Hey Harvey!

Posted on Jun 19th 2021 at 08:00:00 AM by (slackur)
Posted under Contrary Opinion, Halo Wars 2, R Type Final 2, Biomutant

Wow, has it been two and a half years since the last Gaming Apologist article? http://(http://www.rfgene...logist-Volume-1-3841.php)  Ah well, it only takes two to be a series, right?  If the title or previous article was tl:dr, the idea is simple; here are a few titles that don't have the greatest reviews, and I'd readily admit have faults, but I have found well worth my time and I fully enjoy.

A good friend of mine and I have a fundamental disagreement about how to evaluate the games we plan to play.  Perhaps you know of someone like this, or this is in fact you; if it does not score above a certain critical threshold, it does not merit consideration.  If a game gets too many 8's or below out of 10, then why bother?  Aren't there more than enough '9' and '10' games out now that a gamer could conceivably never run out of the best games to play?

I get it, time is the most valuable resource, so why waste it and money on something less than the best?  Why even bother with a '7' or below?  This cuts directly into the reason I do not put what I see as an artificially numbered review on my opinions.  There are simply way, way too many factors that dissolve a hard rating when it comes to a video game.  Let's look at a personal example; The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  Often cited as one of the best games ever made, and for good reason.  Here's a kicker though:  I couldn't get into it.  I bought it brand new on release and watched others play it, but every time I sat down to play, I just wasn't really hooked.  Even then I could readily admit that the art, graphics, music, and design were all top tier.  Everything was there, and I should have loved it dearly as much as everyone else.  But... it just didn't have whatever quality makes a person really get into a game for me personally.  I have no problem admitting it is me, not the game.  Regardless, I went back to Wave Race and Tetrisphere.  I tried again with the 3DS re-release, and same thing;  I could appreciate it, but I didn't get into it.  In both attempts, after a good five or six hours in, I just decided to play something else.  In fact, I have enjoyed and completed every 'overhead' Zelda game (save for the CD-I one, which I would play if I could afford it) and given up on every "3D" Zelda game after at least four or five hours.  Every time.  I can list and agree with every positive thing about the 3D games in the series, but how would I put a number on any of them?  Others certainly enjoy them more than me, and I'm very happy for them. 

What about a younger gamer who may give a lower rating of Ocarina of Time?  Someone who wasn't around during the 3DS era, much less the N64??  Without nostalgia glasses, it can be a harder sell.  What about Skyward Sword?  I know many others, including myself, did not like the motion controls on the Wii and that factored into a frustration and lack of will to play.  Now that the remaster gives more options for controls, should it make the game rate higher? 

On the other hand, we have a game like Remnant: From The Ashes.  When I first tried it solo, I appreciated what it was going for, but the challenge felt a bit much, and while the art design was good, the graphics weren't the best.  I didn't think it was for me but I decided to try multiplayer before throwing in the towel.  I started hopping into random co-op matches to help others in their games and boom:  dozens of hours later, I had maxed out my character and would still routinely jump on just to help others find new things or conquer difficult bosses.  It has become one of my favorite PS4 games, despite the rocky start.  Would I recommend it to others?  As a solo game, no.  Even after buying copies for some friends so we could play together, no one locally gets into it nearly as much as I do.  Yet I can jump into a game with random players and have a blast for hours.  So, how do I rate that on a number?  '9' for me, maybe a '6' for you, unless you play co-op, then maybe higher?   

What about games that aren't as much games but have interactive elements, such as visual novels?  My Beloved and I really liked Root Letter, and as with most visual novels, there isn't much gameplay.  Do we rate the gameplay it does have?  Also, some of the story routes due to player choice are subjectively much, much better and fit the story in a more cohesive way.  What about the person who only played through a 'bad' arc?  A fellow RFGener here didn't care for Kentucky Route Zero, but I found it fascinating.  It is much closer to a visual novel than a traditional game, so how are we to compare scores?  And it's not just narrative exploration games.  If you've played NieR or NieR: Automata, (and I'm not giving spoilers here) and stopped playing after the first credits roll, how much different would you rate the game versus actually "completing" it?

We all use shorthand, I get it.  But for my friend who only plays '9' or above, I really don't think it solves the problem as much as it may seem.  After all, a '9' from only a few years ago may be re-evaluated as much lower as the graphics age, some gameplay conventions begin to feel dated, and quality-of-life improvements increase in modern titles.  On the opposite side, modern titles may ship as, say, a '6,' but after a series of patches and updates, that score may bump up a few notches over time. 

Ultimately, one of the reasons I enjoy reading and creating 'apologist'-type articles is to highlight how a score is not always the best metric to evaluate what is the best game to play.  The following few listed here aren't hidden gems and are not for every gamer, but a few games that I personally connect with and do not have the same hang-ups as the critics and/or popular opinion levy against them.  As I reflected upon the games in my current rotation, I realized all three fit this category and thus here we go;

Halo Wars 2

The original Halo Wars saw hundreds of hours on our 360 LAN and was one of our favorite co-op/versus titles.  Of course, it is easily outclassed by genre heavy-weights on PC, but Halo Wars drew in many of our friends who had no interest in RTS games, liked Halo, and found the controls and learning curve ideal. 

We slowly began building an XBox One LAN for Halo Wars 2 only to find it did not support LAN play, would give incredibly annoying network issues when playing with more than two systems on the same router, and for better or worse it has a higher learning curve (but more depth) than the original.  It has not been nearly the success for us as the first game.  Even the campaign, while decent, wasn't interesting enough to complete more than a time or two for me.

Yet I still play one or two matches weekly with a dedicated team against human opponents, or practice new strategies and leaders against the A.I.  After all of these years I still enjoy the mechanics and general gameplay.  The variety between unit types, maps, leaders, and game modes make for dynamic matches and opportunities for all sorts of tactics.  In fact, we find different challenges from our human opponents on a regular basis even after all these years.

Perhaps by now it is more akin to a comfort game, but I always look forward to our weekly matches.  Microsoft and most gamers, even Halo fans, have long since left this one behind (and it has been almost four and a half years) but our little group will probably be playing until the servers are shut down.  I can't necessarily recommend it for an RTS fan, but if you enjoy strategy games and have at least another friend who is interested in being a co-op buddy or opponent, I'd definitely give it a shot. 

R-Type Final 2

Yes, it is true, I just wrote about this one.  I won't rehash the understandable criticisms this game faces.  What I will say is that I am still hooked on it!  Most shmups are designed around the classic "one credit clear" (1CC) or score chasing, but some modern ones such as this have experimented on other gameplay hooks like unlockables and higher difficulties requiring completely new techniques. 

The steady pace of earning new ships with unique abilities dovetails nicely in how playing stages on more challenging modes can force learning a new way to play.  I keep going back and playing a few levels, tweaking one thing or another to see what works best.  It feels simultaneously comfortable and intense. Final 2 has been great, both for bite-sized snippets of gaming here and there, and sit-down-and-let's-beat-this-section ambitions. There is a seductive rhythm to this game that 'clicked' for me after awhile, and though I can't yet say it is one of my favorites, it may end up there by the time I'm done. 


I don't play through many open-world games due to lack of time and interest so there has to be something special about the ones I do commit to playing.  I absolutely enjoyed Horizon: Zero Dawn, but after a couple of tries, I still haven't gotten into Breath of the Wild.  Ghost of Tsushima is one of my favorite modern games, but after a dozen or so hours across almost every Grand Theft Auto game, I wasn't interested in any of them.  Sunk tons of time into Oblivion, somehow didn't connect to Skyrim.  Did almost every side quest in Final Fantasy XV, can't get into pretty much any Assassin's Creed.  Yep, it is me, not the games. 

Like many a gamer, I was very curious about Biomutant when it was revealed several years ago.  While it sure took a long time from announcement to release, considering everything developer Experiment 101 was attempting with only about 15 people, my opinions give a lot more leniency.  Speaking of, upon release, the sheer amount this game was doing ended up as a critical strike against it, as many of the disparate elements do not necessarily gel well.  It has a huge open world, three separate major story plots from the get-go (get revenge for your parents, unite six tribes, save the World Tree from four hungry critters), crafting, a pseudo-magic system, melee combat and combos to unlock, third-person gunplay, dozens of side-quests, countless trinkets to collect, a day-night cycle, several biomes, weather, several different types of puzzles, conversation skill-checks, stat-based level progression, vehicle and animal mounts including a mech to tool around in, a detailed armor upgrade system, five different major status effects in the world for which to find resistances, an automaton drone alongside you that has its own abilities and customizable shells, and a narrator that is constantly giving you fortune-cookie style advice.  Oh, and it is also a post-apocalyptic kung-fu fable with a morality system (complete with gated skill unlocks for light and dark) that alters conversations and alliances, as well as the ultimate decision to either basically save or kill the planet's life-force.  And nearly every living thing in the game was modeled by Build-a-Bear.  So basically if you and all your friends decided to make a video game, and you held an idea pitch-meeting for what you were making, Biomutant is what happens when at the end of the meeting the answer to everyone is 'Yes!  Let's do that too!"

The biggest problem is that several of these components feel at best underdeveloped, and at worst unfinished.  Nothing feels outright broken, but some parts of the game just don't seem to completely work as intended; conversation checks feel like disjointed dialogue blocks, combat feels a little off and not as kinetic as it should, the camera occasionally gets in the way, it is not always clear how to get to certain areas or how to complete some objectives, the quest tracker occasionally gets wonky, and cutscenes are at times poorly edited.  The thing is, for all of these easy criticisms, this describes most open-world game experiences I've played built by a team of hundreds of people.  Thankfully Biomutant isn't on my list here as a "forgive this game because it is from a small team, so overlook everything wrong."  Instead, it is on here because of everything it gets right.

The art design and game world are gorgeous.  The narrator, who can indeed get annoying, is still voiced with such excellence that the game didn't feel right to me with him on mute.  He explains every character's dialogue, and while some may find this unnecessary, it gives the whole game a storybook vibe I like and a certain originality to the experience.  The combat, while not perfect, has a ridiculous amount of options and different approaches between the psi, melee, and gun mechanics.  The combos and slow-mo activation remain fun to me dozens of hours in.  The vast world has lots of variety and tons of nooks and crannies to explore, made all the more fun to traverse with the odd variety of unlockable mounts.  While few of the NPCs are standouts and several attempts at humor fell a little flat, the enemy designs are varied and interesting, and everything animates vividly.  I have encountered a few bugs including quest items that didn't spawn until a quick restart, but it rarely happens, and so far nothing has been game-breaking.  For the most part, everything in the game has run pretty well for as much as the game is doing and tracking.  But perhaps the greatest compliment I can give is that the game has just been really, really fun.  I can spend hours and hours of enjoyment just exploring, finishing side-quests, experimenting with character builds, and taking in the virtual world in Biomutant.  Plenty of other games have given this opportunity, but for whatever reason, this one is among the few that I just really get into and want to keep playing.  I'm sure for folks who play open-world games all of the time there are other games of this ilk that would be preferred and there's no reason to look into this one.  It is not a perfect game by any stretch, and there have already been a few patches to clean up a few issues, but Biomutant is among many other examples of why I don't give or trust numbers in game ratings; there is a certain magic for some games that lift the experience higher and connect in a special way.

If you give these games a chance and come away with different opinions, that's not surprising.  But I do sincerely hope you find at least a few games that you enjoy on a deep level for no other reason than you just really connect with them at that time.  There is a unique satisfaction in finding a game that you really don't need to defend because it feels like it was made just for you.


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I like the idea here. There are games I know are not well liked, and may have issues I can say objectively make it worse, but I still enjoy. Sometimes you enjoy a bad game simply because it's bad, and that's just fine. Other times, a game will hook you, and even if some of the enjoyment is sapped away by some issues it has, or things it lacks, you still have a good time with it. E.T. is often derided as one of the worst games ever made. I would tend to disagree. I played it a lot as a kid, and enjoyed my time with it. Is it the best thing on the 2600? Of course not. Is it the worst on the console, let alone the worst ever made? Not by a long shot.

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