DISCLAIMER: I have no real, professional opinions about video games despite having worked in the industry for two summers in a row. Occasionally, I write about video games from a CMS-y perspective for my major, but that sort of analysis is too rigorous for this blog post, and also too rigorous for my burned out summer brain. I guess what I’m trying to say is I could probably provide fairly nuanced takes on these games if I tried, but I don’t feel like trying for this post. lol
I tried to do this style of post for restaurants before we all got kicked out of Cambridge, but as we all know, that didn’t really pan out.
I always try to use summers to catch up on the hobbies that I don’t actually partake in at all during the school year because I have no time. As a result, I have a permanently humongous backlog of video games that I barely manage to make a dent in over summers.
This summer, I think I’ve made a reasonably sized dent because I’ve been attempting to partition my work time and my free time a *little* bit better than I usually do. One of my biggest flaws as a person is not knowing how to separate work and life. During school, this manifests itself in not ever seeing my friends. Over the summer, I’ll sometimes spend way too long on my UROP or working on my personal website, and then suddenly it’s midnight and I have to go to bed to wake up early the next day.
I’m pretty proud of the number of games I’ve spent time on this summer. I do always feel a lingering guilt at not capitalism is a fucking scam and is going to ruin my life by stressing me out very slowly over the course of my life , but I try to rationalize it by telling myself that as somebody who wants to go into the game industry, it’s good to keep up to date on the newest games and actually play games. Right?
Anyways, here’s a bunch of (mildly) comprehensive reviews on the games that I’ve played/sort of played this summer. I’ll be evaluating the games on the following metrics, which aren’t all the metrics that a game is usually evaluated on but are the ones that I care about particularly.
- Narrative: The actual story arc of the game and how satisfied I was by it. If it’s a sequel, how well it lived up to the games before it.
- Combat: The fighting game mechanics.
- Sidequests: How satisfying they are + do they serve the game’s main story well
- Music: Basically, whether or not I listen to the music outside of playing the game
- Characters: How well written the characters are + are their arcs believable + do their relationships with other characters give me FEELINGS
- World: How believable/fleshed out is the open world
- Game Mechanics: The general game mechanics, UI windows, movement, etc.
- Replayability: Would I play this game again?
And yes, I will provide spoiler warnings where they’re necessary, don’t worry.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Some of you might remember the post I made when this game came out because I was SO FUCKING PSYCHED to play it. I enjoyed this game a lot overall, even though it didn’t live up in all ways to my very high expectations. But like I said a million times, they could have made a shitty, horrible remake and I still would have played it and loved it, probably. It’s hard to mess this game and this story up.
That being said, I was initially <em>not pleased </em>with the diversion that the remake took from the original game in terms of story. It meant that I basically have no idea what's in store for this part of the franchise, and all the main story points that I know and love are basically up in the air. Also, the heavy handedness of having *literal* characters in the game which represented fate that 'set the plot right' when it started to diverge from the original, and then defeating those characters in the penultimate boss fight, hereby 'defeating fate', was too much meta plot device bullshit for me personally. The remake in some ways was the creators reflecting on the actual process of creating a remake. I could go <em>on</em> about how meta this is, and how ridiculous it is. But I will end by saying that I got over my initial fury and am actually pretty excited to see where they take the story in the future. Especially since they revived my favorite character from death by the force of 'defeating fate'...
- Narrative: 9/10. Let me start by saying that the original story is a solid 10/10 because I love it so much and honestly have headcanon-ed the plotholes out oof existence. The ending of the remake, however, was *very* Square Enix, and although I’m hyped for the next games in the series, it was sort of a lot to process. Still, I enjoyed it loads.
- Combat: 10/10. I LOVE the combat, they really did an amazing job of combining modern battle systems with the old fashioned turn based system. The game was super satisfying to play and I could spend forever grinding in the battle simulator. Switching between the characters was a big brain move and made the game so much more fun to play.
- Sidequests: 4/10. Eh, they’re kind of dumb and don’t do much to character develop the main characters…only tangential ones that I don’t care *that* much about. There’s only one that I remember off the top of my head that I recall appreciating.
- Music: 10/10. NOBUO UEMATSU IS A GOD WHO REIGNS ABOVE ALL
- Characters: 7/10. They did great at fleshing out the main characters a lot, and gave them considerably more depth than they did in the original. They were believable characters, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they develop in the next games. HOWEVER, I did not care for the sheer amount of side characters there were, and their character development. I only care about the main characters. NPCs be damned.
- World: 9/10. The open world was actually quite huge and really detailed, which I really appreciated because while playing the original I had to imagine all of that stuff for myself. There were some parts of it that were annoying and hard to traverse, but I guess that’s part of the realism.
- Game Mechanics: 5/10. I did not really get the weapon upgrade system, and they made mastering materia WAY harder than it was in the original. They did get rid of random encounters, so that’s a plus. Running around the open world was also super sad before unlocking fast travel because it would take FOREVER to do some of the sidequests, especially if you’re me and didn’t actually know where the thing you were supposed to be looking for was. The menu itself was sort of complicated and I preferred the older one because it was way simpler.
- Replayability: 7/10. I would like to 100% this game if I have time and a smaller game backlog, but it is a fun game and has a decent amount of branching choices. I think the original one is definitely a 10/10 on replayability for comparison though.
Final score: 7.625/10. STILL NOT AS GOOD AS THE ORIGINAL
The Last of Us
The Last of Us is widely considered to be one of the best games of all time, for good fucking reason. I watched this game in a Pewdiepie playthrough way back in before pewdiepie was cancelled lol , and it furthered my love and fascination for games and cemented my desire to work in a game-adjacent profession someday. It also proved to me – and the world – that games are extremely powerful mediums for telling stories.
I actually played this game for the first time on a hallmate’s PS4 during freshman year, and I don’t think I actually finished it, so this was my first full playthrough of the game. The replay was preparation for playing Part II, and the game still manages to hit different, even though it’s pretty old at this point, the gameplay is pretty linear, and the AI is somewhat lacking. The story is what carries it though, and the ending is really and truly one of the best endings to a story of all time.
- Narrative: 9.5/10. THE POIGNANCY. THE MOTIVES. THE DESPERATION TO HOLD ON TO SIMPLE THINGS IN A WORLD DESTROYED BY EVIL ZOMBIES. YES. IT IS SO GOOD. Only reason it’s not a 10/10 is because FF7 is reserved in that spot, tbh.
- Combat: 4/10. It’s…fine. It’s satisfying, and occasionally I get wrecked. But the AI is *horrific* and totally kills the realism of the whole thing.
- Sidequests: N/A. There theoretically are collectibles in this game, but they’re not a huge part of the game and I think this game came out before trophies for doing random stupid shit in a game was a thing. So I’ll give this game a pass, because there basically are no sidequests.
- Music: 7/10. Gustavo Santaolalla is a god-tier composer. All the melancholy classical guitar fits the mood of the game perfectly. That being said, I don’t really listen to it outside of my video game soundtrack playlist.
- Characters: 10/10. I was attached to these characters before I even played this dang game. They’re really well written and imagined, and the bond between the two main characters is so sweet and heartwarming. The trope of ‘gruff man warms to child’ really does it for me (@God of War).
- World: 5/10. There isn’t really much exploring that you can do in the world since the game is pretty linear. All the environments are pretty well imagined though.
- Game Mechanics: 7/10. They’re simple and do the job. There isn’t really a *menu* in this game, only a screen that allows you to craft things. I personally like this a lot. Running around the world isn’t a time eater because there just isn’t…that much explorable world in this game. The weapon upgrades are almost self-explanatory and the upgrade stations are reasonably well-spaced. The listen mode is a little too OP.
- Replayability: 8/10. This game isn’t too long and it’s sort of like a good book in that it can be reread a gajillion times and you’ll still enjoy it. I would probably wait a few years before playing it again, though.
Final score: 7.21/10. This story will stay with me for a long, long time.
The Last of Us Part II
HOOOOO BOY. I’ve been hyped for this game since 2016 when the very first trailer came out – I even learned the song pretty much immediately after seeing that trailer, before there were even any tutorials for it. I took the delays into stride and watched every trailer as they got released. I did, however, miss the leaks that plagued the games pre-release, but I did know that people were NOT happy about them. That was pretty much the only context I started playing the game with.
And oh man, it was a RIDE. Those of you who are in the know might know that the game REALLY COMES OUT SWINGING by killing Joel in like the first 3 hours, and it honestly took me like fifteen hours of the game to get over that and acknowledge his personal flaws and the implications of his choice. I really liked Abby and was firmly #teamabby by the end of the game, because the entire game felt like I was being dragged on a terrible 30 hour long adventure by Ellie and I was literally just screaming at her to stop the whole time. It tired me out to actually play the game, and at some points it felt like I was forcing myself to. I do sort of wish that they had ended the game on a positive note, like on the farm with Dina, because dragging it out past that was Not It for me, but I think that the story was overall pretty okay. Also, the music slaps.
- Narrative: 6/10. I do think that overall, it was a well-imagined narrative and having you play as Abby was a good choice because you got to see another world and another story, and honestly it was better than Ellie's lol . However, there were some parts that I think were…unnecessary. Killing Joel, even though his time had come and his story was over, felt like it was done just to make another game, and dragging the game past the farm *really* made the whole thing feel like misery porn, to quote Ankita .
- Combat: 8.5/10. Honestly, my only real complaint with the combat is that it was too hard for me sometimes, lol. The addition of the dodging mechanic was a good idea, and stealth mode got like 10x better with the addition of prone mode and hiding in tall grass. It was also totally fucking brutal – you really see your enemies EXPLODE when you shoot them, and stabbing someone in the neck is just as disgusting as I imagine it would be in reality.
- Sidequests: 5/10. To be fair, sidequesting on a brutal quest for revenge isn’t really *that* realistic. This game had one (1) part where you could explore the open world, and there were unique collectibles for each character, but again, I didn’t care very much about finding them. They did have some cool lore notes that you could find, but I didn’t, and just watched them after I finished.
- Music: 9/10. ALL THE GUITAR SONGS PLAYED IN THIS GAME WERE EXTREMELY QUALITY. The game’s ‘theme’, Future Days by Pearl Jam, was my ‘couple’ song with my boyfriend wayyyy before this game came out, so it was sort of hype to see it in this game. I’ve already learned Through the Valley and some of you may even have seen the video of me on the Admissions Instagram, lol . Learning the acoustic version of Take On Me is next up. The dockage of a point is just because I don’t listen to the normal background music very much at all.
- Characters: 4/10. This might be a mildly hot take, but since Joel wasn't really in this game and also it made me realize that Joel is in some ways the villain of the last game, and also Ellie was a RAGING PSYCHOPATH for the entirety of this game , Abby and Lev were really the only characters that I actually liked in this game. Do I care about Jesse? No. Do I care about Dina? No, not really. Do I care about any of Abby’s friends/the WLF/the Seraphites? Nooooo.
- World: 9.5/10. The reimagining of post-apocalyptic Seattle was TRULY excellent, and I appreciated it even more because I’m living here this summer. The world was huge, the areas were really nicely designed, and the scenery was super accurate and well done. Also, this game really makes me want to go to Wyoming, a sentiment that I never thought I’d experience. I’m docking half a point for all the JUMP SCARES though, because this game was a lot spookier than the last one and I did not…appreciate…it…
- Game Mechanics: 8/10. The addition of the fully fleshed out skill tree was appreciated, but it was sort of annoying to have to redo a bunch of skills in the character switch . I did appreciate how it built on the previous game’s menu – it kept it simple, but required actually thinking through which skills you wanted. Listen mode was nerfed, which I did NOT appreciate. The little pointer buttons were great. Also, there’s an accessibility mode in this game, which I have never seen before! ++ accessibility
- Replayability: 2/10. I really would rather not replay this game…it was a wild ride that I don’t think I actually crave reliving. I would *maybe* play it again for the gameplay and fighting though. If they released an online mode I think I would be more into that.
Final score: 5.77/10. I liked it, but not *that* much.
I started stress playing this game way back when, right around when MIT told us that they were kicking us off campus. Playing this game sort of became my stress response, and I think I must have played it for like 20 hours in the 4 days that I was supposed to be packing up all my stuff and saying bye to friends. I think that I was in too much shock to actually do those things very functionally. I definitely didn’t get to say bye to all the people I wanted to, which sort of hurts, especially since I might not see them again for a long time. This game was definitely my way of dealing with that trauma.
Anyways, this game doesn’t really carry in the narrative department, but I find the actual gameplay to be stupidly fun and addictive. I could spend actual hours swinging around New York as Spidey. This is actually the first game that I am I couldn't find an actual description of what this means to gamers on the Internet, but it basically means getting all the achievements possible for a game. More commonly referred to 100%ing a game on, which is saying something, because I normally don’t go I don't even think the FF7 Remake platinum is worth getting because some of the achievements are so grindy and dumb - and I cannot believe I am saying that, because I 100%ed the original game like 5 times and enjoyed it every time , or do dumb sidequests, which this game is FULL of. But it’s just such a mindless and fun game to play that I thought I might as well go for it because I got to the end and realized that I was like 80% through the achievements already.
- Narrative: 4/10. It’s fine, and it’s entertaining, but I’m not super invested in the Marvel world personally and this game doesn’t really inspire me to invest in any particular way. I’m pretty sure that I read the entire plot sometime in March and forgot about it and had to reread it.
- Combat: 9/10. God I…love the combat so much, mostly because of all the gadgets, and how satisfying button mashing combos is. My only complaint is that there are like, 3 enemy types, even though there could definitely be more given the variety of the weapons that you have to fight them.
- Sidequests: 9/10. Game review wise, this score should be illegal because most of the sidequests are fetch quests, which are considered boring and bad from a at least, that's what one of the designers on the God of War podcast series said But I really enjoyed them, and honestly I’m so sad that there aren’t any left for me to check off. There is the option to replay a few of them, but that’s not as satisfying.
- Music: 2/10. Honestly, I don’t think I could hum a single song from the soundtrack off the top of my head. It’s adequate and very much in the Marvel style, but not really memorable by my terms.
- Characters: 5/10. There’s quite a few of them and the villains especially are hard to keep track of – again, I’m not a Marvel stan. And honestly, I’m not really invested in their stories in the same way I am for other franchises. I did add an extra point because in game Peter Parker is cute, though.
- World: 8/10. I’m not from New York City, so I can’t really speak to how *accurate* the reimagining of NYC is in the game. But it looks pretty dang good to me – the world is quite huge, and the travel times actually seem pretty realistic. There’s lots of little details hidden all throughout the game, some of which you can get rewards for taking pictures of! The only reason it’s not totally perfect is because the arena level designs are like…all the same.
- Game Mechanics: 9/10. I LITERALLY LOVE THE GAME MECHANICS SO MUCH…EVERYTHING IS SO GOOD. THE MENU WITH THE MAP IS SO SELF-EXPLANATORY AND EASY TO USE…SWINGING THROUGH NEW YORK IS ACTUALLY THERAPEUTIC…THE LITTLE POINTERS THAT INDICATE WHERE YOU CAN PERCH AND SWING FROM *CHEF’S KISS*. THE ONLY REASON I’M DOCKING A POINT IS BECAUSE THE UPGRADE MENU IS SORT OF HARD TO USE AND SOME OF THE PUZZLES ARE DUMB
- Replayability: 7/10. This is the sort of game that I will definitely just open up, swing around the open world for a bit questing, and close feeling satisfied. I don’t know if I would actually replay the whole story again, but the open world of this game really fucking slaps.
Final score: 5.89/10. If I cared about the characters and story, this would be like the best game ever, but alas we can’t have it all. Still hyped AF for the next one though.
You might be wondering why I’ve written ~3000 words literally just about video games. Well, I’ve been suffering from a lack of executive function recently. In the most recent blogger meeting, Kellen called me tf out for being on the Zoom call while simultaneously lying on my bed playing dumb fetch quests in Spiderman, which really spoke to how burned out my brain is. I have a lot on my plate this summer, and the pressure of staying on top of all of it has slowly been weighing down my mental stress pile. Maybe it’s telling that when my brain is devoid of all motivation, all will to think, and all creative urges, the only thing it can think to write about is video games.
I like to think that this is a good sign that I’ve followed my real passion throughout college, and that it’ll take me far in the future. Whatever your brain latches onto for sustenance when it literally cannot bear to think about anything else is probably something you really enjoy.
Anyways, if you are also a diehard or PS3, if you played The Last of Us WAY BACK WHEN gamer, let me know how you would score these games in the comments!
- capitalism is a fucking scam and is going to ruin my life by stressing me out very slowly over the course of my life back to text ↑
- I was initially not pleased with the diversion that the remake took from the original game in terms of story. It meant that I basically have no idea what's in store for this part of the franchise, and all the main story points that I know and love are basically up in the air. Also, the heavy handedness of having *literal* characters in the game which represented fate that 'set the plot right' when it started to diverge from the original, and then defeating those characters in the penultimate boss fight, hereby 'defeating fate', was too much meta plot device bullshit for me personally. The remake in some ways was the creators reflecting on the actual process of creating a remake. I could go on about how meta this is, and how ridiculous it is. But I will end by saying that I got over my initial fury and am actually pretty excited to see where they take the story in the future. Especially since they revived my favorite character from death by the force of 'defeating fate'... back to text ↑
- before pewdiepie was cancelled lol back to text ↑
- Those of you who are in the know might know that the game REALLY COMES OUT SWINGING by killing Joel in like the first 3 hours, and it honestly took me like fifteen hours of the game to get over that and acknowledge his personal flaws and the implications of his choice. I really liked Abby and was firmly #teamabby by the end of the game, because the entire game felt like I was being dragged on a terrible 30 hour long adventure by Ellie and I was literally just screaming at her to stop the whole time. It tired me out to actually play the game, and at some points it felt like I was forcing myself to. I do sort of wish that they had ended the game on a positive note, like on the farm with Dina, because dragging it out past that was Not It for me, but I think that the story was overall pretty okay. Also, the music slaps. back to text ↑
- having you play as Abby was a good choice because you got to see another world and another story, and honestly it was better than Ellie's lol back to text ↑
- Killing Joel, even though his time had come and his story was over, felt like it was done just to make another game, and dragging the game past the farm *really* made the whole thing feel like misery porn, to quote Ankita back to text ↑
- some of you may even have seen the video of me on the Admissions Instagram, lol back to text ↑
- Joel wasn't really in this game and also it made me realize that Joel is in some ways the villain of the last game, and also Ellie was a RAGING PSYCHOPATH for the entirety of this game back to text ↑
- the character switch back to text ↑
- I couldn't find an actual description of what this means to gamers on the Internet, but it basically means getting all the achievements possible for a game. More commonly referred to 100%ing a game back to text ↑
- I don't even think the FF7 Remake platinum is worth getting because some of the achievements are so grindy and dumb - and I cannot believe I am saying that, because I 100%ed the original game like 5 times and enjoyed it every time back to text ↑
- at least, that's what one of the designers on the God of War podcast series said back to text ↑
- or PS3, if you played The Last of Us WAY BACK WHEN back to text ↑