Control | Game Review

Control is an action-adventure game that takes place inside a Bureau in New York. This Bureau functions as a secret organization that is doing a lot of quantum or para science experimentations. The main character is Jess Fayden; a woman that seeks the Bureau to find answers about her lost brother but finds herself appointed as the Bureau’s new director struggling for “control”.

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At the start, the game gives little attention in spelling out the events for you. In fact, I kept wondering whether perhaps I was playing a sequel, but I wasn’t. The course of narrative in this game is very hazy and for the most part it stays hazy till the end.

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The Bureau itself was fun to explore. I heard there are plenty of references in Control to other games, among those are: Alan Wake, Quantum Break, and Max Payne. I’m pretty sure Prey also played a role in influencing Control. The level designs were very reminiscent of Prey, which happens to be my top favorite game. The level of detail in each room is wonderful. I absolutely love walking into companies, labs, or tech centers and this game did not disappoint in that regard. What it did end up disappointing however was not giving you enough to actually appreciate the level design.

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In Prey, for instance, there’s plenty to do exploring, aside from memos and inside culture (which this game has), you can also collect raw materials and then recycle them to upgrade tools and weapons. In control, the only thing to collect aside from notes and audio clips, is basically a box with random materials. It would have been better, for example, if those materials were scattered in the level design instead. Another thing, each floor has an aid kit hinged on a wall, 80% of the time that means you’re picking up a healing item. Not in this game. In other words, there’s plenty of enticing detailed elements that are basically pointless. As a result, it brings a lacking experience to exploring. You stop feeling motivated to unlock new destinations and just focus on moving ahead with the main mission.

Next, there’s a wealth of memorabilia and lore to pick up in this game and while plenty of it adds some value to the main story, for the most part, yet again, feels lacking. In Fallout, The Last of Us and Prey, often notes allude to certain locations or to a specific ‘incident’ or character. In the Last of Us, you read correspondence between two people. You then visit that location and you visually see the remnants of that incident. Similarly, in Prey (and it does this so well), you read about a work event, you visit that location and you find that particular door, secret item, or special weapon mentioned. Even if it’s not for the purpose of finding an object, you find yourself wanting to go to a place mentioned just to put in context a touching story you just read. This adds a great deal of depth and culture to the world you’re exploring and often times gives you a fun ‘aha’ moment that’s very much missed in this game. In comparison, Control’s world feels empty and meaningless.

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The other major let down for me is the battle system. The game has unique battle features such as manipulating objects and launching them from a far. Additionally, you can unlock cool skills like floating and conjuring up a shield from nearby ruble. These are all creative tools to appreciate if it wasn’t for the tedious battle designs. Enemy attacks are unvaried, frequent and hardly changing. It was exciting in the beginning but I found myself getting seriously bored halfway and I stopped bothering about taking parts in battles. A good game will make you care about side missions and battles, even the idle ones. I would go far as to say that the game plays out as button-smashing sometimes due to lack of inventiveness in battle designs. And to make things worse, the frame rate drop is inexcusable. You can get away with one or two enemies undisturbed but add a fourth one and the game lags so badly, and it gets worse till the end. Even the ending credit roll lagged- how is that even possible? There’s also no apparent way to increase the difficulty for a bit of a challenge. Random battles can be very easy but boss level designs are absurd. Difficult and absurd are two different things.

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Having said all of this, now that I look back on the game, I don’t consider it a total waste of time. It had its charming and memorable moments. I definitely won’t play it a second time though. I just hope that if and when they develop a sequel, and judging from the ending, a sequel is possible, they would take into consideration all these shortcomings. There’s a lot to work with in Control and I think once it’s polished, the game could turn out to be very interesting.

My final score is 3/5 ★★★

  • 2/5 for gameplay
  • 4/5 for design
  • 3/5 for battle system
  • 2/5 for plot

Game Platform (played on): PS4.

Game link

Game trailer

I have a habit of joining fan clubs late, but before I tell you what I really think about this game, it might be worth mentioning that:

  1. I’m generally not a fan of RPG strategy games
  2. I’m equally not a fan of silent main characters
  3. I never really played and completed any of the Fire Emblem prequels

This game applies to all three. Putting those into consideration; however, it says A LOT for me to give this game a 4 out of 5 rating. That’s not to say there weren’t a few drawbacks and I’ll get into those later.

If you’re new like me to the franchise, then the game is basically a turn-based strategy game where you lead a team of players and wage war. In between these battle sequences, you get the chance to interact with your characters and upgrade them.

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One thing that has always deterred me from enjoying strategy RPG games is feeling limited in my scope of exploration. Some people play games because they enjoy the battle mechanism even if that outshines anything else. I, on the other hand, play to explore. I delight in navigating places, picking up lore, and piecing things together. It comes as no surprise then why I never really paid much attention to the series. The other factor that compels me is good storytelling and I read tons of reviews stating the game has an astounding plot.

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In this particular installment, and without getting into too much details, I found myself playing as a mercenary who found my way into a city. I then was asked to become a professor in this town and take reins of a small group of students. You are given the option to choose and join one out of three factions in the game: The Blue Lions, Golden Deers, or Black Eagles. I personally went with the Golden Deers, mainly because I have a fan-girl crush on Claude; secondly because I have a crush on Claude and thirdly because of Claude 😛

On a serious note, I resonated more towards the characters of Golden Deers compared to the other two. And my choice didn’t disappoint, because I absolutely loved getting to know each and every one of the Golden Deers.

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While looking at some game footage prior to my playing, I noticed given the ability to roam freely. That alone was a big motivator to pick up the game and while it was fun for the most part moving freely between battles to complete side missions, it later became repetitive and I found myself feeling less inspired to explore and just skip my free days all together. The side battles were also repetitive and in many occasions required the same strategies. The mission battles, on the other hand, showed potential to offer variations but that didn’t extend over to the side missions.

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The story itself is interesting and takes plenty of turns and twists to keep players at their toes. Because of that, I found myself wanting to skip ahead in the story rather than spend more time developing characters. The way to interact with your team is either to walk up to them, have a conversation or trigger a support chat to form stronger links, which you’ve guessed it- projects on your characters bondage within battles. Aside from that, you also can give seminars and lectures to elevate student stats and then give them exams to fulfill requirements for character classes (pun intended).

Because there are three factions, it’s to be expected that the game can be replayed from different perspectives in order to shed some light on missing parts of the story. Having said that, I was later disappointed to find out that even though that’s the case, the games are also identical. Without spoiling the story much, let’s just say the background information and main incentive for each faction is different but more or less the main scenario is similar.

To recap here’s what I loved about the game:

  • Beautiful soundtrack with memorable themes
  • Interesting lovable and hateful characters to keep you intrigued
  • Well written plot with unexpected turns
  • Claude, Claude, Claude

What I didn’t like about the game:

  • Feeling slightly disconnected and therefore uninterested in the main character
  • Repetitive “collect-this; collect-that” side missions
  • Normal difficulty is basically Easy Mode. It’s almost too easy to max out everything by the middle of the game (either that or I play too much Miyazaki games).

So getting back to where I started:

  1. Yes I’m still not a fan of RPG strategy games
  2. Yes I still do not like silent main characters
  3. I would probably go back and play the prequels if I didn’t have a long pending list of games to play.

Finally, would I recommend this game to anyone?

ABSOLUTELY!

My final score is 4/5 ★★★★

  • 2/5 for gameplay
  • 5/5 for (side) characters
  • 3/5 for battle system
  • 4/5 for plot

Game Platform (played on): Nintendo Switch.

Game link

Game trailer

Note: For more information about the upcoming game DLC “Fourth House”, click here 

Red Crow Mysteries: Legion

Red Crow Mysteries: Legion is a mystery hidden-object game by Cateia Games. I finished the game today and frankly I still don’t know what the game is about. I do expect some of these hidden-object/mystery games not to take their plots seriously but this one is on a completely different league of its own. The narrative is so rushed, you forget what’s going on. It tries to deliver a serious tone and then it turns slang.

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Its navigation system is probably the worst of its kind. Instead of simply giving you an arrow to indicate backtracking, it shows you weird symbol of footprints that has to be triggered clicking on a specific angle on the screen otherwise it won’t work. It’s also hard figuring out what’s clickable and what isn’t. Usually that’s intended to make a game difficult, but in this one it’s beyond workable. I had to switch to Easy mode to see hint sparks on my screen to figure out what I need to click. There are also several glitches in the game that made solving some of the puzzles a total nuisance. Also did I mention how much I really hate games with inventories that hide their inventories?

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Putting aside all of the bad, the thing I DID like about this game is the difficulty of the puzzles. The hidden objects are kept to a minimum and more than half the puzzles in the game actually demand thinking. That came as a surprise. Although a couple were repetitive, I didn’t mind that. I think the puzzles alone were what kept me motivated to play.

As for the ending, it’s safe to say it’s laughable and there’s going to be a sequel.

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Would I recommend the game? Probably not. There are plenty of games out there far better. I’m giving it 3 stars though because I actually stuck with it and it kept me company when I’m not feeling well.

My final score is 3/5 ★★★

  • 2/5 for gameplay
  • 1/5 for plot
  • 3/5 for puzzles & exploration
  • 2/5 for overall experience

Game Platform (played on): Mac.

Game link

Game trailer

True Fear: Forsaken Souls II

Just completed Forsaken Souls II; a sequel of True Fear Forsaken Souls I, which I reviewed last week. The game is a huge improvement from its prequel! I didn’t expect to like it this much but I was really blown away.

The story took its steady time to unfold and so much has happened since FSI. New characters, new events, and new leads. I love how things are not rushed and the main character lets the player know what she thinks about everything. For once there’s actually a good use for the diary in these games.

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It’s very refreshing not to hinge the entire game on hidden objects. And I have to say the mini games in this installment were absolutely WONDERFUL! Some are straight forward mini-games and some others are very inventive like the use of night vision goggles in various places, swapping items through a time machine, and using a library cart to retrieve books with an RFID-like mechanism. You’re never bored!

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I also absolutely love how items picked up at the beginning of the game stay with you for a very long time, which is unusual with this genre of games. Your inventory grow, which lets you think about how to use the items at your disposal. Some of them can be reused many times before disposing them.

The graphics are superb. The music and sound effects are also top notch. Some find the sequel to be less spooky than the prequel. I personally found this one scarier (that basement part!).

The game is surprisingly massive and there’s a lot to uncover. Using the map to fast travel is definitely a good option.

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Overall I’m super hyped about this installment and I really can’t wait for the third part to come out. I really hope it won’t be too long. Based on the rumors I’ve read online it’s not promising but definitely worth the wait.

This game is part of a trilogy and they’re closely tied. Playing the first part is a must. If you can tolerate the clunkiness of the prequel then you’re in for a treat for the sequel. I bet the third will even be better!

My final score is 4.5/5 ★★★

  • 3/5 for gameplay
  • 4/5 for plot
  • 4/5 for puzzles & exploration
  • 4/5 for overall experience

Game Platform (played on): PC, Steam

Game link

Game trailer

Related Post: Game Review: True Fear, Forsaken Souls I 

Our new addition to the escape room series is the Escape Hunt franchise company. I probably passed it a dozen times and didn’t realize it was an escape room company. Located on the first floor of the Al-Bida’a restaurant strip.

According to their brochure and website there are 3 rooms available only: Mystery of the Silk Cottage, Steel Mill Meltdown, and The Elemental Dragon. When we got there; however, we were told there’s no dragon but there’s a vampire instead. Frankly I wanted the dragon, but in the end we went into the Steel Mill Meltdown.

Escape Hunt 2

The reception area looks like Rococo style on steroids. Too many colors and embellishments for my taste but the staff was really friendly and the seating area was surprisingly comfortable. Before entering, we were asked to put our things in our lockers and remove our digital watches. Unlike the other rooms I’ve tried, this one you need to flash a CLUE card at the camera when you need to and they’re nice enough to give you a note pad and a pencil before entering.

Escape Hunt 1

The puzzle room itself was really small which opens into further smaller rooms. We were only four people and it was a little uncomfortable rummaging through the place. I can’t imagine how it would be if we were in our full group of seven. The music was too loud and distracting but perhaps that’s intentional.

Escape Hunt 5

Escape Hunt 4

We found ourselves locked into a 1960s US steel workshop or warehouse by a looney employee. He sets the place on fire and it’s our job to escape within 60 minutes before the meltdown. The puzzles were average and we escaped in 28 minutes.

Everyone was impressed with us. We’re experts after all. We decided to impress them even more by going into their most difficult room- their Vampire.

We went in and we SUCKED!

Similar to the previous room, the space was really limited which made it seriously frustrating to focus on anything. If you’re claustrophobic this is the worst place to be in. It was also dark and the sound effects were eerie. I don’t usually get scared in spooky themes unless there’s a real person/actor inside the room then it’s a completely different story for me. In that room; however, I was at the edge of my seat and I think it’s because of the narrow space. I felt suffocated.

As for the puzzles, that’s a different issue. I think there’s a clear distinction between a puzzle being ‘difficult’ and ‘absurd’. The puzzles in the Vampire room were absurd. I noticed whenever the room is not a franchise, they try to be too inventive for their own good. The puzzles were mostly riddles and they made absolutely no sense. It wasn’t fun, it was annoying.

I believe that a good puzzle game is well thought out and strategized to strike a good balance for the player. If the theme of the game is horror, then usually the difficulty is lowered a tad bit in order to facilitate playability without being too distracted or feeling overwhelmed. Additionally, the sequence of how clues are laid out in a well designed puzzle fluctuates. It doesn’t always maintain the same tempo to avoid boring players. This is especially common in difficult rooms. It’s player-friendly. It portrays the message that, “yes the puzzles are difficult but achievable”. I felt there was no balance in Vampire. It’s like a mixing pot with so many things thrown at you and you need to figure it out. I felt the objective of the room was to convince you it’s hard and that’s it.

Having said that, we did enjoy our time in the first room. I would definitely go again for their third room but I wouldn’t recommend the vampire room.