Control Video Game

I should be honest up front with this review, I love Remedy games. Alan Wake, a game made by Remedy back in 2010, is one of my favorite video games that I have ever played. The games that Remedy makes are examples of how to make effective linear single player games. The stories they write are always engaging, the worlds that they create are always immersive and full of life, and the gameplay is always crisp and responsive.

Control is no different.

Control tasks the player as Jesse Fayden, a woman who lost her brother due to a traumatic event in her youth that she believes is related to the Federal Bureau of Control. The Bureau is a shady government agency that holds plethora of supernatural phenomenon. As Jesse explores the Bureau she gains more and more psychic powers and begins to unravel the secrets that the Bureau holds and with it, how those secrets tie in to the disappearance of her brother.

The gameplay of Control is a 3rd person action game where you use an ever-expanding suite of psychic powers to fight off a variety of different enemies called the Hiss. Starting with an energy strike from your “service weapon” and growing into mind control, the ability to pick up and throw any object with your mind and even the ability of flight. Jesse grows in power in a really rewarding way as you play throughout the game that keeps the gameplay from getting stale and repetitive.

The sound design and atmosphere of the game is also top notch, exploring through mad science labs and bureaucratic labyrinths has never been more fun. The game is a perfect mixture of Twilight Zone, Men in Black and Aperture Science from Portal in terms of the tone of the Bureau. Every single research file or piece of correspondence helps to anchor and engross the player in the world of the game. Remedy’s incredible world-building and writing is in full effect here.

Despite my reservations about Remedy deciding to make this over a sequel to my beloved Alan Wake, I have to admit that they have hit it out of the park yet again. Remedy continues to hold the banner for single-player story-driven experiences that focus on gameplay, immersion and excellent story-telling. No other game developer out there today is able to perfectly blend all of those aspects like Remedy does.

Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Video Game

Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a unique tale in the world of video games. It started as a joke project back in 1993 that Nintendo developers worked on after-hours and eventually morphed into a full fledged game that was released on the original Gameboy. Because of the games peculiar origins, it stood out as a unique departure from any Zelda games that came before or since its creation. This game takes place on Koholint Island instead of the Kingdom of Hyrule where Legend of Zelda games typically reside.  Characters in the game use telephones to communicate and Nintendo characters from other properties even make their appearance such as Kirby and Yoshi. The story and gameplay of this game is utterly unique and has just been remade for the Nintendo Switch.

For a remake of a handheld game from almost thirty years ago, Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening does an incredible job of staying true to its roots and not deviating from the original when it comes to level design. There is a new dungeon builder function that was added to this remake that was not in previous iterations. Other than that addition, its been kept in the same state as its predecessors. There are some quality of life improvements such as taking advantage of all the new button options that the Switch has that the original Gameboy did not have.

The basic gameplay also holds up. Controlling Link from a top-down perspective as you explore dungeons, fight baddies and unlock new items that help you further explore the world and solve puzzles. While it might not be the massive time sink that Breath of the Wild can be, that might actually be a strong suit. If you are looking for a fun game to play on the go and beat without having to devote hours and hours to, Link’s Awakening might be the game for you. Nintendo has an interesting track record of bridging the gap between the past and the present by remaking their games for the next generation. While this game is going to be a nostalgic trip back in time for some, it is also just a fun game for anyone who likes Legend of Zelda games whether you are a new or old fan.

 

Fearscape by Ryan O’Sullivan

Fearscape by Ryan O’Sullivan

Have you ever had that coworker or fellow student that always talked like they knew everything and contributed the most to a project or assignment but in reality, they did the least amount of work? Protagonist, plagiarist and thief, Henry Henry is that guy.

Once a generation, The Muse, a being from an alternate dimension known as the Fearscape, comes to our dimension and finds the greatest storyteller of our time. Henry Henry was in the process of “borrowing” a great work of fiction when The Muse comes to earth in search of a great storyteller. The Muse mistakes Henry for a great writer and whisks him away to the Fearscape to fight an evil that threatens both the Fearscape and all of humanity. The Fearscape is a plane where fiction becomes reality, writers use their imagination to fight off evil beings.

O’Sullivan’s writing in this Graphic Novel is fantastic and witty. We get all of Henry’s internal dialog and justifications for every slimy and dishonest move that he makes and it makes the story all the more entertaining because of it. Fearscape is a satire on the current state of fiction in pulp culture but it also serves as a love letter to the art of writing fiction as a whole. Everyone knows someone like Henry in their lives and seeing him go through all the trials and tribulations that he does is cathartic and entertaining in a lot of ways. I loved to hate Henry as the story progressed and he got more and more enthralled in his web of lies and deceit, all the while proclaiming that he was indeed a great storyteller to the point where you know that on some level, Henry actually believes it about himself despite never writing an actual work of fiction himself.

Andrea Mutti does a fantastic job as Illustrator of this work, his faces are incredibly emotive and the worlds in which Mutti is tasked with illustrating are fantastical but grounded at the same time. There are fantastical and incredible creatures and characters in the fearscape but even in some of the more ridiculous scenes, I could always tell what was going on and what I was supposed to be focusing on in the panel.

I recommend Fearscape to anyone that loves the dark fantasy genre and enjoys a bit of satire. Fearscape pokes a lot of fun at the state of fiction and pop culture in this modern age. It is no coincidence that the “Greatest Storyteller” of our modern age is a plagiarist with no original ideas in this story. This story never takes itself too seriously and is a fun ride along the way.

 

Sea of Thieves Video Game

Sea of Thieves is a truly unique game in terms of scope and execution. It is a game best played with friends and honestly baffled me when I first played it on release. There is no grand goal at the end of the adventure, the goal is what you make it to be.

Sea of Thieves is an open-world adventure game that tasks the player as part of a crew of pirates going on quests on the high seas. While the game can be played solo where the game matches the player with random players via matchmaking, I have to say that this is not the ideal way to enjoy this game. Playing with friends online creates the most fun scenarios and is how the game was meant to be enjoyed.

Players work together taking on different roles on the ship. One person can steer, one can man the sails and another can navigate. Sea of Thieves really captures the feel of being a pirate, especially when your ship gets close to another group’s ship.

Nothing can compare to the rush of exhilaration that you feel as a player when someone notices another ship on the horizon. “will they attack us? should we pursue them? are they going to be friendly?” all of these questions are made more exciting by knowing that these conversations are also being played out by the other players on the other ship. Maybe you are returning from a quest with a ton of loot on your ship so you don’t want to risk fighting other pirates, or maybe you are on your way to a quest so you have nothing to lose but attack the other players.

I have never experienced an encounter like these until I played Sea of Thieves. Balancing between manning the cannons, plugging up holes from enemy cannon fire, steering the ship, and managing the sails is such a frantic process that the game can go from tranquil enjoyment of sailing, to intense frantic combat in an instant. There is more to the game beyond that too, players can band together and work to take down massive threats like the Megaladon that requires coordination between multiple ships to take down.

I highly recommend this game to any friend group that is looking for a new co op experience to tackle. Blare the “Pirates of the Caribbean” soundtrack loud and proud as you tackle the high seas, fight off skeletons, krakens and of course, other pirates.

The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows Vol. 1 by Gerry Conway

Spider-Man has gone through a lot of changes during his over-50 year run. Peter Parker has graduated high school, college, gotten married, lost his powers, got them back again, then lost them again. There was even a time where we thought he would have a child. But then it was decided that an adult family-man Spider-Man went against what Spider-Man was all about so they reverted Peter Parker back to being a 20-something and got rid of the character of Mary Jane Watson all together. This story The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows is a big What If story about what would have happened if Peter wasn’t reverted back to being a 20-something, was still married to Mary Jane and they had a child together.

This run of comics highlights everything that makes Spider-Man such an endearing and long-lasting character. Peter Parker isn’t just a guy that has an insane sense of responsibility that dresses up as a spider and beats up bag guys, he is also a person with real-life issues. Renew Your Vows is also about living life as a lower middle class family in a big city. While half of the book involves the spider family beating up bad guys, the other half focuses on them dealing with real life struggles such as Mary Jane’s small business and Peter trying to make ends meet with his photography job all while they are both trying to raise their daughter Annie (who also happens to have super powers).

Using tech scavenged from when Peter fought a previous big bad guy, he was able to make a suit that shares his super powers with Mary Jane so that she can help crime fight with her husband and daughter, it has a very Incredibles-esque dynamic of a family fighting bad guys together. There are some very interesting conflicts that Peter has to wrestle with that most parents will also find themselves reflecting on. It is ok to let your children fail and get hurt because it is how they learn. This message is one that Peter has an extra hard time with because he wants to protect his family but he also has to let them fend for themselves and be independent. The conflicts and themes are effectively woven between the bad guy fight scenes and the scenes when the characters aren’t wearing their super suits.

I recommend The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows to anyone that has wished for a married Peter Parker to return to comics, or anyone that thinks the idea of The Incredibles-meets-Spider-Man sounds like a really fun read. It is well-written and a lot of fun for comic book readers of all ages.

 

Farming Simulator 17 Video Game

To people that are unfamiliar to the Simulator genre, games like Farming Simulator 17 might seem strange. If simulating the day-to-day work as a farmer doesn’t sound immediately like your idea of a fun video game, then I recommend that you read through this review before passing any final judgements on the franchise. While the game has “simulator” in it’s name, that doesn’t mean that the game is attempting to perfectly replicate the experience that a typical farmer has. You can live out the dream of being a farmer with access to over 200 farm vehicles at their disposal and be able to delve into the entire breadth of experiences that encompass the farming occupation. Forestry, livestock and traditional crop farming all play prominent roles in this game. Expand your farm either alone or with some friends for cooperative play.

This game offers two maps to choose from to build your farm on as well as trains as a new vehicle that you can use to transport crops with throughout the map. There is a swathe of new vehicles to acquire in this entry as well as new animals and crops to farm. If you have played any of the previous entries in this series you will find everything from those games and moreso in this entry. Farming Simulator 17 a relaxing yet complex game that aims to recreate all of the challenges while still enabling the player to achieve any of the goals that they can set their mind to.

Farming Simulator 17 does a great job of balancing its role as a simulator with its job as a fun video game. If any aspect of this review sounds like it might be a fun time, I recommend trying it out. It isn’t as flashy or action packed as other video games but if that flashiness and action isn’t what you are looking for, then I would look no further than this fun little game. It is worth trying out especially if you are someone who plays video games to help relax at the end of a long day.

 

Battlefield V Video game

Battlefield V is the newest entry into the Battlefield series. Battlefield is one of the longest-running first-person shooter (FPS) franchises in all of gaming. Don’t let the number next to the title fool you, there are way more than five entries in this franchise dating back to Battlefield 1942 back in 2002. Battlefield V returns the franchise to its WWII roots. Continuing on their single player theme from the previous game Battlefield 1 (I told you the numbering of this franchise is weird), the War Stories episodic singeplayer format returns. Multiplayer, as always, is the main focus of this game. Wage massive 64 player battles on land, air and sea across a myriad of landscapes and locales in extremely destructible environments. The final mode is one that was recently added only a few months ago and that is the battle royale mode Firestorm where squads parachute into the map then fight for survival as a ring of fire surrounds and encloses the map.

War Stories is Battlefield’s way of tackling single-player campaigns. These standalone stories send you to different corners of the global conflict and play through a handful of missions from different soldiers perspectives. This serves as a great change of pace from campaigns of old where players were tasked as playing as one man armies who traverse the globe doing anything and everything. With war stories players are treated to far more grounded encounters and far more variety of gameplay and story experiences.

Multiplayer is big, beautiful and deep as always from entries in the Battlefield franchise. Traditional 64 player Conquest is back as well as a continuously updated list of gamemodes that are constantly being added and removed to keep the gameplay experience fresh. From massive open 64 player combat to squad focused close quarters deathmatch, there is going to be a mode that caters to every playstyle. Teamwork and destruction are the name of the game in this FPS.

Firestorm is another fun addition to the Battlefield franchise with DICE’s take on battle royale. Scavenge, destroy, and work together to be the last squad standing at the end of the match. Once you die, you’re out in this free for all gamemode.

Battlefield has a lot to offer FPS fans, especially those that love to play WWII shooters. Fight across the European and Pacific theater in this fun squad-based massive battle shooter.

Superman: The Unity Saga Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis

Superman: the Unity Saga Vol. 1 is the first run written by Brian Michael Bendis away from Marvel Comics. If you have ever wanted to get into reading comic books but the giant wall of backstory and previous issues makes jumping in to a run seem daunting? Fear not! Brian Michael Bendis is here to save the day! All you need to know to enjoy this run is Rogol Zaar is a bad guy who doesn’t like Kryptonians, Supermans son Jon and wife Lois Lane are away on an intergalactic field trip, and the Phantom Zone is a space prison for space bad guys. That is it! All you need to know to enjoy this book.

If anyone has read anything from Bendis before this run (if you haven’t read anything from Bendis, you should, he’s great!) you should know that he is known for his compelling and well-written dialogue and this book is no exception. Every character has a distinct voice and the witty dialogue doesn’t stop from page one to the cliffhanger ending.

Power and responsibility are the themes that Bendis plays with in this story. Is Superman doing enough with the powers that he has or is he wasting his potential on extinguishing fires and saving cats from trees? Bendis expertly weaves this question throughout the story, putting Superman in more and more compromising positions and making Superman confront his place in the world.

Ivan Reis does fantastic penciling as always, he really gets to shine in the full page splash panels later on in the action set pieces. Ivan also does a fantastic job of capturing the look and feel of a Superman comic.

I also never knew how much I would love seeing Superman as a father either but Bendis does a fantastic job writing the scenes with Clark and his son. Some of the best writing in the entire volume is in those scenes where Clark is teaching lessons to his son that Superman learned from his father.

Destiny 2 Video Game

Many people give the Borderlands franchise credit for the creation of the “Looter Shooter” genre as we now know it, but I think credit should be given to Destiny for how Bungie has been able to perfect it. Destiny 2 is going free-to-play on September 17th of this year. That means that you won’t have to purchase or check out the game to play the base game on your console of choice. Swing by the Davenport Library and check out the game before that date to get a head start on your friends!

Destiny 2 is a Looter shooter, that means you are going to be shooting a lot of aliens, robots and alien robots. As you are blowing up those bad guys, you are going to level up and get newer and shinier equipment and weapons so that you can continue to blow up aliens, robots and alien robots. This grind is made even more fun if you have a few friends to tag along with. Co op in Destiny 2 consists of 3 total players (or 6 if you are trying to tackle Raid content) and I think the game is the most fun when tackled by a full party.

There is also the competitive crucible mode that pits players against each other in a variety of modes that cap out at 6 v 6 competition. Being that Bungie are the initial developers of the Halo series, the gunplay is quick, smooth and very well executed.  There is something for everyone’s playstyle in Destiny 2 and it is a great game if you are looking for something to sink a lot of time into. There is always something to do in Destiny 2 and it is constantly being updated with new DLC expansions.

If grindy loot quests are your cup of tea, then look no further than Destiny 2.

State of Decay 2 Video Game

I remember playing the original State of Decay on my Xbox 360 and I loved it. Scavenging, surviving and strategizing with my own group of survivors gave so much freedom and options for how to play without it being too overwhelming. The one glaring issue that I had with the first game was that I couldn’t play it with friends. It was single player only. This is an issue that developer Undead Labs aimed to remedy with the sequel.  Multiplayer play is the biggest feature added to State of Decay 2 and it works beautifully.

State of Decay 2 is an RPG mixed with some strategy game elements  like community and base management. You play as any of the survivors that you have recruited into your community and establish bases, outposts and form alliances (and conflict) with other communities that you come into contact with in the open world, all while having to fight off the hordes of the undead. State of Decay 2 has a feature that is unique for current games. Permadeath. If one of your survivors dies when going on a scavenging expedition, they stay dead, no respawn, no returning to the last game save. This creates a sense of tension and intrigue even on the most mundane of errands that takes the player outside of their base.

If you played the original State of Decay, then this sequel gives you everything from the original but a lot more of it. With three full fleshed-out maps to build your community of survivors in, you can put hours and hours into just going through each of the areas and clearing out zombie infestations and blood plague areas. There is also a story mode that follows the quest to create a cure for the zombie plague. Once you complete the story missions on one of the three maps, you are given the option to relocate your community onto one of the other two maps and continue playing through the story there.

I recommend State of Decay 2 for anyone that is a fan of RPGs or the zombie horror genre, and I doubly recommend it if you are someone like me who is a fan of both. It has a ton of replay value, just enough depth to keep the player intrigued and the multiplayer options make the game a million times more fun to play.

State of Decay 2 is an Xbox One exclusive available at the Davenport Public Library.