By William Chandler
A semi-regular segment in which I am too lazy to write full reviews of various games I’m playing so I instead write a couple of shorter ones.
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
I like Swery. Based entirely on his work, he seems like an intriguing fellow and no doubt would be a cool guy to grab a drink and chat with. I think he’s extremely talented when it comes to intentionally non-nuanced humor about genre cliches and conventions. That said, his games are not fun to play. So, I really didn’t care much for Deadly Premonition. I got exactly what the team was trying to accomplish with it and I really enjoyed the absurdly over the top story aspects. It just sucked that those things were trapped behind an impenetrable wall of disastrous game design decisions. But yeah, I suppose that’s the point.
D4 is intended to be Swery’s interpretation of games like Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us or any of the David Cage works like Indigo Prophecy or Heavy Rain. That is, a primarily story driven experience with a lot of cutscenes and quick time events. Because of this, I find D4 much more enjoyable to play because there is very little actual gameplay to have to worry about dealing with. Too bad what little there is is intentionally shallow and nonsensical. But, again, I suppose that’s the point. You see, it was around the time I was catching three leaf clovers as they rained from the sky at the behest of a G-Man esque black man wearing an all white suit and a surgical mask, just so he would leave a letter from my dead wife in my home, that I realized D4 was beginning to give me horrible anxiety.
Every single hour or so I absolutely have to take a break from this game or I become irrationally enraged and irritable. It’s like I hit my tolerance for ridiculous bullshit and stupid objectives and then I just have to stop playing. Like, why in the fuck is there a stamina system and why does my character become exhausted simply by spending several minutes talking to people? Why do I have to replenish my stamina by inhaling in flight snacks and strangely procured food items sold to me by a talking, anamorphic cat-girl wearing a giant bow?
I love how much I hate D4.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War
I was kind of anticipating this game’s release shortly after that charming little trailer focusing on the dog was released back at E3. Or at least I think it was E3. This entire year has just completely blurred together for me. At any rate, I ended up not playing this on release due to “not being in the mood” or whatever I said to myself at the time to justify not wanting to actually have to think about puzzles. Funnily enough, now that I am playing it I realize that there actually isn’t much thinking needed while playing Valiant Hearts at all.
That sounds a bit harsh. I’m finding myself in love with the style of this game as the tone alternates freely between playful and somber at the mere change of a level, and the strange, almost cartoon exaggerations present in the otherwise realistic, water color esque art style manage to carry this idea even further. There is an amazing sense of identity to Valiant Hearts which represents another clear victory for the endlessly surprising Ubi Art engine. Too bad the puzzles, the other half of the game, are just mostly dull.
Valiant Hearts is an adventure game in the strictest sense. There is a great deal of adventuring to be done in accordance with a well told story of four people and a dog who are brought together by a desire to end the horrors of the first World War. The story (which I believe is based on actual people? I may be misremembering here) is an endearing and extremely enjoyable backdrop to what should be, and initially are, enjoyable mechanics. But the game feels the need to consistently delay the tale in order to make the player trek through needlessly lengthy and tedious puzzle sections that aren’t challenging but are instead time consuming, merely to pad out the experience. It certainly doesn’t help that many of these sections prove to be unneeded in the grand scheme of the plot and exist purely for the puzzles, which, as previously mentioned, just aren’t up to snuff.
That said, I’m happy Valiant Hearts exists. I am enjoying my time with it and am hoping that another, similar game can be made with less trivializations.