Gaming Photography – God of War (PS4)

I’ve been quite busy lately at work because of Computex, which I’m working at, so I’ve not had time to work on much content in the last two weeks. You probably noticed last week’s post was much later in the week than usual and I did pretty much no streaming other than The Crew 2 closed beta, which I wrote a review of in case you’re interested. So this week I’m soft balling it in with a gaming photography post when really I had planned to do a much more serious post about my experience with the latest God of War title. I still plan on writing something more noteworthy about the game, which I got the platinum for on my channel so you can watch the whole playthrough if you’re interested or don’t own a PS4 to play it yourself, which you absolutely should. But this week I only had time to do a Gaming Photography post so here we are.

I took more than 1700 screenshots while playing God of War plus a number of video clips. As I did with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I’m going to do my top 30 screenshots because I could never hope to capture this game with just 10 or even 100. So here’s my attempt to capture my experience playing the latest God of War in a limited number of amazing screenshots. I never actually used the later added photo mode in this game. These are all pure screen captures using an Elgato HD 60 Pro. I also post game photos on my Twitter and Instagram often.

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*If you’d like to see the full resolution image please right click and press “view image”.

Please let me know what you think of my shots. Any feedback is appreciated because I would like to improve my gaming photography skills.

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Final Fantasy VII Finally

I finally played and beat Final Fantasy VII. That’s right. Before this year I had never played Final Fantasy VII before. I had played other Final Fantasy games and plenty of other titles from Square Enix, but I’d never actually played the renowned FFVII. I actually had the chance to play the original version on PS1 when I was a kid but I passed. I remember when a used version of the game was given to me and I immediately handed it off to my cousin. I was not going to play a three disc game. That task just seemed too daunting to me. To this day I’ve only ever completed one three disc game other than now FFVII. That was FFXIII. I started but never finished Blue Dragon and Star Ocean: The Last Hope. But the three discs were just too daunting. I spent years being ridiculed for having not played Final Fantasy VII. People constantly stating it’s the best one (until you play it and then have everyone tell you actually it’s FFIX, which I also haven’t played) and how it’s a must play. I got to a point where I legitimately regretted having not played it as a kid because I was tired of not being included in this fan club. But I decided I would wait because I wanted a remake.

Final Fantasy VII Screenshot 2018-01-27 23-37-21

Remakes are the in thing and have been for the last several years. It’s easy money. Less than half the work of normal/original development and guaranteed sales from both the nostalgia crowd and the younger generation of gamers who weren’t around when a game was originally released, assuming the game already carries prestige. We’ve seen this happen recently with games like Shadows of the Colossus (for the second time). It’s a cash cow scenario. That’s what I was waiting for with FFVII. I got to a point where I really wanted to play it but I also really didn’t want to deal with those old graphics and text based dialog. It’s actually the most demanded remake in gaming history and has been for many years so I was sure a remake would happen, and it is. They finally announced a full HD remake of FFVII back in 2015. It’s still not out but the rumor mill currently predicts a 2019 release. So I was happy . . . for a time.

I was glad that a true FFVII HD remake had been announced. Not just a port of the original game to the PS4 with a bit of upscaling, but an actual legit remake. This made me happy because after so many years of waiting and ridicule I was finally going to play the game in glorious HD with voice acting. Then, in true Square Enix fashion, they started talking about the game and dashed all my hopes.

Final Fantasy VII Screenshot 2018-01-31 01-40-00

What I wanted was a purist HD remake of FFVII. That means the same exact game with the same exact story and gameplay down to the letter. All I wanted was for them to recreate the exact same game in glorious HD. That’s literally all they had to do. But since when do developers do what we actually want them to do in 2018? Square Enix started giving details about this FFVII remake and it all sounded terrible. They said the gameplay was being radically changed, the game was being broken up into multiple episodes (presumably at premium pricing), and the POV and storytelling was going to change between episodes. This is not FFVII, and I can say that confidently having now actually played the game. This is some other game with an FFVII coat of paint. That’s not what I wanted at all. I wanted the authentic FFVII gameplay experience so I could finally say that I played the game and truly understood what everyone else was going on about. So after hearing all this depressing news I ended up just buying the upscaled PS4 port, because then I would at least get the authentic experience. Then I actually played the game . . .

Final Fantasy VII Screenshot 2018-02-22 02-08-00 1

 

Having now beaten the game, I have to say that I understand, at least in part, where Squre Enix is coming from with the FFVII HD remake changes. Let me be very clear in stating two main things. First, FFVII is one of the best written Final Fantasy games I’ve ever played. It may even be the best one. Certainly the most mature. Second, FFVII has outdated, irritating gameplay that doesn’t even compare to FFX, which is also a turn based RPG. I had so many complaints while playing FFVII. For starters, the game has no direction. There’s a huge open world and not nearly enough clues about where you’re actually supposed to go. I got lost so many times that I eventually had to turn to online walkthroughs just to progress forward in the game. I don’t have time to walk an entire map hoping to find some totally inconspicuous house with a specific character who offhandedly sort of mentions where you need to go. It’s 2018. I’m 28 years old and have a backlog that can literally reach up to my knees when stacked. I’m more than six feet tall by the way. I don’t have time for a super inefficient materia system that requires hours upon hours of mindless grinding just to have a sporting chance against a boss that holds the item you need that would actually make said boss more manageable. I don’t have time for annoying mechanics like having to play carnival games in order to win points so you can use a save point. It’s 2018. I honestly don’t think a game that plays like FFVII could make it in today’s market without the prestige of FFVII. So having now played it, I’m glad Square Enix has decided to modernize the gameplay. I still hope for some level of original authenticity but the whole process definitely needs to be sped up for a modern audience.

Final Fantasy VII Screenshot 2018-02-19 23-51-34

Writing wise, FFVII is an excellent game. But let’s not pretend the whole thing isn’t full of holes and cliffhangers. I had so many questions during and at the end of that game. A lot of stuff just happens and never really gets an explanation. I don’t like the idea of paying for multiple episodes but I can now absolutely get behind the idea of a more thorough and detailed narrative that actually fills in the holes. Being able to play as multiple characters in a leading role will hopefully give some clarity to a number of events that took place in the original game that are never really explained.

Final Fantasy VII Screenshot 2018-02-22 02-45-02

For once I’m on the side of change in remakes, but I had to play the original game to discover that. I don’t know how these changes will affect a modern audience because without the context of knowing what they’re not suffering through with the original game they won’t truly be able to appreciate a better version of the game, assuming the remake actually delivers. I can’t say that I’ll be buying the remake because I don’t tend to purchase them. But if it is drastically different then I might have to give it a shot. For now, I’m just happy to finally be able to say that I beat Final Fantasy VII and now I understand . . . sort of.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Gaming Photography – Uncharted 4

Time for another Gaming Photography Post. Recently I completed Uncharted 4 on PS4.

This was without a doubt the best conclusion I’ve seen for any franchise ever. If you’ve been playing the Uncharted series since the first one but haven’t played 4, you’re missing out. I can’t believe I waited this long to play it. It was narrative genius. Possibly the best work Naughty Dog has ever done. And yes I realize they made The Last of Us. I stand by my statement. The gameplay was of course great as it’s always been. And they even added a few new mechanics which I really liked. But the story was just top notch. It was everything I wanted in a Nathan Drake conclusion.

I took literally 1,856 photos while playing this game. For the first time I did use the photo mode and I used the shit out of the filters, effects, and frames. I couldn’t stop myself. It’s just such a beautiful game and the photo mode lets you create shots that you just otherwise couldn’t do.

So now I’d like to present my top 20 photos from Uncharted 4. I know I usually do just 10 but I just have too many to choose from to limit it to such a small number. I also post gaming photos on my Twitter and Instagram often.

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*If you’d like to see the full resolution image please right click and press “view image”.

Please let me know what you think of my shots. Any feedback is appreciated because I would like to improve my gaming photography skills.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Gaming Photography – Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag – Freedom Cry

Time for another Gaming Photography post. I recently played Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag – Freedom Cry for the first time.

This was a very well made expansion/spinoff of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. I say spinoff because when it was first released it could only be run through a copy of Black Flag, but now you can run it as a standalone game like I did on my PS4. What I liked about this short expansion is that while it provides only a short vignette from the life of Adéwalé it includes the full Assassin’s Creed IV open world experience. The game provides you with all the mechanics that made Black Flag probably the best Assassin’s Creed game to date. You have an upgradeable ship and a decent sized map to sail on. Enemy ships that can be attacked, boarded, and plundered. You can go harpooning for multiple types of large sea animals such as whales and sharks. You can search for treasure on various random islands and in deep sea dives. If you don’t play the games for the story, they basically gave you the entire Black Flag experience for a lower price with just a few tidbits missing such as tavern games/gambling and seas shanties. Yes I absolutely did miss seas shanties and don’t know how they were left out of this expansion.

So now I’d like to present my top 10 photos from Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag – Freedom Cry. As always, I make it a point of only taking natural in game shots. I don’t use photo modes or alter the brightness/color settings except in special situations. I take my photos through my PC with an Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro in the case of console games. This was the PS4 version of the game. I also post them on my Twitter and Instagram often.

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*If you’d like to see the full resolution image please right click and press “view image”.

Please let me know what you think of my shots. Any feedback is appreciated because I would like to improve my gaming photography skills.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Gaming Photography – Game of Thrones Season 1 by Telltale Games

I hadn’t planned on doing multiple Gaming Photography posts in a row but recently I’ve been blowing through games. After finishing Xenoblade Chronicles X I decided I wanted to do some shorter games that I could blow through casually and since then I’ve actually completed multiple games, so rather than get backlogged on photography  posts (I plan on doing one every time I finish a game), I decided to just get them out of the way as soon as possible. So this week I’d like to present my top 18 photos for Telltale Games Game of Thrones Season 1. I decided to do 18 because there’s 6 episodes so that’s a maximum of three photos per an episode.

After recently finishing Game of Thrones Season 7 (TV series), I was not ready to leave Westeros just yet so I opted to finally play the Telltale Games story. For those of you who haven’t played it, the game takes place in the same world as the TV show and follows the canon very closely. It begins with the Red Wedding and covers various key moments in the show such as the death of Joffrey, the trial of Tyrion, and the Boltons’ tyranny of the North. I had a lot of issues with the game as fan of Telltale Games titles, because there were a lot of issues with the way choices worked in the game. You can read all about my opinions on that in a previous blog post that I posted earlier this month. I will say that I also didn’t love the art style but there were some moments that allowed for some great shots, most of which are of landscapes rather than people.

As always, I make it a point of only taking natural in game shots. I don’t use photo modes or alter the brightness/color settings except in special situations. I take my photos through my PC with an Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro in the case of console games. This was the PS4 version of the game. I also post them on my Twitter and Instagram often.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*If you’d like to see the full resolution image please right click and press “view image”.

Please let me know what you think of my shots. Any feedback is appreciated because I would like to improve my gaming photography skills.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Daughters and Sons (God of War IV)

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time then you know that I’m a huge God of War fan. At one point it would have been accurate to even call me a fanboy because I thought Santa Monica Studio could do no wrong with this franchise. That ended with God of War: Ascension. It was a game that didn’t need to be made, didn’t do anything particularly new or impressive, and cheated me on the season pass. Even though they promised future DLC they actually released no additional single player content and all the additional multiplayer content was released for free. That means I paid for a season pass that literally got me nothing, except some PSN avatars and a dynamic theme. Since then I have not ceased to be a fan of the franchise, but I’m also no longer a diehard fanboy. I now judge the series from a much more objective standpoint and have often been very critical of more recent decisions. A good example of this is that I have been avidly opposed to the upcoming God of War IV pretty much since the announcement.

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I was highly against the idea of God of War IV not because I want the franchise to end. Quite the opposite actually. It’s one of my favorite franchises of all time. I still remember the first time I beat the hydra in the very first game. My uncle was watching and we were both blown away. This was in many ways the moment where I decided I wanted to work in the gaming industry. I wanted to be involved in something that would blow people away like that. The reality is that I want(ed) to see many more games in the franchise but I don’t think they need to make any more starring Kratos. In my opinion, God of War III ended perfectly.  We were led to believe that Kratos killed himself and that his story was over. Now it’s fine that he’s still alive in this upcoming installment because it’s canon that Kratos never stays dead for long. He died in both God of War I and II only to come back and whoop some more ass. But his story concluded perfectly at the end of III. I really see no reason why they felt the need to continue his story. I felt the same way with how they handled Ascension. It was a pointless game that just milked Kratos because he’s marketable. What I wanted was for a new character to be introduced that would take on a similar plot to destroy the gods of his culture that had nothing to do with Kratos or Hellenic beliefs. At most a Kratos Easter egg is all I would have wanted. But instead they chose to once again focus on Kratos but now he’s in the Norse world.

norse mythology
That fight better happen.

Let me be very clear and say that there is nothing wrong with setting a God of War game in Norse mythology. That’s one of the best cultures to do a God of War series of games in. But making Kratos the star takes so much away from the overall plot. What I like about God of War is that the franchise is not just mindless hack-n-slash battles and large breasted sex mini-games, though both of those things do add a lot to the experience. While some people won’t agree, I actually think the God of War franchise has a great story with a great main protagonist. Kratos is a man plagued by the fact that he was tricked into murdering his wife and daughter and then later his mother as well. His whole life is just one big shit show that was orchestrated by the gods. This motivation makes for a great adventure where a man takes his destiny into his own hands and literally kills all the gods, except Aphrodite, in vengeance. The story is powerful, visceral, cathartic, and most importantly, memorable. But one of the main reasons the story works so well is that Kratos is part of it on a cultural level. He’s not some visitor from another land like William in Nioh. And he’s not some random faceless, emotionless NPC turned playable character like the Dovahkiin in Skyrim. He’s actively a part of Greek culture and starts out as a true believer, actively serving the gods to make penance for his crimes. This is such an important part of the story.

Placing Kratos in Norse mythology makes no sense. There’s no real justification for it and he has no real connection to the culture and gods of that world. He’s just a stranger mindlessly toppling a religion like a conquering Spaniard taking over South America. It’s not personal to him. I think that’s the main reason they gave him a son in this game.

old kratos

I am so avidly opposed to the Dad of War concept. In fact, I even wrote an article about it on Gaming Rebellion. There are a number of reasons I don’t like it. Again, remember that this entire line of thinking follows my original opinion that Kratos should not be the main protagonist of any more games. The trailer makes Kratos seem like this caring father to a less than impressive son. If you’ve played all the other games then you too found his lack of a bad temper, patience, and calm demeanor to be very uncharacteristic of Kratos. His son literally shoots him at one point in the middle of a battle and Kratos pretty much shrugs it off. I’m sorry, but that’s just not Kratos.

Mechanically speaking, the concept doesn’t really fit a God of War game. Obviously having not played it yet, I can’t say for sure, but I imagine the game will have some similarities to Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. You’ll be responsible for protecting and commanding this boy. While this will be a new addition to the gameplay, which can be a good thing for longstanding franchises, it will most likely slow the game’s combat down noticeably. God of War is traditionally fast paced combat. To destroy that general concept essentially ruins Kratos’ legacy. This could have been easily avoided as a problem if they would have just changed main characters so we had no long established expectations of him as a main protagonist. But again, I think the lack of connection and thus emotion in reference to the Norse mythology from Kratos is the main reason they decided to add in a child. It automatically gives Kratos some emotional baggage to connect with the story.  That’s a lazy trick, but I understand it. My only real question is why did they choose a son instead of a daughter?

enslaved

Let me preface this part of the article by saying that this is not about to turn into an SJW argument about why female characters should be portrayed more in games. Not at all. The fact is that I genuinely believe that it would have suited this already questionable story better to have made the next God of War game to be about Kratos and his daughter instead of a son. There’s a logical, canon based reason for this opinion.

One of Kratos’ darkest moments and emotions comes from the fact that he murdered his own daughter, Calliope. And the theme of fathering a daughter comes up all throughout the franchise. It’s especially important in Chains of Olympus, III, and Ascension. And in all these instances Kratos never truly succeeds at saving his daughter, surrogate or actual. This is exactly why I think he should have a daughter in IV instead of a son.

calliope

The new story shouldn’t be about him trying to raise a boy who already seems to be weak and useless. It should be about him raising a daughter and gaining redemption for the daughter he lost. But this time he doesn’t just try to protect her. He raises her to protect herself. Suddenly his new found patience and affection would make perfect sense. And it would keep the tension extremely high because you would constantly be expecting something terrible to happen to the daughter, like so many times before. Also Nordic culture happens to be one of the only cultures American males, the main market for the franchise, are familiar with having female warriors so it wouldn’t even be out of place for Kratos to have a girl fighting alongside him. On all counts this just seems like a sorely missed opportunity that would have helped so much with continuity between the Greek games and this new series of Norse ones. I really don’t see how they missed this. I already don’t like the boy and much of the reason for that is because he displays characteristics that would make way more sense coming from a daughter of Kratos.

I’m certainly gonna buy God of War IV, but this will be the first main console title in the franchise that I don’t buy at release. This was an opportunity to tell a powerful story that would have altered the Kratos mythos noticeably without coming off as odd for the character. Instead we’re stuck with this daddy day care scenario where his whiny, useless son just gets in the way and cries about killing deer. I expect better from Santa Monica Studio.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

What is a Beta in 2017?

This week I published an article on Gaming Rebellion about the current state of betas. I specifically focused on the recent Destiny 2 console beta. Here’s the introduction:

Recently, Bungie hosted a console beta for Destiny 2. Supposedly a PC beta will be hosted sometime in late August before the release on September 6th of this year. I have lived through multiple eras of beta practices, but today it seems like betas are hard to even really define.

Call-of-Duty-WW2-Beta

When I was a kid, there was no online gaming. Beta testing literally required you to be invited to go to a facility or development studio and try a pre-build of the game. This was such an honor to users and so hard to get into that even just knowing someone who had been in an actual beta was kind of a big deal. Developers valued this feedback and took it seriously. So much so that even though most true gamers would have done them for free, studios would actually pay people to take the time to go their offices and play beta builds. The ultimate purpose of these betas was to collect feedback to help improve the game. They were done well before a game was being released and required you to fill out a large questionnaire or take part in a group discussion after playing the beta, before leaving the studio. Sadly, I never got to take part in any of these personally.

You can read the rest right here. Please check out my Author’s Archive for other articles by me on Gaming Rebellion.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.