The difference between clever and cunning.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Secret World Review

Reviewing an MMO is a daunting prospect. The sheer size and scope of such games makes it difficult to give more than a limited impression. Every MMO today must also stand in the shadow of Blizzard’s industry dominating 2-ton gorilla. However one feels about World of Warcraft there’s no denying that Blizzard has had nearly a decade to refine their core gameplay into a relentlessly accessible buttery smooth experience that anyone can pick up and enjoy.

Funcom’s The Secret World is definitely not World of Warcraft, nor do differences in scope and age make it entirely fair to compare the two. What not as polished or accessible it is a fascinating experiment. A fusion of traditional MMO mechanics, strong character customization, and surprisingly sharp writing and directing. Since the game recently went Free-To-Play, as all MMO’s seem destined to do, I thought I’d give it a try and share my impressions. 

High Society

Character creation in The Secret World (TSW for future reference) is simple. Clothing and appearance can all be changed later and have no effect on combat effectiveness. The only significant and irreversible decision is between one of three distinct and morally ambiguous Secret Societies. 

The New York based Illuminati (my own choice) focus on accumulating wealth and power, with a ruthlessly corporate attitude to building their New World Order and an amusing flexible approach to ethics. In direct opposition stand the London based Templars, featuring centuries of honor, militant tradition, class, and a willingness to pursue Evil no matter who else ends up in the line of fire. Finally the Seoul based Dragon seem to be a loose collection of Asian flavored anarchic hackers and chaos theorists, with a master plan no one else can make heads or tails of. Or they’re just making things up as they go.
Just surviving initiation is an adventure in itself.
While choice of faction is important you can still group with characters from other Societies. Only in discrete PvP battlefields do you find yourself trading blows and bullets with them. Faction nominally determines your home city, but since the bank and auction house are in London that’s where everybody spends their time. Factional differences are largely cosmetic or flavor. All weapons and abilities are accessible to every character. 

Once you pick side you are treated to a cutscene of your character getting magic powers by eating a bee (it makes sense in context) and then being invited to join your Society. Provided you can survive your initiation and a tutorial in the form of a flashback to an apocalyptic outbreak in Tokyo. Finally you’re turned loose in rural Maine, where the real game begins and where the dead rising to devour the living is the least of the problems plaguing the region.

Everything is True

Setting is one of TSW’s strongest elements. This isn’t some random fantasy world, infested with elves that dress like strippers and names with too many syllables. This is Earth, today. And our world is in serious trouble. 

Waves of once-human creatures stumble out of the New England surf, breeding on the beaches and massing to push inland. In the Egyptian desert biblical plagues hammer the land while sun maddened cultists make blood sacrifice at the foot of the Black Pyramid. In the Outer Dark things with Event Horizon mouths watch and wait and hunger. 
A nightmare of broken moons and endless cold.
In short every myth, urban legend, horror story, and conspiracy theory is true. And most of them are coming to eat us. Or worse. Standing against them, though hardly as a united front and often for the most selfish of reasons, are the Secret Societies. As a Society member and chosen of Gaia you’re going to spend plenty of time cracking monster skulls. 

Magic Bullets

Combat is serviceable but not the very best you’ve ever seen, and you’re going to be seeing plenty. Animations are functional but floaty and low on visceral impact. There is no auto-attack, so be prepared to hit the “1” key a lot. More interestingly enemies broadcast powerful attacks by painting shapes on the ground, encouraging you to use the evasive roll to get out of the way. Movement and positioning are crucial. The closely packed enemy population means it’s easy to blunder into more monsters in the middle of a fight.  
Anyone named "King of Red Shadows" probably needs killing anyway.
TSW lacks a traditional class structure. Your attacks and active abilities are determined by your choice of what two weapons you carry. Every weapon can obviously do damage but each also lends itself to certain roles. Hammers generate heavy agro and block attacks, excelling at tanking. Elemental magic comes with plenty of AOE and crowd clearing abilities. Assault Rifles drain health from enemies (just go with it) and redistribute it to you and your team-mates, making them the healing firearm of choice. 

Dead Man’s Hand

While you can always look up workable cookie-cutter combinations TSW doesn’t hold your hand when it comes to buying and choosing powers. You’re restricted to a “Deck” of only seven active and passive abilities at a time, not unlike Diablo 3 or Guild Wars 2. You can freely swap out any powers you’ve already bought any and save favorite combinations, so experimentation is encouraged. I was able to eventually create one deck for bringing down beefy single targets and another that let me rip through packs of weaker enemies. 

It’s easy for a new player to get lost in the giant power wheel. More expensive higher tier powers aren’t necessarily stronger but tend to be more specialized and situational. It is more important to find a set of abilities that work well together. If your basic attack includes a Damage-Over-Time (DOT) effect then a follow up power that does bonus damage to enemies suffering from a DOT would be a good choice. 
You'll eventually want to build a deck for fighting groups. Ghouls rarely hunt alone.
Vertical character progression is strongly gear dependent. While every character has access to scores of powers how hard you actually hit, heal, or take hits with those abilities is mostly dependent on your equipment. Thus far I’ve found simply proceeding through each zone and doing all the quests you encounter will keep you in shape to deal with the current crop of enemies. If you outstrip a zone’s rewards a quick trip to the auction house will keep your talismans and weapons up to date. 

As any character can eventually obtain every ability and max out every skill there’s never any reason to “re-roll”, unless you really want to see another faction’s handful of exclusive quests. XP rewards increase exponentially in later zones. You’re free, for example, to build up your set of healing powers while continuing to actually play as a damage focused character. A developed character will find it much easier to try a new weapon or role than a newbie.

Transmit – Receive – Witness

In MMO’s the setting and story frequently serve as mere set dressing for gameplay. In TSW it’s almost the other way around. The characters you meet are memorable; from cynical hard drinking horror writers to suave undead merchant-princes. The cut scenes that introduce each mission are a high point, featuring excellent voice acting and camera direction. Your own character is silent (so prepare to spend a lot of time getting monologed at) but it’s worth hearing what everyone has to say. 
You meet a number of immortals. They're not having as much fun as you might expect.
Bits of lore are scattered across the zones, concentrated in the form of golden honeycombs and narrated by a (probably) benevolent entity called “The Buzzing.” While you never actually encounter The Buzzing it’s easily one of the best characters. The entity addresses you with equal parts affection, gentle amusement, and a deep undercurrent of creepiness as it shares the secret histories of the world. The writing is excellent and my only complaint was that many lore nodes were well hidden and required a guide to track down. 

TSW’s quest structure is... different, but not necessarily in a bad way. Aside from the central story you can only have one main quest active at a time. There’s no reaching a new quest hub, grabbing a half dozen exclamation marks, and heading out into the wilderness to do them all on one sweep. TSW’s mission quests are more like ten-to-thirty minute mini quest chains. They can contain as many as a half-dozen or more steps, often leading you through a zone in a circular motion and dropping you off near another major mission or a bread-crumb trail back to one. 

Golden lore honeycombs are always a treat to read. So long as you don't mind being called "Sweetling".
Scores of shorter, more traditional opportunistic fetch-this-kill-that quests also dot the landscape. You can have up to three of these minor tasks in progress at a time. It usually makes sense to be working on at least one or more while doing any major quest in the area. The quest system is well designed and feels rewarding, but can take some adjustment for players like myself more used to loading up their log with a bunch of tasks to be worked through over the next few hours. By far the best feature, which every other MMO should copy immediately if not sooner, is that completed quests can be turned in from anywhere via cell phone.

Digging Deeper

Many of TSW’s missions can be completed just by following your waypoints, interacting with anything you find, and killing anything in your path. Others demand a bit more. “Investigation” missions are among TSW’s most unique and polarizing features. These quests would be more at home in a MYST style puzzle game, requiring intensive research, copious note taking, and a willingness to spend a lot of time working through problems. Be prepared to learn Morse code, translate Latin to English and then into Demonic runes, and dig up obscure literary references.

On one hand I feel Funcom should be lauded for trying a new style of gameplay not seen before in a MMO. On the other many Investigation missions are painfully unintuitive and frustrating. Too many of them require knowledge from outside the game itself, a serious design flaw. To TSW’s credit it includes a surprisingly effective in-game web browser (Another excellent feature every MMO should copy) to aid in research. Still, any fun I was having with the Investigation quests ended the moment I actually had to stop playing the game itself and bring up the browser.
Other quest types provide more accessible fun, like this "Tower Defense" mini-game.
When I log into an MMO I’m there to explore, enjoy the lore, and fight monsters. I’m not playing to take the SAT. I gave the first couple of investigation quests an honest go, but after spending a few hours without making much progress I have to confess I’ve just started looking up the answers. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the ease of gameplay in other MMO’s, and there’s nothing wrong with requiring basic mental activity, but all the information you need to solve a puzzle must be contained within the game itself.  

Fight together, Die alone

There aren’t a lot of open world zones in TSW, but they’re large and full of plenty to do. Monster populations are densely packed and respawn quickly. Most missions eventually reset and can be completed repeatedly for additional rewards. While this means you never run out of content it does contribute to the sense of a world frozen in time that many MMO’s suffer from. There were zombies attacking the police station on your first visit and there will still be zombies attacking it on your hundredth. It would have been interesting to see what the developers could have put together if they’d had access to the “Phasing” technology used to great effect in WoW’s later expansions. 
For an engine not really built for it Funcom does a credible job of faking some stealth missions.
Most of the open world content can be tackled solo by an appropriately equipped character. You’ve got a certain amount of leeway in personal skill, build, etc… TSW’s 5-man dungeons are much more traditional affairs, built around the expectation that players are bringing the holy trinity of tanking/healing/DPS to the fight. On the plus side there are very few trash mobs between bosses and most boss fights emphasize fun and clearly communicated movement and positioning mechanics. A party wipe simply drops you back before that specific boss.

Ancient evils, Modern technology

Like so very many MMO’s today TSW began its life as a subscription based game before transitioning to Free-To-Play. You still need to buy the actual game so it’s a pleasant surprise that it holds up well without needing to spend any more. The cash shop is unobtrusive and stocked with largely cosmetic and vanity items. Almost everything else can be earned or bought in-game for a reasonable time or in-game money investment. The only exceptions are a few “Issues” of new content, but these are only relevant to high level characters and after scores of hours of gameplay. 

If TSW has a technical problem it is the load times. Teleporting back to the hub dimension, going to London to use the Bank, and then getting back to whatever zone you were questing in can take a combined five or more minutes of loading screens. Moving full speed through some zones can outpace the game’s ability to load creatures and other elements, resulting in running into invisible walls and enemies. London itself is especially problematic, possible because of player and NPC density. I’ve had to wait a few minutes at the bank just for the clerk to load in and let me access my stuff. 
This isn't space/time warping magic, the bank's walls just haven't loaded yet.
Crafting exists, requiring arranging materials on a grid not unlike Minecraft. An in-game reference for the different shapes and patterns would have been invaluable, and it’s of limited utility and unlikely something will be an upgrade by the time you can make it. PvP is also present, though to be honest I haven’t tried it much. Following the zerg in the “Fusang Projects” warzone was a fun distraction.

Home for the Holidays

The Halloween events that went live while I was playing make a nice microcosm of everything TSW gets right and wrong. One extended Halloween quest had you roaming the starter area of Solomon Island, investigating and collecting entertainingly written spooky stories from the inhabitants.  Despite taking place in the starter area these seasonal quests were tuned for characters in max level gear, making them suicidal for new players who stumbled across them or wanted to get in on the fun.

One Halloween quest in particular took place in its own little basement subzone, pitting you against wave after wave of organ harvesting fiends. When they invariably killed any low level character (like myself) the game would respawn you still in the basement with 10% of your health. Right next to the pack of now fully healed machete wielding maniacs. I ultimately had to log out and back in to escape.
TSW's support staff isn't this bad, but they're clearly stretched thin.
A pumpkin themed world boss caused hair-pulling frustration, requiring players to place a group of jack-o-lanterns just so to summon the beast. Each player attempting the quest received exactly one jack-o-lantern, which would de-spawn a short time after being placed. If you miss-placed a single pumpkin, misunderstood the quest, or otherwise failed to use your jack-o-lantern exactly right the very first time, well too bad for you. There was no way to get a new one to try again. All you could do was hang around the pumpkin patch hoping a different group came along and got it right. 

In the interest of fairness Funcom did eventually patch these and other sundry problems, about a week into a limited time two week event. I suspect they were less a result of any sort of negligence or systemic incompetence and more due to the severely limited development and support resources available. No MMO will ever be bug free or introduce completely flawless new content, but much of the seasonal event was an unwelcome reminder that not every company has the raw dollars and manpower to throw at problems that Blizzard can muster.

Ultimately the excellent setting and writing and strong character customizability make The Secret World a game I can recommend to experienced MMO gamers looking for something a little different. Entry level and casual player will likely end up frustrated and confused. 

Reasons to play: Strong setting. High production value writing and mission cinematics. Flexible “Deck” based character customization. Free to play without intrusive cash shop. Investigation quests try a different style of gameplay.

Reasons to pass: Long load times. Middling combat. Investigation quests often highly unintuitive and require outside game knowledge. Uneven support and bug response. Limited content for PvP addicts.

Articles copyright James Cousar, games and images copyright their respective owners.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dead Space 3 Review

The Dead Space series has been a favorite of mine since its debut in 2008. The creepy, insanity inducing “Marker” artifacts, the sinister Unitologist cult that worships them and the horrific Necromorphs the Markers spawn make for a memorable combination. The previous Dead Space games learned the lessons of design, ambience, and gameplay that classics like Resident Evil 4 and System Shock 2 worked so hard to teach.

When I saw that EA was putting Dead Space 3 up as part of a Humble Bundle charity sale I wasted no time in snapping it up. Having slugged my way through the campaign I’m forced to say I would have been severely disappointed if I had paid $60 for this game when it first came out.

Dead Space 3 (DS3 for short) is a game with problems. Serious problems. Technical problems, gameplay problems, narrative problems, and deeply rooted design problems. Problems that drag the game down on every level. Problems clinging tumor-like to the skeletal frame of a once strong survival-horror IP, choking the solid core gameplay and few cool new ideas. 


First and foremost DS3 suffers from savagely bad PC optimization. My machine can run other modern games at moderate settings without problems. Even on low settings I experienced severe stuttering that pushed the game almost into the unplayable range.

He's more dangerous dead than alive. At least to your frame-rate.
This was most notable whenever I acted on physics objects. A single brush turned dead bodies into awkwardly flailing masses that would cartwheel impossibly through the air, plunging my frame-rate into a slide-show. Given that DS3 is essentially a game about turning space zombies into meaty physics props this was crippling, turning nearly every fight into a performance killing epileptic fit.

Despite spending several hours troubleshooting and scouring the EA support boards I was never able to get the problem to go away. The game seemed to have trouble using both of my computer’s CPU cores, but there didn’t seem to be any patch or work around.

Origin, EA’s own ersatz Steam, helpfully disabled sound and controls after every new chapter loaded up or any time an achievement was awarded. Once I disabled the “Origin In-Game” element that particular problem went away. If your own delivery platform is forcing the player to regularly restart the game you’ve created an extra bug, not a feature. 

Follow the onscreen prompt to die over and over.
DS3 also shares the same quicktime problem of its predecessor. When the game instructs you to “Press E” to avoid hideous death, the developers expect you to read their minds from across time and space and understand they actually mean “Press E and F”. Because if you don’t you die. I don’t even know who to begin to blame for this, but until I remembered this problem from the previous game getting grabbed by any Necromorph was a death sentence and certain quick-time hazards become impassable blocks. 

Perhaps all these issues are less prevent or absent in the console version of the game, but it’s still the most problematic PC port I’ve played in memory. But let’s assume you’ve somehow made it past the fusterclug of technical issues and battered the game into a playable state. Or perhaps you’re playing on console.

Cold and Silence

DS3 starts up in the middle of a Unitologist cult attack and subsequent Necromorph outbreak on Earth’s moon. The government, having apparently learned nothing at all from the previous games, has started building the insanity inducing and space zombie creating Markers everywhere. This really seems like the sort of thing that should be restricted to an isolated lab with a built in self destruct mechanism until the aforementioned flaws get worked out.

Isaac Clark, the Unitologists now actively gunning for him, is caught up in the mess. In short order he’s rescued by a small band of scientists and soldiers (who are surely not doomed to be picked off one at a time over the next few hours) and makes his way to the world of Tau Volantis. This desolate, frozen planet is where the signal controlling the Markers seems to be coming from, so any answers about how to stop them will be found here.

Just you and the void.
Isaac’s little band isn’t the first group of people to have visited the planet. While the previous expedition was destroyed by the Terrible Secrets™ they unearthed they left behind a flotilla in orbit, installations on the ground, and piles of freeze dried bodies that have since reanimated into Necromorphs. The previous Tau Volantis expedition was supposedly 200 years ago, so it’s a little improbable that everything is still working after two centuries of exposure to hard vacuum, constant blizzards, and sub-zero temperatures.

The hungry, hungry void.
The game’s early chapters are spent exploring the derelicts in orbit. The zero-g sections are arguably the best part of the game, with Isaac able to move and fight gracefully in three dimensions. Your air supply is more generous than previous games, allowing for a degree of exploration. The cramped corridors of the ruined ships contrast nicely with the open void and amazing views of the planet below.

Crazy for You

Isaac comes off as surprisingly sane in this installment. Perhaps he’s built up some sort of immunity to the Markers or perhaps he finally put his demons to rest for good. This is an odd choice given that hallucinations and putting the player characters own sanity in doubt was one of the more interesting narrative twists Dead Space had going. It seems like throwing away a perfectly good, already established way to up the creepiness and paranoia factors.  

Some narrative elements work better than others. In particular the love triangle between Isaac, Ellie (his love interest from the second game), and a rival for Ellie’s affections named Norton comes off as exceptionally goofy. It’s never established why Ellie fell for this new guy in the first place beyond an attempt to manufacture a little additional drama. Norton’s sole distinguishing trait seems to be that he’s a jealous and insecure jerk.  

If Derp-face over on the right has any redeeming features we never see them.

A stronger direction might have been to make Norton a more noble and mission focused character. If Isaac was still obviously suffering from insanity and had sent Ellie away out of concern for her safely the whole dynamic would make a lot more sense and been a lot more interesting. None of this really gets in the way of shooting Necromorphs, but it’s still poor characterization.

Land of Plenty

One of the signature traits of Survival Horror games is limited resources. The previous Dead Space games gave you enough to make every supply cache meaningful and never enough to be wasteful. DS3 inundates you in health packs and ammo from the start and you can make more very cheaply at any workbench. Even on hard difficult I never felt pinched for supplies. Once you start finding deployable scavenger bots the concept of scarcity vanishes entirely, and DS3 becomes a war of attrition very much in your favor.

We could sneak past these creepy Feeders, but why bother?
They'll drop more supplies than we'll spend killing them.
This is compounded by a weird save system that always remembers your inventory, but only sporadically updates your actual game progress. Items, some enemies, and resource caches respawn whenever you save and quit. In an especially obnoxious and inexplicable twist optional missions only save at the start and end, meaning you need to replay the whole thing if you stop at any point. 

All this makes the inclusion of micro-transactions that let you buy extra resources or improve the efficiency of your scavenger bots a bit inexplicable. Between natural abundance, re-spawning pickups, and your scavenger bots it is almost inconceivable that anyone would need to spend real world money on in-game supplies. It feels like EA is trying to sell snow-cones on free ice cream day. 

...and let's not forget Greed is one of the seven deadliest.
I suppose it is to EA’s credit that survival isn’t tuned around needing to shell out yet more real world money. Still, the very inclusion of Facebook game style micro-transactions in what is supposed to be a $60 AAA game is obnoxious at best. Either give me a free-to-play game with a cash shop or just sell me a game that’s a complete package upfront. Don’t try and take my money twice. It’s indecent. 


New to the Dead Space series is weapon crafting. As you pick through the wreckage to Tau Volantis you find weapon frames, barrels, attachments, and more. These can be cobbled together at any bench into a variety of tools of dismemberment. A number of pre-made blueprints (including plans to produce classic Dead Space weapons) are already available. Or you can freely mix and match parts, building new component from raw materials.

More information about exactly what parts are compatible with one another would have been helpful and the part inventory interface is a bit clunky, but it costs nothing to experiment. Weapons can be broken back down into their component parts for free and obsolete or redundant parts can be melted down into more resources. Past the first few chapters you’ll generally have the resources to build whatever you like. 

This is why you pay attention in Shop Class.

Trying different combinations, like a harpoon gun with attached electric shotgun or a brutal hydraulic hammer that can also fire stasis-inducing rotary saws, is easily DS3’s best new feature. You are restricted to a mere two weapons at a time, so intelligently choosing alternate fire modes and tactical functionality is important.

Unfortunately some weapons (notably the rocket launcher and other explosives) are so powerful that once you can craft them they break the difficulty curve. Ammo is plentiful and universal, so even the most powerful weapons can be used freely. At least three or four different ammo types for broad weapon categories (Plasma, explosive, physical, etc…) could have gone a long way towards keeping some of the old survival horror resource conservation in the game. Rockets that one-hit kill 90% of enemies on Hard should at least be rare or expensive enough to make me think twice before firing one. 

Tooth and Nailgun

Past the opening acts combat rapidly deteriorates into a sloppy mess. Since the player is flush with health and ammo at all times, and can craft some gruesomely powerful weapons, the designers were forced to compensate to create any sort of challenge. As often as not later battles resort to trapping you in a small area and throwing wave after wave of the same aggravatingly durable enemy type at you. A few sequences have more of a Serious Sam vibe than anything like survival horror.

It quickly becomes as predictable as it is monotonous. Every time you enter a new area a monster pops out of the vent in front of you and another behind you, and then the same thing happens three-to-five more times. It stops being surprising. The side missions, which recycle the same room set, are especially egregious offenders. Many fights devolved into putting my back to a wall, chugging health packs and blazing away into a mass of thrashing, twitching, frame-rate killing ragdolls until everything finally stopped moving. 

Now kill these guys four more times and you can move on.
Arenas like this existed in previous games but were rare. The dearth of resources and better mix of monsters on display made them more frantic brawls for survival. Too many of Dead Space 3’s fights quickly become a grinding, repetitive chore.  

Even dismemberment and Stasis, two of the core elements of Dead Space combat, feel wrong. Necromorphs are faster and give less visual feedback as their limbs take damage. The most common new type of monster is strangely resistant to precision amputations. Enemies shrug off the effects of your Stasis blasts much faster than in previous games. 

Perhaps these changes were an effort to keep combat challenging. You can find or buy so much ammo and so many Stasis packs that you can just spam Stasis and blaze away at center mass. Carefully severing limbs to conserve ammo and sweating over each use of Stasis no longer makes sense. 

Most human enemies aren't worth taking cover from.
The addition of human enemies ends up being more comic relief than anything else. The Unitologist soldiers you battle occasionally aren’t very good shots and are as fragile as you would expect living humans to be against Dead Space’s body-shattering weaponry. They also spend a lot of time either committing suicide or getting murdered by the same Necromorphs they supposedly worship. Still, they make for a nice change of pace and enemy infighting is always entertaining to watch.

Dangerous to go Alone

Perhaps strangest of all DS3 was built with a fully functional co-op mode. While running around blasting Necromorphs alongside a buddy does absolutely nothing to help convey a sense of dread or isolation it is solid fun. Friendly fire is mercifully disabled and you can effortlessly pass supplies and even favorite weapon blueprints back and forth. 

Unless you're playing solo. But at least you don't need to babysit him.
The second playable character is a standard-issue hard-assed space marine named Carver. He doesn’t get much characterization beyond being angry, but if you’re playing solo the game does a reasonable job of explaining where else he is and what he’s doing. You don’t need to babysit an AI character like in Resident Evil 5, and during boss fights he occasionally shouts advice from off-screen. If the Dead Space series is going to completely ditch its survival-horror roots it might as well take on the better action game elements like co-op.

Fear and Loathing

Dead Space 3 isn’t really a scary game, but under all the mess there is some surprisingly effective traces of horror. The logs left behind by the last doomed expedition to Tau Volantis detail a distressing descent into murder, privation, madness, cannibalism, and death. The bits featuring soldiers willingly, calmly executing their compatriots and then themselves approach genuinely chilling. 

Things got ugly before the end came for the last expedition.
The desolation of Tau Volantis itself, both from orbit and down amid the icy wastes, is one of DS3’s most memorable elements. Even without the hordes of freezer-burned space zombies it is clear this world is relentlessly hostile to the human race and all organic life. The frozen, alien landscape and the awful secrets buried beneath it do more to convey an atmosphere of isolation and hopelessness than anything else in the game.

Absolute desolation.

Ultimately Dead Space 3 is a very difficult game to recommend. If I had paid full price for it when it first came out I would have been mad as hell. We’re left with the shambling, hungry shell of a strong IP, relentlessly sabotaged by technical problems and design decisions at odds with everything the series has traditionally done right. 

Series fans and people looking for a solid co-op game should still consider giving DS3 a look. If you fit either of those categories and can find it for cheap I would say go ahead and pick it up. Otherwise let the dead rest. 

Reasons to Play: Weapon crafting. Zero-G sequences. Solid co-op play. 

Reasons to Pass: Extreme technical problems. Obnoxious micro-transactions. Messy, repetitive combat. Survival horror dynamics, like conservation of resources, gone. Weird save system.

Articles copyright James Cousar, games and images copyright their respective owners.