809 Reviews liked by dwardman

Years ago, when I was first feeling out the Final Fantasy series, I gave this game a shot. I figured since I had dabbled in Fire Emblem in the past and made reasonably quick work of Final Fantasies IX and X, I could handle this thing no problem. I was filtered at Dorter Trade City. Between the dense writing and the galaxy-brained progression systems (and the lack of easy explanation of them), I found myself completely repelled by the experience. I turned right the hell around and played a different game. Another time. Apparently early 2022 was that Another Time, and this time I sat down and pored over resources online, figured out the best approach, and I started again in earnest. I beat Dorter first try.
The confidence that encounter gave me propelled through the rest of the game, and I'm so glad it did because Final Fantasy Tactics, particularly the War of the Lions edition, is one of the most worthwhile experiences I think you can have with video games. If you can hang with it. The game is genuinely uninviting. It speaks in flowery, dense language. It employs layers of character progression that distract you from the fact that you're going to want to focus on a tight group of 4 characters anyway. It's more like a classic Final Fantasy in this regard than a typical tactical RPG.
It's antiquated in a lot of ways and makes some baffling design decisions but I'll be damned if this isn't one of the most characterful RPGs I've ever played in part because of all those things. This thing has a fucking personality, and it puts you in some shitty situations, but it also turns around and goes "yeah you're cool" three quarters through and gives you an insanely powerful character to help you blow through the story. Its mechanical climax is different than its story climax and it feels confident in that. I dunno, man. It just rules.
And on the story. It's incredible how this unassuming 25 year old tactics spinoff with little cartoon guys is by far and away one of the very best stories ever told in the medium of video games. War of the Lions is very capable on the writing level, and it knows it. The only comparison I can think of is to Yuji Horii's works but even then, there's a different character to what Matsuno has done here that is just absolutely intoxicating to me.
I'm spellbound by this thing. I'll be thinking about Ramza and Delita for years to come. I want to play everything else Yasumi Matsuno has ever had hands on. I'm a fan for life. This thing is fucked up and weird, but it's magical. Games like this don't come around very often. I'm glad it happened at all.

It might not be the best in mechanical terms, but nothing has come closer to the eerie, adventurous, colorful, diverse, creative aesthetic of it all. Each level has a unique personality, a unique feeling and atmosphere attached to it. You really feel you're traveling to different worlds.
Probably the best game ever just because it's the essence of a videogame taken to its limits: to use mechanical, visual and musical aspects to make you feel in control of things, while also delivering a special, diverse and unique aesthetic experience.
And I always consider a plus the community around a game. The fact that this game continues to be reviewed and analyzed, tier lists and speedruns and unique run ideas like the A Press Challenge (I recommend you watch asap Bismuth's video about such challenge) come out almost every week or the thousands of rom hacks available that add new and fresh ideas are just some signs that this hits the right spot and it does it in a way that shines above similar works.

you know when folks say stuff like blood meridian is unfilmable? I dunno if they're right cos I don't know what a meridian is and all I know carmack mccarthy from is doom and facebook, but that's how I feel about system shock
how do you possibly translate something so heavily defined by its era specific idiosyncrasies to a modern framework? the controls had to go because people are big fucking babies and decided that control schemes should NEVER be expressive or challenging ages ago, but that entombing UI? the brilliant soundtrack? I don't want to say nightdive has been infiltrated by people who likely think SS2 is better without the dnb blasting in the back, but we have to prepare for the worst
replacing the look and feel with something more conventional just doesn't work for me, even when I'm wandering the same halls, following the same convoluted adventure game sequences, and relying on the same tricks as I would in the original. the content is present, but the tension and atmosphere take a severe beating. you're too in control, and too little has changed to account for it
combat feels real rough, which is probably why I've seen people compare it to prey (2017) a bunch. well, that and the recycling system shamelessly lifted from prey (2017) for some reason. it's good if you like picking up 12,000 folders and cups and turning them into trash to trade for money to trade for items, but I don't like that at all and I wish they borrowed from prey (2006) instead. if nothing else don't fear the reaper would give the game a little more energy
the wireframe cyberbits have been replaced by neon descent-clone bits, which (believe it or not) is a downgrade in my book. sure, they're functional now, but I liked them being fucked up and disorienting. videogames should be allowed encouraged to be nauseating and distressing sometimes, especially games like these
probably the most uncanny remake I've had the pleasure of playing. I have nothing but love and respect for nightdive, but I think we have some big differences of opinion when it comes to what the core essence of the game is. for me, it's the asphyxiating feeling of piloting your own obtuse and horrific body thru a daedalic labyrinth. for them, maybe not
it baffles me that a game with such distinct tactile qualities would be remade without even the faintest attempt to replicate them. there's an incredible devotion here to recreating citadel station inch by inch, but with the tangibility and physicality stripped out entirely it feels much closer to simulacrum than anything else: a seven year doll house
at least we can all agree on rollerblades and rapiers

I really like it when a game isn’t for everyone. Look at the games that are made for everyone and you’ll get a good idea of why. Games made for the masses, the biggest possible audience usually follow market trends in terms of structure, interactions and genre. It does not necessarily dictate the quality of the product but there’s a certain framework that a lot of them follow. Not one of these games will contain a sequence where you fire a gigantic cannon, held at groin level, called the ‘Big Boner’ at huge enemies in a neon cityscape, will have you running across the gyrating bodies of kaiju-sized women and jumping into a papercraft shmup segment.
Shadows of the Damned is a miracle of a game. A game created by three Japanese gaming icons - Shinji Mikami, Goichi Suda (Suda51) and Akira Yamaoka - and released by, of all people, EA. It is unapologetically crass, violent and wears its grindhouse cinema influences on the sleeve of its leather jacket. A lot of people are going to play it and find it to be immature. Many will find the bloody violence towards women and general titillation throughout the game to be misogynistic. It is a videogame that a large section of the consumer base just isn’t going to enjoy at all for a whole load of reasons and, for that reason, I absolutely love it.
Now of course, I get that as a straight white lad I’m in a position where I can afford to not be put off by the content in Shadows of the Damned. I’m also in a position where I can point out these aspects and perhaps, not support it. I would be lying to you, dear reader, if I said that was the case. Shadows of the Damned is a problematic fave - sitting alongside my penchant for grotesque international horror, paedophile hunting videos on YouTube and big naturals. It’s a love letter to a style of movie that, for all the reasons you’d expect, will never be mass market but is still enjoyed by a whole host of people.
The game very much is the sum of its creators’s DNA. It doesn’t feel quite like the evolution of the Resident Evil 4 formula that The Evil Within is, sitting somewhere between the two games, partly due to it being shackled to the more ‘creative’ moments straight from the mind of Suda51. The thing about Suda51 is that his games are never perfect but not a single thing is by accident. It never reaches out and out survival horror due to a leaning towards action and one-off setpieces. There’s always something during each combat scenario that messes with what would otherwise be a serviceable Resident Evil 4-a-like and keeps feeling a lot more unique. Not all of these stick the landing, but that’s where the charm lies.
There’s combat puzzles that utilise the game’s darkness mechanic - a blue fog that drains your health if you spend too much time in it - allowing you to see targets you need to progress or a bosses weak spot. Chase sequences that end up with a very on the nose homage to The Evil Dead. The aforementioned ‘Big Boner’ sequence, essentially a turret section and, honestly, one of the weaker points in the game. Using one of the weapon’s upgrades to play Pachinko and Bowling. There’s always something happening that keeps you guessing and keeps you having to think about how to use the Resi 4 style combat in new, refreshing ways. Sometimes, it doesn’t quite work - but it is always trying something.
Weapons upgrade at specific points during the game so you can’t miss any, nor have to pick and choose, so there’s more scope for tailoring combat encounters to an arsenal the game knows you have. Although you CAN stick to one weapon for most of the playthrough, you’re encouraged to chop and change between them and utilise the best one for each situation and figuring out which one is the best - or your favourite - to deal with what is thrown at you is very rewarding and something that very clearly was expanded upon with The Evil Within, when Mikami wasn’t beholden to Suda51’s wonderful brain.
I need to make this clear, when I say that the progression in regards to the combat and game structure from Resident Evil 4 was held back by Suda51’s ideas, I personally do not consider that a bad thing. The Evil Within is a great, probably a bit underrated game, that allowed Mikami to ramp up both the horror and action aspects of the formula he created with that brilliant fourth Resident Evil game but Shadows of the Damned has its own completely unique charm and a lot of that is entirely down to Suda51’s own ideas for the game.
It all looks and sounds so good, too. The hellscape you fight your way through is equal parts grim and dark and neon and surreal. Enemies are horrific one second and almost hilarious the next. It is violent and disgusting but full of black comedy. Suda51 set out to riff on the trashy vibe of American Grindhouse movies and nailed it, warts and all. The four major characters - the brilliantly named protagonist Garcia Hotspur and his talking gun and sidekick Johnson (and yes, that’s a dick joke), Garcia’s captured girlfriend Paula and the big bad Fleming, who is so over the top in his threats to cause all sorts of evil acts to Paula he’s a superb, almost camp-y horror villain.
The music is by Silent Hill soundtrack legend Akira Yamaoka and, although plenty of it is that atmospheric, somber guitar driven stuff from the Silent Hill OSTs, there’s plenty of industrial noise and straight up punk and rock here, all of it perfectly suiting the tone of the game. It is probably Yamaoka’s most underappreciated work - the Silent Hill games getting deserved high praise but for my money, this absolutely stands shoulder to shoulder with the stuff he wrote for the third and fourth games in that series.
From the aesthetic that riffs on a cult genre of movies full of things that many find a bit distasteful to the actual gameplay that feels like it is occasionally at odds with the ideas and encounters you come across, it is a tough one to recommend. It is far from a bad game but definitely quite divisive. The Grindhouse styling might put you off. You may find it inferior to Mikami’s other forays into survival horror. What can I say, it isn’t for everyone. It is, however, absolutely for me.

Those who see art as a shortcut to prestige have a very distorted idea of ​​what is "prestigious" - Look Kojima, creating spiritual connections through eschatology, total genius -, And few of this horrible ilk exist like Neil druckmann or conrad roset. Guys who use the medium of video games as a platform to satisfy their hunger for prominence and recognition. and incidentally, along the way, dividing in a problematic way the reception and conception of "arthouse" and pop games
I'm not going to blame them for Little Nightmares being read as an empty and morbid trip, because before that there was Playdead with his Limbo.
Neither of the obsession with the tone and fixation with photorealism without a plastic sense more typical than seeing the pores of Nathan Drake's skin, but, God, how I would like a timeline in which Roset and Druckmann are considered the worst in a way unanimous. Because they may not be the worst in general in the horror pile, but their popularity exposes the sad reality that some are interested in video games being validated by those who do not appreciate them in all their aspects, and those who need them to carry an HBO series cosplay or Milanese exhibition box
the idea of ​​how necessary any author was -beyond programmers- in videogames came to me for the first time playing Dragon Quarter "the shape of this game does not seem to be the product of chance or trends" said little Ardu at one time where he assumed that experimentation was the standard and the methodology to follow, the correct choice. Poor ignorant little Ardu.
In 2013 Little Ardu also said: "In the same year as Attack of the friday monsters, Drakengard 3, TW101, Proteus and Resogun... There is The Last of Us, this game that has enchanted me for its solidity and surprising humanity ( little Ardu didn't see that coming) but it's also the pinnacle of the formally conservative tv prestige show wannabe game type, which seems to be the way forward for pop games. mmmm maybe it's not that bad either? I mean it has overlapped many games that I consider better, but that always happens to me haha ​​if one day justice will be done, but meanwhile, if the AAA are like that, maybe we will advance something "
Poor ignorant little Ardu.

on many levels, this is one of the most impressive and significant games of its time. and, at the same time, i could not blame you whatsoever if you played this for 30 minutes and went "holy fuck this is unplayable". this has aged simultaneously like wine and like milk. it has mechanics that scream for QOL improvements, and overall simple things such as inventory management, movement with any number of companions, and seeing behind foreground objects are tedious beyond all reason. and yet, i can't remember the last time that i was given a setting so thoroughly explored and explained with a cast of interesting characters to complement it. there's more than just mechanics and narrative here, there's themes and philosophy worth dissecting. this game has meaningful layers to explore, and once you get into the right mindset, exploring them is fascinating.
fallout is a game about civilization, and what it takes to maintain one. a recurring theme is that isolationism is death, something lore argues lead to the war between the US and China. whether it be something like the inciting incident of needing to get the water chip, or needing to save a place like necropolis that would otherwise perish, fallout goes out of its way to stress the importance of compassion and mutual aid. it's fitting, in a sense, that the villain forcibly assimilates and "unifies" civilizations, as an antithesis to what fallout wants the player to prioritize. this isn't a "friendship conquers all" type message, but a more nuanced understanding on the debate of isolationism vs. globalism. you don't necessarily have to agree with where fallout falls on the debate, but i respect that not only does it subtly introduce this debate, but it voices a firm stance on it while exploring both sides.
speaking of the antagonist, i'm going to be saying approximately 0 new things in the universe by praising the master. not only is he a compelling and storied character, but he has a point of view that is compelling and almost persuasive (were it not for the sterility issue). it's strange, because he occupies such a small amount of any given playthrough, yet he's stood as this legend of gaming. one of the first bosses in any game you can beat in dialogue, and it has to be earned in advance (as opposed to modern interpretations in games like mass effect letting you just brute force your way through it with Good/Evil points). if nothing else, he's just a fascinating figure to end the game with, and helps fallout end on an extremely strong note.
i think if i had to use forceps and pick out one flaw from this game beyond the agedness of it, i would have to go with its tendency to contradict its own philosophy. fallout is a game that seems to deeply want to encourage pacifism, yet there's several encounters that can only be solved by force (i.e. tandi's kidnapping, gizmo, decker, etc.). obviously i'm not trying to be unfair and say that every single conflict should've had a nonviolent resolution to it, but it seems so quick to immediately discard certain characters or factions into the "irredeemably evil" pile and unwilling to let you engage with them unless you meet them on their level. why DO raiders have to exist in this setting? what is their motivation, what keeps them solidified as a community? what is their group dynamic? on the one hand, i'm being nitpicky and pedantic, but on the other, this 1997 game has answered these questions for multiple other groups, why not this one?
i don't have a lot more to say about fallout beyond that i'm extremely satisfied to finally have tackled this behemoth of a "you should play" game. at first, my goal was just to pad my resume as a fallout 3 hater, but playing this actually enriched my world and gave me a greater idea of how far the WRPG has come (and, at times, regressed) as a genre. i know i'm extremely interested in playing fallout 2 sometime in the near future, because i've heard that it essentially builds on what was already an extremely solid foundation here. if they fix only one thing, i hope like fuck it's companions. if i never have to play grabass with ian or katja to get them out of a doorway, it won't be soon enough.

Imagine coming from your third bankruptcy, having the budget of a happy meal and instead of playing it safe you make an entry with 50+ characters, half of them being newcomers, making the game the introduction to a new arc in the story, mixing mechanics from previous KOF games and creating a nearly perfect lobby system
this game has BALLS

As early as that original E3 2015 trailer, Final Fantasy VII Remake labored to clarify its mission statement: “We’re about to take some artistic liberties, please bear with us.” If you listen past the fluffy prose, it becomes clear that this narrator isn’t actually part of the game’s fiction: when they speak of “us” and “them,” they’re literally describing our perspective on the original game, the “silence” following in its wake, every “remembrance” since (Advent Children, Crisis Core, etc.) and the natural fervor resulting from that very announcement. As we all know by now, the final game would go on to completely defy traditional understandings of that “Remake” moniker, literalizing its meta context in the form of the “Whispers” (the plot ghosts) — it’s a “remake” in the sense that the events of the original FF7 are literally set in motion again (supposedly in some alternate timeline,) only for Cloud’s party to eventually destroy the Whispers, defying the boundaries set by that game and leaving the door open for Remakes Part 2 and 3 to go off in a completely new direction.
I, too, gave that aspect of FF7R a reluctant nod of acknowledgement in my original review for the title, which was a more traditional and comprehensive look at its failings as a game first-and-foremost. If you’re reading this, it should be clear by now that that was not enough to exorcise my demon; if FF7R wants to be a cheeky little meta prank this badly, it seems only appropriate to look at it again primarily in this larger meta-context for its third anniversary. And the statement I want to lead in with is that leaving that proverbial door open for any upcoming games to realize the potential of its message was giving it way too much fucking credit.
FF7R wants to have its cake and eat it, too. Three years on, I’m still floored at the amount of hypocrisy and hubris in literally constructing an entire plot around the message “please have faith in our original ideas uwu” while leaning this obsessively on your past and succumbing to the shallowest trends. Think about the premise of redoing Midgar with current technology — a 3D camera with polygonal environments means seeing the world from the kinds of angles and at an intimate scale unthinkable on the PS1. It could mean more granular interactions with your surroundings, NPCs that genuinely inhabit the space instead of being mere exposition delivery bots. It could mean a more seamless flow to the experience, letting the player dictate more autonomously how they transition between locations or conveying story while maintaining player control.
Instead, FF7R copies the original’s design scope almost verbatim, placing a giant magnifying glass over its limitations when coupled with these jarring new production values. You have bartenders verbally offering you a seat, yet all you can actually do is stand around and watch them cycle through their idle animation as they repeat that one line of dialogue. You can transition between rooms without the game cutting to black now, but that’s accomplished via squeeze-through loading tunnels that will not benefit from any future hardware improvements. Environment traversal is now expressed via bespoke gameplay for those sections, but the way that works in practice is that you hold up on the analog stick for five minutes at a time as you watch Tifa robotically climb across an entire room of monkey bars — and do you really want me to talk about the part with the robot hand?
Some environments now invite you to hang out in them for longer stretches, but the new activities on offer here include highlights such as “have quest giver tell you to kill some rats, go to dead-end circular combat arena, kill rats, return to quest giver, be told you ‘didn’t kill the right rats,’ literally go back the exact same way, kill the new set of rats that just spawned there, return to quest giver again and receive your reward.” Combat now takes place within the game world in real-time, but the only way for you to decipher the properties of any given attack still is to read the big dumb name popping up over the enemy’s head, with no consistent indication for how these attacks conform to any of your defensive options, be it your three different parry moves or the non-functional dodge roll. This is a game that puts you up against flying opponents, but is somehow reluctant to give its characters anything in the way of aerial mobility, so what you’re left with is either linearly throwing out some kind of ranged option or watching your one robotic alibi air combo play out. This is a game that goes to the length of eliminating the original’s instanced combat transitions, yet it also makes you watch its characters slowly throw out potions one-by-one to heal outside of combat, with no way to have these kinds of items take effect immediately on pressing the button the way it literally worked in Final Fantasy 1 on the NES. (https://twitter.com/wondermagenta/status/1286438919916093444)
Instead of focusing on how hard I’m nitpicking, I really want you to think about just how absurd all this shit is. Consider FF7R’s approach to loading specifically: consider that it literally re-released on the PS5, a console whose entire premise is “we know what an SSD is,” only a year later, yet the game’s flaws are so deeply embedded in shortsighted design that a whole generational leap can’t salvage them. This remake was dreamed about for a solid decade before its eventual announcement, and yet somehow it manifested into a game that feels so much more outdated than its source material. It’s “upscaled PS2 JRPG (derogatory.)”
Consider further how much more intimate you could get with these characters now that you’re spending so much more time in this setting. They could’ve gone for a Mass Effect-esque structure, where you inhabit Midgar a day at a time, watching your crew progress and go through various personal struggles — the game is even hinting at this by giving Cloud his own apartment! Instead, you’re still bound to a rigid progression of events and set pieces, now padded by vapid exposition. You now regularly spend PS1-FF7-Midgar-level stretches of time simply running through linear tunnels, and somehow the only type of dialogue that void is filled with is “damn I hope we don’t get lost in this linear tunnel.” You have locked doors that are opened by flipping a single switch within the same room, characters regularly making observations that don’t actually match their surroundings in a way that makes them sound like complete himbos and a general lack of disregard for the player’s intelligence.
In a sense, this game does actually cater to our current-day sensibilities in its Marvel-fication: more, more, more of “thing you already love,” thematic focus be damned. How ironic that this game desperately contorts itself around some vague message about the value of artistic freedom in its final act, meanwhile the way there is paved by shoving tear-jerk origin stories into the framework of every random background character the original presented that contribute absolutely nothing to any kind of overarching message. We literally will not be “free” until we realize that stories like this or Kingdom Hearts can be spun ad infinitum — Square have effectively proven you can reuse the same iconography for 20 years in slightly different scenarios, and people will show up. This game wants to be all meta, yet it never actually analyzes or challenges its source material, it’s all empty reverence.
What this means is that almost every “original idea” in FF7R either directly undermines the original’s pacing, drama and charm, or fails to be compelling on its own terms. This is why any charitability toward future entries in this series feels misplaced: so many resources at their disposal, so much talent eager to put their mark on a monumental game, so much distance to analyze its legacy from… and this is what you come up with? You may be inclined to call this game brave for being so explicit in its intentions and willing to subvert expectations with its finale, but there’s nothing “brave” about grafting these hollow-ass platitudes onto a shallow, rigid, predictable 40-hour fan service vehicle. The creative team here may have attempted to kill the burden of fan expectation alongside those plot ghosts, but the only thing they truly eviscerated is my interest in their games.
If you reached the end of this post and feel disappointed at how many points I remade from my original review, you may have some understanding of how I felt when I rolled credits on FF7R. Damn this meta shit is easy. 🤪

It's amazing how much you can get done with just a little bit of unconventionality, isn't it? Killer7 dares to take the mere act of walking from one place to another and render it unrecognizable. What's usually a two-stick process is now mapped almost entirely to the "A" button, denying the player control over both the camera and the path your character takes. This game's tutorial mission scrambled my brain- not because walking is at all complicated, but because it's such a radically different approach from everything else I've played that I couldn't comprehend it at first. Hardly ever being responsible for the direction that your Smith goes in makes it that much more difficult to create a mental map of the area, even when frequently consulting the actual in-game map. Trying to decipher spacial layouts in Killer7 is as tricky as trying to decipher the game's overarching plot, and I often found myself stopping to take aim when there weren't any enemies around just for a more orthodox camera perspective. And, clearly, this was a deliberate trap. In the collective mind of the Smith syndicate, the world only makes sense when viewed through the scope of a rifle, a detail that's communicated entirely through gameplay and embellished through audiovisuals. The simple geometry and basic color gradients of every environment seem to mock you, claiming that they're not as complicated as you think they are, and the haunting laugh of every Heaven's Smile adds that extra bit of disorientation. Given how effective this one facet of the game is, then, it's such a shame that the rest of it is just so conventional. I shoot enemies in their glowing weak spots. I solve puzzles that I'm given the answers to. I'm never tasked with managing the mutual vitality of the Killer7, nor do I even choose my Smith based on the situation that I find myself in. Conforming to the standard structure of ending most levels with a boss battle is the most poorly considered of these decisions, as the lack of any mobility whatsoever means they're all simultaneously painful yet far too easy. The one exception is Andrei Ulmeyda, who represents an exciting chase through an arena that was actually built to take advantage of how moving around works. Ulmeyda Intercity, in general, seems to have been lifted from a much more cleverly designed game, mainly due to how it reevaluates how horror should operate in the context of Killer7. It's pretty unconventional for a game's scariest level to be its least confined, isn't it? Unfortunately, this game isn't all that weird, despite how desperately it wants to convince you otherwise. Samantha, for instance, abstractly transitions between various erotic fantasies and/or stages of adolescence whenever you see her, and only allows you to save your game when she's an adult-slash-French-maid. Leaving such a vital part of the game to an unreliable character is a stroke of genius, especially when you consider how much of a relief finally reaching a safe zone in a stressful game can end up being, but it's all rendered pointless by the fact that the map tells you where you can and can't save, allowing you to ignore Samantha's whims entirely while planning your path. But, I suspect, fans of this game will consider any non-thematic analysis of Killer7 to be equally pointless. I won't pretend to be smart enough to fully get what Suda is ultimately grasping at, though I will say that fate and control are far and away some of the least interesting themes for video games to cover, even back in 2005. Nor will I pretend to care all that much- thematically rich or not, the game's still boring, and in my eyes, anything that demands a deeper look is obligated to contain more replay value, not less. I've almost certainly only been made dumber by the amount of times I've heard Leon S. Kennedy's corny one-liners, but I'm not sure if I'll ever return to this (according to Suda acolytes) incredibly intellectually rewarding work. For better or worse, I no longer get that DS feeling...