Let’s Chat: The Last of Us Part II Spoiler Talk!

It’s the return of Ashley Harrison and I for our discussion articles, newly renamed “Let’s Chat”! The release of The Last of Us Part II means a LOT to discuss, especially knowing how invested we both are in the first game. So, what are we waiting for?

William Robinson: Hi Ash! It’s been about two years since our last of these discussion articles, and we’re starting again with our full spoilers talk of The Last of Us Part II! It is fitting in a way, as our very first was back when the game was first unveiled at PSX 2016. To me, that seems both so long ago and yet also not long ago at all; before we really get into it, Ash, perhaps you could briefly describe your opinion of the prior game and how you went into Part II?

Ashley Harrison: Yo, how’s it’s going? Really has been a while, huh? It’s crazy to think our first of these articles was 3 and a half years ago now, after that reveal. The world really has gone crazy since then. Briefly describe my opinion of The Last of Us? Man, that’s hard, you know how much that game means to me. It’s no secret that The Last of Us is my favourite game of all time, and as a result means a lot to me. So much so I have Troy Baker signed copies of the game and its vinyl soundtrack. As a result, I was probably more on the hype train that probably most people were for Part II.

The reveal of The Last of Us Part II at PSX 2016

WR: Wow, that long, huh? Also shows just how much time went into the making of this game – that’s only the time since the reveal! For me, The Last of Us is a masterpiece of interactive storytelling, using the medium to create a game and story that questions you as you play it. As it is such an amazing game, I was both anxious and excited at the idea of them making another game in that world. Let’s get right into it then; having played through the game, your initial reaction now?

AH: Man.. I really wish I could give the answer I want to here. If we’re looking at it from a purely gameplay perspective, it’s absolutely incredible. It’s the culmination of over a decade of work from Naughty Dog with the style of game, starting with the release of the first Uncharted. It’s so fluid and smooth, taking the base of the original game and the addition of, in my opinion, much-needed mechanics such as being able to crawl and squeeze through gaps to breathe new life into the stealth part of the game, opening up the floor to way more ways of taking down enemies. However, from a purely story perspective, the game really just leaves me wanting more, and not in a good way. I’ll explain more as suitable, but the climax to the story especially really threw me off, as well as some serious scenes really not feeling anywhere near as important as they should.

WR: We’ll really go into the story, talking about each part, in a moment; firstly, I really do want to mention more on that gameplay. Similar to how you say, it really builds upon the prior game. Going prone additionally opens up more opportunities in exploration to find hidden are as and solve puzzles, and there are new items to craft that I found altered my approach to situations – the smoke bomb, for example. There is a real variety of situations you find yourself in, which encourages trying different approaches throughout the game. Speaking of which, the environment design in this game is utterly spectacular. The scope of the areas you play through is jaw-dropping, with such attention to detail and a sense this world was really lived-in. Was this impressive to you as you went through the game, or is your opinion on this slightly different?

This open area in Seattle is a great example of the environment design in the game

AH: Nah, I’m completely there with you man, the environmental design is incredible. The attention to detail for each “level” of the game is insane, and it really does help you to truly believe you’re traversing a real world. It keeps kicking up in quality somehow too, culminating in the sequence escaping from the Seraphite island. Seeing the island burning around you after seeing what it was, all as a result of human nature and their inability to keep a truce, is incredible. My only criticism of it, however, is that the environment, specifically the fungus growing into walls, does give away the kinds of enemies you’re going to come across at points, for example in the Hotel.

WR: That’s an intriguing point; there isn’t really ever a moment where they don’t signal that the next opposition is either Infected or not, is there? More experimentation with that would have been fascinating; for me, some of the most interesting combat segments were where you could play the Infected against the non-Infected tracking you down.

AH: The places where you can pit Infected against enemies tracking you down are so much fun to play, especially because it gives you a variety of options to play those specific sections. You can either go in all guns blazing, and try to take on both sets of enemies at the same time. Or, you can throw a brick or another item into the human enemies, and let the Infected take them out, then take out the Infected, which was my favourite way of playing. Finally, there’s also the option to pit the Infected and human enemies against each other, whilst you sneak by unnoticed. It’s clever design points like that that make me love the combat in the game, and it’s a massive improvement upon the first game’s combat which most of the time is gunplay-focused. I just really wish there were more points in the game where you could do it, because to me they feel too sparse.

You can disrupt the people hunting you down by drawing Infected into the fight

WR: We’ve mentioned about the gameplay, but now I reckon it is time to really tackle the story of this game in full spoiler mode. To be thorough, let’s go through the game section by section, as this is a game that at times feels split into distinct parts. We open with Joel telling Tommy about the way the first game ended, in a sorta cinematic recap; I thought this was a bit of an over-explanation, but I understand that it is for players who are playing this without having played the prior game (though, I mean, if you are, what?). Then, we have an extended prologue of sorts in and around the settlement at Jackson, where we play as both Ellie and new character Abby as a routine day goes very badly wrong. We start to be introduced to new characters, particularly ones that Ellie knows, and I also found that this opening segment re-introduced how to play in a smart fashion. The playing-from-different-viewpoints idea is one that is carried through the game, and from the start I appreciated it as a change of structure from the relatively linear first game.

AH: The game opening with Joel’s recount of the first game felt off to me also; who’s really going into this without having played the first game? Honestly, at the beginning of the game, I really wasn’t a fan of the idea of the split viewpoints, especially as Neil Druckmann had said this game was about revenge and had only spoken of Ellie being playable in any way. Though, saying that, he said the same thing about playing as Joel in the first game. I just wanted to play as Ellie and see how things are going for her, and why she was going on a journey of revenge. However, I really did come to enjoy playing as Abby throughout the second half of the game.

This game pivots around that moment, as it is the motivation, or perhaps even some kind of twisted justification, for the many acts of violence Ellie commits

William Robinson

WR: That is an element of the game I am confident we will be discussing a lot shortly; you play as Ellie for the majority of the, I’d say, roughly first half of the game? This opening is quite cryptic in terms of Joel and Tommy – and the game is quite enigmatic about Joel in particular throughout – but it seemed, at least to me, that there was signposts of Abby having a purpose at Jackson to do with Joel. Yet, it was still shocking when Abby – after Joel and Tommy help Abby out of a tight situation against Infected, no less – takes out Joel’s leg with a shotgun and proceeds to violently beat him. Then, when Ellie gets there, and Abby kills Joel with the golf club… it’s brutal. This game pivots around that moment, as it is the motivation, or even some type of twisted justification, for the many acts of violence Ellie commits as she subsequently goes after Abby. The scene is certainly intense and impactful, but does it fuel the game in that way for you? I found that there was more of a disconnect between the gameplay and story than there was in the prior game.

AH: The game definitely peaks intensity wise if you ask me at that moment, nothing else in the game really ever reaches the same point of emotion. It’s such a dark scene and happens so early into the game, which given the story makes sense I guess, that I would’ve been surprised if they’d have managed to keep up that level of intensity. I wouldn’t say there’s a disconnect at all between story and gameplay though personally, especially during Ellie’s segments.

Ellie and Tommy early in the game, not long after that brutal scene

WR: Perhaps that disconnect is more to do with how they end the game as well, when the moment of forgiveness happens relative to other events. Is that a negative for you then, if the rest of the game was never at that point of emotion? It was believable to me that Ellie would go after the person who killed Joel, same for Tommy; and Dina going with Ellie made sense for different reasons, as their relationship gradually evolved. Throughout, I found Dina really well-developed, and her dynamic with Ellie to be told in an intelligent way, all the way through to her leaving Ellie at the end.

AH: I wouldn’t say it’s a negative for me that it never reached that level of emotion again really, as it already had the build behind the whole first game to go with it that got you invested in Joel, and for it to happen so early into the game and be so brutal really added to the emotion. Am I slightly upset that the most emotive part of the game was an hour in when the whole game is 25 hours long? Yeah, I guess a bit that I am. Was I expecting that moment to be the most emotional during the game though? Absolutely. It’s absolutely believable Ellie would go after Abby for killing Joel for me, however I’m not quite sure about Tommy. Whilst obviously 5 years have passed since the events of the first game and anything could’ve happened in that time, we learned that Joel and Tommy had a very rocky relationship, with Joel in the first game saying to Ellie “I believe his [Tommy’s] last words to me were “I don’t ever wanna see your god damned face again.”” I’m speculating here obviously, but we don’t ever really learn much more than that about Joel and Tommy’s relationship through either game. As for Dina, you’re probably going to hate me for this, but I really couldn’t have cared less for her if I had tried. Personally it seemed to be that she’s only there so that Ellie could have a companion to travel with and carry on the feeling of the first game with Joel and Ellie. The game never really made me care for her, especially when her defining moment is revealing to Ellie she’s pregnant, which in itself is just such an overused trope.

WR: See, to me, Tommy is fascinating in this game. We know he is also after Abby, and probably slightly ahead of Ellie through much of the game. Yet we only briefly see him, in the confrontation at the theatre, when he visits the Farm, and in a really smart reveal as the sniper in a sequence late in the game when you are playing as Abby. He is, in a way, the most tragic character in the story, as he loses health and his marriage to his hunt for Abby after she murders his brother. I really disagree about Dina; she is a distinct character, one who won’t – and doesn’t – wait for Ellie if she won’t stop going after Abby.

Ellie and Dina in one of the several flashbacks

AH: I wouldn’t say Tommy is the most tragic story in the game, although he does definitely rank up there alongside Ellie. Both start the game with everything they want in life, however by the end they’ve both lost it all. If they’re going to release a side-story DLC ala Left Behind for Part II, I would love for it to focus on Tommy so that we can learn more about him.

WR: The stories of Ellie and Tommy in this game have many similarities; yes, either as DLC, or if they do a third game, playing as Tommy is an idea that could make for a powerful story. He has a certain charisma to him, yet has so many flaws. Interspersed through the 3 days in Seattle as Ellie are flashbacks – these sections, playing as Ellie with Joel accompanying you, have some delightful moments that light up the game. The museum one is brilliant; it has so many wonderful back-and-forths that take me back to their dynamic in the first game, as well as a very creepy and ominous conclusion. Thoughts on these?

The chemistry between Ellie and Joel is definitely the defining characteristic of the first game, so it was great to have them back together.

Ashley Harrison

AH: Man, those flashbacks. They got me so emotional watching them as I played. The chemistry between Ellie and Joel is definitely the defining characteristic of the first game, so it was great to have them back together. Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker have produced insane performances once again to really make you remember why you loved those two characters. I think the reason the museum flashback especially hits so hard is it’s the first time you see Joel after his brutal death, and he’s taking Ellie to see something she’s always wanted to in the Dinosaurs exhibit. It really brings home the fact that at the end of the day, Ellie is just a kid, and you’re seeing that childhood innocence come through after seeing everything she had to go through after losing Riley to the Infected.

WR: Relative to the first game, there isn’t actually much of Troy Baker in this game; he is fantastic in his performance, but he hasn’t got that many scenes compared to Ashley Johnson. For me, there was never a moment in this game when other characters had a dynamic on the level of Ellie and Joel, not that I necessarily expected there to be. You can tell how much Joel cares for Ellie in that museum scene, and it is wonderful just to hear them talk. Oh, and, erm… ELLIE SWIMS!

There are traces of the events of the first game

AH: Can we swear? Because if so, halle-fucking-luljah! When the Instagram advert popped up on my feed a couple of days before release, and the opening part of the video showed off Ellie swimming, I genuinely can’t describe just how happy that made me feel. The definite low point of the first game was having to fetch pallets for Ellie to cross bodies of water, so that fact I never had to even touch a single pallet for that reason in this game? So much of an improvement.

WR: It’s a very different moment in tone, but in that same flashback, when you see the “I killed for them” message on the wall… for me, possibly the creepiest moment of the game because of how out of place it is there at the museum. These indirect moments of referencing the cost of the actions of Joel at the end of the first game I found much more smart than when they showed Ellie confronting Joel about it in other flashbacks. I would have preferred it being kept more subtle, with the hints at the divide between Ellie and Joel and other consequences.

AH: See, we’ve already spoken quickly about this exact scene and I’m on the complete opposite side to this. It was the single biggest secret building up to this game, and because of that it basically had to come out at some point, rather than it just being alluded to in Ellie and Joel’s interactions with one another. Saying that though, I was so disappointed in that scene itself. I really felt like it should’ve a huge, pivotal moment for the game and Ellie and Joel’s relationship, as it is basically Joel dooming the whole of humanity because of his own selfish actions, but it just falls so flat in my opinion. It’s missing the emotion I feel like should be there, and instead it just feels like a throwaway conversation between the two. What really annoys me as well is the scene at the end of the game where Ellie tells Joel that she can never forgive him for taking away the opportunity for her life to have purpose is exactly the kind of moment I was wanting, but because it’s at the very end of the game it’s hard to care as much.

Joel sharing the full truth with Ellie of his actions at the Firefly hospital

WR: Isn’t that sort of the problem, though? After the first game, it was always going to be hard for that scene to live up to how you imagine it. The genius of that ending is in the way that it leaves it to your imagination, and so showing it in this game goes against that. That final flashback is beautifully told, and the idea of Ellie maybe starting to forgive Joel is heartbreaking knowing the events that come after that conversation. In a different way to the first game, it leaves it up to the imagination, but this time we know that that time was taken from them.

AH: See, for me, the ambiguity of the ending of the first game was always going to be ruined as soon as this one was announced, there was no way of getting around it in my opinion. If it had stayed as a single game, then yeah, I could imagine what happened afterwards. But again, it was too big of a secret to ignore in a sequel.

WR: I reckon there was other ways around it where you don’t have to directly show those scenes. However, I have to mention that Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker are amazing in this game. Though, and this may be a controversial opinion, Laura Bailey potentially steals the show as Abby. After Ellie has killed some of her friends, she confronts Ellie at the theatre and we are again put back in time; though this time, we are playing through events from the perspective of Abby, starting around the end of the first game. We play as Abby for a long time from this point, which is a bold move, but this dual perspective really gives a different viewpoint on the actions of Ellie and Joel.

Abby is a complex character who raises moral questions for the player

AH: Now, I know this is the point where a lot of people say the game starts going downhill, and honestly, I don’t understand it. To me, the game actually improves in quality when you’re having to play as Abby, as you’re running into Infected more and it starts to feel more like the first game from a gameplay standpoint. However, I guess I’m also biased because I love when games and films turn the perspective and make you see the story from the “villain’s” point of view, especially with this where there isn’t any character that’s either good or evil, they’re all shades of grey and have done some really shitty things to survive in the times they’re living in. Honestly, to me, Abby is the most morally grounded character in the whole game. We find out that Abby is the daughter of the surgeon Joel murdered in the hospital at the end of the first game (he’s also the only person you do have to kill in that moment, which I thought was a great touch) so she’s gone out for her revenge as I’d assume most people would in that situation. Once she’d got that, she was quite happy to just walk away from the situation until Ellie came back and started killing her friends one by one. The viewpoint switch really does go to show that Ellie really isn’t the innocent, perfect character people see her as.

WR: In my opinion, that flip of perspective is where a lot of the new ideas this game has come from. Revisiting areas that were previously hostile but, as Abby, are areas populated by people surviving, challenges how you consider the world this game presents to you. The game seems to make a point to make you play as Abby through these events after playing through them as Ellie, really hitting you with the inevitable consequences of the people you have affected. The relationship between Abby and Owen stood out to me; it has so many layers to it that make you invested, and yet the whole time you know that Ellie kills Owen. Abby also has different attributes and items which can affect how you play, which is a nice touch. The items she can craft are more directly damaging, for example.

AH: Again, when we had our quick conversation before properly doing this, I said that the whole time with Abby and Owen, there was obvious sexual tension, to the point where I was just like “can you two just hurry up and have sex already?”, not realising that’s actually where it ended up. Given that you only see their relationship and how it develops after you’ve already killed Owen as Ellie, I’m honestly so surprised at how invested in that love affair (in both senses of the phrase) I was. Abby’s exclusive items are so good, big shoutouts to the pipebomb and flamethrower weapons, definitely saved my ass on multiple occasions against the Shamblers, Clickers, and that absolute monstrosity in the Hospital Basement which I’m sure we’re going to talk about.

Infected remain a key threat throughout

WR: Okay, so, yeah. For me, they went overboard with the Infected design there; I get that there are references to the Infected underneath the Hospital being there since the Outbreak, and the design of that area is very eery. However, when we get to the boss-style Infected… it gets too arcade horror for me, with this Infected of multiple bodies. The way it quickly charges around that area just doesn’t click (no pun intended) with me, tonally feeling way off from other Infected encounters. I more envisage a slower, more imposing Infected being the result of such a long gestation period. However, I will say that the flamethrower was very useful there!

AH: I will agree it definitely seems odd that it’s so fast, as we know that as the infection progresses, the movement of the Infected slows down, with Shamblers and Bloaters being super strong but extremely slow moving as the last stages of infection. I’d disagree it gets too arcade horror though, I always saw it as a natural progression. We know that Infected can start to merge into the walls with the fungus growing, as we come across this multiple times during the game, so I don’t think it’s that hard to believe the idea of “There’s been Infected in a confined, untouched area for the last 25 years, could they possibly have merged together in some way?”

WR: It isn’t really the merging together, as that makes sense, it is more the overall presentation of that fight gameplay-wise and the design of the Rat King. At that point in the game, it felt as though I was supposed to be terrified, but it more just seemed a bit ridiculous. The Shamblers are better designs; an Infected that evolves to disperse spores in such a violent way fits the theme of it being natural and evolving over time. Overall, through the game did you prefer the Infected or non-Infected encounters?

At times, fights are viciously violent

AH: If we’re just looking at it from a straight up gameplay perspective, personally for me, the Infected fights are more enjoyable than those of the human enemies. However, the story behind the human enemy fights are a lot more engrossing than those of the Infected. I think here is where it loses the connection slightly to the first game, as the story for that was always about the fights against the Infected, and the fights versus the human enemies seems like a sub-plot. Contrastingly, for this game, the roles for that have been reversed and honestly? I’m not too sure I’m a fan.

WR: Is a possible reason for much of that is because of the war going on between two factions, the WLF and the Seraphites, throughout the game? I am not sure enough was done to make me invested in this battle; more time with characters such as Isaac (Jeffrey Wright) may have helped here to really show the motivations of the leadership on either side. Instead, it seemed more of a crossfire you are navigating through.

AH: I’m so surprised that we don’t ever really see the leaders of either side all that much within the game so that they can explain their motivations. Given it takes up over half of the story, I think I can count on one hand the number of interactions you have with Isaac, none of which are particularly that long, and I don’t think you ever run into the leader of the Seraphites, do you? I honestly can’t remember, and if you do, it shows just how little the game makes you care.

More time spent with Isaac in the game may have helped develop his character

WR: It even seemed to me that Isaac was being set up as a character who would be crucial to the story later on, but then he is killed quite abruptly; it is even as though they only had limited time with Jeffrey Wright? This war is really prominent in the life Abby leads, and yet for me a lot of the time playing as her I was more anticipating her interactions with Owen and Ellie.

AH: Oh for sure, especially wanting more of her interactions with Ellie, although I guess that that’s because you’re obviously emotionally connected to Ellie, and want to see more of her, as well as knowing how the story ends up so you’re left wanting to see how Abby and Ellie interact with one another once Ellie’s killing spree of Abby’s friends has gone down. You just knew that something big was going to happen between the two of them.

That section playing as Abby is extensive, and there is a risk of a lot of it being overshadowed by the knowledge that there is a confrontation with Ellie on the way

William Robinson

WR: It makes me wonder why they ordered the sections of the game the way they did; that section playing as Abby is extensive, and there is a risk of a lot of it being overshadowed by the knowledge that there is a confrontation with Ellie on the way. Perhaps it was almost meant to be exhaustive, to really force you to find more out about the life Abby leads to that point. I reckon maybe another flashback or two, similar to the aquarium one with Owen, may have helped the pacing here, as the combat is frequent.

AH: You see, I personally don’t actually mind that the extensive amounts of combat during the Abby sections you play, without much downtime. It really hammers home the fact that this is what they have to go through in order to just survive in this world. Abby and the WLF aren’t only stuck in a war with the Infected in their day-to-day lives, they’re stuck in another against the Seraphites as a result of a broken peace treaty. As well as the fact that it helps break up the monotony of the combat by not just having you face one type of enemy constantly, it actually makes me sort of feel sorry for Abby because she never really wanted to live this life, she was quite happy as a Firefly until Joel ended all of that in the first game.

As Abby, you meet Yara (Victoria Grace), a Seraphite caught in the middle of the war

WR: The aspect that really stands out is that after they murder Joel, they make a point to not kill others, and they show that again later on in the game. Ellie, though, goes through several of the people close to Abby, and that moral difference makes you question Ellie a lot. When you play through the sequence where Abby discovers first Alice, then Mel and Owen all murdered, it hit me in the core; it’s a powerful way to show the cycle of violence these people are in.

AH: Yeah, Abby is quite content on getting revenge on Joel alone for murdering her Dad, whereas Ellie is determined to take out every person that was at the scene when Joel was killed, despite the fact that it’s Abby alone who shoots him with the shotgun and then finishes the job with the golf club. The fact that Ellie is willing to go to whatever lengths it takes to avenge Joel’s killing (we finally know who the “I’m gonna find, and I’m gonna kill, every last one of them” line from the original trailer is about!) is the main thing that makes me say that Ellie isn’t at all a good person in this game. Abby spares her life on two separate occasions, whilst Ellie only does the same at the end of the game.

WR: Is it just me who finds that Ellie becomes more and more similar to Joel as this game goes on? That determination to hunt them down, and even the way she acts during combat, reminds me of Joel in the first game. So, when you reached the theatre, and you play as Abby against Ellie, were you on the side of Abby at that point of the game? It’s fascinating that Ellie becomes the opposition in the gameplay, yet which of the two were you backing throughout that?

Ellie confronting Nora, a friend of Abby

AH: She definitely does become more and more like Joel as the game progresses, that’s a very good observation. She definitely gets more and more selfish as time progresses, to the point where it causes her to lose everything, and everyone, around her. It’s her determination to hunt Abby down that causes her to lose Dina, probably the most important person to her besides Joel. With the theatre section, I can’t actually say that I was rooting for Abby, despite having just spent the last chunk of the game playing as her and seeing her side of the story. I think that’s the game’s intention though, to make you uncomfortable whilst fighting Ellie, because she’s obviously the person you’ve spent a game and a half getting to know and empathising with. The hatred still lingers for Abby for what she did to Joel from my point of view, what about you?

WR: Even though I question so many of her actions, there is such an emotional attachment to Ellie that she is still the one I side with. That fight is tough too, with Ellie being a formidable opponent – as you would expect. It is Abby who emerges with the advantage, and again leaves Ellie alive; at this point, I find it tragic that these two people are in this cycle of violence that is damaging their lives. If Ellie and Abby talked more, I reckon they may even discover similarities between them.

AH: I don’t think they could ever get along with each other for that exact reason personally, they’re far too alike to one another. Even their stories in this game match up perfectly – they both have lost the person that means the most to them, and all they care about is avenging that fact, no matter what lengths it is that they have to go to in order to achieve that.

Ellie in the theatre; this becomes the setting for a fight between her and Abby

WR: Is there any other points about the game to this point you would have us mention at this juncture? Otherwise, we shall go on to the first appearance of the Farm; at first I wondered if this was the end of the game, with Ellie and Dina settled outside Jackson after Dina has given birth to J.J.; there are some great quiet moments here, and seeing Ellie as a mother figure after all the events you have played through is emotional. Then, herding sheep, suddenly her trauma from the murder of Joel strikes her.

AH: If the game had have ended there, I think I would’ve been even more annoyed at the ending than I already am to be honest with you. It just seemed like such a dumb place to end it, however, like you said, it felt like that was going to be the end for whatever reason. You know what absolutely broke me in that section specifically? When you’re holding J.J. (I’m gonna assume it stands for Jesse Joel or something myself) and go outside and sit on the tractor, Ellie says to him that “she’s going to teach him how to play guitar.” To me, that was a perfect way to bring a whole full circle to that, and carries on Joel’s legacy. Joel taught Ellie how to play guitar, having promised her at the end of their journey, and now Ellie is promising at the end of her journey to teach J.J. how to do the same thing when he’s old enough.

To me, that was a perfect way to bring a whole full circle to that, and carries on Joel’s legacy.

Ashley Harrison

WR: That’s a great point; I also found being able to engrave initials on the tree a touching moment, especially when you revisit the Farm and see them again. The trauma Ellie feels about Joel is done well; it suddenly hitting her as she goes about her life is an apt representation of how an experience can impact you. When Tommy arrives with a lead on Abby, and Dina is trying to make Ellie stay, which side are you on?

AH: I’m automatically on Tommy’s side trying to get Ellie to go with him after Abby, purely because I feel like that’s the ending that the game justified; Ellie has gone this far, she can’t quit now. Had the game instead ended with Ellie staying at home with Dina, I would’ve been even more disappointed in the ending than I already am with the actual ending.

The hunt for Abby and a life with Dina become conflicting options for Ellie

WR: Okay, we’re nearly at the ending; Santa Barbara is the setting for much of the final stages of the game, first playing as Abby, then as Ellie. Abby searching for a newly regrouping Firefly movement is a positive, forward-facing act, yet we never see these Fireflies. Instead, Abby is ambushed and captured, and suddenly Ellie hunting for Abby started to have the feeling of a rescue mission to me. Can I just say; this section of the game is STUNNING. That beach area when Ellie arrives? Wow.

AH: I think this is definitely the best looking section of the game by a mile, so I’m with you, it’s absolutely stunning. You know what though? I don’t actually think Abby ever got in contact with Fireflies; it was all just a set-up. My own (purely speculative, of course) theory is that that “Firefly Base” had long been taken over by the new enemies introduced for this final portion of the game, and the radio frequencies left on the table were hoaxes left by the enemies, except the one where she gets a reply, which is a direct link to them rather than Fireflies as Abby thought. Whilst we know from the Ellie section that the enemy base isn’t all that far from the safehouse, it’d explain how the enemies got there so quick to capture Abby; they were monitoring that base.

WR: That makes a lot of sense now you say it! Especially as they ambush them straight after, immediately as they leave the house. Fighting Infected in a more sunny, bright area was quite refreshing too. Those battles were dynamic, having a really different feel to other encounters in the past. I thought the non-Infected you face weren’t developed much though; for example, the two that are killed after Ellie is captured. Her using her immunity to her advantage there is a new idea too; though, that injury against the tree seemed really severe, and she stitches herself up without us seeing. I actually, despite the game being quite long, reckon more detail around this sequence would have helped.

Workbenches allow you to upgrade your weapons, shown with detailed animations

AH: Yeah, I would’ve loved more development for them. Do we even know what they’re called, and what their motivation for hanging people on stakes is? I genuinely can’t remember that ever being mentioned in that final section. My favourite part about that level of the game though, I have to say, is the fact that you can release the Infected from their chains and temporarily have them join your side of the battle, taking out the non-Infected enemies. It’s a neat little battle mechanic that obviously we’ve mentioned you can see glimpses of earlier in the game, but this is the first time you can manually pit the Infected against non-Infected enemies.

WR: It’s slightly different to those earlier encounters – it makes me sorta wonder why there wasn’t more of it, as there is so much combat in the game. Wouldn’t the WLF and the Seraphites use Infected in their war? It seemed there is a whole operation going on in Santa Barbara that we find not much out about. Especially, again, compared to how much of the game is spent on the WLF and the Seraphites. This final part was quite tough, but to me wasn’t as suspense-building compared to the Firefly hospital in the first game, where you could really sense that you were at the finale. Here, you save the captured people, and – to me – the game quickly shifts into finale mode, with Ellie starting to struggle more.

AH: You honestly found it tough? To me, it was too easy, there was just too much stuff to hide behind so you could get a decent angle to either shoot the enemies, or sneak up on them to stealth kill them. Definitely wasn’t as suspense building as the Firefly Hospital in the first game either, I’ll agree with you there. At that point you know that the endgame was there, and it was a race against time to save Ellie before the operation started. The search to find Abby at the end of Part II doesn’t have anywhere near the sense of urgency in my opinion.

Going prone opens up new avenues in combat

WR: I played on Hard, how about you? Not to compete, just wondering, haha! Yeah, agreed, though with the setting and new opposition, I reckon it could have been; it was paced in a way that didn’t seem smooth to me. Okay, so here we are – the discovery of Abby tied up. Ellie cuts her down, and they move over to where the boats are. I know you have a strong opinion on the next part…

AH: I did just play on Normal difficulty using all the default sliders, though I really do wish I’d turned up the frequency of ammo drops because I think I found myself without ammo more times than I ever did in the first game. Man, oh man… This fucking ‘climax’ to the story. Genuinely this has brought down my score alone that I’d give the game. For anyone wondering, the climax of the game sees you fight Abby and attempt to drown her in the sea, and just as Abby is about to die Ellie suddenly sees Joel and decides to let Abby go free. I get why the game ends this way, Ellie is breaking the cycle of revenge that she knows would only lead to Lev coming to find Ellie and exact revenge on her. However, am I really supposed to believe that after everything Ellie has been through to get revenge on Abby, after travelling from Wyoming to Seattle (a journey Google says takes 16 hours in a car, a luxury obviously not enjoyed in the game), after murdering each of Abby’s friends one by one, that she would really let Abby leave alive at the last second, purely because she saw a vision of Joel that hasn’t bothered her in the journey up to this point? She’s killed numerous innocent people on the journey to find Abby, and yet she can’t finish the job. The game is too long and too much happens to Ellie during it that it makes it impossible to believe that Ellie would show mercy at this point, she’s too far gone mentally that letting Abby go just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

WR: There is two sides to it for me; the idea of that conversation with Joel inspiring Ellie to break the cycle is beautiful, especially with the connection to the finale of the first game. Yet, as you say, for it to happen in that way, after all the events of the game… it doesn’t quite work. Also, the 1-on-1 combat is clunky; there is a melee fight at the end of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End as well, so it seems to be a way the developer is going, and I am not much of a fan. That shot of Ellie isolated in the water, though, connects back to your point about her; she has lost so many people.

Abby taking away the time for Ellie to forgive Joel is heartbreaking

AH: And that point is rammed home even further upon returning to what was Ellie & Dina’s home after letting Abby go, only to find Dina and J.J. have left Ellie. This is, without a doubt, my favourite moment of the game and the fact it comes after the lowest point of the game for me is such a juxtaposition between the two moments. You realise in this moment just how much Ellie has lost. She’s lost her parents. She’s lost Riley. She’s lost Marlene. She’s lost Joel. And now she’s lost Dina. The ending of the journey has left her with less than she started with. If you think back to the first game, there’s a moment with Sam after the sniper point and Sam gets bitten, where Ellie and Sam are having a conversation, with the latter asking Ellie “How is it that you’re never scared? […] What are you scared of?” Ellie’s answer to that is “Being by myself. I’m scared of ending up alone.” And with everybody that she’s lost along the course of both games, that’s exactly what’s happened to her at this point. She had everything she wanted, and because she couldn’t let Joel go she’s ended up alone. It’s an absolutely beautiful piece of storytelling that reminds you that when The Last of Us is good, it’s absolutely incredible. It upsets me so much that people aren’t making the connection between that scene with Sam, and this moment at the end of Part II, because it’s such a vital piece of lore behind this ending. I’ve had to explain to so many people online the significance of Ellie ending up alone.

WR: I also got a vibe that she was heading back to Jackson, though, and perhaps she has seen how much she has lost and is going to try and build relationships again, with Dina, with Tommy, with others. That is really complex and intelligent character development. That final sequence at the Farm, with the flashback, is so emotional. Finding out right at the end of the game that Ellie was really going to try and forgive Joel, despite every event, and that opportunity was lost… that really hit me. It isn’t at the end of a game that builds to the moment as well as the first game built to an ending, that’s a key difference. For me, forgiveness is perhaps the key theme of this game, and the ability to allow yourself to be open to it.

It’s an absolutely beautiful piece of storytelling that reminds you that when The Last of Us is good, it’s absolutely incredible.

Ashley Harrison

AH: Revenge and forgiveness are undoubtedly the key themes of the game, but the most significant piece of forgiveness just happens too late for it to be believable, as I’ve already said. That final cutscene with Joel that you mentioned where you find out Ellie was willing to try to forgive Joel for taking away her purpose in life, it’s absolutely beautiful. I mentioned earlier how I felt like the big scenes lacked the emotion that I felt they deserved, especially the scene of Ellie finding out Joel lied to her, but this one doesn’t suffer from that in the slightest – this is the exact kind of scene I was hoping for more of. It genuinely broke me that despite the fact Joel took away what could have been her purpose in life, and she’s obviously angry at him for it and rightly so, she’s willing to try and forgive Joel because of everything they’ve been through together and the fact that at this point, she really doesn’t know any other life.

WR: It’s the type of scene I am after; it is a consequence of the first game, but builds on it with ideas that are dependent on that game instead of repeating to the audience the events that have happened. The problem is that it takes until the ending to get a scene at this level. The first game excels at weaving gameplay and cutscenes together into an absorbing narrative, whilst this game felt a bit more as though I was playing towards story points. In your opinion, where is Ellie heading towards? Back to Jackson? Off on her own? Perhaps another way? Also, would you prefer they leave the story as is now (with the possible exception of DLC), or keep going – potentially to form a trilogy?

The game opens in Jackson; perhaps Ellie is going back there?

AH: I’m fairly sure she’ll probably head back to Jackson and reunite with Tommy, rather than set out on her own. She knows she’s safe there and time can heal most wounds, so I don’t think Ellie would risk her own life to go off on her own. As for the story, I’d love to see a Left Behind style DLC that focuses on Tommy and develops his story more. It’d be a good way to bring Joel back, and could help fill in the 5 year gap between the ending of the first game and the beginning of this one. As far as whether to make it into a trilogy or not? I’m firmly in the ‘no’ camp for this one myself. The climax to this story has turned me so far off the idea of another game, it’s such a letdown.

WR: Yeah, as aforementioned, more on Tommy please! I would be concerned that they would have an even greater scope on another game, and it would have even more of a problem with under-developed ideas than this game does. If it was a really focused story on Ellie returning to Jackson and finding Tommy, as well as maybe seeing where Abby and Lev go (to try and find Fireflies? Unless they reckon that was part of the ambush), then perhaps. A lot of my anxiousness about this game losing restraint was founded, though – I would prefer if they had not made a second game.

AH: After playing it now, knowing everything I know, I’d have preferred it without a second game honestly too. The first was perfect with the story and how it leaves such an open ending for you to imagine yourself what happens after the game. As an aside, have we mentioned just how good the sound design is? Despite the fact Gustavo Santaolalla can’t read or write music in the traditional sense, he’s composed 3 incredible soundtracks for the series. My favourite moment sound wise from the whole game is in the hospital basement. As you start exploring, it starts with a simple, slow drum beat. As you progress though and get closer to the Rat King, more and more instruments are added and the tempo increases, really adding to the drama of that moment. It’s genuinely incredible, and had my heart racing even just walking around in the basement.

Environments are stunningly detailed

WR: It seems harsh to say it, perhaps, with all the work that went into this game – and as a piece of art it is undoubtedly technically phenomenal; the performances, the visual graphics, the gameplay systems. The soundtrack to this game is amazing, as is the sound design. The unique way Santaolalla creates music is astounding to me, and creates such a sense of atmosphere that is distinct to this game. Yet, story-wise, it feels unnecessary to me, and that is at the forefront of The Last of Us as a series.

AH: Absolutely. For such a story-focused pair of games, The Last of Us Part II gets everything else so right except the story.

WR: After finishing the game, how were your emotions? In addition, how compelled are you to play through the game multiple ways in comparison to the first? I felt I was thorough, yet I have many collectibles to find!

AH: The game is such a rollercoaster of emotions, when it’s good it’s great, but when it’s bad it’s awful, and that’s personally how I felt. There are definite low-points, but absolutely more high points. However, between the combination of game length and the fact that Ellie lets Abby go free at the end of the game, I’m really not likely to do anything more than a collectible runthrough to obtain the Platinum trophy as like you, I thought I was pretty thorough but apparently I missed so many! In comparison, I’ve genuinely done nearly 20 runs of the first game.

There are plenty of secrets to find in the world

WR: I am not sure whether I shall go for the Platinum; I often go for the Platinum on games I connect with on an exceptional level, and I don’t reckon this game is on the level of the first. Right, unless there are other elements you reckon we should mention, we’re gonna go onto our scores! We have discussed a lot about the game, but at the same time there is so much more we could talk about!

AH: I think we’ve covered everything now that I’d want to talk about! Any further discussion would just be repeating points, and I’m sure we’ve already done as such haha! How are we doing this? A score out of 10 I assume? If we’re going for that, then I think a fair review score would be a 7/10. Like I said there are such incredible moments in the game, but there are severe problems that I have that I don’t think I could justify anything more than a 7.

WR: See, this game is so tricky to score! It is stunning in many ways – as a production it is really impressive. Those key story flaws, and a lack of restraint in multiple areas, really affect the game for me, and led to moments where I was not on board with the direction the game was taking. It’s impressive, ambitious, so flawed – a 9 from me.

The game is ambitious in the emotions being portrayed

AH: A 9? Honestly that’s higher than I was expecting. With such critical flaws, I could never imagine giving the game that high of a score.

WR: It’s the level of detail in the world, and the improvements to parts of the gameplay, as well as how ambitious they have been with the story they have told. There is so much smart about the game, even with all the flaws. Would I have preferred no second game? Yes. However, if I am scoring this game, I have to consider just how impressive so much of it is.

It is a game I can imagine inspiring a lot of creators in years to come to try alternative methods with their video game narratives.

William Robinson

AH: See, I can’t give it extra points for ambitiousness in the story when it falls completely flat on its face at its most vital point for me. I appreciate what they’ve tried to do, but yeah… It’s definitely impressive in its scale and scope, and I fully commend everyone at Naughty Dog for what they’ve achieved, but for me the most important part of The Last of Us is its story, and Part II just doesn’t do it for me.

WR: There are those shining moments, at points in the flashbacks; at the end; in the structure of the game, that show me that those ideas are there. The flipped perspective with Abby is really clever and shows a nuance a lot of games do not have. It is a game I can imagine inspiring a lot of creators in years to come to try alternative methods with their video game narratives.

Is there going to be DLC, or a third game?

AH: I definitely hope that more creators take up the idea of a dual perspective; showing multiple viewpoints definitely helped my enjoyment of the game. It also helps provide more depth to the supposed villain if you get to see things from their side of the story. In this case, it definitely helped to humanise Abby, and see her as more than just a random person who murdered Joel.

WR: Yeah, so many games have underdeveloped opposing characters; perhaps now more people shall see that there are many ways to provide another perspective on the events of a game. Keep an eye on narrative styles in the years to come, and see if there are more experiments with alternative viewpoints on the events within games. It’s been a delight doing this again. Let me know when you get that Platinum, haha! Until next time!

AH: Until next time!

I hope you enjoyed the return of this series of article! These are going to be recurring from now on; let us know if there are any particular changes you suggest. Also, leave a comment about your thoughts on The Last of Us Part II; we could discuss more!

Let’s Chat: Why Microsoft Needs to Strike Big at E3 2018

– This article was originally posted on 21st May 2018 and is being updated and archived here. I am bringing over the back catalogue of Let’s Chat gradually, and finding that going back to these moments in time has a nostalgic appeal! –

The E3 2018 hype train continues to roll, and this week, Ashley Harrison and I are going to be discussing the presence of Microsoft at the show (we covered PlayStation last week). For them, it is an especially important event; troubles with a lack of quality first-party exclusives and a continued sales deficit to Sony’s PlayStation 4 means that they need to hit big. Microsoft are doing things a bit differently in 2018, moving their briefing to the Microsoft Center near E3. This location will also be used to host their hands-on game demos, and their usual E3 convention space will instead be used to push their streaming service Mixer. Yeah, I am baffled too.

William Robinson: So, Ash: Microsoft time. As we talked about last week, Sony have already come out and said that they will only be showing 4 first-party titles, so Microsoft could have a significant chance to be the big story of E3 in terms of surprises and reveals. Frankly, they need it. Phil Spencer has to come out and convince us that Microsoft is working hard to be distinct in software as well as hardware – the Xbox One X is the most powerful console, sure, but without an equivalent to Horizon Zero Dawn or God of War over on PS4, what is the point?

Ashley Harrison: If you figure that out, be sure to let me know. At the moment, my Xbox One S is just sat in its box in my cupboard, unopened in who-knows-how-long. As you said, the biggest criticism of Microsoft right now is the complete lack of console exclusives, both first- and third-party, so Microsoft need to ensure that is their main focus of E3 this year.

WR: It is interesting to think that they have been so focused on getting the hardware to be comparable – favourable, even, with the X and backwards compatibility – that the software has not seen the same attention. The Scalebound cancellation, big names like Halo not finding the mainstream success Xbox would like, and not much else coming soon. We know that Crackdown 3 has to release, like, one day, but even that was met with a lukewarm reaction at the E3 2017 reveal.

Crackdown 3 is still on the way, but is the excitement level the same?

AH: I am genuinely not sure what to expect with Microsoft to be honest with you. Focusing on building a PC-level console with backwards compatibility can not be a sustainable long-term plan, and at this rate, I would not be at all surprised if this was the last Microsoft console.

WR: Massively disagree there – I think Microsoft has been building up goodwill with gamer-friendly choices that Sony is not willing to make (such as backwards compatibility and cross-play) and setting themselves up for a win in the next generation. The losing publisher tends to do great in the generation after – look at PS3 to PS4, or Wii U to Switch. Having their backs to the wall makes publishers bring positive changes to the industry. However, like with Wii U and Switch, perhaps Microsoft is sacrificing a few years of exclusive space in order to have a great first year with the next system. I do expect to see some new exclusive announcements for the One this year, though – whether that means Halo, Gears of War, or something else.

AH: Nah, I am going to have to disagree with you there too. Fair enough, we saw it with Wii U and Switch, as you say, but I just do not see how Microsoft pull this one back; I do not see a new generation of consoles for another 3 years or so. If Xbox players are already getting disgruntled as it is, how much worse is it going to be, should Microsoft still not release as many exclusives as it needs to?

It seems Halo needs to reinvigorate itself as a series

WR: For those dedicated Xbox gamers, though, do you think a new Halo and Gears, as well as a yearly Forza, is enough to satisfy them?

AH: Honestly, no. Halo is obviously a big franchise, probably Microsoft’s biggest, but it is going to take a hell of a lot more than that to satisfy the very reasonable complaints about the lack of exclusives.

I would love a new Fable game personally, but I do not think that would come anywhere close to being the Super Mario Odyssey or God of War-level game that is needed

Ashley Harrison

WR: Even Halo is on the downturn, though – the series is nowhere near the popularity it had with, say, Halo 3, when it was one of the biggest things in gaming. 343’s efforts (they worked on Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians after Bungie did the original trilogy – Bungie are now the developers on Destiny, and have their own issues… ) have clearly not been as resonant. Microsoft is lacking that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or God of War game, to name but two examples. The game that is not just good, but essential, and necessitates having an Xbox. There were rumours of a new Fable game going into formative production, and that could be the type of expansive, rich game they need.

AH: I would love a new Fable game personally, but I do not think that would come anywhere close to being the Super Mario Odyssey or God of War-level game that’s needed. Let’s face it, Xbox gamers are not exactly known for being the biggest fans of RPGs, as much of a stereotype that is, so Fable isn’t the best idea in my opinion.

Could a return to Fable be on the way?

WR: Fable Legends, let us remember, was another first-party cancellation for Xbox One – a game that lent into multiplayer. Getting back to their E3 presentation itself, what do you make of their change of venue? Perhaps a hint at trying to make a new kind of impact?

AH: It is a pretty smart decision if you ask me, they have a whole building dedicated entirely to whatever games they are showing. Plus, they do not have to compete with the other companies on the show floor in the main building.

WR: How about that Mixer booth though, huh? Hype?

AH: It’s only worth it if they use it as a joke to play some really annoying song all week. Otherwise, it is a completely stupid idea I see no point in.

WR: I just hope there is not a “PLEASE TRY MIXER PLEASE” message over every trailer, like last year…

AH: You know it is going to happen.

In recent years the Forza series has been reliably successful for Microsoft

WR: Microsoft knows they have a first-party problem, but is it too soon to see anything from that? Those types of games take 3-5 years to develop nowadays, so the problem for them is whether they are realistically able to show anything yet.

AH: Nah, it is not too early at all. Microsoft will have surely anticipated the lack of games, and they must have have been working on stuff behind the scenes to change that. They can not genuinely just be sat doing nothing, can they?

WR: Do you think that started years ago, then? Enough time for them to have something new? The cancellations of the games mentioned earlier must have sprung them into action, I suppose…

AH: Without a doubt, it started years ago. I am looking through the Wikipedia page right now, and there are only a handful of games Microsoft have published themselves each year that the Xbox One has been on sale. And with only two games listed for release this year from Microsoft Studios (Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Crackdown 3) along with the cancellations of other games, I would hope Microsoft have been working on other games for this year.

One of the Microsoft exclusives in 2018 is the stunning Ori and the Will of the Wisps

WR: We have had Sea of Thieves and, now, State of Decay 2 so far this year, with Crackdown 3 and Forza hopefully inevitable. I would ideally like them to come out with some sort of more story-driven game; those games have stories, sure, but they do not tackle them with the sophistication of a God of War or The Last of Us. They feel distinctly throwaway, and to get people interested in buying an Xbox, you need something more meaty for solo players.

AH: Is a meaty, story driven game the thing that would sell on the Xbox though? I know the majority of my friends who have an Xbox buy it for the “big” multiplayer games, such as FIFA/Call of Duty, etc.

I would ideally like them to come out with some sort of more story-driven game

William Robinson

WR: Those big multiplayer games are everywhere, though. Think of what sets apart Nintendo and Sony – their more intimate, solo experiences. Switch? Zelda and Mario, which are about playing alone or with friends around you. PS4? I think of UnchartedHorizonGod of War – again, games that have little or no online focus. I think Halo can still be that, if they come out with a really strong and original approach. I have been tempted to get into the series before, and if I heard of an amazing Halo 6? Sure, I would be interested in getting an Xbox One X, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, and catching up in glorious 4K. Similar to how the hype for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End led to me catching up on that series via Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection.

AH: I just don’t see it, myself.

The stories of, for example, Gears of War 4 do not have the same reputation as some Sony exclusives

WR: What would you need to see to become more invested in your Xbox, then? Specifically, what do you need to see?

AH: To be honest with you, I am not quite sure. I just want something that blows me away and makes me go “holy sh*t, I need this game”.

WR: Perhaps if they somehow managed to get the rights to show, or even get exclusively, a massive third-party game such as the next Rocksteady project? Then again, if they did, they would have to message it better than Rise of the Tomb Raider. Microsoft has the money to make a deal like that, even if the game itself is a loss. If it drives people to the system, it is a necessary move.

AH: That would be insane if it did happen, but would definitely turn the tides and would sell Xbox consoles. And what bigger company to get an exclusive from than Rocksteady?

Rise of the Tomb Raider was a timed Microsoft exclusive

WR: Imagine the salty fans. People would lose it, but if it was a DEFINITE exclusive, they would buy the console.

AH: Of course they would buy the console. Imagine if Microsoft just threw a ton of money at Rockstar to get Grand Theft Auto VI, given Grand Theft Auto V is the best selling game of all time.

WR: I think both of those are probably too optimistic. Xbox also would be wise to go for the start of a series – with Tomb Raider, it was an anticipated sequel, and so immediately alienates those who played it on PlayStation. For Rocksteady, it could work, as they have finished the main Batman: Arkham trilogy. Another very interesting idea would be if they could get the Square Enix Avengers game exclusively. That is more realistic to me, and whilst it could be a big gamble for both parties (Square Enix, y’know, being the Tomb Raider publisher), it could pay off massively. Xbox got a taste of what this can do with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds; their was noticeable word of mouth that came from them getting the exclusively on console. Bloodborne is an example of a major third-party exclusive on PS4, and Xbox could do with an equivalent success.

Should Microsoft try to land an exclusive series such as Batman?

AH: Yeah, Grand Theft Auto VI is probably being too optimistic, but it gets across the idea of the caliber of exclusive Microsoft need. The Avengers game being a Microsoft exclusive could be a good gamble, especially if the game is actually half decent, given how big the superhero genre is right now.

WR: Especially Avengers. Master Chief becomes an Avenger? No, forget I said that. DON’T DO IT, MICROSOFT.

AH: Do it, Microsoft. It would be hilarious.

WR: Getting past the big game announcements, I would like to see the indie support continue too. Cuphead and the Ori series have been big wins for Microsoft.

AH: I think Microsoft definitely recognise that for sure, too. Whilst Ori and the Blind Forest was an Xbox exclusive, the fact that the second game is also an exclusive shows that Microsoft are down with Ori, in my opinion.

For the systems it has been on, the emergence of Cuphead as a cult hit has been positive

WR: Yeah, Cuphead in particular worked out for them – there is a big fanbase around that game, and the long wait was rewarded. Microsoft is making smart decisions left, right, and centre, but it just needs that magic bullet: a killer first-party game that refuses to let you say no.

AH: Throw in three killer first party games rather than one if you ask me, and it’s a great start to recovering the Xbox as a major player in the console game.

I want 100% of the conference to be games and release dates

Ashley Harrison

WR: I would ask about hardware, but honestly, I think they are leading Sony on hardware. They have sorted the system out, and they just need to talk games, games, games. Agree?

AH: Oh, definitely. I do not want anything about hardware, or extra features (remember the reveal where it was all just “look, TV!”). That is not what Microsoft needs, it is games. I want 100% of the conference to be games and release dates.

Less cancelled games such as Fable Legends, yeah?

WR: I will always be most excited for Nintendo – who we will talk about next week – but this year I am honestly most interested by the Microsoft press conference. Sony seem to be taking a backseat after announcing all their reveals; Phil Spencer and Microsoft have to know they have a big chance to dominate the conversation this June. I would love to see them come out swinging, as a competitive game industry is a healthy one.

AH: To repeat the point we ended on last week, Sony are presenting Microsoft with an open goal by announcing their plans in advance, let’s just hope they do not do a Torres and completely miss.

WR: Ah, Chelsea reference! The problem is, however good they are, Nintendo are there to slide tackle them with PokémonSmash Bros. and Metroid to steal the spotlight. Man, I really would like another Mario Strikers game.

AH: Nintendo could genuinely have their E3 conference be a 90 minute long actual football match of Mario characters, and I would be like “best conference ever” if it ended with “Mario Strikers Switch, Coming Soon”.

More success stories such as Sea of Thieves, yeah?

WR: Let’s keep the rational predictions for next week, yeah? Before we sign off, I would like one thing from each of us: one reveal we would most like to see from Microsoft. I will start with something I mentioned earlier: a really story-heavy Halo game that entices me to delve into that world, and makes it feel unmissable (in contrast to Halo 5: Guardians, which came and went).

AH: Banjo-Threeie. Come on, Microsoft.

WR: I am rooting for you, Microsoft! Impress us!

AH: Until next week!

Next week shall be part 3 of the great Let’s Chat pre-E3 super-chat! We’ll be tackling Nintendo, so, as ever, that means unrealistic hopes and dreams. You can read previous Let’s Chat articles here!

Let’s Chat: PlayStation E3 2018 Hopes and Predictions!

– This article was originally posted on 14th May 2018 and is being updated and archived here. I am bringing over the back catalogue of Let’s Chat gradually, and finding that going back to these moments in time has a nostalgic appeal! –

With E3 coming up fast, and the hype train preparing to leave the station, it is about time we talked about what we might see at the Los Angeles event. For the next few Let’s Chats, Ashley Harrison and I are going to cover each of the main three platform holders: Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, as well as third-parties. As Sony announced their plans just last week, we may as well start there! Get ready for reasonable expectations and unreasonable hopes…

William Robinson: So, it is nearly E3 time, also known as the best time of the year! I always love staying up to watch the different presentations, whether they deliver the goods or not. It is about time we talk about what we think of the main contenders, starting with Sony. They are doing things a little differently this year; a post on the PlayStation Blog last week reads: “In a rare break from tradition, we wanted to give you an early glimpse at what to expect heading into the Showcase on 12th June.” It goes on to detail how Sony’s first-party showing will focus on just four games; Death StrandingGhosts of TsushimaMarvel’s Spider-Man, and The Last of Us Part II. This does not include third-party and independently-developed announcements, but still, it is an odd announcement to put out ahead of the show. Perhaps all those early E3 announcements for these games are costing them now, with nothing else to show?

Ashley Harrison: … Wait, Sony are legitimately only showing 4 games? I thought that was a joke on my Twitter that I had missed the context of. It is definitely odd that they are only showing 4 games at E3, but whether that is as a result of early announcements leaving them with nothing to show I do not know.

WR: I mean, if you are going to limit yourself to 4 games, these are not a bad bunch! It is interesting that it is likely only Spider-Man is a 2018 game, however. It means Sony is once again relying on third-parties for the holiday.

AH: Unless The Last of Us Part II is a surprise Holiday 2018 release, which I can honestly see at this point.

The soon-to-be-released Marvel’s Spider-Man has a lot of excitement around it

WR: I would like whatever you are on, because that is only happening in your dreams. If we only have 4 games to talk about, though, we may as well start there. We had our first Let’s Chat about the reveal of that game back at PSX 2016, and we barely know much more about the game now. My opinion is similar to then; I am sure it will be great, but I think the game itself is unnecessary and a sad result of successful games inevitably getting sequels. The Last of Us is such a complete, mesmerising piece of art, and adding to it is not an idea I like. Less can be more.

AH: I am just looking through that Let’s Chat, and I said I think it is a 2018 release even then, so I am going to stick with that. I am also sticking with my thoughts that I am 100% down with this game, but at the same time, I completely get where you are coming from. The Last of Us Part I, as I guess we now have to call it, ended pretty much perfectly, so a sequel might seem unnecessary to you but I am happy we are getting more.

The Last of Us Part I, as I guess we now have to call it, ended pretty much perfectly

Ashley Harrison

WR: As I say, I am confident it will be a fantastic, well-crafted game, and I may still love it – but they have a big task to make me think it is worth it. What do you think we will see shown by Naughty Dog?

AH: I am thinking at least 10 minutes of actual gameplay. So far, we have only seen a couple of in-game cutscenes from it, so I think we are going to get gameplay this time around. Also, confirmation that the woman we saw in the previous trailer was in fact Anna, Ellie’s mum.

Get your theories for The Last of Us Part II in now…

WR: Having a focus on the 4 games does hint towards substantial reveals for each. It could be a great change of pace to see a significant “vertical slice” of each game played on stage. What would you most like to see from what is shown of The Last of Us Part II?

AH: I want the first 30 minutes of gameplay, but at the same time, I want as little as possible, as I want to go into the game as blind as I can. I think there will definitely be some kind of on-stage gameplay demo though, maybe even bringing in Troy Baker (Joel), Ashley Johnson (Ellie), and Neil Druckmann?

WR: I think seeing at least one of those names come onto the stage is inevitable. We may get that for each game, even; it is almost certain we get Hideo Kojima coming out for Death Stranding, to sent the crowd into raptures.

AH: I am fairly confident we will get appearances from people involved in each of the four games. Sony have to fill their time somehow, right?

The reveal for Death Stranding was cryptic and surreal

WR: Unless they are just lying and have a Horizon Zero Dawn II tease up their sleeves, which would not surprise me. Of the other three games, which are speaking to you? Games like Ghosts of Tsushima have a chance to make a big impression one way or the other, depending on how they show.

AH: I am not going to lie to you, none of them do. Metal Gear has never been a series that struck with me (bar Peace Walker) so I am not holding out too much hope for Death Stranding. As for Ghosts of Tsushima, I honestly can not even remember what it is, so that is a big no for me. Spider-Man I am interested to see what they are going to do with it, but I am not desperate to see it.

To be fair, I think Ghost of Tsushima is a bit of a mystery to many

William Robinson

WR: The cynicism of Ashley Harrison strikes again! To be fair, I think Ghost of Tsushima is a bit of a mystery to many. It was announced during Paris Games Week 2017, and therefore lacked the E3-level news hit. However, the idea of the game is pretty awesome: Sucker-Punch, who made the superhero-style InFamous games, using their open-world skills in the setting of Feudal Japan. Samurais, Ash. Open-world Samurais! It could be really interesting historically.

AH: Sorry, but the appeal is still lost on me.

Not many details on Ghost of Tsushima have been divulged so far

WR: Why do you say that? The open-world factor does not impress me, but a setting other than the generic near-future shooter does.

AH: It is the Samurais in it, I have to be honest. It is something that is so commonly done in other media really badly that I have essentially all hope with anything related to Samurais. And, like I have before, open-world games are an instant no to me pretty much.

WR: I will give you that to a degree. Remember The Great Wall starring Matt Damon recently? Looked woeful. So, the bizarre Death Stranding trailers not doing it for you either?

AH: I watched that film. I can confirm it was as woeful as it looked. And, nah, the Death Stranding trailers are not doing anything for me either. Not as a game, anyway. I would be 100% into it if it were an actual movie, like Kojima seems so desperate to make his games be.

WR: Oh, no, you didn’t did you? I am so, so sorry. In the cinema? On Death Stranding, that is an interesting and valid point; there has been no public gameplay yet. The concept looks great, but this E3 simply has to be a gameplay blowout for it.

Where is Death Stranding going to take us?

AH: Luckily not in the cinema, no. At my neighbour’s house, as he had bought the DVD… We definitely need gameplay for Death Stranding for me to have any chance of changing my mind. This completely contradicts everything I have said relating to The Last of Us Part II, but I just can not get properly hyped for something until we have seen some kind of gameplay instead of just CGI trailers or in-game cutscenes.

WR: I think The Last of Us Part II is a special case, as that first game is such a landmark in the history of the industry. We do not need to see more, and we know vaguely what gameplay to expect. I mean, I have taken not wanting to see it to the extreme of not wanting the game at all! Death Stranding, despite Kojima’s track record, is something new, and something he needs to convince the likes of you and me on. Honestly, other than The Last of Us Part II, all these games do – and so do some that are not even listed. Days Gone not even at the presentation? That is worrying, right?

AH: Days Gone is not too far from release supposedly, right? The lack of any information on it at E3 (at least, as far as we know) is super worrying, aye. Makes me wonder if it is even ready for release or not, and I am going to go with the latter.

So, um, Days Gone, where you at?

WR: It got delayed into 2019 a few months ago. The common discussion is about whether it would suffer from proximity to The Last of Us, given the zombie themes (yes neither have “zombies”, but come on). Maybe The Last of Us Part II is a massive mic drop 2018 release, and Days Gone got pushed past it. Haha, no, no way that is feasible. Also, if they did do that, it would be rubbing Microsoft’s face in it even more exclusive-wise. Give them a break, yeah?

AH: What is that? Will even slightly entertaining the idea Part II is a 2018 release? Nah, I must be imagining things. Nah, no need to give Microsoft a break. Sony getting even more exclusives might finally make Microsoft pull their finger out on Xbox exclusives – something that has been lacking severely for a while now.

WR: I think Microsoft will, but it takes years for us to see that on our end. We will get to them next week, though. Do you honestly think Sony will just show these 4 games? Getting out ahead of it does suggest that they are trying to soften the disappointment. Surely, as I mentioned earlier, they will have a one more thing? It ia hard to imagine what it could be, though. Horizon Zero Dawn II is possibly the only shot at it, and that would still be teasing a game that is surely a 2020 game at earliest.

When might we hear news on a sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn?

AH: Nah, I think there will only be those 4 games. As you say, I think they have announced that it will be only those 4 to soften the disappointment and any feelings of “is that it?” from viewers. Although, at the same time, the “one more thing” is totally a Sony thing to do and I could see it happening, though what it would be I’m don’t even know.

Sony are definitely paying the price for revealing the games they have done too early

Ashley Harrison

WR: I think that the price for all of those super-hype E3 trailers that kickstarted the PS4’s success is that they are running out of reveals now. The gameplay reveals will be nice, but it does give Microsoft a very interesting opportunity to seize the moment. That is going to be something to watch closely this E3.

AH: Oh definitely. I mean, you only have to look at last year, where Ubisoft knocked it out of the park whilst all the other companies had relatively lacklustre conferences. Sony are definitely paying the price for revealing the games they have done too early. I mean, going back to The Last of Us Part II, we first saw that back in December 2016, and nearly a year and a half later we still do not know all that much about it.

Could we get a release date for The Last of Us Part II?

WR: I think for Sony it is worth it, as those early E3s contributed to the massive lead they have over Xbox now. Do you expect some discontent over their showing from fans, or can concrete gameplay reveals for The Last of Us Part IIDeath Stranding, and Ghosts of Tsushima distract everyone?

AH: I think it depends on how good the gameplay reveals are. They have to be top-tier reveals, otherwise I can definitely see people beginning to show discontent over the lack of upcoming first-party games.

WR: On the third-party and indie front, I am unsure whether that means we can expect those games in the Sony showing. Other than, say, Monster Hunter World, Sony have kept it focused to their own offerings in recent years. I could see a Destiny 2 expansion trailer showing up, and maybe Shadows Die Twice/Bloodborne 2/give this game a name please! Any predictions on your end?

AH: The only prediction I really have (assuming that Sony are not telling the truth about there only being 4 games) is more Spyro information. It is out about 3 months after E3, yet we have barely seen anything of it. And since the original Spyro trilogy was a Sony exclusive, I can see a showing at Sony‘s conference over anyone else.

We do know this: Spyro is back!

WR: However E3 goes, at least we know Spyro is coming. Happy days! Next week we will talk Xbox, and woah boy, they need to make a splash this year – especially if, like we were saying, Sony is presenting an open goal.

AH: Microsoft now know what Sony are going to bring, so like you said, they are being presented an open goal they need to score in. Until next week!

The great E3 hype talk continues with Microsoft next week. Until then, you can read previous Let’s Chat articles here! Have an awesome day!

Let’s Chat: A Long-Overdue Super Mario Odyssey Review

– This article was originally published on 30th April 2018; it is being updated and archived here as part of the newly-named Let’s Chat series –

It only took about 6 months, but I did it, everyone – after weeks of fellow Let’s Chat voice Ashley Harrison telling me to, I have finished the main story of Nintendo Switch title Super Mario Odyssey. So, now, it’s time for our first joint-review of the game, which will cover our thoughts on the game, how it compares to previous 3D Mario games, the DLC, and each of us giving the game a score. I hope you enjoy!


William Robinson: You thought the day would never come. But after roughly half a year, I finally got around to finishing Super Mario Odyssey (the story, at least)! I think I should take up speedrunning… Jokes aside, this Let’s Chat is going to be our first joint review, as we discuss and likely disagree on the game. To start with, then – where are you now in the game, and what were your thoughts as that awesome soundtrack played to the end credits?

Ashley Harrison: I’ve finished the game completely, with 999 Moons and every single costume unlocked, bar the new ones that they’ve added recently. Gonna go on to get those at some point, as well as trying to finally get this damn jump rope challenge Moon. When I’d gotten to the point you are now, my thoughts were that I had justified spending the £350 I spent on my Switch bundle, but felt that I wanted more because whilst there were a ton of moons to collect, I was shocked at just how few levels there were.

WR: Woah, you’ve managed to 100% it? I didn’t know that, that’s impressive. Yeah – the game is split up into Kingdoms, which are all large-ish open areas reminiscent of Super Mario 64 levels, with Moons hidden everywhere for different tasks. If you’re just blasting through the main story, though, each Kingdom is pretty brief. It took me around 10-15 hours to get to the final encounter with Bowser. Looking at the statistics afterwards, though, it’s almost unbelievable how many Moons are supposedly in each Kingdom!

AH: Yeah, it’s ridiculous how many Moons there are in each Kingdom. I just wish there were fewer Moons per Kingdom, and more Kingdoms to make up for the “loss” of Moons.

WR: I’m actually the opposite. I felt the Kingdoms felt too bite-size, and could’ve felt bigger and taken longer to get through. It all felt a little fast-paced for me. However, I was undeniably enjoying the game as I played. There is a certain magic to the design and feel of Odyssey that only 3D Mario games seem to have. The capture mechanic, where throwing companion Cappy at enemies lets Mario basically possess them, only helped that; I was surprised at just how many different forms Mario could take.

AH: It’s without a doubt my favourite Mario game of all time, and the capture mechanic is a major part of that. It’s something I wasn’t too sure on when it was first announced, but once I’d played Odyssey, I fell in love with it. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a T-Rex in a Mario game?

WR: Which were your favourite uses of the capture mechanic?

AH: I loved the T-Rex, obviously, and I thought the frog was pretty cool too. You?

WR: Come on, can it be anything but the Snow Kingdom and the Shiverians there? They’re a) incredibly adorable and b) so fun to roll around as. If the next Mario Kart doesn’t have a Shiverian track, something is amiss. Speaking of, the same question for Kingdoms; which were best designed or most surprising for you?

AH: Snow Kingdom is GOAT Kingdom, followed by the Seaside Kingdom for me. Most surprising isn’t even really a Kingdom, but more the final level of the game, just for how ridiculously hard it actually is.

3D Mario games always manage to make such incredibly challenging levels that, somehow, still don’t feel cheap

William Robinson

WR: You don’t mean the final story sequence, but the traditional Champion’s Road ending or however this game names it?

AH: Yeah, it’s called “Darker Side” in this game and it’s ridiculous.

WR: I still rate my 100% file of Super Mario Galaxy 2 as one of my finest gaming achievements, and I’m looking forward to getting to the final level of Odyssey too. 3D Mario games always manage to make such incredibly challenging final levels that, somehow, still don’t feel cheap. Back to the game, though; how did you rate the general platforming design? Did you feel that some of the focus there was lost to the amount of play as different forms of Mario?

AH: I genuinely feel that whilst they’re not as good as the Galaxy games, the levels in Odyssey are some of the best Nintendo has ever produced for a Mario game. Everything is tightly designed so there’s always something to do or find, and the capture mechanic only adds to that, rather than feeling like anything was lost because of it.

WR: I was very rarely challenged by the platforming; it had more of a puzzle feel, figuring out which powers were needed when. That’s certainly a great side of the game that encourages intuition, but I did miss some of the platforming focus that I would have liked alongside it.

AH: See, I didn’t find myself missing the pure platforming elements at all. I loved the puzzle focus to it, and I’d be more than happy to see it make a return in future games.

WR: Did you feel that they were trying to recapture that Super Mario 64/Sunshine feel, rather than the pure platforming of Galaxy and Super Mario 3D World? If so, is that the kind of 3D Mario you prefer?

AH: Oh, without a doubt, they were trying to make it more like 64/Sunshine than Galaxy or 3D World. I wouldn’t say I exactly prefer it that way, as I’d rank both Galaxy games above either 64 or Sunshine, but I preferred it for this game.

WR: For me, Odyssey sits around the level of 3D World (which is possibly the most underrated game ever, in my books). Both Galaxy games are clearly superior to me, due to their sheer creativity and platforming prowess; Odyssey, despite the varied gameplay brought through the capture mechanic, still feels very grounded, you know? The joy of movement I have come to expect from a 3D Mario is there, but not that same freedom the Galaxy pair give. Still, being -slightly not as good as Galaxy– still puts Odyssey ahead of most games.

AH: Fun fact: 3D World is the only main series Mario game I’ve not completed, because I just didn’t like it one bit. So to even compare Odyssey to 3D World is blasphemous in my opinion.

You never really got to see every Kingdom properly unless you looked for Moons afterwards, so I would’ve preferred if more Moons were needed to progress so that I was forced to explore each Kingdom.

Ashley Harrison

WR: Right, before we start fighting, let’s put the spotlight back on Odyssey. In terms of the main structure and story, did you like the pacing and challenge? The Moons required to progress didn’t really require much extra grinding; I found I tended to naturally have enough a lot of the time.

AH: I think there was only one time during the whole game where I didn’t have enough Moons to progress right away, and even then I was only 2 Moons off, so I definitely feel it could’ve done with a change in pacing. You never really got to see every Kingdom properly unless you looked for Moons afterwards, so I would’ve preferred if more Moons were needed to progress so that I was forced to explore each Kingdom.

WR: I agree with that. Seeing the amount of Moons I have left to collect is almost unbelievable – I don’t know how they all fit in those Kingdoms! It’s exciting, though, that I can now slow down and enjoy exploring what Odyssey has to offer without feeling pressure to get to Bowser and see the credits. It’s similar to the modern Tomb Raider games, where you can go back to areas after the story and experience them as a relatively relaxed open world game. Considering you have all the Moons, I’m guessing you feel a similar way.

AH: Yeah, I do. It’s cool to go back after you’ve beaten the Darker Side level and restored peace to the Mario Universe, and seeing all the different animals and people you meet along the way interacting with one another in every Kingdom. It made mopping up the Moons I’d missed an absolute joy.

WR: It’s funny you say that; this game gave me a real feeling of a Marvel-like Mario Universe, in how you see different locations with different characters, such as Pauline in New Donk City. Also with how, as mentioned earlier, Odyssey references older 3D Mario games – particularly the ending with Bowser, which gave me a vibe of Bowser just wanting to be friends with Mario and Peach (but going too far with, you know, trying to force Peach to marry him, which gets into some pretty dark ideas actually).

AH: Bowser kidnapping and forcing Peach to marry him is essentially the storyline to every Mario game though, so does he really just want to be friends?

WR: I mean, sure, but right at the end he just wanted to come along. Mario didn’t need to jump on him and leave him on the Moon, after Bowser and him have just connected over Peach-rejection. Either way, the appearance of Captain Toad helps this game a lot. He’s just minding his own business, with hordes of Coins, being the real hero of the Mario Universe.

AH: Captain Toad is the MVP of the game, though how he manages to get to some of the places he does in the levels I will never know.

WR: I’m glad I’m making you see the majesty of Captain Toad. Also, yeah… he can’t jump, yet somehow he got to the cave at the end of that Wiggler section in the Lost Kingdom. How? The stickers, outfits and Photo Mode also gave Odyssey a more modern feel, with the extras we have now come to expect from big name game releases. One particular joy? No real-money purchases in sight.

AH: Photo mode is legit one of my favourite things about the game. Can we make sure every game from now on has one? Please?

WR: I’d also like to get your thoughts on the presentation of the game in general – 3D Mario titles are often so magical from a visual and musical perspective. I really enjoy how each game has a distinct vibe now; Galaxy was very orchestral, then 3D World had an awesome jazz feel, and now Odyssey has a rock undertone.

AH: I think the whole presentation is great. The game itself looks incredible, and the soundtrack is way better than it has any right to be. I genuinely would go as far as saying Mario Odyssey is the best game on the Switch right now.

WR: I’m in the Zelda: Breath of the Wild camp on that front, but I’m not going to get too into that, as I think there is a split of people who think either Zelda or Mario is the best Switch game (and best game of 2017). It’s down to personal taste, I think, as both are incredible. I played the whole of Odyssey in handheld and the visuals were pretty great – on the small screen some rough edges were occasionally evident, but overall it was slick if not revolutionary; it doesn’t stand out as a massive step from 3D World on Wii U.

I think there is a split of people who think either Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey is the best Switch game of 2017

William Robinson

AH: I also played it in handheld mode, and I agree that whilst there were some rough edges in a couple of places, overall it was spectacular. It’s made me wish Nintendo would be willing to adopt technology like Sony and Microsoft do – imagine Odyssey in 4K!

WR: Did you try any other control or display options? On the 4K topic, I’m in no huge rush. The artistic direction of Nintendo is enough in these games, but I do have to admit, a Switch 4K Edition in a few years would be amazing.

AH: Not with Odyssey, no. With the way the game is designed, it felt like the kind of game made to be played in handheld mode rather than on a TV.

WR: Yeah, for sure – with Moons everywhere, you can literally just play a few minutes at a time and still have a sense of progression. So, how many hours did it take you to get where you are? Have you played the Luigi’s Balloon World DLC?

AH: Um, I think in total I’ve put in about 40 hours? That was just for the main story, and getting all the collectibles. I haven’t tried out the Balloon World DLC yet, though. As much as I love Luigi, sadly this concept doesn’t do anything for me.

WR: That DLC seems kinda light on substance, but I haven’t given it a proper shot yet?. Kingdom DLC in the future would be great, and make a lot of sense. It would allow the developers to get really creative; imagine Kingdoms based on other Mario games like SunshineGalaxy or even Kart, or maybe even other Nintendo properties! A Hyrule Castle Kingdom would potentially be incredible.

AH: I would absolutely love that. As I said earlier, my only real criticism of the game is that there aren’t enough Kingdoms, and at this point, I’d even pay for an expansion pass! Which completely goes against my point in our previous Let’s Chat about microtransactions and DLC and stuff, but Odyssey is genuinely just that good that I’d happily pay for more.

WR: Nintendo have so much goodwill in not exploiting players that I think they’re an exception. You think we see DLC announcements at E3?

AH: Hopefully! But at the same time I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t, to be honest with you.

WR: How so?

For me, Mario Odyssey is the quintessential Switch game.

Ashley Harrison

AH: I just think Nintendo will see Odyssey as a finished product now, and leave it to move onto the next Mario game.

WR: I can see that, but I can see them also realising how much money that massive Odyssey install base could produce. Remember that Super Mario Odyssey has sold over 10 million now! Either way, it’s a superb game on its own, like you say. Before we close out, I’d like a final thoughts from both of us and a score out of 999 Moons. Just to be awkward.

AH: For me, Mario Odyssey is the quintessential Switch game. It ties together the Mario charm everyone knows, with brand new ideas such as the capture mechanic. Whilst it might not be as good a pure platformer as the Galaxy games, it’s without a doubt a contender for the best Mario game of all time and more than worth picking up as a Switch owner. I give it 998/999 Moons; it needs more playable Luigi.

WR: My turn, then. Despite having played it a tinyyyyy bit later than everyone else did, I can see why Super Mario Odyssey was received in such a positive way. As a fan of the 3D Mario games, they are unmatched in that sense of pure platforming feel and creativity, with new ideas around every turn that could literally have entire games based around them. The return to a more hub-world feel has advantages and disadvantages – the rewarding exploration of 64 and Sunshine is back, but at the same time the game does sacrifice some of the tightly crafted focus that Galaxy and 3D Land/World had. As well as this, there is a very fast pace to the main throughline of Odyssey, and whilst there is plenty of opportunity to go back and revel in that exploration later, I can’t shake that that I felt hurried in that 10-15 hour story. I’m going to be playing this game for a while yet, and y’know, it has Captain Toad, so it has to be a good game, right? My score is 900/999 Moons.

AH: Missing out on nearly 100 Moons? What does it need to do for you to earn those?

WR: Hey, that’s -just- over 90%. That rushed pace and the smaller spotlight on levels that feel more exactly crafted for the purpose of platforming are just less to my tastes than previous 3D Mario games. It’s still a great score, just not the 998/999 you gave. Bear in mind, I wouldn’t give Breath of the Wild too much more (I guess that would be out of Korok Seeds?).

AH: Fair enough, that’s a reasonable explanation.

WR: Y’know, I’m glad that settled pretty peacefully. We welcome differing opinions here, unless you don’t like Spyro or Captain Toad.

AH: Indeed. I’ve actually been watching a Spyro: Year of the Dragon speedrun whilst we’ve been doing this; bring on September for the remaster!

WR: Can’t wait! We may have to do one of these joint-reviews for that as well. Until next week!

AH: Until then!

Finally, then, we got to review Super Mario Odyssey. The joint-review is a fun format, and perhaps one we will use again in the future for certain releases.

For more Let’s Chat, you can see other articles here!

Let’s Chat: Our Most Anticipated Games of 2018!

– This article was originally posted on 16th April 2018 and is being updated and archived here. I am bringing over the back catalogue of Let’s Chat gradually, and finding that going back to these moments in time has a nostalgic appeal! –

For this week of Let’s Chat, Ashley Harrison and I decided to stop and take in the upcoming gaming line-up of 2018 – because, well, it’s looking awesome. We’ve recently had release date confirmations for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, and more, so the rest of the year is taking shape; with E3 round the corner, the ramp-up of the hype train is beginning, too…

William Robinson: Right Ash, as it’s a bit of a quiet period in games right now, it’s an ideal time to look forward! We’ve recently started seeing the rest of 2018 take shape in terms of major game releases; Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy and Spider-Man on PS4 all release within 3 weeks of September, and Red Dead Redemption 2 awaits later in the year. How are you feeling about the rest of the year in general?

Ashley Harrison: I’m hyped as hell for the rest of the year. As you’ve pointed out, there’s 3 huge games releasing in September alone, and that’s just one platform. There’s tons of stuff from Nintendo and Microsoft releasing too, and E3 is just around the corner.

WR: Do you think we’re going to see a congested Autumn due to Red Dead? Even Call of Duty has moved out of the way to early October, which says a lot.

Time to revisit those Spyro classics!

AH: I’m really not sure we will see a “congested Autumn” as you put it, because let’s face it, not everyone will be buying every single game.

WR: Well, we might when the E3 announcements blow all our minds, but more on that in a bit. There’s already been so many big reveals, and ones especially catering to our tastes; I’m still processing the Spyro Reignited Trilogy being real, and, personally, I have new Tomb Raider and Captain Toad entries coming to satisfy me. Which games are you most anticipated for, and why?

AH: For me, my top 3 upcoming games for this year are (in no particular order) Spyro Reignited TrilogyThe World Ends With You: Final Remix, and an indie game I’ve followed since before it was even announced in the form of YIIK: A Postmodern RPG.

The World Ends With You: Final Remix is an opportunity for the game to find a new audience

WR: I know why I should be excited for the first one, as it’s my childhood coming back via a 3D platformer, but I know little about the others. Explain to me why they’re good, so that I can spend more money on games?

AH: Oh man, giving me the hard tasks huh? Well, The World Ends With You is a fantastic story-driven RPG based around the concept of a 3 week “Reapers Game” or you die. It has one of my favourite combat systems in gaming history, and I love the almost comic book art style to it. It’s one of those games that I ask people to just trust me and buy. YIIK is just a batsh*t insane RPG where nothing makes any sense but yet somehow does at the same time. I’ve seen it grow from literally a broken mess of a game (including me finding ways to break it in the most ridiculous ways due to being a beta tester) to what it is now in its final form.

It has one of my favourite combat systems in gaming history, and I love the almost comic book art style to it

Ashley Harrison

WR: Yeah, I’ve regularly heard you talking about it on Twitter. What’s the main info on it? We got a date for it?

AH: We have a date of either next month, or July, due to reasons beyond the developer’s control. I think that’s all I’m allowed to say on that topic haha. Releasing on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Vita, PC, and (I believe) Linux, so there’s literally no excuse to not play it!

I think Ashley would like us to play YIIK

WR: No excuse indeed. I may have to give it a go based on your ridiculous hype… Also, I missed The World Ends With You on DS, so I am very much looking forward to catching up on what seems to be a cult hit.

AH: A lot of people missed The World Ends With You the first time around, which is why I’m hoping that it sells well on Switch, and not because it might give us the possibility of a sequel. It’s one of those games that you want to do well because you want as many people as possible to experience it because it’s genuinely just that good, you get me?

WR: I certainly do get that, because we now know Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is coming to Switch in July. An amazing, adorable puzzle adventure game focused around the plucky Captain Toad, this one was trapped on the Wii U, and I’m so glad more people will get to play it. Hopefully that will lead to him popping up in Super Smash Bros. too… Oh, yeah, Super Smash Bros. got announced in that amazing recent Nintendo Direct, but y’know, that’s small news compared to Captain Toad right?

AH: Of course, Captain Toad is miles ahead of Super Smash Bros. It’s definitely a game I’ll be picking up. Not at launch, but definitely down the road.

There are new levels for Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker included!

WR: It’s launching in a busy period – July 13th is the same day that Project Octopath Traveler comes out, and it’s also only 3 days after the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy comes to Switch and Xbox One.

AH: Oh damn, Octopath Traveler is releasing that soon, too? There’s another game I’m hyped for this year, considering how much I loved the Bravely Default games on 3DS.

WR: Yeah, couldn’t they have spaced those out a week? Give them both a chance to shine, Nintendo. On the topic of Nintendo, though: we know a lot about what they’re releasing the next few months, but after E3? Not much concrete info, and that’s exciting. Which aces do you think they have up their sleeves for the event in June?

AH: Obviously not, which is a shame. I feel one or the other is going to end up as yet another hidden gem of the Switch, rather than getting the recognition that they’ll likely deserve. I think Animal Crossing this year is pretty much a definite, so that. And hopefully a new Mario Strikers game, I’ve wanted another for AGES.

The art style for Octopath Traveler is stunning

WR: Animal Crossing is going to do gangbusters on Switch. It fits the system so well, hits so many audiences, and will be played on train rides for years. I reckon we’ll see the first glimpses of Pokémon, too (the real question is if we see a 2018 date), and maybe a teaser for Metroid Prime 4. I see that as an Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End-style ending stinger, with Samus just running down a hallway with one line of dialogue, or something like that.

It’s likely going to be Pokémon as we know it, but optimised for Switch

William Robinson

AH: New Leaf dominated my 3DS play time journal and it wasn’t even close, so I’ve no doubt I’ll lose my life to another Animal Crossing game yet again – and I’m 100% down with that. Yeah, I think at this point I’d be more surprised if we didn’t see Pokemon than if we did. Given the rumours of that being a complete redesign of the series ala The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, I’m interested to see how it looks.

WR: Sorry to break your heart, but that’s not happening. It’s likely going to be Pokémon as we know it, but optimised for Switch and with a nice presentation upgrade, which I am all in for. What about Sony and Microsoft though? In terms of first-party, Sony has God of War reviewing amazingly well right now (it comes out in less than a week!), and then Detroit: Become Human as an exclusive as well as Spider-Man. Xbox has Sea of Thieves right now, and then State of Decay 2 and maybe Crackdown 3 (though that might never release at this rate). Thoughts on those two?

Are you excited to swing your way around as Spider-Man?

AH: I think they’ll be the guys that rely on E3 reveals to set out their plan for the rest of the year. One I’m sure we can both agree on is more The Last of Us Part II info.

WR: Yeah, though I’m not sure I’ll be happy about that, as we’ve discussed before. It’s happening, either way… So, which of the big three console makers has you most interested this year? I’ve gotta say it’s still Nintendo for me.

AH: If I had to pick one, I think Nintendo might just pluck it too, based solely on The World Ends With You: Final Remix being a 2018 release.

WR: I’m gonna go into (slightly) organised mode here and run through each month and see which games we’re most hot on (the list is via GameInformer). For April, I am intrigued by Nintendo Labo, but not on board yet. Anything stand out to you?

AH: I hate to be “that guy”, but nothing truly stands out for me this month. Only thing that slightly peaks my interest is South Park: The Fractured but Whole, but I’d get that on PS4 so I can have both games rather than just the second.

South Park: The Stick of Truth gets a sequel

WR: That’s fair, April is fairly quiet by gaming standards. Then we get to May, and oh my word the Switch ports come out in force. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive EditionLittle Nightmares, Dark Souls: Remastered… The latter two do pique my interest, I gotta say.

AH: Hyrule WarriorsLittle Nightmares, Runner3Detroit: Become Human, and SEGA Mega Drive Classics pique my interest there. Jesus, no way I’m gonna be able to afford that.

WR: Don’t even think about the money right now, it’ll only hurt more. I do like the rhythm platforming of the Runner series, so I agree there, and Detroit is more of a case where I shall wait and judge the reviews. We start seeing the E3 effect in June, with less big releases due to the attention new reveals are getting. Nethertheless, there is Mario Tennis Aces, but that isn’t really my jam.

AH: Yeah, I’ll definitely be waiting for reviews on Detroit, but I’m still keeping my eyes on it. June has Vampyr and a new release of Far Cry 3 for me. Though since I got the Gold Edition of Far Cry 5, I get 3 at the end of May.

Will the intriguing concept of Detroit: Become Human be pulled off effectively?

WR: Oh yeah, Vampyr! That’s from the Life is Strange developers DONTNOD, so I gotta give that a chance. OK, no gloating on Far Cry Ash. July we have already covered – Captain Toad and Project Octopath Traveler there. That month seems like a prime space for a game such as the upcoming Switch Yoshi title.

AH: Yeah. Yoshi at the end of the month alongside WarioWare Gold?

WR: Or maybe just give us a Switch WarioWareWarioWare Switched is a great name in my books (you can have that one Nintendo).

September is absolutely stacked, it’s actually crazy

Ashley Harrison

AH: Maybe in August, with a surprise E3 reveal? There’s nothing in August, so it’d be an even better time.

WR: September is the biggie. Spider-ManTomb RaiderSpyro, one week after the other. It’s going to be great.

AH: Don’t forget about Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age. September is absolutely stacked, it’s actually crazy.

Well, with Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age, there is another 100-ish hours!

WR: I hope Spider-Man delivers, as I’m not convinced on that one yet. It seems to take a lot from the Batman: Arkham games and contain a great deal of quicktime events – hopefully it can create an identity for itself.

AH: I’m just not a huge superhero guy, be it comics, films, or games to be honest with you, so it’s not a game I’m going to get.

WR: More time to play Spyro, at least! To finish off, we have October, which is just Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII and Red Dead Redemption 2 right now. It likely won’t look much different later in the year; no game wants to launch anywhere close to Red Dead. That is, if they would like to see some sort of financial return on their game… I haven’t actually played the first one, so hopefully they make an easy way to play it on PS4 (or Switch… ) between now and then.

AH: Even if they don’t, do yourself a favour and pick it up on PS3 or 360. It’s a genuinely incredible game.

WR: I might just have to. To conclude, you sticking to that three of SpyroThe World Ends With You and YIIK as your top three? For me, I’d say Captain ToadSpyro, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider (like you, in no particular order).

Lara Croft is back!

AH: Indeed I am. I think the only game that could change those is if The Last of Us Part II gets a 2018 release date at E3, which I feel there’s a greater chance of me becoming a pro footballer than there is of that happening.

WR: Yeah, that’s not happening. We’ll have to come back after E3 and see if anything has managed to join our lists. 2017 was an incredible year, but I think the latter half of 2018 is going to be pretty special too.

AH: The last third of 2018 seems like it has the potential to be the greatest time in gaming for a long, long time.

WR: That’s as good a note to end on as any! See you next week…

AH: Yep, in a bit!

Those are the games and potential announcements Ashley Harrison and I are looking forward to in 2018, but which are you most excited about? Red Dead Redemption 2Super Smash Bros. on Switch? You can let us know in the comments! Also, you can go here for more Let’s Chat. Have an amazing day!

Let’s Chat: Saying Farewell to Max, Chloe, & Life is Strange

– This article was originally posted on 2nd April 2018. It, and other articles, are being archived and updated here for continuity and collection, which is why parts of it may seem out of date. –

The episodic Life is Strange series recently wrapped up the story arc that covered the original game and prequel Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Bonus episode Farewell gave us a peek at a fateful day in the history of main characters Max Caulfield and Chloe Price, uncovering a new layer of their relationship whilst also giving them a final send-off (bringing back original voice actors Hannah Telle and Ashly Burch). Ash Harrison and I – both huge fans of Life is Strange – have now played the Farewell episode, so it is time to talk about our impressions!


William Robinson: I took my time – though it’s nothing compared to my still not playing Super Mario Odyssey – but I finished the Farewell episode that concludes the Max Caulfield/Chloe Price story in the Life is Strange universe. There’s no way we can do this without spoilers, so let’s get that warning out of the way… We’re both pretty massive Life is Strange fans here, so this felt like the end of a long journey. It’s amazing when I think back to the first time I played Episode 1 back in 2015…

Ashley Harrison: Has it really been that long? Jesus. It feels like Life is Strange has been around forever, but only just came out at the same time!

WR: I know the feeling. So, after the main game and the prequel Before the Storm, what did you make of the Farewell epilogue?

AH: Honestly, I’m still unsure. There were parts of it that I really enjoyed, but I didn’t click with the episode as much as I did with the others.

WR: The premise is pretty simple, really; we go back to a much younger Max and Chloe and play through a particularly fateful day; Max is telling her best friend that she is leaving Arcadia Bay for Seattle, which cruelly coincides with Chloe’s father passing away in an accident. There is a balance of them being two kids playing around and also dealing with deep issues, which is very much on style for Life is Strange. The main thing that hit me was how sorrowful the ending was – I thought they might end it on a higher note, but bittersweet is perhaps the nicest way to interpret it.

AH: I was ruined by the ending. I didn’t tell Chloe that Max was leaving until the end of the episode, so Chloe sort of found out her best friend is leaving (she already knew beforehand) and that her Dad has died in a car crash in the space of 30 seconds. I should’ve seen it coming, given that’s how Life is Strange does things, but at the same time I was so unprepared and felt like a massive d**k for doing that.

WR: I tried to tell Chloe in her bedroom, but Chloe distracts you and you can’t do it until the end anyway, so don’t worry too much. Poor Chloe, she deals with the Max thing so well, but then gets the news about her father… Knowing what else happens in her life after this makes it especially heartbreaking.

AH: She does? That’s a slight relief, at least, but doesn’t change how bad I feel. But yeah, Chloe really doesn’t have a great life at all, does she? Poor woman, always gets hit with more when she’s down.

WR: Do you think part of not clicking with it is that it’s been so long since we’ve seen those two together for a significant period, and then we’ve been dropped into this 1-2 hour episode?

AH: Possibly, but I also think there’s the fact that we knew where the whole path goes before we even start the episode, unlike with Before the Storm where, although we know how it turns out, we didn’t know anything substantial about Rachel beforehand.

WR: Also, whilst they’re the same characters, these aren’t the exact versions of the characters I love so much from the original game. I’d almost prefer this being a side story that we didn’t see during the timeline of the main game… I still enjoyed this a lot, but I felt it didn’t connect with me like other episodes have.

AH: I have to agree with you there, a side-story would’ve been a better choice than this prequel.

WR: What did you make of the actual gameplay? The whole treasure hunt quest.

AH: I guess it suits the younger characters better, having something as innocent as a treasure hunt be the main objective of the episode, but ehh… I’m not sure. It feels too light-hearted for the Life is Strange series.

WR: That’s sorta what I meant with them not being at the age we see them in the main game. I did really like some of the new things they did though, like the Choose Your Own Story that made me engage with a reading item in a way games don’t normally do. In addition, there were some profound moments, like Max saying we are scared of being hurt when we’re young, and scared of hurting others when we get older. Would have liked more of that.

There were some profound moments, such as Max saying we are scared of being hurt when we’re young, and scared of hurting others when we get older.

William Robinson

AH: Oh man, that comment. I genuinely don’t think I’ve resonated more with a comment during the game than I have that exact one, especially since I’m pretty much living that reality myself right now…

WR: That ability to resonate with our actual lives is a big part of the magic of Life is Strange. Despite flaws, are you satisfied with the Max and Chloe story being concluded like this?

AH: Not really, to be honest. Whilst I enjoyed playing as Max & Chloe for a final time, I feel like it was unnecessary after seeing how events unfold in Season 1 and Before the Storm.

WR: Oh, so it’s more that it felt unnecessary rather than being bad?

AH: Reflecting on it now whilst we’re talking, I feel so, yeah. There wasn’t really much story that needed telling, as everything was covered in Season 1 and Before the Storm.

WR: Maybe it’s better to view this as just another little glimpse at their history, then, rather than the final, ahem, farewell. To me, the ending of the original Life is Strange is still their final narrative moment and the proper way to think of the story being finished.

AH: Definitely. Even though it is technically the ending of the series in the game’s chronology, it’s the only one to me that feels like an actual ending.

WR: Kinda apt to think of the series in different time orders, anyhow. You could argue playing them backwards (FarewellBefore the StormLife is Strange) makes the most sense.

AH: It does, but at the same time, I think given the story basis of Season 1 in finding out about Rachel and Jefferson killing everyone, the only way to play them is the order in which they were actually released.

WR: With the tease of Jefferson at the end of Before the Storm, I actually think it would work, but in a different way. Speaking of, what’s your opinion on the general package of Before the Storm now it’s all out?

AH: I genuinely feel like I enjoyed Before the Storm more than I did Season 1, I have to admit! I don’t think there was a single bad episode out of all 3 of them. My only criticism is that it was a little bit too fast-paced, and would’ve benefited from a fourth episode.

WR: I think it was only the third episode that really suffered from that. It did seem to lose some of the drama at the end, which I think is because they split Rachel and Chloe up in that episode and lost their relationship, which is the best part of Before the Storm.

AH: Yeah, Chloe and Rachel’s relationship is undoubtedly the best part of Before the Storm. I dunno about you, but it felt more natural than Max and Chloe’s, even with the weird way it started.

Yeah, Chloe and Rachel’s relationship is undoubtedly the best part of Before the Storm.

Ashley Harrison

WR: I can see why you’d think that, but I think Max and Chloe are my favourite pairing. They have so much more history and layers to their relationship over the course of the first game. I’d say they’re the main two characters of the series, but I wouldn’t say that for Rachel. I think Before the Storm, including Farewell, is a really great package that adds a lot to the world of the game. This doesn’t feel like a case of an unnecessary prequel.

AH: It’s definitely a great sequel that does well to feel fresh whilst re-stepping old territory without feeling unnecessary, and is well worth playing if you haven’t already and were a fan of Season 1.

WR: Of course, we know this is only the end of the story of these characters, not the series. We recently got official word that news of a sequel to Life is Strange isn’t far away, and given that Before the Storm was announced last E3, I’d say another E3 reveal makes sense.

AH: Yeah, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to get news of Season 2 at E3. It just makes me wonder, with the Microsoft conference giving us Before the Storm last year, will it happen again with Season 2, or will the news come during the Sony conference this time?

WR: It was genuinely the only thing I was excited for at Microsoft last year. Between this and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Square Enix has my money this year.

AH: I think this is the only money I’m giving Square Enix this year, assuming Season 2 does begin before the turn of the year, of course.

WR: Do you have faith that a completely new setting and characters can work? It’s a tough ask when we have had such an attachment to the previous story. Telltale’s The Walking Dead had a big focus on new characters in Season 3, but ultimately I only really cared about Clementine from the previous seasons.

AH: I think that’s something DONTNOD need to tread very carefully with. As we’ve said before with The Last of Us being the story of Joel and Ellie, Life is Strange is the story of Max, Chloe, and Rachel to me. I’m willing to give Season 2 a shot, but I’m going into it a lot more cautiously than I did with Before the Storm.

WR: It’s so hard to do. Especially resisting the temptation to make references to the characters we know; in a way, the best way is just to do what they seem to be doing and almost completely disconnect from it.

AH: For sure. They’ve got to get as far away from the characters we know, whilst also keeping the Life is Strange feel. It’ll be interesting to see how they pull it off.

WR: DONTNOD having been working hard on it, you’d think. They’ve got that Vampyr game coming, but Deck Nine were the developers of Before the Storm. I get the feeling they’re taking the time to do this properly.

AH: Oh, without a doubt. Let’s be honest; Life is Strange made DONTNOD a mainstream developer, so I doubt they’d want to mess the series up now.

WR: Are you happy it’s actually getting a new season? We’ve had this conversation about The Last of Us (and likely will again in a couple of months); would you rather Life is Strange was left as is?

AH: Yeah, I’m happy it’s getting a new season, but like I said, I’m cautiously optimistic about it.

WR: Until then, I’m happy to be left with the story of Max and Chloe – for me, one of the very best in gaming. I’m sure we’ll be back to speculate about the next Life is Strange!

AH: Indeed we will. Now you can go play Super Mario Odyssey, dammit.

Look. One day, I’ll play Super Mario Odyssey. Then, we will have a long-overdue discussion about the game. Until then, you can go back through our previous Let’s Chat discussions here!

Images from the Life is Strange Official Website

Let’s Chat: Discussing the New Tomb Raider Movie

– This article was originally posted on 26th March 2018 and is being updated and archived here. I am bringing over the back catalogue of Let’s Chat gradually, and finding that going back to these moments in time has nostalgic appeal! –

Look, video game to movie adaptations have not had a great history. The Super Mario Bros. movie is infamous for putting Nintendo off the whole movie thing for a long time (they are now developing a new Mario movie), and other attempts like the recent Assassin’s Creed did not do much better.

Now, the Tomb Raider franchise is giving it another shot. The Angelina Jolie incarnation of Lara Croft has a fanbase, but now Alicia Vikander is taking up the mantle in a movie based off of the successful – and brilliant – 2013 reboot that has since been followed by a sequel (Rise of the Tomb Raider) and a trailer for a third game (Shadow of the Tomb Raider). This version of Lara Croft that Vikander portrays is not yet the fully formed Tomb Raider – she is learning and developing as she tries to discover what happened to her missing father. This week on Let’s Chat, Ashley Harrison and I discuss the new movie and the possibility of it being a good video game adaptation!

William Robinson: Another year, another video game movie attempt, eh? This year it is Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider franchise giving it another go, based on the brilliant 2013 reboot; and instead of Angelia Jolie as the star, we have Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina). My first question to you, Ash, is simple: has the video game movie curse finally been broken?

Ashley Harrison: I would not say that the curse has finally been broken in my opinion. Whilst Tomb Raider is an incredible film, and Vikander does a great job bringing Lara to life, I think it will take more than just one good film for me to have faith in any more game to movie projects.

WR: That’s a fair point. The genre feels young though, and like it is finally developing into something with credibility. Whilst not groundbreaking in terms of films as a medium, I think Tomb Raider was a solid action film that harnessed the spirit of the game.

AH: Definitely so. I think even without the Tomb Raider branding, it would have been a solid action film that I would have eventually gotten around to seeing.

WR: I am a pretty massive fan of the rebooted games, including the sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider and the upcoming Shadow of the Tomb Raider. So for me, it was elevated by the links to the source material – what is your history with Lara Croft, and how did you approach this film?

AH: Obviously I have played some of the games, as I think most people have done, but to be completely honest with you I have never actually completed one or played enough to give much of an opinion on them. As such, I approached it with a basic knowledge of what to expect from it, but went into it with a completely open mind pretty much.

WR: For me, Alicia Vikander managed to embody the determined and self-dependant, yet vulnerable, Lara we see in the origin-style new games. I mean, Alicia clearly brings her A-game as far as I am concerned; from her losing a boxing fight at the start to doing whatever it takes to survive on the island, she brings that character to life.

AH: Indeed. She got into the role perfectly and I can not imagine a better choice than her to have played Lara. The fact she put on 10lbs of muscle to play Lara shows to me that she is dedicated to the role for sure.

WR: The emotional heart of the film is her search for what happened to her father, which is what brings her to the island of Yamatai. Let’s have a quick review from you of the general story. Yes, I am putting you on the spot here!

AH: It is a story of redemption and friendship to me. I am not really sure how to elaborate more on that without giving away spoilers for the movie.

WR: I mean, I think now is a decent time to go into spoilers. Let loose, I say.


AH: Alright, well, if you are sure. As I said, to me it is a story of redemption, and we see this with both Lara and her Dad (Dominic West). Lara wants redemption and the truth after being told her Dad was dead, which is what causes her to go on the journey to find him in the first place. Lara’s Dad feels guilty for leaving Lara, and his redemption is sacrificing himself to save Lara and the world from the curse of Himoko. And of course, the friendship that builds between Lara and the Asian dude (Lu Ren, played by Daniel Wu) and becomes a major point in the movie with both helping the other when really they have no reason to.

WR: Great job, Ash. Her father being alive is a departure from the games that kinda threw me for a second, but it worked, and him sacrificing himself was a powerful moment. What did you think of the actual tomb raiding at the end, and the revelation of the magic actually being a disease of sorts?

I loved the actual tomb raiding at the end, it was a perfect combination of action and puzzle

Ashley Harrison

AH: I loved the actual tomb raiding at the end, it was a perfect combination of action and puzzle which worked really well together; more than I expected, actually. It was not so simple it was insulting, and actually felt believable as to being stressed under the pressure. The “magic” actually being a disease threw me, I am not going to lie. I did not expect it at all, but at the same time, it makes sense as to why she would have been buried so deep with so many traps as to prevent anyone using the disease for their own purpose, and to stop the disease spreading itself.

WR: I agree, it generally worked for me – I would maybe have liked more insight into how Lara is working out puzzles like the door to the tomb, but that could also be the kind of obtuse sequence that would have derailed this into a generically bad game movie. What I did love was a sequence where, just after finding her father alive, Lara takes her now-signature bow and ducks and dives through a manned camp, using cover to stay hidden. It felt like the game come to life, and it was AWESOME.

AH: The door to the tomb puzzle was explained superbly yet so unobvious. It was the same as the spy glass that Lara’s Dad gave her, so through a process of trial and error she learned to unlock the spyglass, and she just remembered that pattern naturally over time. For sure that scene especially was awesome! As you said, it felt like the game come to life and for me, that is all that matters. It felt like I was watching someone actually engaging in combat knowing they are at a severe disadvantage from the start, and using their brain to work around it rather than just going in all guns blazing and somehow miraculously surviving.

WR: Yeah, the film never went over the edge into completely ridiculous, game-y action. What were your favourite action scenes?

AH: It is between the camp scene we have just been discussing, and the escape from the tomb for me. What about you?

WR: The plane sequence might have been up there, but it was so heavily promoted that I knew it was coming. If you go back to the start of the film, I actually might say the London bike chase sequence where, if Lara evades the other riders, she wins a load of money; it shows her feisty but perhaps arrogant mindset whilst also being a thrilling – and unique – chase scene. It would make me wanna try that, but it is apparently illegal, so…

AH: It is only illegal if you get caught, sooo….

WR: We gotta be balanced, though – any negatives or things you were not so wild on?

AH: To be honest with you, no, not really. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole movie.

WR: Oh, wow. I think some of the middle act moved a bit quick and was quite straightforward, but that approach also works for the movie, I think. It lets the characters develop and take centre stage. Different question, then – disregarding box office (where it is doing okay, the movie should at least make the budget back), would you like a sequel, and what would you like to see if one happened?

AH: I would love to see a sequel, and I would definitely go watch it. As for what I would want to see, just give us more of everything. More tombs, more action, more puzzles, more guns. And of course, more Alicia Vikander.

WR: Do not pine over her too much there, Ash… haha!

AH: Shush haha! Even though people were not particularly too keen on it, I would also like more of Lara’s non-tomb raiding life in there. It would give the writers and directors more ways of fleshing out her character.

WR: I would like a little more of her relationships with the side characters, too. Developing her relationship with Ana Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas) is a big part of Rise of the Tomb Raider, so I can see that being a natural route for the sequel. Also, more Nick Frost, please.

AH: Oh, definitely more Nick Frost. And have Simon Pegg in there for good measure too, but never have them interact.

WR: Leaning into the snow-covered locations of Rise of the Tomb Raider would be awesome cinematically, too. Poor Vikander might have to suffer some cold, though… Let’s circle back to the start, then – this is a good game movie, but do you see it changing anything? Do you expect the upwards trend to continue, with films based on properties such as Uncharted supposedly in development?

AH: I think this could be the start of a good change in the genre, and Uncharted could do nothing but continue that. Hopefully this encourages more film makers to pitch game to movie projects and they become as frequent and high quality as superhero films are right now.

WR: That is a really good point. Films took their time to properly embrace the rich comic source material, and games have a similarly massive well to draw from. If audiences start liking what they see, we could have so many stories finding new opportunities. Imagine say, Life is Strange or other story-based games being used as a source!

Films took their time to properly embrace the rich comic source material, and games have a similarly massive well to draw from

William Robinson

AH: I am not really sure how a Life is Strange movie would work, but hell, I would be up for it. I think the best course of action would be to stick to mainly action games personally, but I would love to see every genre given at least one chance to shine.

WR: In the case of Life is Strange, I think a TV series would work best, but I digress. There are mixed reactions out there to the 2018 Tomb Raider film, but overall I think the reception is definitely a step forward. There is positivity out there which seemed massively lacking for the likes of Assassin’s Creed.

AH: Yeah, there is definitely more positivity towards this than Assassin’s Creed, and that can only be a good thing.

WR: Poor Michael Fassbender realises Alicia Vikander is his partner OK, actually, maybe he will be fine.

AH: Maybe he will. Or maybe he will be even more upset his wife made a better movie.

WR: Closing thoughts then: Give us an arbitrary score out of 10 for Tomb Raider, and will you be getting a Blu-ray? Or do you hate physical media and want us to lose any sense of justifiable media? HUH?

AH: I give it a solid 8/10. It is not the best movie in the world, but it is still a solid movie definitely worth watching, I will be getting the Blu-ray at some point, though just not when it releases.

WR: I will agree with that, 8/10 is a good score. Not groundbreaking in terms of the medium, but perhaps in terms of the genre and where game movies can go from here. Give me that steelbook, Warner Bros. ; oh, and that soundtrack vinyl, too. Junkie XL is such an awesome composer.

AH: You are not allowed anything until you have played Super Mario Odyssey.

WR: One of these weeks I will have played it. One week. See you next time!

That is right – the 2018 Tomb Raider film is great! Oh, you disagree? Well, you can let us know in the comments below. Also, you can go here for more Let’s Chat!

Let’s Chat: Are Games Too Long Now?

– This article was originally posted on 19th March 2018 and is being updated and archived here. Whilst situations have changed, I reckon a lot of the subject matter is still very relevant! –

A mix of work and a lack of a major theme in the gaming news recently has led Ashley Harrison and I to wonder: how are we ever going to play all the good games from last year, let alone the ones coming in 2018? It’s a topic that is coming up more and more as publishers release massive games boasting of their huge scope; is it really a good thing just to be a long game? The latest Let’s Chat delves into the subject!

William Robinson: So, Ash, in a week with no particularly standout theme, I think it’s a good chance to talk about just how long games are now. Is it just me, or are these impressive 100-hour experiences no longer the great sales pitch they used to be? Last year, with ZeldaHorizonPersona, and more, it was unrealistic for anyone to play everything.

Ashley Harrison: Length definitely isn’t a great selling point any longer. With the examples you just mentioned and more, it seems like the majority of “AAA” games recently are striving to build as big an open world as possible to expand playtime, but at the expense of the game’s overall quality and uniqueness.

There is a lot of content in Persona 5

WR: It also depends greatly on the situation, too – after finishing University, I had a window where playing 80 hours of Horizon was possible, but now I’m attempting to be an adult with a full-time job I struggle to see how I can keep up with EVERYTHING. What’s your situation? Do you think that it’s always been like this, and people just have their lives change?

AH: I’m not even in full time employment and I still find it hard to keep up with everything. It’s getting to a point now where if I see a game has open-world as a “selling point” it puts me off it completely. I just look at some of the games you mentioned – Zelda (I’ve beat one Divine Beast), Horizon (I’ve barely even gotten into the game), Persona I haven’t even bought. I don’t think it’s always been like this at all, I think it’s people who played a few open world games, and developers think people just want bigger and bigger open worlds nowadays, even though they’re 90% empty every single time.

WR: You’re right there, the rise in popularity of the open-world game has definitely changed things. This is why I’ve never really been an Assassin’s Creed guy; I feel there is little reason behind the things you’re collecting, and its just a waste of time. On the other hand, I find myself really enjoying shorter titles like Firewatch or Oxenfree, as I get a satisfying sense of completing something. I know I’ll probably never beat Persona 5, though.

A landscape view in Firewatch

AH: I’m with you entirely on that. Give me a linear, closed world any day of the week over an open world, at least that way everything I do relates to the storyline, and as such, means I’m closer to finishing the game every time. Whereas with open worlds, I just find they’re too big and too slow to get across, so I always end up getting sidetracked by something. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing all the time, but I do like to feel as though I’ve made progress towards the end of the game, rather than just do a load of stuff that is likely useless by the end of the game (should I ever see it).

WR: Is that a problem with the genre though, or the design? Horizon, for example, felt less of a chore for me; while massive, the game was achievable to complete or even 100%. Some games just go way too far – being impossible to complete isn’t appealing to me. Funnily enough, Spyro did it quite well scale-wise.

AH: I think for sure it’s a problem with the genre rather than design; there’s only so much you can fit into an open world without repeating anything, so the rest is mostly just barren space that looks exactly the same no matter where you are.

The world of Horizon Zero Dawn is varied and fascinating

WR: Or maybe one further, is it expectations? I think publishers are scared of being viewed as inferior in terms of scale, while more focused worlds – such as Yakuza, which Jim Sterling recently praised for a smaller but focused world – can actually be more interesting.

AH: Yeah, I guess it could be that developers are scared of being inferior. For me, Mario Odyssey hit the sweet spot for an open-world game, interestingly. The levels are big, but not bloated, and there’s always something happening somewhere in every world.

WR: A few games have done that – having a bunch of mini-open-worlds that stand separate from each other. Skyward Sword did it, and so did Dragon Age: Inquisition, and I think it makes those games more palatable. What are your favourite open-world games?

For me, Mario Odyssey hit the sweet spot for an open-world game, interestingly.

Ashley Harrison

AH: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is definitely up there for sure. I can’t really think of anything other than it that shouts “truly open world game I enjoyed enough to remember off the top of my head”.

WR: Would you say your taste in games has changed over time, and you look for different things now? I mean – what are you most anticipated games this year, too? There may be a theme.

AH: Yeah, I’d be lying if I said my tastes hadn’t changed, but I think that’s as a result of the games industry changing as well. As for what I’m most looking forward to, gimme a sec. [Pause as Ashley gathers his reply] Detective PikachuNi No Kuni 2Far Cry 5Hyrule Warriors Definitive EditionVampyrCaptain ToadOctopath TravellerLuigi’s Mansion, and The World Ends With You Final Remix.

WR: I mean, Ni No KuniOctopath and The World Ends With You are pretty extensive right?

AH: Ni No Kuni 2 and Far Cry 5 are for sure. However, not so much for Octopath (assuming it’s anything like the Bravely Default games) or The World Ends With You.

The World Ends With You -Final Redux- is an updated version of the original game

WR: Maybe we just have to accept that the way we play games will change. I find myself holding these big games back now for lengthy periods off; I’m not a big fan of playing a couple hours each night during a week. Maybe I’m getting old?

AH: Yeah, us getting old could definitely be a factor, haha. We’re losing the energy to dedicate hours upon hours into games.

WR: I joke, I joke. I still have a lot of excitement for games, especially with Captain ToadSpyro (hopefully) and Shadow of the Tomb Raider on the way. You know, actually, I think the issue is there is just so much good stuff nowadays, from TV to films to games. There is so much quality content to consume, and the sadness comes from the possibility of missing some of it.

AH: Too much to play/do/watch, too little time to do it in. I guess for me personally, too, the fact I work Thursday to Sunday, means that if I start a game on a Monday, and haven’t finished it by Wednesday, I’m less likely to return to it after my “work break”, unlike if I had say, the weekend off, where I guess it’s more acceptable to just sit back and relax doing whatever.

There is so much quality content to consume, and the sadness comes from the possibility of missing some of it.

William Robinson

WR: It does make portable gaming more appealing. The Switch has had such a positive effect on many gamers with less time to, well, game, and that’s another audience Nintendo has done a great job at tapping into. Alternatively, we’re just complaining too much and I should be spending this time playing Mario Odyssey.

AH: Yeah, you definitely should be playing Mario Odyssey rather than moaning about games with me.

WR: Hey, I feel attacked here. Why aren’t you playing, erm, one of a million great games?

AH: Because I already played a ton of I Am Setsuna on my Switch earlier. What’s your excuse for not playing Mario Odyssey yet?

WR: See, I like I Am Setsuna because it is achievable. That’s a solid 20-hour JRPG that I can finish and feel good about. Oh, and I have none. Captain Toad is in that game and I haven’t played it. What am I doing? What is the point of having a real job compared to that?

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is really enjoyable to pick up and play

AH: Anyway, we’ve digressed a lot, let’s forget about Mario for now. Yeah, from what I’ve played so far of I Am Setsuna, I can feel it’s going to be a fairly long game given it’s an RPG, but so far it’s had a linear world, so I do feel as though I’m actually progressing through the game at an acceptable rate.

WR: Look, you know digression is just the ways of things here! In all seriousness though, we should stop before we start getting too philosophical. Should we settle on celebrating how many great games there are, rather than them being too long? Or are you firmly sticking to open world games being flawed? I’m holding out for positivity here!

AH: You should know me, Will, I don’t do positivity, so I’m sticking firmly to the latter. The power of positivity isn’t flowing through my veins right now.

WR: Look, I tried. All in all, we came to the conclusion that… it’s different for everyone, based on their lives, I suppose. We have games to fill every need now – perhaps even too many. Maybe we can even play some before next week, eh?

AH: Definitely. And who knows, we might even finish one before then?

Ashley then proceeded to talk about pancakes, which led to my sadness at not having any. Ahem, back to the topic – we have such a plethora of media in the modern day that is can feel overpowering. Do you think it is too much sometimes? You can let us know in the comments!

Let’s Chat: So, That Nintendo Direct Was Pretty Great, Huh?

– This article was originally posted on 12th March 2018 and is being updated and archived here. I am bringing over the back catalogue of Let’s Chat gradually, and finding that going back to these moments in time has a nostalgic appeal! –

Fellow gamer Ashley Harrison and I experimented with a discussion format a while back, when we talked for way too long about The Last of Us Part II. Now, this format is coming back as a regular feature; starting here, the newly-named Let’s Chat will discuss a specific topic in each article. There was not much competition for the topic this time, as Nintendo blew us all away with a whole load of announcements in a Nintendo Direct last Thursday. Right, then – let’s get into it!

William Robinson: Hey Ash, how you doing? Recovering from the bombshells dropped by Nintendo? That Nintendo Direct last Thursday showed off the confident Nintendo we have at the moment, with a load of third-party support backing up massive announcements like Super Smash Bros., and, of course, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker! What was your initial reaction to the Direct?

Ashley Harrison: I think my initial reaction to the Direct was “I think Nintendo is finally going to be recognised as an actual console again!” because let’s face it, during both the Wii and Wii U days, the majority of “major” AAA developers skipped out on the console since it did not stand up to the rivals. However, with the ports of South Park: The Fractured But Whole and whatnot, I think it is finally going to change.

WR: I have gotta be honest, I think that realisation happened a while back. Nintendo has been riding the Switch wave for a while now, breaking sales records and releasing incredible games. We did see a bit more of the third-parties this time, but more on that in a bit; how about that Smash trailer, huh?

AH: Now, you are gonna hate me for this, but I honestly could not have cared less about it. I dislike Smash as a game, and I dislike its fanbase even more, so it did nothing for me personally. Although, I guess having the Smash logo show up in the Inkling’s eye was a pretty cool way to start.

WR: Hey, there is no problem with that opinion. Some games are not for everyone – though what if they put Spyro in? Also, that is how good the trailer was; even someone who is not a fan, like you, can see that it was awesome! What was your favourite reveal of the Direct, then?

AH: Nah, not even Spyro could save it for me, sans the ability to set everyone else on fire and win the game instantly. My favourite reveal was definitely Luigi’s Mansion on Nintendo 3DS! It is one of my favourite time killers, and knowing that the game was originally built with 3D functionality even back on the GameCube makes it cool that it is finally being realised on the 3DS.

That is one way to welcome a new participant

WR: Luigi’s Mansion? Wow, that is not what I expected. Do you not think it is an odd announcement though – not only that it is not on Switch, but that it is a game less feature-packed than the successor Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon? What are your general feelings on Nintendo continuing to make 3DS-only games like that and WarioWare Gold?

AH: Nope, I do not think it is an odd announcement at all. Let’s face it – Nintendo pretty much has 100% of the handheld market share; why not continue to produce games for the 3DS?

Let’s face it – Nintendo pretty much has 100% of the handheld market share

Ashley Harrison

WR: Because, well, people want their Switch games. The 3DS has to be near the end of its lifespan, right? You are seriously telling me you would not prefer Luigi’s Mansion on Switch?

AH: It is not that I would not prefer it on Switch, it is just I do not mind it is only coming to 3DS either. Not everything has to be put on Switch.

Luigi and the Mansion return! Say it with me: Maaaarrrrrrrio?!

WR: Right, we have gotta keep going, as there is a lot to cover here. Let’s talk ports – there are a lot of quality titles coming to Switch, but are you worried about how many are releases of old games?

AH: Nope, not at all. I have never understood people who are upset about re-releases, why not just enjoy the games you are getting? Just because you have already played something on another system, does not mean everyone has. It makes no sense to me.

WR: I agree with that, but the ratio of ports to new games was very lopsided in that Direct – I am not worried at the moment, but I hope we see some new games released alongside other consoles, which I think will happen with series like Call of Duty later this year.

AH: I am thinking the majority of new games are going to be saved for E3, this Direct just seemed like “here’s some old games that are coming to fill spots in our release schedule this year.

One of the series on the way to Switch is Dark Souls, adding to the library of games

WR: Yeah, and, “oh here is Smash Bros. too” However, the main focus of the Direct, at least according to Nintendo (they are trying) was Mario Tennis Aces. That do anything for you?

AH: Not really, I would be more interested in a new Mario Strikers game more than any other kind of sports spin-off. So yeah, Nintendo. Give us a new one of those.

WR: YES ASH. Those games were so good (and brutally tough) – I would love another one. Right, what else was there… Well, speaking of the ports, let’s run through a few. Crash BandicootSouth ParkUndertale… you think third-parties are committed to the Switch now?

AH: For sure I do, and I think the amount of third-party games shows that. Hopefully the releases keep up and don’t drop off!

It is great to see more and more games make their way to Switch – for example, Undertale

WR: Other than Luigi’s Mansion, what else stood out?

AH: Detective Pikachu! I have not got the slightest clue as to WHY I want it, all I know is that I NEED it!

WR: I like how you are that one guy excited about all the 3DS stuff. You are the one keeping it going, haha! Do not tell other fans, they will be after you…

Unlike in the Wii U days, there is really something for everyone

William Robinson

AH: This Direct just was not for me particularly, haha! Looking at the Switch announcements, I am not interested in Smash Bros. or Splatoon, and I already own the third-party games on my PlayStation 4, so I do not particularly want to double dip. Whereas on the 3DS side of things, it is stuff that either is not on a current generation console (Luigi’s Mansion) or just looks bats**t crazy (Detective Pikachu) and that is the kind of stuff that stands out and grabs my interest.

WR: It is nice to see that sort of different view though, and justifies Nintendo keeping their approach so scattershot at the moment. Unlike the Wii U days, there is really something for everyone – even just in that Direct. Would you agree with that view?

How did Detective Pikachu happen? All we know is that somehow it did

AH: That I would. And just to prove I am not trying to be some kind of weird hipster, I’m also super looking forward to Octopath Traveler. The Bravely Default games were among my favourites on the 3DS, so I am excited to see where this spiritual successor is going to go.

WR: The biggest shock was that name reveal. Who knew that Project Octopath Traveler would be called, wait for it, Octopath Traveler? In all seriousness, those hoping it would be called Final Fantasy XVI – there is a speculation line, and you crossed it. On a different topic, though: Nintendo has shown their hand with Smash, so do you think that is the focus for E3 (in the same style that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey have been for the previous two years)?

AH: I saw a thread on Twitter the other day, and each of the 4 playable character we have seen so far fit when you use OCTOPATH as an acrostic (?) O – Olberic C – ? T – Tressa O – ? P – Primrose A – Alfyn T – ? H – ? But yeah, I am fairly sure that Smash will be the focus of Nintendo’s E3 conference, especially with the game scheduled to release later on this year.

The art style of Octopath Traveler is stunning

WR: That is a cool theory that I actually can see being real. Yeah, and if they deck out their booth as a Nintendo Smash museum, that is gonna be awesome; in your mind, is E3 the next time Nintendo makes major announcements?

AH: It has to be if you ask me, but knowing Nintendo, I am sure we will hear of a new game before then with the usual “you’ll see more at E3” spiel.

WR: Makes sense. Before we go, I just want you to realise how much I have been restraining myself from making the whole conversation about Captain Toad. HE IS BACK, so who needs Smash Bros. (unless they put him in… )?

AH: I was wondering how long it would take for you to mention him, haha. I never played Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker on Wii U (it came out after I had lost all interest in the Wii U, to be honest) so it is definitely on my list of games to pick up on Switch – it just looks so much fun.

New Super Mario Odyssey-themed levels are being brought to Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker as well!

WR: Do it. That guy needs more recognition, doing all the hard work collecting power-ups for Mario. Such an ungrateful plumber.

AH: Let’s face it – he was the real star of Mario Odyssey and he deserves respect.

WR: I somehow still haven’t played Odyssey, so I am going to end this discussion and run away. See ya next time!

AH: You haven’t? God dammit, Will.

WR: Byeeeeee -disappears into the horizon-

Hopefully this format is working for you; if you have any suggestions on how we can improve this new series, you can let us know in the comments! Until then, you can also go here for the new archive page of Let’s Chat!

Let’s Chat: Spyro’s Coming Back & We’re Very Excited

Time for Week 2 of this new feature, where Ashley Harrison and I talk over the big topic of the week. We’re rather excited this time, as a new Kotaku story claims that we will be getting a Spyro Trilogy (the PS1 games) remake for PlayStation 4 this year. We explain more specifics in the conversation, so, well, let’s get into it!

William Robinson: It’s Week 2 and we’ve already got one of the best stories I can think to talk about – according to Laura Kate Dale, reliable leaker over at Kotaku, a Spyro PS1 Trilogy remake is coming this year, in the vein of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy! Those Spyro titles are some of my favourite childhood games, so I’m incredibly excited about this. Do you think we can believe this as a legit story, given the track record of both writer and publication?

Ashley Harrison: I think we can totally believe it as legit. It’s not like it’s a massive surprise to me, seeing how well Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy sold – it was only a matter of time before Activision commissioned the Spyro remaster, in my opinion.

WR: Yeah, I thought it would happen – I mean, they’re better games, so it makes sense – but I didn’t think it’d be this quick. Apparently we’ll have an announcement next month and a Q3 launch, which is a snappy turnaround. Are you thinking September, the 20th Anniversary of Spyro, is likely as a release month?

AH: I’m expecting it to be a September release, yeah. Going by Wikipedia, there isn’t a single game release slated to happen (yet) in September, so it’d be a perfect month to release it if it stays like that. I’m going to have to disagree with the Spyro games being better than the Crash games though, sorry.

WR: That’s fighting talk. I don’t see any dragons riding skateboards in Crash Bandicoot, so your argument is dismissed. For me, Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer (the subtitle was Ripto’s Rage in North America) is the best, with Spyro: Year of the Dragon (the third entry) close behind. The first game, Spyro the Dragon, is naturally a bit rougher around the edges; hopefully, we get some updates and refinements, like Crash did.

AH: Yeah, but we have rideable tigers and polar bears in the Crash series, so… I’m torn constantly between Spyro 2 and Year of the Dragon being my favourite Spyro game; you could ask me every day of the week and I’d give you a different answer each time. Spyro the Dragon definitely needs some improvements in the vein of the Crash remaster. The lack of simple things from the later 2 games in the original trilogy such as hovering need to be implemented if you ask me.

WR: Mainly, I’m just happy with those games being available on my PS4 with a new lick of paint, and, of course, those sweet, sweet Trophies. Are there any parts you’re particularly looking forward to playing again?

AH: For me, it’ll be seeing Glimmer in HD for the first time. Spyro 2 was the first game I played from the original trilogy, so Glimmer holds a special place in my heart. Other than that, Breeze Harbour is a personal favourite level of mine, so it’ll be great to see that again. What about you?

WR: There’s so many classic levels and hub worlds. I like how there were secrets in said hub worlds, an element of 3D platformers that seems to have been forgotten in the years since. Beyond that it’s seeing all those awesome characters again (see: Sgt. Byrd & Sheila the Kangaroo) and, of course, the skateboarding segments.

AH: Oh man, the skating is gonna be so hype. I spent WAY too much time trying to get as high a score as possible when I was younger, and I just know I’m gonna do the exact same for this. I hope they implement an online leaderboard or something for the minigames in all 3 games, so I can brag about just how much better I am at them than you.

WR: Woahhhh. I wasn’t called The Spyro Master for nothing as a kid (yes, that’s a true story, and yes, it’s incredibly dorky). But I did 100% those games, and I am very much looking forward to doing it again. On a tangent, have you played the Crash remake, and do you think they will they keep things like the Squid Skateboard cheat codes in a Spyro remake?

AH: I bought the Crash remake as soon as it was available to pre-order on Amazon, they’re 3 of my favourite games from my childhood so no way was I missing out on them. I do hope they keep all of the cheat codes in the games, not just squid skatebaording. Big Head mode + Pink Spyro was hilarious to me as a kid, so I hope I can do it again in the remake.

WR: Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here, but could these nostalgic remakes be leading to something more? Between these, Yooka-Laylee and the more 64/Sunshine-esque Super Mario Odyssey, the 3D platformer with a bespoke hub world may be coming back into fashion. At what point do we start getting new entries in these series? Do you expect a new Crash?

AH: I expect a new Crash game, given a recent report that mentioned a new one coming in 2019 as part of Activision’s 5 year plan for Crash. Whether I want it or not though is a different question. We’ve seen multiple developers make their own spin on Crash, but none of them lived up to the feel of the original trilogy. Whilst Vicarious Visions did a good job on the one part of N. Sane Trilogy they made themselves from scratch, I’m just not sure if it’d be possible to capture that Crash Bandicoot essence again. I don’t expect a new Spyro game at all though, sadly.

WR: You think this is more just a microcosm of people taking advantage of bringing back these beloved games, more than a change in terms of the genres we’re getting, then?

AH: Absolutely. It’s been proven time and time again in multiple industries, that if there’s one thing that sells, it’s nostalgia. And whilst that isn’t necessarily a bad thing in its own right, I just don’t see the 3D platformer making its way back into the mainstream, sadly.

WR: Hey, as long as it stops Spyro being turned into some horrific alternate reality version of himself in Skylanders, I’m fine with that. Any other series you can see getting this treatment? You may judge me, but honestly, Gex gets my vote.

AH: Jak and Daxter. Tell me you don’t want it.

WR: I’ve… never properly played them. *Hides*

AH: Dammit, Will. I believe that The Precursor Legacy has just been released on PS4 as a PS2 on PS4 Classic, so get on it. Anyway, going back to Spyro, if there’s one thing that I want them to keep in for this rumoured remake, it’s the glitches.

Spyro Image

AH: Vicarious Visions seemed fine to leave in some of the more well known Crash glitches, and add a certain… hilarity to them, shall we say? That makes me hopeful they’ll leave in some of the Spyro ones too. Being able to finish the whole of Spyro 2 only collecting one Talisman and beating all 3 bosses is super fun.

WR: I think I missed out on this stuff! My playthroughs tended to be pretty glitch-free, but this sounds like some interesting stuff – especially for those already familiar with the game, like myself. Glitches and, er, dodgy moments are part of the PS1 aesthetic, y’know?

AH: If you ever get the chance, watch a speedrun of the game [we’ve embedded one below -William], it’s so much fun. Insomniac left a ton of non-solid textures in the game, as well as the ability to “double-jump” by charging whilst at the top of a jump, which breaks the game so much.

WR: I may have to do that! Talking of aesthetics, I think the visual style of Spyro can translate really well. Even now, the bright colours and clean polygons have aged better than most games from that time, which only makes me more excited to be able to enjoy that world in HD. Honestly, there isn’t much gameplay wise they need to change for me – perhaps some camera refinement? What about you?

AH: I’m totally with you on the camera refinement there, it wasn’t the best whatsoever on PS1. I’d also like to see the first person aiming improved for this release, too. It was way too loose, so this is a great opportunity to fix that.

WR: I’m sure we could talk all day about the details of Spyro – and I’m sure we will in the future – but until we get more info it might be best to leave it there for now. Suffice to say, I’m incredibly excited – this is now my most anticipated game (at least until a Captain Toad Switch game gets announced). Any final thoughts on what you’d like from the return of Spyro?

AH: Bring on (supposedly) September!

WR: Well, Laura Kate Dale, you better not be playing us on this one, or we could look very silly. Either way, it’s good to dream. Until next week!

That’s the conversation for this week! If you have any feedback on the presentation of this new features, or even any topics you’d like us to cover, you can let us know in the comments. Alternatively, you can read the last Discussion, on Xbox Games Pass and the Netflix model.