-stered Edition, etc.)

I didn’t play the original, so I can’t do a compare-and-contrast, but if I had to guess, there’s likely some polished graphics and optimization improvements but otherwise is identical to the original release. Perhaps the remaster has bigger impact graphically on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, where they likely run smoother than the 360/PS3 original, but I can’t say.

Darksiders’ story is fairly simple: It involves the spirits of Heaven and Hell fighting for dominance and causing the end of days, which Our Hero, War of the Four Horsemen, trying to stop and make sense of this. Eventually he’s dragged near death, but bargains on one condition: To figure out who done this, with the goal to be freed.

So much detail for something barely seen this close.

I’m gonna be honest: Darksiders’ story is really, really dumb. It’s something a 7th grader would’ve wrote doodling on a notebook while listening to Avenged Sevenfold. The whole game is trying to be edgy and hardcore with its story, but it comes off as incredibly silly. It alludes to The Four Horsemen and uses elements of Greek mythology in bizarre ways. Hell, War broods so much that even Kratos from God of War would tell him to dial it back a bit.

Granted, I did not get this game for its deep, impactful story. I heard it was a good hack and slash game with some elements of The Legend of Zelda, and while I do come off as “the shooter guy,” I try to dabble in other genres so I don’t get burnt out as easily. So let’s dive in.

Time to wreak havoc on these fools.

Games I beat in 2018: Medal of Honor, the mostly forgotten 2010 reboot.

Hey folks. Sorry that my posting is still somewhat erratic at the moment. Things have been going on in my life, and for a good while I didn’t have anything interesting to write about. I’ve amassed so many junk items over the years that they’re all strewn about in my room, hoping one day they’ll be played and/or written about.

So instead of struggling to think about something, I’m gonna do some posts about some of the games I’ve beaten throughout 2018. Surprisingly it is a small list, as I had fallen into the trap of playing the same quick pick up and play games instead: Killing Floor 2, Payday 2, Asphalt 8: Airborne, and more recently, Quake Champions.

Despite having a massive backlog, I still did finish a few games throughout the year. This was originally gonna be a post with two reviews, but this particular review got so lengthy that I had to split it up.

So let’s talk about a failed reboot of an iconic franchise, shall we?

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Mr. DudeMcLargebeard getting ready to shoot the evil people.

(Warning: Spoilers for the story of Medal of Honor 2010 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 lie within.)

Back around 2014, I had written (but oddly didn’t publish) a thing about Medal of Honor: Airborne, which I had replayed because a friend was streaming the game. It’s one of his personal favorites, and while I liked some elements of it like being able to drop anywhere on the in-game map, or even the creative weapon upgrade system, it just felt like a tired shooter going through the motions, and was going beyond the more historical angle of Medal of Honor, even having Nazi super soldiers wielding MG42s like it was nothing.

At the end I had written something to the effect “It’s not as amazing as Frontline or Allied Assault, but it’s probably better than Medal of Honor: Warfighter.” At the time, I hadn’t played the most recent Medal of Honor games, and 2018 felt like the time to tackle Medal of Honor 2010 – as I’m gonna call it from here on in, to distinguish it from the 1999 original – and I felt disappointed all the way through.

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I finished this back in January, as the very first game I beat in 2018. This was not a good start to the year.

Realizing World War II games were on their way out after a near ten-year period of them constantly coming out, EA was in a bind. Medal of Honor was considered this prestigious franchise, and they didn’t know where to take it. Their solution was to see what their competition already did three years prior and follow suit: Go modern, and see if it stuck.

The problem was that this came out right after the extremely successful Modern Warfare 2, and was out the same year as Call of Duty: Black Ops – probably in my top three favorite Call of Duty games for various reasons – so already EA was climbing a very, very steep hill. With Medal of Honor 2010, EA didn’t get to the top, but instead slipped and started rolling down the hill, giving themselves bruises and broken bones along the way.

Gameplay wise, it’s a boilerplate roller coaster of a modern military shooter. Shoot the bad guys, reload, occasionally use a grenade launcher or call in airstrikes. Right click aims, Left click shoots. Occasionally you get medals for headshots or multikills, a holdover from Medal of Honor: Airborne that doesn’t make sense here. There’s even a level where you’re in a helicopter. Occasionally soldiers go “hooah” and speaking military lingo so frequently that it’s almost self-parody.

Even something like this has been done, and done better elsewhere.

It’s clear Danger Close was glancing at what Call of Duty 4 did years prior, and tried to copy it, but didn’t understand what made Call of Duty 4 such the blockbuster success.