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.

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.


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.


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.

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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.


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.


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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.


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.

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Red Dead Redemption II Impressions

I just finished Red Dead Redemption II (RDR2) on PS4. It’s another huge game where I have to clarify what the means. I’ve finished the main story and both epilogues. I don’t think the fact that there are two epilogues is much of a spoiler, but I’ll try to avoid spoiling anything story related.

The original Redemption was one of my favorite games of the last generation. Yes, there was convoluted story and lots of action, but I mostly loved the sense of place. You felt out there in the rugged west with beauty and danger over each ridge. The new version certainly lives up to that. It’s a beautiful game with huge vistas and scenic corners. When you’re riding across the map, it seems to go on forever.

Red Dead Redemption 2_scenic vista

There are some drawbacks. The controls are a mess. They cram too much in there and have ignored standards for third person action games. Personally, I couldn’t switch back and forth to any other game due to the complex controls. They work fine once you have them down. The game is more than long enough for anyone to master the controls, but there’s certainly too long of a period where I was fighting them.

It’s a Rockstar game, so you almost expect the over the top violence and language. The time period also allows for multiple encounters with racism. In combination, this can make parts of the story uncomfortable to play through. They managed to minimize a lot of the violence (including sexual violence) towards women. So it certainly seems like an editorial decision to focus on racism as much as they did. Of course, it’s never shown in a positive light, but the player should beware.

Red Dead Redemption 2_Balloon

I don’t mean to be too negative towards the game. It’s an amazing experience. It manages to combine adventure, exploration, base building, stealth, trade, ranged and melee combat with a sweeping story that carries you to all corners of a gargantuan map. You’re never at a loss for something to do. One trophy has you skin every animal in the game. It could take you as long as the rest of game to complete that hunting quest. The main quest includes over 100 missions plus there are optional honor missions and another 30 stranger mission. Did I mention that you’re never at a loss for something to do. A true tip of the cowboy hat to anyone who manages to 100% complete the game.

Red Dead Redemption 2_Fishing

It’s hard for me to understand how to write a game this huge. Maybe that’s why I give it a pass when there’s great writing right next to awful clichés. Most of it is well written and acted. There are few nice, pleasant or enjoyable characters in the game. I’ll be generous and presume that’s the atmosphere they wanted to create. It certainly gives the impression that Arthur is most at home when he on his own deep in the wilderness.

In one sense, it’s a hard game to recommend since so many of the details are dark, problematic or both. Really, things I look for in a game include challenge, vision, world building and, mostly, stories. RDR2 delivers on all of those. Overall, I’m left with the beautiful vistas and great stories. Some of those stories were set pieces, but many just happened out in the wild. It’s really an experience, one you shouldn’t miss. Note that the M rating is definitely earned, then go out and experience those stories for yourself.

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God of War (PS4 Reboot(ish))

The God of War franchise on Playstation has long been a rage fueled button mashing spectacle action series. You played Kratos, a Spartan commander who is sucked into the games of the gods and pays an incomprehensible price. That launched him on a quest for vengeance fueled by pure anger. After many bloody adventures and achieving god levels of power several times, he ran out of enemies to kill and discovered that vengeance doesn’t solve everything. He leaves the world of Greece and its mythology behind.

That's a big snake.
I’m glad we have a head that speaks ancient snake.

The new God of War picks up years later. Kratos is in the frozen Norse north. His wife has just died. He and his son are gathering wood for her funeral pyre. It’s instantly clear that everything has changed.

While the game starts slowly, the funeral kicks off a quest that soon erupts into bloody violence. Kratos has been peaceful for so long he actually starts out pretty weak. Combined with the radically different combat, I felt wildly inadequate for the beginning of the game. Nearly any enemy in the game can kill you. You have to dodge attacks and respond with precision. Initially, none of this feels like God of War. Once you accept the changes, surprising depths are revealed.

There are RPG stats to improve, weapons, runes, armor and abilities to upgrade. There are abilities to unlock. Even your son can be upgraded. Well, his skills, weapons, armor and abilities can be improved.  This means the combat system keeps getting deeper as  you continue on your quest. 


Eventually, you’ll unlock realm travel which lets you visit places like Alfheim, home of the elves.  This opens up new enemies to fight.  If this were the previous God of War series that would be enough.  This Kratos has learned to love again after being filled with rage for so long. He now has a son to protect, teach, and learn to love.   Of course, they’re both dealing with the loss of Kratos’ wife, Fey.  

It becomes clear that Fey knew they both needed this journey after her death.  Figuring out what is involved with this quest and where it will lead drive the pair to meet interesting characters including dwarves, witches, giant snakes and Norse gods. To complete this quest, they’ll have to grow stronger and grow together despite seemingly endless obstacles put in their way.

Upgraded Armor
Fancy new duds.

It’s really this story of a bonding journey that sets this new God of War apart.  Kratos and his son, Atreus, are real characters who grow and change.  They see the good, the bad and the pain in the world.  They work to try to make things better along the way.  Sure, they make mistakes along the way, but that doesn’t stop them.  They overcome.  They make allies.  They get stronger.  Slowly they progress along their journey.  

I didn’t expect a personal, involved story, deep and flexible combat and an emotional attachment to the events of the story from a God of War game.  It surprised without losing any of the fun (once I got over the initial learning curve).  Highly recommended.

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Windows 10 Creator’s Update

For some reason, I thought the Windows 10 Fall Creator’s Update was already out.  Perhaps it was because my laptop updated to it.  Anyway, I downloaded the Windows 10 upgrade assistant tool.  It took longer than expected but seem to finish without difficulty.

However, I noticed two unexpected problems.  First, my sound output default changed.  That was easily fixed by right clicking on the speaker in the hidden icons area.  Then I selected audio devices, clicked on my speakers and pushed the set as default button.

Second, my wireless gamepad wasn’t working.  It turns out the update recertified all the device drivers and disabled anything it didn’t 100% recognize.   It turns out that the update had disabled my Xbox 360 wireless game controller and my Bluetooth USB adapter.  That’s not too hard to fix either.  Right click on the start button and select device manager.  Look for any warning symbols.  Right click on the disabled device and select update driver.  For the Bluetooth, I was able to let it search for the correct driver.  Boom, fixed. For the game controller I had to select browse my computer for driver software, then select let me pick from a list of drivers on my computer.  There was the gaming adapter.  It did whine because my adapter is a knock off I picked up cheap after my official Microsoft one died.  The driver works just fine.

Anyway, it’s something to check if you notice any weirdness after installing the Fall Creator’s Update.  Happy creating.

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