“The Start Of Something New”
Greetings friends! Welcome to Road To BS W/ Braxton, a catch-all post for my thoughts on the latest released games and production updates regarding the new podcast leading into its October launch. As covered in the recently uploaded update video, my content is undergoing some major changes. Chief to the revised rollout will be a new show breaking down my thoughts on the world of video games in the format of an audio podcast. BS W/ Braxton will focus on taking a critical look at the wonderful hobby we share, covering relevant topics such as new releases, substantial news stories, first impressions and more. Premiering this October, the podcast will merge content leaving the site into one convenient location. However, I didn’t want to go radio silent until then. That’s why Road To BS W/ Braxton exists and will be updated continually to reflect my thoughts on games and other happenings leading up to the premiere.
Destiny: Rise of Iron
Destiny has undoubtably been one of the most fascinating projects to watch this generation. Following a much hyped development cycle, the online-only, first-person shooter has remained at the forefront of industry discussion despite its significant design flaws out of the gate. Mechanically polished and ripe with potential, Destiny has always been among the masterclass of shooter gameplay. The latest and final expansion, Rise of Iron, continues that tradition. Standing as the concluding touch of DLC for Destiny, Rise of Iron does a fair job at putting a bow on the package as a collective whole. For all its flaws and early missteps, there’s always been incredible potential to be tapped into with Bungie’s ambitious galactic shooter. A full game and four expansions later, Destiny’s initial vision feels closer than ever to reaching fulfillment.
There’s still a repetitious design loop and unsatisfying progression system to come to terms with, yet their impact on Rise of Iron’s stronger moments are less consequential then they have been in past expansions. The short story-driven campaign is well-crafted in spite of feeling rushed and slightly one-dimensional in a few instances. Rise of Iron is more focused on the physical design of the story missions than the actual story itself, lending an unenthusiastic narrative tone to the admirable set pieces on display. Beyond the campaign, the expansion also offers a new multiplayer mode and maps, along with a strike mission and highly anticipated Raid. Overall, Rise of Iron lacks the quality its prior expansion came with, but still adds value to Destiny as a broader experience. What began as a disappointingly average shooter has sprouted into a good one; it’s just been a long time coming. I’ll have much more to say regarding Rise of Iron in an upcoming episode of The Whittle.
Batman: Episode 2: Children of Arkham
Coming off of a lukewarm debut, Children of Arkham paints Telltale in a noticeably regressive state. Leaning on weak, overly convenient dialogue and distractingly abrupt narrative turns, Batman’s second episode is more disappointing than the first in almost all respects. With the exception of turning a central aspect of Batman lore on its head in what is undoubtably one of the more creative liberties taken with the property in recent years, Children of Arkham struggles to find much of anything to hold onto. Despite coming with a visual flair, the action sequences lack any tangible substance. Built on simply pressing specific buttons when prompted, there’s no nuance or satisfaction to glean from Batman’s bare-bones combat encounters. Even the once novel feeling chain attacks introduced in the premiere episode have lost their impact. Narratively, the episode is mostly made up of table-setting, with little payoff to be found. Additionally, the latest episode runs terribly on PS4. Interrupted by some of the more frequent and noticeable performance hiccups, Telltale has had in recent memory, Batman’s second episode often feels like a chore to get through. On paper, Telltale’s Batman still has the potential to be something special, yet in practice the Caped Crusader’s latest is quickly headed downhill.
Virginia is easily one of the most unique experiences I’ve had with a game this year. Variable State’s maiden development voyage is a strange, symbolic, and often melancholy adventure game about a missing person and the FBI’s role in the investigation. To divulge much of its plot would be foolish, for the lion share of Virginia’s strength comes from its unpredictability. Beneath a simple, yet striking visual aesthetic lies an emotionally nuanced narrative that conveys its messages and plot twists with an elegance that maintains its merit until the credits roll. Virginia is incredibly focused on communicating its narrative visually, so much so that nonverbally storytelling takes center stage. Brilliantly paced and thought-provokingly presented, Virginia positively caught me off guard with its style of storytelling and poignancy therein. While occasionally a little too ambiguous and drenched in symbolism for its own good, it doesn’t change the fact I can’t stop running the game through my head days after completion. Although not for everyone, if Virginia is a game that calls to you in the least, entertain the idea of giving it a shot for it’s bound to leave something with you.
Darkest Dungeon is intoxicatingly dreary. Coated in a thick gloss of gothic aesthetic and built on punishing gameplay, Red Hook Studios’ RPG is an immediately captivating and nerve-racking adventure. At first look, Darkest Dungeon seems to embody basic traits of a side-scrolling, turn-based dungeon crawler, and while stylistically you wouldn’t be mistaken, there’s a deeper nuance than a cursory glance gleans. Beneath its bleak, artistically rich visuals, lie a plethora of deep systems tied to each facet of gameplay. Take the accessible, yet cleverly layered combat system for instance, a complex and challenging collection of mechanics rooted in turn-based strategy. I can’t get Darkest Dungeon out of my head. Brought in by its fantastic narration and grim art style, and incentivized to return by its punishing and satisfying gameplay, I have a feeling it’s going to be a while before I can put it down.
HITMAN – Episode 5: Colorado
Following Bangkok’s rejuvenating highs after a season low point, Hitman’s fifth episode falls back into the traps its predecessors have been battling all season. Suffering from an underwhelming setting, uneven difficulty spike, and paint by numbers central plot, Hitman: Episode 5 – Colorado feels like IO Interactive spinning its wheels. We pick up following the events of Agent 47’s last adventure, this time touching down in North America for the first time this season. Tasked with a mission to infiltrate and eliminate a set of high value targets running a terrorist militia in the scenic state of Colorado, Agent 47 finds himself deep behind enemy lines. 2016’s iteration of Hitman has never struggled at giving the player an array of tools to approach objectives how they personally see fit. Presenting them in an environment where their potential can be fully harnessed has been less seamless, and Colorado is unfortunately the most rocky example of mismanaged goals yet.
While the first few attempts to eliminate Colorado’s set of targets bring some of the most tension-packed moments this entire season, they lack the longterm satisfaction and reward seen in past episodes. The entire experience feels short-winded and restrictive, an unusual criticism that feels foreign to Hitman’s ideology. While sprinkled with a few invigorating moments, Hitman: Episode 5 – Colorado comes across as a missed opportunity in the scope of the broader season. With a worldwide conspiracy building all throughout the past episodes, Colorado is the penultimate setup before the final episode releases later this year; here’s to hoping it leaves the iconic assassin in a better place than where we are now.
9/29: Hard at work exploring the potential layout for the new show.10/4: As we move closer to launch, BS W/ Braxton is beginning to take shape. Today’s list of priorities entailed ironing out what the show’s opening theme will sound like.
What’s that? The first episode of BS W/ Braxton premieres TONIGHT?! You’re not going to want to miss this one… pic.twitter.com/8pXoJsDHwj
— Braxton Haugen (@BraxHaugen) October 10, 2016
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