Thursday, January 09, 2020

Reviewing the EA Origin Access Premier Subscription

My EA Origin Access Premier subscription is coming up for renewal, and I thought I would look back and see whether it was worth it. I originally picked it up a year ago for Anthem.

Perhaps surprisingly, I didn't actually play many games on Origin. But then again, I usually play MMOs, which have their own setup. Games I played:
  • Anthem - Maybe it didn't have the longevity people (and Bioware) wanted but I really enjoyed the campaign, leveling, and messing around for a bit at max level.
  • Torchlight 2 - In the end, I did not like Torchlight 2. On the other hand, I might have purchased it and regretted the purchase.
  • Vampyr - Great game. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
  • Jedi: Fallen Order - A great Star Wars game. An excellent story.
So four games, two of which were AAA games that I played at launch, which would have cost me the full price. Vampyr, I think I could have found on sale for about 60%, and Torchlight 2 would have been very cheap.

All in all, I think was good value for the money, but not by a whole lot. In hindsight, I think I should have made an effort to play at least one more game from the back catalog. For example, Dragon Age 2 or similar.

So should I renew the subscription? Unlike when I purchased it, there's no major EA game I am anticipating. On the other hand, the track record of the past year seems pretty good. I don't regret purchasing the subscription in the least.

Taking a look at what's new, I see they just put in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. I was thinking about trying that, so maybe I'll just stick with the subscription for now. They're also saying something about making Origin available on Steam, which would simplify things, assuming I can manage to connect the two services.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Control Complete!

This post contains spoilers for Control.

I finished Control the other day. I loved it!

The world-building and atmosphere is superb. The game was just a joy to watch the story unfurl. The characters are varied and great.

The mechanics were pretty good, and they played well. It has just enough customization so that you can pick a playstyle, but not so much that you can mess up your build, and the game becomes unplayable. I ended up using the basic pistol and Launch for most of the game.

Two cautionary notes: first, there is no difficulty setting, and some of the bosses are hard. It seems to be optional side bosses mostly, however. I don't think there were major blockers in the main line. As well, bosses tend to be difficult because they deal a lot of damage in one or two hits. So you have to get good at avoiding taking hits. A fight which is going well can go south quite quickly.

Second, the game is clearly setting up for an expansion, DLC, or sequel. The ending, while tying up the main story and seeing Jesse grow into her position, leaves several important threads dangling. Honestly, though, I'm really looking forward to any new story content.

Control is a great game, and I highly recommend it!

Sunday, January 05, 2020

The Rise of Skywalker

This post contains major spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker. I discuss the ending and everything.

After watching The Rise of Skywalker, my first thought is that the story in Jedi: Fallen Order was a thousand times better than this movie.

I came across a forum post suggesting that The Rise of Skywalker would have been a better movie if Jar-Jar had been in it. After recovering from the shock of such rank heresy, I read the reasoning, and it actually made some sense! The thought was that RoS really needed a single designated comic relief character. That would have had allowed the other characters to be more serious, which would have improved their part in the movie. Instead, everyone other than Rey is trying to be witty and tossing one-liners around, most of which simply do not work. The worst was when C3P0's gallant sacrifice got undercut with a snarky one-liner.

Rise of Skywalker is best summed by this Simpsons clip of Sideshow Bob. RoS is Sideshow Bob, and the rakes are mistakes. The movie just steps from one mistake to the next. Palpatine is a mistake. Palpatine having a thousand Star Destroyers is a mistake. Each of those Star Destroyers being a planet-killer is a mistake. Rey being Palpatine's granddaughter is a mistake. General Hux getting dispatched ignominiously was a huge mistake. (Hux is my favorite character from the trilogy, and it was galling to see him go out like that. Such a waste.) And so on throughout the entire movie.

Truthfully, I just don't like J.J. Abrams movies. I haven't since Star Trek: Into Darkness. It's all "action sequence, one-liner, action sequence, one-liner, etc." Sometimes I really wonder how the same man wrote Alias.

J.J. Abrams also doesn't have a sense of space and time. It feels like this entire movie took place in a small city instead of a galaxy. Instead of people moving across a galaxy, they're merely going up the street to a different neighborhood. That's why it seems like their paths cross all the time. The Force Awakens had a very similar problem.

Heh, I think Finn/Rose must have done extremely badly in China. It's super-conspicuous how Finn gets paired with a black woman this time around.

The one thing I did like was the relationship between Rey and Kylo/Ben. I really liked how their realities bled into each others. It was a superb effect executed beautifully. And they simply did not bother explaining it. They didn't know why it was happening, just that it was, and then they started taking advantage of it. For me, Rey's "crowning moment of awesome" was when she dropped her lightsaber behind her back to Ben.

The ending itself violates Sanderson's First Law of Magics. There's no real reason Rey should be the winner. She just is, because the Jedi are simply more powerful than the Sith for some unknown reason. As such, it is an unfulfilling ending. Rey should have won because Ben was redeemed, because there were two Jedi at the end. Something like Rey holding Palpatine in place with the lightning sabers, and Ben finishing him.

I don't really have an opinion on the kiss, which seems to be controversial for some reason. The connection between the two of them is pretty much the only good part of the trilogy.

I do think having Ben die was a mistake. This was the final movie in a trilogy of trilogies. Let it end well, with hope and redemption and forgiveness. Have the last link to the original movies, Leia and Han's son, survive. This idea that redemption is only allowable if the bad guy immediately sacrifices himself--that needing to forgive the living is not necessary or desirable--is a weakness in modern Western storytelling.

Ultimately, I feel like you could take the three movies in this trilogy, and cut out everything but Rey and Kylo's story. Reduce Finn and Poe to side characters who only occasionally appear. The resulting movie might actually be pretty decent.