Welcome to volume six of impressions! The theme for this week is collections. I briefly considered including Kingdom Hearts in this post, but a post exceeding ten thousand words would likely turn people off. Anyway, on with the games!
Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
This collection includes Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. As the title suggests, this collection tells the story of Handsome Jack, the antagonist of BL2, and hero(?!) of BL:TPS. Whilst the story of BL:TPS takes place before BL2, it is told from the perspective of the characters post-BL2 and contains major spoilers for those who play the games out of order. All released DLC is included in this bundle adding hours of extra content to the game.
The Borderlands series is a first-person shooter with many RPG elements. Accuracy is one of the stats in the game, so aiming does not mean a shot will hit exactly where the player shoots. This differentiates it from traditional FPS games, but allows Borderlands to play around with mechanics a lot more. Each weapon and piece of gear (outside of unique items) is randomly generated. There are several different manufacturers, allowing a great deal of variation even within the same type of weapon. As the player can gain experience levels, loot also also has a level requirement, with higher level (and rarity) pieces performing better than those found at a lower level.
The humor found in Borderlands made it an instant classic. Borderlands 2 took that a step further, introducing Jack as the antagonist who taunts the player throughout the game. Ties to the original fleshed out the world of BL2. Jack was so likeable as the villain, BL:TPS was created to tell his story. Whilst adding oxygen as a resource and lowering the gravity in some zones took away from the gameplay, following the journey of Jack made the whole experience worthwhile. Definitely one to play with friends online.
Shenmue I & II
Shenmue is a classic and paved the way for the Yakuza series. Ryo Hazuki returns home to his dojo to find his father fighting a strange man. Despite having lost his father to the unknown assailant, Ryo decides to discover his identity and track him down. The journey takes him from Japan to China, but Shenmue II ended on a cliffhanger – subsequent games in the series were cancelled due to the poor performance of the Dreamcast. Shenmue III was eventually kickstarted, though a long hiatus between games is often bad for a series.
The majority of gameplay in Shenmue is walking Ryo around the town of Yamanose in the search of answers to what happened in the dojo that day. Clues are kept in a notebook that steadily fills up as the game progresses. The game follows a day/night cycle and some characters are only around at certain times of the day. The player can take a break from the investigation to work on their combat skills, and this is where the rest of the game lies. Ryo occasionally finds himself in situations in which he must defend himself from attack, and the player needs to fight their way out. Sometimes this involves quick time events, though back in the day the producer tried to label this a ‘Fully Reactive Eyes Entertainment’ (FREE) game.
I said Shenmue is a classic, and it is, though the collection does not do it justice. A full remake would have been preferable as some elements of the original rub against modern standards. Ryo controls awkwardly and the vocalisation uses the compressed audio from the Dreamcast. This collection likely will appeal to those who are already fans, or those picking up the sequel when it is released later this year.
Diablo III: Eternal Collection
Diablo is the granddaddy of the modern loot-driven action RPG. The Diablo III collection includes the third game, its expansion, and an additional character class. The story revolves around a fallen star than has landed in the King’s crypt. Deckard Cain return with his niece, Leah, to help locate the object and keep the forces of hell from taking it for themselves. Reaper of Souls continues the story by introducing Malthael, the aspect of Death, who wants the power of the great evils for himself so that he may end the Great Conflict between heaven and hell, though he would destroy all human life in the process.
Diablo III, as stated earlier, is an action RPG with a focus on gathering loot. Players are made to feel as powerful as possible as they mow down large numbers of enemies in search of upgrades that will take them deeper into the game. New skills unlock every few levels, and some levels unlock runes that modify existing skills. Unlike previous entries in the series, characters are not locked into specific talents or trees, and the player can change and mix skills at anytime outside of combat. The level cap is merely a formality, with the player continuing to earn ‘paragon’ levels to add extra bonuses to any character on their account.
Diablo III has evolved a lot from the game it was at release. Today it has a content loop that can keep players going practically forever, though new content is rarely added to the game. There are leaderboards for the top players, but on console they are a joke due to hackers making their characters incredibly powerful. The PC version is online only and the leaderboard reflects this. Blizzard have ignored the game for too long though, and fans are looking for their loot fix with other games, such as Path of Exile. This may change whenever Diablo IV is announced though.