WOTH: Platinum #31 – Tales From the Borderlands

I’ve been a pretty big fan of Telltale Games, ever since I first played The Walking Dead when the complete first season was released. I didn’t know what to expect, but after playing it, I felt equal parts utterly moved by the story, and also terrible for all the seemingly wrong choices I made, leading to death.

But where The Walking Dead dealt with hopelessness and mortality; and The Wolf Among Us dealt with conspiracy and inner demons… Tales From the Borderlands has a much lighter tone with it’s absurdity and comic value. That doesn’t detract from the game, though, as this is easily now my favourite Telltale game to date!

From the title, you’d be right in guessing that this takes place in the Borderlands universe, developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. They were gracious enough to lend the IP, even so much as making sure that Tales is completely canon to the franchise. More on that later.

This game starts off some time after the events of Borderlands 2, where you meet Rhys. He’s you. A Hyperion lackey, working away on Helios, that giant H in space. A promotion doesn’t go to plan, so he finds himself on the run while trying to screw over his manipulative new employer. Eventually, while down on the bandit-ridden planet Pandora we all know and love, me bumps into Fiona, the con-artist (also you). They, each with their sidekicks, run into deeper trouble as Rhys comes to terms with the evil living inside his head, and Fiona keeps everyone alive. You meet a lovable LoaderBot, see some very familiar faces, and travel to familiar places.

I’m keeping this all purposefully vague, as the story is simply the best one I’ve seen in a long time, with brilliant cliffhangers set up at each of the 5 episodes. I’m not ruining a single thing for you. The dialogue is incredibly witty and unmatched, with very high profile voice actors in the mix. The choices you make here are very real, and there never was a time where I didn’t like any of the lines given to me.

And if you’re familiar with the well-crafted opening credits from the original Borderlands game – they’ve done the same for each episode of Tales, but even better – they’ve knocked them out of the park! Seriously some of the best cinematography I’ve seen, and it pairs well with the music track playing in the background. You know that, after playing some time in a new episode, and you hear some funky tunes kicking in, things are about to get badass.

While there is some incredible humour, they don’t ease up on the serious side of the story either – not all of those you meet come out of this alive, and it’s good to know that the poignant scenes are strongly written too. It is a roller coaster though, and you might find yourself completely grief-stricken only to be smacked in the face with laughter straight after. It takes a gifted team of writers an artists to pull that off.

Because several of the events permanently affect the Borderlands universe in a big way, it’ll be interesting to see how they weave what happened in Tales into the upcoming Borderlands 3 – whenever that arrives.

As with most Telltale games, trophies are secondary to the story experience, as they just happen.

If you’re a big Borderlands fan, a Telltale Games fan, or even a fan of brilliant writing – this is definitely for you.

 

WOTH: Platinum #30 – The Order: 1886

I recently decided that it was finally time to get this game out of my backlog. It wasn’t that I delayed it because I’d heard it was terrible – in fact, I’d heard it really was something of a spectacle on the PS4, really pushing the boundaries of the hardware’s graphics. It was actually the infamous trade-off that had made me give pause; the sacrifice of gameplay or freedom so it could show off the fancy graphics and lighting.

After completing the short 6 hour main story, and allowing another 3 or so hours to be the addicted completionist I am, I came to the same conclusion that most others had. I saw The Order: 1886 like a scenic bullet train ride through rural Japan – absolutely captivating, but pretty short, and confined to staying on the rails.

It’s not like the story is bad, though. You play as Sir Galahad, a member of the Round Table, which is a slightly modern take on the medieval tale founded by King Arthur. The year is 1886 (obviously), and with the help of the other Knights, and a tinkering young Nikola Tesla, you keep the public safe from various Lycan and Vampire groups. But… there’s a mysterious plotting afoot! Action ensues, but the end-game reveals are kind of predictable.

It’s kind of a pity that there isn’t all that much action, but you can see where the company’s time was invested – in the stunning visuals. Each chapter plays out in a breath-taking area; from the crowded slums of London, to the boughs of a high-flying airship (who the hell thought a gun-fight on a massive blimp was a good idea??). So, if you’re up for a great looking game fit for a movie, then this is certainly for you.

Given that the controls get taken away from you so often, at times you feel it may as well be a movie. It’s very easy to know what’s about to happen, because the game basically foreshadows everything. A big shootout about to go down? Guns and ammo everywhere beforehand. Lengthy cutscene looming? Let’s slow you down and make you put your weapon away before you enter a room. There’s no allusion to freedom most of the time – once you strip away the beautiful scenery, The Order: 1886 amounts to little more than a cover-based shooter. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with that – just don’t go in expecting much more.

The platinum trophy was not difficult at all to get here – if you focus on getting the collectables on your first playthrough, then the total time including clean-up should take little more than 8 hours.

 

WOTH: Platinum #29 – Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

Sometimes, you just need to take a break from the frantic and fast-paced games that flood the current market. After shooting aliens/robots/other humans in the face, or racing at 200 miles an hour with dirty dubstep music in the background, you tend to get exhausted of it all. Maybe you just need to take a slow, meditative walk…

And The Chinese Room (the company behind Dear Esther) have delivered yet another answer for this feeling, with the incredibly poignant first person adventure walker Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.  This time, you find yourself alone, overlooking a beautiful English countryside at sunrise, next to a small road, leading towards the quaint county village of Yaughton. Straight away, you’re overcome with deep orchestral music as you take it all in. As you make your way to the town and beyond, you find the whole place completely deserted – only a few odd balls of light, zipping around with seeming personality, are there to guide you along the path.

While following these entities, tied to certain intriguing members of the county, you will encounter “light-signatures” – recorded conversations and pivotal moments of the townsfolk represented by casts of light. It’s an incredibly smart way to learn about the various fates of all the people in the county, and why they’re no longer around – especially since the concept of light plays such a big part here.

The event that encapsulated the town initially appears to have very strong religious ties, until you begin to dig deeper, learning a bit more from each major character’s thread, finding out the true nature behind the mass disappearance.

The dialogue and voice acting you uncover is some of the best I’ve ever heard in a video game. Even if you can’t differentiate these “light-signatures” by appearance, the characters sound so utterly real in their discussions with each other. They each have distinct personalities, and you soon care very much about their fates – which makes for very emotional reveals as you progress. To make matters even more emotional, the haunting choir-inspired soundtrack by Jessica Curry cranks the feelings up to 11. Each time you reveal a pivotal moment in a character’s story, the orchestral music swells and envelops you. I can’t help but still listen to the soundtrack, even long after I’ve finished the game.

This is one of the very rare games which has affected me long after finishing, and I simply need to keep listening to the soundtrack. It now sits alongside Journey and To The Moon for that experience.

For these reasons, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is an experience you cannot miss out on. You need to go into it blind – do not read up on it, or look at any guides. Only do so after the first playthrough. For like-minded platinum trophy hunters, it won’t take long after this – maybe 5 hours.

If you have any recommendations similar to this game, I’d love to know what they are!

WOTH: Platinum #27 – Color Guardians

In my college days, I was utterly fixated on a certain little 2D running platformer by Gaijin Games, known as Bit.Trip Runner. In it, you ran endlessly to the right of the screen, dodging obstacles and gaps that relentlessly approached you. There was a deep rhythmic mechanic where you could time your moves to the 8-bit soundtrack, which got more and more intense as you progressed in a level.

Color Guardians is a similar running platformer, with a few new twists – instead of one lane to run along, you can move between 3 lanes to dodge obstacles. And instead of rhythm, the major mechanic is colour (yeah, there is a “u” in colour ya dang Americans). To successfully collect all of the coloured orbs in a level, you need to make sure you match one of the three available colours – which you can swap to at any time. The amount of orbs you collect will correspond to a certain rating out of three stars at the end.

Yeah, this is yet another game using the gamified 3-stars award system, like nearly every other game following Candy Crush. All games will use it soon… boy oh boy, I can’t wait until the new Civilisation game gives me a 3 star rating for talking to Gandhi about trade routes.

Regardless, you’ll pretty much get a base 2 stars every level, unless you get all of them, earning you a third. Lucky for you, the trophies in this game only require you to get at least 2 stars on every level! And maybe a 3 star rating on one or two, bit you can grab those on easier levels.

It’s a visually charming game, but not particularly challenging. There are 5 major areas with 10 levels and a boss battle in each, which you can get through pretty quickly. The boss battles are nearly all identical, so you’ll more likely get bored of repetition. That is, until the last boss encounter which seems like a massive difficulty spike for some reason!

It’s an okay game, and it’s largely unfair to compare it to Bit.Trip Runner, but it really does pale in comparison. I wouldn’t have picked it up if it weren’t one of the monthly free games with my Playstation Plus subscription. It’s saving grace for Trophy Hunters is that it is quite easy to obtain the platinum trophy – nothing really stands out as particularly difficult, other than having to defeat the final boss with each playable character.

WOTH: Platinum #26 – The Deadly Tower of Monsters

Were you a fan of the early 70’s B-movie craze? The era when action and horror films were mostly showed in groups of three at the cinemas at super cheap prices?

Well I missed that boat (born too late), but I can experience a space opera B-movie in all it’s glory with The Deadly Tower of Monsters!

This is a very unique style of game – a top-down platform shooter, with vertical progression, all wrapped in the format of a DVD commentary from the director of the film – which is the game itself. In-game, you are controlling the main actor – Dick Starspeed (played by Jonathon Digby). You’ve crash landed on a foreign planet, ruled by a tyrannical emperor. Along the way, you will find allies whom you can also switch between as playable characters, allowing you to further climb the Deadly Tower of Monsters (insert dramatic booming voice here).

There is a great amount of satire and humour injected all throughout this game, poking fun at the antics on a typical B-movie set. The director commentating on the film/game will reveal trade secrets such as the horrible way the extras in monster suits were treated, or even how to save on the budget some “monsters” were simply dogs with vacuum cleaner attachments on their heads – and when said monsters are revealed to look exactly like that, it’s hilarious. Also, this film/game was set in the height of using stop-motion clay animation for those less anthropomorphic monsters, and watching the obvious stop motion dinosaurs lumber around is a brilliant touch. Even towards the end of the game, you can see birds bouncing around clearly tethered to strings to hold them up.

The controls are pretty standard for a twin-stick melee/shooter, with options to upgrade your weapons and character using collectibles scattered around the area. Again, there’s great satire in some of the weapons which are given fancy space-names, but are quite clearly just a car antenna or something mediocre. But hey, a tight budget is a tight budget!

Towards the end, when you find out more about the film, it takes an even greater turn, cranking up the meta-references to 11. It doesn’t just break the 4th wall, it blasts it with its space laser.

This was incredibly fun, and if you were lucky enough to grab it during it’s free month for Playstation Plus, it’s an added bonus! I would still pay $10 for it if it were on special, so keep an eye out for it.

Regarding platinum difficulty, it is actually pretty easy with a guide – but perhaps just cruise through and enjoy the ride for the first time. Even if you do that, you’ll find it only takes 6 hours to complete. Most of the trophies come from progressing through the game, and from the various collectibles on the map.

Definitely give this a go, even just for an amusing afternoon.

WOTH: Platinum #25 – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Oh my, what an absolutely stunning game.

Before, I would have adamantly answered to anyone asking (please ask, nobody ever does) that my favourite RPG of all time was Dark Souls. Now, after completing the base game of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, that position is threatened. It is an incredibly crafted experience on an ambitious scale, which gets oh-so-many of the main RPG elements right, where other games always seem to falter on one or two points.

Let me begin with the set-up, if you’re unfamiliar with the franchise. You are Geralt, a salty old Witcher. In this old world of swords, sorcery, and scandal, the Witcher trade is a rare one. You hunt down and slay monsters of all types while accepting coin for your services; however the townsfolk consider Witchers as either a curiosity, or not too far removed from the very monsters they kill.

Geralt is on the trail of Ciri, a long lost friend who is more like a daughter to him. Along the way, he meets old friends associated with old flames, new and old foes to coerce, all while uncovering the prophecy of the Wild Hunt, which brings with them a new and bleak age of white frost.

The first thing that needs to be mentioned is just how amazing the game looks. After the dream-like tutorial, you drop into the story at a campsite, get attacked by a few ghouls, then ride off to the nearest town while a magnificent sunrise pierces through the swaying trees. That’s the first thing of beauty that smacks you in the face – the amazing lighting. At times, when you are in the forest just having a chat with a hunter or concerned citizen, the shadows of individual tree leaves dance across your face – something I’ve not seen done so well in other games. The draw distance is far reaching, so anything you see you can get to. And the locations are incredibly varied – the quests will take you across sunlit fields, jagged city streets, ominous caverns, and windswept mountain peaks, all swashed with vibrant colour. Through all of these locations, dynamic weather plays a big part as well. If you stop to converse with someone in pouring rain, you wont look as you always do, rather your clothes will have that drenched look, adding another layer to the immersion.

And the quests – never before have I been so invested in all of the side quests! Usually, RPG side quests ask you to either fetch 20 flowers, or assassinate some big baddie in a cave while a slow but required companion follows you and gives away your position. Not here – the stories crafted in each and every mission feel unique, and the people feel like they actually existed before you arrived, and not just to wait for you alone to fetch them a teapot. Granted, there are a couple of quest tropes thrown in, but they are done a little tongue-in-cheek, aware of the cliche they are mimicking (looking at you, Princess the goat!).

The combat is actually quite refreshing, given the amount of content. Each of the different enemies you encounter will have some sort of weakness you can exploit with the Witcher signs, oils, and bombs at your disposal, along with your two standard swords – silver for monsters, steel for humans. Being able to dodge, counter, and fire crossbow bolts adds a great amount of variety, so you can craft a play style that suits you.

I also cannot forget to mention the brilliant game within a game; Gwent. This is a tabletop card game many people in Geralt’s world play, including himself. Although initially simple, there is quite a bit of strategy involved which only opens up further as you either buy cards from merchants, discover them as loot, or win them as prizes for challenging certain people. It’s so popular that it will soon be expanded and released as it’s own separate game outside of The Witcher, so look out for it!

Now, gushing aside, let’s talk platinum difficulty. It’s a massive game, and took me about 120+ hours to achieve the platinum trophy, across two playthroughs. I advise that you try to cover most of the trophies in your first playthrough on any difficulty,  being very conscious of collecting all the Gwent cards you come across. Having a guide for collecting them is paramount, as there are quite a few missable ones. Have a general guide handy for the remaining trophies, as there are other missable trophies. Many of them are just killing foes using x method, or completing Witcher contracts, so it shouldn’t be so bad. Then, after you’re mostly done, it’s best to have another playthrough on the toughest difficulty. The early stage of the game on this difficulty is quite frustrating, but there are guides to help you choose the most efficient character traits.

To wrap up, I had an incredible time, and the 120+ hours to obtain the platinum didn’t feel stretched out at all. I will certainly be investing in the two expansions, Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine in the near future.

WOTH: Platinum #24 – Goosebumps: The Game

In this installment of the Well Overdue Trophy Hunt, I stepped back in time to the glorious 90’s, and relived the amazing Goosebumps universe – much like I had done with the recent movie starring Jack Black, generic American boy and girl combo, and Screamy McPubertyface.

There are no live actors in Goosebumps: The Game, however, as it has gone for the classic painted 2D Point and Click Adventure approach. This feels like it gave the source material the best possible justice, as every scene you move through looks like it came straight from the cover of one of the many original books.

And because there is so much source material, there are so many references to discover, which is always the fun part of these sorts of games. Some of them are obvious, like Slappy being the main antagonist, while some other little gems will be just as fun to find, like the jar of Jellyjam found when you open a fridge.

Regarding the content and difficulty – I used a guide, so it inevitably was super easy. There are a few different endings you need to obtain the platinum trophy, but as long as you follow the guide well, and save when asked to, the platinum trophy shouldn’t take longer than 5 hours to get. If you go into it blind, you may find quite a few points where you become stuck, but just try to pick up every item you see – most of them are useful in some way.

It’s very young adult humour, but hey – what could you expect!