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What are you playing?

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Well, my TV's out of commission...seemingly now seems as good a time as ever to cover the stuff I've been playing for the last month or so on my new PS5 (+ 1 Switch game). Gonna break this thing up over several posts for easier reading:

Astro's Playroom - Already talked a bit about this game in the New Console thread, but this little game is just delightful. Yeah, it's a tech demo, but it's a good tech demo. To this date, it's the only game I've played on PS5 that actually makes full use of all its features, from the Haptic feedback of the Dualsense controller to the Activity Cards w/ built-in hint videos for the collectibles. It's a celebration of Sony's legacy at a time when Sony could not be working any harder to kill its legacy due to the incompetence of Jim Ryan.

The Pathless - This is actually the 1st PS5 game I bought, as I found it on 50% off sale before I even got a PS5. The people who made Journey (and left ThatGameCompany) and Abzu basically made their own Team Ico game, from the empty world filled with puzzles to the magical companion you bond with to the minimalist storytelling. I could have done without the repetitive auto-target shooting to maintain your Sonic-esque running speed, but in general I found this game quite relaxing and (at times) atmospheric. I do think $20-$30 is the right price for it, though.

Persona 5 Royal - Well, this one's been sitting on my shelf for a while. I'm not the biggest fan of the original Persona 5. Despite it being the best-PLAYING Persona game, I found its characters recycled and dull and its story repetitive; poorly-written; and really poorly-paced. Unfortunately, Royal doesn't do much to change that. It adds a bunch of quality of life improvements and minor tweaks at the start of the game that initially made me feel like they understood why Persona 5 kinda sucked. However, after clearing the 1st dungeon it became clear that all the big updates were front-loaded and back-loaded, with very little new or tweaked in-between outside of adding EVEN MORE generic mob fighting during the boss battles. The social links still suck, with Mementos used as an excuse to not have characters develop of their own free will.

The new villain introduced for the extra month at the end of the game is nice and their story is very well-integrated into the original story. However, the quality of the extra month is poor and feels like an utter anti-climax after the events of the original game's Christmas encounters. It's also severely pointless, as you will see when you finish it.

Overall, it's...fine, I guess. It is a better game than Persona 5 Vanilla, but it wasn't the huge leap in quality promised by Atlus.

Bugsnax - A neat little environmental puzzle game that's just oozing with charm. I don't think the developers fully thought out how the player's tools can interact with the environment (in particular, the spring board doesn't allow for much experimentation despite it opening up so many possibilities), but in general I had a good time and the game doesn't out-stay its welcome.

Demon's Souls (remake) - I got about halfway through this one before I hit a severe wall and just gave up on it for a while. In case you're interested, it's the Twin Maneater fight. The game has superb atmosphere, and I generally enjoy this sort of game, but I just feel like Demon's Souls is just way too restrictive and punishing, even for this sort of thing. Levels don't generally HAVE shortcuts and boss corpse runs are extremely long and cruel after the first real level. This game would have been so much better if Bluepoint hadn't made it so faithful to the original, as the Soul series in the intervening years has gotten so much better about things like checkpoints.

Also, world tendency can just **** off. What is the point of punishing struggling players by locking them out of side content IN ADDITION to also sending them back to the beginning of the stage; taking away their souls; and halving their health? It mandates that you beat the entire game at half health or miss out on content. This system sucks. It wasn't brought back ever again for a reason. It should have stayed dead.


Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville (PS4) - I adored Garden Warfare 2. I played it almost exclusively for over 6 months, and probably would STILL be playing it if I hadn't forced myself to stop checking in on the Daily Challenges. It's probably in my Top 10 best PS4 games.

Naturally, when this got announced for quasi-Early Access for a cheap $30 pre-order price, I jumped right in. However, having learned my lesson about Live Service games with GW2, I let it sit on my digital shelf until I had a good window to play it without it intruding on other yeah, basically now.

Garden Warfare 2 was heavily criticized by bloated, egotistical idiots like Jim Sterling for its microtransactions. However, had they actually played the game for more than an hour, they would have seen that the beauty of GW2 is that it SHOWERED you with coins for basically doing ANYTHING. The "sticker packs" you could buy with in-game currency were reasonably priced, you got a bunch of character unlock/cosmetic "stickers" in every pack, and you could pick different types of packs to get better odds for specific drops. Garden Warfare 2 is the embodiment of this sort of game done well. I never put a cent into that game's microtransactions, as I always had more than enough coins for whatever I wanted.

Likewise, Garden Warfare 2 had very basic, but extensive, SP content and a wide variety of settings for its maps and modes. There were also literally over a hundred characters, as each class had tons of variants like a Sunflower that could stealth health by damaging players or a Citron that that swapped out its orange ray for a freezing ray. There was so much customization and freedom of choice. Later updates also added the Gnome battles you could jump into to get Rainbow Stars you could spend on special unlocks.

Why do I bring all this up about Garden Warfare 2? Because Battle for Neighborville is everything the critics claimed Garden Warfare 2 WAS. There are NO character variants; the single-player is boring (outside of the boss fights) and lazily implemented; they absolutely BUTCHERED Garden Ops (my favorite mode in GW2) by halving the number of waves & removing both friendly bots AND player choice in where to plant their base; and Turf Takeover (my second favorite mode) has been neutered into this Overwatch-style "sieze the point/push the payload" mode.

In fact, it's widely suspected that one of the reasons EA took the hatchet to this game was to try to turn Garden Warfare INTO Overwatch, as all the characters are now grouped into "Attack/Defend/Support" classes and they removed all the variants that made this game fun.

On the microtransaction front, there are now a whole bunch of currencies (one of which pretty much requires paying real money and which is used for most of the best unlocks) and the sticker packs have been replaced with an expensive 1 item gatcha system.

There is fun to be had in Battle for Neighborville, but considering that EA halted development on that game's content a year after its initial release AND apparently closed the studio who MADE the game, I don't know why this game got ported to Switch recently. It's a shitty sequel to a fantastic game. It also crashes CONSTANTLY in my experience.

I thought I'd also talk about Panzer Paladin, but I have very mixed thoughts on that game and probably need to think about it for a while. I should also probably finish it, as I've been picking away at it for a few months.

Might as well chuck another opinion into the void since I forgot it earlier, but I did play roughly about half of Sackboy: A Big Adventure (why isn't it just called "Sackboy's Big Adventure?"), and I quite enjoy it but I had to stop play it after a while because my completionist side was starting to make the game a grind. I was trying to get all the collectibles and the "no death" awards in one run per stage, leading to frequent restarts.

From what I played, though, it's shamelessly a Mario 3D World clone (as well as a Rayman Legends clone somewhat, given the musical levels), but if you're going to steal you might as well steal from good games. I wish the cosmetic options were better and the music and gameplay had a bit more variety, but what I played was perfectly enjoyable. There's just a good, relaxing flow to the platforming. The game has 4 Player Co-Op if you care for that sort of thing.


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