Sunday 8 October 2023

Sonic Frontiers: The Final Horizon, so far


Back in my list of games for 2022, I listed Sonic Frontiers as my game of the year, and I stand by that.  I really did enjoy it.  It was not perfect, but the gameplay was fun, the story made sense and the characters acted like you would expect them too.  Plus Knuckles wasn't portrayed as a dumbarse.  

However in typical SEGA fashion, it was obvious that the game was rushed and things didn't quite seem finished.  Ignoring the technical issues like pop-in and the weird juxtaposition of cartoon characters and real world looking er, world, it was very bad at explaining mechanics and gameplay bits n pieces.

However after a year, we have the "Final Horizon" update for it, which really makes things fit together well.

Ha ha ha ha, I lie, it does not do that.

At all.

I have 4 main complaints where I think the game manages to mess up:

  1. The story
  2. The controls
  3. The platforming
  4. The difficulty

Beware spoilers (for the DLC)

I was quite looking forward to this update, being able to play as the core Sonic guys again would be nice and I think the game style has a lot of potential, but man did they mess it up.

The Story

You start that game to find that it doesn't fit within the bounds of the original story at all.  The DLC starts somewhere after Sonic's pals "sacrificed" themselves to stabilise Sonic and his cyber corruption that was going on.  Sage thinks of a way that they can do defeat the bad guy without that.

This is despite the fact, that in the normal way & game, Knux, Amy and Tails all come back anyway...

Everyone decides to come together and help each other out.

Including Eggman.

So Eggman is on your side OK.  He is a good guy, working with Sonic and Pals to save their own arses.  He is your friend, for what it is worth, working towards a common goal.

So why am I being attacked by Eggman's Badnik robots?  Why are there a bunch of push back, Eggman bastard bumpers in the midst of these annoying platforming challenges?  It's almost like he's not really on my team.  

Eggman's bastard bumpers

How odd.  As you run around the island, you'll occasionally bump into either Sage, or Eggman who just seem to be chilling out.  Maybe they have some handy information for me as to where the Chaos Emeralds we are all looking for are located?

No, they generally have some boring ass talking about the history of the Islands/Ancients, or get this, why there are no animals on the Island.  Amy and Eggman talked about this (ignore the birds).  At best, that should be an Eggman log file in the pause menu, not something I should be looking out for in the game right?  It's not relevant to the story, but some kind of world-building attempt I guess, but it's so half arsed.  You could completely skip it and no-one would care.

They also regressed Knuckles to being stupid again.  The main game managed to do Knuckles in the right way, he is an innocent guy, a bit gullible, and un-worldy, but he isn't stupid.  In this update, Knuckles and Eggman had a chat where Eggman insulted knuckles with a "hur-dur, you the dumb one" comment and Knuckes replied saying he would punch Eggman.  Ee Gads, who is writing this schlock?

Leading off the punching aspect, in the main game, we see Amy trying to interact with some flowers and she can't because she's stuck in wherever they are stuck, she even laments this very fact that she can't really help.

Yet suddenly in the DLC they are still stuck in wherever they are, but NOW they can interact with the world!  How did this happen? 

Don't know, doesn't matter because, sloppy writing.

There's also things to interact with for.... reasons...?

Each character has a special type of coco to find.  The blue guy with the tablet stuck on its head is for Tails.  Why am I interacting with these things?  I dunno.

There are "lookout coco" that you pick up as well. You get a cutscene and all.  What are they for?  I have no idea.  One big problem Frontiers has consistently had is that it's terrible at explaining things.

These back pack guys give you experience points.  This one I understood as the icons looked like the bits you collect in the main game.

The Controls

I started playing as Amy and things were fine as I ran around the island.  I realised though that she had no Pico-hammer.  

"Odd," thought I "how does Amy attack?"

Well, it turns out she has a homing attack.  That's how.  So I used it, but the timing was off.  

Hrm, what's going on here.  There is definite lag between when I press the button and when she'll do the attack.  I'm sure the game allows for this and the homing attack sections with Amy are either fairly forgiving or rare.

No and no.

The lag is real, the timing has to be spot on.  Too soon and it won't work, too late and the lag makes it not work.  Annoyingly though it's very hard to judge.  Some sections you have just milliseconds to try it and it just isn't enough time.  I made the mistake of getting her tarot card attack in the game now as well, so now when I miss the lock on, she'll tarot card attack, immediately halting all momentum forward and plunge to her doom.

Eventually I got Knuckles sections.  He has a glide (of course) with an annoying start up animation that bothers me.  It works well enough, is a little hard to control, but he is gliding, not flying, so that is to be expected.  Except until you get to challenges that need fine control.  

He can also climb.

But only certain things.

Knuckles seems to have a bunch of climbing challenges high above the ground, which would be fine except for:

  • His connecting to climbable surfaces is unpredictable.  I've glided into them for him to not grab it, so I thought you can't glide into them, but you can.  The jump sometimes doesn't go far enough.  Considering the irritating punishment of having to start from scratch again on the climbing section, he should be a bit more able to grab them walls dammit!
  • When you do connect with a climbing surface, Knux has a tendency to shoot off in odd directions at unexpected speed, hitting a barrier and sliding down a lot, or falling off the wall.
  • A problem since Knuckles went into 3d gaming; the camera is not good at showing you where to go, or allowing lining up of stuff.  Much trial and error seems to be required, which is not good when considering the above mentioned punishment for failure.
It just baffles me that Knuckles control is all over the place.  It just doesn't feel good.  Sonic in the main game felt pretty good and responsive, but so far Amy and Knuckles just feel terrible.

The Platforming

Touched on a little in Knuckles' section above, A big problem with the platforming is unresponsive controls and a lack of checkpoints.  

When I was playing as Amy, there was this one particular section that required fast homing attacks (ha ha...) and boosting in tandem.  I managed to get to the upper part after making my way over chasms of death and felt pretty happy, but was let down by the old card-attack-instead-of homing, and fell to my doom.  Thinking that the last safe place I stood on would be the respawn point (halfway through the challenge) I was dismayed to see that I had to start from scratch.

After many, many, MANY attempts I made it through.  All for the wonderful reward of plot progression.

Ha ha, no, I lie. (again)

I got a red heart thing, which should level up the character when (if) I find the elder coco.  Who I've not stumbled across as yet. 

Great.  Shove it up your arse game.

After you plonk through Amy and Knuckles, you can unlock Tails.  He has a move where her can fly around in the Tornado.  Cool.  It uses boost power though, so it should be limited.  However, most people have discovered that if you draw a figure 8 with the Cyloop, then it gives you unlimited boost for a while.

Heh he he says I, only 1 point away from this move and the upcoming Tails section looks like torture.  A quick detour later and I have enough points to unlock the plane.  Sweet, One figure 8 move later and the next two platforming challenges are done and dusted.  Sweet.

 Thanks you for choosing Air Tails, trivialising platforming challenges since 2023.

I have just recently come across the first tower as Sonic and it is pissing me off already.  I have to Cyloop around this thing, without hitting the speed pads, which can send you off the platform, and since the platform is angles, Sonic handles a bit weirdly too.

I really hate this place.

I think a lot of frustration I have with the game would be alleviated with mid point checkpoints in the platforming.

Sonic's goal is at the top...

This all combines into the last section

The difficulty

What I liked about Frontiers was that while it has it's challenges (usually cyber-space time trials) it was a pretty chill game to play.  I could pop it in and just mess about having a bit of a jolly old time.  I could kick some serious ass and it felt good.

Final Horizon doesn't allow this.  It kicks your ass from the very start.

The Guardians are still on the island and as Sonic were good fun.  This time, when you approach one, you'll see it's called Ninja+ or something.  That + means run away.  I was knocking about as Amy when I encountered a bug guy.  Oh yeah, this guy was kinda chill before, let's check it out.

Goddam!  Now it turns into some kind of SHMUP bullet hell  projectile spewing ball of death.  Amy has no chance of beating it.  However I was impressed.  The normal game had a couple of bullet hell type areas which got me intrigued, dealing with bullet hell type enemies in a 3d space is an interesting concept.

But not for Amy, or Knuckles for that instance.

The next one was Spider+. With this guy I worked out what to do; Cyloop around the stalagmites that pop out of the ground.  So I did about 5 and noticed that his health bar was barely touched.  Ah, jesus, how long will this fight last?  

Not very because he lasered my arse into oblivion.

I unlocked a Cyberspace level as Sonic as just recently.  It was a traditional Sonic style platforming level based on Chemical Zone.  But I noticed that there was a countdown bomb floating around my head.  So not only is there a time limit, in which to get a good score, there is a time limit on how long you can do the level for.

Sonic already has a time limit on him FFS.  Now you have to race against TWO??? What he hell is this?  This game is just full of confused ideas and is all over the place ideas.  

The Conclusion

So the story is not fun, because it just doesn't link with anything and negates the character progression from the original game.

The platforming is not fun as the punishment for failure is too severe and is hindered by the janky controls.

The combat is not fun as the characters don't have an effective way to combat the enemies and is hindered by the janky controls.

So what's fun about this DLC?

Running around as Amy, Knux and Tails?  That's about it really.

If I am to be completely honest, and I will, because this is my blog, I have found that the DLC is contaminating my original opinion of the base game.  I was looking forward to playing as Sonic's pals and thought the open world aspect could work well... But this... Yeesh.

I've seen opinions stating that this is a lot of work for a free update, so we should thanks SEGA, but I disagree with this.  You can tell from the start and updates that have come since the game released that they released it unfinished.  If not unfinished, then unrefined, at the very least, the game was rushed.

So I think that they should've done something like this, but they should've made it more accessible.  

The Final Horizon is unlikely to make new fans love Sonic.  It's hard yes, and it' s nice to see some challenge given, however it's unfairly hard.  

And that's just bullshit.

Come one SEGA & Sonic team. You had a really good thing with Frontiers, why do you insist on messing it up so much?

I'm now at the stage where I need to consider whether I should continue playing the DLC, or wait for a balancing patch or what.

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