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I've been playing Hyrule Warriors recently, and I've been having a blast with it. I've actually found it much more enjoyable than I was expecting I would, especially given that I've never played any entry in the Warriors franchise before. The only game of the same genre I've played was the original Ninety Nine Nights back in the early days of the Xbox 360. Although I was always pretty confident that I would find Hyrule Warriors fun, I found it to be a significantly different experience from what I was lead to believe based on the usual spiel you hear about these games.
It's the cliché you always hear when it comes to games like this. The idea that there's nothing to them, and it's just pressing the same button over and over for hours on end against weak enemies who just stand there. I was expecting that to a certain extent, yet also hopeful from the pre-release footage shown. I can enjoy a good dumb action game if it does what it does with enough polish, even if it can't really measure up to the deepest and most comprehensive examples of the genre.
What I found was actually quite a different experience from that, and while that commonly painted image of these games was true to a certain extent, to boil the game down to that is completely missing the whole point of the experience. For one thing, the fundamental combat mechanics are more than just mashing a single button against defenceless foes. Each weapon has about a dozen combos, which each have a reasonably different effect to them, and two types of special attack. While none of this is particularly deep or hard to pull off, it does give the combat enough variety to make it feel like different situations do call for you to use different types of moves. It also helps that almost every single one is very fun to execute.
And when it comes to enemies, it's quite inaccurate to say that the only ones come up against simply stand there and pose no threat. While about 95% of the enemies you come across are like that, it doesn't matter at all. The real challenge in the combat comes from the higher level enemies. Mostly these are bosses and more powerful enemies from other Zelda games. These guys have more devastating attacks, and require you to be smarter about how you approach them. If you just blindly mash at them, then you'll probably be met with constant blocks, or leave yourself open to punishing attacks. You have to wait for openings to use the familiar Zelda items to defeat them, such as using the bow to stun Gohma at the right moment, or using the hookshot to pull aeralfos out of the sky. Going up against other major story characters also require you to keep on your toes too. These are the characters who you can unlock and play as through the game, so they behave like you do, and are similarly powerful. If you don't pick your moments and make sure to avoid attacks, you can die pretty quickly to them. These more challenging enemies come up several times in each mission, so they are hardly a rare sight.
But even that is far from the whole story about how the gameplay pans out. For one thing, there's the reason why the abundance of weak enemies doesn't matter. They aren't there to pose a challenge. They're there to make you feel powerful. To create this sense that you are an unstoppable force in battle, able to tear through thousands of opponents with no problem, because that's exactly what you are. It's catharsis. A power trip. It also makes the enemies that do pose a threat to you feel more significant as a result.
Battles are far more than simply combat as well, especially once you play some of the harder missions in the game. You can't just tear through everything in your path, making a beeline for your objective. There's quite a lot of managing the battlefield too. You have to make sure your home base, or sometimes certain comrades, don't fall to the enemy. This can sometimes be a lot harder than it sounds. You need to be tactful about how you move across the level, and what you choose to do. You need to capture keeps around your home base, to create a barrier to raid parties, and to have more control over the battlefield as a whole. In some missions capturing more keeps means an enemy boss will be weakened too. Sometimes even the time that you capture a keep can be crucial. If you're stuck in a long boss fight while your base is getting taken over, you can fail a mission right at the last moment. It creates a quasi-metagame of controlling the level and judging what threats to deal with, and when.
That's not to say the reputation of this type of game is completely false though. Most of the time, combat is fairly mindless. While it's far from “press A until you win”, it's got nothing on something like Bayonetta. Although it's got enough going on to be engaging, and bosses add a decent amount of variation, it's still what I like to think of as a “podcast game”. Something ideal to play while listening to something else in the background. I find that it's still just as fun without that, but the game doesn't require particularly intense focus most of the time.
But even so, I've been kind of shocked at how undersold the game was by some. I know it has some differences from the usual Warriors formula, and I've even heard some fans of the series say that this is the best it's ever been. But I've also heard fans openly admit that these games are everything that their reputation would have us believe, and that there's no defending them. In the case of Hyrule Warriors at least, that is completely untrue.
Today I went to the first game convention I've ever been to. I went to Eurogamer, and it was really fun. And I played a bunch of games! Here's what I thought of them!
First thing I played was Bayonetta 2. As was the case with pretty much every game I played, I only got a short time with it and it wasn't in the best environment, given the loud, chaotic show floor. I played the section commonly seen in previews where you fight off enemies while on the back of a fighter plane flying through a city. It's definitely Bayonetta all right. Played nice and smooth, with great feeling, dazzling combat, as expected. It's a lot brighter and more colourful than the first game. It did look kind of pixelated though, in terms of resolution, but I think that was probably just because I had to stand really close to a big TV.
After that I had a go on Monster Hunter 4. First I jumped in to an already ongoing fight against some weird armoured crab thing, using a sword and shield. I'm not really familiar with that weapon's move set, so I wasn't really sure what I was doing. I also just kept bouncing off the shell of this crab monster anyway, even at full weapon sharpness, so I don't know what was going on there. But before I finished that, I was ushered on to a new hunt with some other people, where I got to pick my own weapon. Went for the longsword, and we went up against this odd shark/inflating frog thing. Very strange creature. It was a land creature, living in the desert, but looked like a shark with legs and it fired really powerful water jets. Occasionally it did a move where it would inflate its whole body and then bounce up in the air and land on people, and sometimes roll around too. The people at the booth were talking about how you could jump on enemies and hold on to them and attack, SotC style. But as with everything in Monster Hunter, it sounded really complex, and I was trying to focus on not dying.
Next I played Bloodborne. It's Dark Souls, but faster. It feels very similar, but movement is faster, control response is faster (Although still not as immediately responsive as say, Bayonetta. It still has that kind of deliberate, committed feel to it that the Souls games have), dodging is way faster, and fighting in general is faster. Looks great too, and I like how more aggressive it makes you with the lack of shield and the health regeneration mechanic. The enemies also have rather entertaining voice overs. I kept hearing very silly cockney accents telling me "I'm gonna smash you brain!" And the game still has no problem brutally blind-siding you when you're not careful too. I was doing relatively well, until I came to a group of enemies standing around a burning tree. I was doing all right taking them all on, until I got a bit too greedy and walked forward too far, and was one-shot killed by some enemy using a gun I didn't see.
Then after that I played The Crew. Honestly, that was a pretty big let-down. Well, I want to give it the benefit of the doubt, but it did not come across well in the demo I played. Controls were terribly laggy. It took way too long for cars to respond to steering input, and they continued on turning well after I has stopped pushing the stick too. Really disappointing. But I think that might have just been a problem with the build I played. I've seen a lot of footage of the game, and heard people talk about it, and I've never heard of this problem before. Also, I did notice the game was hitching up sometimes when I was waiting in line watching other people play. But regardless, I feel like my decision not to pre-order this game that I made a while ago was probably a good decision after that experience. I did it for other reasons before, but now I have one from actually playing the game.
Also, before I had a go on The Crew, I took a look over some people's shoulders who were playing Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition. I never really liked the original game as much as I wanted to, so I was interested to see how this new one has been improved. Since I didn't actually play it, I can't say anything on gameplay, but it terms of graphics, I couldn't really tell any difference. Maybe it was a bit sharper and generally running better, but the game looked more or less exactly the same as the original. Definitely not comparable to what was done to spruce up Tomb Raider, and even that was only a marginal change. It didn't look like an 8th gen. game.
Later on I went back to Nintendo and played Splatoon. That was pretty fun, but controlled in quite an odd way. Shooting ink feels really good, with the rapid fire pops of the ink guns. The visuals are nice and bright too, although on a technical level they didn't seem like anything particularly noteworthy. But the strange thing was how you look around in the game. You can look right and left with the right stick, but you can't look up or down. For that, you have to tilt the gamepad. You can also look left and right with that too, but I preferred to stick with the, err, stick until I needed to actually look up or down. But that wasn't common, given how accuracy doesn't really matter in the game. Mechanics were really super simple too. All you have are your machine gun, a grenade-type throwable, and a bazooka power-up you get every so often. And there's the squid stuff too of course. So it seems the depth of this game isn't to be found in the actual combat between players, or variety of weapons, because there is none. It'll be down more to movement and control of space. It's quite deceptive in that sense. You jump in, you splat all the walls, and that kind of feels like that's all there is, but I'm sure there's way more to it if you come at it with a different mindset to the usual team-based shooter.
Then not long before the end of the day I had a go on Project Cars. Honestly, I was really surprised with how impressed I was with that game from the tiny bit I played. I've been wanting to like this game ever since it was first announced, but never really found anything to find appealing in it. But after actually playing it, I have to say the driving feel felt really good. Very intuitive with a good sense of visual feedback, etc., but I also felt like I had a really good sense of fine control over the game, even with all the driver aids turned on as I was forced to do in the demo. Feathering the throttle on the Dualshock 4 felt great, and the real-time telemetry readout the game gives you was a really nice visual cue as well. Very stylish looking HUD too, but still very functional. With all the aids turned on, the game felt surprisingly arcadey too. I was expecting it to feel quite a bit more hardcore, even in that state. It might have had something to do with the car I was driving, but I think this is a sim which people who don't usually play them will still be able to get on with well and find fun in. It's worth looking at if you like to play Forza casually, or maybe you like Project Gotham or the Grid games.
But talking about the Dualshock 4, after playing Bloodborne and Project Cars with it, I might even say that it's a superior controller to the Xbox One's pad. Those triggers are really seriously good. All the buttons are great actually, and the sticks feel so much better weighted.
Also, as I was lining up for Bayonetta, something pretty cool happened. I wore a Mega64 shirt to the show, and just as I got in line, Eric Baudour from Mega64 walked past and complimented my shirt! That certainly was a surprise.