FarCry 5 Review

The Far Cry series has really come a long way since the first game was released 14 years ago. What was once a pretty standard shooter has morphed into one of the best AAA open-world games on the market. Sayings like “Do you know what the definition of insanity is?”, M.I.A’s Paper Planes, and the classic villains of Far Cry 3 and 4 have carved themselves into the annals of gaming history. With the release of Far Cry 5 and it’s a pretty intense marketing campaign in the United States, gamers were left wondering what type of game this would be. Would the series take a big leap in a different direction or would we get refinements on an existing formula? After about 2 weeks with the game, we think we have some answers.

Far Cry 5 begins with you, a Hope County, Montana Sheriff’s deputy, on a helicopter heading to arrest a cult leader named Joseph Seed, aka The Father. You’re with a couple of other people including local and federal law enforcement and within minutes of landing, you can see where things are about to head. The compound is armed to the teeth and the sheriff is pleading with the U.S. Marshall to holster his weapon to not start a war with the followers of “The Father.” Events progress and things go horribly wrong, as you’d expect, and you’re left alone, running for your life. You’re saved by a local who offers you food and clothing and sets you on your path to take back Hope County from the piggies (the cultists) while also saving your coworkers from the deranged family lieutenants of The Father.

If you’ve been following social media in the days since Far Cry 5 came out, you probably noticed a trend. A lot of people are upset with the story in Far Cry 5 not because it’s bad, but because it didn’t tackle the issues they wanted to be covered. On the whole, the story in Far Cry 5 is serviceable. You’re not going to get some gripping tale of redemption or some crazy symbolism of the political divisiveness in America. It seems that a lot of people expected Ubisoft to come out swinging against those on the right-wing side of politics and never let up. If you were looking for this, you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, you get a story of a family using nefarious means to brainwash a town into believing their crazy religion with one man, The Father, is the cult leader. You’ll work with locals to take down lieutenants in broken-off sections of the map with the ultimate goal of taking down its leader. The story itself isn’t that compelling. It is mainly there to move the plot along for the ultimate showdown with The Father. I think Ubisoft is getting unfair ire about the story because people wanted it to be something it’s not. Some reviews are dinging the game for not taking a political stand and I think that is just absurd. Judge the game by what it is and not what you wanted it to be. What the story in Far Cry 5 is though, is a mediocre but satisfying drudge through cult worship with a healthy dose of Americana thrown in. It’s not great, but it’ll keep you moving along. What is great though is the world and the stories you find outside of the main plot.

FarCry 5 Review

The world of Far Cry 5 is probably one of my favorites in the series. Hope County, Montana is big, sprawling, and beautiful. Each section of the map has its unique appeals with Jacob Seed’s area being very mountainous with wolves plenty while John Seeds area is more open with farmland. The residents of Hope County are varied and have their own struggles and reasons for fighting back against the cultists. As you explore different areas, you’ll unlock mercenaries to join your cause. Each mercenary has their own story and you’ll have to help them out of a bind usually to unlock their services. Collecting these “guns for hire” was easily my favorite addition to Far Cry 5. The characters you can unlock to join your cause are incredibly varied and unique with each bringing a certain type of co-op gameplay partner to your game. There is the expecting father fearing for his family who flies a plane and gives you air coverage or the former soldier who snipes enemies from a distance. But above all of the human companions are the 3 animal “fang for hires” you can pick up. You’ll meet Boomer, the dog who can find enemies for you and tag them; Peaches, the cougar that can stealth attack enemies; and my personal favorite, Cheeseburger the diabetic bear that is a tank companion. These unique characters add a flair to the Far Cry games that just wasn’t there previously. When you unlock the ability to have two at once in a mission, they’ll often talk to each other and include some pretty great lines. If one thing is taken from Far Cry 5 into the next Far Cry game, I hope it’s the companion system.

The gameplay in Far Cry 5 is a step forward in some areas, a step back in others. First, the positive. The shooting is top-notch and the wanton destruction you cause is as fun as ever. Coming up to an outpost and having a wide array of ways to wrestle control from the cultists is always satisfying, especially when you consider what companion you have with you. I rarely play a game to completion, especially open-world games, but I found myself ticking away at every outpost in an area before moving on just because of the fun I was having. You’ll also unlock perk points as you complete in-game challenges (kill x amount of enemies with this gun, skin this many cougars, etc.) and you can spec your character as you see fit. This allows for a certain degree of customization although by playing the game long enough and completing enough challenges, you won’t be wanting for any skills.

Another thing that stands out in Far Cry 5 is its ability to set you off in one direction and give you a ton of things to do. Rarely did I ever want to fast travel somewhere outside of a story mission. Typically, I’d run to my location and get sidetracked with a couple of things along the way. The moment-to-moment gameplay and its feedback loop is expertly crafted. Sure, the game has a bunch of bugs where I saw cars float in the air and a bear mysteriously appear in front of me but these can be forgiven when the gameplay is so much fun. Hope County is chock full of things to do and you’ll want to do most of them. If there is something you aren’t fond of like fishing, just avoid it outside of the necessary mission quests.

In a series first, you can modify the look of your character through a basic character creator. There are a couple of faces available for both sexes and a range of hairstyles and clothing options. It’s a neat feature, but unless you’re playing a lot of co-ops, it won’t make any difference to you. You never see your character and you never speak. The clothes you wear and your outfit can be seen in first-person mode occasionally but not enough to warrant any care to be given to keeping your clothes up to date. In the 20 or so hours I put into the game, I think I changed my clothes once. You can buy additional clothing as the game progresses, but I never felt the need to. It’s nice to have, but outside of co-op, I can’t see most caring much about it.

While the gunplay is amazing and the moment-to-moment action is addictive as it’s ever been, there are some stepbacks from previous entries. In Far Cry 5, you can hunt animals in certain locations but it doesn’t really amount to anything. Crafting is gone. Want a bigger gun holster? You’ll have to do those challenges I mentioned previously. The skins you get from animals are only used to sell to NPCs to get money to buy guns. This seems like such a wasted opportunity because the crafting system in the previous games offered a great way to hunt down upgrades to your equipment. Now, it’s tied to the perk system which isn’t bad, it’s just nowhere near as good as the former upgrade system used to be.

Another step back seems to be the gun variety. I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is, but the guns themselves seem far too similar and there are just fewer overall. This could be based on Ubisoft player data that said some guns were never used and they were removed, who knows. All I know is that the weapons seem lacking and once I found one or two I liked, I rarely ever switched. I would put all of the upgrades into it, get a silencer with, larger ammo capacity and it was my gun for the game. In a game where weapons are so well done, it’s disappointing to not see more of them.

Overall though, Far Cry 5 is a great experience. I could list out issues with the game and its story, but at the end of the day there is one question that needs to be asked, was it fun? My answer to that is a resounding yes. From the moment we received code for the game from Ubisoft, I played nothing else. When my son was napping, it was Far Cry time. Got a few minutes before bed? I bet I could take down a couple of outposts. Far Cry 5 sucked me in like few games can and I wanted nothing more than to experience everything it had to offer. If you were on the fence about Far Cry games in the past, this installment may be a bit of a mixed bag. It’s streamlined in ways that may cater to a more casual fan of the series, but overall, it’s more of what you’d expect to see in Far Cry 3/4. If, on the other hand, you have loved Far Cry games in the past and aren’t looking for extreme political discourse in your games, then you’ll have a blast playing one of Ubisoft’s best open-world games in a long time.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Review

Usually, with each holiday season, game companies are vying for those precious dollars and seeking the title of “The must-play game of the season.” But when it comes to the holiday game king of the hill, one franchise has rested comfortably on the top of the heap for the past several years. Call of Duty seasonal releases have become as predictable as the falling of the leaves and gamers eagerly await it with frothing excitement. The trouble with a huge, loyal fan base and a yearly release schedule are that it’s easy for a franchise to stale and rest only on past success. Does Black Ops 3 repeat the formula of its predecessors or does it truly deserve that top spot on your wishlist this holiday season?

The campaigns of Call of Duty, while formulaic, have always been the highlight of the game for me. While the multiplayer succeeds in occasionally making you feel like a badass soldier, the campaign completely delivers on this front. Black Ops 3 starts with the player picking out your character’s avatar and gender, a welcomed first for the series. From there you’re tossed into your first mission, which goes horribly wrong and you’re left maimed and for dead on the battlefield. Thanks to the help of some cybernetically modified soldiers, you’re patched up and repurposed as a super soldier, much like the beginning of Advanced Warfare. The training missions are presented in a slick, unique way that gets you up to speed on your new abilities. The big change in the campaign comes in the form of your cyber core abilities. Players can choose from three tiers of cybernetic abilities, anything from the ability to run on walls, to taking over turrets, even unleashing a swarm of nanobots that overtake enemies and explode. Since you can only equip one tier at a time, players can replay missions for a completely different tactical experience. In addition to the cyber core abilities, another big change is how players load up missions. You’re given the choice right off the bat to take on any mission in any order via the new Black site. The Black site is where players will customize load-outs, abilities, view stats and medals, and select missions. Overall, the campaign is a fully-featured portion of the game and not just a tacked-on mode to accompany an already popular multiplayer experience.

Truly the bread and butter of COD are multiplayer. The online experience is something that has been tested and tweaked into near perfection over the years and this iteration builds upon the pedigree even more. Black Ops 3 introduces players to specialists, unique characters with special abilities players pick at the start. There are nine specialists to choose from although only 4 are available to start. Players must rank up through multiplayer and spend unlock tokens for special weapons and abilities. Special weapons range from a bow with explosive tips to flamethrowers and swords, putting more emphasis on close-range combat. Specialists can be customized via unlockable outfits by completing total kills while playing as a specialist. The jump pack makes a revised appearance and players can wall run and power slide around the level making the usual fast chaos of a match even more so by allowing players to utilize more vertical space. The maps feel well designed and balanced and fan-favorite Nuketown makes a return.

Zombies mode gets an overhaul with the setting taking place in a noir style 1940s town. You can play as one of 4 characters, each with unique playstyles and background stories. For the first in the series, progress is now saved and Zombies has its own level progression system. While the zombie’s mode has grown over the years, this is the first time it feels like a standalone game and one that you can spend more than a few play sessions in. For those that have enjoyed the Zombies mode over the past few years, this offering will most likely be your favorite to date.

Treyarch has become the go-to developer for the Call of Duty franchise. Their work on the Black Ops series has been the most innovative and fun since the series first took a leap from the past with Modern Warfare. They had three years to work on this release and the extra time looks to have paid off tenfold. They could have simply rested on previous work and put out the same thing, but this offering has taken what worked and improved upon it across multiple modes. The changes breathe new life into a series that some have questioned for being stale over the past couple of years. The gameplay and sound design are great and the graphics are truly breathtaking in the hi-tech future world of Black Ops 3. In a time when game companies seem to want to nickel and dime you for content, it’s refreshing to see a big AAA title still want to do right by their loyal fans. Although players on last-gen miss out on content, this is still worth every penny. I can only hope the other developers in Activision’s employment take notes and continue to build off the work that has been done on Black Ops 3

Dying Light

Techland’s latest game, Dying Light, is a first-person zombie horror game that places an emphasis on traversal in an open world above all else.  You may be familiar with Techland from their previous zombie game Dead Island and you will see plenty of similarities between the two games.  We recently gave Dying Light our game of the month for January but does it deserve all the hype that has surrounded this game?  Looking at their previous track record, Techland has been known to get people excited about a concept and then miss the high goal they set with the final product.  Does Dying Light fall into this trap or have they released something truly special like the previews of the game seemed to hit on.  We answer those questions and more in The Dadcade’s review of Dying Light.

Above all else, Dying Light is a jaw-dropping, gorgeous game.  Walking out of your safe house to a morning sunrise in the destroyed and quarantined city of Harran is an almost surreal experience.  Walking around the world, you could be tricked into staring at the sights and sounds if it wasn’t for the bikers who want to have you for lunch.  The attention to detail doesn’t stop with the city though.  Interact with characters and you’ll see that attention to detail was the main proponent of Techland’s design approach to creating characters.  From the flashlights taped onto characters’ chests to the hairstyle choices of one of the supporting characters, no expense was spared in making sure the characters and world were memorable additions to a story being told.  

This level of detail unfortunately doesn’t extend to the zombies though.  The zombies you’ll come across, while not all the same, don’t have enough characteristics to set them apart.  Sure, you can tell what type of zombie is approaching you and be able to figure out how it will attack you, but within those subclasses, the differences fade.  All spitters look similar and only a slew of thug-like big zombies exist (and each has identical weapon attacks.)  This isn’t a huge knock against the game though since so many zombies need to be on screen at a time and judging the attacks of zombies and what type they need to be done fast, so this could have been a logical design choice on the part of the developers.  All in all, though, the world of Harran is beautifully realized and the attention to detail is a refreshing thing to behold in a post-apocalyptic zombie game.

Dying Light

Dying Light takes place in an imaginary city called Harran where a deadly virus has all but decimated the local populace.  You play as Crane, a mercenary working for the GDE (a government ops that seems just as shady as normal government) to infiltrate the area, find someone and the files they have on the virus, and then get out with both the files and your life.  Things get off to a pretty bad start as you are attacked by armed thugs as soon as your parachute hits the ground.  To top it off, you’re bitten by a zombie but saved by a woman named Jade who takes you back to her safe house, The Tower.  It is from the Tower that you will be accepting missions and buying and selling items for the next couple of hours.  Throughout the game, you will unlock smaller safehouses that allow you to catch your breath away from the infected, use your storage, and sleep until night/morning to regain health and advance time.  These safehouses must be unlocked by cleaning up the infected and turning the power back on, something you’ll be doing quite often in order to unlock all safehouses. The story is easily the most surprising part of Dying Light.  If you’re familiar with Techland’s last series, Dead Island, you’ll know that story took a backseat to gameplay and the characters were all a bit…uninspiring.  That’s not the case here with Dying Light.

You are sympathetic to characters and their plight and in one key scene where a character died, the emotion that Crane expressed felt real.  That’s pretty rare for a first-person zombie game and I was pleasantly surprised by the attachment I had to some of the characters in the game.  Throughout the duration of the story, you’ll travel across all of Harran and eventually gain access to a previously inaccessible portion of the map when you progress the story far enough.  The main story missions exist to keep you on your path, but if you really want to experience all that this game has to offer, you’re going to want to play some of the side missions.  

Finding a VHS tape of “Charly” for a special needs man and his “mama” as well as helping Jeff make his wall of flame are some of the most entertaining side quests in the game and absolutely shouldn’t be missed.  I had nights when I would decide that I was going to advance the story, only to find out that 4 hours later I had been doing only side quests and having a blast.  The story also plays into Dying Light’s other offering – an insane nighttime mode.  Basically, when the sun goes down, the horrifying zombies come out to play that will kill you in one hit if you’re caught.  Your skills are increased during the night and you will gain XP faster, so there is a tradeoff between safety and rewards.  Some missions require you to play at night, but overall the game is playable from either daytime or nighttime.  If you don’t feel like dealing with the nighttime baddies, go to the safehouse and sleep until morning when it’s much safer.

If you previously played Dead Island then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what combat is like.  Dead Island introduced us to a zombie game built around melee battles with weapons that decay over time.  Dying Light does the same exact thing, except it’s a little dumbed down compared to the previous game.  You can no longer target specific limbs in the same way you did in Dead Island but the combat is pretty much the same.  Unfortunately, the combat is probably the weakest part of Dying Light.  I’m not sure why they decided to scrap the limb attacks from Dead Island since that was one of the most fun and unique things the game introduced, but the end result is an offering weaker than it’s predecessor.  While the limb attacks may have been cut, the RPG mechanics is one of the most satisfying things I have ever seen implemented into a first-person game.  The way the RPG skill tree works is that you are given experience for 3 activities.  First, completing missions rewards you survivor XP which is basically your overall level.  This is the stat that will determine which weapons you can use and what blueprints become available throughout the story.  The other two levels you will increase are power and agility-focused.  

Power XP is gained from battling with enemies, while agility rewards you for your daring parkour movements.  As you gain XP, you’ll unlock skill tree paths that will reward you with abilities unique to each branch.  For example, leveling up power will unlock the ability to perform stronger attacks and ground stomps while agility will help you with skills that allow you to run longer, faster, and make world traversal just a bit easier.  When the game begins, it can be pretty overbearing with the number of enemies on screen and your overall “squishyness.”  

As you level up though, you’ll find that enemies aren’t as tough as they once were and you’re much more capable, due in large part to the skills you’re unlocking.  The video game power fantasy is strong as you become a lean, mean, zombie killing machine.  As you increase in power, you’ll also unlock new types of weapons that all handle differently from each other.  You can also unlock and craft add-ons that give weapons electricity attacks, bleeding attacks, or increase durability through skill trees.  These addon weapons come from blueprints that require salvage to create.  By scavenging around Harran, you’ll pick up items that allow you to craft everything from medkits to weapons.  The crafting system is pretty easy to grasp and you’ll bounce in and out of the menus pretty quickly.  Harran is literally littered with lockboxes, storage cabinets, and medical closets that all give items to help you craft items.  You can also buy items from shopkeeps if you’re having trouble finding them in the world.

Combat in Dying Light may not be as fun as it was in Dead Island but the co-op is just as fun.  You and a couple of friends can team up to play the game and complete missions alongside each other.  One person will host the game and the story will progress as normal in their world while other plays help and gain XP and items they can take back to their worlds.  Along with story missions, players can also compete in small challenges that pop up randomly (and reward nice chunks of XP) that will have you killing the most enemies, racing to places, or doing the most damage to one of the big bad guys in the game. 

As stated earlier, nighttime missions can be a drag but throw in a couple of friends and those crazy night zombies become a minor hindrance.  I actually found myself inviting friends into my game to beat the night missions because I just didn’t want to deal with the stress surrounding these guys.  Co-op definitely makes the frantic fight for survival in Dying Light a little less frantic and a lot more enjoyable.

Since this is The Decade, we’d be remiss to not talk about how “kid-friendly” or “parent-friendly” this game is.  For the record, how kid or dad-friendly a game is doesn’t affect our overall score of the game, we just like to set aside a small portion of the review to address it since we think it’s relevant to our reader base.  With that said, this game is absolutely 100% not kid-friendly.  You don’t want to play this with the kids in the room and there is foul language from time to time so this will most likely be an “after the kids go to bed” game.  Now, for being parent-friendly, it scores pretty well.  The ability to pause the game (when not in co-op) to soothe a crying child is a plus and if you only have a short gameplay session before bed, you can easily knock out one or two side quests or spend your time scavenging for materials or leveling up your skill trees.  The co-op is incredibly fun as well, so if you have other friends who own the game, a relaxing night of killing zombies is just what the doctor ordered to chill out before bed.

Dying Light surprised the hell out of us here at The Decade.  We thought we would get something along the lines of Dead Island but what we got was similar, but a lot better.  That’s not to say it is without criticism.  The combat is a slog for most of the game and when it finally gets better, it actually becomes a little too easy.  The limb combat of the previous series should have been implemented and that is a missed opportunity in our eyes.  Also, the game suffers from some strange bugs like zombies getting stuck in walls and players falling through the ground.  These are few though and not overly intrusive.  Even with its faults, the beautiful graphics, the gripping story, and the incredibly fun parkour gameplay you can enjoy alone or with a friend make this a game easy to recommend to others.  So, if you’re in the mood for a good zombie game with an above-average story you can play with friends, you should absolutely check out Dying Light.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

The Dragon Age series has seen some troubled waters over the past couple of years.  Their first game, Origins, was a critical hit and was well-loved by almost all who played it. Following the success of Origins, Dragon Age 2 was released and to say it was a disappointment is an understatement. While I enjoyed the game overall, it completely lost the magic of the first game that made it so special and set it apart. Gone was the strategic gameplay of the first, instead replaced with action-based gameplay more akin to third-person hack and slash-type games. BioWare knew they had to change the formula for their next game to be successful, and change they did. Is there enough change present in their newest game, Dragon Age: Inquisition, to make this series worth your time and money, or should you replay Origins to relive the glory days of dragon-slaying?  Keep reading to find out.

Dragon Age Inquisition starts out with a bang…literally. From the start screen, the moment you press a button the location you are seeing literally blows up. This story setup, a magical terrorist attack on a conclave of mages and templar, will set the stage for the rest of the game. As the sole survivor of the attack, you will craft your character in whatever image you like, choose between the mage, rogue, and warrior-type classes, and then be on your way. The character creation is extremely robust and I was able to craft a character to match exactly what I wanted. I decided to play as a mage because in the world of Dragon Age mages aren’t the most trusted bunch, so I knew I would get an interesting story. The facial features, hair design, voice, etc. are all customizable and you can spend a ton of time tinkering with nobs to get things right. When you finally escape the rabbit hole of character customization, you should have a character that will suit your needs.

If you’re familiar with Dragon Age games, or really BioWare games in general, you know you’re going to get a top-notch story in a well-crafted world with political intrigue, character development, and awesome companions. This is all present in Inquisition and the story will keep you playing to find out exactly what the heck is going on. The story is set around your character as the sole survivor of a magical terrorist attack who takes on the role of leader of the Inquisition, a group that is fighting the evil that caused the attack. You’ll become a sort of king of your castle (literally, you get a castle) and will make decisions that will affect life for the people in the world. It can be cliche at times, but the story works well to cater to the video game power fantasy. You will continue to get more and more powerful throughout the game and the story will reflect that. You can be a jerk and rule the Inquisition with an iron fist or be a more merciful ruler and treat your followers with respect. Whatever you choose, your companions will respond to your choices and their approval of you will increase or decrease accordingly. Based on your sex you can romance certain companions which open up new story options. The feelings of your party members will also be intertwined into open-world gameplay as they make quips and conversations about current events as you’re fighting in the world. For instance, I chose to romance Cassandra, the stalwart defender of the faith, and while out fighting comments were made by other party members about our budding romance, much to her chagrin. These small additions to the story just accentuate an already grandiose and compelling adventure story that is well told, and well-executed, even if the ending leaves a bit to be desired.

In a BioWare game, the story is usually the main drawing point with combat and gameplay sometimes taking a secondary role. That’s a mixed bag with Inquisition. The RPG mechanics are spot on and over the course of the game, you’ll be unlocking some awesome skills to increase your power and taking down more powerful enemies with each level you hit. Unfortunately, the combat isn’t very interesting. On a controller, you hold down the RT or R2 for an auto-attack. Your skills are all on timers so while auto-attacking, you are keeping an eye on the timers to hit them when they are ready. It’s not bad enough to push you away from the experience, it’s just not that interesting. What is interesting though is maneuvering your teammates around the battlefield for the bigger and more complex fights in the game. You don’t need to do this for the usual mobs you find on quests, but take on your first dragon and things change. It looks like BioWare took the strategic gameplay of the first game and meshed it with the more action-oriented gameplay of the second and the result was something that is serviceable, but not overly unique. Probably my least favorite portion of the combat system was the removal of healing skills, opting instead, for limited potions that are shared with the entire party. Finding yourself out of potions halfway through an encounter without any supply boxes (which refill your potions) around is grounds for failure. In the future, I hope they scrap this potion choice and re-implement healing spells for mages.

The graphics are top-notch and the overall aesthetic of the game is grandiose and fits well into the lore. There is a huge battle taking place that could spell disaster for everyone in the Dragon Age universe. The castles are sprawling, the landscapes beautiful, and the sound design is amazing. Sound isn’t something you notice in a game much, but when you do it’s either because it’s hilariously bad or amazingly well done. The latter is true with Dragon Age: Inquisition. The battles and overall sound of the game are great, but not unlike much of what you’ve seen in other games. What is astounding though is the music, walk into an inn and listen to the bard singing about Sera or a sad tune about love and loss. It’s an amazing feat for a game to make me just sit in an inn doing nothing else but listening to the music.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is an excellent game and it’s probably my favorite game of 2014.  I’m a huge story-driven gamer and this game has it in spades. It’s also an OK game to play around a toddler (most of the time) as there is a lot of dialogue and running around.  Fighting scenes aren’t that graphic, but they are still violent. This is a long sprawling game and there are things to do (like the war table that lets you play a sort of Facebook-style waiting game with troops) when your kid is in the room. Everything else can be left for the evening after bedtime.

BioWare took what worked in the first two games and combined them into a very good Western RPG with elements of both strategy and action. The epic story and character development is the main course in this game that will easily take you over 80 hours to complete. It’s an investment for sure, and with kids vying for your time, it’s a hard sell to set aside time (at the expense of other games) to see this one through. But, if you’re willing to take the time and play through this game’s story, you absolutely won’t be disappointed. The team at BioWare has crafted an amazing game with serviceable combat and an awesome story that shouldn’t be missed, especially if you have enjoyed other games by BioWare in the past.