Saturday, August 15, 2015

Evolve - Hunting Party

Evolve had a very strange critical history. When it was first introduced by Turtle Rock Studios, the creators of the much-loved Left 4 Dead series, everyone was impressed with its new take on the multiplayer shooter. At the E3 before the game's release, it won several Best of E3 awards. When the game finally came out, the response was surprisingly tepid. Scores ranged mostly between six and eights, and there was lots of talk about its weak multiplayer community just months after launch. 

I've never been one for multiplayer games, especially shooters, but the idea of the game intrigued me. Having four hunters teaming up to hunt a monster that is trying to feed on wildlife to get stronger is such a perfect idea. Each class is wholly unique, and the characters within the class are equally unique. The concept is so perfectly balanced and does not favor either side. This is a pretty big deal in an asymmetrical multiplayer game. This was on my short list of games that I wanted to pick up when I got my PS4, and a low price for a used copy convinced me to take the plunge. 

So how do I feel about my big leap into multiplayer shooters? I'm having a blast. While I don't play it as often as other games I have, such as Bloodborne, I have a great time just picking it up and playing a couple matches. Since I'm such a shooter amateur, I find myself mostly playing the single player (which is just the same game, but with computer controlled bots) in order to unlock most of the hunters. In the past few weeks, I've been actually jumping in and trying the online modes, and it's a whole 'nother game. The monster is so much more difficult to track when it is controlled by an actual human, and the hunting goes better when it's not a bunch of bots following you. Again, I haven't played too many multiplayer shooters, but with the way this game is laid out, it seems to be a lot more strategic than other games out there, while still remaining viscerally exciting. 

Not only is the gameplay concept very clever, the visual and character designs are also wonderful. The central concept of the game is that a planet called Shear, that is very much a jungle type habitat, is overrun by increasingly dangerous wildlife that has finally evolved into these huge, horrifying monsters. Anytime one of these monsters is located, a group of hired hunters gets together to take it out. Each character is visually unique and has a design that really tells their story. My favorite characters include the Assault character Hyde, who punishes the monsters with a combination of a flamethrower and a minigun, and Bucket, a yellow robot who can detach his head and scout for the creature. The monsters all look appropriately hideous and a distinct from each other both in playstyle and look. 

I do have to address the elephant in the room that has been haunting the game since its release: the DLC pricing/structure. The game launched with 12 hunters (three in each of the classes) and three monsters. One of each is unlocked at the beginning, and the rest are unlocked through playing the game and meeting certain requirements. Even before the game was launched, they announced a Season Pass that would include one more hunter for each class, and a new monster that would be purchased separately. The Season Pass was $25 and the monster was $15. So with the game being $60, it would cost you $100 to get all the characters. They are doing another Hunting Season, where it will be $25 for four hunters and a monster. I'm really glad that they are supporting this game so much post-launch, especially since the game didn't really sell as much as they thought it would, and the hunter designs are really awesome, especially the ones released from the second season so far. Even so, this just seems like a poor pricing structure. In a world where free-to-play games have found ways to be hugely successful without requiring any money to start with, it seems crazy to price things like this. Since I got the game for cheap, I may end up getting one of the season passes, but it's still kinda crazy to ask for so much for something that doesn't shake up the core of the gameplay.

I really hope Evolve is something that continues as a franchise. The concept is so awesome, and the gameplay is super well balance. I feel like the developers have listened to the video game community's response to the DLC schedule and would adjust a new game to fix these things. I would love to see it come out as a free-to-play game with a few characters, the new ones could be unlocked either through money or a 'premium in-game currency' earned through play. Maybe they could even create a single player campaign mode that you could grab for a reasonable price. I would even like to see a one-on-one monster fight mode that would make you really feel like you were in a Godzilla movie. Whatever happens, I really hope the community picks up a bit, as there have been some pretty neat tweaks and features that are added at a regular interval. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight - Review

This game was always the one that was going to force my hand to make the jump to the current console generation. I was fortunate enough to find a good bundle and get it earlier, but when they announced Batman: Arkham Knight would be only for PS4 and XBox One, I knew that if I didn't have a PS4 by the time it came out, I would get one.

The Arkham series has consistently been one of my favorites. Arkham Asylum really opened the door and created not only a good game (a first for the Batman franchise), but also crafted a really great Batman story. Some of the boss fights felt kinda forced, but overall it was awesome.

Arkham City took everything about Asylum that worked and put it in a great open world. They created an amazing story reason to let Batman and the criminals run wild in a portion of the city, Escape from New York style. The feeling of actually being Batman, patrolling the city and hunting down supervillains was amazing.

I even liked Arkham Origins, the forgotten entry. Origins was not made by Rocksteady, the studio behind the first two, and didn't do much to evolve the game in a significant way, but it put together a solid and surprising story. Pulling eight assassins out of the Batman lore to hunt you down was a bit of a stretch, but an unexpected twist in the game really brought it to a fun place.

All of these experiences led to some pretty crazy hype for this game. Does the game live up to and exceed my expectations? Short answer: not quite. I would say that this is my second favorite behind Arkham City (which remains one of my favorite games of all time). The main story of Arkham Knight is pretty damn awesome and manages to throw in a fairly interesting curveball almost right off the bat, no pun intended. Some of the side missions are not as compelling as they could be, and the Batmobile gameplay isn't always what you hope it would be, but overall it's an awesome experience. Why I am giving this quick review summary right now? Because to really talk about this game I have to get into SPOILERS. So be warned, after this paragraph, I'll be discussing all the major plot twists in detail, as the story is what really shines about this game.

I thought the death of the Joker at the end of Arkham City was perfect. It was an awesome thing that could not be done in the comics, as they will never be able to definitively kill off the Joker. When they announced Knight, I was glad to see Scarecrow was the main villain, as he was always one of my favorite Batman villains and never really got a great story where he is the lead. Then I saw that they were introducing a new character called the Arkham Knight. Immediately I said, "I will be so pissed if the Arkham Knight turns out to be the Joker, because I want him to stay dead."

Well they found a way to bring him back and I wasn't even mad. After the first big set piece of the game, you get dosed with some pretty heavy fear gas. This, combined with the Joker blood injected into Batman in Arkham City, causes you to hallucinate the Joker. It's perfect. It's the ultimate way for us to actually see a physical manifestation of Batman's greatest fears. He always ends up seeing his dead parents, and I'm sick of that. This seems more like his real fear. That one day, the weight of all this crime fighting will end up causing him to snap, turning him into what he hates the most. They really play around with this mechanic perfectly, and the game is stronger for it. The best part of the climax of the game is some interesting dreamlike stuff with the Joker.

I almost feel bad for the Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight, because the Joker tends to overshadow everyone else in the games he's in (Strange ends up taking a backseat to him in City and Black Mask is pushed aside in Origins as well). The main plot thread is all about the Scarecrow using some crazy device to deploy a super fear gas all over Gotham, and he really puts you through the ringer. This time around, he's voiced by the amazing John Noble, and his delivery and look are suitably creepy. You rarely actually encounter him, but rather hear him on the various screens throughout Gotham. Scarecrow's plot even unexpectedly succeeds at one point, blanketing Gotham in fear gas and taking away a lot of the things you relied on throughout the game.

The Arkham Knight is a fun addition, though not entirely satisfying. He's set up as a military dude who is hired by Scarecrow because of his hatred for Batman, and the majority of the game is spent trying to figure out exactly who he is. Most experienced Batman fans could probably guess who it's going to be within three tries, but after a mid-game Joker hallucination, it become very obvious that the Knight is Jason Todd. It's a little disappointing, but I don't know what would have been satisfying. I understand that they had to show Todd at some point to let people who don't know the Batman lore get an idea of what happened to him, but that really tipped their hand too much. It's cool to see the character, but I just wish they could have done something fresh and new with the concept of the Arkham Knight rather than just do Red Hood under a different name.

One of the coolest additions to the rogues gallery was a set of characters infected by Joker's blood that Batman keeps locked away in a lab/prison. At one point Harley breaks in trying to find the last thing left of her dear sweet Mr. J, and seeing each of these characters is really fun. The highlight is a musical/stealth segment where Jokerified entertainer Johnny Charisma signs to Batman in a room full of armed explosives while the player controlled Robin has to sneak around and defuse the bombs. It's a wonderful bit a variety in a game that's usually broken down into punch, stalk or driving missions.

So now that I've talked a bit about the plot, let's dive into the gameplay. Everything that worked about the previous games works here again. The fighting continues to be a perfect mix of strategy an simplicity, making you feel like a bad ass while still providing a challenge. The stealth portions still make you feel exactly like the Batman, swooping in and out of shadows to quickly dispatch enemies in secret. There are very few advancements in this area, aside from the neat looking fear takedowns, but there doesn't really need to be. The main plot keeps things varied enough that you don't really mind doing the same crisp things you've done for the past three games.

The big new thing is the Batmobile. This is the number one thing people have been asking for each time a new Batman game is announced, and they've finally given it to us, with mixed results. The driving feels perfect. So many open world games get either the on-foot or the driving segments right, but Arkham Knight really nails both of them. There are some really thrilling chases in the game, and the Batmobile handles them perfectly.

But not everything about the Batmobile fits. With a push of a button, you can transform the Batmobile into a tank. This ends up not working entirely with me on both a gameplay and a story standpoint. As far as story goes, Batman isn't really known to like guns. They are the thing that killed his parents, and he definitely doesn't ever use lethal force, so for the Batmobile to be armed with a giant cannon seems a little out of character for me. They also seem to try to write around the idea that these are very clearly lethal things. All of the tanks are conveniently remote controlled, allowing Batman to brutally blow them up, and the machine guns shoot rubber bullets when people are around, allowing for non-lethal takedowns of thugs roaming the streets. Neither of those things really worked for me, so it took away from my enjoyment of those segments.

As far a Bat-Tank gameplay, the controls become like a first person shooter, which isn't really what I signed up for. It would be fine if this was used sparingly, but it seems that since Batmobile is the franchise's new toy, they try to incorporate it as often as possible. There isn't much variety in the tank battle aside from how many tanks you are facing, which just feels like it cheaply increases the difficulty of later fights rather than finding a way to make them satisfyingly complex. In the last act of the game, I kept praying each tank battle was my last, because I had had my fill of them.

The side missions were one of the things I loved in Arkham City, and were a great way to bring in other villains that weren't necessarily part of the main plot, but I felt that this game was quite a bit weaker in that department. Since the main story pretty much only relies on Scarecrow and Arkham Knight, all other villains are only in the side missions, but they never seem to mount to anything substantial. Most of them are just doing the same thing over and over again (Two-Face is robbing another bank, stealth in and takedown all the robbers), and they don't really have a narrative to them. There are a couple good ones that are surprising, but most feel repetitive.

As you can see, I have a lot to say about this game, and that wouldn't be true if it didn't grab me in some way. There is so much of this game that I loved that I am willing to look past its faults. As I said before, it's probably my second favorite of the Arkham games behind City, but City is such a high standard for me that even coming close to it is a huge win. Arkham Knight easily ranks among the best gaming experiences I've had this year.

I'm actually fine with the fact that they said this will be Rocksteady's last Batman game. What I would like to see, at least for the foreseeable future, would be for them to do a series of DLC that are each their own standalone stories that tells shorter, but powerful stories. Maybe that will be a topic for a later blog post.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Order: 1886 - Review

When they debuted The Order: 1886, it looked like it was going to be Sony's, in-house exclusive. I still remember thinking they were crazy when they revealed Bloodborne and had them in a similar release window. Here were two games with a Victorian setting where dudes with guns hunted down monsters in the streets. Why would Sony get the exclusive rights to Bloodborne and release it at relatively the same time as their big release when they looked so alike. They must not care about Bloodborne.

I could not have been any more wrong. The two games ended up being completely different. While The Order focused on cover-based gunfights, Bloodborne focused on tight, fast melee combat. While Bloodborne was about exploring and discovering story bits for yourself, The Order was an extremely linear story that leads you from Point A to B. The Order is about 6 hours long, while Blooborne took me at least 40. Their aesthetics don't even end up being that similar, besides being Victorian. And the biggest difference: Bloodborne is outstanding and The Order is forgettable.

I'll get this out of the way first; this is easily the most gorgeous game I've ever played. The character models and facial animations are absolutely stunning. The environments are so rich and realistic looking. There were many times throughout the game where I would just stop playing and stare at a bottle and out loud, "That bottle looks perfect." Lighting in this game is absolutely perfect, and all the reflective surfaces in the game, such as puddles, react exactly as they should.

For as outstanding as the graphics are, the gameplay isn't really anything to write home about. It's a competent cover-based shooter with many similarities to the Uncharted series. There are actually some really amazing weapons, like an electric gun and one that shoots a gas that you can ignite. While the design of most of the set pieces is not even close to that of Uncharted, there are some good moments. I had particular fun in a creepy hospital level and thought the battle aboard the airship was rather exciting. One of the biggest variations comes in the knife fights that you have with certain werewolves, which are some really thrilling Quick Time Events.

The main problem is that the game doesn't offer much more than just run through a place, shoot some dudes, watch a long cutscene. One of my friends encouraged me to rent this game and check it out saying that I could definitely beat it in a rental because there were only 10 gunfights in the whole game. While that was a bit of an exaggeration, it wasn't too far from the truth, as a few of the games 16 chapters were just cinematics.

There has been a lot of criticism brought up against The Order for being so short, but to me, that's not a huge problem. I mean, we don't think Avatar is better than Gravity because Avatar is an hour longer, do we? My biggest problem with the game is that was not what it should have been. From the start, it seems like the game is about the Knights of the Round Table hunting a werewolf scourge that is destroying London. But very quickly the game gets caught up in a plot about rebels fighting against the Order and a possible traitor in your midst. While there is some cool mythology around the Knights that is explained in interesting ways (it doesn't feed you some information directly, which I appreciate), too much of the game is a missed opportunity.

I'm going to get in to some SPOILERS here, so if you want to avoid that, skip this paragraph. There is twist in the game that completely boggles my mind. About two thirds of the way through, we find out that one of the people that influences the Order is not only Jack the Ripper, but also a vampire. Since there are werewolves in the world, this doesn't seem completely out of left field, but here's the crazy part: YOU NEVER FIGHT A VAMPIRE. You go through and burn some vampires that are being shipped to the United States, but you never actually fight them. This is compounded by the fact that you don't actually fight a ton of werewolves either. The "You Killed 10 Werewolves" trophy didn't actually pop until really late in the game, so there are not many at all. So much of the game is focused on shooting random soldier types, which is no where near as interesting as fighting beasties.

I guess the worst thing about The Order: 1886 is that is a missed opportunity. It's not a terrible game, it just feels like it could have been so much more. The game is gorgeous and the shooting is adequate, but it feels like the game was rushed out, and that the developers saved many things for a sequel, which may never happen due to the poor reception of the game. I have no idea what happened to this game that looked so promising, but at least we have Bloodborne.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Notes from Yharnam: Getting the Hang of It

I don't even know where to start.

I have progressed light years since I last wrote about Bloodborne. Last time I had completed the second boss; I've now killed seven and know where two more are. I've killed several hostile hunters, opened up new areas and had my world flipped upside down by a spider on an endless lake.

So much of the game opened up after defeating Father Gascoigne. You begin to get more details about what the game world is. You find a church where you can send people you find holed up throughout the town. You meet a man who tells you of an ancient university that hides ancient, arcane knowledge deep in the woods. You also find your way into a walled off portion of the city that has been quarantined and given up on.

It's in that walled-off portion, Old Yharnam, that things start to vary up a bit more. The look of the section is different. The idea of this area is that an infection so vile took over, and the place was burned, closed off and left for dead. The beasts here are different and more aggressive, even giving you a poison status for the first time (as far as I recall). This is also the first time I recall fighting a non-boss hunter. When you get to a certain part of Old Yharnam, a hunter named Djura starts shooting at you from the roof of a building.

His dialogue, along with the character of Father Gascoigne, offer some of the first clues that maybe being a hunter isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Djura is trying to protect the monsters from you, as they are really just 'sick' people who need to be pitied. He has a line along the lines of "You still dream, don't you?" When he dies and doesn't come back, it makes a connection between the idea of being reborn and the idea of the Hunter's Dream, the hub world where you shop and level up. This is the kind of lovely and subtle world building that Bloodborne does.

This boss in this area is quite tricky. It's vicious and really pounds you with poison damage in a way that I was not prepared for. Eventually I found some equipment that ramped up my poison resistance and gave me the edge over the Blood-Starved Beast. The reward for beating this boss was not progress in the sense of unlocking a new world, but rather giving you the option to take on the chalice dungeons, something that I have yet to dive into.

After taking out the Blood-Starved Beast, I started exploring the area more around the Cathedral. This area isn't quite as interesting as Old Yharnam, as it is visually very similar, but here we find some of the first enemies that don't seem wolfen or mutated. Men in trench coats with wide brimmed hats roam the land attacking you with canes or scythes. This was also one of the first times that I found an enemy that was truly intimidating. These Reapers are about four times your size and are armed with huge, crude axes. It was actually only recently that I was able to take one of these things down.

A bit later, after a good bit of exploring, I came upon another church (the BSB was also located in a church) and found the fourth boss, the Vicar Amelia. You find a woman praying at an altar who turns into a massive wolf/deer creature. This boss is the most beautifully designed boss I have run across so far in the game. I had a pretty tough time fighting her as well. Fortunately it was around this time that I started learning more about some of the games less obvious mechanics. I finally discovered how the Bell system works to call other players in to help you. With the Vicar Amelia, I ended up calling someone in to assist me. While it was a little less satisfying to beat it with help, it's not like it made it vastly easier.

Beating the Vicar opened up one of my favorite areas in the game, but that can be a story for another time...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road - What a Lovely Movie

It feels weird to say this in 2015, but I think a Mad Max movies is my favorite movie I've seen so far this year.

I was never a HUGE fan of Mad Max. One night in college we watched all three movies in a row, and since then I've always said there are about two total good Mad Max movies: the second half of Mad Max, the entirety of Road Warrior and the first half of Beyond Thunderdome. But as much as I loved Road Warrior, it never really stayed with me as an essential viewing.

After watching Fury Road, I want to immediately dive back into that universe as much as I can. Fury Road exists in a weird gray area that's not a remake or a reboot, but rather just takes the world and the main character and just tells another one of his adventures, much like a James Bond movies. The film is structured in such a way that it doesn't require any familiarity with the franchise to follow along. Right off the bat, we get the idea that Max is haunted by the lives he couldn't save, particularly those of his family. It's very clear that he wanders the wastelands as he does because he is hesitant to let other get close to him again for fear of experiencing lose again.

The movie also builds the world extremely efficiently. So much comes across in the names and designs of the characters that the film never really slows down to feed you the exposition. While there are many post-apocalyptic films out there, none of them feel anything like Mad Max. Every single vehicle in the movie (and there are MANY) feels unique and looks like it was engineered from the ground up for style/practicality.

After the film, my wife asked me what my favorite "part" was, and I honestly couldn't parse the film out into "parts." The action in this film feels so non-stop that it's hard to thing of it as anything but one long chase scene where people occasionally pull over and talk. There was a beautiful shot quite a bit into the film where they are driving through a crazy dust-tornado storm where a flare flies out of someone's hands and lands on the ground, only to burn out and fade to black. At that point, I felt myself letting out a sigh of relief. It was really the first time that the movie pumped its brakes in any way, and it took that moment to realize that.

So far in this review I've talked about the world and the action, which may lead you to believe that the story take a backseat in this film, but that isn't so at all. While the dialogue and story may be a bit sparse, it still is fully formed and resonates quite a bit. There are a lot of neat character arcs that run throughout the film, particularly Nicholas Hoult's Nux.

Immediately when I got home, I tried to find details about the upcoming Mad Max video game. The reason I did this: I want more of this world. I want to live in it and breath it in and fight my way through it. I cannot stress enough how awesome this movie is. Go see it out on the biggest screen possible.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Notes from Yharnam - Bloodborne Impressions

It was a really big leap for me to purchase Bloodborne. Years ago, I bought Demons Souls. I tried and I tried but could just not get into it. I don't know if I just didn't like the pace of the combat or if the world just didn't resonate with me, but nothing about it grabbed me and made me want to swim upstream against its punishing difficulty. When I saw previews of Bloodborne, I saw something that was much more my speed. The world was just my type and the monsters all looked like something out of a medieval Silent Hill prequel. As much as it looked like a game for me, all I could remember was that I gave up on Demons Souls and I worried that I would do the same with this one.

And I came close. The first part of the game was great. The world was so interesting and beautiful. The controls and combat were quick and responsive. Everything was going swell.

Then I got to the mob.

There's a street in the game where you find a big group of enemies surrounding a burning werewolf corpse. It's a wonderful sight, but is completely overwhelming. I tried time and time again, but kept getting taken down. Eventually I learned which ones I should take out first and how to draw people away so I could fight them in smaller groups so I didn't get surrounded and run out of stamina.

When I finally cleared the street it felt amazing. Immediately after there was a strange feeling of panic. Where do I go now? Since I would have to do it all over again if (when) I died, the tension was palpable. I explored a bit and then died. I challenged the mob again and was able to beat them. I kept chipping away and getting a little further each time.

Then I took a little break from playing. When I came back, I suddenly was having trouble fighting normal enemies. Things that usually died with two hits were now taking five or six. I could barely take it to the mob. I thought I wasn't remembering things right and didn't know how to proceed. This was the low point.

Suddenly I noticed a little note on the screen when I respawned. "Weapon Broken." Since this game just drops you in, I had no idea that your weapon could break, nor how to repair it. I went to the hub world and found a weapon bench where I fixed up my weapon, and even upgraded it.

I immediately ran right through the mob. I felt reinvigorated. I pushed further than I had before, tore through some werewolves and found myself at the first boss. The first fight with him was not pretty. I got some good hits on him, but ultimately lost. When I respawned, I was nervous. It took me a lot of hard work to get there, so I knew it wouldn't be easy to repeat.

But this time, I noticed I could level up. I leveled up a couple times and was able to kill the boss after a few more tries.

And when I did I felt like a GOD.

After a bit more exploring I was able to find the next boss pretty quickly. This one was giving me more trouble, so I spent some more time exploring.

Eventually I found a side quest where someone wanted me to look for their missing father and mother. The kid gave me a music box and mentioned that it had calmed down her dad, who was a hunter. I knew that the boss was a corrupted hunter, so I tried to use the music box on him, and it stunned him. It was an amazing moment where a little bit of story telling really paid off. A couple more tries and I beat this boss too.

Now the world has opened up quite a bit to me. I found someone who gave me details about the world and the mythology of what's going on in the town of Yharnam. And I'm completely hooked.

I'm struggling with making more progress, but it's so wonderful to learn more and more about the world and how to play, and I keep progressing more each time.

I'll try to keep you posted on my process as I continue.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Review: The Wake

It's no secret that Vertigo hasn't exactly been what it used to be recently. Every once in a while there are a couple glimmers of hope, but mostly the creators that would normally bring their works here are migrating over to Image. About two years ago, one of those glimmers of hope came in the form of a pair of miniseries: The Wake by Scott Snyder and Trillium by Jeff Lemire. I'm not usually one to buy miniseries, but these were too good, so I decided I would buy one of them. Trillium did a lot more interesting things with the form of comics, so I figured that would be the more interesting one to buy in single issues. Now I've finally gotten my hands on The Wake and worked my way through it.

When I heard Snyder pitching this book, it sounded perfect for me. Number one, he talked about it as a claustrophobic horror story set at an underwater research lab. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for stories set underwater, so that was a huge plus. And number two, he talked about how he was going to reinvent various seabound myths, such as the siren and the mermaid. Since I adore the way Snyder plays with vampire mythology in American Vampire, I was glad to see him working with another creature.

The Wake starts off wonderfully. Our protagonist gets a mysterious offer from her ex-employers and is whisked away to an underwater lab populated by scientists in various fields that don't really seem to be closely related. As the story unfolds, we learn that lab houses a dangerous creature, who of course gets free and wreaks havoc on the lab. This chaos is awesome. Since the creature is supposed to be the basis for legends such as the mermaid and siren, it has a hallucinogenic effect that lets them play around with reality in the comic. It's all wonderfully tense and moody and really escalates at a fantastic pace.

Then the book enters its second half.

Snyder ditches all the characters from the first part and jumps the story ahead 200 years. The Wake turns into a post-apocalyptic tale where a slew of mermaid creatures has flood the Earth. It's such a sharp tonal shift from the first half, and it never really comes together for me. There is some neat world building going on, but the I was so into the original premise and characters that I couldn't get invested in this second world. The mythology set up in the beginning also expands itself in very strange ways. It's not that it's bad, it's just that it seems to me to be a very weird choice narratively.

The ending of the book really tries to tie things up nicely, but it reaches way too far for me. It's hard to imagine how it went from a simple little claustrophobic tale to something that tries to peel back the origin and nature of mankind. I'm not entirely sure what happened at the end, as it gets really high-concept.

I guess the real question you are wondering is should you still read it? Even though I'm pretty hard on the second half of the book, I would still recommend it. Maybe that type of story isn't something I was in the mood for. It's not poorly written, it's just shockingly different from the first half, which I was really into. Give it a try. If you don't have any interest in a post-apocalyptic tale, just read the first half, and you should still end up with a pretty satisfying read.