Etrian Odyssey IV and Zeno Clash 2
These are just two quick observations on two really great games.
Etrian Odyssey IV
Ok first thing, this game has a demo, download it first. etrian odyssey is surprising in that it’s all about being an RPG: stats matter, grinding is common, you make runs on certain enemies to collect the components for certain weapons, and it’s a first person dungeon crawler think Legend of Grimrock. It is surprisingly light on story, for a genre well known for elaborate cinematics Etrian Odyssey dares to do something special: stand on it’s own as a game. What makes it really special is how perilous the game feels, each bear that hunts you down, every random encounter really helps or hurts, the game doesn’t offer empowerment fantasies, rather it makes self-esteem in oodles of cases. Mapping out each dungeon, or going back to defeat some pesky boss: the game really makes you sink time in to accomplish something, and the results are fruitful. In other words it’s a great little game which will reward careful and cautious play.
Zeno Clash 2
PC / Steam
The original Zeno Clash was such a delight because it dared to go into the grounds that magazines like Heavy Metal put forward. It’s characters were punks, driven by little more than libidinal excuses and a world surreal enough to contain terribly human desires. The problem is, the second game rests on a Hollywood like premise, it’s opening is full of action movie cliches, and while it maintains a few intriguing points (it questions the genetics of family and the establishment of discipline) Zeno Clash is at it’s best when the it’s desires come to the forefront and primitivism triumphs over logic, sadly it’s predictable opening destroys much of what made the original great. Then you get into it, as the game progresses it gets better and the details begin to come alive again and the strange primitivism surrealism, the way it denies internal logics in favor of a frank acceptance of things as weird a they are begins to start again. The game is beautiful and has a few Metrodvania elements to it, the addition of weapons surprisingly works rather well, Ace Team knows how to be creative, and Zeno Clash 2 got me once again with the twist, but the weapons are what makes it cool and improve the fighting aspects. I haven’t finished it yet, but if the opening upsets you, just keep playing it gets better the further you go inside.