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  1. Mass Effect has been a series dear to my heart since I played the first entry almost a decade ago. That original trilogy captivated a generation of players with a science-fiction universe into which BioWare wove a spellbinding tale of heroism that sought to answer some of the very fundamental questions of human existence. The trilogy ended on a note that left an entire Milky Way galaxy irrevocably changed – the kind of ending upon with it is difficult, if not impossible, to continue. To that circumvent that finality, Mass Effect: Andromeda sends players on a mission to colonize a completely different galaxy. Having left years before the conclusion of Mass Effect 3, several arks house the primary sentient species that inhabited the Milky Way. Those familiar races, the humans, asari, turians, salarians, and krogan, spent six hundred years in stasis pods to reach the Andromeda galaxy. This journey promised a fresh start for those who embarked upon it. The Initiative, the organization behind the resettlement, launched the Nexus, a gigantic space station that would serve as a new galactic hub, around the same time as the ark ships. Several “golden worlds” had been identified, prime targets for habitation for the various settling species. Everything was planned to the letter. Except very few things ever go according to plan. Really, that above sentence could apply broadly to Mass Effect: Andromeda, not just the story. No doubt most people reading this review will be familiar with the facial animation issues in Andromeda. While those animation woes are by no means small, the extreme focus on them has eclipsed a lot of the discussion regarding the more interesting problems that plague Mass Effect: Andromeda. When I think back on my time with BioWare’s latest attempt as a space epic, I remember all the time I spent on sprawling planets that initially held a certain thrill of discovery. I was an explorer! These were planets in a new and unknown galaxy! Who knows what kinds of crazy lifeforms or interesting encounters might be around any given turn of the terrain? Heck, BioWare even resurrected a planet roving vehicle and improved its handling to hark back to the original Mass Effect and its Mako tank. As I delved deeper and deeper into Andromeda, the game begin to feel routine. Why? Part of what contributed to the mundane atmosphere that pervades Mass Effect: Andromeda can be traced to the waste of its own fundamental premise. Players were on an adventure to an entirely unknown galaxy, a situation prime for introducing truly alien encounters. Instead of expanding the Mass Effect universe in interesting ways, players simply find more of the same stuff. BioWare took a creative approach to write themselves out of the corner they had created with Mass Effect 3, but chose to ignore many of the interesting elements that their solution would entail in order to bring everything back to some arbitrary status quo. Instead of encountering novel beings that would arise from a galaxy free from the cycle of destruction within the Milky Way, the two new sentient races encountered in Andromeda are humanoid with immediately relatable wants and desires. The main quirk of the angaran? They are more communal and open with their emotions. The main quirk of the kett? They have a rigid theocratic hierarchy based around genetics. We’re in a new galaxy in a rich sci-fi universe where the creatures we encounter could be anything: sentient energy crystals, renegade swarms of nanites that have achieved a hivemind, mouse-sized silicon creatures whose ways are completely incomprehensible. Literally anything could exist in a galaxy so far removed from any kind of interaction with the galaxy BioWare crafted in the first three games. Those interesting possibilities are shoved aside in favor of more familiar and “relatable” allies and villains. In fact, this desire to return to the pre-Mass Effect 3 status quo in a new galaxy even extends to some of the most thought provoking questions of encountering alien species. The most important part of first contact involves figuring out how to communicate. Entire films have been based around that premise *cough* Arrival *cough*. Even Star Trek: The Next Generation took an hour for Picard to figure out how a new alien species communicated. You could take it for granted in the trilogy that humans had figured out communications with the aliens of Citadel space decades previously, so it wasn’t an issue. Mass Effect: Andromeda spends not even five minutes on that subject with either of its new additions to their galactic cast of character species. Not only that, but the entire sense of scale, the stakes, and the urgency at play is skewed. If things go wrong with the ark ships, the entire initiative could fail. Even ground-level, no-name NPCs don’t seem too concerned, despite their desperate circumstances that present a threat to their survival. In one side mission, Ryder encounters two human pot heads living in the middle of nowhere on a planet where the water is so toxic it is literally on fire. The duo should be in the perfect position to know how monumentally screwed the Initiative’s future is, but they simply don’t care – an attitude reflected in how most NPCs react to deadly danger in Andromeda. Here’s an example: One of the primary locations in Mass Effect: Andromeda is an ice planet called Voeld. It’s one of the worlds controlled by the angara, but the player is told that it has become the front line in the war against the kett. When players land and begin exploring Voeld, the planet presents absolutely no evidence of any kind of protracted war. There are some scattered bases, some ships overhead on occasion, but nothing resembling an ongoing war. Heck, there aren’t even any craters to be seen. We know from Mass Effect 3 what a war in Mass Effect’s universe looks like. Palavin was a colossal battleground between the Reapers and the turians. Soldiers were breathless, tired from combat and wiped out emotionally. They did everything and anything they could to hold the line against an overwhelming adversary. Voeld has none of that. They even have entire towns – one of which has a hotel. They have scientists traipsing around researching animals beneath the ice or old ruins. The kett, supposedly an existential threat to the angaran people, seem at worst a nuisance. Very few characters act appropriately to the situations in which they find themselves. Most almost always go for a glib one-liner on par with Batman Forever’s Mr. Freeze, “Ice to meet you.” Arrived at what should be the sparkling hub of your new civilization only to find that it seems partially derelict? Time for a quip! Wandering in the belly of a completely unknown alien civilization’s living ruin? Time to just randomly activate things because you think you know what they do! Side note: Just once I want to see Ryder or their allies activate one of these alien devices only to find out it starts a giant alien weapon made to warp the planet into a star or some nonsense. They literally have no idea what these devices do, just their best guess and a human created AI that also is just making educated guesses. Then we get to the actual exploration, supposedly the core of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Very little exploration goes on. There are several huge maps covered with constantly respawning camps of enemies that stand between players and objective markers. The missions encountered in the wild rarely become anything more complicated than a fetch quest to get a thing from some bad guys. Sometimes pleasant surprises lurk at the end of seemingly boring quests, like gigantic robot boss battles, but often these grunt work tasks reward the player with habitability points. These points act as a kind of gating mechanism for upgrades, similar to the points used on the world map in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Outside of that, they don’t feel that impactful or important. Even raising planet habitability to 100% feels pointless. The settlements remain the same, some marginal rewards increase, but other than that there never felt like a compelling reason for anyone to bother unless they are a completionist. I’d like to contrast this approach with the original Mass Effect. While the first Mass Effect game certainly had problems, there was genuinely a sense of adventure. Every planet scanned might lead to something unique, like an ancient alien ruin or a collective of terrorists or rogue scientists whose experiment has gone awry. These sequences also had large, open maps that were filled with a lot of nothing and filler enemies, but enough was done to the planets to make them feel distinct and many of the encounters, though reusing assets, were written well enough to be interesting and involved player choice. None of that random exploration is present in Andromeda. I scanned every planet and found not a single unique situation or hidden adventure, only resources for crafting. That crafting system that BioWare touted in the lead up to Andromeda’s release? Unfortunately, it rarely feels impactful. I used weapons I picked up and they worked fine. I crafted weapons a handful of times and they also worked fine in slightly different ways. Most of the time the only things I was excited to craft for Ryder were improvements to the roving tank to improve its speed or boosters. For the most part, Andromeda’s supporting cast manage to provide endearing personalities. Drack as a krogan grandpa and Vetra’s lady-turian smuggler were fun additions to the crew, but on there aren’t any Garrus Vakarians or Tali’Zorah vas Normandys to really latch onto as standout characters. That’s something BioWare could build toward over time with sequels, but I didn’t feel any particularly strong connections with most of the characters in this first outing. The disconnect between the player and various characters in Andromeda largely boils down to the amount of inconsequential fluff that pads out Andromeda. There’s so much busywork with so little pay-off that players lose track of what makes the cast fun or special. There was a 15+ hour long period in my playtime where I was just bored with what I was doing. Oh no, a scientist put her thesis on a hard drive that was stolen by bandits. Time to drive to the middle of nowhere to kill them and get it back (and the solution is almost always kill some ambiguous “them”). Missions like this exist in abundance throughout Andromeda – little to no interesting character interactions, just straightforward affairs that have players going around the same big environments. When the worlds open up, players naturally invest themselves in the various activities thinking that there might be an interesting moment or pay off to any of it… but there isn’t. Instead, players start to forget what they’re even supposed to be doing or care about. The narrative loses its propulsion. Trudging through the motions of establishing colonies and checking off the soon routine alien ruins spread across planets while dealing with disgruntled colonists- it all becomes work. All of this should be fun – we’re using cutting-edge technology to forge a new home on planets full of alien technology and life forms we have never seen before. The first beat of life after the exciting introductory sequence occurred over a dozen hours later when I was able to take on companion missions. It felt like things were happening! I got to see characters interacting with each other! Some well-written scenarios that made me laugh or excited! Liam’s side mission in particular felt like such a welcome breath of fresh air it almost seemed like it was from a different game. When Andromeda leans into those more linear segments and allows its characters to be themselves with Ryder or other companions, it really shines. Remember the action button prompts that would frequently pop up in Mass Effect 2 and 3? The ones that allowed extreme actions to be taken during dialogue sequences? Those are so rare that I could count with one hand the number I saw in a full playthrough. It got to the point that I just pressed it excitedly when it popped up without really knowing what was going to happen and at least on one occasion that resulted in a character’s death. While ditching the Paragon and Renegade system of years past seemed like a necessary update, it also eliminated the short hand players could use to predict what kind of an outcome pressing the action prompt might have in Andromeda. Combat stands out as the most solid aspect of Mass Effect: Andromeda. This is the smoothest and most action-filled BioWare game to date and it just feels good to take down enemies. On top of that, the new jump and boost mechanics give combat a whole new degree of mobility that it never had before. It feels free and fluid, providing players with more options in a fight than ever before. The responsive gunplay and interesting abilities really come to the forefront, making it easy to sink a lot of time into the less interesting parts of the game just to discover the perfect combination of abilities. The smooth combat translates into an enjoyable multiplayer experience who enjoy the gameplay on its own. Players accomplish a variety of objectives around various maps before escaping in shuttle craft. Succeeding in these missions allows players to level their multiplayer character and unlock new weapons and abilities for that character. Some rewards also carry over into the single-player campaign. It's a solid experience, but I'm not entirely sure how much longevity it has for players who have had their fill of fighting from the core game. Unfortunately, the combat stumbles when it comes to progression in Mass Effect: Andromeda's campaign. Players begin by choosing specialties, but can decide to respec their ability points at any time from their ship or simply use points from new levels to unlock abilities outside of their beginning specialties. Only a handful of those abilities are gated to certain levels, meaning that most abilities are available from the start. This all sounds great, but the problem comes in when players discover their preferred play style and abilities. When that happens, the motivation to experiment comes to an end. Upgrading those abilities simply makes them more effective, but doesn’t change the player’s approach to gameplay. This leads to gameplay becoming stale toward the end of a prolonged playthrough, which is hardly ideal. All of this doesn’t even touch on the various glitches that can plague Mass Effect: Andromeda. These manifest in a number of ways. Sometimes the game randomly crashes. Other times NPCs duplicate themselves. This can happen during conversations and can be really jarring. Sometimes NPCs get stuck in world objects. Notably, a random NPC on the Nexus space station would stand still on a stage staring straight ahead. She unnervingly persisted throughout my entire playthrough. Enemies in the respawning zones around the various worlds sometimes just float in the air. Sometimes characters simply disappear from cutscenes or fuse with other characters to create horrifying chimeras. Note: A recent patch weeks after release managed to fix the bizarrely dead and distracting eyes that often appeared to be locked into a look of fear or surprise. That patch doesn’t fix some of the other issues most of the faces in Andromeda seem to have with emoting, though. Some characters have certain resting faces that make them look like they are perpetually smiling, regardless of the situation. This issue is particularly noticeable with certain versions of female Ryder or her ally Cora. Also, and this is really not important, but female angaran character models look like they weren’t finished. Compare them to male angaran faces and they seem to lack a lot of detail or defining features. Conclusion: Mass Effect: Andromeda has the potential to be built into something great, but that potential is buried under a pile of issues that range from structural to technical. These problems range in scale from insignificant to huge. That this game launched without a fix for something as basic as the patch that fixed how eyes looked is incredible. Combat manages to top that of its predecessors, but becomes mired when it comes to progression. The visual presentation of the various planets at times reaches awe-inspiring heights, but gets brought low by the facial animations and persistent glitches. The potential of a new galaxy stretches out for players to explore and define, but that promise gets squandered in a number of disappointing ways. All of that being said, Mass Effect: Andromeda succeeds in laying a foundation on which sequels could successfully build. This outing might not live up to the series’ roots, but the possibility remains open for the entries that are sure to come. Mass Effect: Andromeda is now available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC View full article
  2. Mass Effect has been a series dear to my heart since I played the first entry almost a decade ago. That original trilogy captivated a generation of players with a science-fiction universe into which BioWare wove a spellbinding tale of heroism that sought to answer some of the very fundamental questions of human existence. The trilogy ended on a note that left an entire Milky Way galaxy irrevocably changed – the kind of ending upon with it is difficult, if not impossible, to continue. To that circumvent that finality, Mass Effect: Andromeda sends players on a mission to colonize a completely different galaxy. Having left years before the conclusion of Mass Effect 3, several arks house the primary sentient species that inhabited the Milky Way. Those familiar races, the humans, asari, turians, salarians, and krogan, spent six hundred years in stasis pods to reach the Andromeda galaxy. This journey promised a fresh start for those who embarked upon it. The Initiative, the organization behind the resettlement, launched the Nexus, a gigantic space station that would serve as a new galactic hub, around the same time as the ark ships. Several “golden worlds” had been identified, prime targets for habitation for the various settling species. Everything was planned to the letter. Except very few things ever go according to plan. Really, that above sentence could apply broadly to Mass Effect: Andromeda, not just the story. No doubt most people reading this review will be familiar with the facial animation issues in Andromeda. While those animation woes are by no means small, the extreme focus on them has eclipsed a lot of the discussion regarding the more interesting problems that plague Mass Effect: Andromeda. When I think back on my time with BioWare’s latest attempt as a space epic, I remember all the time I spent on sprawling planets that initially held a certain thrill of discovery. I was an explorer! These were planets in a new and unknown galaxy! Who knows what kinds of crazy lifeforms or interesting encounters might be around any given turn of the terrain? Heck, BioWare even resurrected a planet roving vehicle and improved its handling to hark back to the original Mass Effect and its Mako tank. As I delved deeper and deeper into Andromeda, the game begin to feel routine. Why? Part of what contributed to the mundane atmosphere that pervades Mass Effect: Andromeda can be traced to the waste of its own fundamental premise. Players were on an adventure to an entirely unknown galaxy, a situation prime for introducing truly alien encounters. Instead of expanding the Mass Effect universe in interesting ways, players simply find more of the same stuff. BioWare took a creative approach to write themselves out of the corner they had created with Mass Effect 3, but chose to ignore many of the interesting elements that their solution would entail in order to bring everything back to some arbitrary status quo. Instead of encountering novel beings that would arise from a galaxy free from the cycle of destruction within the Milky Way, the two new sentient races encountered in Andromeda are humanoid with immediately relatable wants and desires. The main quirk of the angaran? They are more communal and open with their emotions. The main quirk of the kett? They have a rigid theocratic hierarchy based around genetics. We’re in a new galaxy in a rich sci-fi universe where the creatures we encounter could be anything: sentient energy crystals, renegade swarms of nanites that have achieved a hivemind, mouse-sized silicon creatures whose ways are completely incomprehensible. Literally anything could exist in a galaxy so far removed from any kind of interaction with the galaxy BioWare crafted in the first three games. Those interesting possibilities are shoved aside in favor of more familiar and “relatable” allies and villains. In fact, this desire to return to the pre-Mass Effect 3 status quo in a new galaxy even extends to some of the most thought provoking questions of encountering alien species. The most important part of first contact involves figuring out how to communicate. Entire films have been based around that premise *cough* Arrival *cough*. Even Star Trek: The Next Generation took an hour for Picard to figure out how a new alien species communicated. You could take it for granted in the trilogy that humans had figured out communications with the aliens of Citadel space decades previously, so it wasn’t an issue. Mass Effect: Andromeda spends not even five minutes on that subject with either of its new additions to their galactic cast of character species. Not only that, but the entire sense of scale, the stakes, and the urgency at play is skewed. If things go wrong with the ark ships, the entire initiative could fail. Even ground-level, no-name NPCs don’t seem too concerned, despite their desperate circumstances that present a threat to their survival. In one side mission, Ryder encounters two human pot heads living in the middle of nowhere on a planet where the water is so toxic it is literally on fire. The duo should be in the perfect position to know how monumentally screwed the Initiative’s future is, but they simply don’t care – an attitude reflected in how most NPCs react to deadly danger in Andromeda. Here’s an example: One of the primary locations in Mass Effect: Andromeda is an ice planet called Voeld. It’s one of the worlds controlled by the angara, but the player is told that it has become the front line in the war against the kett. When players land and begin exploring Voeld, the planet presents absolutely no evidence of any kind of protracted war. There are some scattered bases, some ships overhead on occasion, but nothing resembling an ongoing war. Heck, there aren’t even any craters to be seen. We know from Mass Effect 3 what a war in Mass Effect’s universe looks like. Palavin was a colossal battleground between the Reapers and the turians. Soldiers were breathless, tired from combat and wiped out emotionally. They did everything and anything they could to hold the line against an overwhelming adversary. Voeld has none of that. They even have entire towns – one of which has a hotel. They have scientists traipsing around researching animals beneath the ice or old ruins. The kett, supposedly an existential threat to the angaran people, seem at worst a nuisance. Very few characters act appropriately to the situations in which they find themselves. Most almost always go for a glib one-liner on par with Batman Forever’s Mr. Freeze, “Ice to meet you.” Arrived at what should be the sparkling hub of your new civilization only to find that it seems partially derelict? Time for a quip! Wandering in the belly of a completely unknown alien civilization’s living ruin? Time to just randomly activate things because you think you know what they do! Side note: Just once I want to see Ryder or their allies activate one of these alien devices only to find out it starts a giant alien weapon made to warp the planet into a star or some nonsense. They literally have no idea what these devices do, just their best guess and a human created AI that also is just making educated guesses. Then we get to the actual exploration, supposedly the core of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Very little exploration goes on. There are several huge maps covered with constantly respawning camps of enemies that stand between players and objective markers. The missions encountered in the wild rarely become anything more complicated than a fetch quest to get a thing from some bad guys. Sometimes pleasant surprises lurk at the end of seemingly boring quests, like gigantic robot boss battles, but often these grunt work tasks reward the player with habitability points. These points act as a kind of gating mechanism for upgrades, similar to the points used on the world map in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Outside of that, they don’t feel that impactful or important. Even raising planet habitability to 100% feels pointless. The settlements remain the same, some marginal rewards increase, but other than that there never felt like a compelling reason for anyone to bother unless they are a completionist. I’d like to contrast this approach with the original Mass Effect. While the first Mass Effect game certainly had problems, there was genuinely a sense of adventure. Every planet scanned might lead to something unique, like an ancient alien ruin or a collective of terrorists or rogue scientists whose experiment has gone awry. These sequences also had large, open maps that were filled with a lot of nothing and filler enemies, but enough was done to the planets to make them feel distinct and many of the encounters, though reusing assets, were written well enough to be interesting and involved player choice. None of that random exploration is present in Andromeda. I scanned every planet and found not a single unique situation or hidden adventure, only resources for crafting. That crafting system that BioWare touted in the lead up to Andromeda’s release? Unfortunately, it rarely feels impactful. I used weapons I picked up and they worked fine. I crafted weapons a handful of times and they also worked fine in slightly different ways. Most of the time the only things I was excited to craft for Ryder were improvements to the roving tank to improve its speed or boosters. For the most part, Andromeda’s supporting cast manage to provide endearing personalities. Drack as a krogan grandpa and Vetra’s lady-turian smuggler were fun additions to the crew, but on there aren’t any Garrus Vakarians or Tali’Zorah vas Normandys to really latch onto as standout characters. That’s something BioWare could build toward over time with sequels, but I didn’t feel any particularly strong connections with most of the characters in this first outing. The disconnect between the player and various characters in Andromeda largely boils down to the amount of inconsequential fluff that pads out Andromeda. There’s so much busywork with so little pay-off that players lose track of what makes the cast fun or special. There was a 15+ hour long period in my playtime where I was just bored with what I was doing. Oh no, a scientist put her thesis on a hard drive that was stolen by bandits. Time to drive to the middle of nowhere to kill them and get it back (and the solution is almost always kill some ambiguous “them”). Missions like this exist in abundance throughout Andromeda – little to no interesting character interactions, just straightforward affairs that have players going around the same big environments. When the worlds open up, players naturally invest themselves in the various activities thinking that there might be an interesting moment or pay off to any of it… but there isn’t. Instead, players start to forget what they’re even supposed to be doing or care about. The narrative loses its propulsion. Trudging through the motions of establishing colonies and checking off the soon routine alien ruins spread across planets while dealing with disgruntled colonists- it all becomes work. All of this should be fun – we’re using cutting-edge technology to forge a new home on planets full of alien technology and life forms we have never seen before. The first beat of life after the exciting introductory sequence occurred over a dozen hours later when I was able to take on companion missions. It felt like things were happening! I got to see characters interacting with each other! Some well-written scenarios that made me laugh or excited! Liam’s side mission in particular felt like such a welcome breath of fresh air it almost seemed like it was from a different game. When Andromeda leans into those more linear segments and allows its characters to be themselves with Ryder or other companions, it really shines. Remember the action button prompts that would frequently pop up in Mass Effect 2 and 3? The ones that allowed extreme actions to be taken during dialogue sequences? Those are so rare that I could count with one hand the number I saw in a full playthrough. It got to the point that I just pressed it excitedly when it popped up without really knowing what was going to happen and at least on one occasion that resulted in a character’s death. While ditching the Paragon and Renegade system of years past seemed like a necessary update, it also eliminated the short hand players could use to predict what kind of an outcome pressing the action prompt might have in Andromeda. Combat stands out as the most solid aspect of Mass Effect: Andromeda. This is the smoothest and most action-filled BioWare game to date and it just feels good to take down enemies. On top of that, the new jump and boost mechanics give combat a whole new degree of mobility that it never had before. It feels free and fluid, providing players with more options in a fight than ever before. The responsive gunplay and interesting abilities really come to the forefront, making it easy to sink a lot of time into the less interesting parts of the game just to discover the perfect combination of abilities. The smooth combat translates into an enjoyable multiplayer experience who enjoy the gameplay on its own. Players accomplish a variety of objectives around various maps before escaping in shuttle craft. Succeeding in these missions allows players to level their multiplayer character and unlock new weapons and abilities for that character. Some rewards also carry over into the single-player campaign. It's a solid experience, but I'm not entirely sure how much longevity it has for players who have had their fill of fighting from the core game. Unfortunately, the combat stumbles when it comes to progression in Mass Effect: Andromeda's campaign. Players begin by choosing specialties, but can decide to respec their ability points at any time from their ship or simply use points from new levels to unlock abilities outside of their beginning specialties. Only a handful of those abilities are gated to certain levels, meaning that most abilities are available from the start. This all sounds great, but the problem comes in when players discover their preferred play style and abilities. When that happens, the motivation to experiment comes to an end. Upgrading those abilities simply makes them more effective, but doesn’t change the player’s approach to gameplay. This leads to gameplay becoming stale toward the end of a prolonged playthrough, which is hardly ideal. All of this doesn’t even touch on the various glitches that can plague Mass Effect: Andromeda. These manifest in a number of ways. Sometimes the game randomly crashes. Other times NPCs duplicate themselves. This can happen during conversations and can be really jarring. Sometimes NPCs get stuck in world objects. Notably, a random NPC on the Nexus space station would stand still on a stage staring straight ahead. She unnervingly persisted throughout my entire playthrough. Enemies in the respawning zones around the various worlds sometimes just float in the air. Sometimes characters simply disappear from cutscenes or fuse with other characters to create horrifying chimeras. Note: A recent patch weeks after release managed to fix the bizarrely dead and distracting eyes that often appeared to be locked into a look of fear or surprise. That patch doesn’t fix some of the other issues most of the faces in Andromeda seem to have with emoting, though. Some characters have certain resting faces that make them look like they are perpetually smiling, regardless of the situation. This issue is particularly noticeable with certain versions of female Ryder or her ally Cora. Also, and this is really not important, but female angaran character models look like they weren’t finished. Compare them to male angaran faces and they seem to lack a lot of detail or defining features. Conclusion: Mass Effect: Andromeda has the potential to be built into something great, but that potential is buried under a pile of issues that range from structural to technical. These problems range in scale from insignificant to huge. That this game launched without a fix for something as basic as the patch that fixed how eyes looked is incredible. Combat manages to top that of its predecessors, but becomes mired when it comes to progression. The visual presentation of the various planets at times reaches awe-inspiring heights, but gets brought low by the facial animations and persistent glitches. The potential of a new galaxy stretches out for players to explore and define, but that promise gets squandered in a number of disappointing ways. All of that being said, Mass Effect: Andromeda succeeds in laying a foundation on which sequels could successfully build. This outing might not live up to the series’ roots, but the possibility remains open for the entries that are sure to come. Mass Effect: Andromeda is now available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC
  3. Hawk announced the new PlayStation 4 skateboarding title during Sony's CES keynote speech. As exciting as that announcement might be, there are no additional details about the game, not even a title. We know it will release this year and that it will come to PlayStation 4. There was no word on whether it will be exclusive to PS4, leaving open the possibility that Tony Hawk might make its way to other systems. Heck, we don't even know if it will be a downloadable or physical release. Some speculate that Activision and Sony have cut a marketing deal reminiscent of Destiny's Sony exclusive advertising. Of course, it is a bit too soon to jump to any conclusions with the limited information available. It's enough for now to know that Tony Hawk 2015 exists.
  4. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was born from the vision of filmmaker Josef Fares. Fares, a Lebanese refugee, managed to escape the country's civil war in 1987 and relocate to Sweden with his family. He became a prolific director in the Swedish film world and made Jalla! Jalla!, one of the most popular films in the country. Released by Starbreeze Studios in 2013, Brothers adopted a highly unconventional dual joystick control scheme for its isometric adventure game. It became an instant critical darling, but what did it do right to earn that praise? Perhaps things are different when revisiting the game from a 2017 perspective. Is Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons worthy of the praise it received for its cinematic vision and unique control scheme? Is it one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt 'Love and Loss' by Sebastien Skaf (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03484) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  5. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was born from the vision of filmmaker Josef Fares. Fares, a Lebanese refugee, managed to escape the country's civil war in 1987 and relocate to Sweden with his family. He became a prolific director in the Swedish film world and made Jalla! Jalla!, one of the most popular films in the country. Released by Starbreeze Studios in 2013, Brothers adopted a highly unconventional dual joystick control scheme for its isometric adventure game. It became an instant critical darling, but what did it do right to earn that praise? Perhaps things are different when revisiting the game from a 2017 perspective. Is Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons worthy of the praise it received for its cinematic vision and unique control scheme? Is it one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt 'Love and Loss' by Sebastien Skaf (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03484) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  6. The folks at Lizardcube release their side-scrolling action-platformer Wonder Boy today. The vibrant, dream-like game follows the either Hu-Man or Hu-Girl as he/she ventures into Monster Land in search of the dragon's room. Unfortunately for our hero, the room isn't without its traps. The dragon curses Wonder Boy, dooming him to live in various animal-human forms. The trailer shows these forms in action: Lizard-Man, Mouse-Man, Lion-Man, Piranha-Man, and Hawk-Man. Each one has different advantages, like a fire breath attack as Lizard-Man or the ability to fly as Hawk-Man. Players will need to master each form in order to recover the Salamander Cross and remove the curse for good. As a nice added bonus, players can switch back and forth from the modern, hand-animated style or a retro 8-bit aesthetic. These changes can be made on the fly and even extend to the audio and sound effects. Wonder Boy is an old Sega franchise that had some of the strangest numbering and naming conventions, even by gaming standards. The series goes Wonder Boy, Wonder Boy: Monster Land, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap, Wonder Boy V: Monster World III, and Monster World IV. Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap is a modern reimagining of the 1989 Sega Master System title Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap for modern consoles and possibly an attempt to revive the dormant Wonder Boy IP for a new era. Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch
  7. The folks at Lizardcube release their side-scrolling action-platformer Wonder Boy today. The vibrant, dream-like game follows the either Hu-Man or Hu-Girl as he/she ventures into Monster Land in search of the dragon's room. Unfortunately for our hero, the room isn't without its traps. The dragon curses Wonder Boy, dooming him to live in various animal-human forms. The trailer shows these forms in action: Lizard-Man, Mouse-Man, Lion-Man, Piranha-Man, and Hawk-Man. Each one has different advantages, like a fire breath attack as Lizard-Man or the ability to fly as Hawk-Man. Players will need to master each form in order to recover the Salamander Cross and remove the curse for good. As a nice added bonus, players can switch back and forth from the modern, hand-animated style or a retro 8-bit aesthetic. These changes can be made on the fly and even extend to the audio and sound effects. Wonder Boy is an old Sega franchise that had some of the strangest numbering and naming conventions, even by gaming standards. The series goes Wonder Boy, Wonder Boy: Monster Land, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap, Wonder Boy V: Monster World III, and Monster World IV. Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap is a modern reimagining of the 1989 Sega Master System title Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap for modern consoles and possibly an attempt to revive the dormant Wonder Boy IP for a new era. Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch View full article
  8. Beginning January 13th, PlayStation will be launching a subscription for their PlayStation Now streaming service. PlayStation owners can currently only pay to rent individual titles for differing period of time ranging from four hours to ninety days at prices that vary from as little as $1.99 to $14.99. Subscribers will have access to every PlayStation Now title for as long as they remain subscribed. PlayStation plans to implement two subscription bundles. One month will cost customers $19.99. Alternatively, a three month package will run $44.99. PlayStation points out that if the price seems steep, the service grants access to over 100 titles from the PlayStation 3's library. For the skeptical, PlayStation is offering a seven-day free trial. The subscription will be rolled out on PlayStation 4 before making its way to other systems and devices. To celebrate the launch of the subscription service, a free PlayStation Now theme will be available for PS4 users in early January. Downloading the theme before the end of January will automatically enter PS4 owners into a drawing for a shot at netting a one-year subscription to PlayStation Now. PlayStation Now has been criticized for having inflated prices and being a bit jittery or sluggish when it come to responding to inputs. Is a subscription plan the solution? Does this announcement make you more interested in using PlayStation Now?
  9. The Jak and Daxter Collection released back in 2012. That collection remastered Naughty Dog's original PlayStation 2 trilogy in 720p and 60fps for the PlayStation 3. Now, fans of the action-adventure duo will be able to play Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Jak II, Jak 3, and, as a new addition, Jak X: Combat Racing once again on the PlayStation 4.Instead of releasing as a physical or digital collection, gamers can now purchase each game individually via PSN. The series comes with a number of upgrades over previous releases. Each PS2 title will support 1080p upscaling at 60fps with trophy support. Jax X will have a new splitscreen mode, but support none of the online features. Shareplay and Remote Play will also be available. For those who haven't purchased the PS3 collection, the option to snag Jak and Daxter on PS4 is a pretty good deal. For those who already have the PS3 collection, the ability to grab just Jak X: Combat Racing eliminates needlessly having duplicates of games. No concrete release date has been revealed, though the updated PS2 classics are expected to release later this year. View full article
  10. The Jak and Daxter Collection released back in 2012. That collection remastered Naughty Dog's original PlayStation 2 trilogy in 720p and 60fps for the PlayStation 3. Now, fans of the action-adventure duo will be able to play Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Jak II, Jak 3, and, as a new addition, Jak X: Combat Racing once again on the PlayStation 4.Instead of releasing as a physical or digital collection, gamers can now purchase each game individually via PSN. The series comes with a number of upgrades over previous releases. Each PS2 title will support 1080p upscaling at 60fps with trophy support. Jax X will have a new splitscreen mode, but support none of the online features. Shareplay and Remote Play will also be available. For those who haven't purchased the PS3 collection, the option to snag Jak and Daxter on PS4 is a pretty good deal. For those who already have the PS3 collection, the ability to grab just Jak X: Combat Racing eliminates needlessly having duplicates of games. No concrete release date has been revealed, though the updated PS2 classics are expected to release later this year.
  11. It can be easy to forget the hype machine leading up to a potential big release. When Destiny was first announced, the excitement was palpable. Bungie's promotional images and appearances played up how big the Destiny universe would be. It was a bold new frontier full of alien threats, unknowable constructs, and visually striking heroes. The story seemed larger than life, promising the kind of broad space opera that captivated the world with the release of Star Wars. Accordingly, Destiny's initial trailers adopted a tone fitting those expectations. The first gameplay reveal from E3 2013 offered glimpses of the game Bungie had so carefully crafted, backed by a reverent voice over with a building orchestral score. We saw broad vistas that offered adventure and imposing enemies that threatened us. This experience would surely be something monumental; it would change games forever. Of course, that's not what happened. Destiny turned out to be a highly polished game with some glaring flaws that couldn't deliver on the full promise of what our minds had imagined (as few games truly do). Over the years, Bungie has slowly worked to claw back that dream, adding features, fixing flawed systems, expanding the story, and more. This ongoing development helped Destiny retain its player base. I suppose that's why the drastic shift in tone in the reveal for Destiny 2 has me scratching my head. Revealing a new game in a series not known for its comedy with a joke trailer is unusual to say the least. The trailer and its accompanying teaser are fine and functional, but the tonal shift is something I think warrants a little bit of a think. The trailer for Destiny 2 is a very far cry from how Bungie had initially pitched the franchise. Nathan Fillion reprises his role as the Hunter Exo named Cayde-6 in both the teaser and the trailer proper. Fillion adds a comical punch to what had once been played very straight and earnest. I'm not entirely opposed to the idea of Destiny taking a more tongue-in-cheek approach to its previously self-serious lore, but it does seem rather at odds with the story and tone thus far, especially given that Destiny 2's inciting incident sees humanity all but wiped out and its last line of defense scattered throughout the system. If we continue to see this style of marketing in the lead up to E3 and beyond, it is very possible that Bungie and Activision have decided to steer Destiny's sci-fi epic into more of a Borderlands-like jaunt for loot and humor. If that's the case, it's entirely possible that the developer and publisher have been seeing the reach of Destiny-related social media. We could be seeing an entirely different type of game from what Destiny's player base has come to expect from the quality of life adjustments and expansions to the original Destiny. How that potential revision of the Destiny brand might go over with long-time Destiny fans remains to be seen. Destiny 2 releases September 8 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
  12. It can be easy to forget the hype machine leading up to a potential big release. When Destiny was first announced, the excitement was palpable. Bungie's promotional images and appearances played up how big the Destiny universe would be. It was a bold new frontier full of alien threats, unknowable constructs, and visually striking heroes. The story seemed larger than life, promising the kind of broad space opera that captivated the world with the release of Star Wars. Accordingly, Destiny's initial trailers adopted a tone fitting those expectations. The first gameplay reveal from E3 2013 offered glimpses of the game Bungie had so carefully crafted, backed by a reverent voice over with a building orchestral score. We saw broad vistas that offered adventure and imposing enemies that threatened us. This experience would surely be something monumental; it would change games forever. Of course, that's not what happened. Destiny turned out to be a highly polished game with some glaring flaws that couldn't deliver on the full promise of what our minds had imagined (as few games truly do). Over the years, Bungie has slowly worked to claw back that dream, adding features, fixing flawed systems, expanding the story, and more. This ongoing development helped Destiny retain its player base. I suppose that's why the drastic shift in tone in the reveal for Destiny 2 has me scratching my head. Revealing a new game in a series not known for its comedy with a joke trailer is unusual to say the least. The trailer and its accompanying teaser are fine and functional, but the tonal shift is something I think warrants a little bit of a think. The trailer for Destiny 2 is a very far cry from how Bungie had initially pitched the franchise. Nathan Fillion reprises his role as the Hunter Exo named Cayde-6 in both the teaser and the trailer proper. Fillion adds a comical punch to what had once been played very straight and earnest. I'm not entirely opposed to the idea of Destiny taking a more tongue-in-cheek approach to its previously self-serious lore, but it does seem rather at odds with the story and tone thus far, especially given that Destiny 2's inciting incident sees humanity all but wiped out and its last line of defense scattered throughout the system. If we continue to see this style of marketing in the lead up to E3 and beyond, it is very possible that Bungie and Activision have decided to steer Destiny's sci-fi epic into more of a Borderlands-like jaunt for loot and humor. If that's the case, it's entirely possible that the developer and publisher have been seeing the reach of Destiny-related social media. We could be seeing an entirely different type of game from what Destiny's player base has come to expect from the quality of life adjustments and expansions to the original Destiny. How that potential revision of the Destiny brand might go over with long-time Destiny fans remains to be seen. Destiny 2 releases September 8 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. View full article
  13. Destiny released back in 2014 to a lukewarm critical response and blockbuster sales. Developer Bungie managed to somewhat salvage a game they had once toted as an ongoing, decade-long project (a claim that the company denied a year after Destiny's release). Implementing many, many patches, overhauls, and DLC expansions, Destiny finally began resembling the title that had shown such critical promise running up to its release. Today, after a small tease earlier in the week, Bungie pulled the curtain aside and gave a glimpse at what they have planned for Destiny 2. A new enemy has emerged from the depths of space: Ghaul, leader of the Red Legion. Following a devastating attack on humanity's last city, players will be forced into the wilds of the solar system to seek anything and everything that could be used to take back the city and defeat Ghaul. The trailer shows that the sequel to Destiny will indeed be axing the Tower hub that players have come to know over the past few years - along with all of the accumulated gear - in favor of something new. What exactly that new hub players could call home might be remains to be seen. After ignoring the PC market for the first entry, Destiny 2 will be coming to the computer gaming space, too. It will be interesting to see how the co-op shooter fares outside the confines of consoles. Perhaps mod support? That could be very interesting indeed. Destiny 2 releases September 8 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Those who pre-order will receive access to the beta period of Destiny 2 and possibly some other goodies depending on the retailer. View full article
  14. Destiny released back in 2014 to a lukewarm critical response and blockbuster sales. Developer Bungie managed to somewhat salvage a game they had once toted as an ongoing, decade-long project (a claim that the company denied a year after Destiny's release). Implementing many, many patches, overhauls, and DLC expansions, Destiny finally began resembling the title that had shown such critical promise running up to its release. Today, after a small tease earlier in the week, Bungie pulled the curtain aside and gave a glimpse at what they have planned for Destiny 2. A new enemy has emerged from the depths of space: Ghaul, leader of the Red Legion. Following a devastating attack on humanity's last city, players will be forced into the wilds of the solar system to seek anything and everything that could be used to take back the city and defeat Ghaul. The trailer shows that the sequel to Destiny will indeed be axing the Tower hub that players have come to know over the past few years - along with all of the accumulated gear - in favor of something new. What exactly that new hub players could call home might be remains to be seen. After ignoring the PC market for the first entry, Destiny 2 will be coming to the computer gaming space, too. It will be interesting to see how the co-op shooter fares outside the confines of consoles. Perhaps mod support? That could be very interesting indeed. Destiny 2 releases September 8 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Those who pre-order will receive access to the beta period of Destiny 2 and possibly some other goodies depending on the retailer.
  15. Get ready for some farming nostalgia and small town romance, Natsume stealth released their 2003 life simulator Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life onto the PlayStation Network for PlayStation 4. This move comes as part of the company's celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Harvest Moon series. A Wonderful Life represents the first of two games from the PS2/GameCube era to see a re-release on PS4. In A Wonderful Life, players start with next to nothing aside from a rundown farm with a cow and a dog. Over the course of a few seasons in-game, players can build the farm up into a production juggernaut or let it be and spent their time walking around the nearby town talking with the locals and wooing the several eligible romance options. Players can eventually marry their digital partner and have a kid who then grows up into an adult. The special edition of A Wonderful Life comes with a number of welcome additions to the original game. Players have an additional love interest, more animal types, and the option to continue playing after the end of the story mode. There are also a number of quality of life changes that veterans will likely notice. Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life is now on PSN for $14.99 - who else is going to be farming up a storm in short order?
  16. Get ready for some farming nostalgia and small town romance, Natsume stealth released their 2003 life simulator Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life onto the PlayStation Network for PlayStation 4. This move comes as part of the company's celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Harvest Moon series. A Wonderful Life represents the first of two games from the PS2/GameCube era to see a re-release on PS4. In A Wonderful Life, players start with next to nothing aside from a rundown farm with a cow and a dog. Over the course of a few seasons in-game, players can build the farm up into a production juggernaut or let it be and spent their time walking around the nearby town talking with the locals and wooing the several eligible romance options. Players can eventually marry their digital partner and have a kid who then grows up into an adult. The special edition of A Wonderful Life comes with a number of welcome additions to the original game. Players have an additional love interest, more animal types, and the option to continue playing after the end of the story mode. There are also a number of quality of life changes that veterans will likely notice. Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life is now on PSN for $14.99 - who else is going to be farming up a storm in short order? View full article
  17. Bandai Namco has announced that a new Godzilla game will be rampaging to PS3 and PS4 next year. The new game starring the terror of Tokyo will include appearances by many of Godzilla's familiar enemies, like King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Mechagodzilla. Other than that, this game looks a bit perplexing. Apparently players will control Godzilla with the goal of trampling through cities and foes to destroy Energy Generators and collect G-Energy. All of this will be done with a "Movie-Style Camera Angle System" which sounds like something a vengeful camera god would come up with scourge the lands with confusing camera controls. Whatever the case, I do enjoy the humorous take on the game in the trailer, which might be a good indication that the game won't take itself too seriously. I'm probably in the minority of people who will definitely be looking forward to whatever weird concoction of gameplay Godzilla ends up being.
  18. The rocky road to Team Ninja’s release of Nioh meant that a lot of factors were working against the action RPG when it hit store shelves in February. It had originally been announced back in 2004 by Koei as a straight RPG adaptation of Oni, an unfinished script by famed Japanese film legend Akira Kurosawa. Over the years, it was ripped apart and stitched back together by various development teams trying desperately to make it work. Nioh became a Dynasty Warriors-esque large-scale war game after the merger of Tecmo and Koei. The multiple development teams slowly scrapped almost all of the Akira Kurosawa’s story beats from the title. It wasn’t until Team Ninja fully took control of the project in 2012 that Nioh became recognizably similar to the game that released in 2017. Team Ninja had a very simple elevator pitch for their vision of Nioh: What if you combined a fanciful retelling of Japan’s Sengoku jidai with Dark Souls? Nioh weaves the heavily altered story of William Adams, a sailor for the Dutch East India Company who became the first Western samurai, a top advisor to Japan’s Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and became known as Miura Anjin. Those three facts are about all that remain in Nioh of the real William’s life story. Nioh takes the framework of William’s journey to Japan in the 1600s at the end of one hundred years of civil war and brings it into a more fanciful setting full of spirits and monsters. William begins his tale in England, where a mysterious figure named Edward Kelley imprisons his guardian spirit. The pursuit of this creepy sorcerer takes William to the shores of Japan where evil spirits and demons have run amok, feeding off the death caused by the war. William’s becomes embroiled in the war himself after finding that the sorcerer has allied himself with the enemies of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Soon the conflict threatens to spin out of control as the sorcerer wields ever more powerful magic granted by his consumption of guardian spirits and crystalized spirit stones called Amrita. William, however, has his own array of abilities to combat threats both magical and mundane. One of Nioh’s draws is the ability to play with a wide selection of fighting styles. Players can choose from katana, axe, dual wielding swords, spears, and kusarigama (a sickle with a weighted chain). Each weapon has its own unique style and move set that becomes even deeper with the addition of stances. Any given weapon has three separate stances, high, mid, and low. High stance has slower, more powerful attacks, middle has a good mix between power and agility, and low stance tends to have the fastest attack and dodge speeds. Each of these stances alters the move sets and combos of their given weapon in addition to their differing benefits. On top of that, Nioh allows players to put points into ninjutsu and onmyo to gain ninja and spellcasting abilities. The robust combat system presents a definite learning curve. Those just beginning Nioh will doubtlessly struggle with when to switch stances and the make use of the various abilities at their disposal. However, the true mechanic that every Nioh player will absolutely need to master comes down to one thing: Ki. In Dark Souls, players must manage a stamina gauge that depletes as various attacks are used. Nioh has a Ki meter that serves the same purpose. However, the key difference between the two systems is that timing a follow-up button press after a string of attacks restores some of the player’s lost Ki. This means that those with a good sense of timing and battle rhythm can make more attacks or dodges without becoming exhausted and vulnerable. Some abilities even give attack bonuses for players who can pull off this move. This technique becomes even more necessary when battling the demonic yokai spirits who can create areas that slow Ki regeneration unless the player can purify them with that well-timed button press. Nioh does a number of small, yet significant things when it comes to combat that make it feel like a fresh experience. Adding the active Ki system goes a long way toward creating more engaging combat, but so does extending the effectiveness of status impairments. Typically, status effects in games are more for the rank and file enemies. Nioh allows even the bosses to be affected by the likes of poison, fire, and paralysis. These can help give the winning edge in a particularly challenging boss fight or make an otherwise difficult enemy encounter manageable. Projectile weapons also go a long way toward breathing life into Nioh. Players can equip bows, matchlock rifles, or personal cannons to deal with enemies from afar. These weapons prove to be very effective and benefit from leveling stats that benefit your hand-to-hand combat abilities, so they continue to be effective into the late game. In fact, I was able to take down the final boss of Nioh with a shred of health from cover by making quick use of my fully loaded cannon to land critical headshots. Nioh slips up most when it comes to the level design. One of the things that worked in the favor of the Dark Souls series was the interconnected world that truly felt like a giant puzzle to be solved through exploration. Nioh has a much more linear structure governed by missions. Each mission is its own contained world that leads players toward a boss fight. The quality of these areas varies greatly. Some are perfectly serviceable, a few inch up into “good” territory, but many of them are only interesting on a visual level and only present straight-forward slogs from one combat encounter to another. The worst levels include areas where the player can easily slip off a ledge and fall to what feels like an incredibly cheap death. One boss fight in particular happens to encapsulate both the frustrating level and boss design. A decent slice into the game, the player is tasked with clearing out a flooded temple. Upon reaching the boss, the player becomes locked inside an arena floating on the water to do battle with a giant ooze monster. Except you can’t swim in Nioh, so a trip off the edge of the arena is an instant death. Just don’t fall off, right? Well, the boss is such a large creature, that targeting it means you can’t see anything behind you, so it becomes difficult to tell when you’re in danger of running off the edge. Okay, so don’t target the creature? Well, if you let your attention wander, you might miss the short wind up it does for a move that blasts half the arena with an insta-death energy beam. If you happen to be doing fine against this yokai hell-beast, it actually has two versions of its insta-death move. The first has a warning animation of about a second or two. The second has a split-second jiggle that’s easily missed in the heat of combat. Speaking of those bosses, they represent some of the most irritating encounters I’ve had in video games. Some are relatively easy to overcome while others will leave you dazed with how quickly they destroyed you. Many of the bosses present long, painful bouts of learning when to dodge, what moves will instantly kill you, and what you can or can’t block. On the other hand, a fair number of these encounters feel like truly climactic battles where the odds are stacked against you. Conclusion: When everything goes right in Nioh, it feels wonderfully fluid, responsive, and challenging. The combat shines brightly as something from which future games in the action RPG genre should draw inspiration. While Dark Souls mastered slow, methodical combat and Bloodborne rewarded fast, brutal aggression, Nioh requires players to be fast and precise in order to keep abreast of the chaotic action. However, that’s a delicate balance to maintain and sometimes bosses and level design don’t quite support that balancing act. The visual designs of monsters are routinely interesting to take in and discovering new creatures adds to the fun of progression. The loot system feels unnecessary and clutters up Nioh with useless items. There’s a very solid core to Nioh that deserves expansion. A little more inspiration from similar games (some kind of healing reward for aggression similar to Bloodborne might have been nice), while cutting any needless complications or unfair designs could go a long way toward taking any Nioh successor to even greater acclaim in the future. Nioh is now available for PlayStation 4
  19. The rocky road to Team Ninja’s release of Nioh meant that a lot of factors were working against the action RPG when it hit store shelves in February. It had originally been announced back in 2004 by Koei as a straight RPG adaptation of Oni, an unfinished script by famed Japanese film legend Akira Kurosawa. Over the years, it was ripped apart and stitched back together by various development teams trying desperately to make it work. Nioh became a Dynasty Warriors-esque large-scale war game after the merger of Tecmo and Koei. The multiple development teams slowly scrapped almost all of the Akira Kurosawa’s story beats from the title. It wasn’t until Team Ninja fully took control of the project in 2012 that Nioh became recognizably similar to the game that released in 2017. Team Ninja had a very simple elevator pitch for their vision of Nioh: What if you combined a fanciful retelling of Japan’s Sengoku jidai with Dark Souls? Nioh weaves the heavily altered story of William Adams, a sailor for the Dutch East India Company who became the first Western samurai, a top advisor to Japan’s Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and became known as Miura Anjin. Those three facts are about all that remain in Nioh of the real William’s life story. Nioh takes the framework of William’s journey to Japan in the 1600s at the end of one hundred years of civil war and brings it into a more fanciful setting full of spirits and monsters. William begins his tale in England, where a mysterious figure named Edward Kelley imprisons his guardian spirit. The pursuit of this creepy sorcerer takes William to the shores of Japan where evil spirits and demons have run amok, feeding off the death caused by the war. William’s becomes embroiled in the war himself after finding that the sorcerer has allied himself with the enemies of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Soon the conflict threatens to spin out of control as the sorcerer wields ever more powerful magic granted by his consumption of guardian spirits and crystalized spirit stones called Amrita. William, however, has his own array of abilities to combat threats both magical and mundane. One of Nioh’s draws is the ability to play with a wide selection of fighting styles. Players can choose from katana, axe, dual wielding swords, spears, and kusarigama (a sickle with a weighted chain). Each weapon has its own unique style and move set that becomes even deeper with the addition of stances. Any given weapon has three separate stances, high, mid, and low. High stance has slower, more powerful attacks, middle has a good mix between power and agility, and low stance tends to have the fastest attack and dodge speeds. Each of these stances alters the move sets and combos of their given weapon in addition to their differing benefits. On top of that, Nioh allows players to put points into ninjutsu and onmyo to gain ninja and spellcasting abilities. The robust combat system presents a definite learning curve. Those just beginning Nioh will doubtlessly struggle with when to switch stances and the make use of the various abilities at their disposal. However, the true mechanic that every Nioh player will absolutely need to master comes down to one thing: Ki. In Dark Souls, players must manage a stamina gauge that depletes as various attacks are used. Nioh has a Ki meter that serves the same purpose. However, the key difference between the two systems is that timing a follow-up button press after a string of attacks restores some of the player’s lost Ki. This means that those with a good sense of timing and battle rhythm can make more attacks or dodges without becoming exhausted and vulnerable. Some abilities even give attack bonuses for players who can pull off this move. This technique becomes even more necessary when battling the demonic yokai spirits who can create areas that slow Ki regeneration unless the player can purify them with that well-timed button press. Nioh does a number of small, yet significant things when it comes to combat that make it feel like a fresh experience. Adding the active Ki system goes a long way toward creating more engaging combat, but so does extending the effectiveness of status impairments. Typically, status effects in games are more for the rank and file enemies. Nioh allows even the bosses to be affected by the likes of poison, fire, and paralysis. These can help give the winning edge in a particularly challenging boss fight or make an otherwise difficult enemy encounter manageable. Projectile weapons also go a long way toward breathing life into Nioh. Players can equip bows, matchlock rifles, or personal cannons to deal with enemies from afar. These weapons prove to be very effective and benefit from leveling stats that benefit your hand-to-hand combat abilities, so they continue to be effective into the late game. In fact, I was able to take down the final boss of Nioh with a shred of health from cover by making quick use of my fully loaded cannon to land critical headshots. Nioh slips up most when it comes to the level design. One of the things that worked in the favor of the Dark Souls series was the interconnected world that truly felt like a giant puzzle to be solved through exploration. Nioh has a much more linear structure governed by missions. Each mission is its own contained world that leads players toward a boss fight. The quality of these areas varies greatly. Some are perfectly serviceable, a few inch up into “good” territory, but many of them are only interesting on a visual level and only present straight-forward slogs from one combat encounter to another. The worst levels include areas where the player can easily slip off a ledge and fall to what feels like an incredibly cheap death. One boss fight in particular happens to encapsulate both the frustrating level and boss design. A decent slice into the game, the player is tasked with clearing out a flooded temple. Upon reaching the boss, the player becomes locked inside an arena floating on the water to do battle with a giant ooze monster. Except you can’t swim in Nioh, so a trip off the edge of the arena is an instant death. Just don’t fall off, right? Well, the boss is such a large creature, that targeting it means you can’t see anything behind you, so it becomes difficult to tell when you’re in danger of running off the edge. Okay, so don’t target the creature? Well, if you let your attention wander, you might miss the short wind up it does for a move that blasts half the arena with an insta-death energy beam. If you happen to be doing fine against this yokai hell-beast, it actually has two versions of its insta-death move. The first has a warning animation of about a second or two. The second has a split-second jiggle that’s easily missed in the heat of combat. Speaking of those bosses, they represent some of the most irritating encounters I’ve had in video games. Some are relatively easy to overcome while others will leave you dazed with how quickly they destroyed you. Many of the bosses present long, painful bouts of learning when to dodge, what moves will instantly kill you, and what you can or can’t block. On the other hand, a fair number of these encounters feel like truly climactic battles where the odds are stacked against you. Conclusion: When everything goes right in Nioh, it feels wonderfully fluid, responsive, and challenging. The combat shines brightly as something from which future games in the action RPG genre should draw inspiration. While Dark Souls mastered slow, methodical combat and Bloodborne rewarded fast, brutal aggression, Nioh requires players to be fast and precise in order to keep abreast of the chaotic action. However, that’s a delicate balance to maintain and sometimes bosses and level design don’t quite support that balancing act. The visual designs of monsters are routinely interesting to take in and discovering new creatures adds to the fun of progression. The loot system feels unnecessary and clutters up Nioh with useless items. There’s a very solid core to Nioh that deserves expansion. A little more inspiration from similar games (some kind of healing reward for aggression similar to Bloodborne might have been nice), while cutting any needless complications or unfair designs could go a long way toward taking any Nioh successor to even greater acclaim in the future. Nioh is now available for PlayStation 4 View full article
  20. Hamster Corporation has slowly been making a name for themselves as a company that brings old games to new consoles. The past several months have seen the company bringing a number of high profile titles to PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC. The ongoing project to make these older games compatible began in 2014 with the release of Rygar to test the market and has only gained steam in subsequent years. The full list of games that will be available by the beginning of April of this year has reached over 70 titles. It's a pretty great slice of gaming history that stretches from 1980 to 2000. A subset of those games belong to the ACA Neo Geo series, an effort to remaster and emulate games from the Neo Geo. Seems pretty standard, right? Well, the neat thing about the ACA Neo Geo series is that the games emulate the arcade cabinet versions of gems like King of Fighters, Metal Slug, and Fatal Fury, rather than the console version as past re-releases have done. If you're looking to get in touch with gaming's roots, these might be the perfect place to start without having to scour eBay for expensive, old systems and games.
  21. Hamster Corporation has slowly been making a name for themselves as a company that brings old games to new consoles. The past several months have seen the company bringing a number of high profile titles to PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC. The ongoing project to make these older games compatible began in 2014 with the release of Rygar to test the market and has only gained steam in subsequent years. The full list of games that will be available by the beginning of April of this year has reached over 70 titles. It's a pretty great slice of gaming history that stretches from 1980 to 2000. A subset of those games belong to the ACA Neo Geo series, an effort to remaster and emulate games from the Neo Geo. Seems pretty standard, right? Well, the neat thing about the ACA Neo Geo series is that the games emulate the arcade cabinet versions of gems like King of Fighters, Metal Slug, and Fatal Fury, rather than the console version as past re-releases have done. If you're looking to get in touch with gaming's roots, these might be the perfect place to start without having to scour eBay for expensive, old systems and games. View full article
  22. Sega made an appearance at SXSW Gaming to reveal the game they've been working on under the title of Project Sonic 2017. Now dubbed Sonic Forces, the trailers only show 40 seconds of in-game footage and a little over a minute of CG cinematics. We don't know much about the upcoming Sonic game, but we do know that it looks awfully similar to Sonic Generations and Sonic Adventure, though certainly darker in tone. Forces has classic Sonic teaming up with modern Sonic to kick Dr. Eggman out of a post-apocalyptic future. The gameplay trailer shows Sonic racing through a city under siege by Death Egg Robot sentinels and the cinematic introduces classic Sonic. The robot attack causes explosions and fire to spread through the city as Sonic races through streets filled with robot enemies, spike traps, and speed boosters. Series veteran Takashi Iizuka will be directing Sonic Forces and has confirmed that the title is a standalone entry in the franchise with no connection to Sonic Generations. Sonic Forces will release this holiday season for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox one, and PC. You can watch an hour long recap of Sega's time at SXSW if you're still craving more Sonic tidbits.
  23. Sega made an appearance at SXSW Gaming to reveal the game they've been working on under the title of Project Sonic 2017. Now dubbed Sonic Forces, the trailers only show 40 seconds of in-game footage and a little over a minute of CG cinematics. We don't know much about the upcoming Sonic game, but we do know that it looks awfully similar to Sonic Generations and Sonic Adventure, though certainly darker in tone. Forces has classic Sonic teaming up with modern Sonic to kick Dr. Eggman out of a post-apocalyptic future. The gameplay trailer shows Sonic racing through a city under siege by Death Egg Robot sentinels and the cinematic introduces classic Sonic. The robot attack causes explosions and fire to spread through the city as Sonic races through streets filled with robot enemies, spike traps, and speed boosters. Series veteran Takashi Iizuka will be directing Sonic Forces and has confirmed that the title is a standalone entry in the franchise with no connection to Sonic Generations. Sonic Forces will release this holiday season for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox one, and PC. You can watch an hour long recap of Sega's time at SXSW if you're still craving more Sonic tidbits. View full article
  24. The strange collection of short stories told in video game form now has a solid launch locked in. Giant Sparrow, the studio behind the artistically unique Unfinished Swan, aims to humble and shock players with the mysteries and unexpected tales hidden within What Remains of Edith Finch. What Remains of Edith Finch focuses on the titular Edith Finch as she explores her Washington state family home. Each room in the house contains its own story and will help Edith come another step closer to uncovering why she is the last member of her family left alive. Each story varies in tone and theme, but they are each experienced in first-person and they each end in the death of one of Edith's family members. Giant Sparrow plans to release What Remains of Edith Finch next month on April 25 for PC and PlayStation 4.
  25. The strange collection of short stories told in video game form now has a solid launch locked in. Giant Sparrow, the studio behind the artistically unique Unfinished Swan, aims to humble and shock players with the mysteries and unexpected tales hidden within What Remains of Edith Finch. What Remains of Edith Finch focuses on the titular Edith Finch as she explores her Washington state family home. Each room in the house contains its own story and will help Edith come another step closer to uncovering why she is the last member of her family left alive. Each story varies in tone and theme, but they are each experienced in first-person and they each end in the death of one of Edith's family members. Giant Sparrow plans to release What Remains of Edith Finch next month on April 25 for PC and PlayStation 4. View full article