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Found 94 results

  1. We finally have more details on the upcoming Square Enix title Project Octopath Traveler that was teased during the Nintendo Direct back in February. With Project Octopath Traveler, Square Enix seems to be angling to recapture the retro RPG fans with stylish presentation, a branching narrative, and a unique combat system. Watching Octopath Traveler in action and it immediately becomes clear that you've never seen anything quite like it. Square Enix announced that the title will make use of a new aesthetic technique that they have dubbed HD-2D. This new style looks like an old-school RPG format that has been tilted into a 3D world while retaining 2D characters. It's certainly unique and eye-catching while retaining that ye olden days RPG feel. We now know that the octopath in Octopath Traveler references the eight potential protagonists that players can select when beginning their adventure. Each character has their own story, motivations in the world, and a unique ability that will allow them to pursue their goals. The two characters shown, Olberic and Primrose, can manipulate NPCs. Olberic can challenge almost anyone to a duel to prove his strength or move characters out of his way. Primrose, on the other hand, can seduce NPCs to help her on quests or lure enemies into traps. While Octopath Traveler certainly seems like a retro RPG, Square Enix has been experimenting with combat mechanics. Turn-based battles that will be immediately familiar to RPG fans are present in full force, but the major difference in Octopath Traveler is the ability to gain Boost Points with every turn that passes. These points can then be used to boost attacks, doing two, three, or four times more damage. They can also be used to heal, cast spells, or even chain combos together. A demo for Octopath Traveler is currently available on the Nintendo Switch eShop. The full game is expected to release sometime during 2018 and, while it has certainly been covered in Nintendo events, it seems like it might be coming to other systems as well.
  2. We finally have more details on the upcoming Square Enix title Project Octopath Traveler that was teased during the Nintendo Direct back in February. With Project Octopath Traveler, Square Enix seems to be angling to recapture the retro RPG fans with stylish presentation, a branching narrative, and a unique combat system. Watching Octopath Traveler in action and it immediately becomes clear that you've never seen anything quite like it. Square Enix announced that the title will make use of a new aesthetic technique that they have dubbed HD-2D. This new style looks like an old-school RPG format that has been tilted into a 3D world while retaining 2D characters. It's certainly unique and eye-catching while retaining that ye olden days RPG feel. We now know that the octopath in Octopath Traveler references the eight potential protagonists that players can select when beginning their adventure. Each character has their own story, motivations in the world, and a unique ability that will allow them to pursue their goals. The two characters shown, Olberic and Primrose, can manipulate NPCs. Olberic can challenge almost anyone to a duel to prove his strength or move characters out of his way. Primrose, on the other hand, can seduce NPCs to help her on quests or lure enemies into traps. While Octopath Traveler certainly seems like a retro RPG, Square Enix has been experimenting with combat mechanics. Turn-based battles that will be immediately familiar to RPG fans are present in full force, but the major difference in Octopath Traveler is the ability to gain Boost Points with every turn that passes. These points can then be used to boost attacks, doing two, three, or four times more damage. They can also be used to heal, cast spells, or even chain combos together. A demo for Octopath Traveler is currently available on the Nintendo Switch eShop. The full game is expected to release sometime during 2018 and, while it has certainly been covered in Nintendo events, it seems like it might be coming to other systems as well. View full article
  3. Square Enix has a complete remake of one of the greatest RPGS of all-time in the works, and it's coming sooner than anyone would have expected! The reveal of Secret of Mana comes with a slew of information about what the remake changes and leaves the same, along with a hard release date. The team working on Secret of Mana has gone to great lengths to keep the classic, top-down gameplay the same while modernizing a number of other aspects. The most obvious change comes with the 3D graphics - a dramatic departure from the Super Nintendo original. The vibrant 3D might not be on par with the likes of the upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake, but it holds a charm all its own. The developers also modernized the controls for the PlayStation 4 controller and the PS Vita. As the trailer demonstrates, actors will finally give a voice to the text players could only imagine when they played Secret of Mana back in 1993. Randi, Primm, Popoi, and many of the whimsical cast of Secret of Mana will talk and feel more alive than they ever have before. To go along with the new voices, a new soundtrack has been created to fully realize the dreams of the original's composer, Hiroki Kikuta. The soundtrack pays tribute to the original while introducing complementary elements and flourishes that weren't present previously. Of course, players will still be able to play solo or with up to two friends in local co-op. For players unfamiliar with Secret of Mana, the story centers on a young man named Randi, a headband-wearing rascal who stumbles upon the Mana Sword, a powerful weapon meant to bring peace to a world in turmoil. With the blade in hand, Randi can harness the power of Mana, a force of unimaginable power and a target for nefarious evildoers throughout the world. He sets out to defeat the forces of evil and is joined along the way by Primm, a fiery noblewoman, and a sprite named Popoi. Pre-orders are now open for Secret of Mana. Those who take advantage of the offer from PSN receive PSN avatars for the three main characters as well as a moogle suit and tiger suit option for all characters at launch. Secret of Mana releases February 15, 2018 for the PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and PC. Players too excited to wait can get their hands on the title a bit earlier at PAX West September 1-4.
  4. Square Enix has a complete remake of one of the greatest RPGS of all-time in the works, and it's coming sooner than anyone would have expected! The reveal of Secret of Mana comes with a slew of information about what the remake changes and leaves the same, along with a hard release date. The team working on Secret of Mana has gone to great lengths to keep the classic, top-down gameplay the same while modernizing a number of other aspects. The most obvious change comes with the 3D graphics - a dramatic departure from the Super Nintendo original. The vibrant 3D might not be on par with the likes of the upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake, but it holds a charm all its own. The developers also modernized the controls for the PlayStation 4 controller and the PS Vita. As the trailer demonstrates, actors will finally give a voice to the text players could only imagine when they played Secret of Mana back in 1993. Randi, Primm, Popoi, and many of the whimsical cast of Secret of Mana will talk and feel more alive than they ever have before. To go along with the new voices, a new soundtrack has been created to fully realize the dreams of the original's composer, Hiroki Kikuta. The soundtrack pays tribute to the original while introducing complementary elements and flourishes that weren't present previously. Of course, players will still be able to play solo or with up to two friends in local co-op. For players unfamiliar with Secret of Mana, the story centers on a young man named Randi, a headband-wearing rascal who stumbles upon the Mana Sword, a powerful weapon meant to bring peace to a world in turmoil. With the blade in hand, Randi can harness the power of Mana, a force of unimaginable power and a target for nefarious evildoers throughout the world. He sets out to defeat the forces of evil and is joined along the way by Primm, a fiery noblewoman, and a sprite named Popoi. Pre-orders are now open for Secret of Mana. Those who take advantage of the offer from PSN receive PSN avatars for the three main characters as well as a moogle suit and tiger suit option for all characters at launch. Secret of Mana releases February 15, 2018 for the PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and PC. Players too excited to wait can get their hands on the title a bit earlier at PAX West September 1-4. View full article
  5. In 2008, the now defunct Lionhead Studios released what many saw as the culmination of founder Peter Molyneux's vision. Molyneux had hyped the original Fable as a game that would change the very fabric of the industry, which left fans very underwhelmed when it released as a solid, but rather run-of-the-mill RPG. With Fable 2, things were destined to be different. Molyneux apologized for his salesmanship of Fable and swore that things would be different. Fable 2 managed to deliver on what Lionhead had seemed to promise with the original - it was actually a different kind of RPG. Also, there was a dog and it was very endearing. It's time to ask: Is Fable 2 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 Sims 3 'Musicolours' by Guifrog (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02420) 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 Best Games Period - Episode 72 - Fable 2

    In 2008, the now defunct Lionhead Studios released what many saw as the culmination of founder Peter Molyneux's vision. Molyneux had hyped the original Fable as a game that would change the very fabric of the industry, which left fans very underwhelmed when it released as a solid, but rather run-of-the-mill RPG. With Fable 2, things were destined to be different. Molyneux apologized for his salesmanship of Fable and swore that things would be different. Fable 2 managed to deliver on what Lionhead had seemed to promise with the original - it was actually a different kind of RPG. Also, there was a dog and it was very endearing. It's time to ask: Is Fable 2 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 Sims 3 'Musicolours' by Guifrog (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02420) 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
  7. Last year, Asymmetric Publications released a teaser for a new RPG set in their Kingdom of Loathing universe. The developers have described West of Loathing as, "basically a stick-figure Skyrim with beans and big hats." Well, now those beans and big hats have a release date, so it is time to dust off those boots and brush out the tumbleweeds. While Kingdom of Loathing remains an active MMORPG after over a decade, West of Loathing aims to capture the single-player crowd. As one of three starting classes, Cow Puncher, Beanslinger, or Snake Oiler, players explore the rough and tumble wilds of the West that has been heavily sprinkled with humor. This "single-player slapstick comedy stick-figure wild west adventure role-playing game" releases for PC on August 10th. Get ready for some silliness! View full article
  8. Last year, Asymmetric Publications released a teaser for a new RPG set in their Kingdom of Loathing universe. The developers have described West of Loathing as, "basically a stick-figure Skyrim with beans and big hats." Well, now those beans and big hats have a release date, so it is time to dust off those boots and brush out the tumbleweeds. While Kingdom of Loathing remains an active MMORPG after over a decade, West of Loathing aims to capture the single-player crowd. As one of three starting classes, Cow Puncher, Beanslinger, or Snake Oiler, players explore the rough and tumble wilds of the West that has been heavily sprinkled with humor. This "single-player slapstick comedy stick-figure wild west adventure role-playing game" releases for PC on August 10th. Get ready for some silliness!
  9. There’s something to be said for a well-built role-playing game -- even better if it’s one with a visually pleasing aesthetic that communicates everything it needs to. Too many RPGs these days find themselves buried under menus and woefully implemented combat mechanics, or repetitive dungeon-diving. Battle Chasers: Nightwar feels like the rare RPG to sidestep all the bluster and bulk for something entertaining and at least mildly fresh. Based on the original Battle Chasers comic by Joe Madureira (also known for his work on Uncanny X-Men) and developed by Airship Syndicate (comprised of former Darksiders developers), RPG fans of any stripe should get a kick out of this action-packed world. I got a hands-off demo of Battle Chasers at E3 2017, where the developer took time to show off the world and combat systems. Taking place an undetermined amount of time after the original Battle Chasers comic left off on a cliffhanger, players can create a team of three (from a total of six optional characters) to do battle with vicious creatures and loot randomly generated dungeons. There’s Garrison, a swordsman with a tragic past, Gully, a nine-year-old girl who inherited a pair of massive, magical boxing gloves after her father disappeared, Calibretto, the iron giant war golem with a heart of gold, and more. The first thing players might notice is that despite Battle Chasers decidedly JRPG-esque nature, it’s characters play off of old tropes for inventive combat and character building. Instead of the lumbering, mechanical Calibretto acting as the team’s tank, it’s Gully’s magic gloves that provide the massive damage, and Calibretto’s intrinsic ties to nature that provide healing spells. Though each dungeon will be randomly generated, players will have to strategize before ever stepping foot into one. Each dungeon has different difficulties to choose from, modifying the number of enemies, traps, and the layout you’ll find, but also affecting the size of its reward. Once inside, players navigate an isometric layout filled with beastmen, animated skeleton warriors, and worse. Players can give themselves an advantage by luring enemies into the dungeon’s ancient traps before battle, shaving off a few key health points. Once in battle, characters take turns dealing damage or casting spells, with a queue on the left hand side telling you who will go during the next several turns, all based on stats like speed and initiative. Characters share a single “overcharge” gauge that essentially acts as magic fuel for special attacks. This gauge can be accrued over time, and each character has three separate levels of overcharge attacks so you might want to save it for a boss or particularly rough group of enemies. Garrison can unleash a devastating series of sword strikes on a single enemy, for example, while Calibretto is focused on damaging multiple enemies with his massive chaingun arm. Each character will have unique abilities they can use only a set number of times to solve puzzles or advance deeper into a dungeon, such as Garrison’s dash move or Gully’s punch, which allows her to knock down walls hiding secret areas. Every step taken begins to feel like a measured one, weighed against risk versus reward dilemmas. Players can locate treasure chests with rare loot inside, or opt to teleport it deeper into the dungeon. You’ll have to find it again, and the loot will be twice as beneficial, but you’ll lose it if you die before reaching it. Rare gear can also only be crafted within certain dungeons, giving players another incentive to take a deep dive. Amidst all of this, Battle Chasers possesses a striking art style, and not just thanks to Madureira’s illustrations. Even as they’re awaiting their turn in battle, characters bob and weave with an animated feel that helps bring them to life in a way few RPGs of either hemisphere achieve. This is especially apparent during attacks, when the weight of each character can be felt in their motion. Calibretto, the hulking mass that he is, barrels down on enemies with a decimating right hook, smoke billowing behind his trail, and enemies bouncing back with appropriate force. Even enemies get in on the action, with monsters similar to Dark Souls’ mimics (beasts that impersonate treasure chests for a sneaky bite attack) lashing out their engorged tongues with wicked style. It’s unclear how closely Battle Chasers will stick to the original comic series’ lore. Developers at Airship Syndicate say the plot will follow the party’s adventures in a world being sucked dry of its mana. After being shot down from the sky by pirates, the group will have to adventure across a massive island, finding themselves roped into a war against an evil vampire lord bent on conquering the world. Battle Chasers certainly isn’t shying away from the cheese of its inspirations. Battle Chasers: Nightwar is due out October 3 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and the Nintendo Switch for $29.99. A Steam sale currently has the game listed at $26.99, though it’s unclear how long that will last. View full article
  10. There’s something to be said for a well-built role-playing game -- even better if it’s one with a visually pleasing aesthetic that communicates everything it needs to. Too many RPGs these days find themselves buried under menus and woefully implemented combat mechanics, or repetitive dungeon-diving. Battle Chasers: Nightwar feels like the rare RPG to sidestep all the bluster and bulk for something entertaining and at least mildly fresh. Based on the original Battle Chasers comic by Joe Madureira (also known for his work on Uncanny X-Men) and developed by Airship Syndicate (comprised of former Darksiders developers), RPG fans of any stripe should get a kick out of this action-packed world. I got a hands-off demo of Battle Chasers at E3 2017, where the developer took time to show off the world and combat systems. Taking place an undetermined amount of time after the original Battle Chasers comic left off on a cliffhanger, players can create a team of three (from a total of six optional characters) to do battle with vicious creatures and loot randomly generated dungeons. There’s Garrison, a swordsman with a tragic past, Gully, a nine-year-old girl who inherited a pair of massive, magical boxing gloves after her father disappeared, Calibretto, the iron giant war golem with a heart of gold, and more. The first thing players might notice is that despite Battle Chasers decidedly JRPG-esque nature, it’s characters play off of old tropes for inventive combat and character building. Instead of the lumbering, mechanical Calibretto acting as the team’s tank, it’s Gully’s magic gloves that provide the massive damage, and Calibretto’s intrinsic ties to nature that provide healing spells. Though each dungeon will be randomly generated, players will have to strategize before ever stepping foot into one. Each dungeon has different difficulties to choose from, modifying the number of enemies, traps, and the layout you’ll find, but also affecting the size of its reward. Once inside, players navigate an isometric layout filled with beastmen, animated skeleton warriors, and worse. Players can give themselves an advantage by luring enemies into the dungeon’s ancient traps before battle, shaving off a few key health points. Once in battle, characters take turns dealing damage or casting spells, with a queue on the left hand side telling you who will go during the next several turns, all based on stats like speed and initiative. Characters share a single “overcharge” gauge that essentially acts as magic fuel for special attacks. This gauge can be accrued over time, and each character has three separate levels of overcharge attacks so you might want to save it for a boss or particularly rough group of enemies. Garrison can unleash a devastating series of sword strikes on a single enemy, for example, while Calibretto is focused on damaging multiple enemies with his massive chaingun arm. Each character will have unique abilities they can use only a set number of times to solve puzzles or advance deeper into a dungeon, such as Garrison’s dash move or Gully’s punch, which allows her to knock down walls hiding secret areas. Every step taken begins to feel like a measured one, weighed against risk versus reward dilemmas. Players can locate treasure chests with rare loot inside, or opt to teleport it deeper into the dungeon. You’ll have to find it again, and the loot will be twice as beneficial, but you’ll lose it if you die before reaching it. Rare gear can also only be crafted within certain dungeons, giving players another incentive to take a deep dive. Amidst all of this, Battle Chasers possesses a striking art style, and not just thanks to Madureira’s illustrations. Even as they’re awaiting their turn in battle, characters bob and weave with an animated feel that helps bring them to life in a way few RPGs of either hemisphere achieve. This is especially apparent during attacks, when the weight of each character can be felt in their motion. Calibretto, the hulking mass that he is, barrels down on enemies with a decimating right hook, smoke billowing behind his trail, and enemies bouncing back with appropriate force. Even enemies get in on the action, with monsters similar to Dark Souls’ mimics (beasts that impersonate treasure chests for a sneaky bite attack) lashing out their engorged tongues with wicked style. It’s unclear how closely Battle Chasers will stick to the original comic series’ lore. Developers at Airship Syndicate say the plot will follow the party’s adventures in a world being sucked dry of its mana. After being shot down from the sky by pirates, the group will have to adventure across a massive island, finding themselves roped into a war against an evil vampire lord bent on conquering the world. Battle Chasers certainly isn’t shying away from the cheese of its inspirations. Battle Chasers: Nightwar is due out October 3 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and the Nintendo Switch for $29.99. A Steam sale currently has the game listed at $26.99, though it’s unclear how long that will last.
  11. This week our topic was a bit tricky - Mass Effect 3 released to critical praise in 2012 but also made a name for itself by being at the epicenter of one of the biggest fan backlashes in gaming history. In order to properly talk about the conclusion of the Mass Effect trilogy, we made the decision to split the podcast into two parts. In part one, we discuss everything but the DLCs and the ending. Next week we will return with another full episode dedicated to discussing the ending of Mass Effect 3 and the apocalyptic public response that it received. 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: Mass Effect 'Nova Siberia' by Big Giant Circles (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02036) 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
  12. This week our topic was a bit tricky - Mass Effect 3 released to critical praise in 2012 but also made a name for itself by being at the epicenter of one of the biggest fan backlashes in gaming history. In order to properly talk about the conclusion of the Mass Effect trilogy, we made the decision to split the podcast into two parts. In part one, we discuss everything but the DLCs and the ending. Next week we will return with another full episode dedicated to discussing the ending of Mass Effect 3 and the apocalyptic public response that it received. 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: Mass Effect 'Nova Siberia' by Big Giant Circles (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02036) 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
  13. For as long as there’s been a Cthulhu mythos, there have been authors, filmmakers and game developers attempting to harness that shadowy void for their own twisted tales. Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu tabletop role-play game allowed players to create their own Lovecraftian fantasies in the vein of Dungeons & Dragons and became the defacto “official” Cthulhu game adaptation. Of course, that didn’t stop video game developers from attempting the same, like Headfirst Productions’ Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, or Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened. Now, though, fans of the tabletop incarnation may have their chance to transition their love to the television with Cyanide Studios’ Call of Cthulhu, an adaptation of Chaosium’s work. Publisher Focus Home Interactive (makers of Vampyr, The Surge and the Styx series) and developer Cyanide Studios gave a hands-off demo of Call of Cthulhu to media at E3 this year. The first difference most players will notice between Chaosium’s game and Cyanide’s is that it’s not a pure RPG. Call of Cthulhu is a first-person narrative adventure game, similar to Amnesia: Dark Descent, SOMA or Layers of Fear, but with plenty of RPG elements to keep those kinds of players busy with growing their character. Players walk in the shoes of Edward Pierce, a private investigator and former war veteran in 1920s Boston. Pierce is tasked with determining the truth behind the tragic death of Sarah Hawkins, a famous artist who had recently moved with her husband and family to the mysterious Darkwater Island. The demo starts off with Pierce arriving on Darkwater Island and investigating along the way to the Hawkins’ mansion perched atop a large hill. The developers stressed that a keen eye for clues will dramatically impact how well you fare, both in conversations with other characters and while exploring. Pierce spies a series of gravestones for the Hawkins family, noting that all but one have flowers lying at their base. Once Pierce makes it up to the fire-damaged mansion, he’s confronted by the family groundskeeper, still tending to the property and scaring off visitors. It’s here that players are given the chance to use a dialogue wheel to advance the conversation and their investigation. You’ll have a traditional slew of options, including hostility, lies or cooperation, but as the developer puts it, “knowledge is a weapon,” and in more ways than one. Our previous research at the gravestones lets us convince the groundskeeper that we’re on his side and have the family’s best interests at heart, allowing us to continue exploring the grounds in peace. Later on, we’re able to explore the mansion’s interior. Each room has been scarred by the blaze, leaving tattered furniture strewn about and soot hanging in the air. Pierce is able to find clues, like the outline of a victim’s body or a clock, and corroborate them against the evidence already compiled by the police. Again, knowledge proves vital, as Pierce is able to put together that the clock doesn’t match the time that the fire supposedly began. After our investigation, the demo jumped ahead a few chapters to experience what the more visceral side of Lovecraftian horror felt like. Pierce found himself browsing through a room housing antiques and some storage containers, like drawers and closets. At the far end of the room sat a full-length mirror. When Pierce approaches, an otherworldly creature with unnaturally long limbs and a razor-filled mouth emerges from the glass, sniffing him out. Much like Alien: Isolation or Amnesia, Pierce is woefully outclassed by the sheer might of this predator. True to Lovecraftian lore, if you stare too long at the creature, you’ll do irreparable damage to your psyche. However, Cyanide Studios has put an additional twist on traditional horror gameplay with the addition of phobias. Make use of the nearby closets to hide one too many times and Pierce will develop a fear of tight spaces, forcing players to think on their toes. It’s unclear how many of these phobias will be in the final game, but it makes sense to think of them as gameplay modifiers for commonly occurring elements, like closets, darkness or perhaps water. A sanity gauge (think Eternal Darkness) keeps track of your overall mental stability, and considering the horrors that lie in wait, it might be too tempting to stare into that dark void. Call of Cthulhu certainly looks enticing, but it remains to be seen if the experience will translate to meaningful role-playing and survival horror loop. While the mystery solving seems comprehensive enough, running away from Lovecraft’s finest over and over again might get old, especially if the mechanics never push beyond your typical “run and hide” strategies. Here’s hoping we get to see some different creatures than rent-a-Slenderman, and that the writing holds up throughout. Call of Cthulhu is scheduled for release on PC, PS4 and Xbox One later this year. View full article
  14. For as long as there’s been a Cthulhu mythos, there have been authors, filmmakers and game developers attempting to harness that shadowy void for their own twisted tales. Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu tabletop role-play game allowed players to create their own Lovecraftian fantasies in the vein of Dungeons & Dragons and became the defacto “official” Cthulhu game adaptation. Of course, that didn’t stop video game developers from attempting the same, like Headfirst Productions’ Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, or Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened. Now, though, fans of the tabletop incarnation may have their chance to transition their love to the television with Cyanide Studios’ Call of Cthulhu, an adaptation of Chaosium’s work. Publisher Focus Home Interactive (makers of Vampyr, The Surge and the Styx series) and developer Cyanide Studios gave a hands-off demo of Call of Cthulhu to media at E3 this year. The first difference most players will notice between Chaosium’s game and Cyanide’s is that it’s not a pure RPG. Call of Cthulhu is a first-person narrative adventure game, similar to Amnesia: Dark Descent, SOMA or Layers of Fear, but with plenty of RPG elements to keep those kinds of players busy with growing their character. Players walk in the shoes of Edward Pierce, a private investigator and former war veteran in 1920s Boston. Pierce is tasked with determining the truth behind the tragic death of Sarah Hawkins, a famous artist who had recently moved with her husband and family to the mysterious Darkwater Island. The demo starts off with Pierce arriving on Darkwater Island and investigating along the way to the Hawkins’ mansion perched atop a large hill. The developers stressed that a keen eye for clues will dramatically impact how well you fare, both in conversations with other characters and while exploring. Pierce spies a series of gravestones for the Hawkins family, noting that all but one have flowers lying at their base. Once Pierce makes it up to the fire-damaged mansion, he’s confronted by the family groundskeeper, still tending to the property and scaring off visitors. It’s here that players are given the chance to use a dialogue wheel to advance the conversation and their investigation. You’ll have a traditional slew of options, including hostility, lies or cooperation, but as the developer puts it, “knowledge is a weapon,” and in more ways than one. Our previous research at the gravestones lets us convince the groundskeeper that we’re on his side and have the family’s best interests at heart, allowing us to continue exploring the grounds in peace. Later on, we’re able to explore the mansion’s interior. Each room has been scarred by the blaze, leaving tattered furniture strewn about and soot hanging in the air. Pierce is able to find clues, like the outline of a victim’s body or a clock, and corroborate them against the evidence already compiled by the police. Again, knowledge proves vital, as Pierce is able to put together that the clock doesn’t match the time that the fire supposedly began. After our investigation, the demo jumped ahead a few chapters to experience what the more visceral side of Lovecraftian horror felt like. Pierce found himself browsing through a room housing antiques and some storage containers, like drawers and closets. At the far end of the room sat a full-length mirror. When Pierce approaches, an otherworldly creature with unnaturally long limbs and a razor-filled mouth emerges from the glass, sniffing him out. Much like Alien: Isolation or Amnesia, Pierce is woefully outclassed by the sheer might of this predator. True to Lovecraftian lore, if you stare too long at the creature, you’ll do irreparable damage to your psyche. However, Cyanide Studios has put an additional twist on traditional horror gameplay with the addition of phobias. Make use of the nearby closets to hide one too many times and Pierce will develop a fear of tight spaces, forcing players to think on their toes. It’s unclear how many of these phobias will be in the final game, but it makes sense to think of them as gameplay modifiers for commonly occurring elements, like closets, darkness or perhaps water. A sanity gauge (think Eternal Darkness) keeps track of your overall mental stability, and considering the horrors that lie in wait, it might be too tempting to stare into that dark void. Call of Cthulhu certainly looks enticing, but it remains to be seen if the experience will translate to meaningful role-playing and survival horror loop. While the mystery solving seems comprehensive enough, running away from Lovecraft’s finest over and over again might get old, especially if the mechanics never push beyond your typical “run and hide” strategies. Here’s hoping we get to see some different creatures than rent-a-Slenderman, and that the writing holds up throughout. Call of Cthulhu is scheduled for release on PC, PS4 and Xbox One later this year.
  15. Witching Hour, most well known for their Ravenmark series on mobile devices, will be making their first foray into RPGs as well as PC and console gaming when Masquerada: Songs and Shadows releases in 2016. Until then, we have a few details and an intriguing reveal trailer! Drawing inspiration from medieval Italy's powerful city-states, Masquerada: Songs and Shadows takes place in the city of Ombre, a city full of influential and devious nobility. Players step into the shoes of Inspettore Cicero Gavar who is tasked with navigating the tricky social climes of the great and powerful while solving the mystery of a kidnapping connected to a variety of dangerous people. Combat revolves around a system inspired by BioWare's real-time combat and encourages pausing on the fly to plan out maneuvers and give orders to party members. Magical masks will also play a large part in the combat and story of Masquerada. Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is currently in alpha and will release sometime next year for PC, Mac, and consoles.
  16. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

    I'm curious if anyone else around here has been playing this. I can tell I'm nearing the end, with I'm guessing two chapters remaining. It has been a charming blast so far that has also been a bit refreshing. It should be noted that I've never played an SMT or Persona game before, but my understanding is that they're challenging dungeon-crawlers with an emphasis on exploiting enemy weaknesses. That's certainly the case here, but those weaknesses ultimately result in your team ganging up all at once on the enemies. So there's certainly a strategy to it, especially if you're comparing which attacks result in what teammates will use what abilities and tally which option results in the most exploits of a weakness or most resistances. If you have any familiarity with the Japanese idol industry then you'll instantly recognize the story as a fantasy of the life rather than a representation of it, but by focusing on show-business the game manages to stand out and feel like it's own unique thing. Incredibly anime in the most charming of ways with well-executed archetypes of characters. They feel deep enough for you to forget that you have encountered this character before in just about any other anime or JRPG of the last ten years. It's probably one of my favorite games of the year, if not my favorite so far. If you're interested in either anime or good JRPGs then this is a must-buy, no debate about it.
  17. 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
  18. Review: Mass Effect - Andromeda

    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
  19. A strangely off-beat throwback to the Final Fantasy of yesteryear? A sunny journey into the heart of existential crisis? A relic outdone by its shinier successor? Final Fantasy IX is many things to many people. Only recently has the general gaming population begun to look back and notice the entry in Square Enix's long-running series that came only a year before X moved the series into a new console generation. Dan Olson from Folding Ideas joins the podcast for a two-part episode discussing Final Fantasy IX's fascinating development history and subtly powerful narrative. Does a PlayStation 1 title from the turn of the millennium earn a place in video game canon? Is Final Fantasy IX one of the best games period? You can find Dan Olson on Twitter, @FoldableIdeas, or on his YouTube channel Folding Ideas. 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. Part one focuses on our special guest, the development history of Final Fantasy IX, and our individual experiences with the title. Outro music: Final Fantasy IX 'Melodies of Life (Arranged)' by MkViff (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR00152) Part two delves into an attempt at summarizing the intricate plot and some narrative dissection in an effort to get at the heart of why IX has always felt different from the rest of the franchise. Outro music: Final Fantasy IX ''You Don't Know Me" by katethegreat19 (http://ff9.ocremix.org/) 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, follow the show on Twitter and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  20. A strangely off-beat throwback to the Final Fantasy of yesteryear? A sunny journey into the heart of existential crisis? A relic outdone by its shinier successor? Final Fantasy IX is many things to many people. Only recently has the general gaming population begun to look back and notice the entry in Square Enix's long-running series that came only a year before X moved the series into a new console generation. Dan Olson from Folding Ideas joins the podcast for a two-part episode discussing Final Fantasy IX's fascinating development history and subtly powerful narrative. Does a PlayStation 1 title from the turn of the millennium earn a place in video game canon? Is Final Fantasy IX one of the best games period? You can find Dan Olson on Twitter, @FoldableIdeas, or on his YouTube channel Folding Ideas. 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. Part one focuses on our special guest, the development history of Final Fantasy IX, and our individual experiences with the title. Outro music: Final Fantasy IX 'Melodies of Life (Arranged)' by MkViff (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR00152) Part two delves into an attempt at summarizing the intricate plot and some narrative dissection in an effort to get at the heart of why IX has always felt different from the rest of the franchise. Outro music: Final Fantasy IX ''You Don't Know Me" by katethegreat19 (http://ff9.ocremix.org/) 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, 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
  21. Review: Dragon Age: Inquisition

    I’ll be more upfront than usual; Dragon Age: Inquisition is a fantastic game. The staggeringly large scope, excellent score, eye-popping visuals, and engaging gameplay, BioWare executed everything almost flawlessly. I’d recommend it to almost anyone, even people who aren’t typically drawn toward RPGs. Inquisition has issues, certainly, but none that would prevent me from endorsing it. If you are just looking for my recommendation, there you have it. If, on the other hand, you’re interested in a deeper dive into Inquisition, taking a look at the seemingly minor issues that keep Inquisition from rising into the stuff of video game legend, read on. I think it fitting to begin a discussion of Inquisition by addressing the glitches that plagued my opening hour of gameplay. I spent around three hours attempting to satisfactorily begin the game. Character creation proved to be particularly difficult. No joke, all of the facial hair floated a good six inches off of my protagonist’s face, dissuading me from touching any of the glorious beards on display. Perhaps more importantly, the lighting in character creation looks nothing close to the lighting elsewhere in the game. Meaning that my first character, who I intended to look Middle Eastern, ended up looking like he had a fake spray tan that would never, ever come off. Though I initially thought I’d try to live with the abysmal results, I quickly ditched him because Dragon Age decided that he was going to be regarded as a lady by all other characters in the game, a rather significant glitch for which there was no fix. My second time through the creation process went much better, though depending on camera angles and lighting my protagonist could either look really awesome or like the world’s biggest simpleton. I thought I was in the clear. However, Dragon Age kept switching him from a mage to a rogue midway through the tutorial. It took over a dozen reloads before I was able to successfully make it through the introduction and progress into the game proper. With those initial glitchy hurdles cleared, my experience was nearly error free, excepting the occasional giant falling out of the sky. I only encountered one major glitch after the opening ordeal. About halfway through Inquisition, the game introduces a new character who can be customized. If players choose to customize that particular character, there seems to be a 50% chance that their main protagonist’s voice could change to the default option if they had opted for the non-default voice during character creation. This happened to me with no way to reverse it. There are few things as grating as spending 40 hours with a character sounding one way only for them to suddenly begin sounding completely, irritatingly different. Glitches aside, people interested in the PC version should know that Inquisition’s mouse and keyboard controls handle terribly. I could only handle about two or three minutes of gameplay before I decided to plug in a wired 360 controller, which proved to be a far superior experience. A tactical RPG originally made for the PC, Dragon Age: Origins required strategic thinking and micromanaging that lent itself very well to a mouse and keyboard. To a lesser extent, that was also true of Dragon Age 2. However, I found Dragon Age: Inquisition to be more of an action game with RPG elements, which lends itself better to a controller than a keyboard. A tactical camera and customizable companion tactics allow players to fine tune strategies, but I literally never used either of those functions, never even touched them. Granted, I played through on Normal difficulty, so perhaps higher difficulty levels require a more tactical approach to combat. The fact remains that I approached combat almost like I would a button masher and had a great time. The change isn’t a bad thing for the Dragon Age franchise, but prospective players should be aware that Inquisition’s gameplay differs significantly from that of its ancestors. The strength of BioWare’s writing team remains unchanged. To summarize the initial plot: The Chantry, the leading religious power in Thedas, convenes a special council to begin peace talks between rebellious mages and their former Templar handlers, an attempt to halt a disastrous war. Something goes horribly wrong and the entire council is obliterated in a magical cataclysm that creates The Breach, a massive portal to the Fade, a realm of spirits and demons. In all the commotion, a single individual emerges from The Breach, the bearer of a strange magical mark on their right hand. As that person, players make choices that shape the world of Thedas for better or worse. It is a great set up raising numerous questions for players to explore. What is the role of faith in times of peril? Is the protagonist divine? Can the current events all be rationally explained? Is there a god looking out for the people of Thedas? Unfortunately, none of these questions are really explored to much meaningful depth. It was a bit of a disappointment, especially given where the series might be going in the future. If anything makes up for my minor grumbles with how adequately Inquisition explores its own themes it is how well BioWare succeeds in characterization. Far and away, I found the dialogue to be the strongest part of Inquisition. BioWare really isn’t afraid to explore waters that most other video games still aren’t ready to touch quite yet. One of the most compelling companion characters, Dorian, is a mage that prefers the company of other men. He’s not treated as a stereotype or a token character. He’s a fully formed individual, which is rare to see in most Western games. A more succinct way of putting it is that Dorian’s sexual orientation isn’t something that defines him as a character, rather he’s written as a person who happens to be gay. He’s also bold, brimming with clever quips, and can occasionally put aside his façade of bravado to try and be a good friend. BioWare isn’t content to rest on its laurels after crafting a character that most studios wouldn’t have bother with either. Krem, the second in command of the Bull’s Chargers mercenary company, breaks new ground as the first transgender character in the Western AAA game space. Despite not being one of the core companion characters, Krem stands out in the land of big budget games as a minority character written in a humane way. Much like Dorian, Krem’s gender identity isn’t the thing that defines him, he’s a person before anything else. I only mentioned two out of a cast of dozens. Who could forget Cassandra, the hard case Seeker with a hidden love for trashy romance novels? Or Sera, the kooky-yet-practical city elf that seems more than a little unhinged? Or what about… I could keep listing names for paragraphs, but I think you’ve probably understood my meaning. Lesser writers would stop short. Cassandra would just be a stuffy warrior, Sera would just be crazy, Dorian would just be another gay stereotype. Heck, Krem would be a one line anomaly in a typical game. But BioWare adds just enough to make each one seem fleshed out and real. Each have their own motivations, goals, and desires. They have needs and wants that are directly communicated to the player and others that are only hinted at and suggest greater depth. Despite the fantasy setting and the supernatural threats that close in on every side, Dragon Age: Inquisition manages to paint more realistic people than many games that strive to be more grounded in reality. As I played Inquisition, I slowly began to feel an absence. I tried to shake it off, but it continued to grow as I progressed. Then, somewhere in the midst of court intrigue, large scale warfare, and demons raining from the sky, it suddenly stuck me how disconnected I felt from it all. It wasn’t that the characters are written badly, several of them are easily the most brilliantly written video game characters I’ve had the pleasure to come across. It also wasn’t that Dragon Age: Inquisition is boring; there are plenty of things to do and the game aims to be visually stunning at all times. It didn’t even seem like the problem was on a narrative level, an issue usually found in even the biggest AAA games. I really struggled to pin down exactly why Inquisition felt so impersonal, and it wasn’t until after the credits rolled and I had an opportunity to reflect on the game and BioWare’s previous accomplishments that the answer hit me. One of the most positively received video games to come out of BioWare is Mass Effect 2. The wild, incredible narrative ride ratchets up over time to climax in a suicide mission made all the more satisfying by the time devoted to interacting with and learning about the team that risk their lives alongside the player. In other words, Mass Effect 2’s effectiveness stems from how the narrative and game design choices all revolve around each other, intertwined and inseparable. Practically every mission either links with a certain character, advancing the player’s relationship with them, or propels the plot forward. Almost no missions in Mass Effect 2 consist of dead air (except, of course, the planet scanning), every moment crackles with purpose to one end or another. To invest players and keep up the narrative momentum, BioWare kept every mission carefully directed and allowed for little in the way of exploration. BioWare seems to have taken a different approach that centers on the vastness of the areas they’ve created. It is easy to see why; clearly a lot of time went into the awe-inspiring environments. However, the mission structures applied to these huge spaces feel very similar to what you’d find in an MMO. For many people that might not be a problem, but it leads to a relatively inert game both in terms of player engagement and game narrative. That’s why I had trouble pinpointing the problem at first; the disconnect isn’t on a traditional narrative level. Instead it is the result of a uniquely game-related design choice. Unlike Mass Effect 2, many of the missions, even some that involve companions, require backtracking through previously explored areas to kill bad guys/collect items/destroy things A, B, and C. They aren’t engaging tasks. You’ve probably done them thousands of times in other games. None of those things are as memorable or meaningful as the time Garrus tried to assassinate his ex-squad member, Sidonis, and was either talked into or out of it through conversation. I spent almost 100 hours in Thedas, and there were still areas I hadn’t fully explored. I completed the game at level 24, even though the game recommends the final mission for character levels 15-19. The world BioWare created was so big that the side stuff overtakes the main narrative, despite it being the least interesting part of the experience. It seems telling to me that “Leave the Hinterlands” has become a piece of advice repeated again and again. Players are getting wrapped up in checking all the boxes, going into every nook and cranny, and engaging less with the characters and narrative. That’s a shame, because the main quest missions are easily the most interesting parts of Dragon Age: Inquisition. I just wish that there were more of them and less uninspired open world quest design. Herb gathering exemplifies the issue perfectly. The game begins and it is exciting to stumble across herbs and harvest them, so you tap buttons to go through the gathering animations again and again. They’re all over the place. Then you discover that it takes herbs to replenish your supply of health potions. Gathering herbs stops being a cool diversion and becomes a necessity. Later you learn that it takes herbs to upgrade your potions, too. At this point, you will be willing to commit murder to not gather any more herbs. What started as a fun diversion becomes a mind-numbingly boring task. Sure, you can send soldiers to do it, but they’ll only bring six or seven plants back at a time, but you could collect double that in the time it takes them to bring more back. Even by the end of the game, I was scrabbling for more herbs, more crafting materials. It took me out of the world and diverted my attention from narratively important tasks. With the writing talent at their disposal, BioWare’s decision to focus away from the dialogues is perplexing. I don’t mean that Inquisition lacks in the dialogue department at all, but rather there was a slight design choice that clearly emphasizes the open world gameplay over the conversations. One of the things that I loved about both the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series was that practically all conversations with significant NPCs that had more than one sentence to say were done from multiple fixed camera angles that created more engaging visuals than the player controlled camera was capable of providing. It made conversations feel more immediate and exciting. While that is certainly still present in Dragon Age: Inquisition, more often than not players will be kept in the broad player controlled camera during conversations. The design choice encourages players to leave the conversation with the NPC whenever they’d like. On paper, that seems like something a lot of players would want, but in practice I think it creates a lot of distance between the player and the sidequests or extra dialogue players might want to have with their companions. I understand that it is a large game and players have a lot to do, but are we really too busy to want personal conversations with important characters? I don’t think so, and I can’t help but feel we lost something rather important. Ultimately, the estrangement from Dragon Age: Inquisition hurt my perception of its narrative. Perhaps I spent too much time pursuing side content and not enough on finishing the core missions, but by the end of the game everything felt stacked in my protagonist’s favor and the climactic finale seemed like little more than a formality. This could be an indication that the narrative itself is a bit flawed on how it approaches the overarching conflict in Dragon Age: Inquisition, but that’s probably a spoiler-filled topic for another day. Conclusion: Despite the glitches, the feeling of disconnection, and the wall of text that might indicate otherwise, I very much enjoyed my time in Thedas. The criticisms I had were small, but they’ll be the reason Dragon Age: Inquisition isn’t remembered quite as fondly as Origins or the Mass Effect series. Dragon Age: Inquisition left me wanting more, curious as to where the franchise might be headed next. Color me doubly curious since many loose ends from both Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2 are resolved by the time the credits roll in Inquisition. I opened this review with a recommendation and I’m ending it with another. Do yourself a favor and play Dragon Age: Inquisition. Any missteps it makes pale in comparison to the enjoyable experience it can offer. Dragon Age: Inquisition was reviewed PC and is now available for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360
  22. Review: Nioh

    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
  23. Feature: Review: Nioh

    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
  24. It is easy to forget that BioWare took a bold risk when they launched their untested, original IP as an Xbox 360 exclusive back in 2007. The RPG genre had never truly veered into uncharted territory with a mainstream release as with a third-person shooter hybrid. On top of that, it was set in an unknown universe that the marketing team could easily have over-inflated to generate hype only to fall victim to the backlash (remember the cautionary tale of Advent Rising?). However, what made Mass Effect special was that it actually managed to live up to the hype. It worked. It had choices that engaged players. It was full of unique and interesting piece of universe-building and memorable characters. It delivered the sci-fi adventure some people had been waiting their entire lives to see in a video game for the first time. Almost a decade later with a new entry in the franchise releasing this week, does the original Mass Effect stand as not merely a good game, but 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: Mass Effect 'Uncharted Depths' by Hy Bound (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02157) 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, follow the show on Twitter and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  25. It is easy to forget that BioWare took a bold risk when they launched their untested, original IP as an Xbox 360 exclusive back in 2007. The RPG genre had never truly veered into uncharted territory with a mainstream release as with a third-person shooter hybrid. On top of that, it was set in an unknown universe that the marketing team could easily have over-inflated to generate hype only to fall victim to the backlash (remember the cautionary tale of Advent Rising?). However, what made Mass Effect special was that it actually managed to live up to the hype. It worked. It had choices that engaged players. It was full of unique and interesting piece of universe-building and memorable characters. It delivered the sci-fi adventure some people had been waiting their entire lives to see in a video game for the first time. Almost a decade later with a new entry in the franchise releasing this week, does the original Mass Effect stand as not merely a good game, but 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: Mass Effect 'Uncharted Depths' by Hy Bound (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02157) 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, 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