The PlayStation Offerings - August, 2014: Graphics For Every Taste, Action For Every Pace
Every month, PlayStation Plus subscribers can download six select games for free through the service as part of what Sony calls its "Instant Game Collection." Almost all gaming websites report on the free games given monthly through PS+ - that’s good; the more people that know what’s headed their way, the better. We do, too, but with a twist.
I keep an ever-changing spreadsheet of the games currently offered through this service, and The Offerings is where I post my findings. This feature explores the games currently available and gives you an at-a-glance look at three things: The average rating of each game (via Metacritic), average time to complete each game (via HowLongToBeat's combined average times), and a breakdown of available Trophies by type (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum). This gives you quick access to see if a game is well-received, if the title is bite-sized or meaty enough to sink one's teeth into, and an idea of what Trophy gains are available (if that's your thing).
That's what you'll find in The Offerings in this - the first week of the month. For the next three weeks, I'll share my thoughts on two of the games offered by platform: PlayStation 3, Vita, and PlayStation 4. With that said, let's dig into August!
For a number of reasons, August is a peculiar month for what PlayStation is bringing to the Instant Game Collection table. First off, in the face of Electronic Arts' recent announcement of its EA Access subscription program for the Xbox One -- Sony says EA Access "doesn't represent a good value to the PlayStation gamer" -- PlayStation 3 gamers get Crysis 3. Second, while Sony advertises only two games per system, its Cross-Buy promotion is in full-effect for the titles that utilize it (FEZ - PS3/Vita/PS4, and Proteus - PS3/Vita). But oddly-and-third, "Cross-Buy" extends to those that don't; gamers are normally required to purchase Dragon's Crown separately on both PS3 and Vita, but this month, PS+ subscribers apparently get both versions. Fourth, just look at that line up: The action in each game offered is as diverse as each title's graphics. And last, there are two brand-spanking new games available for the first time ever: Road Not Taken on PlayStation 4, and Vita's Metrico.
God, I love PlayStation Plus.
Crysis 3 (PS3)
Crysis traces its more-than-humble beginnings back to the PC in 2007. It's known as being somewhat of a resource-intensive, graphical powerhouse. Melting personal computers was not the only thing on tap for the series, as the sequels (Crysis 2 and Crysis 3) released day-and-date alongside its PC brethren for PS3 and Xbox 360 (the original came to consoles later as a downloadable title).
I've only ever played Crysis 2 and, even then, only briefly. I couldn't tell you what the hell was going on in this near-future, semi-post-apocalyptic story -- something about a virus, maybe related to aliens, and possibly with some government involvement? Based on what I've read in reviews, it sounds like the story is the most lack-luster aspect of the series.
Regardless, in Crysis 2, you're a dude in a Nanosuit. Gamers can use this suit in a few different ways: Stealthily with cloaking, soldierly with greater armor, or strong-armedly with super strength. This allows you to attack the missions in any way you see fit, and this was something I enjoyed in the short amount of time I played the second game. That said, we get Crysis 3 this month, and I'm excited to see if this mechanic remains and how cool the oft-advertised futuristic crossbow/bow and arrow truly is.
Like I mentioned when discussing Dead Space 3 last month, I like to look at the player drop-off as the game progresses based on the percentage of Trophies obtained. For a game that's about 7 hours long, it seems Crysis 3 is all over the map: How do only 79% of gamers finish the first level? How do almost 30% skip the Tutorial? With percentages that low, it's no wonder only 38% of Nanosuitists completed the game.
Proteus is the best looking first-person exploration Atari game for last-gen consoles there ever was. It's a video game parable, and the ending left me feeling solemn and alone. The music in the game is about as minimal as can be, but if the game were a rockabilly song about life, it'd be Tiger Army's "In The Orchard." The Trophies are obtuse and will require multiple play throughs to obtain, which shouldn't be too taxing, as the "game" is short.
You start each play off the coast of an island. The islands are procedurally generated, but always contain the same basic elements: A walking trail that leads to a secluded shack, a cemetary, stone totems, woodlands, a day/night cycle, and a circular henge through which you can advance the seasons. Each season brings a different color pallet and a new environmental element - each is worth exploring throughout all the stages of the day.
I talk for a moment on Podcast #5 about how Proteus includes my favorite winter, and that's due in large part to the way the game looks -- I feel like I should bundle up! -- and how, well...I don't want to spoil anything, but the ending meant a lot to me.
Sony bills the game as one of the PlayStation 3 titles you can get this month, but thanks to Cross-Buy, it's also available on the Vita. The Vita version adds a couple of features not found elsewhere: You can alter the color pallet by rubbing the rear touchpad, or create a random island based on where you're located in the real world.
I can see why some won't like this title at all, it is absolutely not for everyone. If you make it through Proteus once, though, and have another hour to spare, play through it again. See if it hits a little harder.
Or not. That's fine too.
Dragon's Crown (Vita*)
In July, PlayStation Plus gamers were "treated" to Vanillaware's hand-drawn, side-scrolling hack-n-slasher, Muramasa Rebirth, for the Vita. This month brings us Vanillaware's hand-drawn, brawler-esque action-RPG, Dragon's Crown. Since the game's release, the Vita version and PS3 version have been sold as separates, but through the magic of Plus, Sony is treating gamers to both versions.
Despite Muramasa leaving a bland taste in my mouth, I'm still pretty excited to play Dragon's Crown. I feel like it's a deeper, richer experience in ways Rebirth wasn't, and that still intrigues me. The fact that Brent likes it more than Muramasa (as did most critics) also helps to keep my hype for the game alive.
Six different classes to choose from, new abilities to unlock, quests to go on by your lonesome or with up to four friends (thanks, Cross-Play!)... it could take a while to explore everything the game has to offer, which is why only about 9% of gamers who've played Dragon's Crown have the Platinum Trophy.
If you've listened to our Podcasts, or hell, even followed The Offerings long enough, you'll know that I like collecting data. I love how data can reveal a glimpse of people's quirks, and how you can extract weird facts about the world around you just by looking at the numbers. It seems that this is at the heart of the puzzle-platforming found in Metrico. It's almost as if this game was tailor-made for me and for people like me.
I've been waiting for this game for a long time, and could not have been happier when, last week, Sony announced the games that would be coming to the Instant Game Collection in August. Both this and Road Not Taken will see their debuts through the service and I cannot wait to take either for a spin.
As reviews trickle in for this title, it seems the game suffers from longer-than-expected load times, some gimmicky control schematics, and some polarizing opinions. And it's hard to say just yet what the Trophies hold in store for gamers; it appears that many aren't unlocked just yet. Either way, I'll be sharing my own thoughts in the coming weeks.
FEZ is one of the two PlayStation 4 titles given to gamers this month, but thanks again to Cross-Buy, both PS3 and Vita gamers can also bask in the loving light of its glow. Cross-Save with ease, too, while you're at it, because FEZ does it right. FEZ does it ALL right.
FEZ is a near-perfect idealization of what a puzzle-platformer can be. It has a charming world to explore that's layers-upon-layers deep, filled with clues and mystery and joy. To learn of FEZ's ways is like being a child all over again and learning how 2 + 2 = 4, but then immediately being able to extrapolate that 64 has 8 sets of 8, only in a way that is enjoyable to the senses. Like arithmetic though, I'd advise you have some paper and a pen(cil) at the ready, as you'll want to show your work to make sure your answers are correct. I'm not kidding.
To say more might be a disservice to you if you haven't played it yet. Now that's it free for all three platforms to PS+ subscribers, you have no reason not to. It's between 6 - 12 hours, depending on how deep you get sucked into its rabbit hole. And while there's no Platinum, you'll feel accomplished if you earn all 100% of these Trophies.
Road Not Taken (PS4)
If I'm honest, I've only ever heard the title of this game uttered, but never any details. This is an instance where I'm going to cheat a little bit and grab a quote from Road Not Taken's developer, Spry Fox's CEO, David Edery: "It’s a roguelike puzzle game about surviving life’s surprises. It’s original, it’s devilishly difficult, and it will keep you entertained for dozens of hours with procedurally generated levels that are infinitely replayable and 200 secrets to unlock and master." I did not get that from the trailer, so there you have it as well. Thank you, sweet sweet David.
Like Metrico, this title is debuting with the August PlayStation Plus update, so there's little to go off of as far as what exactly we're looking at for Trophy difficulty, or what kind of time commitment one would make to snag them all.
I update The PlayStation Offerings monthly as the new games roll out, or if any significant changes should occur. As outlined above, I'll be playing all of this month's offerings throughout the coming weeks and posting my thoughts on the PlayStation 3 games on Wednesday, August 13. Y'all should give both Crysis 3 and Proteus a spin yourselves and come back to share your feelings after checking out mine!
In the meantime, let's talk! Let me know in the comments if there's any information you'd like to see included in this feature.