by Matthew Thompson
I had hopes of doing full reviews for some of these especially the Tomb Raider DLC, but I just haven’t had the time, so I thought I’d run down what I’ve been playing in 2016 so far in a good old Gaming Update. Here it goes!
Games I Have Finished
The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone: This was excellent. I think the primary questline here is as good as anything in the main game. It doesn’t involve as many important characters nor does it have the grand stakes of the base game’s story; if that was a novel, this is a short story. Still, great writing and rich characters remain making for another highly entertaining yarn. What impressed me most was how creative the quest design was. I’ll refrain from getting into any details to avoid spoiling some of the wild directions Hearts of Stone will take you, but despite spending as many hours as I did with the game already, they managed to do some things here like nothing I had experienced thus far. The combat has also gotten more challenging with better boss fights to boot. And just like the main game, HoS packs a ton of content for the price. If you liked The Witcher 3, Hearts of Stone is a must-play.
Rise of the Tomb Raider: Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch: Because I was so taken with RotTR, I had high hopes for its only story DLC, but I came away sort of unimpressed. It is a bit too slight from a content standpoint. Not only it is over quickly, some of that time is spent in old areas or heading back through one of the new segments. The lack of stealth approach opportunities also hurts. And giving you the new weapon and outfit after you finish isn’t ideal especially for someone like me who played this long after completing the main game. It does have two parts that I really liked. The one major puzzle is a good one, up there with the best from the main adventure, and meshes puzzle-solving and platforming in similar ways. The final boss encounter is a winner as well and integrates those two elements into what is largely a combat encounter. I enjoyed my time with Baba Yaga and am glad I played it for its best moments, but can’t help but feel a bit disappointed with it overall.
Rise of the Tomb Raider: Endurance Mode: Surprisingly, I thought this was much more interesting than Baba Yaga. I wouldn’t want these sort of survival elements in a main Tomb Raider game, but it is the perfect thing to explore in a small DLC package like this one. The permadeath aspect made this a very tense experience. I liked how I slowly learned how to survive longer after each new attempt in the Siberian Wilderness. Like realizing to take a lantern with me to keep warm between campfires or which upgrades to snag first. Endurance Mode also provides numerous water cooler-style moments due to close calls whether they stem from fending off wild animals or finding food just before starving. This didn’t seem like something I’d like, but I’m glad my love of the full game pushed me to give it a try on a whim. It was worth it.
Need for Speed (2015): There are many annoyances here. Even though you can play solo, it is essentially always online which means there isn’t a real pause button. The rubber banding can be frustrating. The first-person FMV-style cutscenes are somewhere between embarrassing and hilarious. Despite some of the negatives, I found myself really addicted to this game. Perhaps it was just because I haven’t played a game like it in so long (the last non-kart racer I put significant time into was Burnout Paradise). And because of that I don’t have much to compare it to either. But I really liked having drifting, racing and combo events to compete in. I liked tuning my car for each style of race. It was a really fun time for me and I may look to rent more racing games here and there when I have another lull between new releases I am interested in.
Ryse: Son of Rome: I don’t have a ton to say about this game. It is a pretty forgettable and rather brief hack-and-slash action game. The graphics are excellent and I really like these sorts of settings, but both of those just kind of made me wish I was playing a better game with those aspects. Still, as a quick rental and something else to play on my Xbox One, it wasn’t a bad way to spend a handful of hours.
What I’ll Be Playing Next
For about the past month, I have been wrestling with the decision of whether to renew my GameFly subscription. I get these three months at a time because of the discount and my current sub runs out at the end of this month. In April and May, I will be buying Ratchet & Clank, Uncharted 4, and Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst. So I’m afraid I won’t have much time for anything I rent in those months and I could put the sub price towards another game. I think I have decided to stick with it though. I am hoping I can rent and play through Far Cry Primal (pictured above) and (at least play some of) the Twilight Princess remaster before those games hit. I’d also like to try to rent Quantum Break and Doom if I can make time for them among the big releases I mentioned above. Perhaps I will rent some Blu-rays too if I don’t have time to play anything else to get a bit more out of my subscription. I really want to get to Unravel and Gravity Rush Remastered too, but am going to wait on them for now and maybe snag them at a lower price. GR would have been perfect to rent since I own the original Vita release, but it is Amazon exclusive at retail, so not on GameFly unfortunately.
That will do it for this Gaming Update. Thanks for reading!