Uncharted Influences Part I-Uncharted 4 and the Goonies

*spoilers for Uncharted 4 follow, as well as the Goonies, if you’ve never seen it).

The Goonies-a 1985 family film classic directed by Richard Donner (“Superman” and the “Lethal Weapon” movies) and produced by Steven Spielberg (Who doesn’t need any introduction)….about a group of kids in Astoria, Washington whose houses are threatened by greedy land developers that their parents can’t afford to outbid. While looking through some old pirate relics stored in the attic of the father of one of them-the main hero-Mikey-they stumble upon an old pirate treasure map, which leads them on a search to find the treasure to bail out their parents and save their homes; but which also unexpectedly puts them in the path of the Fratelli gang, a mother and son group of counterfeiting criminals whose hideout happens to be right on top of the series of caverns leading to the treasure-and if that’s not enough, the whole place is littered with skeletons and booby traps.

 

 

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Uncharted-the adventures of Nathan Drake (well, until recently) adventurer, pseduo-archaeologist, and pretty much a thief (although one a “heart of gold”), who-along with several allies helping him along the way-mentor Sully, love interest and eventual wife, Elena, and others; made important discoveries such as El Dorado, Shambayla and the Atlantis of the Seas…but also learned that some treasures are best left behind a the same time. As of Uncharted 4, he’s settled down to a domestic life as Elena’s husband, and working in a salvage business in New Orleans. However, the call of adventure comes back to him when his presumed dead older brother Sam reemerges-with the possible key to a treasure they’ve been searching for all their life-the lost pirate colony of Libertera, rumored to have been founded by the missing Captain Avery.

 

 

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It’s kind of obvious where the origin point is for both series (although “Goonies” also brings in some influence from Hardy Boys novels). This guy.

 

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Although Uncharted, with it’s death defying action, violence, incredible chases, treasures etc. certainly (Although Indy is set from the 30s-50s) owes a bit more of a similarity to Jones than Goonies does, let’s not forget that Goonies and Indy come from a common origin as well-producer and co-writer on the film, Steven Spielberg.:

 

Getting more on track though, let’s get to the heart of the matter-comparisons between the two.

Uncharted 4’s story has it’s genesis in flashback segments revealed throughout the game, where Nathan and his brother Sam first discover their destiny by breaking into a home which has their late mother’s belongings; leading them to not only change their last names, but also on their lifelong quest to find the lost colony, a subject their mother was interested in and close to cracking. The first similarity is pretty visual off the bat-young Nathan is very similar in appearence to Mikey from the Goonies (although without the asthma problem). The denim jacket in particular is sort of a dead giveaway.

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The old house in the game also bears some slight similarities to the attic museum pieces from the Goonies, which set them on their quest in the first place.

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Although like Mikey and his older brother Brand, Nathan participates in the quest with his older brother Sam, there is an important difference in that while Brand initially isn’t really along for the ride until sort of forced to by the Fratellis showing up (and in an attempt to impress his lady  friend Andrea “Andy”). In the main storyline, it’s Nathan who is the reluctant one, as he’s largely retired from the adventure life and has settled down with Elena (When he goes off on his quest, he doesn’t tell Elena which leads to a brief rift between the two).

 

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Like “Goonies”, one of the keys to the treasure is a map-in Uncharted, located in the cross of St. Dimas, which leads to Scotland and later to more clues. The equivalent in Goonies is a dubloon near the treasure map, which serves as a coastline marker for the cavern’s location.

 

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Of course while the Drakes have to navigate several puzzles, fight off an army of mercenaries, and travel around the world to find their treasure, The goonies deal with relatively fewer obstacles-the Fratellis, some traps, and the piano puzzle.

It’s when we get to the pirate colony itself that the similarities really go off on all cylinders. The place is a graveyard, with pretty much all the colonists dead, or worse, their corpses weaponized to set off booby traps (in a similar fashion, one of the Goonies’s skeletons has become a rather grim piano that’ll kill you via fall if you die “If you hit the wrong note, we’ll all B flat”).

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But there’s also this scene of a “last supper” with Avery’s co-conspirators, who he all poisoned to get away with the treasure.

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One eyed Willy pretty much did the same thing, although in his case, he died with it as well (presumably, one pirate managed to escape with the map and dubloon though).

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Although there’s a difference in location-the dead pirates are located in a lush mansion, while the Goonies’s dead pirates lie aboard Willy’s ship, the Inferno, located in a sealed-off cave.

But don’t worry, Uncharted’s got that covered as well.

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Of course this also leads to a final confrontation with the villains,  involving some salvaged pirate swords, although not really any fighting in Goonies’s case.

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In both cases, the characters have to give up the treasure to save their own lives. But there’s just enough left to bail them out of their current situation. Elena manages to save a gold coin from the colony, which manages to help re-start her journalism career, and give Drake a legitimate treasure-hunting business (as well as begin to raise a family and get a nice beach house, possibly on the pirate colony itself!)

 

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Likewise, the gems that Mikey managed to get in his marble bag are enough to save the Goonies’s homes from the greedy developers, leading to a happy ending (even for Willy, in a sense, whose derelict inferno escapes from the cave for one last voyage).

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Uncharted Lost Legacy-An Overview *spoilers*

*Some spoilers will follow*

 

While the Uncharted series of video games seemed to have wrapped up in 2016 with the release of the fourth game (Or fifth if you count the PSP game “Golden Abyss”), it was revealed in 2016 that the franchise would continue; although without Nathan Drake, whose story was given a pretty satisfactory finale in 4, with him still treasure-hunting, but in a more legitimate and safe fashion, becoming a renowned archaeologist, and fully committing to his marriage with Elena, producing a daughter, Cassie.

 

However, Uncharted 4 still left open a few possibilities; Chloe, Drake’s former love interest (and semi-rival for Elena in 2), who had fairly large roles in 2 and 3, was absent save for a few mentions and the multiplayer mode, and Nadine Ross, the secondary antagonist, managed to escape, with a few hints that she could eventually be redeemed.

In 2016, it was announced that Chloe and Nadine would get their own game-Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Originally intended to be mainly a DLC expansion, the game was released on it’s own, and in many ways, is a full-fledged Uncharted game, although a bit shorter than the Nathan Drake entries.

The storyline pretty much follows Chloe as she searches for the Tusk of Ganesh-a treasure her father died attempting to find, and she’s hired Nadine-who lost control of her mercenary company and is pretty much freelance-to help her. Unfortunately, a rebel military leader-Asav-is also after the Tusk to try to rally support for his revolution, and of course has put an army of his insurgents-and also Nadine’s former outfit Shoreline-in the way of our two lady adventurers. The game’s plot also follows from Uncharted 4’s example by not having any supernatural elements (Unless you count lost cities).

 

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The game pretty much utilizes much of the same Uncharted mechanics-shooting, dodging, cover, solving puzzles etc with the occasional QTE “Quick time event” which has the player push a button combo (although like with UC4, this is mainly limited to the boss fights, thankfully). However, as with 4, part of the middle segment of the game features a largely open world, with optional “side quests” hunting for additional treasures and unlockables, but with the main quest dealing with the two unlocking several temples to get to the entrance to a hidden city. The game also pretty much is set in one country-India-instead of Nathan Drake’s globe-trotting antics in the second, third, and fourth games. It’s pretty much the first game since well, the first-to be set in just one location.

 

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While certainly Nathan-less, the game isn’t completely Drake-less. Sam Drake, Nathan’s somewhat more morally-challenged older brother, shows up in the game’s final act, and given his previous encounters with Nadine in 4, the two aren’t exactly fond of each other.

 

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The game also has the trademark witty Uncharted humor as well.

The game of course continues the trend of cutting-edge graphics, with beautiful vistas, and of course, really good motion/facial capture. It’s worth noting that Chloe looks a lot more like her voice actress, Claudia Black, this time around compared to her first appearance in the second game.

 

 

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The game also has a photo mode. Although maybe not quite as customizable as “Horizon Zero Dawn”, it’s still a lot of fun.

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And of course, you can unlock extra skins and game modes, as with pretty much every Uncharted game (as well as the Last of Us). For instance, you can have Chloe be a pirate and Nadine sport her looks from the last game…

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Or make the whole landscape covered in rainbows…

 

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Or mess around with the game’s gravity…

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Overall, even as a spinoff, Uncharted Lost Legacy is worthy of the Uncharted name, and works even without Nathan Drake. It’ll be interesting to see if more spin-offs are down the line, featuring Chloe or not (Certainly 4 left the door open for further adventures with Sully, Sam and other characters).

The Witcher 3 Overview

Please note: I haven’t read the whole of the Witcher series of novels, or completed the first two games or the Hearts of Stone expansion, so this is a bit ‘newbieish’ and I’ll approach it from the view of a more casual gamer and not a major expert on this game.  🙂

 

The Witcher 3 is pretty much one of the most stunning games of this generation, receiving multiple “game of the year” awards from review sites and magazines, as well as many comparisons to “Skyrim”, considered by many to be the king of RPGs.

The game takes place in a fantasy world with many similarities to medieval Europe, as many fantasy worlds-such as Tolkien’s-do. However, this world in particular is filled with various monsters, a result of an event known as the “Conjunction” which merged the world with others. There’s also your typical other fantasy races, dwarfs, elves and various others. The series is actually the work of a polish writer  Andrzej Sapkowski, who wrote a series of novels that the games are, in a sense, a continuation of-although they are not part of Andrzej’s “canon”.

The main character of the series is Geralt of Rivia, who is the titular “Witcher”, a monster hunter. Owing to a series of mutations to further his effectiveness, he has pale skin, gray hair, and cat-like eyes. He takes up various contracts on monsters, but also finds himself involved in political-and magical intrigue as he roams the war-torn continent. He’s of course in many ways your typical video game badass male protagonist, but also shows a great deal of experience and intelligence in his dealings, as well as compassion and loyalty to his friends. Although very serious at times, he’s not above a bit of fun as well. He does however quickly get annoyed.

 

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Central to Geralt are supporting players….Vessimir, his mentor and father figure; Two sorceress’s, Yennifer and Triss (Who although often romantic rivals for Geralt, they are good friends); and Geralt’s ward Ciri-whose disappearance is the main quest in “The Wild Hunt”. Ciri, in particular, has the power to transport herself to other worlds and dimensions, a power the Wild Hunt want.

 

The WIld Hunt are a group of rogue Elf warriors, who wear some pretty nasty armor, and the major ‘bosses’ of the game.

 

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Rounding out the main cast is Dandelion, a Shakesphereesque poet, minstrel and playwright who serves as the game’s narrator, writer of the game’s glossary, and in-game participant.

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Witcher 3’s gameplay consists of several main guests as well as several optional side-quests. The side guests are pretty well fleshed out-there are some that could take an hour or two. Some are monster-slaying quests, while others are a bit more comedic, such as helping Dandelion with a play.

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The game also has a lot of crafting for *many* sets of weapons and armor, alchemy in which Geralt gathers various plants and monster parts to create potions (which give advantages in combat and healing, most of the time), a leveling up skill set for improved combat etc. The game also utilizes a “sign” system, with various magic spells (or as the game says, “Signs” which Geralt can use in combat, defense, or even to influence a conversation). Also, like Horizon Zero Dawn’s “Focus” or Batman’s “Detective mode”, there’s “Witcher senses” which helps Geralt track monsters, or conduct an almost CSI-like examination of crime scenes.

 

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Although Geralt’s armor, weapons, and pretty much everything else can be majorly customized and arranged, Geralt’s face of course can not be altered by a slider like Skyrim’s. You can, however, get a haircut, an option that’s also available in the “Grand Theft Auto” game series.

 

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The game’s combat system varies, as some monsters/characters have different weaknesses or strengths. Geralt has two different swords-one for regular human opponents, another for monsters; as well as a crossbow, and his offensives signs. Geralt can choose on either speed or force with his attacks. Dodging is also very important, especially when encountering multiple foes at once.

Conversations in the game are also very robust, and like other RPGs, can often lead to different paths in the game, and the outcome of the game’s ending.

There’s also the mini-game of Gwent, which is pretty much a card game featuring characters and monsters from the game.

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Witcher 3 is open world, and it’s one pretty big one, and very picturesque. There’s various cave “dungeons” and different parts of the world have a different look.

The misty, mountainy isles of Skellige, for example….

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….are very different from the Vineyards and fancy castle of Toussaint in the Blood and Wine expansion….

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Which is in turn different from the more cosmopolitan Novigrad. It’s perhaps one of the game’s best strengths-there’s very little ‘draw distance’ (backgrounds coming into view as you approach theme) that some open worlds often suffer from.

 

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The world can be navigated through Fast Travel by signposts, on foot, by boat, or by Roach, Geralt’s trusted-if glitchy-horse.

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The Witcher’s world knowingly takes from some fantasy tropes-including that in Geralt’s world, many of the fairy tales are either actually *real* or known in some form to the game’s civilization. There’s actually a quest in the expansion, “Blood and Wine” which goes all in with the concept.

 

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There’s some fun cultural references thrown in, here and there-Madonna, Twilight, there’s even one for the Internet meme “Trollolo” and Fallout.

 

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One thing that should be noted-this is a very “M for Mature” rated game-and it’s a pretty hard M. If you’ve seen HBO’s Game of Thrones, a lot of it’s pretty much on the same level as that. It’s really not for those a bit squeamish about that sort of thing.

Overall, although I’m admittingly not as well versed in the franchise as some, I found Witcher 3-and one of the two expansions-extremely well-done and polished games.

Horizon Zero Dawn-An Overview

The planet is Earth, ruled by primitives tribes (well, or at least the Midwest United States is) and a mostly unspoiled wilderness. But something’s a bit different.  While the wilderness is small animals-rabbits, turkeys, pigs etc….the larger forms of wildlife are a bit….different, giant machines that not only resemble current wildlife like Oxen, Crocodiles and Horses, but also ones that resemble the Dinosaurs of old. It’s clear something is not quite right here-it’s the future, around the 30th century, and clearly some event occurred in our past that led to this bizarre state.

 

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Into this world is born the red-haired, naturally curious Aloy, under mysterious circumstances, in the home of the Nora Tribe. Due to her unusual origins, she is raised by an exile from the tribe-Rost-and the two live outside the main villages of the tribe.

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One day, Aloy stumbles upon a ruin of the old world, and picks up a mysterious ear ornament-a “Focus”-that will shape her  (somewhat pre-ordained) destiny. The “Focus” functions as a sort of tactical display and information-gathering device, similar to the Witcher senses in the Witcher games, or Batman’s detective mode in the Arkham series.

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When she reaches adulthood, Aloy heads to the village to prove herself in a coming-of-age hunting ritual that will help her gain some status in the tribe, as well as hopefully give her access to secrets about who her real mother might be. She gets more than she bargains for when a cult-the Eclipse-attack the Proving-targeting her-leaving her orphaned and with even more questions when she attempts to open a mysterious door inside a mountain, and the image of a woman that appears to be an older version of herself appears-possibly her mother-“Elizabeth Sobeck”.

 

She then sets out on a quest across the wilderness to figure out why her tribe was attacked-and herself singled out-why some machines are acting more aggressive, with new, more dangerous and less animal-like machines starting to appear-and what exactly happened to Earth in the past.

Horizon’s gameplay utilizes a lot of stuff that’s kind of familiar to open-world RPGs, such as the Witcher 3. There’s a lot of stuff to do-not only the main quests, but a lot of side quests which help Aloy ‘level up’ and acquire new items and armor. There also is a lot of crafting and gathering plants-not only as ammunition for Aloy’s main weapons, but also for healing.

Aloy’s main weapons include a spear for melee combat, a bow and arrow (common in many games these days-there’s one in “Witcher” as well, and the Tomb Raider series in particular has traded Lara’s dual pistols for it as her trademark weapon) as well as traps and explosives Alloy can use. There are guns, and while they pack a punch, they’re heavy and often cumbersome.

Like many other games, a lot of the game’s lore is provided via audio and written “datapoints”, scanned in by Aloy using her focus-serving a similar function to the audiotapes from the last few Metal Gear games, the Bioshock series, and the many, many books in the Witcher 3 games. While some are integral to the games story, most are optional or well-hidden, but if you’re interested in the backstory to the game they’re worth a look.

 

Aloy’s got a well-defined persona too. Her obscurity for knowledge-and the help of the focus-manages to give her an advantage over the somewhat primitive traditions of her people and others-although sometimes she does come off as a bit haughty and rude at times-and despite her intelligence, respects the traditions of her people.

The other characters are a lot of fun too. There’s the proud Erend, the slightly in-over-his-head and clumsily flirtatious king Avad, but most interesting of all is Sylens, a mysterious man with questionable motivations who helps guide Alloy’s quest-

 

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Look familiar? That’s the likeness (and voice) of actor Lance Reddick, from The Wire, Fringe, and Lost, as well as the John Wick movies (Where I’ve seen him mainly) and various other video games such as the Destiny series. 

The other villains-Helis and Dervahl-are a bit more one-dimensional, as is “Hades” their mysterious leader.

 

The game’s world-a mix of tundra, desert and tropical locations as well as the “dungeons” of old world facilities-is also one of the best I’ve ever seen in games. There’s even some real-world locations (The game is supposed to take place in Utah, Colorado, and Arizona)

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Many of the sites of the game can also be captured using the “photo mode” where you can also have Aloy do many poses and expressions, along with usual filters and added stuff.

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Heck, I’m wondering if this isn’t somewhere in the game (covered heavily in vegation, probably).

While some of it’s mechanics are a little tried-and-true, Horizon manages to stand above with great graphics (Which come with extra support on the PS4 pro and UHDs) and a compelling story, as well as other goodies such as the Photo mode. Definetly worth a shot if you have a PS4 (it’s an exclusive).

Bioshock-An Overview

“There’s always the lighthouse, there’s always a man. There’s always a city”

*spoilers for games may follow*

Bioshock is a first person shooter series. Although I won’t get into it too much here, the games delve heavily into the philosophies of Ayn Rand (Mainly called Objectivism), and are filled with various references to her work. They also are heavily inspired by the “Steampunk” genre of art design, and also a sort of reverse-retro style that it sort of shares with the “Fallout” series.

 

After the protagonist’s crash, he approaches a nearby lighthouse, which leads to vast underwater city, known as “Rapture”.

However, upon entering Rapture, despite it’s art-deco elegance, it’s clear it’s devolved into total anarchy, with it’s former leaders mostly gone mad, and it’s citizens mutated and twisted into bizarre ‘splicers’ by the use of a sea slug slime called “Adam”-which also gives the player abilities as well (“Plasmids”), such as psychokinesis, pryokinetics etc which serves as extra weapons to your standard guns.

Rapture’s other inhabitants are the bizarre Big Daddys-who inhabit massive diving suits and are immensely powerful-and the Little sisters they protect, who are hosts for ADAM. The player’s decisions on how to deal with them influences the ending of the game.

 

Despite the total collapse going on, there’s also a civil war of sorts still going on, between a man, Atlas-supposedly a sane family man (although one who sure has a fondness for saying “Would you kindly…”hmmm) and Andrew Ryan (a play on Ayn Rand), the former leader of this crazy city. By the end of the game, there are several revelations to come, not only about these two, but about your character, Jack, as well.

Bioshock 2 features a similar gameplay model, but features a few new twists-now you are a Big Daddy-subject delta-although an older model who’s been inactive for a while-and you have to rescue your bonded “little sister”, Eleanor, who is being used by her biological mother, Sofia Lamb, as an attempt to contain a large amount of ADAM and become a sort of ‘god’ to what was left of Rapture.

 

Delta’s (and the player’s) main mission is to rescue her from her crazy mother.

Although many of the mechanics are similar to the first game, there’s a better melee weapon with the drill, some new powers, new parts of Rapture to explore and a new enemy in the form of the Big Sisters. (Although technically Eleanor’s one herself, which becomes handy in the game’s later stages).

The third Bioshock game (although I haven’t played the DLC yet, which returns to Rapture) is Bioshock infinite, a sort of “prequel” in  a sense. The gameplay is largely the same (third person shooter with a mix of shooting and “magic” here called Vigors instead of Plasmids), although the setting is certainly a bit different, as is the underlying philosophies-this time dealing with fate, free will, and paradoxes instead of Objectivism.  Here, we play Booker Dewitt, who like the protagonists of the first few games, has a mysterious past that’s sort of tied to everything going on. Here, he’s hired to infiltrate a floating city, Columbia, and rescue a mysterious woman, Elizabeth.

 

Columbia at first seems far more stable than Rapture. But under the veneer, it has nasty secrets, and a growing rebellion-the Vox Populli, led by Daisy Fitzroy.

It’s led by Zachary Comstock, a “prophet” who, like Andrew Ryan, sets out to build a Utopia but his dream is somewhat twisted-shaped, in part, by events in his past, events tied to Booker’s own past-and far more than he knows.

Elizabeth-reportedly Comstock’s daughter is kept in a large tower, guarded by a bird robot controlled in part by Comstock. She also has the mysterious ability to open ‘tears’ in time and space to other timelines and places….hence in part her isolation. She really just wants to escape to Paris, but over the course of the game will have to confront some harsh realities….literally. Elizabeth’s a pretty good AI companion, often aiding Booker with ammo, salts, and health power-ups, as well as well-animated expressions and reactions. Although in a way, the Bioshock Infinite storyline mirrors that of 2-man sent to rescue young woman-Elizabeth has far more of a presence here than Eleanor did in that previous game.

Aiding you on your quest are the Leutece siblings, whose true loyalties are a bit up in the air, as well as their exact origins. They do have a sort of droll way of speaking, and a tendency to finish each other’s sentences…

Overall, The Bioshock trilogy are an entertaining-if occasionally thematically disturbing for those who are sensitive to that kind of thing-series, and it also makes you think a bit about certain philosophies, instead of dealing a lot with just a lot of action. The games are quite fantastic visually as well-although a bit dated on the detail front (due to being last-gen, although a recent remaster was released), the art design of the games is quite top notch.

Rise of the Tomb Raider Overview

After the success of the “Tomb Raider” reboot in 2013, a sequel was quickly commissioned. This time, instead of being isolated to the island of Yamatai, this adventure would be larger in scope, and deal a great deal more with Lara’s backstory.

 

In this game, following her father’s research into the secret of immortality, Lara searches for the mysterious city of Kitzeh, said to have been found by the prophet of Constantinople, a Christ-like figure who might posess that secret, “The divine source”. After finding vital clues in Syria, she quickly discovers she’s not the only one looking out for it-so’s the mysterious organization Trinity, led by the deranged Constantine and his sister, Anna-who used to be Lord Croft’s lover-and possibly was manipulating him (and Lara) all along.

 

 

 

Lara’s still coping with the horrors of Yamatai too, as revealed by several tapes that can be unlocked along the way. Her adventures take her to an old Soviet base in Siberia. This-and the following valley-are the most ‘open world’ segments of the game, where Lara can go hunting, and do several side quests, as well as buy items from a Trinity guy who isn’t quite a true believer and help the resistance movement led by the mysterious Jacob. It seems much more open and far less linear than Yamatai, if a bit more visually drab in some areas.

 

Like with the first game, finding certain audiotapes and relics can help reveal more of Lara’s backstory, as well as the history of the various locations, the prophet, Jacob and his people, Trinity, and the Soviet installation.

Like it’s predecessor, there is of course a heavy emphasis on upgrading skills, weapons etc. at base camps, as well as unlockable outfits which can give you different advantages. Combat seems a great deal more refined as well, with less of an emphasis on Quick-time event combos and a heavier emphasis on stealth (especially in one part of the game where lara has to deal with some mercenaries by largely dragging them underwater.)

 

Those who were a bit put off by the somewhat excessive gore in the last game will find things a bit milder here. Sure, there’s some bloody violence with Lara fighting the mercenaries, but the corpses here are generally of the more mummyish and skeleton variety, instead of the really nasty stuff on Yamatai.

 

The game also has DLC based in the largely abandoned Croft manor, whom Lara is trying to keep out of the hands of her greedy uncle. Here, we learn a lot about Lara’s mother, and her courtship with Lord Croft. It’s quite a charming story. It’s also a excellent level, with lots of nifty details, and it also more fully fleshes out the main story; mainly Lord Croft’s quest for immortality. (There’s really no enemies here, it’s mainly a series of puzzles) There’s also another DLC set in the same area but with zombies (I admittedly haven’t played this yet).

Enemies in the game are mainly mercenaries, and are a bit more heavily armed than their Yamatai counterparts. If you listen a bit and don’t attack them right away (or do so stealthily, which is also an option, much like the later “Uncharted” games), you can hear a bit of small talk that’s kind of amusing sometimes….but also like Yamatai, towards the end of the game there’s some enemies with considerably more supernatural origins and strength-the Deathless Ones, although unlike the Samuraiish Stormguard of Yamatai, these guys have a more Roman/Middle ages look to them.

 

 

Overall, “Rise of” is a very worthy, and fun sequel to the original “reboot” game.

 

 

Tomb Raider Reboot (2013) game overview

 

Tomb Raider is of course a popular franchise that’s lasted for two decades, an adventure series featuring a female British archaeologist, Lara Croft. Inspired in part by the Indiana Jones series, it’s nonetheless become it’s own thing, spawning many sequels and two feature films (with a third on the way, although one that’s intended to be a reboot). I’ll admit, I’ve not really played many of the older games, so this will focus mainly on the reboot.

 

In 2013, a new Tomb Raider game was released, that would feature a more vulnerable, gritty take on the character, and also serve as a sort of origin story for her.

 

For Lara’s motion capture and voice, “Grey’s Anatomy” actress Camille Luddington was brought in.

Basically Lara and her friends-including best friend Sam and mentor Conrad Roth-are on an expedition to find the lost island of Yamatai (near Japan), where it’s said there was a kingdom ruled by a weather-controlling “sun Queen”. They do eventually find Yamatai-but unfortunately it’s due to a violent storm causing them to get shipwrecked on it-and they’re far from the first ones to be shipwrecked here….

 

What’s worse, the survivors of the various shipwrecks have formed a cult called the Solarii brotherhood, dedicated to worshiping the Sun Queen and bringing her back to life. To do this, they kidnap Sam so the Sun Queen can possess her body, and it’s up to Lara to rescue her and the other survivors.

While the game’s archaeological adventure focus-including discovering artifacts, and plenty of climbing and shooting-might draw comparisons to Uncharted (although technically Tomb Raider got there first), Tomb Raider also employs a crafting and skills system (as do many games these days), where she can scavenge for raw materials around the island. Although not 100% “open world”, Lara can ‘fast travel’ using camps, and revisit other locations on the island. Various scrolls and tapes she can uncover also reveal more of the island’s backstory. Combat-although it does include some of the freedom-restricting QTEs (Or Quicktime events)-also a problem with the Uncharted series-is mostly free and one can use a variety of techniques to take on the villains, including stealth kills or something with a bit more destruction (various weapons are unlocked as you go further in the game, including

While a fun game of course, it’s not for kids or even the teen audience that Uncharted aims for. Or for the squeamish. This game deals with a lot of tense subject material and violence, and Yamatai is littered with corpses in various states. The image below is one of the safer examples, but believe me, it gets a lot worse and messed up than this. It’s like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but ten times the gore and nastiness. Plus Lara has a lot of ‘game over’ animations that are on the nasty side too.

The Island is an interesting setting. There’s wildlife-some benign like chickens, others not so much like wolves. The setting is also very interesting-in addition to the many wrecks of ships and planes, people have been shipwrecked-and  living on the island for Millenia. There’s the old Japan style architecture:

To more modern (although still in a lot of misuse): 

And of course various tombs (some of which are optional)-this is called Tomb Raider after all!

The villains of the game-some of which have conversations Lara can listen into before going into combat-including the various members of the Solaari brotherhood,

but also the more mysterious Stormguard/Oni as well. One of them in particular, the Stormguard Stalker, is pretty much the game’s final boss (as cult leader Mattias is pretty much just a quick-time event fight and very easy)

Lara’s crew are a pretty good cast of characters that she often has to rescue throughout the game (although some don’t make it). One in particular, gentle, spiritual giant Jonah (The Hawaiian guy in the red shirt here), actually tags along in the second game, “Rise of the Tomb Raider”. On the other hand, there’s the treacherous, out-for-himself Dr. Whitman.

The game’s graphics are also quite good-the characters are very realistic and well-animated, although not quite as good as it’s sequel, “Rise”.

The game itself is apparently supposed to inspire the currently filming Tomb Raider movie. Looks like, from a visual standpoint, they’ve got Lara’s look in the game down.

 

Next, I’ll take a look at it’s sequel, “Rise of the Tomb Raider”.