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  1. Here is my first look at Gran Turismo 7: http://madblog.shacknet.nu/gran-turismo-7-week-one/
  2. PC Game Review At long last, after well over 70 hours, I'm ready to publish my thoughts on Tales of Arise, the game that somehow manages to be longer than even the very series it's part off, or at least it felt that way at times. Not that this game was a waste of my time, far from it, but the first thing you need to know if you're interseted in this is you're in for the long haul; And that's with a great many side activities and challenges still to do, so the game certainly isn't lacking in content. But I'm getting well ahead of myself. Now my reviews are also knows be being similarly... em.. "detailed", but I'll do my best to keep it reigned in, but as you can imagine there is rather a lot to get into. So, get ready boys and girls, daddy has spoken and it's time to tell the tale of my experiance with Tales of Arise. Disclaimer Just a couple of things: Whilst I will not spoil the story, this review may contain some minor spoilers when the characters are described and the review will go into the initial set up for the story and the world of the game. Also be aware that there my be spoilers in the discussion through the thread responses as well. The game is rated "teen" with the ESRB, so the images, video and language used in this review will reflect that rating. I don't foresee any of the imagery nor video I'll be using triggering phobia's nor medical problems, but if you are prone to such conditions, please have somebody check before reading on. Performance and Graphics This being a PC game, it is important to get a sense of how well it runs so you can gauge how suitable your set up will be. Now, one of things that one has to understand about Japan is that Japanese gamers don't embrace new consoles as quickly as you might think. The previous Tales game, Tales of Berseria, did release on PS4 and PC, but technically those were ports of the PS3 version of the game as the game was actually only made for that console, and that's a game that came out as late as 2017. So really, it's no surprise to see Bandai Namco release this game that's barely meant to test a PS4 in 2021. So don't expect this game to push you GTX 3090 to the limit or anything, but in at least one way that's a good thing because you don't a powerhouse to run this thing. And on my hardware; The results were... actually not good as I expected. At max settings at 1080p,I was hovering between 50fps-70fps, but there were times in certain area's I was dipping below 40fps. But there were times I was running at over 90fps, it certainly wasn't stable throughout the experience. Yes, at least 95% of the 70+ hours I was playing this the FPS never really dipped to a point that I actually would have noticed if I wasn't looking for it, but it did happen occasionally. All this in a game that doesn't really justify this kind of hardware struggling like this given the overall graphical fidelity. This may be a 2021 game, but like I said this is NOT the equivalent of a PS5 game. This is a PS4 game. There was also some minor clipping issues and the hair looked it it was lifted out of a PS2 era Final Fantasy game, although to be fair that could be looked at as a stylistic choice as, like any Tales game, it's meant to look like an anime. Many of the lines and textures, especially on clothing, just looked that little bit fuzzy close up. The biggest issue though was the pop-ins. Every time I entered an area things in the environment such as trees and textures on buildings as cliffs would pop in within a period of about ten seconds or so after entering a new area. The things is, the load times for me were actually very short, so it looked like you're being thrown back into the game before the textures have had a chance to load into the environments properly. It's not enough to ruin the game, but is enough to notice. Despite these performance issues, this still manages to be a beautiful game. It's rich, colourful environments are marvellous and varied. I loved the animations, especially in combat, and world has this hand built feel. In terms of the art style and palate, it's gorgeous. I just wish some of these performance issues weren't there. The main character models look good as well with plenty of options to customise thier appearance. Many of these items are obtained through quests or finding owl mascots hidden throughout the game. You can even equip the current weapons and armour with skins of your old equipment which is a nice touch. Overall, it is technically a bit last week and at least for me on PC is marred by one or two technical issues, but it's still a real treat for the eyes. Important for a game you're going to have to stare at for over 60 hours to complete and probably closer to 100 hours to 100%. Combat and Exploration This is the point where everyone who writes reviews or guides on these types of games really earn thier money because the key to every good JRPG is having a combat system that is far easier to use then it is to explain. So by reading this section and necessitating it being here, I just want you to know that I hate you. I have played a little bit of Tales of Zestira and Tales of Symphonia, but the only other Tales game I've played extensively is Tales of Berseria, and as whilst Tales games have thier subtle differences, the philosophy of combat is very similar each time. That philosophy being two fold; The characters run around in combat saying the names of the moves thier using for... reasons. It's about a combination strategy and skill based processes. Here is clip of the combat I captured. Check it out, then we'll break it down. First, the battle screen itself; I was using a controller, so I'm building what I say off of that. Firstly, there are three choices on how to control this game; Manual where you move the party leader and control thier actions (That's the way I played). Semi-auto where you control the actions of the party leader, but not thier movement. Full auto where you only control the boost attacks and QTE based attacks, effectively turning Tales of Arise into a full-on strategy game. The right shoulder button is used to attack normally, where as the right trigger is used to dodge. Normal attacks have standard power and no special effects or elements, but also don't use up souls to be performed (check the image for the "Souls Gauge"). Artes are special attacks that do additional damage and/or carry special effects, such as elemental damage. Depending on thier power, they can cost from one to three souls to perform. If your character runs out of souls, they are unable to use any more arts for a time and have thier regular attacks more easily interrupted, so avoid that at all costs. Souls will recharge over time, but can also be charged with certain good combat practices like dodges and counters if that character has the right perks. That little souls gauge may not look very conspicuous, but it is at the heart of everything you do in combat. I mainly played as Alphen (The iron Mask) in the game. He has an additional aspect to his combat that consists of charge attacks with the burning sword. By holding down the assigned control, he unleashes powerful fire based attacks at the cost of said attacks hurting himself in the process. Friend or foe alike can be strong or weak against certain attacks, so select what artes you want to use wisely for the combat environment. In regular combat, there basically two types. Astral Artes. Basically, this worlds equivalent of magic. These are elemental attacks that need charged before they are used then strike at a distance. Martial Artes. These are the physical special attacks, but can be elemental as well. Over time, and accelerated by stinging combos together, a character can charge up a boost attack (see the picture tor the boost attack indicators on the bottom left of the screen). You can still use a a character's boost attack even if they aren't in the main party by holding down the left trigger. This is also how you access your alternate set of artes for the character you're currently controlling. You can use these powerful attacks simply to do damage or help string combos together, but they can also be used tactically as each characters boost attack has a unique effect on certain types of enemies or enemy actions: Alphen unlashes a high damage attack with the burning sword that can stop an enemies' action and down them with enough charge (drains own health). Shionne can shoot flying enemies out of the air to ground them and make then vulnerable for a short time. Rinwell can interrupt enemy astral artes and absorb thier power, allowing for an immediate counter attack. Law's devastating punch can "break" enemy armour, lowering defence. Dohalim can tie swift, agile enemies down, making them easier to hit. Kisara's can use her shield to stop dangerous enemy charges that can't other wise be blocked. This knocks the enemy down and leaves an opening for an attack. The player has to make a choice to use boost attracts or save them for then they can be at thier most useful, but by being too sparing with them one runs the risk of missing a chance to use them when a more opportune time only comes around when the attack would have had enough time to recharge anyway, effectively wasting it. They can't be treated as too precious. Near death (and at a certain point in health for some larger enemies), the cursor in the middle of the screen will charge up blue by combos against that enemy. When full, you hit any of the Boost Attack controls for any party member you have selected as if it were a boost attack. That party member will team up another member of the party to unleash a boost strike, a devastating finishing move where the developers really get to show off thier animation skills! These are one of my favourite things in the game. They are so satisfying and fun to watch. Even after seeing them dozens of times, they just don't get old. There is one last thing to talk about in combat within Tales of Arise. For each character it's slightly different, but by satisfying certain combat conditions, the character can enter overdrive mode. In overdrive mode, the character no longer has a souls gauge, but instead a timer that ticks down. During this time, the character has effectively an infinite amount of souls, so the can string as many arts together as they want. At any point during overdrive, but obviously best saved right to the end of it, the character can perform a mystic arte, the most devastating arte any character has that deals massive damage. It's not all good news though, enemies can enter overdrive mode as well, so watch out. Healing is a different matter. Only Shionne and Dohalim can use healing arts and they cost cure points (indicated on the middle right of the screen). Each time one of them heals someone, the CP goes down and does not recharge. There are perks that help CP recharge later in the game, but only by very small amounts. The only ways to recharge CP is through specific consumable items or by resting. Trust me, you DO NOT want to be in a situation where you are out in the middle of a combat area when your CP has run out because healing items aren't a common drop and are expensive to buy from merchants. This is particularly annoying when Alphen is in party (and for much of the game, he HAS to be there) because his best attacks cost him health, so he gets healed frequently whether you try to avoid it or not. Cure point are also used to perform certain actions while exploring the world like healing injured NPC's and and opening up new paths. Sometimes this worth it, sometimes it not. It's very frustrating when it's not. Despite some frustration with how healing works and also how the lock-on system feels next to useless at times, the combat in Tales of Arise works very well. It really does mix demands for strategy and skill very well and is very satisfying. The game is also challenging as JRPGs go and that's good because I have found that to be a problem with some games of this type in the past. Combat is supported by a simplistic, but none the less varied and easy to use levelling system. You earn both EXP that levels your characters and Skill Points to spend on a skills board for each character. Each "ring" unlocks either at certain points in the story, by doing specific side missions or meeting certain other conditions within the game. Each new ring grants you one of it's mixture of skills, perks or passive abilities, you then use SP to purchase the others. Each ring you complete grants an additional perk or stat boost. Now, there is nothing at at all wrong with this system, it's fine, but there's something that really bugs me about it. In most RPGs, higher level enemies are worth more experience, and the same is true here. In most RPG's where the amount of EXP or whatever the equivalent of SP is that is earned in each fight remains the same, but the demands for EXP and SP for the player also go up, meaning takes more amd mre experinace cach time to level up and earn new perks and abilities. You get to a point where it's just not worth fighting enemies at that level anymore, but if the players are willing to sacrifice enough time to grinding, it can be beneficial. However, this is not the case in Tales of Arise. When you get to be 2-3 levels higher than the enemies your fighting in a certain area, the amount of EXP and SP they give off starts to drop rapidly, making grinding pretty much pointless. This means the only way to level more effectively is to boost EXP and SP earning somehow. You can do that through cooking certain food recipes and.... that's about it. This can only get you so far. This is annoying for three reasons: If players want to grind, they should be allowed to, it's thier right. This will make endgame levelling for the very toughest of challenges very difficult. It's possible that BANDAI NAMCO did this simply to give players the incentive to move to the next part of the story by nerfing grinding, and maybe that's the right thing to do. However, one look at the DLC and it's immediately clear they're doing the right thing for the wrong reason. That is some supreme bullshit. You can't grind, but you can do that. Exploration is what it is in the game. You can find chests with new equipment in them, money, crafting materials and so on. It is a nice game to explore with good level design in the various open hub sort of style with mytiple paths and of area's off the min path. So yeah, that works. Like I touched on earlier, characters perform thier own unique "Map Actions" at the cost of CP to open up new paths that are sometimes necessary to get to the next area or to open optional paths to find chests or crafting resources. Speaking of the crafting, this is minimalistic, but deep enough to matter in Tales of Arise. You take your resources to blacksmiths and other tradesman and merchants to make new weapons and accessories for your party. Likes I said, there isn't that much to say, but it's a fairly easy thing to say on top of, so I like the system. The crafting of accessories is quite fun as you can make items significantly more powerful than what you would ever find. You can even dismantle old gear to further customise new items. I don't know what it is about Tales games, but food is always a prominent thing in them. This game isn't quite as obsessed with it as Berseria was, but it is there. You cook a variety of recipes to gain temporary augments to your party that include the likes of small EXP boosts, higher item drop rates, boosts to defence and so on. Each character who cooks said dish will add thier own effect to it to boost it the effect or increase the length of time it lasts. A small, but useful feature none the less. You'll be wanting to rest at campsites and inns as frequently as possible to recharge your CP anyway, so you may as well take advantage of this feature. There even comes a point where you can fish or run your own ranch in the game to gather ingredients or stock to sell. With so much to the game and so much variety, these was always gonna be good and bad tings in the core gameplay, but overall these things are handled pretty well by what you can tell is a team further developing what they had previously from other games trying to make it just a little bit better than last time. I say they succeed, but it is not without flaw. It's a fun, satisfying game saturated with content and things to do where each new mechanic is drip fed over long period and with great tutorials, so you never feel overwhelmed. Story I'm not gonna go too deep into this because I don't want to spoil it, but this is what the game is all about. Arise takes place in a setting divided between the medieval world of Dahna and the advanced world of Rena. Three centuries ago, the Renans based on Rena's artificial moon Lenegis invaded and conquered Dahna, subsequently enslaving the population and dividing the land into five isolated realms, each ruled by a Lord: The barren and scorching Calaglia, dark and cold Cyslodia, the fertile plains of Elde Menancia, the windy mountains of Mahag Saar and the rainforests of Ganath Haros. Periodically, the "Crown Contest" is held to decide which among the five Lords is chosen to become the next Renan Sovereign, based on the amount of astral energy extracted from Dahna's population and environment stored on the Master Cores in each Lord's possession. Each Lord has his or her own way to harvest astral energy from the enslaved Dahnan population, but ultimately it all revolves around controlling them to manipulate natures elements to draw astral energy from the life of the slaves, the natural world or from Dahna itself. One Dahnan slave, known as "The Iron Mask", meets, by a chance a mysterious Renan woman named Shionne, who enlists the Iron masks help and works with a local resistance movement against thier oppressors. Her motive may be unclear, but what is knows is that "The Iron Mask" is uniquely gifted to help her. She has been cursed since birth with what she calls her "Thorns", a strange magic that causes pain to anyone she touches, except the Iron Mask who feels no pain at all. This gives Shionne the opportunity to let the Iron Mask use some of het astral abilities to combat the Renan. Thus they are now set on a path to end to rule of the Renen Lords and liberate the Dahnans from three centuries of oppression. Any more than that and we would be getting into spoiler territory. On the face of this, this story sounds simplistic, especially compared to the very dark and complex morals of Tales of Berzeria, but as it goes on the story does grow into something deeper and more complex. I still wouldn't say its as good as Berseria, but it has great characters and memorable moments throughout. It's also beautifully paced with some superb voice acting from a veteran cast of performers and a epic sound track that even reminded me of Back to the Future at one point. It's not as mature as Berseria, that doesn't mean it's childish. Each time time you go a new place, you go there with excitement as you genuinely have little to no idea what to expect. What we have is by no means the most dynamic story you'll see in a video game, but it's never dull or strung out, which is impressive for such a long game. And you could play it again if you wanted to, especially with new game plus available, you will get your moneys worth out of this. The story is told through a mixture of cut scenes, skits and dialogue in the open gameplay, which is nice rather than just having is done one way and like I said, it's well paced and relatively easy to digest. Whether you like the story itself or not, and I can understand either view, what can't be denied is the way the story is told. It's clear, the emotions are clear without being over the top and things aren't as "over explained" as I find anime and JRPG's often are. All good stories, no matter how outlandish the worlds they are set in, have undertones to connect them to our reality and this is no different. The theme of freedom and control over over people offers lessons to be learned. I admit it's not as morally complex and Tales of Berseria nor a game meant only for only for older audiences like The Last of Us, but Tales of Arise is more subtle with it's message and that works in it's favour. For a games bearing the word "Tales" in it's title, it needed to be strong here, and it is, it just could have been a little more "grown up" for possibly. Conclusion
  3. That is my TLDR opinion of the remake, bellow my full review. http://madblog.shacknet.us/mafia-definitive-edition/
  4. Shagger Says: It took me a while, but I finally found the time to stitch this review together. This isn't an easy one, not just because I'm keeping it spoiler free, but this game has divided opinion so much since it launched that it's hard to say weather or not you trust yourself and your own views any more. But I thought about it, and decide to go for it as it's impossible to avoid invoking somebody's ire with ones view on this game anyway. So my disclaimer is, take it, or leave it. I also do this on the assumption that whoever's reading this has played the first game, so even though I wish not to spoil The Lust of Us: Part 1 or 2, there may be references to The Last of Us part one that may include spoilers for that game. If anyone is interested, please check out my synapsis and analysis review on the first game here. As usual, I apologise for any typo's and such. I try my best, but it's not easy for me. So let's get to it. What did you see? What did you hear? (Graphics, sound and voice) The developer Naughty Dog is a well funded developer, one the largest and most reputable game studios in the world, working under the banner of Sony Interactive Entertainment, one of the most dominant conglomerates in the entertainment and electronics business with may decades of experience and even more billions of dollars at their disposal. So yeah, it's hardly surprising the game looks like this; (The first two screenshots are from the net as I never thought to take any envirmoental shots while playting, but the last one is my own.) Yeah, you can spend a lot of time gawking at the photo mode. Graphical fidelity and the insane attention to detail really help this game come to life. Everything, the tracks left in the snow and mud, the blemishes and imperfections on people's skin, dirt and marks on clothing, the weather, the discarded bullet canisters flying out guns, blood splatters that appear on the characters when you attack close, the natural and varied ways bodies fall and rest, the way foliage and branches are disturbed as you brush past them, the difference in appearance between wet and dry cloths, I could on forever, but what this building to is a game that pushes the boundaries of graphical fidelity and attention to detail unlike any game I've ever seen. Even by Naught Dog's own impeccable standard, this is impressive. I'm on an original PS4, not the Pro, and I was still blown away. I've played games on $6,000 gaming PC's that don't look half as detailed and rich as this. A great looking game isn't just about graphics, in fact it's not even mostly about graphics. Art style and design also come into it as well. Obviously, The Last of Us is meant to simulate our world... twenty or so years after a cordyceps pandemic that wiped out over half the world's population and forced who was left to abandon society as we know it to survive, but the point is it's not going to be the most unique nor creatively adventurous game in the world. Not to mention it's a sequel, so has a base pattern to follow. Despite that, this does have an instantly recognisable visual identity, and with this identity still intact, I'd say that Naughty Dog have improved the way this game looks a surprisingly large amount from the first game. The environments, especially the cites, feel more overgrown, a greater scene that nature has taken over. Human character models are nicely detailed and look like they belong in the environments they preside with exceptionally well animated faces, especially on the main characters. The infected, especially the Clickers, also look more detailed and less like each other than in the original. They're also naked now, and I thought it was odd for them to be wearing cloths in the first game. Feel free to laugh on you own time, I'm actually being serious, why would someone who's been wondering around pretty much mindlessly for years with fungus growing out their walking remains still be wearing their cloths? Fabric would get worn, torn and ripped over time and it's not like a clicker is self conscious or has the wherewithal to find something else to wear. So I like that change.... … SHUT UP!!! I do NOT enjoy looking at naked clickers! Anyway, this is a visual masterpiece and anyone can appreciate the time and effort put into the fine details. You get you chances to appropriate the beauty of this game and revel in it. There's even a bigger variety of environments to explore in this as well, so the game can look very different from one part to next. The more fundamental things are also well done. I like the new layout of the in game menus, I like how the weapon upgrades now both a cosmetic and visual change (that may have been in the first game, but if it was, it wasn't nearly as noticeable) and the new animations you see as you upgrade them. The death animations are also more numerous, savage and brutal that ever. I just love it. I don't what that says about me, I just appreciate the effort that went into this... NO!!! I DO NOT LIKE LOOKING AT NAKED CLICKERS!!! SHUT THE HELL UP!!! Sound design can also make or break immersion in a game. This was of my favourite things technically about the original. I loved the soundtrack and the sound effects really do their thing to make feel the environments and action like you are really there. This isn't really an improvement as such, like I said the first game was superb with this as well, so what they've really is the same. Nothing wrong with not fixing what isn't broken. The one thing that did annoy was the sound cue that game gives to indicate an enemy is about to see you. They used the same sound cue in the first game (difficult to describe, kinda sounds like a build up of wind) , but this time it felt a lot louder and more, let's say, paranoid than before. I kept hearing it when I knew the enemy in question was miles away and/or not a threat in that moment and that's annoying. One thing that was not gonna go wrong was the acting. Honestly, there isn't even much to say. It's still at same industry changing standard it was in the first game. All the main performers, new and old, offer memorable and pitch perfect performances. I'll talk about the improved AI in a later section (spoiler alert, the AI has improved), but this improvement asks a lot or out of the VA's doing the smallest roles, like your human friends and foes out in the field. Communication, coordinating (in the case of the Seraphites/Scars, that involves of whistling in some some kind of code, an interesting touch) and even getting upset, screaming their friends names when watch them get killed and standard does not drop at all in the voice acting in these moments. You wanna take The Last of Us Part II on? Don't bother. It doesn't matter what systems you have or what games you have played, even by the standards of their own day, when it comes to presentation, this is the best game to date. Beyond any question or shadow of doubt. “You wanna fuck 'em up?” (Gameplay) First off, there's a guitar playing mechanic; Now onto the rest. I need make it clear, gameplay has improved subtly in certain areas, but has not fundamentally changed. Like the first game, The Last of Us Part 2 is a linear third person shooter with a strong emphasis on stealth, exploration and survival balanced to offer the player a choice in the moment on how to get past a section based you current resources and play style. So really, this about where it's changed and how it's changed since before, and that gives me an idea. What I'll do quote from the other post I made on the first game about the gameplay and then describe the differences because I think that will be more informative than simply “Telling you what it's like”. “Stealth feels dynamic because of the various ways the enemies in the game react, especially the infected runners and clickers. Runners can see and the can move fast, but take less damage than clickers and can be taken out with your fists. Clickers “see” using sound and if alerted, it’s a one hit kill if they get to you, so use stealth tactics whenever possible. Larger enemies called Bloaters you engage as bosses. They take a beating, attack at range and deadly up close. Avoid them if you can, but big weapons, Molotov cocktails and nail bombs will get the job done.” I mentioned how the AI improved early in human characters. Well, as strange as it is to say, the AI powering the infected has also an upgrade. Runners and Clickers behave pretty much the same, but Bloaters feel more dangerous now. As well as the long ranged acid balls, they can now charge at you, powerfully enough to smash through walls and destroy your cover, forcing you out in the open. I don't think there was ever a point in the first game that ever encountered or fought a bloater alone, you always had a partner in combat, but the enemy AI would definably pick on little old you. Irritating would be the word. Now, though, you can duck out and let your partner (if you have one) take some aggro whilst you find an angle, and the enemy AI does respond. As of course, so does you partner, who feels feels mare capable in this game and save saved my useless ass a few times. It's so much less predictable and fun to do play with than it was in the original. Moltov's have definatlly been nerfed in this game though, I don't think they should have been. There's other things to. In my quote up their I didn't even mention one of the infected types, the Stalker. Why? Because there was no point. They had a different visual design, somewhere in between a Runner and a Clicker, but they behaved pretty much as the same Runners did. Not this time though. They're slightly harder than runners to kill, but more importantly the name “Stalker” has purpose, because these things are silent and can't be detected in the “listening mode”. They silently crawl and clamber around like Gollum on mission to eat, well, your head I suppose. They game also come along with a new infected type, between a Clicker and Bloater called a Shambler and, unfortunatly, I feel this is a miss step. Don't get me wrong, I love the design... … but they suck. All they do charge at you and grab you like most infected do, but then produce a cloud of acid that can drain your health before you have chance to fight free, it feels cheap. They're pretty tough, but not much more than a Clicker, so they're not actually that hard to take down at a distance, the only safe way to fight them because, unlike Bloaters, they can't attract at range, but also can't be taken with stealth. So basically, they exist to bleed you ammo. The “best” thing though is, after you take them down, they explode in a cloud of acid hurting you badly if you are anywhere near them. It's a complete beginners trap and hate it when games do cheap shit like that. I was looking forward to seeing a new form of infected and was very disappointed to see what Naughty Dog came up with here. There is one other new infected in the game, but I'm not gonna say anything, just tease you instead... (That one is also one of my own) “The human enemies are OK to fight with, but are only varied by the weapons they carry and certain very enjoyable set prices the game has to offer and, at times, armour, but the level layout helps make engagements enjoyable enough. The AI is not that sophisticated , but it’s adequate and does offer enough sentient behaviour, opposing tactics and challenge to suit in this game. These sections I’d say weren’t quite as much fun as battling infected, but still very good.” I'd say there's more of an emphasis in combat against people in this game than before. I said that the “AI is not that sophisticated” in The Last of Us Part One, but it's all change here. I touched on it earlier that the AI is more communicative and emotional. They're also much more effective, and you can find yourself out flanked or even surrounded very easily if you don't position yourself well and anticipate their tactics. There's now brutes that can't be stealth killed in one hit, making stealth more risky and less reliable than before. They find a body, they'll behave differently. More cautiously. They will also search more thoughtfully and in areas they wouldn't have in the first game. They tended to just wonder around before, but now they'll look under cars, check buildings, cover each other as they do and even sometimes have dogs to sniff you out. One of things I loved in The Last of Us: Left Behind was the opportunities to pit human enemies and infected against each other. It's such fun, and there's plenty of opportunities to do the same thing in this game. I'm so glad that happens here as well, and it's a more tense dynamic with that improved AI. “Resource management and exploration are critical as you use supply’s, scrap and what I think is medicine you find in the world for crafting items and upgrading weapons and skills. Again, it’s pretty light mechanics, but smart as crafting items use common ingredients and you only find so much medicine and scrap, so your choices really matter in the crafting. There’s also a limit to the ammo capacity, so you need to use your weapons wisely as well.” Pretty much the same, not much to say. You have to find manuals now to unlock new skill tree's to upgrade and there's the aforementioned visual improvement to the weapon crafting, but other that it is a slightly expanded version of the same system. You play as two characters in this game, Abby and Ellie, and what is cool is that they each have different load-outs and access to different crafting recipes the other doesn't. It can be annoying when, for example, have to make shivs as Abby when Ellie has her pocket knife, or if you are Ellie and miss the superior firepower of Abby's crossbow and hunting pistol, but that's the game. I'd say while both characters load-outs are different, they're well balanced and I didn't feel stronger playing as one over the other. The partner AI is also more reliable than before and actually, you know, does stuff. Like I said earlier, it saved me more than once. They still do that thing where enemy AI can't see them even if your parter passes right in front of them, but think about it. How annoying would it be for your cover to get blown because of something you parter AI did? It looks ridiculous, don't get wrong, but it's defiantly the lesser of two evils hear and helps with actual gameplay. “Allot of these games that focus mostly on single player have tacked on multiplayer modes that feel half assed and just not worth it (Dragonage Inquisition multiplayer anyone? What, wanna do something more fun like carve yourself a new, wider path for your bladder to empty? Can’t say I blame you.). The Last of Us actually had a fun and fresh idea that involved linking your Facebook account to import “survivors” from your real life friends list if you wanted the allying yourself to either bandits or the Fireflies to then go out and compete against other players for your clans survival. The crafting, focused hearing mechanics and of course combat were taken from the main game and implemented well in a very tactically focused team death-match. Of course it wasn’t as extensive as other more multiplayer-centric games, but for a side dish it was a very tasty and surprisingly substantial part of the meal.” No Multiplayer in the The Last of Us Part 2. Yeah. I get it, they wanted to focus more on the single player game and that's the real point of the franchise, that's fine, but to see multiplayer disappear is a bit of a shame, especially when it was so unexpectedly good in the first game. There is a number things to talk about in gameplay that I didn't mention before. Movement has improved... in part. There more control options and ways to explore the environment including proning on the ground and using climbing ropes, neither of which you could do before and the natural cover feels a little easier to use. The one problem is sprinting. It feels slower than before and it's use is forced on you make jumps, and in that situation, it just doesn't feel intuitive at all. A lot of your movement is upgradable. This can be a good or a bad thing. It really depends of whether the character feels unnaturally slow and hindered without the upgrade, or it they feel normal without the upgrade and badass with it. In The Last of Us 2, it's a bit of a mix of both. For example, crouching whilst aiming feels terribly crippled until you improve it, whilst proning felt fast enough considering and I didn't feel the need to upgrade it. It's a similar story with the shooting. It's feels good with realistic weapons sway and recoil that can be improved through the crafting an upgrade systems, great sound to. Naughty Dog know how to make a 3PS. But yet, one thing was really annoying. I felt I got knocked down by enemy gunfire very easily, and natural instinct when I get shot is to keep my finger on the aim button to find my target, but when you do that you find yourself laying down on your back in a “reverse prone” position pointing the gun out in front of you completely out of whatever cover you were in. It takes a valuable few seconds to get out of this to get up and into cover and it happened all the time, really grating on my patience. Even got me killed on a few occasions. Overall, it's a very solid 3PS, and the enemy AI in particular makes up for some of the game's minor control issues. Another big part of the game is exploration. Now, people might be surprised to see somebody say this, but exploration is not Naughty Dog's strong suit. Not at all. In Uncharted 4, exploration was nothing more that vanity hunt to let the game laugh at people chasing a platinum trophy, and honestly, the only reason reason you strive to search every thing and look everywhere in The Last of Us is because you have to. You need the training manuals, you need to find the workbenches, you need the crafting resources, you need the pills to upgrade your skills, the parts to upgrade your weapons, but face the facts TLOU fans, it's a padded out chore and, deep down, we all know it. It's only made bearable buy the notes and some of the collectibles that can be interesting at times. I bring this up because I'm about to talk about one of the very real problems I have with the game. I talked about how in the original how the environment was actually a joy to explore because of how the environment itself told a story. This made the exploration mechanics themselves, even though they were a chore, easy to bear with. The Last of Us part 2 has a signifiant downgrade in the quality of this. This time the “environmental storytelling” as I called it is mostly done through the notes you find, so you have engage in the aforementioned “chore” to even get them, and it's mostly pointless, fairly forgettable stuff with only a few intersting finds along the way. The environments themselves feel larger with more in them than before, and whilst that's good for the gameplay, makes the environment feel more empty and less interesting to be in with less personality. It's not that game doesn't try, and in some sections really does well. The Hospital is Seattle is a fine example of this. Don't worry, I won't spoil, but the point is that's an environment that's fascinating and with a strong indigenous identity with it's story to tell just by being in it. The first game, I can think of several places like that. The Storm Drain where the inhabitants met a tragic fate, the University of Eastern Colorado abandoned by the Fireflies, The Ruins of Salk Lake City where escaped Zoo animals have taken over, Bill's town where he clearly dose everything possible to avoid anyone and everyone, the Hotel set up to host a high school prom, the suburb where the inhabitants clearly turned on each other with the ice cream truck and Ellie doesn't know what it is. In the sequel? Including the hospital, I can think of two, maybe three at push, environments that felt that way, and in a game that's twice as long as the original, that's a problem. Speaking of storytelling, it's time for the big one. “See, they should be terrified of you...” (The Story) Let me make this 100% clear. This is a Spoiler Free review, so I expect a spoiler free response section. I'll soon open up a discussion thread for spoilers, I even invite you do do the same thing if you wish, but please do not post any spoilers here. Update August 19nth 2021 The age of the game and the age of this thread is such that I've decided to open the comments to spoiler talk. Knock yourselves out. You may not know this, but The Last of Us's name has more significance than you might think. The original story was all about finding was left of humanity. Not humanity physically obviously, but our soul, our heart as species, as a people amidst the very worst of circumstances. An inspiring story of hope where it'll all bout finding the light in the darkness, telling us we could be redeemed. Again, if you wish, please go back to my other post on the first game to get the full scope, but this is a bit of I said at the time; “This has meant so much to so many and I for one, learned how important it is to embrace hope even when life is at it’s worst and life is only worth who you choose to share it with. We live in vain, materialistic world and ironically it’s a video game, a impractical indulgence that can only find a home in that world is what helped me see more clearly what is truly valuable. The Last of Us may have impacted you in a different way or even not at all, but whatever the case that experience belongs to you, so treasure it.” So I've been thinking, if this game, with it's tone and it's lesson had actually come first, what would they have named it to suit like the way “The Last of Us” suits the original? I think I've got it. This is not a story of hope, but hatred. Not inspired by redemption and love, but by darkness and revenge. A story of two young woman, corrupted by their own tragic pasts, driven into a new existence of violence and pain. This is, without doubt, the darkest, most shocking, provocative and uncomfortable experiences you can have playing a game. It's brutal, savage, unfeeling, upsetting, unapologetic and, quite frankly... ...Brilliant! Now, very many will disagree, and I completely understand... that they don't understand. It's upset them, pissed them off, but with all due respect, they have been too self centred to realise that's the point. This is not a shining smile meant to make you feel better, it's a dark beauty meant to be evocative and emotional in a very different way from the first game. I'm glad I took a few days before sitting down to write this because to really understand this, you need to reflect and, well, calm down. This game does rattle you, it upsets it makes you angry by design. It does what it set out to, and teaches you what it tries to teach. The story is about hatred and how powerful it is, but in the end only has the power to take, not give. To embrace hate is to embrace your own destruction. There's other things to live for, better things to live for. It's ironic how hatred and prejudice has driven the people who review bombed this because because of the strong LGBTQ themes in it, and of course it's a little sad, because they probably need that lesson more that the rest of us. Even so, this not for everyone this story. A plot this malevolent will not sit comfortable in righteous heart. A presentation this violent has no place in a civilised mind. Then again, maybe you need those things to come through it with anything resembling a positive outlook at all. It also makes the point that we're all the hero's in our story, that's the kind of selfish creatures we are, but it's possible we're the villain in somebody else's story, and who get's to say who's right? Do I like it, though. Well, too say like I like the story would be similar to “liking” somebody's obituary on Twitter or Facebook. You wanna express you sentiment, appreciation and respect, but “liking” it just feels...wrong. Now, dose it have problems? Oh, hell yes it does! Now, I already talked at length about the environmental storytelling has been downgraded, that's the first issue. No point going there again, but it's worth bearing in mind. The story in the original wasn't actually unique, not really, it's the way it was told that made it work. A liner, well paced tale that had it's life berthed into through progress and steady, well timed in game expositions and cut scenes. Now, for the The Last of Us 2, not only did they switch around the tone and message, they also swapped around the strengths and weakness of the storytelling experience. The last of Us 2 has more unique story, but it's not nearly as well told. These aren't spoilers, this right at the start of the game, this is just how it's set up. You start in Jackson, the town where Tommy and his wife Maria have settled. It's been five years since the events at the end of the first game. Ellie has grown up in service to the town, made a few friends and is now part of the teams that patrol outside Jackson to keep up observations on the infected. We also are quickly introduced to a new character Abby (that's the buff lady from the early trailer). Abby is also just outside Jackson with her own motives that, for reasons that become obvious, aren't made clear. One morning, Ellie heads out on patrol with Dina (That's the girl she kisses in the other trailer) and all seems well. That's when REDACTED happens, and the story begins in earnest. Now, you've most likely noticed something already, you play as two different protagonists. Abby and Ellie; Abby Ellie Now, this isn't a problem in itself, but it dose inevitably cause one. You play through the game with your time split between these two playing the same time period occurring after REDACTED. First one, then the other, to then switch again THEN again, for the final part of the game. Each individual story is also laced with flashbacks, that are playable, witch is cool, but fragments the flow of the story. The very fact you switch between the two characters also fragments the story. This does not flow very well and causes it's own pacing issues. So you end with is exposition drip fed to in chunks in whatever flashback or playible character you happen to be at the time. The character might know something that you don't or vice verser, leading limited understanding of the characters motivations or making some of the story after the switch kind of redundant because you already know, at least to some extent, what's going to happen. It feels a padded out as well sometimes because of this. As a result, it's more difficult to connect to the characters, especially the new protagonist Abby and those around her, until the later point of the game. Now, I get it, I totally understand why they did this, and if I'm honest, it dose actually work. You need to spend time with Abby to connect with her, especially after REDACTED and get to know who she is, but it does take some patience to get through to this point, and I'm not surprised to see some people just not have enough of it. So ultimately, that's issue. Not the story, but the way it's told. Like I said I understand, and I mean complexly understand why they told the story the way they did, and in many ways it works, but not without cost. “You really gonna go through with this?” (Conclusion) This is gonna sound like a weird question after all the time like question after you just spend all this time reading this idiots opinion for the last several minutes, but how do you review a game? Do you base it on did whether or not you enjoyed it, how adept it is technically and aesthetically, or whether it met the developers ambitions for it as a creative endeavour? Respectively, is it a Monopoly board, a painting or a book? As a Monopoly Board, there's not enough plastic hotels and a couple of chance cards have gone missing. However, it's still Monopoly damn it and the only reason you wouldn't like it is because you knew you didn't like Monopoly, and if so, why play it? As a painting, it belongs in the Louvre. An eternal and undeniable masterpiece that marks a precious and rare achievement. As a book, this is a novel that had the reader jump paragraphs back and forth, but it's still a good, memorable and evocative story that stays with you. You may be better or worse for it, but you are different. Looking back, despite the frustrations you had trying to get through that book, you did, and you were angry, even furious at times, but you were never, ever bored. My love for the last game made me hold this one to a higher stranded than I would do with most games and that may have helped what problems it undeniably has stand out, but this si still one the very best video games I've every played. Stronger that it's predecessor in so many ways, but also weaker in others, but one way this is better than any game I've played. It has courage. It takes a serious set to make a game like this in these days. The world is so self centred, entitled and opinionated that's impossible now to follow your own vision knowing it's controversial and stick with it, knowing you're about to piss a lot of people off. Love it or loathe it, this game needed to exist even if just to show important it is to stand up for your creative vision. It has it's issues, and they aren't minor, so I have to reflect that in the score, but it's still a masterpiece and well worth considering if you're willing to accept what you are in for. My Final Verdict.
  5. Shagger Says: Welcome one at all! Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls of all ages! I present to you the Shining Star of my first ever Steam Refund! First let me gush for a moment about how brilliant a game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is. A massive, fantasy western style RPG with some superb combat that allows you to use any of a vast array of weapons regardless of class and doesn't limit you to a specific class through the fate waver system. The graphics are colourful and vibrant, there's a great variety environments to explore and has an epic tale to tell. A must-play for any fan of the genre. So you see, I love this game and wanted to sing the praises of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning to high heavens, especially to people who haven't played the original. Unfortunately, and I hate to say it, but THQ Nordic and KAIKO, this is not good enough. Usually when I do reviews I go into a lot of detail about the game itself, but this isn't really a review of the game, this is a review of the re-master, and as you may have guessed, it's not going to be kind. Still, I should talk about the game itself at least to some extent. So sharpen your bows and string your swords because it's time to get it all wrong with Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning! A King Indeed Kingdoms of Amular: The Game Itself As previously stated, I'm not going to go into too much detail here as this isn't really the focus of the review, but here's what you need to know. Kingdoms of Amalur is a western style fantasy RPG with a strong focus of varied combat and player advancement options. There is a choice of typical three basic attributes of magic, warrior type and rouge/thief (defined as sorcery, might and finesse in Kingdoms) that any RPG fan will be familiar with. These attributes define the skill trees, an example below: As you level up, you acquire point to spend on these skill trees to either unlock new abilities or upgrade current ones, typical stuff. For example, as you see here on the sorcery tree, you can see new spells to unlock and upgrade as well as improvements to be made on you comat with certain weapons like Staves and Chakrams. That's right, there's Chakrams in the game; I'm not sure why the Chakrams are considered primarily a mage style weapon in the game, but that doesn't matter because, as aforementioned, you can use any weapon in the game regardless of your class or abilities. The controls are very intuitive, so easy to switch from a bow to war hammer or whatever. You can also any spell you have unlocked regardless of how you're advancing your character, and many spells are useful to multiple classes, so that's worth looking into when you first access the skill trees. As you spend points on these skill trees, you also unlock new classes with their own perks that get more beneficial the more points spent. You need not just spend your points one skill tree, you can spend them on two of even all three to unlock mixed classes if wanted: Whilst the variety and freedom this system offers is certainly a great thing, the best bit is that you don't even have to stick with it. There are persons in the game called Fateweavers, a kind of trades person if you like that can, for a price, reset the skills and abilities back to zero, so you redistribute them all over again. This is a very coinvient system, and convince to the player is a common theme in the game's design overall. For example, in other western RPG's (*cough, cough, Shyrim, cough*), selling your excess gear and loot is a pain in the ass. The stores have little money without the right high-end perks attained, so odds are you'll have to go to multiple store to sell each of your unwanted items mixed with all the stuff you do want, ONE. AT A DAMN. TIME. In Kingdoms, find am item you don't want to keep, but you would like to sell. You hit one button to put it into the "Junk" section of your inventory. When you get to a store, you start to barter, then once again with a single button press, you sell all of your "Junk" in one go. No fuss. I know it's a small thing, but once you see it you can't help but wonder why doesn't every game do this? The star of the show though, is the combat. Brilliantly animated, fluid, skill and timing based combat a great variety of enemies weapons with various threats, poisons and elements to imply enough strategy to keep your head in the game. Like I said, no weapon is locked of to you and the game controls beautifully with a controller or a mouse and keyboard. It might easier to show the combat the let it speak for itself. And yes, this player IS using the Chakrams, consider it an apology for my bad mood in not using the Xena clip earlier. And then, there's this; There's a purple bar just below your health meter that charges in combat. When full, you can trigger a fate shift. For a short time, time slows down, you become invulnerable and deal more damage. Take down as any enemies as you can in the time you have then performing a finisher with a QTE that will have you press a random control repeatedly to build up and XP boost. Not only is this visually very cool to watch with some great and brutal kill animations, but because of the XP boost and unlike supers in other games, you'll find yourself wanting to use it every chance you get. Story, well there is one obviously, and I like it. I'm not gonna lie, there are better stories in RPG games, especially more recently, but this is still holds up and keeps you interested, and has unique set up. First, there's a war, because of course there is. More specifically, a war between the mortal races of man and Alfar (A kind of Elf, I suppose) and the Fae of the Winter court. Now the Fae are amongst the most interesting elements in this world. Immortal beings tied to nature, they live, die then rise again to fulfil their never-ending, always repeating roles in "The Song", call it a pre-written fate. There are two types, the Fae of the Summer Court and the Fae of the Winter Court. For example, growth, like Summer and decay, like Winter. Neither are technically good nor evil, just represent different elements of nature The new king of the winter court and leader of the Winter Cour clan called the Tuatha, has abandoned his role in The Song and is now out to conquer. This war has been raging for over 20 years and the mortal races, according to fate, are destined to lose. As for you, you're dead. I mean really dead. So the games over before it starts, of course not. You are resurrected by something called the Well of Souls, but that's not all they well has done to you. You have become untethered from fate, so lets call the protagonist "The Fateless", and this makes you potential threat to the Tuatha because you possess the unique ability to control fate as you will, so even though fate says the Tuatha will win this war, you and you alone, can change that. You may have lost your memories from your previous life, but you can still find out who you are as well as turn the tide in this war. That's the goal of the game. So, this is a very good game, and it is massive, don't expect to spend less than 70 hours on a first play through doing side quests and stuff along the way. Unfortunately, this game is no longer available on PC because of a publisher change between the original and the remaster. What we have now for PC and current gen consoles, is this... Frame-Rate Weaver The "Re-Master" First thing first, it's important to know my PC specs before moving on. My Specs on my ASUS TUF Gaming FX505DV Laptop. CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3750H. Base Clock 2.3GHz, Boost 4GHz RAM: 2x8GB DDR4 (16BG total) GPU: GTX2060 with 6GB of V-RAM and up 1830Mhz boost clock. Game Installed on a Patriot P200 SSD 2TB SATA III Internal Solid State Drive 2.5 with up to 530MB of read rate and data transfer. To put it simply, that's well above the recommended spec's; And honestly, that isn't even that much more than the original, a game I can run at 50+fps at max setting just fine; And yet, when I try to run the game at settings I know this laptop can handle... And do you get a massive improvement in visuals? Well one of these screenshots is from Re-Reckoning, the other from the origonal game, can you tell which is which? Please answer in the poll I've provided and/or comment below. Number 1 And Number 2 The short answer is no, you don't get much of an improvement. Some people will still claim that it's my system not having enough guts to run the game better, but you're wrong. Now, I am most definitely not the resident tech sensei on this forum, I do think @Crazycrab or someone else might make a strong case for that, but I was monitoring the performance stats whilst getting these captures. Sadly, the overlay didn't appear in the capture itself, but what I found was the GPU and RAM usage was exactly the same in both games, only the CPU usage was higher on the re-master. What was really striking though was low these stats actually were. On the re-master between 45-50% of RAM, hovering around 40-50% on the CPU, and most importantly just 10% of GPU power, that went down as low as 3%. And remember, with the exception of the CPU (at 25% usage give or take of the original game), both were exactly the same. Like I said, I'm no expert and I'll never claim to be and I would actually ask someone reading this that has more knowledge to shed light on this, but I think that because both games are still using the same engine, that engine is only drawing what it needs to load the original game's textures. However, despite how it looks, the re-master is loaded with higher resolution textures (that's why the filesize is so much larger), but the engine isn't compensating for the extra time it really needs to load these textures, and that I think is that is what's affecting the frame rate. If someone with better knowlege wants to give input, I'll update this. In short, this is a software issue, and something KAIKO and THQ Nordic should have thought about when developing this. Or they just couldn't be bothered. As far as I can tell, some are having problems, others aren't as is the useual with these things, but that doesn't excuse this. I'm also a little disspointed that the new game isn't compatible with saves from the origonal, I honestly don't think that would have been much work to accomplish given that the inner software workings are basically the same in both. Apparetly there has been gameplay improvements (I did see a new very hard diffculty mode, so kudos for that), but I'll never get far enough into the game to know what they are. Besides, why fix what was never broken in the first place? Decide Your Fate: Conclusion Well, it's simple, really. Another great game ruined by a rubbish port. I put is togeather partly becasue I was pissed about this, but also wanted to warn people. It may work better for you on your set up than it did for me, but doesn't mean that this is OK. It's not like all hope is lost for this title, there will be patches and the re-master will get a brand new exclusive DLC expantion next year, but for now either avoiding this re-master or picking it up on console would be my, as always, humble advice.
  6. Disclaimer Welcome VGR to the second Shagger says review I ever wrote. As I stated in the Rise of the Tomb Raider review, this goes back to a time before VGR ad I just wanted to have all of these reviews up on this site. It is just a repost here exactly as it was only with some new banners So, enjoy! Review The last time I did one of these big, written reviews was on what is considered to be one of this games biggest rivals, Rise of the Tomb Raider, but having now played this game, I find it actually has at least as much in common with something else... ...Given that these two games were made buy the same people, I shouldn't really be surprised, nor should anyone be pessimistic because a blend of Rise of The Tomb Raider and The Last of Us sounds great right! Aaahhhhhhh..... this is the part I'm gonna piss someone off. Better get ready... Oh, that's snug! It doesn't matter whether you compare this to The Last of Us or Rise of the Tomb Raider, this is NOT as good as either of those games! I'm sorry, it just isn't! Now don't get wrong, Uncharted 4 is a great game and I enjoyed it immensely, no game than can glue me to the sofa for 18 hours over two days isn't great, but as much as I like liked this game, it lacks in certain important areas that I think a lot of people either don't notice or ignore. Still, to calm down the people already sharpening their pitchforks, lets start with the good stuff. When I reviewed Rise of the Tomb Raider I thought that game was stunning, and it is, but this next gen effort from Naughty Dog make Rise' look it's being played on a broken ass 70's TV smeared with KY jelly! This is by a country mile the best looking game I've ever played. I barely even know where to start. It's like every single pixel in this game had someone spend several minutes contemplating whether that was the right placement and color for it. It's actually a little disappointing that the game isn't as open as some other games so you can check out more of the amazing environments and locations you see. The game is rightfully proud of the environments and setting, they're gorgeous, enhanced by great draw distances with very sharp textures from both far away and close up. There's also a great deal of life and non-player related actions going on with little animals scurrying about in the corner of your eye, the grass and leaves and other aspects of the world moving around naturally. The best part is the fantastic photo mode is back from The Last of Us: Remastered so one can capture these amazing places in a fun and creative way. The character models and animations are so realistic and natural looking, no doubt due to the same kind of capture animation work we saw in The Last of Us. It's not overly cinematic though, this still feels like a game throughout, it's just and incredibly detailed, almost photo-realistic one. Allot is borrowed from The Last Of Us in other ways too with basically the same dynamic, usually hidden UI and a natural view of documents and Drake's Journal. This is important in what is a very story-focused game to break tandem as little as humanly possible and Naughty Dog have proven yet again they are the kings. The game also runs like a dream. No FPS problems, crashes or glitches to report, it's just beautifully crafted. I mean fuck it! in this regard, this game deserves the Spinal Tap treatment! 11/10 Now, I'm not gonna spend to much time on this for two reasons. One, it'll be very hard to go into any detail at all without leaving spoilers and two, being from the same people that brought you The Last of Us, you know what to expect. Think National Treasure except longer, better, not stupid and without Nicolas Cage (Although I have to admit that I'm not sure if that last one is a positive or a negative.) and that's basically the idea. The good thing is that one doesn't need to know anything about the previous Uncharted games to follow this story, but there is plenty of fan service for those that have played them. Nathan Drake now retired from, well, being Nathan Drake, is drawn back into seeking a long lost pirate treasure to pay off a dept left buy his brother Sam... and that's about all I can say without spoiling anything, so I'll just move on. The story isn't that groundbreaking, but like in The Last of Us it's told in such a believable way with very character driven, natural writing and superb voice acting is what makes the game so addicting, you simply don't want to put it down and wait 'till tomorrow to see what happens next. I don't find the lure in this as interesting as The Last of Us, and I wouldn't say the story is actually better than Rise of the Tomb Raider either, just better told with more focus and better developed characters, it's just an undeniably engrossing storytelling experience that rivals just about any game, movie or TV show I've seen and is actually my favorite part of the game. This is what you're paying for with this game and it's where most of the value comes from. 9/10 Wait, let check something first... Yep, still fits. You know how I said this game isn't as good as Rise of the Tomb Raider? Yes, of course you do, you're still sharpening your pitchfork. Well, I say that because despite Uncharted 4 being better in looks and story, it is inferior where it's most important, the actual gameplay. Now, this is a good game to play, don't get me wrong, but my problems are not so much with what's here and more with what isn't. Think about it; Levelling Mechanics The Last of Us: Use herbs in the world as a kind of currency to upgrade stat's and abilities. Rise of the Tomb Raider: Earn XP from story missions, side activities, collectibles and enemy kills to acquire skill points to purchase new skills from 3 different skill trees. Between Rise of the Tomb Raider and The Last of Us, this is the superior system. Uncharted 4: Nothing. Upgrade/Crafting Mechanics The Last of Us: Gather parts and salvage from the world to improve your weapons in a number ways. One can also create other items that share common ingredients and given resources are limited, so you have to decide what upgrades matter most. Objects found in the world can be actively modified and used as weapons. Rise of the Tomb Raider: Hunt and scavenge to find materials, components, salvage, animal pelts another resources that, like in The Last of Us, share common purposes so you have to choose what weapons and craft items are the most valuable to you. Again like The Last of Us you can make weapons out of objects lying around. There is more variety to the crafting and upgrade mechanics overall in Rise of the Tomb Raider compared to The Last of Us, so this is again the superior system. Uncharted 4: Nothing I'm not saying that every game has to have these kinds of mechanics, I'm just making a point that when The Last of Us, a game that clearly provides allot of the DNA for Uncharted 4 has these ideas and it's big (timed) exclusive rival on Xbox, Rise of the Tomb Raider also has such mechanics and takes them even further improving on it's predecessor significantly, it really bugs me that there is actually so little here. Uncharted 4 is way more linear than Rise' so offers way less room to explore it's undeniably beautiful world, so it feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. I know some of you may be thinking "Why does it have to be like Tomb Raider anyway? You don't to explore in every game of this type" and you know, I'd agree with you, if it wasn't for this; Why does it have a crappier version of the same treasure collection and inspection mechanic as Tomb Raider? Besides, none of these objects are interesting. There's no good description of what they are or where they came from, they don't tie into the game story nor the environment in which you find them and whilst you can roll them around and look at them you can't learn anything additional about them like you can with some of the relics in Tomb Raider. Worst of all, because there's no levelling mechanic for this system to tie into, there's no meaningful incentive to even bother collecting them in the first place. This is a half-assed, tacked on, copy-cat mechanic that serves no purpose. Do yourselves a favour, if you play Uncharted 4 and see something blinking on the ground, ignore it, it's just there to waste your time. Both Tomb Raider and Uncharted 4 use similar 3rd person platforming and climbing mechanics and whilst these are superb in both games, Uncharted I just don't find as fun because the controls are slower and feel more fussy and there is less options for movement. In Rise', one can use climbing axes on walls and ice, swing and climb on ropes, rope slide, use climbing arrows along with the usual normal run, climb and jump stuff. In Uncharted, there's a rope you can hook onto things to climb and swing from and a spike you push into a wall that's basically a slower, more cumbersome version of the climbing axes from Tomb Raider, and that's about it. You can't even sprint for God sake! That's becoming a pet peeve of mine. Why do so many games not have this? Even The Last of Us had a sprint button! Why use The Last of Us engine as backbone for this when you take out so much of the good stuff? You drive a car and a boat at times in the game, but there isn't much to say other than an acknowledgement that they are well executed. The car especially is allot of fun being a 4x4 and you can winch things and I wish there was more of that. Combat is a similar story. Again, there's nothing really wrong with it in Uncharted 4, it's fantastic in fact, but there's just less to it. You can hold two weapons at a time and swap them for guns you pick up, so in this regard it plays like a typical modern 3rd or 1st person shooter. The shooting mechanics are great, the guns have punch and you can feel the variety in them thanks partly to some superb sound design and realistic visual recoil. The enemy AI is well programmed and even on the stranded difficulty the game is decent challenge, so a point there against Rise' where you have to play "Seasoned Raider" for it to be the same level. Despite that, I prefer Rise' because there's a better variety of enemies, especially if you count the hunting mechanics, a choice of four class of weapons you can switch to at any time including stealth weapons, something Uncharted 4 doesn't have outside of multiplayer. Speaking of stealth, everything is perfectly fine in Uncharted. Nothing we haven't seen before in other games so I'm not gonna go to far into it, but compare to The Last of Us it's a downgrade as stealth was such a huge part in that game and compared to Rise' there's less incentive to use it as you so often sneak past a group of enemies, find you target zone is choke point where it's impossible not to be spotted, so you have to battle all the enemies you just snuck past from a corner. No, that happened to me all time, so it can't be a coincidence. Another thing that happened to me at least 3 or 4 times is enemies spawning behind me at checkpoints. Like most games, the sections of the game have automatic checkpoints you go back to when you die to replay that section. The combat and platforming sections in Uncharted 4 are pretty long, and that's fine, and thus have checkpoints within them. The thing is though during some of the combat sections I start a checkpoint somewhere in the middle of the combat section and I find the enemies that I killed to get there have re-spawned behind me! One point in particular after dying I found myself under attack from RPG's and Assault rifles ahead of me with 3 guys behind attracting with guns in a pincer! So, because I died the first time trying to take on the RPG group that was hard enough, I then have to fight that group plus the group I took out to get their in the first place while unfairly out flanked. So as you my have guessed, I had to re-play this section over and over in haze of frustration. I was really impressed by the melee combat at first with all the double take downs I was pulling off in the prison fight and all that but my joy was short lived as I began to realize the games superb animations are cover for how scripted the melee combat really is. The Last of Us, again, was better in this regard in my opinion, it's just felt more real. Rise of the Tomb Raider's melee combat isn't great, in fact it's worse, but at least I felt I had control over it and that game doesn't focus on melee that much. The combat is broken up buy a number of puzzle sections. Now, there isn't much to say here either, they're relatively easy and aside from story tie-ins, not that memorable. The Tombs In Tomb Raider I prefer because it's a similar level of problem solving along with a dynamic test of reflexes and ability to negotiate platforms as well. The game does claw back points with the multiplayer. Here, the game feels faster and more fluent with good verticality and movement. The games fine gun combat serves well here to and employs a kind of MOBA style in match purchasing mechanic to obtain more powerful weapons and abilities for a short time. This looks very promising to me at the moment, but I've not played that much of it yet, so I'll have to play a bit with it and update this part of the review. If anyone want's to give their input on the multiplayer let me know because I think having others input is helpful to cover the bases. It is better the Rise of The Tomb Raider here given the fact Rise of the Tomb Raiser has no multiplayer... so yeah. Multiplayer aside, my thoughts on the gameplay are this. They did what was adequate and said, "That'll do". It's a very enjoyable game, but I was just expecting so much more for a hyped, modern, big budget adventure from a developer that I know can do much better than this. Good gameplay mechanics, but half in quantity of what you'd want from a game like this, really only one way to score the game in this regard. 5/10 Final Verdict
  7. DISCLAIMER Hi VGR! I present to you the very first Shagger Says review I ever wrote. I'm also publishing the follow up on Uncharted 4 as well. I said in a post recently that the only place to see all of the reviews I had written was here on VGR. I later remembered that wasn't the case and both this and the Uncharted 4 review were still up on another forum I used to grace, but hadn't been put up here. So mostly just to neaten things up, I decided to put both of these reviews on here so we know that the collection is complete and to give you guys an insight into my early efforts to see how you thinks it's changed, if at all. That's why I've put them up exactly as they were with no changes. with the exception of new banners and artwork as some of those seem to have been lost. Now, when I wrote this review Rise of The Tomb Raider was still an XBox Exclusive that would eventually come to PC and PS4 as well. Just putting that out there just in case something written with regard to it's exclusivity comes up and doesn't make sense now in 2021. Anyway, thank you in advance for indulging in a little of my nostalgic past. Enjoy both this and the Uncharted 4 review! Review To say this game will change your life would probably not be true, but just couple of years after Crystal Dynamics created the critically acclaimed reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise to see it perfected is very satisfying. The best way to sum this is up is to say that this is the first game from 2013 with almost every little bit done a little bit better, and with the first game being as good as was, to make it that much better is not easy. Despite the first game being well received, this games timed exclusivity and microinstructions announced before the launch has contributed to this games difficult launch. The biggest problem is a very bad launch time right in a crowed of other games, including coming out the same day Fallout 4 on the Xbox One and the aforementioned timed exclusivity that is understandably frustrating for PlayStation 4 and PC owners. However, the benefit here is others can give you their insights on this XB1 version before you guys have to take an unsure plunge into this game. Not that this is necessary, because I would recommend this game utterly to anyone who loves action adventure games. If that's all you need to know, then go ahead and get this game now on Xbox or later on PC or PS4. For the rest, lets get to it. Obviously I want to keep this spoiler free, and this is my own interpretation of the story. You, of course, play as Lara Croft set about a year after the events of the 2013 game on the trail of a relic or power her father, Lord Richard Croft, was pursuing before he died in 2003. His former partner, Ana, tries to warn Lara that perusing this relic known as The Divine Source, said to grant immortality, ruined her father's reputation and her looking for it would only drag her family name further through the mud, but Lara is convinced her father was right about the relic's existence and want's to restore his reputation. Her hunt leads her to Siberia and the descendants of the followers of an ancient prophet who have guarded The Divine Source for generations. Lara is not the only one seeks The Divine Source. An ancient and secretive religious order called Trinity are after the relic and have been after it for centuries. This particular group from Trinity are lead by a man named Konstantin, a mysterious stigmata sufferer with a more personal agenda for taking on this quest. Trinity have enough knowledge and far better resources than the native population and will succeed in obtaining The Divine Source unless Lara get there first. Lara will have to battle the harsh environments of Siberia, the elite mercenaries of Trinity and win the trust of the local people lead buy a man named Jacob to stop Trinity obtaining The Divine Source and the power to take over the world. Granted, this plot-line a bit cliché , has been seen before and is not as unique and interesting as the previous game, but is told with writing voice acting that is of good enough quality that it will keep you interested. Camilla Luddington returns as Lara Croft and delivers on of the best voice performances of the year in a video game. There is enough interesting back-story, twists and turns and exposition that I don't want to spoil that you won't necessarily see it coming and you will want to see where it goes. What I do miss are the characters from the previous game. Jonah is the only one that returns and most of the new characters (which, in total, is much smaller cast) aren't as interesting as the others from the previous game. I also miss that sense of vulnerability that Lara had in the previous game, but I can't blame the game for that given that this is a sequel and she's already been through that stuff, so it makes sense she's a more hardened Lara this time. It's also appropriate that what Lara faced before is more than a straight forward battle to survive and escape against savaged islanders, but this time it's something more potent and personal, so it's a good set up even the story around it isn't that unique. The ending is also very sequel bait, and that's annoying. Also the first part of the final boss fight is cool, but the second part is not. The set up for it, the gameplay idea, is cool, but's over to fast. Overall, I didn't enjoy the story quite as much as the last game, but not by much. There are games considered good in terms of story that are worse than this one. Let me put it this way, if the Tomb Raider movies were as good as this, they would probably receive high praise. Score for Story 7/10 Like any game, this is the most important part and will carry the most weight in my final score. The game is very similar to the previous one, so if you've played that you kinda get the idea and so what I'm gonna do is talk about how the game has changed and improved. If you haven't played the previous game, check out The Angry Joe Show's review of it below to give you the basic idea. Now you should know the basics, here's what's new. There is a number of new mechanics to the way you control Lara including a rope swing, a wire tied to your climbing axe to grab ledges and also swing between platforms. There also a swimming mechanic that allows Lara to explore both under and on top of the water and dive into the water from higher ledges. You can't really control how deep Lara swims, so it's kinda scripted that way, but the underwater sections are designed so that this didn't bother me and nothing was locked out. There's also a sprint mechanic, a nice new feature, and broad-head climbing arrows you can fire into wooden walls and panels to reach certain areas. The UI for in-game movement has been improved and shows clearly what your rope arrows and other special items are gonna do when you use the control. This is all good as, even though this isn't a fully open world game, it does play more like one with more open exploration than we had before. This is something you'll want to do as collectibles like documents, murals and other objects don't just give you XP to level Lara for new perks but can also improve your profanity in languages that allow to read carvings and obelisks to find out about other secrets. One of the new things this can lead to is special coins that can be traded in for advanced weapons and accessories that can't be obtained any other way. The tombs and 3rd person platforming sections are back and are for the most part much improved and more numerous. Basically, they're more challenging with less QTE (In fact, there's almost none of it this time) throughout the game and problem solving that tests you mind a little more. The multitude of new movement mechanics gives more room to create multiple paths to complete a section and even though the game is still quite liner there has been improvement in this regard. All this ties into the survival instincts that offers hints to solving these sections just like the previous game. One of the biggest changes is to the crafting system to improve your weapons and craft special ammunition like poison arrows, hollow point bullets and grenades. These all require specific components obtained by hunting and scavenging and are also way more dynamic and critical as you know longer obtain simple "salvage" from everything. If you want one tip, do allot of hunting and do not wait to begin gathering as much of this stuff as you can. Some "exotic" animals have to be hunted to obtain the rarer stuff, but these are often also the more dangerous creatures as well, so be prepared for them. Combat mechanics are more or less the same as the previous game. It's basically a 3PS with a natural cover mechanic with weapons consisting of a bow, rifle, shotgun and pistol to choose from. There is now various types of these weapons that you collect through the game. For example, your rifles include an SMG, assault rifle, bolt action rifle and military spec' carbine that can be purchased using the aforementioned coins. None of these variations of these weapons are really better that the other, they just have different traits and they can all be improved with crafting, so you have to decide what one you want to improve when you have the chance at base camps. The one thing I find annoying about this is that you can't switch between different types of each weapon class in game, it can only be done at camps, but there's more camps than before and you can fast travel between all of them now, so this didn't bother me to much. Using the weapons in combat is very similar to before, but combat has improved because of much improved enemy AI and more interaction with the environment that even allows you to craft smoke grenades, Molotov cocktails and proximity bombs out of cans, fuel canisters, bottles and radios you find lying around. Like I said, the AI has improved dramatically from the first game making better use of cover, using communication and tactics to out flank and over power you and even learning from your past behavior. The patterns on melee attacks and grenade throws feel less predictable as well and being an elite private army, the enemies are better armored and have better weapons adding more difficulty to the combat. This helps address one of my biggest complaints about the previous game in that it was a bit on the easy side, although Lara is still unrealistically tough and can even bandage herself up in combat now. Frankly, if they wanted to include that, they should have removed or at least slowed the regenerating health. As a result, I'll still call the combat a bit easy, but more enjoyable. So, if you want a challenge, don't play on normal. Now, time for the elephant in the room, the microtransactions. This is attached to cards that can be used in the expeditions, a kind of challenge mode, outside of the main story. Basically, you can use the card to boost the amount of points you can score at the cost of making the game harder in some way, make the game easier at the cost of points of just activity silly, fun stuff like Big Head mode. You can earn these card packs with credits earned in game buy completing Challenges and Tombs and from doing the expeditions themselves, or you can buy them with real money. Now, the microtransactions in this game don't actually bug me. Why? Because they didn't bug me. If it wasn't for internet rage about them I wouldn't have known they were there. The meat of the game is the campaign, and because the cards aren't used there, I can't complain. This makes it different to Halo 5, for example, because the microtransactions in that game cheapen the effort people put into earning them instead of buying them. This doesn't. If people really want to get this content more quickly and are willing to pay for it that doesn't hurt you. The rest of us are smart enough to avoid them and it's another excuse to do more play-throughs to earn the credits instead, that's assuming one even has a big interest in the expeditions in the first place. The game is actually has more value to it if you don't buy them, These in-game purchases are not only better to ignore, but easy to ignore, so do that, ignore them. Trust me, they won't bug you. Basically, this is the old game but better and it's up to a level where it's damn near faultless. The only thing that really got to with gameplay is the lack of a control to use the glow-sticks to light up dark areas. It's supposed to be automatic, but it's triggered by reaching specific locations, not by how dark it is, so I still found myself stuck in the dark struggling to find my way out on a few occasions. Just put in a control to activate the glow-sticks manually as well as the automatic system! This didn't bother me enough to detract from the experience that much, the gameplay is just brilliant here and improved on what was already a truly fantastic game to play. Score for Gameplay 9.5/10 Now, anyone who knows me on these threads know I don't consider frame rates and resolutions to be all that critical, those are just numbers, they are meaningless in themselves. I like to keep it simple and I honestly don't know or even care what this runs at on XBox One, so anyone wants to know, google will surely inform you, but trust me, it doesn't matter. You cannot boil you sense of gaming down to numbers. Great looking games come from great design, especially in a fantasy. Yes, this is set mostly in Siberia, a real place, but it's the art team's interpretation of Siberia, I don't know how accurate it really is, but what's important is this game is a joy to look at. I was in absolute awe both at the environments and the attention to detail that went into this. The tracks Lara leaves the snow that change direction as you walk, the water and splash mechanics, the facial animations, I could go on, but this is one of the best looking games I have played, and I can only imagine how it might look when someone get's it on PC and runs it on it's highest settings. Long draw distances, great character models, although I will say there's not as much variety to the environments as the last game, I was surprised at how much better this looks than even the definitive edition of that game. It's all about the little things like the way the trees move in the wind, the weather, the superb sound design just make this game feel alive and immersive. There were a couple of graphical hic-ups here and there and the game did crash on me once, but my XBox was acting weird in general at the time so it might have been that. Otherwise, the game runs well with no serious frame rate dips I noticed nor problematic bugs. This bodes well for the PC and PS4 versions as well. Also, whether this is a problem or not comes down to opinion, but the Lara death shots that were almost a Mortal Kombat level of brutal before, have been toned down quite a bit. Whether Crystal Dynamics wanted people to focus on other area's of the game or if they just wussed out and removed them I'm not sure, but it's worth noting. Overall, it's Gorgeous, 10/10 Finial Verdict
  8. I wanted to love this game, but it just wouldn't let me. In fact it did everything to the opposite effect, and at some point you just have to give up trying. The Ascent review
  9. I just finished this game and I have to say it's pretty amazing, especially for the budget and the size of the development team. But all mainstream sites that even bothered to review it uniformly said that it is a terrible game. Well 94% of gamers says otherwise. Here is my take on it.
  10. Shagger Says: The Last of Us (Part 1) 1. This is something I worked on a while ago to gather up and express my thoughts on the ending so I could share with another community, but I decided to add to it and then publish it here to share with you guys to here your thoughts now there is plenty to discuss with the second game now out. I will be doing a proper review/analysis of the The Last of Us Part 2 in due time, but I don't want to rush that so I beg your patience. Basically, it's my synapsis of the plot with more detailed analysis of certain key scenes and characters. The second game is out now and I have played part of it. Some of the updates I have written in here I have written after starting to play TLOU2, but I haven't beaten the game yet and these are my thoughts as there were before I started playing, they haven't been changed. Disclaimer and Spoiler warning 2. I would really appreciate it if you read this whole thing and shared your own thoughts in the replys, but fair warning you should get comfortable if you intend to do so as this will be a very long read. If you have any comments on any of part of this, please refer to the numbered chapters as that may be easier than trying to quote the passage because of the length. Speaking of length, appoligies for any typo's grammical and/or spelling errors. I tried my best to proof read this, but once this is posted there's no way I'll be able to edit out any mistakes. The 10 minute window just isn't long enough. 3. A second warning for spoilers. If you haven’t played the game, I’d advise you not to read on as reading this will spoil the game almost completly, leaving nothing in the story left to explore. Most are probably familiar with the story given the game’s age, but I feel it is necessary to say. If you haven't played and want to read on anyway I'd be grateful for you to do so, but you have been warned. Anyway, let’s get started. The Last Day of Civilization: (intro) 4. I will do more focused chapters for certain characters and elements within this game, but not on Joel. Whilst writing this I kept referring back and explaining his motives and traits as part of the other analysis of other things. As a result, a chapter on Joel would just be saying stuff I’ve either said already or will say, so decided not to bother. Joel is the protagonist in this game, so it’s not surprising to see his influence in all areas of the game. So, with that out of the way... 5. The game begins near Austin Texas by introducing us to our main protagonist Joel (played by Troy “between me and Nolan North we voice just about every video game character” Baker), a single father to a 12 year old girl named Sarah (Played by Hana Hayes). They appear to have a quirky, comfortable and very close relationship and is made very clear with very natural dialogue and very believable performances. 6. I liked Sarah and Joel as characters immediately because they are very everyday people with normal lives every roblems (At least at first). This makes them instantly relatable and easy to connect with without actually telling us that much about them. The game let’s us get even closer to Sarah by having her be the first character we actually control. This is so smart because we then see the ensuing chaos that is the cordycepts outbreak through her eyes, an innocent child. By the way, and it is important to point this out for anyone that doeasn't know as it adds a realistic, creepy, spin on the tradictional "Zombie Apocalypse" story. Cordyceps is acually real. It's a fungal infection that aflicts insects. Still, the "madness" (call it directed behavor to help the infection spead), the fungus, the spores, all of that acually happens. This is what might happen if it were to jump to humans. 7. This works especially well as we observe Joel who, despite being the loving father he is, is also something of Darwinist, survival of the fittest, survivor. He puts the safety of himself and those he loves over other people, even if the are in need. The way he barely hesitates to shoot his neighbour, drives past the family on the side of the road and showing little regard to the panicking mob that obstructs the truck they’re driving to escape are all clear signs of this mentality. These are important details I think because allot of people will say upcoming events what turned Joel into the cold, closed off individual we know him as in the rest significant portions of the game. Now, whilst, I do agree that suffering the pain of what happens is something he desperately avoids by not letting himself get close to anyone again, I still see allot of that, cold, darwinist, self centred Joel in him before that loss happened. 8. Joel’s brother Tommy (Played by Jeffrey Pierce) is also with them as they try to escape the bedlam. As a character Tommy’s role in the quite limited with te exception of one major thing, and it is important and done to great effect. The brings is kind of contradiction to Joel and that aforementioned Darwinist attitude. But as said, more on that later. 9. The story though. A Stressed Joel on the phone concered about his job retuns home one evening to find his daughter asleep on the couch. She wakes and Sarah, being the kind daughter she, gives her Dad a watch as a birthday gift. Soon she falls asleep again and is put to bed. It's about 2am when her landline rings and it's a panicked uncle pleading with her to get her dad on the phone. There's good reason to panic, as some kind of violent pandemic is affenting the world and it's ecalating quickly. This section is wonderfully done with great foreshadowing and a quite, haunting tone gareenteed to increase panic. Sarah does eventully find her dad also in a panic and loads his gun knowing obviously that something is very wrong with thier neighbours. This crazed neighbor then smahes into the house, giving Joel no choice but to shoot him. Sarah is rocked, but Joel calms her down tells her that they have to leave. Thankfully, Tommy has given up on phone calls and pulls up outside the house and they go. 10. They drive toward the highways on the roads just outside Austin looking for an escape, but major roads are blocked. Drive past a family in need at Joels behest, get attacted buy more crazed sick people and eventully end up is a car crash. Sahra's hurt, likely a broken leg, but Joel and Tommy are OK and leav on foot to escape and the choas ensues arounf them. More accidents, people trampling each other and, of infected tearing people appart. The make it though the bedlum to a bar whar Tommy holds to give Joel and Sahra a chance to escape. Joel runs for the highway holding Sarah being persued by more infected... then. Right, now let’s address THAT scene... Sarah’s Death 11. With Tommy buying Joel time to carry an injured Sarah to safety, they’re saved from a group of perusing infected buy a soldier. The soldier is never named, but for shits and giggles I’m gonna call him Nibley. As a very thankful Joel pleads with Nibley for help, Nibley demands he stays put then confers with his CO over the radio. It is clear that the CO has ordered Nibley to shoot Joel and Sarah, obviously not taking chances when controlling the spread of the infection. Joel and Sarah are both knocked down, but the Nibley sees Joel is unhurt. It does have to be said, how in the name of cockeyed God did not one bullet him? Anyway, as Nibley is about to finish the job on Joel, Tommy shoots and kills him (RIP Nibley). The brother’s relief is short lived though as they quickly realise that Sarah has been shot. Joel tries his best to save her, but it is of course to no avail and Sarah dies in Joel’s arms. A distraught Joel continues to cradle Sarah in his arms and then that’s the end of the intro. 12. This scene has become iconic. One of the most hard hitting, emotionally intense scenes not just in gaming, but within this genre of media entertainment in general. We all got hit hard by this moment and there’s no debating how well it worked, what I’m going to give my own reason why I think it works so well. 13. Obviously the performances, the music and direction were all big factors and I take nothing away from them, but there’s a couple of things that I feel set it apart. First is what I like to call the “Hope? Nope!” pacing of the events,, abig this in this games as it turns out, it really toys with your hopes for the best throughout the entire scene. Nibley saves them from the infected, hope? Nibley threatens them with the gun, nope! Nibley makes a radio call to people that can maybe help, hope? Nibley get an order to shoot instead, nope! Nibley seems reluctant to shoot, hope? Nibley is clearly going to shoot anyway, nope! Despite the gunfire Joel is still alive and well, hope? Nibley stands over him to finish him point blank, nope! Tommy shoots Nibley and saves Joel, hope? They realise Sarah has been shot in the gut, nope! She is still alive and Joel is providing first aid, hope? But then she dies... oh, fuck you guys! 14. Allot of dramatic death scenes follow a very constant, usually very mellow tone, but this is nothing like that. Here comes some sacrilege, it actually feels like an action scene, it’s chaotic and unpredictable. With hope and positive expectations offered to only be taken away makes the ultimate bad end all the more tragic. A very different, but very effective way to present a scene like this. 15. The second thing that sets this apart is that they had the courage to make Sarah’s last moments very undignified, something that is usually a big no no, especially when the death involves a child. I think this is best shown with a example. Compare these two child death scenes, one from the Star Trek Voyager episode Real Life and other Sarah’s death. 16. Belle’s Death from Star Trek Voyager BTW, big shout out to my brother @Crazycrab for his help with this. There was no decent clip of this scene that I could find, so with his help I had to upload this myself. Sarah’s Death from The Last of Us 17. The scene from Voyager is actually very good, I especially like how the Doctor had the courage to tell the truth in very straight yet kind way. The problem with it when compared to Sarah’s death is that it turns into what would be probably the most traumatic nightmare any parent would go through into a fantasy. As a parent I can tell if life decided it needed to be cruel enough to take my son from me, I would love for it to be like that. No pain, some nice last words, all the family around and just falls asleep as the last act. All very dignified, but still moving and emotional and obviously tragic, but is it really that dramatic? 18. Sarah’s death is a very different story. Laying in the cold dirt, already suffering from a broken leg, she’s been shot in the gut which could be the most painful place to get shot, her face is twisted with agony and fear and she’s crying to hard to say anything. For Joel this the nightmare it’s supposed to be. 19. That’s the combination of reasons why this scene works so well as far as I’m concerned, but of course, if you want to expand on this or indeed explain why you disagree please do so in the replys. It Begins...(Summer) 20. I'm just gonna quickly go through the early stages of the main story and the set up of the world before taking a closer look at the main protagonists and the rest of the story is told through their journey referring to the plot as and when I need to. This will help this already very long read just a bit shorter and more manageable. Besides, just repeating the entire plot in text is not the point of this anyway. 21. To start, we cut forward twenty years from Sarah's death and Joel is now living a quarantine zone within what’s left of Boston. Limited food rationing, compulsory job assignments, an ongoing conflict between government forces and the Fireflies and brutal martial law makes life hard here. 22. It’s this totalitarian control that the Fireflies are fighting against. The game tries hard to make you sympathise with the Fireflies by showing how brutal the military can be, hinting that they hoard food from the residents and have people executed just for mere alleged association with the Fireflies. I personally don’t just automatically sympathise with them because inciting political unrest, even if provoked, is not what the world needs at a time like this. According to the summery during the opening credits, their demands are for the “return of all branches of government”, so this a grab for power. Yes, they want to protect people from cordycepts outbreak and the other dangers of this world, but the same is also true of the government they just going about it in a brutal, but arguably necessary way. There’s more I can say on them, but I’ll save that until my look at ending. 23. Joel and a friend named Tess (Played by Annie Wersching) are smugglers making what they canof the can of this situation by bringing contraband and extra supplies in and out of the QZ. They peruse a man armed Robert who appears to be some sort of smuggler or dealer of contraband himself. Joel and Tess purchased guns from Robert that he never delivered. What did Joel and Tess need a bulk of guns for? I don’t know, it’s never explained. Do they have their own militia, or are trying to form one, are they seeking to overthrow the QZ forces, are they looking to sell the guns on, who knows. Anyway, Robert gave the guns to the Fireflies to pay back a debt. He also tried to kill Tess fearing the inevitable wrath that, of course, does catch up with him. After negotiating with the leader of the Fireflies Marlene (Played by Merle Dandridge) they agree to smuggle a fourteen year old girl named Ellie (Ashley "OMG, SHE'S AMAZING IN THIS GAME!"Johnson), out of the Boston QZ to get the guns plus more back. Not the ideal situation, but it's necessity in a nutshell. Ellie keeps the details surrounding her being smuggled out close to her chest. Still, the focus on getting her to the drop point in the Capital Building in the ruins of Boston. 24. The game mostly spends this time gradually tutoring game controls and mechanics and introducing common enemy types. It's great for getting to grips with the gameplay and breaks into story progress often enough for it to not feel padded out, but this element of the “Summer” level does make it by far the longest section of the game, so be patient. 25. Things don't go well for long, as they're captured by a patrol just outside the fence. Our smuggling duo and teen girl cargo are forced to kill the soldiers to evade capture, but not before back-up is called and all three of the are scanned for the cordycepts infection, revealing Ellie to be infected. Under interrogation of the understandably angry Tess and Joel believing they've been set up, Ellie quickly tries to explain that she got bit three weeks earlier, even showing the scar, but hasn't turned. There's no time to argue, hey still have to run. 26. Once safe from the soldiers, Ellie offers up more details on the Fireflies plans for her. Her immunity and figuring out how she came to be that way could be the key to finding a cure, so the Fireflies want take her to their own secure research centre and quarantine zone. This, of course, dose not work out as when the get to Capital Building to meet with the Firefly transport, they're all dead with no clues on them of the location of the research lab. Even worse, Tess was bit whilst trying to reach them. Tess begs Joel to take Ellie to his brother, and former Firefly, Tommy as he would know the location of the lab. The next thing, more solders and a final demand from Tess to go and allow her to buy Joel and Ellie time to get away. 27. This, whilst heartbreaking, shows just how courageous a character Tess is. A strong, smart and imposing woman you did NOT wanna cross, and when she believes in something, she'll do anything to defend it. In this case, it's what Ellie can do for humanity. Ellie, this snarky, four mouthed girl in a moment moved from being an inconvenient job, to something worth dying for. Tess, your alright. This obviously hits Joel hard as well, but Joel being Joel, his emotional defences kick in, he just focuses and ignores his pain. This does being the story in earnest as Joel is now set on the goal of the plot. Bring Ellie to the Fireflies. It Goes On... 28. This isn't intended to be a full plot synapsis, it's analysis, and there is a few specify areas of the game that I want to focus on that I feel are important. Bill's Town. 29. After escaping Boston, Joel, after shutting out Ellie's sympathies over Tess and building the wall right back up between then as he does, he leads Ellie to a nearby town where a scavenger he had trades witha guy named Bill lives that could get possibly him a working car as payment for some owed favours. 30. Now, the town is not that interesting. Good gameplay and some optional exploration to revel more out what it was like during the outbreak, but it's just another abandoned town now overrun with infected with this one guy surviving in it. What is interesting though, is Bill himself (Played by W. Earl Brown). 31. He's a bitter, distrustful old loner. He and Ellie get on each others nerves immediately and constantly. Built to survive, though, with a high talent for scavenging, fighting and with a spanner. Even shows Joel how to make a nail bomb. All he had was his “partner” (The hilarious scene with that THAT magazine in the car shows, we all know what he meant, LOL.) 32. Bill has a plan to fix up a car, all he needs is a battery from a military truck that crashed into a nearby school weeks earlier. They make their way toward the School fighting and/or avoiding infected along the way, but end up surrounded when they get inside. In the game's typical style of taking every chance to dump on our characters, the battery is missing. They need to escape the school, and more importantly, the infected. In the school gym, the player is introduced to their first Bloater. A huge infected monster covered with fungal armour plate that'll literally rip you face of if they get close and through acid bombs. A brilliant “Boss” style threat and terrifying to fight, I love it. 33. Once out, the enter a house to gain their bearings and try to decide what to do now. While Joel and Bill argue, they're interrupted buy bill noticing a hanging body with bite marks. It's Frank. It turns out Frank met his sad fate determined to escape Bill as he was fed up with him and his “Set in his ways attitude”, as descried in a brutal goodbye note near found by Joel in the house. Damn, that's harsh. Frank had indeed stole that very battery and installed in a truck in this house's garage. The battery will work, but the truck needs a push start. No problem, push a pick up truck down the street full of infected. They get the truck started and Bill parts ways with Joel and Ellie with all his love and best wishes by telling Joel, We're square, now get the fuck out of my town.”. You can feel the love...Yeah. Just for the hell of it, here is THAT scene n the truck; 34. What's interesting about this though is that despite Bill's ill feeling about Ellie and this mess Joel's gotten into, it's during all this criticism that Joel starts to stand up for her and encourage her. Why would he do that when Ellie's just as much a trigger these issues between them. Well, I think through Bill, Joel sees a possible future for himself. A lone survivor with nobody left to care about him. He may have even been comfortable with that before, or didn't think that would happen, but with Tess and Sarah gone and his brother long since fallen out with him, he sees this possible now and doesn't like it. This... task. Bringing Ellie to the Fireflies, might be more of an opportunity than he first thought. It Was Either Him or Me... 35. After that touching moment of bonding the truck, we're suddenly reminded of the “Hope? Nope.” principle with Joel being forced on the main highway and into an ambush. Surviving the initial onslaught from these “hunters” (bandits, I suppose), they see a bridge across town as their only way out. Joel even confesses to Elle that he could see the ambush coming because he's “Been on both sides” before. Yeah, this guy has a past, and I like that because hero's need a dark side and characters need flaws to human and relatable. 36. Making their way through what happens to be an old quarantine zone where the residents have rebelled and taken up the aforementioned banditry the have to through a hotel. An unfortunate incident involving a lift-shaft and gravity separates the two and Joel has to make his way back up. 37. One of the things that people often, and quite rightfully praise this game about is how so much of the lore, background, exposition and even story itself is told in a natural, unforced way during the actual gameplay. In this part, for example, the duologue between the enemies, the graffiti on the walls, optional notes, optional duologue between characters really opens this world up. The environments play as vital a role in this story as any cutscene. Few game before and indeed since have really been able to do this, at least this well. I'll touch on this a little more later. 38. Anyway, once fighting through an infected filled basement and getting back up to the ground floor of the hotel, Joel still has to fight through more of these hunters. One of them gets the better of him and he finds himself face down and drowning in a puddle unable to reach his gun. But then, the gun is picked up and BANG! 39. And, it's Ellie, having just shot the guy. As you can imagine, Ellie is shocked and feels ill by what's just happened, whitest Joel is furious at her... for saving him. Ellie just wants some appreciation, in her own words, she wants him to say “I know it wasn't easy, but it was either him or me. Thanks for saving my ass.”, but instead she gets blamed buy Joel for not staying put like he asked and even suggesting he's lucky Ellie didn't just kill him. Joel has a point... I mean no, he doesn't have point at all, This just his own phycological defence mechanisms barring from trust, appreciation and accepting help from others. After this, Ellie is obviously upset and withdrawn. She's reluctant to help Joel when asked to and responds mostly with mumbles of sarcasm. It is a little immature for Ellie to go in the huff like this, but she's still a kid and honestly, who could blame her after what just happened? I'm focusing a lot on this because next is something significant. 40. Facing another group hunters holding down what looks like an old food court, Ellie once again insists it's better for them if she helps, Joel finally relents. He gives her a brief lesson on how to use a bolt-action rifle and instructs her to cover him if he gets in trouble. Before heading down Joel turns and says, “About back there, it WAS either him or me.” for her to respond “You're welcome.” acknowledging it as his way of finally saying thank you. 41. Except it was more than that. A barrier between the Joel had tried hard to hold up until now has crashed. He's trusting her. Trust is a dangerous thing for Joel and it can lead to something he has feared ever since Sarah's death. Caring for someone. That's dangerous because he knows the hurt loosing someone he cares for, but now those defences are just starting to break down, and, is it so bad? Henry, Sam, and Fuck That Truck 42. After making their way through city being hounded by the hunter and their armoured Hum-V with a 50cal machine gun mounted on the back, Ellie and Joel find themselves in the company of another two survivors, Henry (Played by Brandon Scott) and his younger brother Sam (Played by Nadji Jeter). Together, they formulate a plan to get across the bridge, guarded by the hunters, at night when there's less of them. The plan is successful, but messy as Henry comes to a point where he feels he has no choice but to push forward without Ellie and Joel. Ellie and Joel still (just barely) make it, and Joel is obviously pissed and only Ellie's pleas stops Joel from killing Henry. Not much to say on that. The player is obviously more connected with Joel, so is more likely to take his side, but you could also say Henry did the wrong thing for the right reason, to protect Sam. I do believe that the Joel of old, would have killed him. We know he's killed mercilessly for much less, but he's changed, or changing. 43 Our group enters a storm drain ho to find a way through to a radio tower Henry's group were supposed to meet up at. Now, remember what I said earlier about the environment in this game being a storyteller all own its own? Well, this section tells a gut wrenching story all through exploration about a community, with families and children, that formed, grew and even thrived for a long time here only to fall apart because of one mistake and then the place was overrun with infected. To give you an idea of just how powerful this imagery is, check out this one shot as an example of it. http://www.megabearsfan.net/image.axd/2013/9/LastOfUs_killing_children_01.JPG 44. That's one of my favourite things about the game, it rewards your exploration of this world with insights about this world that most games games don't and isn't afraid to respect the dark situation that this world is in with some equally dark imagery and tone. 45. With the depressing storm drain settlement behind them and that radio tower ahead, our group makes their way through a typical town in world. You know, falling apart, an ice cream truck that Ellie couldn't believe was a real thing, a few resident lunatics, one of which with a sniper rifle, the usual. There's almost through when the hunters from the bridge who have pursued them catch them up. Pettiness, revenge, afraid they'll tell someone on the outside about them or do they genuinely believe this is worth it on the hope that one of these people will have a decent pair of shoes, I can't fully understand what's driving them to go to this length to catch these this group, but it seems a tad obsessive. Anyway, we take them and their FUCKING truck out then proceed to the radio station. Man, that was satisfying. Infected rush in and almost take out Ellie and Same, but thanks you Joel's sniper skill, them seem OK, but it's time to go. 46. Now at the tower, our group has time to eat, relax, rest and even bond. Joel and Henry have patched their differences and Ellie tries to cheer up a downtrodden Sam, even gifting him a toy that Sam said he couldn't have. Despite her efforts, Sam is still very down in the dumps, questioning whether the infected are still people, have they “moved on to be with their families”, is there any hope of them coming back. Ellie is honest, but gentile and kind in her realisum expressing how she feels about the subject,. Once your gone, you gone with the infection. This does nothing to cheer Sam up, and as it turns out that was for a very good reason. It's revealed he been bitten. The next morning, the inevitable happens. At Henry's behest, Ellie proceeds to wake Sam up as Henry let him sleep in for a change, because of course he had to choose THIS morning of all mornings to do that. And yes, Sam has turned and attacks Ellie and Henry is forced to shoot Sam. Henry is, obliviously, distraught and unstable. Joel tries to calm him down and take the gun from him, but Henry threatens Joel with the gun, blaming Joel for everything before turning the gun on himself. 47. This has impact not just because of the superb performances from the actors, but from what was established about the characters. Sam was a very timid, run down person any who never got a chance to really live in this world. The time he spend with Ellie was probably about as happy as he's ever been, so it's so tragic to see this innocent kid we've come to care for never get the chance to live a life he desperately wanted. Henry's demise is, if anything, even more tragic because this young man lived to give Sam a better life. He was driven by a soul that was full of hope and determination, much unlike his more pessimistic brother. So to see him break down they way that he did and loose every ounce of that hope in single moment is one of that most tragic parts in the game, and it hit hard. And all for characters that don't actually serve the main story very much. Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? (Fall) 48. Curt forward a number of months and Joel and Ellie are almost at Jackson, where Joel believes they'll find Tommy who can point them in the direction of the Fireflies research lab. And indeed they find him, working with a crew repairing a hydroelectric power plant just outside the self sustaining town of Jackson, home of Tommy and his wife Maria (Played by Ashley Scott). They catch up a little and Tommy tells Joel that he wnt back to Texas and found their homes. He didn't find much, but did find a picture of Joel and Sarah, offers it to Joel, be Joel doesn't aspect it. Those barriers, again. 49. A little bit on Tommy. Remember how I said I felt bill was a forward into Joels future if he never learned to trust or love again? Well I see Tommy as a reflection of what Joel could have been if he hadn't entered that dark place he did after Sarah's death. Tommy has hope and purpose in his life. He's proud of what he's accomplished and always tried to place value in himslef though what he could do for others as well as himself. Maybe that's why the two fell out in the end. Joel being to self centred and Tommy being too idealistic. Still. I think Tommy is a hugly undervalued chacter in this game just because is purpose is more subtle. 50. Joel tells Tommy about Ellie's immunity and asked take Tommy to take Ellie to the Fireflies,but Tommy has a life here is doesn't want to give that up, but after a bandit attract and seeing Ellie's sprit, he changes his mind and decides to take Ellie to the Fireflies for Joel, much to the rage of Maria. Maria isn't the only one that's angry. Ellie has sensed that something is wrong and runs away with of the Jackson crew's horses. After fighting their way though more bandits, they rack Ellie down to a house and Joel confronts her. Now, so much goes on this this scene, it would be cumbersome to explain without letting you see it for yourself. So, here we go. 51. This is a powerful and important moment. Ellie is obviously upset with Joel as he's “trying to get rid of her” and his excuses just aggravate her even more. So she open up to Joel is hope that she can bring down his walls too, but Joel's stubborn will appears to win out. However, this has hit Joel a lot harder than he lets on and is now in a position where he simply can't deny his emotional and practical obligation to Ellie any-more, so changes his mind and, following Tommy's direction, takes Ellie to the Fireflies himself. He even accepts this responsibility and the truth of the connection he has with Ellie with a kind of light-hearted attitude, like a weight has been lifted. The very next scene is Joel and Ellie approaching the location Tommy described, The University of Eastern Colorado, teaching he the rules of (American) Football. This is the forging of the bond between the two because this is where Joel finally admits to himself that he cares for this girl. Ellie didn't keep it a close of a secret that she looked up to Joel and was seeing him as a potential father figure, but only really opened up to herself about how badly she wanted that when it was about to be taken away. It's subtle, but it's critical. 52. They banter along and bond more as they explore the University. They find infected and sighs of the Fireflies presence, but no Fireflies or people at all. A long dead body of a scientist holds a recording telling, well, whoever is listening, that the Fireflies moves to another base of operation at St Mary's Hospital in Salt Lake City. Just as there're contemplating their next move, they come under attack from more apparent bandits (turn this group has more in this story, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.) Trying to fight their way out past them, Joel get thrown off a walkway and is impaled on a what looks like a piece of thick steel wire, the kind they'd use in re-enforced concrete. Ellie desperately tries to help Joel but he's clearly badly hurt, fading, losing blood and in a lot of pain. Thanks to Ellie and the badass she's become, they escape the university only for Joel to fall off the horse unresponsive then... CUT. Next thing we see, its Winter and Ellie hunting alone and your playing as her now. 53. Off all the cliffhanging, merciless teases that you may have seen in other stories, this one of the most most “AAARRRRGGGGGGG” ones I've seen. You genuinely have no idea if Joel is alive, but world has moved on with a massive gap unplugged. For the developers to do this, it's arrogant, it's cruel, it's fucking brilliant! Yeah, don't deny it, it worked to really push you forward and find out what happened. Yes, They Went There (Winter) 54. So, now you're Ellie. And you're alone. Now the circumstances and mystery surrounding how this came to be will be swirling though your head obviously, but to play as Elie is a lot of fun. She doesn't have all the same crafting toys and weapons as Joel does, it's a more lean load-out, but she does have he pocket knife (no more broken shivs) and game does let up a little with the understanding that you have a more limited load out..., LOL, no of course it doesn't. 55. She manages to bring down a deer, but the kill also attracts the attention of two men named David (Played by Nolan “Of course I had to be in this, like I'm in every game, somewhere with my pal Troy” North) and a younger guy named James. They plead for a share of the dear to feed their community and offer trade. Ellie never looks at them from any view other the the sight of a weapon and really takes charge. Good girl. She offers the dear in exchange for antibiotics... wait, antibiotics? For who? Can it be... 56. ...eh, yeah. Em. James goes to fetch the medicine whilst Ellie takes David's gun off him and holds him up while he drags the deer inside a nearby building. Man, he learned quicker than most not to fuck with Ellie. Ellie waits with David with him trying to be friendly whilst Ellie still looks ready to shoot him at a moments notice when The Last of Us dose what The Last of Us dose. Sends a hoard of mushroom people at them. 57. After surviving the hoard, that included a bloater (told you the game wouldn't let up), Ellie and David sit down to continue the wait for the medicine and Ellie appears to relax somewhat in the presence of this kind, helpful stranger who has not seemed to warrant the mistrust Ellie has show so far. Then they drop a bomb. David reveals that weeks prior he sent men into a town to look for supplies, and only a few came back, David knows this group was slaughtered by Joel and Ellie, most likely the ones at the university. James comes back and wants to kill Ellie, but David insists he give the the medicine and let her go. 58. She finds her horse and rides back to a nearby abandoned town and into a house and it's revlealed. YES!!! Joel is alive, but an infection in his crudely stitched up wound has taken hold and is not out of the woods yet. The next morning, Ellie wakes up to find she was tracked by David's men and has to lead them away or risk find they find the defenceless Joel. Ths next gampley section is of my favoites in the game and turns Ellie into a total badass. She rides through the town until the horce is shot (R.I.P. Callous) then fights through a lakeside resort killing what feels like half the Belgian army of David's thugs until David himself catches up with her and captures her to “keep her alive”. 59. We talked a lot about humanising Joel and Ellie in story, making them relatable and how that helps us, as the audience/player, connect with them. So, how do you humanise a villain and why should you? It's simple, really. Make them admirible. Make them diabolical. Make their evil action a factor of choice rather than instinct. Make their actions understandable, even if unreasonable. Explainable, but not excusable. Given them qualities that anyone would want within themselves, but with the right motive and desires could be a force for good. A villian with no possitive qualities, that can't be admires, can't really be a threat either. That's the key the key to great villain. How could you help the universe with Darth Vader's Power? Imagine what you could make of yourself with Hannibal Lecter's intelligence? 60. The Last of Us says fuck all that and makes David not only the head of a cannibal society, but a paedophile who kept Ellie alive so she could become, as one of his men put it, “his latest pet”. That's right, this is what is happening in the story. Ellie going to be eaten, or molested, maybe even both. Not exactly subtle, Naughty Dog. 61. Still, David is a great villain. We saw earlier that ability to put on a trustworthy face, only to use it open his opportunity to track Ellie down and capture her. He's one smart son of a bitch. Despite the obvious and even overwhelming hatred the player has for him at this point, he does have a very human vulnerability to him. He feels pressured by his men to just end Ellie, a pressure he resists because, and I know I'll get flack for this, I can't help but think, in some way, he actually does care about her. David even has enough self belief and intelligence to even attempt to justify the actions of his people in this world it does even even make some sense. But fuck all that, he needs to die. 62. During an exchange of words between David and Ellie where all this is being explained, she coaxes him in, breaks his thumb and tries to steal his keys. One more scornful insult at David later an it appears he's reluctantly decided to just butcher her instead. 63. We come back to Joel, who is now waking up. He gatherers his stuff and heads out wondering where Ellie is when he come under attack. The attackers are the remnants of David's men and give away that they know about Ellie,. Now Joel is in pursuit. 64. He succeeds in capturing two of them alive and pits them against each other during an “interrogation” and he finds out where Ellie is. Joel really shows just how nasty he can be here. I won't say more except, damn! Anyway, he heads to the location, but encounters the, let's call it the “abattoir” along the way with Ellie's backpack in it. Yes, to say a sense of urgency has engulfed him would be putting it mildly. 65. Meanwhile, James and David have dragged Ellie out of her cell, Ellie biting David in the process, and are about to make Ellie Fillet, when Ellie pulls the ace out her sleeve and yells, I'M INFECTED!”. Genius. Wait for them to get you out of the cell before dropping that bomb. Of course they don't believe her but after she insists they look at her arm, they don't know what to do but argue. David doesn't want to believe this because it means he's infected as well now, but James is more insistent it can't be anything else. She takes this chance to grab the butcher knife, kill James, roll of the table and escape. 66. She fights her way through the town looking for a way out until ends up at a restaurant where David catches up with her and one of the games most unique gameplay moments, the only boss battle with a human, is now on. He took away your gun, he's armed with a machete while the exit has be set alight and the restaurant is burning down. You have to sneak up on him and stab him with the knife. After three successful strikes, both Ellie and David go down. Back to Joel After leaving the abattoir, makes his way through the town trying to find Ellie. He finds the aforementioned restaurant on fire and has to assume that where she is... because it's a BBQ joint? In a town full of cannibals? I dunno. Doesn't change the fact he's right. 67. We cut back to Ellie again who's regained continuousness and seen David's machete and starts creeping toward it. She's interrupted in the last way anyone would want in this situation with a kick to the stomach. Fighting the pain and the temptation to through up because David's evil “It's OK to give up” monologue would make anyone ill, she still tries to reach for the machete. David gets on top of her in a way that difficult to call it creepy or violent when she finally gets to the machete and hacks David to pieces with it. She's still hacking at at David when Joel comes in and calms her down. They talk for a moment (underad by the player, it's mostly drownd by music) like the father and daughter they are now and then leave. I like that because without knowing they actually said, the music communictes what they ment perfectly. Never underestimate the importance of good sound design and music. 68. After going through all that, who wouldn't be traumatised? It's not just what David did and tried to do to her, it's what she did to him as well I believe. There was a moment there that she was totally lost to the violence. If Joel hadn't stopped her brought her back, it could have been even worse. The first thing she said when Joel pulled her off was, DON'T YOU FUCKING TOUCH ME!” completely consumed by the fear and rage of what she was going through. Joel calmed her down. Ellie may have saved herself from David, but I think Joel saved Ellie from herself. He also called her “baby-girl” in that moment, the same pet-name he had for Sarah. That's it. Ellie is his Daughter now. The Ending (Spring) 69. Our hero's have finally made it to Salt Lake City after spending most of the last year travelling with Ellie in search of the Fireflies. A unusually up-beat Joel is trying is best to be positive for somewhat downtrodden Ellie, probably still traumatised by the events of “Winter”, and who could blame her. Joel is to chat to her, make he engage and even promises promises her to teach he guitar, but Ellie just seams distant and distracted. The best example of this is when Joel needs to boot Ellie up to fetch a ladder, but Elie is just sad down on a bench, head hanging low, not paying attention to Joel. I think I know why. Now that they're so close to the end, what will happen to her once they reach the Fireflies is weighing heavy on her mind, but more on that later. Things do brighen up in a very iconic, but not fully relvant scene whar Ellie pesters Joel to follow her as she chases what turns out to be a head of giraffes. They even get a chance to pet one. This scene holds no real relvance to the story, it's just a touching monet and a visual treat, but like I said it's icomic so I thought I'd include it; They're forced into the tunnels to reach St' Mary's Hospital serving as a research base for the Fireflies on the Cordyceps pandemic. An Accident occurs where Ellie appears to drown and while Joel tries to revive her, Firefly Soldiers show up and one of them knocks him out... 70. It's OK though, Ellie is safe (but given what happens next, we have assume she did not regain consciousness), Joel is brought to Marlene in the Hospital and is informed that in order to obtain the samples needed to reverse engineer a vaccine, Ellie has to die. Joel is, of course, furious and is unwilling to accept this. This is understandable from Joel given how close he has got to Ellie throughout this journey. Joel has but one choice in his head, rescue Ellie and escape the Fireflies. 71. At first, Ellie was just a task, even a burden to Joel but the eye opening experiences of “Fall” when he learned just how much Ellie now cared forhim and looked up to him as quite likely her first real father figure along with the intense and dangerous experiences of “Winter” brought Joel face to face with the possibility of loosing another person he loved and cared for. Both of these things he has avoided sine the start of the Cordyceps outbreak and loosing Sarah 20 years previously. 72. Allot of people look at Joel's behaviour when Marlene told him as very “of the moment” and spurred by a rush of desperate emotion, but I think that's incorrect. I find it hard to believe that either Joel nor Ellie are that ignorant. In the 9 months or so they were travelling together the possibility that Ellie would have to suffer or even die to get the cure would have crossed there minds. In the scene just after the Giraffes, that same fear that awoke him to how he feels about Ellie in Winter and engaged him to talk and deal with Ellie as the father they both now felt he was hit him again. He turned to her and said, “We don't have to do this... let's just go back to Tommy’s, forget this ever happened...”. Now, next is what could be one of the most important, yet under-discussed lines in the entire game. Ellie responds, “After everything we've been through. Everything that I've done. It can't be for nothing.”. It's only for moment and it's subtle, but Joel hangs his head and sighs just after she says that. That's the moment he realised that if it came to that, she would to willing to sacrifice herself. Ellie was also very distant and distracted throughout large parts of this section which tells me that this was on her mind to. I'm not saying she wasn't scared of dying and she certainly didn't want to, but would be willing to die to better others if that's what it took. 73. This is the biggest difference between Joel and Ellie as Characters for me. Even from the start when Joel told Tommy to drive past the family on the side of the road, it's clear he is something of a Darwinist, survival of the fittest, do what it takes to survive kind of man. Putting himself and those he cares about more than others. His past in that 20 year gap is also, let's say, controversial, but undetailed. While doing what it takes to survive, he's not only seen some of the worst of humanity, but been some of the worst of humanity, so probably has had his value for humanity compared to Ellie devalued even more, which makes it less likely for him to let that surgery go ahead as well. Ellie is the kind of person who, whilst not necessarily willing to make a sacrifice needlessly, is for more willing to look at the bigger picture. She finds the loss of someone close just as painful as Joel oes and fears it the same, but is more warded to it in her young life than Joel, and it was never the loss of a child. So by growing up this world, that’s life in this world and thus she’s grown up to more used to this than Joel. 74. That is why Joel lied to her about the Firelies not being able to use Elie to find a cure. And it was a selfish lie. He didn't do it to protect her, he was protecting himself from the consequences of letting her choose that fate and taking that choice away from her. I've seen a let's play where the YouTuber in question was pissed off the Fireflies were robbing her of the choice, and I completely agree, but the moment that Joel lied to Ellie, he became guilty of the same thing. That's also why he killed Marlene because she was a loose end and link to the truth that he couldn't afford to leave alive. It also destroyed the possibility of the Fireflies coming after her as Joel said, yes, but with the damage done he didn't need to lie to her just to protect her from them. With both the surgeon and Marlene dead, it would be almost impossible for the Fireflies to set this back up and track them down, meaning they're not much of a threat unless they're hell bent on revenge, and I don't think they would be, they have bigger problems. They're most likely finished. 75. I'm not in support of the Fireflies though, despite what I just said. From a practical level, I think them curing humanity just like that is way to simple, that's not how it would have worked. In the news reports heard in the opening credits, we heard the Fireflies “public charter called for the return of all branches of government”, so when you consider how difficult logistics, manufacture and communication in this new world be, not to mention the hostile political situation the Fireflies are in, this cure would be used as a political tool. Even if the Fireflies have the best intentions, I just don't see how this would work. The game doesn't ponder on these details because Joel couldn't care less about them, so I'm not going to dwell on the to long, but I think it's still worth a thought. 76. Right at the end, a couple of important things happened. Ellie lists the people she has lost and says “I'm still waiting for my turn” confirming to Joel she accepts her mortality. Joel attempts to comfort her by telling her that survival, whilst a struggle, is one that can be endured by keeping finding to fight for, worth living for. At this point, Ellie interrupts him and makes him swear he was telling the truth about the Fireflies. He swears it's true. Then there's this contemplating look on her face then sge finally says “OK”. I don't think this was her believing the lie, more accepting the lie. I think that on some level she knew he was lying, but by asking him to swear the that he wasn't she could see how much wanted this new life for them and how he really cared for her. She's not willing to give that up, not now, so she doesn't bite the feeding hand, lets any anger she felt about it go and is now prepared for a new life. 78. Whilst I do see the wrong in what Joel did, I can also understand it and sympathise, but that's not really the point. The game doesn't spell out whether he's right or wrong, it's just expressing how he feels. This isn't an RPG or a choice based narrative like a Telltale game or Life is Strange. I’ve seen al lot if people complain that Joel's actions at the end should have been a player choice, but they'd be wrong because it's not that kind of game and I believe it wouldn't have had the same impact. It’s fine to not agree or sympathise with Joel or Ellie at points as your observing the story, but progressing through it as an observer it’s much eaiert to provoke emotional conflict within the player compared to when they have too much control over the actions, and that’s why this works. Ellie: The NPC Redefined 79. The amount of praise, appreciation and love this character has received is mind blowing, and for good reasons. Much of I’m going to dig into has been said before, but I’m just using my own views as to why this character works, the impact she’s had and why I love this character. 80. The first impression that, quite frankly, anyone would have of Ellie wouldn’t be that warm. She’s foul mouthed, bratty and aggressive, but she’s definitely a product of not only the world she was forced to grow up in, but her own circumstances as well. Her mother died not long after she was born and with the father nowhere to be seen, this harsh world was her parent. That is where her quick to defend by attack attitude I feel is born from. 81. She’s also smart, strong, compassionate, funny, independent and has the needs of others at the forefront of her logic, something that’s rare for people who grow up in our society, never mind the world in this game. She is made up of a mixture of things we’d want to be and things we wish to never have to be so is a very admirable and relatable character overall. 82. It would take a kind of strength beyond most of us to have that level of care and compassion for others growing up in this world, a fact kind of proven by Joel who is more of a self centred survivor. What I find interesting and important about that is what do these two people learn from each other? How do they grow and change? Well, this time there is no long analysis because it it’s very simple. Ellie learns how to survive and Joel re-learns how to feel and love again. 83. Ellie knew combat and survival at least to some extent already, she was in a military school. So, whilst I don’t doubt she learned allot about those things from Joel, what she learned from the journey and Joel himself was more about those things as a purpose rather than a necessity. That’s the big difference between Joel, along with the Fireflies, and the military/government in this world. 84. I love Ellie. You can’t help but care about her. Joel too. You want to be proud of him and what he accomplishes and becomes by the end of the game. The story as a whole is actually allot like Sarah’s death in the chaotic “Hope? Nope!” kind of way. Just as our heroes are about make real progress or have something to be happy about, it all blows up their face and things end up, if anything, worse than before. This does give real purpose to Joel's more cold, closed of mentality and this is something, like it or not, you need to survive in this easier to connect with then perhaps it should be. 85. What these two characters taught you as the player is yours and yours alone and it’s your right to hold it precious. For me, it taught me the virtue in selfishness. It is right to be that little bit stubborn and self centred when you truly believe that it’s better for all or to protect what you care about. Allot of that is covered buy my thoughts on the ending, but we’re getting there. 86. Before moving on, there is one last thing about Ellie to address. Now, I want to make it perfectly clear that the only reason I bring this up is to discuss how well this was handled. For me, this is not worthwhile of analysis at all and has no bearing on how I feel about the character. This will not to be true of everyone, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community, who showered this with praise. You may have guessed that I’m talking about Ellie’s sexuality. The LGBTQ+ related controvesy I'm discussing here is related to this game, not the TLOU2, so if you discuss this, please stick to the subject at hand. I'll likely adress what thinks has been a much bigger set of LGBTQ+ related controvesies for TLOU2 in the topics related that game whn I get to it. 87. Believe it or not, there were still people who would testify Ellie wasn't gay before the announcement of TLOU2 and/or have a problem with that, even now. Whilst I doubt anyone reading this in this community feels that way (well I hope not), this whole analysis wouldn’t feel complete without looking into it. However, people who doubt or protest Ellie’s sexuality I don’t feel are worth my time. There’s another problem in that I’m a straight male, so why would you take my opinion seriously anyway? So instead of trashing the idea the Ellie is straight with my words, I’ll just post a vid form a YouTuber named Kathleenmms, who demolishes that delusion far better that I could, not just because she is a gay woman but because she is as smart as anyone gets as well. 88. SIDE NOTE: A fun fact. At momocon 2014, Ashley Johnson described how watching a certain let’s play of TLOU Left Behind DLC, to quote, “broke” her after watching this let player’s reaction to this lesbian romance, and it was Kathleenmms and her let’s play that prompted it. If you wanna see, check this vid. The vid should play from the appropriate point of the panel/interview) 89. Another really weird coincidence goes to this game’s "link" with actress Ellen Paige. When the game first launched allot of people mistakenly thought Ellen was the actress playing Ellie (the similar name or the similar looks, whatever) , which of course she wasn’t. This, so I’m told, pissed Ellen off as she was starring in and promoting another PlayStation exclusive game, Beyond Two Souls, to come out later that same year. Then, on February 14th 2014 (yes, Valentine’s Day, feel free to make you own joke), during a speech at Time to Thrive, a conference to promote the welfare of LGBTQ+ youth held at Bally's Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Ellen Paige publicly came out as gay for the first time, the same day The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC launched. That means Ellen Paige came out on effectively the day as Ellie did. I mean wow, I’m saddened that I lack the talent to make this up! 90. Back to it. I love the way this is handled because it’s not really treated like anything important. Back in the 90’s and into the 2000’s, gay people were being written in more commonly that ever before in films and TV, but not very well. They were proud, don’t get me wrong, but that was PC enough at the time to Just include them. The thing is they we’re to proud. They weren’t shy or ashamed, in fact the exact opposite of that. They were so proud of it that every relationship (romantic or otherwise), action, feeling, emotion and even dress sense had to revolve around that and they that had to announce all of their obnoxiously gay everywhere they went. This was not only wrong in terms of reinforcing gay stereotypes, but also turned gay into a character rather than an aspect of a character. 91. Being gay doesn’t define a gay character, the character defines a character regardless of sexual orientation, and that’s something that I feel the creators of The Last of Us understand. You could ask the most irrational, raging homophobe how being gay changed Ellie’s character from the one they adored in the main game and they would not come up with an honest answer that makes any sense at all. That’s why Ellie’s sexuality wasn’t addressed in the main game because it wasn’t necessary to do so. That was about the relationship between her and Joel, so it’ wasn't relevant. 92. I will admit Ellie (and Riley, for that matter) being gay didn’t feel strictly necessary, but it didn’t feel forced nor take anything away either. This was not pandering to SJW’s demanding inclusion just because. The whole thing was written and handled too well for it to be that. I was as surprised as anyone, but it didn’t hurt me nor anyone else whilst at the same time meaning allot to the LGBTQ+ community, so I’m glad they did it. Now, I'm well aware of Game Director Niel Druckmann's reputation, so I'm not gonna say a so-called “Social Justice Agenda” played no part in his decision to build Ellie's character and other area's of the game (nd TLOU2) the way he did, but like I said it was handled with genuine effort and he's well within his right to take that creative liberty. Gameplay 93. This was supposed to be a story and character analysis for the most part, but it wouldn’t be right to not talk about this at least a little. A good thing as well because honestly, there isn’t a whole lot to say. It’s not a particularly unique or complicated game in terms of gameplay mechanic, it just does what it does well with high production value. 94. At it’s core, The Last of Us is a linear third person shooter with a strong emphasis on stealth and some light survival and exploration elements. All these elements are we balanced with each other buy giving the player enough choice in each section to reach their goal in number of ways depending of circumstance and play style. 95. The shooting mechanics are easy to use, weighty and with a unique, indigenous feel for each weapon. Melee combat is simplistic, but satisfying and includes a breakable weapons that aren’t annoying because they’re an enhancement to the hand to hand rather that something you rely on for the whole game (Yeah, looking at YOU Zelda: Breath of the Wild!). 96. Stealth feels dynamic because of the various ways the enemies in the game react, especially the infected runners and clickers. Runners can see and the can move fast, but take less damage than clickers and can be taken out with your fists. Clickers “see” using sound and if alerted, it’s a one hit kill if they get to you, so use stealth tactics whenever possible. Allot the boaters you engage as bosses. They take a beating, attack at range and deadly up close. Avoid them if you can, but big weapons, Molotov cocktails and nail bombs will get the job done. 97. The human enemies are OK to fight with, but are only varied by the weapons they carry and certain very enjoyable set prices the game has to offer and, at times, armour, but the level layout helps make engagements enjoyable enough. The AI is not that sophisticated, but it’s adequate and does offer enough sentient behaviour, opposing tactics and challenge to suit in this game. These sections I’d say weren’t quite as much fun as battling infected, but still very good. 98. Resource management and exploration are critical as you use supply’s, scrap and what I think is medicine you find in the world for crafting items and upgrading weapons and skills. Again, it’s pretty light mechanics, but smart as crafting items use common ingredients and you only find so much medicine and scrap, so your choices really matter in the crafting. There’s also a limit to the ammo capacity, so you need to use your weapons wisely as well. 99. Allot of these games that focus mostly on single player have tacked on multiplayer modes that feel half assed and just not worth it (Dragonage Inquisition multiplayer anyone? What, wanna do something more fun like carve yourself a new, wider path for your bladder to empty? Can’t say I blame you.). The Last of Us actually had a fun and fresh idea that involved linking your Facebook account to import “survivors” from your real life friends list if you wanted the allying yourself to either bandits or the Fireflies to then go out and compete against other players for your clans survival. The crafting, focused hearing mechanics and of course combat were taken from the main game and implemented well in a very tactically focused team death-match. Of course it wasn’t as extensive as other more multiplayer-centric games, but for a side dish it was a very tasty and surprisingly substantial part of the meal. Conclusion 100. As gamers, or even just as people, we love to root for the underdog. We want our David’s to succeed over our Goliath. Whilst The Last of Us is undeniably a Goliath rather than a David being published by Sony and developed by the already very much accomplished Naughty Dog, it still managed to gather allot of that same sort of support from people as if it were a David. I believe this is because the creative vision, the writing, the story and characters are always the more humble elements of even the biggest, blockbusting projects in entertainment media and it’s these elements that The Last of Us does particularly well. That’s why the game has got the acclaim that it has, the heart of a David in the body of a Goliath. Being in the body of a Goliath didn’t exactly hurt the game either. Having the big budget resources with some best talent money can buy to make this game was critical to bring this vision to life. To make this happen, every role from the most humble and basic to the most complex and innovative had to work together. 101. To me, this was an engrossing, memorable event in the history of gaming and important one to show the world that this type of entertainment needs to be taken seriously and respected. There are still to many people that see gaming as a low brow waste of time, not something suitable for respectable society. Whether that was ever true is open to debate, but it certainly isn’t the case now and The Last of Us dealt a bigger blow to that delusion than any game I recall. Naughty Dog didn’t make the game to be that to us, they just wanted to make a great game, but they did embrace that responsibility and handled it so. 102. This has meant so much to so many and I for one, learned how important it is to embrace hope even when life is at it’s worst and life is only worth who you choose to share it with. We live in vain, materialistic world and ironically it’s a video game, a impractical indulgence that can only find a home in that world is what helped me see more clearly what is truly valuable. The Last of Us may have impacted you in a different way or even not at all, but whatever the case that experience belongs to you, so treasure it. 103. If you made it all the way through this then you have my thanks. Other than that, there isn’t much left to say apart from bring on I hope you enjoyed and game hope you enjoy The Last of Us Part 2 if you get the chance. Please share your own thoughts, feelings and experience of The Last of Us. As I mentioned a review and spoiler analysis of the The Last of Us Part 2 from me will come. Until then, with humble sincerity Shagger
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