E3 Expectations: Sony

Sony had a lukewarm conference last year, it had a strange pace as it appeared to have no rhythm, especially when compared to 2016’s conference. This year there won’t be any major first-party announcements, however, they’ll bring 4 major exclusives, and we can expect third-party titles to make an appearance.

The Last of Us: Part II

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The sequel of a modern classic, The Last of Us: Part 2 must either begin or finish the conference. After 2 impactful trailers, we should see an extended gameplay for the first time. We’ll probably find out more about the setting, the story and a release window for the title.

Ghost of Tsushima

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Sucker Punch’s first title since the release of Infamous Second Son, Ghost of Tsushima is Sony’s new IP. Little is known about the title other than the Japanese setting focused on a samurai story. At the conference, we should have a gameplay demo and a release date.

Spider-Man

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After appearing for 2 straight E3’s, Spider-Man will come out this year. Last year’s demo was interesting but I feel that it could sell the game a little better. Another gameplay highlighting the story could do just that. But since it’s an Insomniac game, there aren’t many reasons to doubt the quality of the title.

Death Stranding

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Death Stranding is a really bizarre case, we’ve seen it for years, however, we still have no idea what it’s all about. Each trailer becomes weirder than the previous and we keep getting hyped solely because of Kojima. He has hinted on another trailer and maybe we’ll find out what Death Stranding actually is, but that should be it, as a gameplay demo is unlikely.

Resident Evil 2 Remake

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Announced years ago, Resident Evil 2 Remake remains a mystery. No details were revealed, only a few rumors surfaced but nothing concrete yet. Given Sony’s relationship with Capcom, it should be revealed at their conference and I believe it will happen this year, possibly with a trailer.

Red Dead Redemption 2

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Rockstar usually doesn’t appear on any E3 conference, however, GTA V’s current-gen console was announced on Sony’s stage. Since we haven’t seen any gameplay and the game will come out this year, we could expect to see the gameplay reveal tonight.

Call of Duty Black Ops 4

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Due to the partnership, that Sony has with Activision, Black Ops 4 should make an appearance. If I had to guess I’d say that Blackout, it’s Battle Royale mode, should be demonstrated on stage.

Dreams

Dreams

Media Molecule’s new title should make a quick appearance with a trailer that should announce it’s release date and a beta. It would be wise to show a gameplay trying to explain what is Dreams, talking more about the campaign and the experience, that remains somewhat mysterious.

New Crash

Crash

The N’Sane Trilogy was an incredible success, surpassing every single expectation. With that, we should see a new title in the Crash series being developed, I believe that if it was announced it’d be at Sony’s conference.

Shenmue III

Shenmue III

Coming out next year, Shenmue III was revealed on Sony’s stage and should make a comeback with a gameplay as we haven’t seen any yet. It would be the perfect setting to reveal this long-awaited sequel to the world.

VR

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This should be very quick, just a regular trailer talking about some of the VR projects coming out to the PS4 in the near future. Given that Sony has admitted that VR didn’t take off as they expected, they shouldn’t pay a lot of attention to it.

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E3 Expectations: Sony

After last year’s stellar presentation, Sony is expected to show more of the games introduced in 2016 and bring new surprises hoping to keep the momentum going. In a year in which their biggest competitors have new hardware to show, and exciting games, they must bring their A game to keep customers interested. But what can we expect from Sony this year?

First-party

God of War

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Given the massive banner on a building near the conference area, we can be sure it will have a huge showing at the conference, as confirmed by a 1 hour presentation scheduled at E3 coliseum. The comeback of a beloved franchise, it feels like a soft reboot, changing the setting, gone are the Greek gods, in comes Nordic mythology. Kratos’ son will probably play a huge role on the story, looking similar to what Ellie did in The Last of Us.

It will be interesting to find out more about the dynamic between him and his son, especially due to his past, and what happened to his family before. Sounding like a departure from the angry character who would tear people apart for the joy of killing, we can hope to see a calmer Kratos, focusing on raising his son. We can expect to see a long gameplay demo on stage, showing more of the combat, the enemies, and a glimpse of the story. I’d bet it will be Sony’s main Fall game, coming out in October.

Spider-Man

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The first big project from Insomniac since the incredible Sunset Overdrive, and the suprising Ratchet & Clank remake, the exclusive Spider-Man game will make an appearance, as confirmed by the studio. We’ll hopefully see gameplay for the first time, after the interesting, but mainly empty trailer from last year.

After some low-quality titles in the past years, it’s nice to see this franchise in good hands again, especially if they adapt the fluid gameplay from Sunset Overdrive, that was its best feature. As God of War, this game will probably receive a major push, with more on the world, story, characters, villains. Since it isn’t connected to the MCU, it doesn’t have to come out this year, I’d guess it will be released in Fall 2018.

Days Gone

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After the attention received in last year’s conference, Days Gone must have another demo, this time focused on the characters and the world. Despite the great reception, some criticized the game for feeling formulaic, too similar to The Last of Us. Even though it was recognized by its beauty and the sheer impressive number of zombies on the screen, they’ll need to show more to keep the hype.

A very important project to Sony Bend, mainly because it took several years to be developed, Days Gone can represent a milestone for the studio. If it is a massive success, it can bring them to the first division of Sony’s studios, if it fails, it may be their doom. They need to highlight what makes it different in a market flooded with Zombie games, and here they’ll have the perfect opportunity to do that. I believe it will be released this year, as another Fall title, but if I were Sony, I’d do it Q1 2018, since we’re talking about a new IP that could use less competition.

New IP from Sucker Punch

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Since the release of Infamous Second Son, Sucker Punch has been completely quiet with no leaks regarding their new project. All we know is that Shuhei Yoshida has played a demo of it, but other than that, it’s a complete blackout. We can expect for them to completely leave Infamous behind.

There are talks about it being a third-person game with an open world, but I would love to see them follow Guerrilla and do something completely unexpected. From a hero to a horror, or a linear story-heavy game. Maybe a tease trailer will be shown, but a gameplay demo would be ideal. I think it may come out late 2018, early 2019.

Horizon DLC

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Announced after the astonishing success from the title, that has sold more than 3.4 million copies so far. No details were revealed, but it could be interesting to see more about Aloy and Rost’s relationship, the training for the Proving. Or a completely different take, showing more about Sylen’s past, or even Rost’s story making you play the situation that caused him to become an outcast.

The Last of Us Part 2

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Since the surprise announcement at PSX, with a strong and impactful trailer, not much has been said about The Last of Us: Part 2. Despite the remote chance of it appearing on this year’s conference, we may end up seeing a new trailer, maybe showing more about the new characters. Given Naughty Dog’s incredible capacity of creating games with great speed and quality, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw gameplay for the first time at PSX.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

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The Naughty Dog game that will probably get more attention this year, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy may have another demo, albeit a smaller one than at PSX, I believe. The surprise is that what we once thought out to be a small story, now looks like a substantial DLC, and a welcome addition to the Uncharted franchise.

GT Sport

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A real Mexican soap-opera, that’s how I define the release of every Gran Turismo game. Despite talking about innovations and how the franchise has meaningful iterations when compared to the competition, the series seems to have lost its title as the simulation king. Losing relevance, in part due to the long time between each title, and technical aspects that are inferior to the competition. They must have an impressive showing to regain some fans. I think it will come out in September or Q1 2018.

Detroit: Become Human

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Another E3 comes, and another Detroit: Become Human appearance is expected. A promising game that has everything to be a resounding success, but that has been demoed for so much time that it may suffer the same way the first Watch Dogs did. Taking so much time from announcement to release that people might lose their interest.

Quantic Dream’s track record can also bring some doubts, while Heavy Rain was acclaimed, Beyond: Two Souls was incredible underwhelming. Detroit: Become Human shows great promise, but it can’t come back next year, it must release within next year, my bet Q1/Q2 2018.

Death Stranding with Emma Stone Revealed

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Kojima confirmed that it won’t be at E3, however I can’t really trust him when it comes to announcements. After all, he’s the same man who created Moby Dick studios, and a bizarre campaign to announce The Phantom Pain. With rumors of Emma Stone’s involvement on the project being confirmed, it would become one of the biggest stories in the event. If she’s on stage, then that’s would bring the internet down.

Third-party

From Software

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Bloodborne 2 would be the easiest bet, as it was very successful commercially and received rave reviews, a comeback of that IP would make complete sense. However, Hidetaka Miyazaki has talked about wanting to work with different games, new ideas, and rumors about a new IP coming from them have surfaced. “Phantom Wail” would be the name, and it would have an Aztec aesthetic and a heavy focus on hand-to-hand combat. Whether it is Bloodborne 2 or a new IP, we should expect to see From Software make an appearance.

Crash

Crash

The remake of the first three games was a great surprise last year, taking the world by storm, making fans go crazy around the world. Activision has promised to bring more news about the franchise. Maybe another remake with Crash Team Racing and Crash Bash, and if the reception was overwhelming, possibly a new game announcement. Other than that, we may not see much more about it, as the N’Sane trilogy is coming out soon after the event.

New Rocksteady Game

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Justice League, Batman Beyond, a lot has been talked about Rocksteady’s new project, and rumors have flood the internet about possibilities, from DC properties to Harry Potter. After 2 years from the release of Arkham Knight, it feels like it’s about time to reveal what’s next for them. Probably only a teaser trailer to entice the audience.

Call of Duty WW2

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As we see every year, COD will make an appearance showing more of its campaign, that as we’ve seen so far has received a level of attention we haven’t seen since Advanced Warfare. An extended gameplay is to be expected, and a beta announcement at Sony’s stage.

Destiny 2

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The sequel of the incredibly successful Destiny, Destiny 2 should have a major push at the conference, shedding light at the exclusive DLC content on the platform. And a strike or a quick mission gameplay is a real possibility.

Resident Evil 2 Remake

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It’s been a long time since we’ve known about the existence of this project, and nothing about it has surfaced, leaving fans wondering what Capcom would do. Take the Resident Evil Remake approach and only improve on the graphics, and some dialogue with new additions, or try to adapt it to the post Resident Evil 4 camera and gameplay. A trailer would be enough to calm their fans.

Bully 2

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This rumor came up when Game Informer added the game to their database, and the Rockstar store was updated with Bully products. Agent, the exclusive game from Rockstar that would come to PS3 looks dead, and they might be owing another game for Sony. It would be a huge win to have Bully 2 as an exclusive, but that seems unlikely, maybe only as a timed exclusive. If it really exists and is part of the conference, we’ll either see a teaser trailer or gameplay.

VR Games

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Even though PS VR has reached 1 million products sold, VR hasn’t taken off as expected, making a much smaller splash, still feeling like a gimmick that only has tech demos. That’s why it is an important year for the technology, and what we see in the conference will be proof of that. If Sony spends a significant amount of time talking about it, showing new games, then it may really be the future. If not, this may turn out to be another Kinect, a technology that would revolutionize the industry, but ended up being a gimmick.

Some Predictions and 1 Crazy Thing I’d Like to See:

  • Onimusha Reboot.
  • A new portable may be announced to fight the Nintendo Switch.
  • Spyro remastered.
  • PS1 games will be sold on the PS4.
  • Another obscure exclusive will be remastered to make the hardcore audience happy.
  • New Fumito Ueda game will get a teaser.
  • Shenmue III will get a trailer.

1 Crazy Thing I’d Like to See: Sony partnering up with a company like Ubisoft to create an EA Access like service, or just bring it to the PS4.

 

 

 

What’s the Problem with Linearity?

Growing up in the SNES era, linear games were pretty much the main style of games, long before the open-world of GTA III, that gave players an incredible sandbox like never before. But recently, it is very common to see reviewers and pundits claiming that the linearity of a title was a flaw, that they wanted open environments, even though sometimes that doesn’t fit the genre. And from what it seems, the word linear has been used to the detriment of a title, carrying such a negative feeling that it needs to overcome another hurdle.

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I’m not saying that open-world games are not great, Watch Dogs 2 was my favorite game of last year, but we are very close to a saturation of the genre, after all, the vast majority of the AAA market relies on the open-world structure. There are some truly incredible examples, like The Witcher 3’s world, that is a real character, filled with missions and activities that feel meaningful, without being overwhelming. GTA V’s Los Santos is lively, beautiful, full of details. But many others feel as if they would be much superior if they had a more linear structure.

Mafia III, that despite having varied settings, they all felt boring and unexpressive, being empty, and robbing some of the brilliance of an amazing story. That could be greatly enhanced in a more controlled environment. No matter how fun it can be to have a massive world to play with, it is much easier to tell a compelling story in a linear game.

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Many people may not agree with me, but to me, the best story and game of the Batman Arkham franchise is Asylum. That took advantage of having a compact location to tell a significant story with real impact to the Dark Knight. That because it didn’t have a lot of the distractions of an open-world, felt urgent. Something that’s been lost a bit in the sequels, that are great, but fail to reach the same level of quality when it comes to the story.

Uncharted 4 increased the scope of its levels, turning them into bigger spaces, however they managed to keep their linearity, using these traversal moments to improve on character development. Managing to resemble an open-world gameplay without sacrificing its commitment to telling a great story, something that is very hard to accomplish in a sandbox.

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One of the best games of the last generation, if not ever, The Last of Us, used it to its favor, creating a stunning and detailed game that resonated with many. Characters that became iconic, unforgettable, mainly due to the strong focus on the story, and even though it was heavily scripted, TLoU remains a powerful game, with a much-awaited sequel.

Journey and Inside minimalistic approach to storytelling require a more concise and controlled gameplay. Not only the story can benefit, the gameplay as well, Titanfall 2, for example, that created set pieces, and levels that would be very difficult to execute in other circumstances, being recognized for its surprising campaign, that leads players to unexpected places and played with their assumptions.

Having a massive world doesn’t equal quality as we’re lead to believe. Open-world games can be great, but they don’t have to be the rule. Linearity, if done properly, can tell powerful stories and create breathtaking moments, that only a greater attention on the story can bring. Being linear is not something negative, it is another way of bringing to gamers experiences that are a lot more fulfilling, than a project that had an open-world tacked on as we see in many cases.

 

 

PSX Showcase highlights

This is a completely subjective text, after all, these are my personal highlights. But we can say that even though it had its lows, this year’s PSX Showcase was a very good presentation with some amazing surprises, and leaks that were confirmed. Let’s begin:

What a way to open

A very nice mysterious demo, at first it looked like Uncharted, then a new IP, and then I was sure it was Tomb Raider. The Lost Legacy, Uncharted’s single player DLC looked amazing, and felt different enough from the A Thief’s End. With Chloe as the protagonist, something nobody expected, and Nadine back, it feels a lot stealthier and with a different combat. And Naughty Dog didn’t stop there.

What a great time to be alive

The moment I got goosebumps, it was the perfect way to finish the show, an incredible and impactful reveal. Joel and Ellie are back with a hauntingly beautiful song telling the story behind the trailer. 5 years after the events of the first game, Ellie seems tougher, grittier and hardened by life, in a quest for revenge, that may take her to extremely dark places. And interesting, but sad theories emerge with a possible death of Joel, whose face we don’t see here. Too bad we are 2 or 3 years away from this.

When’s Marvel

A leak that we were thrilled to see confirmed, Marvel vs Capcom is back and looking better than ever.With a bigger focus on the story mode can make it very different and exciting, and no exclusivity, well, I think they learned their lesson with Street Fighter V.

Nobody asked for it, but…

I know that a whole lot of jokes ad awesome memes appeared after this reveal, and people seem to hate the first Knack. But for some reason I enjoyed the trailer, and who knows we may see a AC 1 to AC 2 evolution.

How I missed you

I just can’t wait to see you back again,Crash. It looks great, and from what the developers are saying, some welcome updates are coming, with improved controls and a promise to bring the game back without destroying its history.

A nice mystery

Revealed a few years ago, What Remains of Edith Finch, looks like one of those titles with an enigmatic story, an obscure atmosphere. From the same studio of the great Unfinished Swan, it tells the story of a family plagued by tragedy, possibly being on of the surprises of 2017. And a welcome addition to PS4’s catalogue, as we don’t have that many quality exclusive indies as we did in the PS3.

Throwback Saturday

The series that made me buy a PSone, I’ll always remember of being amazed by the graphics, the gameplay. It’s nice to see Sony bringing one of its oldest franchises back to life, with not only one but 3 titles to fulfill our nostalgia.

Got the funky flow

For some strange reason I never played PaRappa The Rapper. And it’s a great chance for those who always loved the game and others like me, who always had the curiosity but never had the chance, to give it a try.

Not Enough Bantering

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Games have evolved tremendously since I was a child when it comes to storytelling. And the more complex they became, the more we wanted to know about these characters and worlds. With the evolution of the 3D technology and voice acting, with actors becoming prominent due to some roles, character interaction has reached levels never seen before, increasing immersion, with one aspect that is crucial to it, ordinary bantering.

Even though we have titles with books, texts, audio logs, working as a way to develop our knowledge on a game’s lore, few things are as efficient and powerful as a straightfoward conversation. The Last of Us being  a very successful example, with a very charismatic cast, that becomes even more engaging due to these simple moments, that make the story a lot more compelling.

Like when Ellie is learning to whistle, or tells “amazing” jokes, or when Joel finds comic books for her, and she quotes them, or when she see arcades or albums in a music store for the first time. It may sound silly, but they allow the player to be part of this world, and to better understand it. Enhancing what its characters are going through, and how Ellie, that didn’t have contact with the outer world, reacts to these new experiences and places, bringing a lighter tone to a world torn apart by violence and death.

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And Naughty Dog took that to Uncharted 4, using it to reveal more about Nathan’s relationship with the other characters, more than in other titles of the franchise. Exposing more about their past, stories with Sully, Sam, as an outstanding style of telling stories, without the need of cut scenes or missions that wouldn’t work as part of the main plot.

Similar to TLOU, Bioshock Infinite used this to build Booker and Elizabeth’s relationship. As Ellie, Elizabeth didn’t have a lot of contact with her world, living in a tower, and using bantering we managed to see it through her eyes, having access to a perspective that we wouldn’t otherwise. With many moments becoming unforgettable, as when she reacts to the sound of music, being a quiet and beautiful moment in an action-packed game.

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In games that have a smaller playtime, it can be even more important for a campaign. In RPG’s such as the Mass Effect series, it shows us more about the races, the politics, the galaxy, but in a much minor fashion than Enslaved, for example. A true hidden gem, Enslaved, used it to display the mutation of a contentious relationship, at first, and explained what caused the destruction of mankind in an impressive manner.

As games improve their storytelling, new ways of creating better and more compelling characters are required. And a very competent and simpler way is through bantering, that doesn’t require much from game creators, working as a bridge between the player and their favorite titles. That through thoughtful dialogue can assist us into getting a better grasp of character motivations, their stories and most important, who they are, making them a lot more believable and human.

 

We need to talk about combat in the latter parts of games

Minor spoilers follow

Every story, whether if it’s a book, movie, or game needs an impactful third act to properly close a story, especially if it’s a hero journey’s tale. But more and more it seems like people lose control and don’t deliver a proper ending for a great journey, with it sometimes ruining an experience that would’ve been otherwise unforgettable or at least taking a little bit of the charm. And even great games commit this sin, tending to follow the same mistakes and patterns, such as:

Why so many enemies?

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I love Naughty Dog’s games, but Uncharted and The Last of Us share the same kind of situation, towards the end of the game they just throw a huge number of enemies. In the Uncharted series, using lots of shielded soldiers with weapon that can one-shot-kill you, and the supernatural twists as a way to present new and harder to defeat enemies. The Last of Us, with the sheer number, creating combats that end up becoming more frustrating and more like a chore in both franchises, instead of presenting interesting battles that don’t rely on number, but that require real skill and a use of what you’ve learned throughout the campaign to overcome the last challenge in a more appealing way.

Overuse of mechanics

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One of the best examples of this situation is Batman: Arkham Knight, that had everything to be a candidate of game of the year last year, being the first title of the franchise of this generation, with a simply beautiful Gotham, and the addition of the long requested Batmobile. But unfortunately, something that was supposed to be the last part of the ultimate fantasy of becoming the Batman, became an uninteresting and repetitive part of gameplay, with a clear overuse of the Batmobile in missions that didn’t make a lot of sense and seemed forced, being regarded by many as the worst part of this cherished game.

Have I seen you before?

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Another strange situation is when the game decides to, in the last boss, come up with something that doesn’t make any sense, and that doesn’t  use any of the skills and powers acquired in a clear way. Like the last boss of Quantum Break, in a battle that the game won’t give hints of what is supposed to be done, with many gamers complaining that they only managed to defeat him when the game bugged, or when they found a way to cheese it. Creating an anticlimactic ending that leaves a bad taste in any gamer’s mouth, tarnishing those final moments, and creating the feeling that the developers felt that they needed to have a boss, rather than their proper finale.

Difficulty spike

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This one may be the one with the biggest probability of making a gamer give up, a crazy difficulty spike towards the end. Ni No Kuni is one of the best RPG’s of the last generation, with a stunning art direction created in partnership with Studio Ghibli, but all the beauty hides a challenging game that, from the beginning isn’t a walk in the park, but towards the latter parts becomes punishing for gamers that didn’t really understand the systems properly, or are novice in the genre and don’t grasp the intricacies of the title, with many gamers letting it behind despite loving it.

These are all very good to great games that have compelling stories and even a fulfilling ending, but that could’ve been even better, if they didn’t fall for traps looking to turn their final chapters into something bigger than they needed to be. Transformers is one of example of this, I’m not saying this is a great movie, but a bloated third act helps bringing it down even further than if they went for a more focused and compact ending, and many games could learn that with examples like Journey, that ended perfectly with very little.