Categories
Misc

I might write more in the future

Last week I was informed that during the summer I’m gonna be working 60% instead of my usual full time. This means 4.5 hours per day.

This is due to corona. So instead of being laid off I get to work less and the government covers my salary up to 94%. The company also gets some increased financial aid from the government.

I’ll probably write some more product tests for FZ.se, since I won’t work as much as before.

Categories
Games Later Generations

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC/PS4)

The world is in a Witcher craze right now. After the Netflix series the interest for the games and the book was renewed. The game that was release in May 2015 during a time I didn’t play that many games on PC or home consoles. I had just discovered the wonderful world of the 3DS and was reliving the worlds of Mario and Pokemon among other, though in more modern take than before. I did, however pick it up in 2018 when testing a gaming laptop and needed a game that would be demanding for the hardware.

I can’t say that the Witcher craze didn’t effect me, I did play both Witcher 1 and 2 for the first time during the first months of 2020. I even played through Witcher 3 for the third time. This gave me a opportunity to make different decisions from the past playthroughs. I have to admit, I do like the choices I made in prior playthroughs so I did stick to some of them this time aswell. Just because there was another option I didn’t systematically choose the other. It had to feel right.

Geralt in beautiful White Orchard

Feeling right, is one of The Witcher 3’s great strength, the atmosphere, the almost magical feeling the world emits everywhere, from its environments to its creatures, as well as the people and the choices, that I the player makes for them. I have many times wondered what’s so unique about the Witcher world, perhaps it’s the source material, perhaps its Polish heritage, I don’t know. What I do know, is that it is something special. Something to cherish.

Choosing a different set of armour, changing playstyle and focusing on a new skill set, making this playthrough a different experience all together. This time focusing on alchemy instead of signs really affected the way to play the game. Instead of hiding the perhaps weakest part of the game, the combat, behind accessible magic I had to go head first into battle with just my dodging skills to rely on. To add to this change I also played on the difficulty “Blood and Broken Bones”. Luckily I was made aware of that the alchemy route is extremely powerful which made my journey very pleasant.

I also got to revisit an old “friend”, the card game of Gwent, which is the only card game that I’ve ever been into, that I’ve found fun and appealing. This meant that I had to get a full deck, even though it’s one of the more time-consuming ventures in the game.

Geralt in the free city of Novigrad

After a while, and approximately 100 hours I was in a position where the main story was the least interesting part. This just added to my play time since I avoided the main story as much as I could. To think of it, this is crazy, because the main story is a very well told story with interesting twists and turns, likeable characters and difficult choices.

One part I don’t particularly like about the main story is game’s wish to force Yennefer and Geralt together. Since I did not opt for Yennefer this time around, it was very frustrating that the game actively set up scenarios where they got close. Making Yennefer the most important woman in the game instead of Triss that was chosen this time. Might feel like a small thing, but it retracted from the feeling that I, the player was in control of what was happening.

Eventhough there are small annonying elements, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an excellent game that will be on my top games list for many many years.

I like it so much that I got a Platinum trophy on PS4, and only missing one Steam achievement to get all at both platforms.

Categories
Games Later Generations

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (PS4)

After rejecting the franchise for many many years, I late 2017 reluctantly bought the Ezio Collection for PS4. This opened up a new world of games for me.

After playing through the whole Ezio story in less than a month, I knew that I liked the narrative and the feel of the Assassin’s Creed games. I did however not, dive into more traditional AC games except a short dive into Assassin’s Creed III. After playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn and The Witcher 3, I had found an appetite for open-world games. After a friend saying [about HZD] “Amazing game, probably ties for GOTY last year with Assassins Creed: Origins”, that really piqued my interest to take a deeper dive into the franchise. Its newer open-world concept that seemed to fit me perfectly.

After playing Origins, which I liked very much, enough to put over 100 hours into as well as getting the Platinum Trophy, I started Odyssey. 15 hours in I lost interest. The shift to more decision-making in conversations and the – boat/ship/whatever – didn’t do it for me. I ended up upsetting the guards and spent most of my time trying to kick soldiers off roofs until I died to a mercenary stronger than me. It wasn’t much fun.

This takes us back to the present, when over 115 hours has been invested in this huge adventure. Odyssey was easier to appreciate after a hiatus from Origins.

I like Odyssey very much, but it’s far from a perfect game. The sea combat is still one of the weaker points in the franchise as a whole, and it’s the same for this game. The story is good, but with the vast world and many targets it does get tedious at times. I didn’t feel it became grindy, I always had something to do, side quests or other objective to gain experience in a way that felt worth my time.

I do understand the critique with the game being to big for its own good, but for me that want a relaxing experience that doesn’t end too quickly it was a very pleasant journey.

Kassandra does feel a bit rigid and bland, but the story around her is full of life. With multiple choices the experience is a bit more taxing on the player, since some of the choices aren’t easy. The problem is that it doesn’t feel like the choices really matter. The dialogue options leading to the different outcomes are also not always conveyed in a way to the player knows what outcome each option leads to.

Ubisoft has always been good at the visuals, be it 2D or 3D. Odyssey is no exception. The scenery is amazing and one point that really trumps Origins, where the environment can be described as:

Sand, sand, sand, sand, gravel and dust, what a f***ing country. It’s the desert!

Crude Translation of Robert Broberg’s song “Öken”

The islands are beautiful, so is the ocean. Finding synchronisation points are always a joy since they often overlook a very stunning view. This is probably the main advantage Odyssey has over Origins, its more pleasing locale and scenery.

I am currently playing the first DLC, Legacy of the Blade. Which seems to tie the rather non-Assassin’s Creed-like game that Odyssey to earlier games. In what extent I do not yet know. It’s possible that I will write about my experiences in the DLCs aswell. But at a later date.

I do recommend people to play this game if open-world games are your cup of tea and you aren’t too tired of the UbiTower concept.

Categories
Music Older

Katatonia – Viva Emptiness (2004)

Katatonia, the band that transformed from death metal to a more progressive rock with darker themes. Viva Emptiness is the album that really established the newer style after Last Fair Deal Gone Down introduced it. Of course, Katatonia hasn’t stagnated after Viva Emptiness, but the more atmospheric and ambient sound has been a staple since.

There are a few tracks that really stand out, but the whole album is well-composed journey. The stand out tracks for me i Ghost of the Sun, Walking by a Wire and Omerta. All have very different styles, but that is one of Katatonia’s strengths. Jonas vocals isn’t a standout part of this album, but together with the synths they enhances the atmosphere which really makes the sound.

Speaking of vocals, the harmonies during choruses and other parts like in Criminals really gives them a sound few others matched at the time.

The move to go more minimalist with guitars and bass during verses really gives the choruses extra punch, something that really adds to the song. The whole album is very dynamic and that makes it interesting.

My favourite song of the album is the aforementioned Omerta, which is real showpiece for Jonas vocals. It’s his expressions that really sells the song. A simple song, but yet so powerful. Frail vocals accompanied by solid instruments, a real hit in my ears.

Viva Emptiness is a really good indicator for what is to come. For me it’s a very nostalgic album, since it was the first one I was introduced to.

Categories
Music Newer

Tool – Fear Inoculum (2019)

After 10,000 Days people really yearned for a new album by the American masters of polyrhythm. Thirteen years later, a new album was released. It had a lot to live up to, could it sate Tool fans hunger for new songs?

As a fairly new Tool fan it’s difficult for me to answer that question. Tool has been with me for over 10 years, so it’s not a new acquaintance, but a dear friend I greet in Fear Inoculum.

In typical Tool manner, the main songs are accompanied by shorts songs that meld them together by introducing themes for the upcoming songs. Fear Inoculum works both as a whole album listen and as seperate tracks. I do though recommend to listen to it in its entirety the first couple of times.

The track that first stood out to be my first couple of listens was Pneuma, the second track of the album. Its tension, tranquility and repetitive nature really speaks to me, almost hypnotising. Chancellor’s bassparts accompanied by Danny Carey’s drumplay is one of the outstanding parts of this song. Carey play is also one of the outstanding features of the whole album. All around solid drums.

All songs are special and I do recommend everyone that enjoy complex music to listen to this album. The music get more space compared to earlier albums whereas the vocals is a bit more shy. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t deliver, it sure does, but in a more modest manner.

One other standout song, that took a bit longer for me to get was the epic ending of the album. 7empest is a 15 minute marvel that features some really amazing guitar pieces from Adam Jones. The intro with its polyrhythmic alternating arpeggio patterns that are followed by heavier distorted guitar and bass, really gives the endingpart of the album an very worthy start. The following 14 minutes are as gripping.

The tracks that hasn’t been mentioned are by no means slouches, they are very potent tracks. The titular Fear Inoculum is aslow but intense experience, that gets better and better the more you listen to it.

I can’t give this anything else than a huge recommendation or anyone that want to challenges themselves.

Categories
Games Later Generations Retro

Castle of Illusion (2013) (PC)

There are remakes and then there are remakes. Sega of Australia’s first (and sadly, only) game is a re-imagining of a Sega classic from the early 90’s. Castle of Illusion was released for the Mega Drive back in 1990 and is still considered as one of the better platformers on the system. If that’s true or not can be discussed for hours. Me, I do not love the original, I very much prefer the port for Sega’s 8-bit machine the Sega Master System, a different game in its entirety, but not relevant right now.

One game I however like quite a lot is the remake of the Mega Drive game, which confusing enought has the exact same name, Castle of Illusion. In my circuit we usually refer to it as HD to differentiate it from the Mega Drive (and Game Gear) and SMS versions with the same name.

There are a lot of 3D sections where Mickey can move freely in every direction

Castle of Illusion (2013) is a complete re-imagining of the same, mixing 2.5D and 3D. The overarching story and world themes are the same, but everything else i completely new. As for the story, Mickey and Minne are on a romantic picnic. This is unacceptable for the witch Mizrabel, so she kidnaps Minnie. Mickey is of course not happy, so he goes after them.

When it comes for differences from the original there are so much to talk about. For starters the game now has a hub where there are doors to be unlocked. To unlock these doors you have to collect diamonds and beat the different world bosses. You may reenter the worlds if you don’t manage to collect enough diamond. In addition to diamonds, there are other items to collect, that doesn’t do anything for progression but to unlock costumes and achievements.

The Hub World

As the games has been transformed a bit into a collect-a-thon it very appropriate to have Grant Kirkhope of Banjo-Kazooie/Tooie and Donkey Kong 64 fame rearranging the score. The music feels natural and it is mainly just the original tunes that are reworked to fit in with the new aesthetic. There are however a few parts that are new and very Kirkhope-esque.

Mickey controls very well and mechanic-wise it’s very solid except a couple of minor bugs that sadly won’t be fixed since the studio was closed down short after the game was released. Luckily they did have time to release v1.1 which added 60 FPS-support which is a must-have.

This is for me an example of a remake done right, and I’m glad I’m opted for this one and not the Duck Tales Remaster that was released around the same time.

The 2D sections are 2.5D, so the paths are noy completely straight, but you can only move in two directions.

The game is pretty short just like its original so it’s faithful in that regard. There are however plenty of stuff to collect even after finishing the game.

Categories
Games Later Generations

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (Switch)

Perhaps one of 2017’s biggest surprises, Mario in a XCOM-like game, holding a gun? One of the most enjoyable games for the Switch, something I never though I would say about a games starring the Ravin’ Rabbids.

The quirky humour is apparent from the start, mere minutes in you hear the signature BWAAAH!, and I can actually say that I enjoy the rabbids being rabbids throughout the game.

The world is colourful and beautiful

Mario and his unlikely companions balance out each other well. The classic Rabbid Peach bit with her taking selfies felt so right as it is a reflection on the contemperary. Rabbid Luigi is described as being crazy and thinking he is some kind of wizard, making him the most hilarious character in the ensemble.

One of the biggest downsides is that Mario always has to be in the party. Mario being the middle ground of everything makes him a bit boring, though very useful. Sometimes it might had been fun to use an other character to further play on the player’s strength and play style.

The score by Grant Kirkhope is fitting, and his take on classic Mario songs, especially the Super Mario 64 Castle theme, are very respectfully handled. The very Conker’s Bad Fur Day-inspired boss fight didn’t feel off-putting even though a bit cringey. Despite Grant Kirkshope composeing the music the score does not feel Banjo Kazooie-esque in a bad way like in Yooka-Laylee, where is just felt forced. In Mario + Rabbids every tune feels light-hearted and fun.

Even on the start screen the game is beautiful, though a bit crazy

The Xcom-like mechanics have been simplified, but that does not mean the combat is trivial in any way. Making the mechanics more streamlined avoids all dumb luck factors as missing a target eventhough the it said 99% for a possible hit. It is only possible to have 0%, 50% and 100% hit-rate. In addition to shooting the enemy rabbids, mario and company may also use slides and jumps in their arsenal to rid wacky world of the threat.

I recommend this game for everyone that can tolerate a bit of cringeyness and quirky humour, because behind all that is a shining game with tons of charm.

Categories
Games Later Generations

Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4)

One of my favourite games for the PS4. Horizon Zero Dawn is a game I would’ve completely missed it if my girlfriend hadn’t bought a PS4 Slim early 2017. Also my brother-in-law persuaded me to play it. For that I am grateful. This was the second modern open world game I played, and afterwards I was hooked.

Horizon Zero Dawn offers beautiful sunny vistas

A beautiful game with a unique story and setting. The narration is formed the way so the protagonist and tribesman Aloy discovers the mysterious world together with the player which highly enhances the experience. Aloy, a young woman brought up as an outcast outside the warmth of the tribe goes on an adventure like you have never seen before.

A great number of robotic animals molded after real and now extinct counterparts roam the forests and riversides. Among these animals is what Horizon Zero Dawn is the most famous for, robotic dinosaurs like the raptor-like Watcher, the majestic Tallneck or the scary T-rex-look-a-like, the mighty Thunderjaw.

Aloy riding a Strider towards a Stormbird

Engaging story, combat and world filled with machines grazing, hunting and living amongst humans. Something has happened since the world is very technological sophisticated, yet humans live in tribes. It is somehow connected to Aloy in a way that makes it dangerous to not be on your guard. This makes the player want to find out more about this world, and why it is the way it is.

There are vast mountains in Horizon Zero Dawn

The visuals are striking and become even more beautiful in HDR. Guerilla Games has really done something special with Horizon, and I am really looking forward to the sequel.

IF you haven’t played this I highly recommend you to, as it is one of the most enjoyable experiences on the Playstation 4.

Categories
Games Later Generations

Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)

Superheroes has always interested me. Even though I don’t read comic books myself, I have always greatly appreciated superhero stories in moving format. Doesn’t have to be movies, games work as well.

Among the best superhero experiences I have had besides the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Insomniac’s Spider-Man game for Playstation 4. Insomniac being a studio that i really like after playing games like Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive. The latter being my favourite game on Xbox One.

In Spider-Man the similarities are striking, using the same engine, now running on a competing system, the tempo is the same and also the ease of manoeuvring in the big sandbox that is Manhattan. I would say that Insomniac was the perfect match for the Spider-Man franchise and I am very much looking forward to the sequel that is romoured to be in the works.

The story is also interesting, and the villain cast is brilliant. There are few things so tellingof my enjoyment of the game than that I never used the fast travelling system. I find it so much fun swinging though Manhattan at a brisk pace, listening in on the police radio, helping the neighbourhood as well as I can.

Categories
Music Newer

Music Test

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