Should I Buy? – Batman Arkham City DLC – INCLUDING Harley Quinn’s Revenge


This isn’t a review of the Game of the Year edition because I don’t own that, and truth be told I’m also missing the additional Challenge Pack from my purchases so I can’t in all honesty say I’m reviewing the content in the GOTY version.

If you want to see what I thought of the main game, that review’s here. This review is for the Catwoman, Robin, Nightwing, Skins and Harley Quinn’s Revenge packs.

A final note, the prices here are in Microsoft Points. If you want prices for PC or PSN, I’m sorry but you’ll have to track those down yourselves.

Catwoman Bundle Pack

This was launch content included for free with all new copies of the original game and costs 800MS points to buy. It adds the four “Catwoman Episodes” into the main game, as a separate option on the main menu and adds Catwoman as a playable character in the Challenge Mode.

Her episodes are quite short, the first one is just a small fight sandwiched by cutscenes, but flow pretty well as they were obviously designed in tandem with the main game to flow into each other.

Though the rest of her episodes are of a better length, they’re still fairly short and lack any of the big set pieces that Batman has. If you just zip through the story aspects of the episodes, they’ll pass by pretty damn fast and you may start to wonder just where your money’s worth is.

In my opinion, that’s in the post-game content. Just like how you can control Batman after the plot’s over, Catwoman’s fully controllable in the playable epilogue section as well as the aforementioned Challenge Mode and this is where you’ll really get to stretch your feline legs.

Cats plays as a much weaker but faster version of Bats with much fewer tools  to work with. She only has her whip for exploration and there’s only two more gadgets but this works. She’s not a super-rich badass detective, she’s a cat burglar and though she’s competent in a fight, she doesn’t have cash, know-how or need for any of Bats’ trinkets.

Her animations make good use of her lighter frame and sex appeal to give a real sense of character, even when she’s fighting. Learning quite how to handle Cats is a bit of a curve as you can’t tank as many hits as usual, but it’s just as fun as Bats.

Instead of a Grapnel like Bats, Cats whips to things and then climbs them. Though annoying at first, I got into quite a groove with it and ended up preferring it to Bats’ grapple. Though it trips me up every time that you can end up exposing yourself to the enemies you’re trying to ambush while you’re swinging across an area.

In Predator situations Cats does come with the added ability to cling to grated ceilings.  This helps to make up for her lack of tricks, and it, along with her “Thief’s Vision” (which doesn’t list the number of enemies or even flag the ones with guns a different colour) force you to think and act more carefully.

All in all the Catwoman Bundle Pack was worth it for me, but if you’re looking for a solid story expansion this probably isn’t the investment for you.

Robin Bundle Pack

Robin was, until Harley Quinn’s Revenge, a Challenge Mode only character. This Robin is Tim Drake, by the way, famed for his use of a staff in combat and currently Red Robin in comic continuity.

In this game we have a Robin wielding a retractable staff, and he makes full use of its properties in a fighting style that makes him rather unpredictable. He’s stronger than Cats and faster than Bats, and several of his Gadgets have interesting properties.

For example, his staff can throw out a frontal Bullet Shield that’s handy for tight spots, and he can instantly zip to an enemy in battle instead of pulling them towards him like Bats does.

In terms of difficulty for Predator Challenges he’s between Cats and Bats. He’s a bit fiddly to get used to, but his unique properties mean that if you want to mix things up, he’s a good candidate for it.

At just 560 MSPoints for him individually or 1200 Points for him, Nightwing and the bonus skins all together which’ll save you several hundred points.

Nightwing Bundle Pack

Now the only one of the four playable characters with no story mode, Nightwing is a lightning fast bruiser who really struggles in Predator challenges. Also, strangely, he doesn’t speak at all. Just kind of scowls. Which is really weird for Dick Grayson.

He makes Batman feel slow as a turtle and Catwoman as weak as a newborn kitten with his Escrima sticks (which are now also stun batons). I also really admire his fighting animations, which really drive home his acrobatic past. Actually, I’m calling it. The fight animations of Batman Arkham City are the finest in gaming history as far as I’m concerned. Every single attack the heroes have feel like a part of the character and what they’re about.

Nightwing is priced the same a Robin and part of the 1200MSPoint The Arkham Bundle as well.

Arkham City Skins Pack

This pack is really just something fun, it doesn’t affect gameplay at all. Batman gets about six different ones, Cats and Robin get two and Nightwing only gets the one. It costs 400MSPoints, so track down pictures of the costumes and if you want them, go buy it. There’s not really any more to say than it’s 400MSPoints alone or part of the 1200MSPoints  The Arkham Bundle.

Harley Quinn’s Revenge

Look at me! I’m topical! This DLC came out at midnight and I stayed up late playing it especially for m-er, you. It’s an additional short story campaign set after Arkham City‘s ending in which you get to take control of both Batman *and* Robin. that’s right, the Dynamic Duo are tackling this caper together.

Basically, Batman went missing investigating Harley Quinn’s base and Robin goes in when he doesn’t pop back for more Bat-mints. Like the Catwoman story, it’s split into four segments, two for the Dark Knight and two for the Boy Wonder.

The thing I noticed first was that the difficulty has been ramped up. Enemies seem to hit harder and faster and a lot more of them are armed now. This was a bit infuriating at first, but I managed to adapt.

Though I like that they introduce sections to explain how Robin’s gadgets can be used to interact with the environments like Bats’, but his sections are so short they never really get used more than once or twice. Robin’s sections feel more like a proof of concept demo at times.

But I’d still call them the highlights. Bats’ sections feel a little padded and less well thought out. Almost like it was meant to be an all-Robin story until someone upstairs pulled the plug on that idea.

There’s been some pretty obvious corners cut. Most of the places you could explore in Joker’s turf has now been forcibly closed off, to the extent that parts of the scenery have been destroyed. Still, there is a new warehouse area where most of the action takes place, including a Predator battle for Robin against Quinn and her goons that provides a fun challenge.

At 800MSPoints I had to put a tenner on my account to get it and I did finish it in one sitting of maybe an hour or two but I still enjoyed it. As to whether it’s worth it? Well…that depends on how much you like the game and whether or not you want more.

And really, that’s my verdict on all the DLC for this game. It’s enjoyable and if you want more out of the game, then this’ll probably see you right. In the end I can’t give it the giant gold stars the main game gets, but it’s by no means bad content.

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An article that politely redressed some of the anti-genre fiction sentiments in a much more eloquent and informed way than I could.

Entertainment

(Lev Grossman writes about books here on Wednesdays. Subscribe to his RSS feed.)

This post is by way of a reply to Arthur Krystal’s “Easy Writers,” a thoroughly thought-provoking piece about the relationship between genre fiction and literary fiction that ran in the New Yorker this week. I was happy to see the New Yorker weighing in on this, because I think it’s an important part of what’s going on in fiction right now. I think about it a lot. So naturally if anybody says anything about it anywhere, the world urgently requires my response.

[I want to be clear, by the way, that this is a response in the sense of a (probably one-sided) critical conversation. There’s been some umbrage in the genre world about this piece, but my feeling is, we’re all readers in good faith here, and this isn’t going to be one of those pieces…

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Surprise!



Yo hey, Elijah

I realise I have neglected my duties as ‘editor’ quite severely. I thought I’d give you something I hope will make you smile instead. You don’t mind a surprise hack-but-not-really-a-hack-because-I-have-the-blog-details-surprise-post, right?

Yeah. Trolololol ahahahahah hello!

Love, or something.

Lemons

Should I Buy? – Final Fantasy XIII


Oh dear. Final Fantasy XIII isn’t very good. Not that it’s a *bad* game by any measure, well OK by a fair few measures, but I don’t hate it and I kind of admire how it tries to do things differently. Some of them even work.

To give a quick over-view of the plot with a few spoilers, there’s this giant floating world called Cocoon in which people live. And then there are these weird angel-like things called fal’Cie that provide power, food etc. Outside of Cocoon is the mysterious “Pulse”, which has its own fal’Cie that want to destroy Cocoon. The player characters are made into l’Cie (super-powered slaves) of a Pulse fal’Cie and tasked to destroy Cocoon because…pancakes and along the way must question…oh, many things.

I don’t cherry pick the most prominent ones because the damn game can’t ever seem to decide. This is where most of my complaints come from. The game suffered from a pretty far-reaching array of internal problems. The English script was rewritten so often that the dialogue had to be re-written five times.

The narrative  holds most of the flaws. The dialogue has that slightly clunky feel that most Japanese games do, but it’s in the broad strokes. Characters will shift motivations on a dime, not address fundamental differences of opinion in the group, make senseless decisions, have strange outbursts that they never address again, the villains are poorly characterised and almost entirely absent, plot holes you could drive an airship through…It’s all kind of a mess. Not that I blame the English translators entirely, it’s clear there was only so much they could do with the original story.

To be fair, everything connected to Snow that doesn’t involve the words “hero” or “Serah” really does work, not just in the character himself but also in how others react to him. In fact if it wasn’t for him, I don’t think I’d be able to discern any character from Lightning other than “she seems like a bit of a bitch” and Hope would have literally no arc or reason being tagging along.

Let’s talk about the actual game itself. After all, we went decades where stories were an excuse to play a good game so let’s not pin a game down because it fails there.

The basic idea in combat is that your three characters can have one “paradigms” which basically amount to jobs like warrior, black mage, white mage etc.  active at a time, and you can set up different combinations of roles and switch between them on the fly to adjust to the flow of battle.

And that’s about it. You only control one character at a time, and even then it’s only this weird quasi-control. You have an Auto-Battle option that queues up the most useful actions based on your paradigm and the battle situation, and there’s few times you’ll want to choose a different set or do something different. Items are almost non-existent and the only other option is to Summon your Eidolon or use one of half a dozen or so Techniques, most of which aren’t that useful.

It works well enough. It’s not exciting, but once you gain the ability to set your own paradigms and switch between them on the fly there’s a kind of “yay I used tactics kind of” feel to proceedings.  Which is way too late in the game, but ah well.

Levelling up is done by earning points at the end of a battle and then using them to unlock a new Node in the Crystarium to get the next bonus, whether it’s stats or ability. You might be wondering how this is any different from the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X. Well, each character has their own version of the Crystarium that ensures they’ll perform differently in a paradigm somebody else has because they’ll learn different abilities.

For example, as a Ravager Hope is all about powerful spells because of his sky high magic stat, but Lightning mixes it up with special “-strike” abilities that rely partially on her strength to do damage cause she’s not so hot a spellcaster.

In an effort to prevent power levelling, only so much of the Crystarium is available to you at one time, the rest being locked off until the plot says so. For the first two thirds of the game, this keeps pace pretty well with the plot, so that you can max it out with just a little grinding.

But then the final third hits and all of a sudden there are huge bonuses real close together. Except they now cost thousands of points instead of hundreds for each of them. Dick move. Literally days of grinding are necessary to be able to progress beyond this section of the game.

Finally, weapons. You can, every once in a while buy a new one from a shop or find one in a chest. But there’s not really much point. The point is to upgrade your weapons with items you find to increase their stats but these stat increases are pretty minimal and the added bonuses some weapons have aren’t really worth it.

Not that finding materials is hard, oh no, after a certain point you can just buy them (which you can do easily because after the first few hours Phoenix Downs are the only items you’ll ever need) but this just makes it a hassle to buy new items and then go through the process of upgr-ahhh no pointless mechanic go away.

That’s…pretty much it. For a Final Fantasy game there’s really very little to it. It looks pretty enough, I guess, the character designs are fairly under control and the music’s decent if not anything especially memorable or beautiful.

I don’t hate it. I don’t regret having paid £10 for it. But I really don’t know if I’ll ever replay it. I know it sold well, but  I can’t really find anything from a narrative or mechanical standpoint to justify giving it more than a 6.5 out of 10.

Inoffensive, playable but also repetitive with head-scratchingly bad plot.

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