Spider-Man PS4 Review

Amazing? Spectacular? Even Superior? The answer is none of the above. Before you close this article, I did really enjoy this game. There are just a few things that hold it back that are substantial.  Firstly, this is a fun game. Since playing Spider-Man 2 over a decade ago, I’ve craved another game that provides the arachnid hero’s feel of mobility. Insomniac has done a tremendous job here of make traversal as Spider-Man, the highlight of the game. Swinging around New York is an absolute blast. Even when I had a way marker on the screen, rather than going the direct and quickest route, I would be frolicking all the way there. They nailed what it’s like to be Spider-Man.

But before I get ahead of myself, I should set the scene and talk about the story itself. So in Spider-Man on the PS4, you play as Wolverine. No wait that’s the wrong hero isn’t it? Obviously you play as the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man and Spider-Man doesn’t need to be explained, we all know his powers and who he is. Also, I’m getting sick of typing Spider-Man and when the main character is the titular title it becomes extra annoying so from now on, when I refer to Spider-Man himself it’s SM! SM is the main character, with a few occasions the player takes control of Peter’s ex Mary Jane and newcomer in Peter’s life, Miles. Without giving away too many story beats, I was really surprised by the narrative. It’s not a video game classic but the story is well told and full of nuance. There is a good story here and quite a mature one at that. It’s a classic, good vs evil story but there’s a lot of different threads which weave nicely into a cohesive, well told tale.

Not only does the cutscenes and dialogue fill us in on SM’s life but the oodles of side content help to characterise our hero. It weaves a world that feels lived in by SM/Peter Parker. This isn’t an origin story, in fact SM has been Spider-Man-ing for over half a decade. And through side content and collectables, a life of a web slinger is fleshed out. here is a plethora of backpacks, photo opportunities, combat scenarios and my favourite…….pigeon chases. Seriously a group of side missions have you yanking a pigeon out of the sky. Me thinks using a pigeon’s body weight as an anchor or pulling the pigeon to yourself at high speed would pulverise the winged critter but apparently they’re built to last in New York. Also, just to annoy you, try to get the Hanna Barbera song Stop the Pigeon out of your head next time you go for one of those bad boys in Spider-Man.

You’re welcome.

New York itself is a character and Insomniac has done a great job of creating a large playground. I would have liked there to be more unique buildings for fun traversal but what they’ve created is a very good emulation of the big apple. Which, brings me to the web swinging. I like the fighting of this game, I love the swinging. The way SM moves and flows through the air is something else. I don’t get bored with how it feels. Leaping of a web swing right at it’s highest point or dive bombing from a skyscraper just looks and feels the business. There’s fast travel in this game and I don’t think I’ll ever use it. The swinging is the best part of the game and it amplifies my enjoyment of the rest of the game. There is a ton of side content in this game and actually getting to that content is so much fun. A bit more variety in the side missions would be appreciated but the swinging saves the tedium. In other games I could barely care about finding a backpack or repetitive side missions where I swing through smoggy areas for samples. But most of the side missions involve more opportunities to sling webs and I want to indulge in that. Going to a funeral isn’t fun but if you got to drive a monster truck there then that’s a different thing. The combat is fantastic. It took me a while to get used to it as well as I did with Batman Arkham Asylum but once you get used to the controls it flows really well. It’s very similar to the Batman games but with Spider-Man charm. It’s a delight to watch SM’s acrobatic moves when dispatching thugs and the array or gadgets and suits keep the combat from getting stale. As a quick mention, the different suits in the games are a great addition and look amazing. The fact that most of them come with a unique power as well, it’s these little additions that show that Insomniac know how to make a character fun to play.

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Currently my favourite suit.

Which, brings me to which characters aren’t fun to play. And one of the main things that holds this game back for me. The Mary Jane and Miles missions. Not all of them. There’s 1 Miles mission I liked and I think 1 Mary Jane mission but that was because it involved SM and had a nice gimmick to it. But the other times, you have to play as these characters skulking around, looking for information or just trying to evade capture from enemies.  They are just not that fun and I don’t oppose to playing as side characters in games. It gives instances to show unique gameplay or story. But the scenarios they’re in and the tools at our disposal need to be interesting or fun. Most of the MJ or Miles parts can be summed up as *wait for guard to look in opposite direction before moving* or *make a noise to draw attention to a spot and then move towards objective*.  It’s a flow breaker after playing as a fast, capable character. You feel stilted and robbed of more SM time. I wouldn’t mind as much if it was one or two in a 15+ story but it seemed to be every 2-3 hours a slow mission reared its head. To the point where when dialogue started leading to a ‘I wonder what predicament Mary Jane has got herself into this time’, I would start mentally asking the game to just show me a cutscene of what happened to her. Please game, take the control from me and show a brief scene that gives me the exposition!  I was never bored when playing as Peter Parker because they were brief and interesting. Hell I would play as one of the pigeons! That’d be a great introduction to that side mission. Getting chased through Central Park by a man in red and blue spandex.

The game also doesn’t have enough ‘WOW that’s what it’s like to be a hero’ missions early on. The last 4 hours or so of the game are so so good. They have SM, a super hero, doing super hero level things. Saving citizens and stopping robberies is hero stuff but I feel like the grand scale missions were all mostly on the back end. It made for a great few hours but now I’m thinking on my new game plus that those first few hours are going to seem like a bit mundane in comparison. Like I said, the swinging and combat are both excellent so I’m sure it won’t be an issue but a few great missions with bigger scope peppered throughout the early hours would have been appreciated. Instead of the aforementioned Mary Jane and Miles missions. When all is said and done though, Spider-Man is a well crafted, fun game. It has a great story, looks beautiful, the music score is on point and overall it is a fun game. I would very much recommend this one and I just hope that Insomniac rethinks some of their mission choices for the sequel. A fantastic game let down by a few missteps but a fantastic game nevertheless.

Darkest Dungeon Review

Oh, Darkest Dungeon. Darkest Dungeon. Darkest Dungeon. What am I going to do about you? There’s something about a game that gives me heart palpitations that I love. And not the good heart palpitations either. This isn’t a holding hands with your new love speedy pitter-patter. It’s that feeling of your foot plunging to the ground when an unexpected drop or declining step appears. But prolonged at times and less sudden. You put yourself in this situation. And you will do again and again and again. You love it. I know I do. I am enraptured with this game. And yet I find myself unable to play it for long stretches. The sheer wave of relief after completing a taxing run in one of Darkest Dungeons……well dungeons, is always a welcome feeling but also a release button. ‘I’M OUT! That’s it, I’m done. I need to relax and unwind. This leisurely hour of Darkest Dungeon wasn’t relaxing it was strenuous and cruel. But I’ll be back. Maybe an hour later or the next day but I will return for me delicious punishment’.

Darkest Dungeon is a roguelike, turn based combat game. You are given a brief explanation of the happenings, 2 party members and a quick tutorial dungeon. Then the rest is up to you to decide. You have a combat phase and a micro-management/upgrade phase. You assemble your team of up to 4 members per expedition, their skills and their position in combat. There are over a dozen different hero types. Each with different roles in combat. As each character type is different, they all have different skills and preferred positions. The Crusader prefers to be up front where he deals the most damage. Whereas the Plague Doctor prefers to hang out in the back, chucking ailments at the enemies and buffs for your team. You venture out into whichever dungeon you subject them to and then at the end you pick up the pieces and tend to them. Each dungeon will have several options to choose from. Some of these include; a quick skirmish where you have to complete all the room battles. Explore, where a set percentage of rooms need to be passed through. And even Kill the (insert foul being for killing) which act as mini boss and boss encounters. These missions will require more planning as they tend to be longer but offer better rewards.

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This will become a sanctuary to all who play this game. Take a breather and get the kettle on.

After your mission, you’re automatically transported to your estate, in which your party recuperate and prepare for the next mission.  The central hub of this game is a town under threat from neighbouring dungeons. It is here that you’ll decide the down time for your team. Do you go to the caravan to recruit new members? The blacksmith to upgrade your heroes gear? Or maybe the pub or brothel for your weary warriors?  There is no time limit or AP gauge here so you can go at your own pace and think your choices through. It’s a nice, calm lull that offers relief for the player as well as your team. Once you’ve made all your choices it’s back out to the dungeons for another round.

There are 5 dungeons in total. With the titular Darkest Dungeon being the end goal. Each dungeon is randomly generated. Although the same, in corridors connected to rooms, each offer very different experiences and aesthetic. The Ruins offer Unholy beasties that attack your team’s sanity just as much as their health whilst the Weald’s enemies tend to inflict ailments such as blight and bleed upon your party. It’s these differences that require planning ahead, as picking a team willy-nilly will result in bad times or even death for your team. And in this game; when someone’s dead, they’re dead, Jim. Prepare to get attached and have your heart broken as your Highwayman, Greg gets shanked to death by a butcher in the Ruins. When an enemy dies, unless by blight or certain situations, their body will remain on the ground and in the spot they were standing. If you want to attack an enemy behind them in the line-up, your best option may be to get rid of that corpse as soon as. That way your close quarters Crusader can end him swiftly. This feature requires extra thought but can be switched off in the options, as well as a number of choices to make the game easier or harder for yourself.

I mentioned enemies attacking sanity before and that is a key feature of this game. When you enter the combat segment, your team each have a health meter and also a sanity meter. As you progress through the corridors and enemy encounters your team’s sanity will deteriorate. Sometimes because an enemy specifically cast a sanity affecting attack. Other times because the enemy landed a critical hit and now your hero’s confidence wavers. Even progressing through the dungeon puts a toll on your heroes. The light is your friend in this game. If that starts to fade so does your teams spirit. Luckily before each expedition you get to purchase provisions before you set off.  The usual antidotes for blight (this games version of poison ailment), bandages to stop bleeding and buff potions. Food can be purchased and eaten any time out of combat. This’ll heal your selected member a smidge. But don’t get greedy! As you progress through the dungeon your team may get hungry and require a piece of food each. If you’re short on rations, well too bad, your team take a hit to sanity and health for your lack of planning. Torches can be purchased too before you set off. The light provides another gameplay element, play it safe or go bold and daring. Your screen lit like a beacon will provide ease for your party and a less stressful venture. It may also provide mapping possibilities and a chance to startle an enemy team, giving you the upper hand. With less light though you have a higher chance of earning more loot and landing critical blows. But be afraid of the dark, as it can give the enemy the jump on your team and will cause their stress levels to rise quicker. If a character’s stress level is pushed too far they will have a moment of resolve, where they’re tested to see if they’re strong enough to power through their fe ars or if they’ll crumble and become a detriment to your team. They might power through though. Then they become stronger than before, able to hit harder, heal themselves randomly and increase morale among your team lowering stress for all. Should they fail though, then you might want to chuck them as soon as you get out that dungeon.

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My first death. Immortalised in a trophy screenshot. Go quietly into the night.

They will gain an affliction, such as Selfish, Fearful or Irrational. These may cause your worrywart to freeze up on their turn or switch places with one of your other party members. They can even run from combat and that’s them gone for this dungeon, you’re one man down now.  It’s not just the enemies out to get your team either. The corridors are littered with traps that’ll sneak up on you if the light is dim. Obstacles will appear such as a mound of bricks that you will need a shovel to dig through. ‘What, you didn’t bring a shovel or find one in your travels? Tough.’. You take so long clearing the way that the light goes dim and your team each loses sanity. The hallways are littered with temptations too. Curios they’re called in this game. Your team stumbles upon random stack of books. The choice is yours to make and for which member of your party. Do you let them investigate or play it safe and walk on? A quick glance can’t harm your Grave Robber, Gael much surely? Whoops, she reads and gains the quirk Night Blindness and so now if the light is below a certain amount, she does 10% damage less to opponents. And honestly that’s one of the better negative quirks to get.

Yes, you heard that right. Quirks. Each hero has a random set of quirks when you recruit them. These can be positive or negative.  A positive quirk can ensure that they fare better against certain monster types or have increased HP among other things. Negative quirks could mean that a particular hero is nerfed in a certain dungeon or under certain conditions such as low light. Sometimes they’ll have a quirk which makes them instantly investigates certain Curios if found, possibly gaining them another negative quirk. Or Flagellant, which means in town they’ll only go to the Penance Hall to de-stress, which may be occupied by the roaming caretaker who randomly takes up spots meant for your heroes to recover mentally in. And if quirks weren’t bad enough, there are also diseases that your team can contract. Diseases are rarer but can be gained through combat and Curios too. A party member might get afflicted with The Red Plague which decreases HP, critical chances and bleed resistance. It’s these possible pitfalls that make every dungeon venture a gamble and a constant assessment of your situation whilst exploring. Dread is the name of your friend when playing this game. ‘Hello Dread! My that’s a nice urn there. Mind if I have a cheeky peek inside?’ “Of course! Go right ahead, watch for syphilis though.”. ‘Sorry Dread, I didn’t quite catch that. Did you whisper syphilis? Am I going to get syphilis from this innocent urn?!’. And that’s how Reynauld the Crusader contracted that disease.

Thankfully the town offers cures and treatment for diseases and negative quirks. For a price, obviously. Treatment isn’t free and sometimes that Grave Robber you’ve had since your first real dungeon, who was always in your prime line-up.  Sometimes the damage of Darkest Dungeon is too great or costly and you have to make the choice. Spend your hard-earned money on fixing her up, back to beautiful Gael. Or dismiss your loyal member and recruit a new, less tainted by the harsh surroundings, hero.  Darkest Dungeon isn’t all evil though and does offer help too. After completing missions you’ll gain money, trinkets and upgrade material. The trinkets can be given to individual party members. Each member can hold 2 trinkets and some trinkets are classed based. They range in rarity and also effectiveness. Some will be great but others not so much. Sure, one may raise your characters HP by 10% but it’ll also reduce their speed by 2. But, aha! Find a hero with 0 speed already and suddenly that trinket doesn’t seem so bad. You can’t miss what you don’t have. The upgrade materials you earn can be used in town to upgrade the surrounding buildings. Upgrading the caravan will increase roster size or selection of heroes after each mission. Upgrade the blacksmith and he will allow you to buff your party members weapons for more damage, among other things. But establishments will only take certain upgrade material. And certain materials will be more available in certain dungeons. Thus, encouraging expeditions into the more unfamiliar dungeons.

Plague Doctor
One of my favourite classes. Blight the back 2 enemies and watch them wither away.

If this all sounds rather complex, it’s because it is. Darkest Dungeon isn’t an easy game. And there are lots of nuances to get used to and you will learn from mistakes you make.  I am playing the PS4 version and although the team, Red Hook Studios have done an admirable job porting a complex game to console. It does suffer from confusing controls. Something I have got used to but because there is a lot to manage on screen, it requires a lot of different inputs. And that can take some time and errors along the way to ingrain into your memory.

Overall, I would recommend Darkest Dungeon. But I would also recommend looking it up on YouTube or other game sites and watching some combat gameplay. If you like the look of it, can handle stress and won’t fling your controller across the room at the sometimes seemingly biased RNG then you’re in for a rewarding, gorgeously pleasing game that’s chock full of great visuals, animations and sound design. Text doesn’t do justice to the transition when you or an enemy performs an action. And there is a narrator of your quest who is ever present in town and in combat.  Wayne June is his name. He does a fantastic job of setting the mood and boosting your confidence. When you critical hit an enemy into the ground and you hear the powerful “Crush. Them. All” be commanded, you can’t help but feel riled up, imposing and ready to conquer the Darkest Dungeon of them all.