Mario Golf Super Rush: Why Nintendo?

Mario Golf Super Rush
Mario Golf Super Rush

Look I’m all for a new Mario Golf game. It has local and online multiplayer. It’s golf. You know the sport fathers are famous for loving.

For the life of me I can’t figure out why Nintendo would release it right after Father’s Day. I mean move it up a week or two and a bunch of happy fathers get to play some golf with Mario. Maybe they get to play with their kids too. Come on Nintendo. It’s not that hard.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.talkstrategy.com/2021/05/mario-golf-super-rush-why-nintendo/

Mafia 3 Definitive Edition (PC)

Underground Lair
Looking tough Lincoln.

2K has released a Mafia Trilogy on major platforms. They rebuilt the original Mafia from the ground up. They remastered Mafia II in HD. Mafia 3 was just released a couple of years ago. It just gets all the DLC bundled together with the main game. On the plus side, current Steam owners of Mafia II and 3 got a free upgrade to the definitive edition. This was enough to finally get me to sink my teeth into the most recent entry.

I had picked it up on sale sometime after release because of my love of the series, but there were still reports of bugs and problems of the game. Also the thematic shift along with a bunch of new gameplay mechanics alienated some fans of the series. I had set it aside and hadn’t gotten back to it. It’s often described as the weakest of the series. Let’s see how it stacks up now.

Hot Rod
There’s so much going on here.

The original Mafia came out shortly after GTA III. We’ve seen so much evolution in the open world crime drama since then (much of it lead by Rockstar) that it’s easy to forget how clunky the original Mafia games were. Mafia 3 came out in 2016 and tried to update the series to modern standards. Graphically, it succeeded easily, but the heart of Mafia has been the story, characters and the locations.

Let’s start with the last one first. New Bordeaux is a city with character. While it’s clearly a New Orleans analogue, it’s more of a remixed New Orleans with a bit of Gumbo made from 1960’s southern cities. It does feel like a lived in southern swamp city. It’s also set in 1968 and casts you as a Black Vietnam veteran. The game does not shy away from the casual and overt racism of the South in the 1960’s. If being exposed to that might upset you, you need to avoid this game. More common to the series are the collectable Playboys and Vargas paintings which, of course, contain nudity. There are also scenes with strippers and prostitutes. Finally, among things that might make you avoid this game, the violence is over the top. It’s not overly realistic, but it certainly is celebrated in the game.

Sixties Shopping
Setting. Check. Time period. Check.

If that didn’t scare you off, the characters are worth the price of admission. Sure, some of them fall into mob movie stereotypes, but most of the people you interact with are vivid, memorable and unique. Clearly Mafia 3 didn’t have the budget of GTA, but I think they made the right choices in where to focus those resources. You’ll see a lot of the same pedestrians and low level thugs wandering around. However, almost all the more important characters have unique models, good voice acting, often clear motivations and a combat style that suits them.

Our protagonist, Lincoln Clay is a Vietnam veteran who wants to put violence behind him. His surrogate family come into conflict with the Mafia boss early in the game. It’s up to Lincoln to right the wrongs and ultimately get revenge. Along the way he runs into the Irish Mob, the Black Mob, Haitian gangs, the Southern Union of white supremacists and various captains of the Italian Mob. Certain characters end up being your lieutenants as you build up your power base. Lincoln, his lieutenants and their relationships change as the revenge campaign progresses. Lincoln, in particular, learns to embrace his love of violence while slowly realizing it will eventually destroy him. Your enemies mostly change from various aspects of evil to dead. Many of them take you on an interesting ride before falling under a hail of your bullets.

Briar Patch
The game excels at making you loathe racism.

It’s too bad these vivid characters and locations are lost in such a rote story. Really, Lincoln lays out his plan for revenge in the beginning of the game, and it’s simply a matter of connecting the bullets to the bodies to get to the end. That’s not to say there’s no good writing. It’s just all dedicated to character development and backstory. There are plenty of interesting gameplay tasks for you to do. You’ll ultimately end up doing them all too many times. Mechanically, it’s all solid even if nothing feel particularly innovative. It’s kind of like you gathered the Royal Shakespeare Company and just acted out a bunch of battle scenes. There’s some great moments, but you feel there could have been so much more. Some selective editing and a focus on story could have turned this into a real gem.

Paradiso
As you might guess, this is ironic. It’s much more Inferno.

Overall, I’d give a modest recommendation. It’s a fun ride for a while. There’s a lot to do. There are interesting characters to meet and/or kill. So play it for a while and have fun. Drop it once it starts to feel like a grind. The ending wasn’t enough of a payoff to slog through for if you’re not having fun. I’m glad I played it. I’m more satisfied that I meet such interesting characters in a vibrant space. It was so close for me. I can certainly understand those who loved it and those who hated it. The devs certainly reached for greatness. I admire them for that.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.talkstrategy.com/2021/02/mafia-3-definitive-edition-pc/

Death Stranding (PS4)

Relaxing for a moment

That was weird. I said that a lot during Death Stranding. I really don’t know how to describe the game. It’s kind of a even more out there take on the Postman. Fundamentally, it’s a game about connections and the bonds that tie us together. Strangely, that part works better than any other in the game. Perhaps that’s due to the strange times I found myself in while playing.

Many on Twitter noted that the Corona virus lockdown was strangely similar to the world of Death Stranding. I think we’re all glad the world hasn’t actually become as weird as a Kojima game. Still, it’s hard to deny the rise of virtual interactions, importance of home delivery and the lack in of in person contact during this time. Certainly many people have lived with the idea that Death is out there in 2020.

It’s cold out there.

As you might guess from the title, death is a major theme of the game. Dead bodies bring destruction. If they’re not cremated, they will trigger a large explosion devastating the area nearby. The game begins with a race to a crematorium. Obviously, these structures need to be well away from where people live given the risks involved. The outside world is overrun with crazed scavengers, violent and deadly ghosts and weather that can quickly kill you. People live underground. Either they live in small city states or in isolated bunkers.

Stark beauty.

No man is truly an island, so trade is still necessary. It’s crazy dangerous out there, but a few brave souls deliver the goods that keep people alive and society running. I’m sure you can guess what your job is in the game. Fortunately, at least in a manner of speaking, you can’t die. Unravelling what happened to the world and what caused your own deathless state are the overarching goals of the game. More practically, you deliver goods and expand a new ‘chiral’ network that links people together.

Hot springs.

This is a Kojima game through and through. That means lengthy, unnecessarily complex explanations, long monologues, futuristic, almost magical technology and human depredation. Do we need to discuss the importance of the distinction of the difference between the body and soul? Well, we must use the ancient Egyptian terms to make things less clear. Characters must have a name and a nickname that will later make sense. Did I mention that even walking around can be dangerous? The fact that Kojima games work despite the craziness is clearly a sign of brilliance. However, this is not the game that’s going to change your mind if you think that they’re too off-putting.

Even walking can be difficult.

The core gameplay loop, is simple and satisfying. Pick up goods, traverse terrain, avoid obstacles, and deliver goods to make people happy. If you make people happy enough, they’ll agree to join the network. Once they do, you’ll be able to upgrade the infrastructure to make traversal easier in the future. You’ll unlock new tools and vehicles along the way. It’s never easy, but it keeps getting better. As you journey, you’ll get to know the characters out there and eventually uncover the answers you’re looking for.

Did I mention your (code?) name is Porter?

I could talk about your allies and antagonists, but really, it’s better to experience them yourself. Most of them are sympathetic and understandable even if they and their stories are insane. In some ways this is the most pure Kojima game. The one big difference is that you’re not supposed to kill your human enemies. Obviously, setting off a series of megaton explosions is not rebuilding society. Even one incidental kill means a lengthy and dangerous side trip to a crematorium. Happily your ghostly opponents can be put down and represent most of the combat in the game. Just make sure to use the right tools in your arsenal on the right enemies so you don’t create a mess.

Is that Die-hardman? No, it’s Heartman. He’s wearing a defibrillator.

Amazingly, everything about the game is satisfying even the long, convoluted ending that gives you most of the answers you’ve been searching for. The question is are you willing to put up with the craziness to get there? I was and thoroughly enjoyed it even though thinking back on it makes me shake my head. It’s essential for Kojima fans and an excellent palate cleanser cleanser for anyone else with the patience to learn (and sometimes just experience) the game.

I’m not even going to get into the weirdness that is BB.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.talkstrategy.com/2020/12/death-stranding-ps4/

Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

I played Final Fantasy VII shortly after it came out. I bounced off of it pretty hard. I had never played a JPRG before. This was a series coming over from Nintendo. Back then Nintendo was marketing console games as toys for kids. Other than the blocky 3D models, nothing about Final Fantasy VII was for kids. I did get out of Midgar, but left it there for a while. Once I came back, I accepted the differences and the weirdness. I really fell in love with the game. I still think its marteria and battle systems may be the best of the series.

Final Fantasy VII Cover

So now we have a remake of Final Fantasy VII. They’ve been clear that this is a remake. It’s not a remaster or HD or 4K update. It’s a new game inspired by the original. After playing it, I can say it feels like that was a creative decision and not something forced on them by marketing strategists. We meet the same characters and hit some of the same story beats, but it’s clear right away this is a fresh vision for the world and the story. Since this is only the first part of the journey, I’ll withhold final judgement. So far, it seems like the right decision.

Resting
A little down time

The Shinra controlled city of Midgar was the opening for Final Fantasy VII. It comprised the first 10 to 15 percent of the original. In the Remake, Midgar makes up the entire episode. Whether that mean we have seven more episodes or only two or three is anyone’s guess. My personal guess is there will be three episodes, one for each disk of the original. It seems an achievable goal and not everything needs to be expanded to the extent Midgar was.

There’s an emphasis on beauty

What’s new? Obviously, the graphics are at the high end of modern standards. The environments are varied, detailed and look lived in. The character models are detailed and expressive (well, except Cloud, he never expresses much). Fans of the original will notice some of the animations clearly mirror those from the Playstation game. It’s cute without being intrusive. Monsters, bosses, and summons all look great. Some of the smaller parts fall into caricature, but that could be a stylistic choice or even a homage. Sometimes the particle effects, special attacks, lighting, spells and flourishes go over the top, confusing the action, but that’s what makes it a Final Fantasy game.

Stagger

As you would expect from a Square-Enix game, the sound is top notch. The original soundtrack was a classic. Here it’s supplemented by new material, remixed themes and even a record collection game that you can use as ambient sound in parts of the game. The voice actors do a great job even with the over the top dialogue that often peppers JRPGs and Final Fantasy. More importantly the greatly expanded script give you opportunity to really get to know these characters. It’s clear Square knows people love these characters, treats them with respect and wants new players to fall in love with them as well.

Anything?

Combat was always going to be divisive. VII was a pure turn based menu driven combat system. Final Fantasy hasn’t done anything like that for years. And they didn’t here. Let me start with the most impressive thing. Each character plays completely differently. One friend of mine mentioned that playing Tifa was like someone putting a fighting game in their RPG. Cloud feels a bit like a hack’n’slash game. Barret feels like a third person shooter with some spells thrown in. Aerith plays a bit like Diablo with spacing, movement and wards. The game seems to encourage you to stick with Cloud, but I’d say that’s the wrong way to play. It’s much more fun and involved if you’re constantly switching between characters based on the situation.

Let’s go

As you might have guessed, you have to learn the combat system. You’re moving around the combat area. Positioning and line of sight usually matter. You can take cover from many attacks. You can perform basic attacks, dodges or blocks nearly any time, but special attacks, spells and items can only be used when your action gauge fills up. How quickly it fills up is based on your speed, actions and buff/debuff status. Also, the character you’re controlling seems to fill up much faster than when your not controlling them. Moving and attacking fill up the gauge faster than blocking or hiding in cover. It’s action heavy. That could turn off purists, but overall, it just works. It’s fast, fun and flexible (until you really need that revive and everyone’s action gauge is filling like molasses while your health ticks down under a barrage of enemy attacks).

Ah, Aerith

The materia system returns. Abilities are either tied to your equipped weapon or slotting materia into your weapon or armor. You can upgrade your weapons using SP earned during battles. This includes adding more materia slots. Do you focus on making your character stronger with higher stats or more flexible with more materia slots. Summon materia returns. You can only slot one summon per character and summon opportunities will only appear randomly in battle. They’re still a visual and combat payoff when they arrive.

That Johnny character

There’s a good selection of weapons for all the characters. The stat bonuses and abilities associated with each weapon will define how that character plays while it’s equipped. One weapon might have Cloud more of a tank focused on physical attacks while another makes him more of a battle mage. Weapon special abilities can also be learned through repeated use. This encourages you to try all the weapons at least long enough to earn its ability. Weapons won’t completely redefine a character. Aerith can’t tank. Combining weapon choice, customization, materia selection, armor and accessories, allows you to shape each character to your play style and current needs. It’s remarkably flexible. Add in the different feel for each character, you never have cause to be bored.

You’ve got a classic story expanded with added depth and improved characterization. It has great visuals, stunning sound and flexible compelling gameplay. What’s not to like. There are some bugs, but that feels like niggling. Really, the main complaint you could have is that so different from Final Fantasy VII while trying to be true to its spirit. That’s a personal choice, but I think the strong creative decisions shown thus far indicate a series that will be the standard for Final Fantasy for some time to come. Highest recommendation. Go play now.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.talkstrategy.com/2020/04/final-fantasy-vii-remake-ps4/

Control (PS4)

I just finished Control, the newest game from Remedy. I’ll always associate them with Max Payne, but Control is a much better game. I managed to Platinum this game, so it must be an open world action game. Almost all my Platinums fall into this category, even though I don’t usually list it among my favorite genres. The thing is that when they’re done right, they’re some of the best games out there. Done right, they combine characterization, world building, story telling with a combat/traversal system that sees you growing in power and ability while expanding the gamespace.

Dramatic Pose
Dramatic Pose

So how does Control stack up? Well, it kept reminding me of Spiderman and Horizon Zero: Dawn. Those are two of my top games for this console generation.  I think the key for success is engaging combat while making you feel more powerful as the game progresses without ever losing the sense of vulnerability.  The end game, as well as cleaning up some optional bosses, certainly reminded me how easy it is to die.

I don’t know if I love or hate the visual style in Control.  It’s like someone found an empty TARDIS and filled it with government office space.  I’ve worked in government office space.  It’s not inspired or inspiring.  However, the style does fit the theme and story Remedy is going for.  The extensive pneumatic tube system does add a touch of whimsy.  I understand they’re trying to contrast normality (or even banality) with the supernatural themes of the game.  When it works, it’s great.  Too often though, you’re just running through another generic hallway or office.

Control Command Center

Our protagonist, Jesse is searching for her brother. We join her as she has finally found the Bureau of Control who took him away years before. Somehow, in the first few minutes of the game, Jesse is hired as both the assistant janitor and as the new director of the Bureau. Since the whole building is under attack by some extra dimensional force, they need some leadership. Being a Remedy game, leadership comes in the form of shooting the bad guys until they’re dead. Preferably this is done with style and a few supernatural abilities.

I’m not really going to describe the powers or weapons since discovering and unlocking and combining them is a good part of the fun of the game. Those can be found in guides elsewhere if you’re interested. However, I’d suggest just playing the game like you were dropped into an episode of the X-Files. Proceed cautiously, talk to everyone, and investigate every room and document. It will help dissipate your confusion at all the bureau jargon and really draw you into the story. Also, if there’s any strange glowing lights (usually red, but not always) check those out. The sound design has some interesting clues if you’re using headphones or a surround system.

Powerful
Powerful

Control really encourages exploration and experimentation. Unfortunately, negative experimental results tend to yield death and a reload. That wouldn’t be too bad if it weren’t for the long load times on the PS4. You might not be able to make a full dagwood sandwich, but you definitely have time for a quick snack. Once you get into the flow of the combat system, it’s a pretty fun dynamic. You have short bursts of offense where you have to prioritize the most dangerous targets. Defense tends to involve lots of movement while trying not to get cornered or completely away from cover. This is not a cover shooter. Most everything is movable or destructible. Enemies come from all directions including from above. Combat is mostly fair. I had a few cheap deaths from later enemy combinations and bosses.

Domination
Domination

Overall, Control rises above the sum of its parts. It’s a fun, polished game. It provides an interesting story married to deep, challenging combat. It doesn’t achieve the lofty peaks of Horizon or Spiderman, but it certainly aimed there. If you have any interest in the story or game genre, check it out for a fun ride. Highly recommended.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.talkstrategy.com/2020/02/control-ps4/

Epic Games Give Away — Shadow Tactics

Shadow Tactics cover image

Even if you haven’t been checking daily for the Epic Games Store game giveaway, you should stop by today. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is the game. It is a hardcore tactics game set in feudal Japan. It’s hard. I haven’t finished it. However, it has the most amazing moments when a plan comes together. Do yourself a favor and pick it up. The developer deserves the support, and if it’s at all your type of game, you’ll love it.

Your Team
Gameplay, stealth is encouraged.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.talkstrategy.com/2019/12/epic-games-give-away-shadow-tactics/

Epic Games Store Six Free Batman Games

Batman Arkham Collection free from Epic Games Store

Batman’s 80th birthday was last weekend. There were many celebrations, but I think I liked Epic Games Store the best. Instead of giving away one or two games as they do most weeks, they loaded up their utility belts with six free Batman games. That would be impressive if they were just average games, but these are the three most recent Lego Batman games. The last two are more DC universe games. Then there are the three Rocksteady Arkham games. Those are some of the top rated superhero games of all time.

Rocksteady Arkham Trilogy

I enjoyed my time with the four of those games I’ve played (the first two of each series). It’s hard to beat the low, low price of free. Grab them before they’re gone on September 26th.

Lego Batman Trilogy

Permanent link to this article: https://www.talkstrategy.com/2019/09/epic-games-store-six-free-batman-games/

Homeworld 3 Under Development

Gearbox and Blackbird Interactive have announced that Homeworld 3 is now being developed. They have a development and investment campaign up now on Fig. You can pledge to get a copy of the game while providing input to developers. Or you can invest in the game to get a portion of the profits. Since this is just the start of the campaign, they’re still in preproduction looking at a 2022 release.

From the Fig campaign:

Homeworld returns with the next chapter of the story. Homeworld 3 is the true sequel to the legendary space-faring RTS. Blackbird Interactive, founded by original Homeworld Art Director Rob Cunningham takes the helm on development, returning the series to its roots with a gripping continuation of the story, fully 3D combat, and the classic RTS elements you expect. Further supported by the veterans of Homeworld Remastered Collection at Gearbox Publishing, Homeworld 3 is coming to life and the teams couldn’t be more ecstatic. With our partners at Fig, we can give fans both new and grizzled a chance to fuel and profit from Homeworld 3’s success.

This is your chance to tell us what you expect of Homeworld 3, including its features, priorities, and even what the collector’s edition will include. We’ll share the data we’ve received from you throughout the game’s development and show how its influenced the scope and priorities of Homeworld 3. It’s a unique experience that only Fig can offer and we’re excited for the most open development process in both Blackbird’s and Gearbox’s history. Of course, because it’s Fig, there’s the unique opportunity to invest in Homeworld 3’s success. You don’t just get the game. You get a chance to profit too. If you’re not into it, no worries. We’ll see you at launch later down the line.

With Homeworld 3, our first priority is to deliver a game that immediately looks, sounds, and feels like Homeworld. We aim to nail that incredible scale of space and conflict and deliver a powerful story that picks up just at the end of Homeworld 2. For music, Paul Ruskay reprises his role as composer to ensure we nail the iconic soundscape that fans remember. Of course, Homeworld 3 will deliver best-in-class fleet combat in fully-3D space. You can also expect multiplayer options, which is one of the features Fig supporters will have a chance to meaningfully influence.

Since I’m a Homeworld sucker staring at my Homeworld Remastered light up mothership model, I’m sure I’ll pledge. I probably won’t invest as I have no idea whether you can make money with a game like Homeworld today. I wish them success and look forward playing the game. The campaign ends on September 29th. Don’t wait too long if you’re interested.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.talkstrategy.com/2019/09/homeworld-3-under-development/

Site Updated

As part of the ongoing efforts to secure the site, I’ve updated the PHP version and moved to an updated database. Everything seems to be working. Please let me know if you find anything that I broke.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.talkstrategy.com/2019/09/site-updated/

Borderlands 2: Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary

I remember reading previews for the original Borderlands. I remember the change in art style that some claimed saved the game. That was over a decade ago. Borderlands 2 was released seven years ago. Borderland: The Pre-sequel was released five years ago. So how to get people excited for a new Borderlands game? Give them some free content to tie the games together.

Rainbow sparkly weapons

Borderlands 2 has been on sale very cheap numerous times. It’s been in bundles and giveaways. Heck, right now, you can get the whole Handsome bundle for $6 on the Steam Summer sale. If you find yourself with a copy in your Steam library (or digital library of your choice), you can grab this new DLC for free until July 8th.

Is it worth the minimal effort to download it. Well, I expected a short story with a few character cameos and some neat weapons. I ended up experiencing nearly a dozen hours of gameplay. There’s enough story to remind you of all the characters that survived the last game. You’re reminded of the pending quest sitting in front of them at the end of Borderlands 2. And you get a new taunting bad guy to chase after building to a final confrontation. It’s more of a mini campaign than a short side story.

Noted.

I’m not even sure what platform I played Borderlands 2 on. I think it was the Xbox 360. Regardless, I didn’t have my save file to build on my character from my last run through. Gearbox helped me out with that by giving the option to start any character class at level 30 with ok gear. Just choose Change Character from the Main Menu.

Who are you again? Oh, right, Tales from the Borderlands.

It took me a short time to get back in the swing of things. I needed to find a good fire weapon to take on the plant based enemies. I had to get a decent shock weapon to take down shields. I also needed to improve my shields. Once I was properly equipped for my play style, it was the same fun and floaty run and gun game I remembered.

Hey, I think I played as you in the first game.

As a free add on, definitely worth it. I might even try some of the DLC I never completed before. Is the story essential? Probably not, but it reminds you where the enjoyment is in the series. So effective advertising and a fun time. It’s also hard to beat the price if you act before July 8th. Recommended.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.talkstrategy.com/2019/06/borderlands-2-commander-lilith-and-the-fight-for-sanctuary/