I had originally written a lengthy post about the ending but this is already feeling like a dead horse, so I think I will instead add a few quick thoughts and move forward to new games.
- I know it’s a common gameplay gimmick, but how does a guy (Elika’s father) you fought early on and beat, then later on and beat, become ridiculously tougher for the end of the game fight? And it looks like you have to fight him a fourth time in the “Epilogue” DLC (which I will not be purchasing). I’m sure he’s quite impossible by then.
- Speaking of dragging things out, after beating the father and activating the Fertile Ground to banish Ahriman, I thought I was done. Nope. You have to activate three Fertile Grounds. That leaves you feeling like you’re doing the same thing three times. Why? It felt dragged out. So much of this game is bad repetition.
- And then there’s the part where you have to chop down four trees after you’ve beat the game and seen the credits. Couldn’t that have been a cutscene? There wasn’t any challenge associated with it. Why give the player the option to control the action when there is no action? Or choice?
- And speaking of chopping down trees, do you know why you chop down the trees? Elika sacrificed herself to vanquish Ahriman. But then the Prince, for some reason, decides it’s a good idea to reset all that he and Elika accomplished in the game and un-vanquish Ahriman. Ugh! What a waste of time!
- The guardian (one of the bosses) fights were poorly implemented puzzle fights that, like the rest of the game, had the potential for fun. You are supposed to push *him* back to the edge and knock him over (more often, he pushes you back). This could have worked well with combat and QTEs mixed together like you might see in God of War, but I couldn’t budge him. So my solution was to move back to the edge myself, let him grab me and fling me over his shoulder toward the middle of the stage, and then lunge at him to push him back since I only had to knock him back a single step that way. Similarly, during another section with a room you want to collapse on him I moved back to the faulty supports and let him bash me into them.
- A lot of people seem to have really appreciated Elika — both as a character and part of the story, and as a game play mechanic. But as one reviewer wrote in disagreement, games have long allowed you to double-jump; Elika managing that double-jump for you doesn’t add much. I agree. The dagger from Sands of Time felt more fully realized as a twist on a game mechanic. I appreciated the in-game animations — the Prince catching Elika or putting her on his back or changing positions with her on a tight beam — but I never cared for her. To be honest, I kept waiting for a twist — to find out she was Ormazd or maybe something evil. But, no.
All in all, I feel like this is a great looking game with great level design and great animation and music that sticks in your head — that missed out on so much opportunity. It could have been fun. And, to be honest, early on, for the first hour or two, it was fun. Running around the levels was fun. Collecting the lights was fun. Exploring the map was fun. Even the combat was briefly fun — in the first fight against the father. (OK, spamming [LT] to talk to Elika was always lame.)
My problem is that as the game goes on into hour three/four/five/etc., it doesn’t advance or evolve. If it’s a plate, hit [Y]. If it’s a ring, hit [B]. And if there’s a hole to jump over, hit [A]. That’s it. From start-to-finish, it never changes in any way. They don’t shake it up, so to speak. It’s more of the same and it gets old. And the more you stare at the repetition, the more you see the flaws — which inspired all of my posts on this game.
I went to metacritic.com to see the collected reviews of the title and am surprised to see the top review is a perfect score and, of the top 20 reviews, all feature a grade of 90 or better. I can see enjoying parts of the game, I understand having different opinions, but I don’t get how such a large number of reviewers could have scored it so highly and given it so much praise. It just doesn’t seem… critical. Or maybe they wrote their reviews after playing for the first hour.
All right, I’ve said enough. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is on its way. Stay tuned!