Torchlight 2 picks up where the original left off, featuring creative new character classes, new environments, and more polish across the board. Endgame content is still a bit lackluster, but itemization is better tuned and more engaging overall.
• Knockback is a legitimately serious mechanic.
○ Some common enemies send you flying back 5+ meters on heavy hits, or 2+ meters on basic attacks.
○ Knockback reduction gear actually has some value, but only affects close range melee builds which are somewhat rare. I didn’t care about it at all while playing Embermage, and it only matters for Engineer while grinding levels to unlock Ember Quake.
○ Repeatedly Onslaughting into a Sand Spectre’s pushback sandstorm is pretty fun though.
• Onslaught is such an awesome Engineer skill!
○ Feels great on impact.
○ Travels extra distance when it has a valid target.
○ Passes safely through most projectiles.
○ Works surprisingly well as a tanky opening attack – due to slowing enemies instantly on impact (and Force Field making Engineer practically invulnerable in winnable encounters).
• Thunder Locus is a pretty cool Embermage skill.
○ Forceful summon animation, splendid VFX, and versatile tactical utility.
The Order: 1886 was a highly anticipated PS4 exclusive title developed by Ready At Dawn Studios. Upon release, it was criticized mainly for being too short. It’s not hard to imagine the game being much more satisfying with a few extra levels to give the characters more time to develop at a natural pace. Still, it’s a fun shooter built around an interesting premise.
• Gunfights feel solid, although melee combat is extremely basic.
○ Why not have custom close-range attack strings instead of instant kill on a single button press?
• There are a couple of creative instances of forcing players to use handguns: once while dragging a wounded officer to safety and once while holding a lantern.
○ The first felt surprisingly good, possibly because it was so short.
○ The second seemed like a good idea, but started to feel a bit clunky the longer it went on, especially as taking cover seemed to be arbitrarily disabled too.
• Quicktime boss fights are kinda lame.
○ Non-randomized quicktime events are silly and pointless in general.
• Lock-picking mini-games can be surprisingly rad, as it turns out.
○ The rumbling sensation changes with just the right balance of subtlety and clarity.
○ Plus they’re quick enough not to get annoying through repetition.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about The Last of Us, but i enjoyed playing it for the most part. It’s a pretty amazing interactive narrative experience, where gameplay usually takes a back seat to storytelling and spectacle – which is a fine choice if that’s what you’re into. Personally, i didn’t like the forced false choice at the end, but i’m sure it was meant to be controversial.
• Melee combat is simplistic, but smooth and visually polished.
○ The sheer number of environmental interactions is staggering, and transitions between contextual states are seamless.
• Having to pick up the same items and crafting materials every time you die is the worst part of extended battles, especially those involving caution and stealth.
○ Obviously you can’t just keep those new supplies after you die and reappear at a previous checkpoint, because it would alter the ensuing battle progression and potentially muck up ammo counts.
○ But why not make it easier to reclaim the stuff you’ve already discovered? If showing found item locations on the map is too much, even having a checklist would save time and avoid that weird feeling of being unsure whether you forgot something the third time through.
Darksiders has a pretty cool thematic premise for an action game, but borrows heavily from God of War and Zelda mechanics. I played it shortly after finishing DmC: Devil May Cry and have to say its combat system isn’t quite as polished or nuanced, but i still enjoyed it. These are some random notes i jotted down while playing. If you agree or disagree with anything, let me know – but please read the two disclaimers at the bottom first.
• Relatively slow placed action, with a fair variety of weapons and abilities to unlock.
• Lots of blind exploration in dark areas!
○ It was less tedious when collectibles were all visible on the map in the introductory Vulgrim level. Why can’t that feature be on all the time? What’s the downside?
○ Or if the dungeon map needs to be an item (or in this case, two items: Map and Hoardseeker), then why not at least show those two chests on the starting map?
• Checkpoint placement seems kind of inconsistent.
○ Having to travel halfway across Anvil’s Ford on foot through three doors to fight Special K for the tenth time was frustrating. He’s practically a secret sub-boss!
○ Not restoring any Wrath meter on checkpoint reload is disappointing too.
I mentioned recently that Harpies were my least favorite enemies in DmC: Devil May Cry. I’ve been trying to pinpoint the exact reason for that – and i think a big part of the problem is their appearance. Even though they’re pretty damn tough to kill, they look like minor nuisances.
When you come across a group of them, your mind is usually in “I just want to get through this” mode rather than “Man i need to focus on this battle!” It doesn’t help that they’re fliers, which means they’re typically far away and appear tiny on screen.
Of course that perception makes it harder to be patient and look for counter-attack opportunities, so Harpies end up doing more damage than they should – especially when grouped with other enemy types. On the other hand, Dreamrunners in DmC look like deadly ninjas so every encounter with them feels like a miniboss fight. That’s the magic of ninjas.
Most enemies in action games can be separated into two categories: The ones that you’re supposed to beat with straightforward knowledge and the ones that challenge you with a proper mixup. The latter group definitely needs to have imposing aesthetics that demand respect, so the player buys into holding their ground every time.