Last week I was on vacations, a well-deserved week of me-time after months of nonstop work. I had the chance to get back to some writing projects I’ve left abandoned for a few months. I finished The Song, a science-fiction/noire short story and now finally have it ready to begin editing. I’ve also returned to a 2nd draft of a novel, not much progress there, but the week helped me get back into the mindset of the prose, to know where I left off and what I meant with the old notes I left.

But I also had time to do something gamers rarely do: clear out the gaming backlog.

Now, if I’m honest, I didn’t dive into the dangerous world of my Steam backlog, that would take a few lifetimes to clear…if I could be bothered to try out every game I have there. Too many sales bundles have left me with dozens of titles I would not play even if hell froze over.

But what I did was clear out my console backlog almost completely, with only a couple of games left to finish.

Here’s what I played:

NIOH: The Feudal Japan-inspired Souls-like action game on the PS4 had been sitting there gathering dust for months, and it deserved I finished it. It’s a fun game, with more than a few frustrations but that’s par for the course with the kind of game it is, which usually lead to some incredibly moments of gaming triumph. The only complaint I have is that there is nothing about it that is memorable. The main character is bland, the secondary characters are flat and the game spends so much time pointing you towards the new folkloric Japanese thing to bother to develop any of its cast or even tell a stronger story.

Again, it’s not a bad game, but for a title that throws at you every major name of the Feudal period, from super-ninja Hattori Hanzo to Ieyasu Tokugawa, passing through Oda Nobunaga and every piece of Japanese folklore, there’s very little that is memorable. The thread connecting each level, each boss and the historical narrative is tremendously thin.

Nioh
The storytelling might be flat but the gameplay is fun!

Final Fantasy XV: What a colossal waste of time this game was and the pretty graphics and incredibly fluid can’t hide how much of a trainwreck this game is. The combat system makes fights unnecessarily long, the plot is barebones and ignores about 70% of the elements it introduces in favour of a quick and dirty final confrontation—even doing a times skip for some strange reason. And when you finally reach the final boss, it is utterly disappointing and bland, which could also be said of the game as a whole. It is downright the worst Final Fantasy I’ve ever played.

Aside from Ignis, there is not a single likeable or useful character in the entire game.

Also, screw that car, I’d rather walk.

Final Fantasy XV - Regalia
I hate this car…it looks great, but it’s even worse than the Batmobile!

Horizon: Zero Dawn: Now this is a phenomenal game. Granted, aside from Aloy and Sylens, most characters are pretty simple and even one-dimensional, but the world they’ve created is astounding, particularly the mix of a regrown world, one that nature has retaken, but with mechanised beasts roaming around.

It’s a constant source of joy to see the super-technological past of the world referred to with reverence by characters other than Aloy and in fact it’s so refreshing to see her come to terms not only with the truth but also the concepts of the ancient world. She constantly learns and adapts, seeing the truth in the myth and knowing there is nothing magical in it, just pure science.

I’m waiting for the DLC to return to that world.

Horizon: Zero Dawn DLC
Can’t wait for this!

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Yep, I still hadn’t finished this game but I decided I would do so during my vacations because I couldn’t imagine playing it at the same time as Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild is a game that doesn’t deserve to become yet another title in a long list of forgotten ones, left to rot because something new and shiny came around—which is exactly what happened to the last game in my PS4 backlog and which I’ll be finishing this week, Persona 5.

But while I played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild I set up a restriction for myself, one born from my absolute love for the exploration in this title: I would not finish the game until I had uncovered all 120 shrines on my own, through careful exploration and without consulting any guides.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I wanted to see this 120 times before I confronted Ganon!

I had 103 when I returned to the game and within hours I was up to 110, but without completing one of the sacred beasts, not spoiling which one, I couldn’t complete some of the shrines, as their quests only show up after the beast returns to normal.

Once I’d done that though, I brought my total to 118 and it was then that I gave up and looked for the remaining shrines. Of the two remaining, I could and should have found one on my own, as it was on an area I was exploring, just didn’t cover it thoroughly enough.

The last shrine however I would never have discovered on my own, because it went against the basic assumption I made in my hunt for shrines: “all shrines are outside of Hyrule Castle,” which is a flawed assumption. So, without consulting online resources I would never have found my last shrine.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Along the way I even found a Fairy Fountain asking for 10k Ruppees!

The fight against Calamity Ganon is amazing and he’s a tremendously hard-hitting boss. I absolutely loved it. What I wasn’t a big fan of though was his second form, which was very similar to the beast takedowns, sequences which are almost on-rails and carry very little risk about them. Running around the rampaging Ganon and hitting the shiny bits has no difficulty or challenge whatsoever.

Overall though, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has become my favourite game in the Legend of Zelda franchise and I can’t wait for the Ballad of the Champions DLC.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Amiibo
Yep, I preordered these

And that’s how I spent my week off, kicking butts in several different game worlds and getting the same treatment in return. This week I’ll continue with it and clear off Persona 5 from the list and officially have my console backlog done before Super Mario Odyssey hits the shelves.

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