Showing results for tags 'review'. - Extra Life Community Hub Jump to content

Search the Community

Showing results for tags 'review'.



More search options

  • Search By Tags

    Type tags separated by commas.
  • Search By Author

Content Type


Categories

  • Extra Life News
    • Extra Life Updates
    • Best Practices
    • Community Content
    • Why I Extra Life
    • Fundraising
    • Contests
  • Gaming News
  • Features
  • Podcast

Discussions

  • Extra Life Discussions
    • General Extra Life Discussion
    • Local Extra Lifers
    • Fundraising Ideas
    • Live Streaming Tips & Tricks
    • Official Extra Life Stream Team Discussion
    • Extra Life JSON Code Discussion & Sharing
    • Extra Life United
    • Extra Life Q & A
  • Articles & Extra Life Announcements
    • Announcements
  • Official Extra Life Guilds
    • Guild information and Discussion
    • Canada
    • Northeastern US
    • Southeastern US
    • Central US
    • Western US
  • Gaming Discussions
  • Other Stuff
  • Denver Extra Life Guild's Recent Posts

Calendars

  • Extra Life Community Calendar
  • Extra Life Stream Team
  • Akron Guild
  • Albany Guild
  • Albuquerque Guild
  • Anchorage Guild
  • Atlanta Guild
  • Austin Guild
  • Bakersfield Guild
  • Baltimore Guild
  • Birmingham Guild
  • Boston Guild
  • Burlington Guild
  • Buffalo Guild
  • Calgary, AB Guild
  • Morgantown Guild
  • Charlottesville Guild
  • Chicago Guild
  • Cincinnati Guild
  • Cleveland Guild
  • Columbia, MO Guild
  • Columbus, OH Guild
  • Dallas Guild
  • Dayton Guild
  • Denver Guild
  • Des Moines Guild
  • Detroit Guild
  • Edmonton, AB Guild
  • Fargo-Valley City Guild
  • Fresno Guild
  • Ft. Worth Guild
  • Gainesville-Tallahassee Guild
  • Grand Rapids Guild
  • Halifax, NS Guild
  • Hamilton, ON Guild
  • Hartford Guild
  • Hershey Guild
  • Hudson Valley Guild
  • Houston Guild
  • Indianapolis Guild
  • Jacksonville Guild
  • Kansas City Guild
  • Knoxville Guild
  • Lansing Guild
  • London, ON Guild
  • Los Angeles Guild
  • Milwaukee / Madison Guild
  • Minneapolis / Twin Cities Guild
  • Montreal / Quebec City Guild
  • Nashville Guild
  • Newark Guild
  • NYC & Long Island Guild
  • Oakland / San Francisco Guild
  • Omaha Guild
  • Orange County Guild
  • Orlando Guild
  • Ottawa, ON Guild
  • Philadelphia Guild
  • Phoenix Guild
  • Pittsburgh Guild
  • Portland, OR Guild
  • Portland, ME Guild
  • Raleigh-Durham Guild
  • Richmond Guild
  • Sacramento Guild
  • Salt Lake City Guild
  • San Antonio Guild
  • San Diego Guild
  • San Juan, PR Guild
  • Saskatchewan Guild
  • Seattle Guild
  • Spokane Guild
  • Springfield-Champaign, IL Guild
  • Springfield, MA Guild
  • St. Louis Guild
  • Syracuse Guild
  • Tampa / St. Petersburg Guild
  • Toronto, ON Guild
  • Vancouver, BC Guild
  • Washington DC Guild
  • Winnipeg, MB Guild
  • Denver Extra Life Guild's Events
  • Extra Life Akron's Events

Find results in...

Find results that contain...


Date Created

  • Start

    End


Last Updated

  • Start

    End


Filter by number of...

Joined

  • Start

    End


Group


Hospital


Location


Why I "Extra Life"


Interests


Twitter


Instagram


Twitch


Mixer


Discord


Blizzard Battletag


Nintendo ID


PSN ID


Steam


Origin


Xbox Gamertag

Found 114 results

  1. That last wave of Clockwork horrors has left me exhausted with my defeat looming imminent. The enemy infiltrated my barriers, and have begun their final push toward their objective. The stronghold will be destroyed within seconds once they break through, but I’ve got the next round planned. I’ve assessed my strategy and know how to hold the oncoming Clockwork army back until I can regroup. This round my plan will surely... wait, no! How did they get through there that fast? Wait! Lock’s Quest immerses players in tower defense gameplay with RPG elements sprinkled in. The game first hit the scene in 2008 when THQ released it on the Nintendo DS. At release, it enjoyed a bit of a cult status with mixed reviews from critics. On May 30, 2017, the remaster released on consoles with updated music, controls, and graphics, as well as the addition of extra content. The new graphics slap a new coat of paint on Lock's Quest that looks like an isometric mash-up of Pokémon and Stardew Valley. While music and UI got the remaster treatment, combat saw expansion. A new progression system, strategy elements, map, endless mode and other features were added to appeal to old fans of the series as well as "sophisticated gamers" according to the new features listed on the game's website. This beefing up affects build and combat gameplay (more on those modes later). The progression system now aligns with the plot, unlocking relevant goodies for build-mode. And the remaster also boasts speedier build/combat cycles so players can assess their strategy if necessary to tackle the next wave more effectively. While I did get frustrated when I failed a stage, I did appreciate the ability to reset and tackle the challenge with new knowledge. However, I did occasionally have issues with crashing when attempting to do so. Speaking of building and combat, 5th Cell structured gameplay around tower defense into two distinct modes: Build Mode and Battle Mode. Players have a time limit on their barricade planning in Build Mode. This barricade protects an objective and must withstand a barrage of enemies within the combat time limit. The tools and resources at your disposal correspond to progress as the enemies get more diverse and stronger. Structure options include walls, turrets, land mines, soldiers, and more. The currency you'll use to construct your barricade comes from defeating enemies and adds a depth to the difficulty. If you're not doing well in your planning it will carry over to the next level. During the battle phase you have control of Lock, and depending on your progress, he has different abilities. At the very beginning of the game though he has a vital skill called ratcheting where he repairs the damage done to structures. His other abilities range from attacks and energy drains to more advanced repair and money drops. The enemy, the Clockwork focus on attacking your infrastructure during this stage. Guiding Lock will help you save your defenses for future rounds and help earn some currency. The foundation for the civilization of the Kingdom where Lock's Quest takes place surrounds the discovery of an element called Source, aka that currency we were talking about earlier. Source doesn't really have an explanation, but people who have been dubbed Archineers found a way to manipulate it. The magical stuff powers defense items, like what Lock builds and uses. Conflict came when one Archineer found that Source could replicate life and utilized this ability. The king banished this Archineer. This Archineer then became Lord Agony and created the Clockwork, "living" machines, in retaliation. Lord Agony disappeared seemingly defeated, but the details of the battle remain unclear to the world's inhabitants. This all happened before the events of the game. One thing is clear, however, the Clockwork have returned. Players participate in the current, battle-ridden world as the titular Lock, a young hero with an unclear past but a determination to pave his future. Lock lives with his sister Emi and grandfather Tobias. One day while making repairs to structures on the shore Lock and Emi come across a wounded Archineer who fled from a battle against the Clockwork. The wounded Archineer enlists Lock to help fend off an upcoming attack. In the chaos of the attack, Emi is lost, the town falls under the attack and Lock gets determined to defeat the Clockwork. What I could really get behind in terms of the story was the fact that it explained the gameplay. Lock's Quest's use of story makes it unique. Rather than arbitrarily running alongside the gameplay, the story seeks to explain the presence of the RTS gameplay. Lock has Archineer abilities and can manipulate source making him able to build turrets. This makes sense with this context. Rather than expecting players to just accept the mechanics of the game, the devs did a good job of weaving it into the story. Not a small feat for a tower defense. While Lock's Quest's strength shines in its storytelling, its weaknesses lie in combat. Isometric view is standard in games like this, but I found myself fighting with it during the battle sequences. Moving Lock around was painful. The slow movement became especially noticeable while fighting under the constraints of a time limit on a battlefield swarmed with enemies. I also had some issues with crashing and having to restart. I wasn't a happy gamer when I discovered that the cutscenes were unskippable. Conclusion: While frustrating at times, Lock's Quest provides engaging mechanics that makes you want to progress. I found it a little addicting to see how the enemy would interact with my builds, and the degree to which they would be successful. And like a good little gamer I was driven by the need to unlock new gear to fortify. Crashes and trouble finding Lock during a stressful attack sequence definitely detracted from my initial experiences, but overall this title had me pushing my left brain during combat and engaged my right with the world it managed to create. Lock's Quest was reviewed on Xbox One and is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo DS. View full article
  2. Supergiant Games never makes the same thing twice. Bastion tackled a fantasy post-apocalypse, melding it with a grizzled narration, some western twang, and hooked players with engrossing isometric action and light RPG elements. Transistor told what can best be described as a Shakespearean techo-revenge tale that leaned more heavily into turn-based RPG elements. Pyre goes for something completely different: A story following a ragtag group of misfits who play a religious sports tournament to earn their freedom from exile. If NBA Jam had a visual novel component, gorgeous visuals, and endearing characters, it would be called Pyre. In the world of Pyre, the Commonwealth stands as the last powerful empire. Those who run afoul of its laws or make the wrong enemies are exiled from its safety into another world, the Downside, a harsh purgatory where only the strong survive. In this environment, criminals and ne’er-do-wells fall prey to their vices or, in rare cases, find redemption and new purpose. Pyre thrusts players into the role of an unnamed character known only as “the Reader,” an individual who broke one of the most sacred laws of the Commonwealth by learning how to read. Near death, the Reader is found by a trio of Downside wanderers who invite them to read a set of texts that detail an ancient set of rituals, known as the Rites, which can set one free from exile to begin a new life in the Commonwealth. These Rites are only known to a few and represent the one and only chance for an exile to rejoin society. The trio reveal themselves to be a new incarnation of the Nightwings, a familiar name among those who pursue the Rites. The Nightwings have reformed to seek their freedom, overturn the order of the Commonwealth, and bring an end to Downside exile forever. To that end, the player travels the Downside to participate in the Rites, clashing with other teams who participate in the religious tournament. These competitions represent the meat of Pyre’s gameplay. To win the Rite, players must douse the flames of the opposing team’s pyre with a stellar orb that falls from the sky. Each side controls three different characters, but can only move one at any given time. Every character controls differently and possesses different powers that must be used strategically in order to emerge victorious. Each character can jump, sprint, pass or throw the orb, and cast their aura, a mystic energy field that banishes any opposing character that comes into contact with it. Banished character return to the match after a set period of time, but that might be just enough time to get the orb into the pyre. A few small glitches occasionally rear their heads with some head-scratching hit detection, but for the most part, the quick, smooth gameplay experience feels great (the game even includes a local multiplayer mode). This all works very well, capturing the arcade feel of an SNES sports title in modern form. However, the gameplay only represents half of the overall experience. Between matches, players travel from location to location, often making decisions that affect how the Rites will proceed. Perhaps you spend time tutoring a member of the Nightwings, digging for buried treasure, or sabotaging the opposing team. Maybe you have time for a heart-to-heart conversation with one of your teammates where you could learn more about what sent them into exile and what they hope to accomplish when they return home. In the text and characterization of the Reader’s companions we find the beating heart of Pyre. You see, the more you use a character in the Rites, the more powerful they become. However, the more useful the character, the more you learn about what drives them and the more worthy of freedom they seem. The dirty secret of the Rites is that only one person may go free with each season of the ritual games. Often the best character on your team might be the one you select to go free and live out their days in the Commonwealth. By structuring character growth in this way, Supergiant Games creates a natural and emotional roller coaster for each character. And by each character, I really do mean each character. Every character encountered in Pyre has their own arc and can achieve liberation through the Rites. The option is always left open to lose a Rite, to allow an adversary to ascend back to the Commonwealth instead of an ally. In clashing time and time again, players learn about the cast of antagonists, some of whom might be deserving of their liberation, too. That’s the whole tragedy of the Downside – everyone can be redeemed, but not everyone is. It stands as the defining power Pyre gives over to players; deciding who possesses qualities worthy of salvation within a corrupt system. A larger story functions merely as a vehicle for players to interact with these characters and experience the thrill of the Rites. The overarching narrative deals with revolution and the role stories play in wider societal change. In many ways, Pyre is about how the games we play, the stories we create can change the world, for better or worse. There are three levels of drama to Pyre’s adventure through the wastes. One the most immediate level, the second-to-second excitement of the Rites. It’s visceral, tangible. Then you have the intermediate drama, the relationship with the characters that extends beyond the Rites. Players learning who characters are by interacting with them directly or by witnessing them interacting with one another. This deepens the drama on the base level because Supergiant manages to make players care about the individual characters who all have stakes in the Rites. Finally, the overarching narrative adds a more abstract scenario that limits how often players can interact with the other Nightwings, how many people can go free, which places a final, excruciating weight to the player’s decisions up until that point. I'd be remiss at this point if I didn't give Pyre praise for its incredible art direction. Jen Zee has to be one of the most striking artists working in games right now. Her style remains instantly recognizable and captivating. Her hand-drawn approach to visually designing the ethereal world of Downside gives rise to haunting visions of giants, lively, expressive characters, and a hostile beauty. Darren Korb returns to Supergiant with a full, rambunctious musical score in which one can hear hints of the old Bastion country twang. Korb's musical style works hand-in-hand with the visuals to allow the player's imagination to run wild, filling in the gaps created by the constraints of Pyre's visual novel approach to storytelling. In this case, Korb has a literal stand-in character in the form of The Lone Minstrel, Tariq, a celestial being with a haunting voice - one of only two intelligible speakers in Pyre. Conclusion: Supergiant Games stands as one of the most fascinating developers working today. Their games possess vision and take bold risks. Bastion and Transistor hammered home their overall narratives with great skill. Pyre relegates the overall narrative to the background while highlighting the characters. It’s bold; it’s different; and it doesn’t quite work as well as its predecessors. The reason for this seems to be the focus on characters above all else. The narrative ostensibly deals with a revolution in the Commonwealth, but the game itself stays far removed from those events. This keeps the focus squarely on the cast, but it puts them and the player in a reactionary role, rather than a proactive one. Players merely react to changing circumstances rather than having any direct agency in changing events. That lack of agency could very well tie in with the theme Pyre goes for, but it doesn’t manifest as clearly as the themes in previous Supergiant titles. All of that said, Pyre stands as a great game. The weakest Supergiant title still holds its own as one of the most original and interesting games in the industry. What other studio could successfully meld NBA Jam with a gladiatorial revolution while retaining a cute, gorgeous charm? Pyre’s one of the most unique games available today and certainly worth experiencing, especially if you are looking for something different. Pyre is available now for PlayStation 4 and PC. View full article
  3. Jack Gardner

    Review: Pyre

    Supergiant Games never makes the same thing twice. Bastion tackled a fantasy post-apocalypse, melding it with a grizzled narration, some western twang, and hooked players with engrossing isometric action and light RPG elements. Transistor told what can best be described as a Shakespearean techo-revenge tale that leaned more heavily into turn-based RPG elements. Pyre goes for something completely different: A story following a ragtag group of misfits who play a religious sports tournament to earn their freedom from exile. If NBA Jam had a visual novel component, gorgeous visuals, and endearing characters, it would be called Pyre. In the world of Pyre, the Commonwealth stands as the last powerful empire. Those who run afoul of its laws or make the wrong enemies are exiled from its safety into another world, the Downside, a harsh purgatory where only the strong survive. In this environment, criminals and ne’er-do-wells fall prey to their vices or, in rare cases, find redemption and new purpose. Pyre thrusts players into the role of an unnamed character known only as “the Reader,” an individual who broke one of the most sacred laws of the Commonwealth by learning how to read. Near death, the Reader is found by a trio of Downside wanderers who invite them to read a set of texts that detail an ancient set of rituals, known as the Rites, which can set one free from exile to begin a new life in the Commonwealth. These Rites are only known to a few and represent the one and only chance for an exile to rejoin society. The trio reveal themselves to be a new incarnation of the Nightwings, a familiar name among those who pursue the Rites. The Nightwings have reformed to seek their freedom, overturn the order of the Commonwealth, and bring an end to Downside exile forever. To that end, the player travels the Downside to participate in the Rites, clashing with other teams who participate in the religious tournament. These competitions represent the meat of Pyre’s gameplay. To win the Rite, players must douse the flames of the opposing team’s pyre with a stellar orb that falls from the sky. Each side controls three different characters, but can only move one at any given time. Every character controls differently and possesses different powers that must be used strategically in order to emerge victorious. Each character can jump, sprint, pass or throw the orb, and cast their aura, a mystic energy field that banishes any opposing character that comes into contact with it. Banished character return to the match after a set period of time, but that might be just enough time to get the orb into the pyre. A few small glitches occasionally rear their heads with some head-scratching hit detection, but for the most part, the quick, smooth gameplay experience feels great (the game even includes a local multiplayer mode). This all works very well, capturing the arcade feel of an SNES sports title in modern form. However, the gameplay only represents half of the overall experience. Between matches, players travel from location to location, often making decisions that affect how the Rites will proceed. Perhaps you spend time tutoring a member of the Nightwings, digging for buried treasure, or sabotaging the opposing team. Maybe you have time for a heart-to-heart conversation with one of your teammates where you could learn more about what sent them into exile and what they hope to accomplish when they return home. In the text and characterization of the Reader’s companions we find the beating heart of Pyre. You see, the more you use a character in the Rites, the more powerful they become. However, the more useful the character, the more you learn about what drives them and the more worthy of freedom they seem. The dirty secret of the Rites is that only one person may go free with each season of the ritual games. Often the best character on your team might be the one you select to go free and live out their days in the Commonwealth. By structuring character growth in this way, Supergiant Games creates a natural and emotional roller coaster for each character. And by each character, I really do mean each character. Every character encountered in Pyre has their own arc and can achieve liberation through the Rites. The option is always left open to lose a Rite, to allow an adversary to ascend back to the Commonwealth instead of an ally. In clashing time and time again, players learn about the cast of antagonists, some of whom might be deserving of their liberation, too. That’s the whole tragedy of the Downside – everyone can be redeemed, but not everyone is. It stands as the defining power Pyre gives over to players; deciding who possesses qualities worthy of salvation within a corrupt system. A larger story functions merely as a vehicle for players to interact with these characters and experience the thrill of the Rites. The overarching narrative deals with revolution and the role stories play in wider societal change. In many ways, Pyre is about how the games we play, the stories we create can change the world, for better or worse. There are three levels of drama to Pyre’s adventure through the wastes. One the most immediate level, the second-to-second excitement of the Rites. It’s visceral, tangible. Then you have the intermediate drama, the relationship with the characters that extends beyond the Rites. Players learning who characters are by interacting with them directly or by witnessing them interacting with one another. This deepens the drama on the base level because Supergiant manages to make players care about the individual characters who all have stakes in the Rites. Finally, the overarching narrative adds a more abstract scenario that limits how often players can interact with the other Nightwings, how many people can go free, which places a final, excruciating weight to the player’s decisions up until that point. I'd be remiss at this point if I didn't give Pyre praise for its incredible art direction. Jen Zee has to be one of the most striking artists working in games right now. Her style remains instantly recognizable and captivating. Her hand-drawn approach to visually designing the ethereal world of Downside gives rise to haunting visions of giants, lively, expressive characters, and a hostile beauty. Darren Korb returns to Supergiant with a full, rambunctious musical score in which one can hear hints of the old Bastion country twang. Korb's musical style works hand-in-hand with the visuals to allow the player's imagination to run wild, filling in the gaps created by the constraints of Pyre's visual novel approach to storytelling. In this case, Korb has a literal stand-in character in the form of The Lone Minstrel, Tariq, a celestial being with a haunting voice - one of only two intelligible speakers in Pyre. Conclusion: Supergiant Games stands as one of the most fascinating developers working today. Their games possess vision and take bold risks. Bastion and Transistor hammered home their overall narratives with great skill. Pyre relegates the overall narrative to the background while highlighting the characters. It’s bold; it’s different; and it doesn’t quite work as well as its predecessors. The reason for this seems to be the focus on characters above all else. The narrative ostensibly deals with a revolution in the Commonwealth, but the game itself stays far removed from those events. This keeps the focus squarely on the cast, but it puts them and the player in a reactionary role, rather than a proactive one. Players merely react to changing circumstances rather than having any direct agency in changing events. That lack of agency could very well tie in with the theme Pyre goes for, but it doesn’t manifest as clearly as the themes in previous Supergiant titles. All of that said, Pyre stands as a great game. The weakest Supergiant title still holds its own as one of the most original and interesting games in the industry. What other studio could successfully meld NBA Jam with a gladiatorial revolution while retaining a cute, gorgeous charm? Pyre’s one of the most unique games available today and certainly worth experiencing, especially if you are looking for something different. Pyre is available now for PlayStation 4 and PC.
  4. Horror films hold onto the golden rule: Never show the monster early. You can see it flit about in the shadows; the camera can linger for a while on a pair of glowing eyes as something stalks the protagonist; but never display the monster if you are trying to build the tension and subtle horror that lies beyond jump scares. Outlast 2 revels in shoving players face-first into the most awful things it can think of as if to say, "Isn't that gross and weird? ARE YOU SCARED NOW?" Its lack of nuance represents a step backward for Red Barrels. Red Barrels greeted the world with Outlast back in 2013. The horror title received acclaim for its tense structure and story line that slowly descended into madness. Players were pulled into the world of a seemingly abandoned asylum as seen through the eyes of an intrepid journalist. Combat was nonexistent, meaning players could only run and hide from the various antagonists they encountered. The fact that the asylum housed all manner of inmates led to a very interesting, deliberate grey area when it came to horror. Some inmates would become hostile, others would not. This resulted in tense moments, fueled by a fear of the unknown. Those moments of uncertainty, when constrained within the linear story and structure of Outlast, represented some of its best attempts at horror. Outlast 2 tells the story of Blake Langermann, a journalist and camera man, who works with his journalist partner and wife, Lynn. Together, they decide to pursue a story about the mysterious murder of a pregnant woman in a desolate region of Arizona. As they fly above the region in a helicopter, a mechanical failure causes the chopper to go down, stranding the both of them in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, the two of them have fallen into the middle of a conflict between two opposing cults who believe Lynn holds the keys to the end of the world. Blake sets off to rescue Lynn and escape the manic cult members. Outlast 2 moved away from the more interesting, murky elements of horror. Instead, it commits to subjecting the player to gruesome scenes and scenarios – shock horror. These certainly make for an uncomfortable experience, but they lack the subtlety and pacing of its predecessor or the gold standard of modern, defenseless horror, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Several things contribute to making Outlast 2 a grueling slog to play through: world structure, how players progress through the setting, and what makes for good horror. A large portion of Outlast 2 takes place in the outdoors. You would think that this would make for an interesting dynamic; many horror games thrive on a tightly controlled, linear structure, but taking place without physical barriers seems to fly right in the face of that. The situation seems like a great opportunity to reinvent the horror genre with a more open world approach to design. Despite having access to the open air, Outlast 2 keeps to a more traditional structure, a perfectly sound, reasonable decision. Unfortunately, the implementation of this structure hurts more than helps. It ends up creating confusion in Outlast 2’s perpetual darkness. Outlast 2 wants players to run in specific directions to specific areas in the dead of night with only a grainy camcorder to reveal the way. Ideally, the design of the world would usher players in those desired directions, toward those important areas. Too often, Outlast 2 drops the ball and becomes a confusing, frustrating exercise in trial and error in the woods and fields. In pushing stealth and hiding as the main mechanic, Outlast 2’s design leads to players avoid the obvious routes and stick to the outskirts of any given area – until they are forced into those pathways, which triggers enemy aggression. If this is the approach the game wants to take, why bother having open, outdoor segments at all? Players are often given no time to learn an area, no time to strategize – unless they die repeatedly to scout out the proper route. This has the effect of reducing the horror as players become more familiar with any given area, something that should be the exact opposite of what the developers want players to experience. Outlast 2 seems to be strangely aware of this deficiency, however. To counter these more open, frustrating segments, the game puts players through cutscenes and areas of minimal interactivity that deal with highly uncomfortable and twisted scenarios, like living through a crucifixion. Doubtlessly this approach will appeal to some in the horror community, but I personally found it desensitizing after a while. That desensitization, that cheapening of the horror inherent in Outlast 2’s violence might just be the title’s biggest problem. Instead of leaving the player to feel a growing dread or an uncertainty about their surroundings, Outlast 2 opts to try going bigger and more horrible the farther that players progress. This immediately becomes a problem because Outlast 2’s starting point begins at what might in other games be part of the horror highlight reel. Within the first hour players encounter a pit of dead children, tortured people in cages, ritualistic killings, sexual assault, and more. Where else can the game go from there? It turns out that it can go quite a few places, but the staged scenes intended to shock the player become less scary and more of a grueling chore than anything else. And that’s a shame, because the story of Outlast 2 might be one of the best things it has going for it. Repressed memories, working through trauma, how people live and survive after experiencing tragedy, all of those themes present some interesting questions throughout Outlast 2. Unfortunately, experiencing that story might be really difficult for people who are either turned off by the violence – not just because of the graphic content, but also that it eventually becomes so routine and, frankly, boring. Conclusion: Instead of feeling scared or tense, I fell into a rut with Outlast 2 of just trying to make progress, and the intended scares wound up feeling flat. In other words, Outlast 2 reveals its hand too early; it breaks the golden rule and puts its hideous monster on full display in the opening minutes and never lets up until the very end. Some might find that exhilarating in a horror game – others, like myself, might find it dull compared with other titles in the genre. Outlast 2 was reviewed on PC and is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC
  5. Horror films hold onto the golden rule: Never show the monster early. You can see it flit about in the shadows; the camera can linger for a while on a pair of glowing eyes as something stalks the protagonist; but never display the monster if you are trying to build the tension and subtle horror that lies beyond jump scares. Outlast 2 revels in shoving players face-first into the most awful things it can think of as if to say, "Isn't that gross and weird? ARE YOU SCARED NOW?" Its lack of nuance represents a step backward for Red Barrels. Red Barrels greeted the world with Outlast back in 2013. The horror title received acclaim for its tense structure and story line that slowly descended into madness. Players were pulled into the world of a seemingly abandoned asylum as seen through the eyes of an intrepid journalist. Combat was nonexistent, meaning players could only run and hide from the various antagonists they encountered. The fact that the asylum housed all manner of inmates led to a very interesting, deliberate grey area when it came to horror. Some inmates would become hostile, others would not. This resulted in tense moments, fueled by a fear of the unknown. Those moments of uncertainty, when constrained within the linear story and structure of Outlast, represented some of its best attempts at horror. Outlast 2 tells the story of Blake Langermann, a journalist and camera man, who works with his journalist partner and wife, Lynn. Together, they decide to pursue a story about the mysterious murder of a pregnant woman in a desolate region of Arizona. As they fly above the region in a helicopter, a mechanical failure causes the chopper to go down, stranding the both of them in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, the two of them have fallen into the middle of a conflict between two opposing cults who believe Lynn holds the keys to the end of the world. Blake sets off to rescue Lynn and escape the manic cult members. Outlast 2 moved away from the more interesting, murky elements of horror. Instead, it commits to subjecting the player to gruesome scenes and scenarios – shock horror. These certainly make for an uncomfortable experience, but they lack the subtlety and pacing of its predecessor or the gold standard of modern, defenseless horror, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Several things contribute to making Outlast 2 a grueling slog to play through: world structure, how players progress through the setting, and what makes for good horror. A large portion of Outlast 2 takes place in the outdoors. You would think that this would make for an interesting dynamic; many horror games thrive on a tightly controlled, linear structure, but taking place without physical barriers seems to fly right in the face of that. The situation seems like a great opportunity to reinvent the horror genre with a more open world approach to design. Despite having access to the open air, Outlast 2 keeps to a more traditional structure, a perfectly sound, reasonable decision. Unfortunately, the implementation of this structure hurts more than helps. It ends up creating confusion in Outlast 2’s perpetual darkness. Outlast 2 wants players to run in specific directions to specific areas in the dead of night with only a grainy camcorder to reveal the way. Ideally, the design of the world would usher players in those desired directions, toward those important areas. Too often, Outlast 2 drops the ball and becomes a confusing, frustrating exercise in trial and error in the woods and fields. In pushing stealth and hiding as the main mechanic, Outlast 2’s design leads to players avoid the obvious routes and stick to the outskirts of any given area – until they are forced into those pathways, which triggers enemy aggression. If this is the approach the game wants to take, why bother having open, outdoor segments at all? Players are often given no time to learn an area, no time to strategize – unless they die repeatedly to scout out the proper route. This has the effect of reducing the horror as players become more familiar with any given area, something that should be the exact opposite of what the developers want players to experience. Outlast 2 seems to be strangely aware of this deficiency, however. To counter these more open, frustrating segments, the game puts players through cutscenes and areas of minimal interactivity that deal with highly uncomfortable and twisted scenarios, like living through a crucifixion. Doubtlessly this approach will appeal to some in the horror community, but I personally found it desensitizing after a while. That desensitization, that cheapening of the horror inherent in Outlast 2’s violence might just be the title’s biggest problem. Instead of leaving the player to feel a growing dread or an uncertainty about their surroundings, Outlast 2 opts to try going bigger and more horrible the farther that players progress. This immediately becomes a problem because Outlast 2’s starting point begins at what might in other games be part of the horror highlight reel. Within the first hour players encounter a pit of dead children, tortured people in cages, ritualistic killings, sexual assault, and more. Where else can the game go from there? It turns out that it can go quite a few places, but the staged scenes intended to shock the player become less scary and more of a grueling chore than anything else. And that’s a shame, because the story of Outlast 2 might be one of the best things it has going for it. Repressed memories, working through trauma, how people live and survive after experiencing tragedy, all of those themes present some interesting questions throughout Outlast 2. Unfortunately, experiencing that story might be really difficult for people who are either turned off by the violence – not just because of the graphic content, but also that it eventually becomes so routine and, frankly, boring. Conclusion: Instead of feeling scared or tense, I fell into a rut with Outlast 2 of just trying to make progress, and the intended scares wound up feeling flat. In other words, Outlast 2 reveals its hand too early; it breaks the golden rule and puts its hideous monster on full display in the opening minutes and never lets up until the very end. Some might find that exhilarating in a horror game – others, like myself, might find it dull compared with other titles in the genre. Outlast 2 was reviewed on PC and is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC View full article
  6. Like Gone Home before it, Tacoma’s intriguing setting and compelling storytelling largely supersede its relatively light gameplay. Fullbright’s sophomore outing trades the nostalgia of the 1990s for a fascinating, mildly unsettling, near-future space setting. As a lone contractor, mega corporation Venturis hires you to visit the deserted space station Tacoma to retrieve the ship's AI, ODIN. But the intrigue in that task pales in comparison to learning the captivating stories of Tacoma’s distressed crew, who disappeared after an accident. Tacoma’s mission doesn’t always fire on all cylinders, but its highpoints in characterization help carry it to the moon and back. Tacoma’s story unfolds by watching decrypted scenes of the team recorded using augmented reality. A simple polygonal model represents each person. Think of it like watching a holographic ghost, with characters distinguished by designated colors and physiques to compensate for a lack of physical details. The age of recordings range from a few days old to several months or even a year. Witnessing past celebrations, emotional turmoils, and intimate moments stirred up emotions ranging from optimism, foreboding, and, at times, even voyeurism. These genuine feelings stemmed from the well-written dialogue and stellar voice performances from the likes of Carl Lumbly (Alias, Justice League) and Greg Chun (Overwatch, Nier: Automata). Tacoma’s crew feel like actual, relatable people trapped in a horrific situation, not just NPC’s spouting lines. Connecting players to each team member are the familiar personal burdens each carry: Tragic personal losses; the pressures of appeasing a high and mighty family; coping with professional failures; long distance parenthood. The ways those stresses influence their responses to the larger situation feels logical and nuanced, as do the emotional interactions between characters. The sympathy and endearment these performances generate act as the driving force behind exploring every inch of Tacoma. You don’t need to see and hear everything to finish the game but I wanted to. I felt compelled to read every email and pick up every object in the hopes it would shed more light on these people. Before long, my motives shifted from a purely objective curiosity to legitimately hoping the crew had survived their predicament. That emotional connection also adds weight to the otherwise predictable and well-worn revelation about the nature of the disaster. Tacoma’s alien setting makes picking up garbage feel more worthwhile than it did in Gone Home. I lived through the 90’s, so I inspected objects in that game primarily for nostalgia. With Tacoma, Fullbright presents an almost eerily plausible future with unique ideas such as corporate loyalty becoming a form of spendable currency. AI’s advanced enough to pen their own autobiographies (seriously) are trusted to oversee major operations like hospitals and residential blocks, guiding and advising the humans within. This future is both exciting and terrifying, but you’ll miss out on much of it by ignoring the random junk around you. I enjoyed having an incentive to rummage through trash bins. From a gameplay standpoint, recordings have a neat investigative quality due to a rewind and fast-forward mechanic. Replaying scenes to catch important details reminded me of combing through videos in the indie hit Her Story, especially using older conversations to add context to more recent ones. I would have liked for recordings to demand a little more deductive skills in gathering info, but I get that Tacoma wants to tell a story and not hang players up on puzzles. On that note, problem-solving in general never comes close complicated; you’re typically just looking for codes to open doors. Even still, Tacoma offers more active involvement than its predecessor, and that’s ultimately a good thing. In a nice touch of realism, several recordings feature multiple conversations occurring simultaneously in different areas. Additionally, characters may enter or exit discussions in progress. Thus, replaying scenes multiple times and following different team members around is a must if you want to experience the full narrative scope. A fun nosiness comes from watching a scene, seeing someone walk away, then replaying the scene again and following that person to see what they’re up to. Overall, this conversation system feels like a cool and smart spin on interactive cutscenes, especially for this genre. Conclusion Tacoma possesses more complicated gameplay than Gone Home, but you still wouldn’t be off-base if you said it only consisted of walking around and eavesdropping on NPC’s. While that might seem shallow, the wonderfully written characters bring value to that experience. Tacoma largely succeeds in presenting a fascinating world worth exploring, backed by novel storytelling mechanics. Your stay is brief, but once you get to know Tacoma’s crew, you’ll be glad you stepped aboard. Tacoma was reviewed on Xbox One and is also available now for PC. View full article
  7. Like Gone Home before it, Tacoma’s intriguing setting and compelling storytelling largely supersede its relatively light gameplay. Fullbright’s sophomore outing trades the nostalgia of the 1990s for a fascinating, mildly unsettling, near-future space setting. As a lone contractor, mega corporation Venturis hires you to visit the deserted space station Tacoma to retrieve the ship's AI, ODIN. But the intrigue in that task pales in comparison to learning the captivating stories of Tacoma’s distressed crew, who disappeared after an accident. Tacoma’s mission doesn’t always fire on all cylinders, but its highpoints in characterization help carry it to the moon and back. Tacoma’s story unfolds by watching decrypted scenes of the team recorded using augmented reality. A simple polygonal model represents each person. Think of it like watching a holographic ghost, with characters distinguished by designated colors and physiques to compensate for a lack of physical details. The age of recordings range from a few days old to several months or even a year. Witnessing past celebrations, emotional turmoils, and intimate moments stirred up emotions ranging from optimism, foreboding, and, at times, even voyeurism. These genuine feelings stemmed from the well-written dialogue and stellar voice performances from the likes of Carl Lumbly (Alias, Justice League) and Greg Chun (Overwatch, Nier: Automata). Tacoma’s crew feel like actual, relatable people trapped in a horrific situation, not just NPC’s spouting lines. Connecting players to each team member are the familiar personal burdens each carry: Tragic personal losses; the pressures of appeasing a high and mighty family; coping with professional failures; long distance parenthood. The ways those stresses influence their responses to the larger situation feels logical and nuanced, as do the emotional interactions between characters. The sympathy and endearment these performances generate act as the driving force behind exploring every inch of Tacoma. You don’t need to see and hear everything to finish the game but I wanted to. I felt compelled to read every email and pick up every object in the hopes it would shed more light on these people. Before long, my motives shifted from a purely objective curiosity to legitimately hoping the crew had survived their predicament. That emotional connection also adds weight to the otherwise predictable and well-worn revelation about the nature of the disaster. Tacoma’s alien setting makes picking up garbage feel more worthwhile than it did in Gone Home. I lived through the 90’s, so I inspected objects in that game primarily for nostalgia. With Tacoma, Fullbright presents an almost eerily plausible future with unique ideas such as corporate loyalty becoming a form of spendable currency. AI’s advanced enough to pen their own autobiographies (seriously) are trusted to oversee major operations like hospitals and residential blocks, guiding and advising the humans within. This future is both exciting and terrifying, but you’ll miss out on much of it by ignoring the random junk around you. I enjoyed having an incentive to rummage through trash bins. From a gameplay standpoint, recordings have a neat investigative quality due to a rewind and fast-forward mechanic. Replaying scenes to catch important details reminded me of combing through videos in the indie hit Her Story, especially using older conversations to add context to more recent ones. I would have liked for recordings to demand a little more deductive skills in gathering info, but I get that Tacoma wants to tell a story and not hang players up on puzzles. On that note, problem-solving in general never comes close complicated; you’re typically just looking for codes to open doors. Even still, Tacoma offers more active involvement than its predecessor, and that’s ultimately a good thing. In a nice touch of realism, several recordings feature multiple conversations occurring simultaneously in different areas. Additionally, characters may enter or exit discussions in progress. Thus, replaying scenes multiple times and following different team members around is a must if you want to experience the full narrative scope. A fun nosiness comes from watching a scene, seeing someone walk away, then replaying the scene again and following that person to see what they’re up to. Overall, this conversation system feels like a cool and smart spin on interactive cutscenes, especially for this genre. Conclusion Tacoma possesses more complicated gameplay than Gone Home, but you still wouldn’t be off-base if you said it only consisted of walking around and eavesdropping on NPC’s. While that might seem shallow, the wonderfully written characters bring value to that experience. Tacoma largely succeeds in presenting a fascinating world worth exploring, backed by novel storytelling mechanics. Your stay is brief, but once you get to know Tacoma’s crew, you’ll be glad you stepped aboard. Tacoma was reviewed on Xbox One and is also available now for PC.
  8. My hands ache, palms are sweaty. I let out a huge sigh of relief as the final boss explodes into a confetti of voxels and vibrant particle effects. How many lives did I throw at that thing before I finally managed to take it down? A few dozen? Sounds about right. Although the journey was exhilarating romp, it was also draining test of hand-eye coordination and reflexes. That about sums up Nex Machina: an addictive arcade shooter with a blistering challenge that occasionally gets too tough for its own good. Housemarque knows how to craft arcade shooters that keep players coming back for more. The studio’s past works, Super Stardust HD and Resogun, are among the best modern takes on the genre. With Nex Machina, the studio has assembled perhaps its most arduous game yet by teaming up with Robotron/Smash TV mastermind Eugene Jarvis. The influence of those arcade classics are immediately evident. Players mow down waves upon waves of enemies from a top-down, third person perspective. Clearing one arena teleports players to the next, and so on until you reach the world’s boss. Nex Machina is a fast-paced, no-nonsense affair right out of the gate. I died within the first few seconds thanks to how swiftly enemies swarm players from all sides, sometimes in Galaga-esque serpentine patterns, other times in messy groups. If fending off a dozen hostile creatures wasn’t enough, you’re often doing so while simultaneously avoiding spinning laser beams, screen-filling projectile waves, and long-range mortar fire. Nex Machina revels in throwing everything but the kitchen sink at players and letting your guard down for even a nanosecond results in an explosive demise The game is demanding, sometimes to a fault, but it’s supremely satisfying to outmaneuver and outgun seemingly insurmountable opposition. Watching targets burst into tiny cubes adds to that thrill thanks to the crisp voxel graphics and destructible environments. Multiple secrets lay within each arena, most within objects like breakable cubes and boulders. The game lacks a tutorial, betting on players to blast away everything in sight and discover things on their own–an assumption quickly proven accurate. A fun and devilish layer of challenge comes in seeking out these collectibles. Since eradicating foes automatically warps you to the next room, completionists must intentionally stay their trigger finger in order to stick around and thoroughly inspect an area. However, doing this increases your likelihood of getting killed. So do you quickly mow down foes in the name of swift progression or put everything on the line for maximum points? The best example of this decision-making comes from rescuing humans from the clutches of aliens ala Resogun. Gathering them all feels awesome, but going out of my way to do so cost me countless lives. Sometimes I was forced to abandon humans in the interest of completing a merciless zone–a decision I always hated. No matter how frustrating this task got, I felt compelled to perform better just to spite Nex Machina and prove that I could not only win but do so in style, even if that didn’t always work out. While I found Nex Machina to be generally fair despite its difficulty, cheap deaths weren’t a complete non-factor. Some questionable respawns occasionally drop players directly in harm's way, such as in front of turrets, killing them before they have a chance to react. This problem rears its head most in busy situations where’s there’s no real safe spot to drop into. The small character can easily be lost among packed crowds, creating an infuriating game of Where’s Waldo that made me feel cheated when I failed due a loss of visuals rather than a lack of skill. Another issue is the lack of saving in the arcade campaign. Once started, it must be completed in one sitting, otherwise players start over from the beginning. I learned this the hard way after I completed the third world and closed the game, assuming I’d be checkpointed at the beginning of world four upon my return. To my horror, I was greeted by the first world’s opening motorcycle sequence. I get the old-school arcade mentality behind this design, and, thankfully, worlds can be completed in roughly 10 minutes (depending on how much you die). However, it's annoying to be forced to commit like that. I hit several rough spots that caused me to tap out for a breather, forcing me to leave my PS4 in rest mode for long stretches since I couldn’t shut off the game entirely. Nex Machina does a nice job of accommodating each skill-level of player without dumbing down the core experience. Rookie allots unlimited continues for those who want to see the entire game with the freedom of failing as much as required. Experienced grants 99 continues (which burn away far quicker than believed), Veteran grants a mere 10 continues and tougher foes, and the unlockable Master difficulty sports 5 continues, quicker enemies and movement. Other modes include local co-op through the arcade campaign, a Arena mode where players compete for leaderboard rankings under increasingly tougher stipulations, and a Single World mode that allows players to cherry pick individual levels. Conclusion Those itching for new twin-stick arcade shooter to sink into, or Smash TV/Robotron fans curious about a modernized take on that style, should definitely give Nex Machina a look. Offering an enjoyable, pulse-pounding experience layered with a satisfying, if not sometimes overwhelming, challenge, it's a quality shooter that successfully invokes the glory days of arcades. No matter how infuriating Nex Machina becomes, you’ll find yourself continually picking up the controller you just threw for one more run. Just be sure to bring a Gandhi-level of patience on top of Spider-Man-like reflexes and everything should be gravy. Nex Machina was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is also available now for PC. View full article
  9. My hands ache, palms are sweaty. I let out a huge sigh of relief as the final boss explodes into a confetti of voxels and vibrant particle effects. How many lives did I throw at that thing before I finally managed to take it down? A few dozen? Sounds about right. Although the journey was exhilarating romp, it was also draining test of hand-eye coordination and reflexes. That about sums up Nex Machina: an addictive arcade shooter with a blistering challenge that occasionally gets too tough for its own good. Housemarque knows how to craft arcade shooters that keep players coming back for more. The studio’s past works, Super Stardust HD and Resogun, are among the best modern takes on the genre. With Nex Machina, the studio has assembled perhaps its most arduous game yet by teaming up with Robotron/Smash TV mastermind Eugene Jarvis. The influence of those arcade classics are immediately evident. Players mow down waves upon waves of enemies from a top-down, third person perspective. Clearing one arena teleports players to the next, and so on until you reach the world’s boss. Nex Machina is a fast-paced, no-nonsense affair right out of the gate. I died within the first few seconds thanks to how swiftly enemies swarm players from all sides, sometimes in Galaga-esque serpentine patterns, other times in messy groups. If fending off a dozen hostile creatures wasn’t enough, you’re often doing so while simultaneously avoiding spinning laser beams, screen-filling projectile waves, and long-range mortar fire. Nex Machina revels in throwing everything but the kitchen sink at players and letting your guard down for even a nanosecond results in an explosive demise The game is demanding, sometimes to a fault, but it’s supremely satisfying to outmaneuver and outgun seemingly insurmountable opposition. Watching targets burst into tiny cubes adds to that thrill thanks to the crisp voxel graphics and destructible environments. Multiple secrets lay within each arena, most within objects like breakable cubes and boulders. The game lacks a tutorial, betting on players to blast away everything in sight and discover things on their own–an assumption quickly proven accurate. A fun and devilish layer of challenge comes in seeking out these collectibles. Since eradicating foes automatically warps you to the next room, completionists must intentionally stay their trigger finger in order to stick around and thoroughly inspect an area. However, doing this increases your likelihood of getting killed. So do you quickly mow down foes in the name of swift progression or put everything on the line for maximum points? The best example of this decision-making comes from rescuing humans from the clutches of aliens ala Resogun. Gathering them all feels awesome, but going out of my way to do so cost me countless lives. Sometimes I was forced to abandon humans in the interest of completing a merciless zone–a decision I always hated. No matter how frustrating this task got, I felt compelled to perform better just to spite Nex Machina and prove that I could not only win but do so in style, even if that didn’t always work out. While I found Nex Machina to be generally fair despite its difficulty, cheap deaths weren’t a complete non-factor. Some questionable respawns occasionally drop players directly in harm's way, such as in front of turrets, killing them before they have a chance to react. This problem rears its head most in busy situations where’s there’s no real safe spot to drop into. The small character can easily be lost among packed crowds, creating an infuriating game of Where’s Waldo that made me feel cheated when I failed due a loss of visuals rather than a lack of skill. Another issue is the lack of saving in the arcade campaign. Once started, it must be completed in one sitting, otherwise players start over from the beginning. I learned this the hard way after I completed the third world and closed the game, assuming I’d be checkpointed at the beginning of world four upon my return. To my horror, I was greeted by the first world’s opening motorcycle sequence. I get the old-school arcade mentality behind this design, and, thankfully, worlds can be completed in roughly 10 minutes (depending on how much you die). However, it's annoying to be forced to commit like that. I hit several rough spots that caused me to tap out for a breather, forcing me to leave my PS4 in rest mode for long stretches since I couldn’t shut off the game entirely. Nex Machina does a nice job of accommodating each skill-level of player without dumbing down the core experience. Rookie allots unlimited continues for those who want to see the entire game with the freedom of failing as much as required. Experienced grants 99 continues (which burn away far quicker than believed), Veteran grants a mere 10 continues and tougher foes, and the unlockable Master difficulty sports 5 continues, quicker enemies and movement. Other modes include local co-op through the arcade campaign, a Arena mode where players compete for leaderboard rankings under increasingly tougher stipulations, and a Single World mode that allows players to cherry pick individual levels. Conclusion Those itching for new twin-stick arcade shooter to sink into, or Smash TV/Robotron fans curious about a modernized take on that style, should definitely give Nex Machina a look. Offering an enjoyable, pulse-pounding experience layered with a satisfying, if not sometimes overwhelming, challenge, it's a quality shooter that successfully invokes the glory days of arcades. No matter how infuriating Nex Machina becomes, you’ll find yourself continually picking up the controller you just threw for one more run. Just be sure to bring a Gandhi-level of patience on top of Spider-Man-like reflexes and everything should be gravy. Nex Machina was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is also available now for PC.
  10. The Dark Souls series has defined itself as a fight around the idea of entropy. Should we embrace that all things must come to an end or rage against the dying of the light? Or perhaps find another way entirely? This conflict forms the central theme that permeates every nook and cranny of the game world, clarifying itself with each new enemy and boss. That struggle makes up the Dark Soul itself. The kingdoms of men in the Age of Fire, for all their strength, are doomed to fade and succumb to a curse brought on by time and the gods themselves. When the curse awakens, it makes men immortal, living on in a state of undeath, but once undead, humans begin to lose bits of themselves as time passes. Time eventually wears them away into hollows, mindless monsters who hunger for purpose. There is only one way to lift the curse: A hero must arise and brave the dangers of a world deteriorating into chaos to rekindle the First Flame, a bastion of power that preserves the world. After braving horrors and madness, players are given the option of rekindling the First Flame with their life or snuffing it out to usher in the Age of Dark, a new world order that embraces a fireless world - but there may be other choices hidden to all but a few. Players entered the world of the first Dark Souls shortly after the curse had begun afflicting humans for the first time. No matter how that great cataclysm is resolved, the events of Dark Souls II take place far into the future, in the middle of the Age of Fire. The second game has players fighting to ascend to the Throne of Want, a throne that looks strikingly like a kiln. Again, no matter how players decide to end the story, Dark Souls III happens. This time, the Age of Fire has begun to literally choke on its own ash. The First Flame is dying. It has been linked so many times that one powerful soul can no longer relight it. Now several are needed. In an effort to avert almost certain death, powerful beings from history have revived as Lords of Cinder to become sacrifices, however all but one refuse their duty to continue the world. One more bit of unkindled ash arises from the graves of heroes and receives the task of uniting those Lords and relighting the flame – the player. From the beginning, the world of Dark Souls III feels tired and broken. Ash litters the ground. Violent religious cults abound, each with their own ways of coping with their hopeless plight. The player isn’t even a lowly undead as in previous titles, but the dregs of ashen souls randomly reforged. Even immortal dragons have begun to succumb to decay of mind and body. This is the Dark Souls that players have known and loved since the beginning of the series, but all around the edges of that Dark Souls identity threads come unraveled. Of course, when I say “this is the same Dark Souls,” I mean thematically and visually. The mechanics of Dark Souls III have undergone a revision that incorporates lessons learned from the development of Bloodborne. When Bloodborne released, people compared its fast, aggressive combat favorably against the more deliberate, measured pace of the Dark Souls series. You can see that quickened sensibility translated into Dark Souls III in a number of little ways. For example, the player gets locked into fewer animations, something that in previous Souls games could mean death by accidental button press. More weapons feature transformations between distinct move sets, something that Bloodborne certainly popularized. Combat occurs with a desperate finality. The enemies players encounter act as if they know they are living in a world with a mortal wound, a fatal injury that affects them as well. And as the saying goes, “nothing is more dangerous than a wounded animal.” Enemies throw themselves into combat ferociously, adopting frenzied patterns of attack. Sometimes these patterns can seem unfair, but the core fun of Dark Souls has always been in learning those patterns and overcoming obstacles either alone or in jolly cooperation with other players. Dark Souls III feels rigorously balanced to avoid luring players into cheap deaths. Often it feels like if you’re just vigilant enough, you could deal with anything the game might throw at you. Though that confidence is often immediately undercut by a blistering encounter - if nothing else, Dark Souls III keeps players humble. Developer From Software describes their artistic approach to Dark Souls III as “withered beauty.” I wasn’t sure at first if the style of a dying world in all its dilapidated grandeur stemmed from a conscious choice or if the aesthetic was an extension of series creator Hidetaka Miyazaki’s reluctance to return to the series. He had made some statements in the past that indicated he wanted to be done with Dark Souls and that too many sequels would muddy his original intent. After spending almost 100 hours in its intricate, crumbling world, I feel comfortable saying that, yes, Dark Souls III is an entirely intentional work of art that brings the series full circle. While the core game does conclude on a definitive note regardless of player choice, the DLC ultimately brings things to a climactic final coda at the end of all things: A clash between the old world and the possibilities of the future. Ashes of Ariandel invites players into a world of rot and ice, a refuge from the apocalypse in the outside world. However, the shelter from ending possesses its own dangers and stands out as providing one of the most unique encounters in Dark Souls III. It also introduces a largely disposable multiplayer Vs. Mode, though I am sure many will derive some joy from fighting friends and strangers. Ashes of Ariandel ultimately exists to set the stage for The Ringed City DLC. This lore-heavy expansion has players delving into the legendary home of the Pygmies, an obscure, but important race of beings in the Souls universe. However, some characters and creatures have persisted within the city’s walls for countless years, standing firm to ward off intruders who come hoping to lay claim to the titular Dark Soul. Strangely, the final encounter in this DLC doesn’t end with an explosive cutscene or much exposition, just an intimate battle to the death and a subtle revelation hidden within the Ashes of Ariandel. It’s quiet, and that muted finale subverts expectations in a game that goes big so often. But that ending gets at the heart of what Dark Souls III and, indeed, what the larger Dark Souls series was about from the beginning. Conclusion: Dark Souls has been about the continuation of a toxic cycle, a cycle that offers diminishing returns with each renewal. Miyazaki purposefully left that cycle open to interpretation as an artistic statement. Does it represent addiction? Depression? Existentialism? One can interpret the cycle of spiraling rebirth and death to mean quite a number of things on a personal level – that, along with the near perfect "firm but fair" mechanics, is part of what allowed so many people to identify so strongly with the series. Dark Souls III sees that cycle finally spiral down toward its ultimate conclusion. The world can continue to struggle on, locked in an endless twilight, take the plunge into darkness where hope might one day be born anew, or the cycle can be broken into something else entirely. Even in this ending, Miyazaki leaves what the series could mean up to each player’s interpretation. There are some who see nothing in it, a pointless exercise in rehashing the Dark Souls adventure for a third time. There are some who see some truth in that portrayal of the world. Personally, Dark Souls III seems to be a meta commentary on the creative process – it is an adventure that seems limitless until limits are imposed upon it by solidifying an idea and making it real, and then creativity dies or stagnates or, very rarely, soldiers on toward something new and unknown. Indeed, while Miyazaki might not have initially desired a Dark Souls III, he and his team made the most of it while operating within the constraints of the franchise. Now From Software is working on something new, a new world on a new canvas. Dark Souls III is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC
  11. The Dark Souls series has defined itself as a fight around the idea of entropy. Should we embrace that all things must come to an end or rage against the dying of the light? Or perhaps find another way entirely? This conflict forms the central theme that permeates every nook and cranny of the game world, clarifying itself with each new enemy and boss. That struggle makes up the Dark Soul itself. The kingdoms of men in the Age of Fire, for all their strength, are doomed to fade and succumb to a curse brought on by time and the gods themselves. When the curse awakens, it makes men immortal, living on in a state of undeath, but once undead, humans begin to lose bits of themselves as time passes. Time eventually wears them away into hollows, mindless monsters who hunger for purpose. There is only one way to lift the curse: A hero must arise and brave the dangers of a world deteriorating into chaos to rekindle the First Flame, a bastion of power that preserves the world. After braving horrors and madness, players are given the option of rekindling the First Flame with their life or snuffing it out to usher in the Age of Dark, a new world order that embraces a fireless world - but there may be other choices hidden to all but a few. Players entered the world of the first Dark Souls shortly after the curse had begun afflicting humans for the first time. No matter how that great cataclysm is resolved, the events of Dark Souls II take place far into the future, in the middle of the Age of Fire. The second game has players fighting to ascend to the Throne of Want, a throne that looks strikingly like a kiln. Again, no matter how players decide to end the story, Dark Souls III happens. This time, the Age of Fire has begun to literally choke on its own ash. The First Flame is dying. It has been linked so many times that one powerful soul can no longer relight it. Now several are needed. In an effort to avert almost certain death, powerful beings from history have revived as Lords of Cinder to become sacrifices, however all but one refuse their duty to continue the world. One more bit of unkindled ash arises from the graves of heroes and receives the task of uniting those Lords and relighting the flame – the player. From the beginning, the world of Dark Souls III feels tired and broken. Ash litters the ground. Violent religious cults abound, each with their own ways of coping with their hopeless plight. The player isn’t even a lowly undead as in previous titles, but the dregs of ashen souls randomly reforged. Even immortal dragons have begun to succumb to decay of mind and body. This is the Dark Souls that players have known and loved since the beginning of the series, but all around the edges of that Dark Souls identity threads come unraveled. Of course, when I say “this is the same Dark Souls,” I mean thematically and visually. The mechanics of Dark Souls III have undergone a revision that incorporates lessons learned from the development of Bloodborne. When Bloodborne released, people compared its fast, aggressive combat favorably against the more deliberate, measured pace of the Dark Souls series. You can see that quickened sensibility translated into Dark Souls III in a number of little ways. For example, the player gets locked into fewer animations, something that in previous Souls games could mean death by accidental button press. More weapons feature transformations between distinct move sets, something that Bloodborne certainly popularized. Combat occurs with a desperate finality. The enemies players encounter act as if they know they are living in a world with a mortal wound, a fatal injury that affects them as well. And as the saying goes, “nothing is more dangerous than a wounded animal.” Enemies throw themselves into combat ferociously, adopting frenzied patterns of attack. Sometimes these patterns can seem unfair, but the core fun of Dark Souls has always been in learning those patterns and overcoming obstacles either alone or in jolly cooperation with other players. Dark Souls III feels rigorously balanced to avoid luring players into cheap deaths. Often it feels like if you’re just vigilant enough, you could deal with anything the game might throw at you. Though that confidence is often immediately undercut by a blistering encounter - if nothing else, Dark Souls III keeps players humble. Developer From Software describes their artistic approach to Dark Souls III as “withered beauty.” I wasn’t sure at first if the style of a dying world in all its dilapidated grandeur stemmed from a conscious choice or if the aesthetic was an extension of series creator Hidetaka Miyazaki’s reluctance to return to the series. He had made some statements in the past that indicated he wanted to be done with Dark Souls and that too many sequels would muddy his original intent. After spending almost 100 hours in its intricate, crumbling world, I feel comfortable saying that, yes, Dark Souls III is an entirely intentional work of art that brings the series full circle. While the core game does conclude on a definitive note regardless of player choice, the DLC ultimately brings things to a climactic final coda at the end of all things: A clash between the old world and the possibilities of the future. Ashes of Ariandel invites players into a world of rot and ice, a refuge from the apocalypse in the outside world. However, the shelter from ending possesses its own dangers and stands out as providing one of the most unique encounters in Dark Souls III. It also introduces a largely disposable multiplayer Vs. Mode, though I am sure many will derive some joy from fighting friends and strangers. Ashes of Ariandel ultimately exists to set the stage for The Ringed City DLC. This lore-heavy expansion has players delving into the legendary home of the Pygmies, an obscure, but important race of beings in the Souls universe. However, some characters and creatures have persisted within the city’s walls for countless years, standing firm to ward off intruders who come hoping to lay claim to the titular Dark Soul. Strangely, the final encounter in this DLC doesn’t end with an explosive cutscene or much exposition, just an intimate battle to the death and a subtle revelation hidden within the Ashes of Ariandel. It’s quiet, and that muted finale subverts expectations in a game that goes big so often. But that ending gets at the heart of what Dark Souls III and, indeed, what the larger Dark Souls series was about from the beginning. Conclusion: Dark Souls has been about the continuation of a toxic cycle, a cycle that offers diminishing returns with each renewal. Miyazaki purposefully left that cycle open to interpretation as an artistic statement. Does it represent addiction? Depression? Existentialism? One can interpret the cycle of spiraling rebirth and death to mean quite a number of things on a personal level – that, along with the near perfect "firm but fair" mechanics, is part of what allowed so many people to identify so strongly with the series. Dark Souls III sees that cycle finally spiral down toward its ultimate conclusion. The world can continue to struggle on, locked in an endless twilight, take the plunge into darkness where hope might one day be born anew, or the cycle can be broken into something else entirely. Even in this ending, Miyazaki leaves what the series could mean up to each player’s interpretation. There are some who see nothing in it, a pointless exercise in rehashing the Dark Souls adventure for a third time. There are some who see some truth in that portrayal of the world. Personally, Dark Souls III seems to be a meta commentary on the creative process – it is an adventure that seems limitless until limits are imposed upon it by solidifying an idea and making it real, and then creativity dies or stagnates or, very rarely, soldiers on toward something new and unknown. Indeed, while Miyazaki might not have initially desired a Dark Souls III, he and his team made the most of it while operating within the constraints of the franchise. Now From Software is working on something new, a new world on a new canvas. Dark Souls III is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC View full article
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. Jack Gardner

    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
  15. 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
  16. Jim Crawford might be a genius. Crawford designed Frog Fractions, the 2012 browser game that became something of an internet sensation. If you haven't yet played it and unraveled its secrets, the browser game continues to be absolutely brilliant and available for free. Crawford, seeing an opportunity in the sudden popularity of his incredibly bizarre parody of educational games, launched a Kickstarter campaign that successfully raised $72,000 to fund Frog Fractions 2. That would be the end of the story with most normal developers; they'd go on to create and release their game, hopefully securing enough funding along the way to make another game. Not so with Jim Crawford. The path to Frog Fractions 2 was a game unto itself with clues and hints hidden throughout several other games, websites, and even a secret letter hidden within a library. This augmented reality game (ARG) lasted for years and led its loyal followers to the game that contained Frog Fractions 2: Glittermitten Grove. At first glance, Glittermitten Grove seems to be a game about building a fairy village. Its saccharine veneer carefully put together to repel most game-savvy customers browsing through Steam. However, that is not to say that Glittermitten Grove isn't a competent game on its own. Players must care for their forest, growing trees and bushes to support a slowly growing fairy population. To best tend the forest, players manage the seasonal growth of their tree branches, ensuring trees get enough light to grow food and provide wood. Surprisingly, the city building becomes pretty engrossing and enjoyable. The low pressure, relaxing environment and things become relaxing after a while. However, at a certain point players are bound to discover the entrance to Glittermitten Grove's great secret. Either through a portal in the sky or a hidden door deep under the earth, players will be thrust into TXT World. TXT World shifts everything players might have thought about Glittermitten Grove. For all intents and purposes, discovering TXT World reveals the true face of Jim Crawford's sequel to Frog Fractions; a deliberate subversion of player expectations. Even in the name, TXT World undermines the very concept of a sequel (as far as I can tell Frog Fractions 2 isn't a title that ever appears inside of Glittermitten Grove or its component games). Where Frog Fractions employed a linear structure, TXT World embraces an open world heavily inspired by the Atari 2600 game Adventure. Players encounter a random retro mishmash of mini-games hidden throughout the world as they explore and solve puzzles. Some of the mini-games are great, while some only manage to be tolerable. TXT World truly shines when it embraces chaos and invites players to uncover something new with every screen, be that a mechanic, item, or secret. The novelty of discovering insane mysteries presents a thematic parallel to Frog Fractions and its completely unpredictable narrative trajectory. Cracks begin to show in TXT World's foundations when that fun chaos solidifies into a mundane world to retread. While I admire the throwback to the dawn of adventure games, I would be dishonest if I didn't also mention just how frustrating TXT World can become. Crawford's team employed excellent, clever uses of established mechanics to solve or create puzzles. Despite the effort on display, a fair selection of puzzles feel incredibly obtuse or intentionally glitchy. Succumbing to environmental hazards or enemies instantly respawns the player at the beginning of the current screen in an attempt to ease fatiguing sections of gameplay; it isn't enough. The biggest source of irritation in TXT World lies in its open world. While Frog Fractions hops from one game genre to another on a dime and never looks back, TXT World becomes the hub for brief sojourns to other mini-game worlds. Those brief snippets of different game genres reinvigorate curiosity and wonder for a time before returning the player to TXT World, a place that steadily becomes less interesting. The lack of direction amid the disorienting, retro landscape of TXT World itself ensnares players, forcing them to wander old areas in the hope of stumbling across the next thing that will allow progress. Many players will hit a point where they feel like they've been bashing their heads against a wall with no solution in sight. That frustration makes it hard to enjoy the creative slew of mini-games that often come out of nowhere. A humorous take on Flappy Bird starring a toaster or a reimagining of Aliens as a roommate drama/stealth game present some fantastic gameplay opportunities, but enjoying them becomes difficult after an hour of aimless rambling over well-trodden ground. It also doesn't help that some of those mini-games essentially trap the player until they are completed - sometimes in unconventional ways. For example, the Flappy Toaster mini-game didn't allow me to escape until I crashed the toaster through a specific spot in the ground. My exasperation manifested on more than one occasion in the form of turning the game off to do something that didn't make me feel like I was having a migraine. Conclusion: Glittermitten Grove feels like a giant inside joke that I'm not entirely in on. I missed out on the multi-year augmented reality game, so maybe that's why the components of TXT World felt foreign and strange to me. It's more esoteric and random than Frog Fractions, but I'm not sure if that ultimately benefits or hurts the experience. While I'd certainly recommend Glittermitten Grove to those who enjoy the stranger side of the gaming world, I'm not sure that is has the wide appeal or replayability enjoyed by Frog Fractions. It feels odd to say, but Glittermitten Grove, a smokescreen game about building a fairy kingdom, felt more like the game that I'd have rather seen fleshed out than the blighted chaos of TXT World. For all the criticism, there's really nothing else like Glittermitten Grove in the gaming world, and that originality counts for something in a gaming landscape criticized by many for its conformity. Glittermitten Grove is now available for PC View full article
  17. Jim Crawford might be a genius. Crawford designed Frog Fractions, the 2012 browser game that became something of an internet sensation. If you haven't yet played it and unraveled its secrets, the browser game continues to be absolutely brilliant and available for free. Crawford, seeing an opportunity in the sudden popularity of his incredibly bizarre parody of educational games, launched a Kickstarter campaign that successfully raised $72,000 to fund Frog Fractions 2. That would be the end of the story with most normal developers; they'd go on to create and release their game, hopefully securing enough funding along the way to make another game. Not so with Jim Crawford. The path to Frog Fractions 2 was a game unto itself with clues and hints hidden throughout several other games, websites, and even a secret letter hidden within a library. This augmented reality game (ARG) lasted for years and led its loyal followers to the game that contained Frog Fractions 2: Glittermitten Grove. At first glance, Glittermitten Grove seems to be a game about building a fairy village. Its saccharine veneer carefully put together to repel most game-savvy customers browsing through Steam. However, that is not to say that Glittermitten Grove isn't a competent game on its own. Players must care for their forest, growing trees and bushes to support a slowly growing fairy population. To best tend the forest, players manage the seasonal growth of their tree branches, ensuring trees get enough light to grow food and provide wood. Surprisingly, the city building becomes pretty engrossing and enjoyable. The low pressure, relaxing environment and things become relaxing after a while. However, at a certain point players are bound to discover the entrance to Glittermitten Grove's great secret. Either through a portal in the sky or a hidden door deep under the earth, players will be thrust into TXT World. TXT World shifts everything players might have thought about Glittermitten Grove. For all intents and purposes, discovering TXT World reveals the true face of Jim Crawford's sequel to Frog Fractions; a deliberate subversion of player expectations. Even in the name, TXT World undermines the very concept of a sequel (as far as I can tell Frog Fractions 2 isn't a title that ever appears inside of Glittermitten Grove or its component games). Where Frog Fractions employed a linear structure, TXT World embraces an open world heavily inspired by the Atari 2600 game Adventure. Players encounter a random retro mishmash of mini-games hidden throughout the world as they explore and solve puzzles. Some of the mini-games are great, while some only manage to be tolerable. TXT World truly shines when it embraces chaos and invites players to uncover something new with every screen, be that a mechanic, item, or secret. The novelty of discovering insane mysteries presents a thematic parallel to Frog Fractions and its completely unpredictable narrative trajectory. Cracks begin to show in TXT World's foundations when that fun chaos solidifies into a mundane world to retread. While I admire the throwback to the dawn of adventure games, I would be dishonest if I didn't also mention just how frustrating TXT World can become. Crawford's team employed excellent, clever uses of established mechanics to solve or create puzzles. Despite the effort on display, a fair selection of puzzles feel incredibly obtuse or intentionally glitchy. Succumbing to environmental hazards or enemies instantly respawns the player at the beginning of the current screen in an attempt to ease fatiguing sections of gameplay; it isn't enough. The biggest source of irritation in TXT World lies in its open world. While Frog Fractions hops from one game genre to another on a dime and never looks back, TXT World becomes the hub for brief sojourns to other mini-game worlds. Those brief snippets of different game genres reinvigorate curiosity and wonder for a time before returning the player to TXT World, a place that steadily becomes less interesting. The lack of direction amid the disorienting, retro landscape of TXT World itself ensnares players, forcing them to wander old areas in the hope of stumbling across the next thing that will allow progress. Many players will hit a point where they feel like they've been bashing their heads against a wall with no solution in sight. That frustration makes it hard to enjoy the creative slew of mini-games that often come out of nowhere. A humorous take on Flappy Bird starring a toaster or a reimagining of Aliens as a roommate drama/stealth game present some fantastic gameplay opportunities, but enjoying them becomes difficult after an hour of aimless rambling over well-trodden ground. It also doesn't help that some of those mini-games essentially trap the player until they are completed - sometimes in unconventional ways. For example, the Flappy Toaster mini-game didn't allow me to escape until I crashed the toaster through a specific spot in the ground. My exasperation manifested on more than one occasion in the form of turning the game off to do something that didn't make me feel like I was having a migraine. Conclusion: Glittermitten Grove feels like a giant inside joke that I'm not entirely in on. I missed out on the multi-year augmented reality game, so maybe that's why the components of TXT World felt foreign and strange to me. It's more esoteric and random than Frog Fractions, but I'm not sure if that ultimately benefits or hurts the experience. While I'd certainly recommend Glittermitten Grove to those who enjoy the stranger side of the gaming world, I'm not sure that is has the wide appeal or replayability enjoyed by Frog Fractions. It feels odd to say, but Glittermitten Grove, a smokescreen game about building a fairy kingdom, felt more like the game that I'd have rather seen fleshed out than the blighted chaos of TXT World. For all the criticism, there's really nothing else like Glittermitten Grove in the gaming world, and that originality counts for something in a gaming landscape criticized by many for its conformity. Glittermitten Grove is now available for PC
  18. The dark of space was made for keeping secrets. Murder, conspiracy, sabotage, all manner of things perhaps better left unseen and unknown can be hidden in the vacuum between worlds. But what happens when unlikely events begin to bring those mysteries to light? Event[0] takes place in a fictional version of 2012 where humanity has begun mastering space travel and establishing colonies. On one fateful mission to Europa, an incident occurs that leaves a ship in ruins. Alone in an escape pod with minimal chance of rescue, the mysterious ship Nautilus offers the player a respite from impending death. Unfortunately, the Nautilus seems to have been damaged in various ways and the bridge placed into lockdown. Interacting with the Nautilus’ decades old AI, Kaizen-85, becomes the only way to proceed through the ship, reveal its secrets, and perhaps return to Earth. In many ways, Event[0] fits into the gaming genre of “walking simulator.” I know just mentioning that phrase will unfortunately turn off many people, but many of the in-game objectives boil down to “walk around for a bit until you find a clue” or getting from Point A to Point B, much like genre classics Gone Home or The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. However, while those basic goals probably don’t excite the imagination, the core gameplay sets Event[0] apart from anything else available in the indie or even AAA gaming space. Interactions with Kaizen-85 present the only way the player can progress through the Nautilus. The 80s-era AI controls the ship via various terminals, and the player can only talk with Kaizen-85 via typing. Want to open a door? You have to ask Kaizen. Want to use an elevator? You have to ask Kaizen. Want to seal an airlock so you can breathe? You have to ask Kaizen. The entire game maintains a mounting sense of panic as it becomes clear that Kaizen doesn’t process information rationally. It lies. It refuses requests. It might even attempt to kill. Some players might be understandably suspicious of how well the AI can respond to user-generated sentences and phrases. The team at Ocelot Society created over 2,000,000 unique responses for Kaizen and it can respond to a vast array of random inputs. While I certainly encountered a number of repeated phrases when I talked with Kaizen-85, it felt in-character for a malfunctioning artificial intelligence. To Ocelot Society’s credit, I felt like I was able to develop a rudimentary relationship with Kaizen. In that respect, Event[0] feels like a more fully realized version of the 2006 indie title, Façade, which allowed players to interact with a human couple in a room and attempted to account for all possible player inputs. Games have obviously come farther in the decade since Façade. It makes me wonder about the possibility of using a similar approach to modeling human interactions in future games (obviously with the caveat that typing as a replacement for speaking would only work in select instances). Putting all of those details and comparisons aside, the defining mechanic of Event[0] works very well. Event[0] contains a number of qualities that lend themselves toward horror, but the game stops just short of becoming a fully-fledged horror title. It settles for being unsettling and laid back at the same time. The soundtrack does a fantastic job at capturing that feel with a score that highlights the mystery of the Nautilus, thick with anticipation of what might happen next, and tempers that anxiety with a gorgeous, jazzy number performed by Julie Robert and Camille Giraudeau called 'Hey Judy.' All of this is underscored by sound design that both captures the isolation of space and manages to ratchet up the tension when taking risks in a spacesuit. These sounds might be ones with which you're familiar, but they're executed flawlessly. People won't be drawn into Event[0] by its visuals. While certainly serviceable, there just isn't much to see, which relates to the length of the game, too. Almost the entirety of Event[0] takes place aboard the Nautilus, a relatively small ship. The objects are very nicely detailed and each room feels lovingly crafted. However, you can see almost everything in under three hours. For some people, that might be another deal breaker as Event[0] currently sells for around $20 and there are certainly games that offer longer gameplay experiences for a similar price. The story of Event[0] itself feels a bit less exciting than its core mechanic. The struggle to survive armed with only your wit and words against a crazy AI seems like it should be enough on its own, but the situation becomes complicated with an often unnecessary backstory. The ending left me with a feeling a little confused and like I had missed some key piece of exposition. Event[0] rushes to a conclusion that might have been better served with some earlier set up. There are multiple endings to Event[0] that depend on how the player treats Kaizen throughout the game, which is another testament to the power of the core mechanic - the game can determine the player's tone. Conclusion: Play Event[0] if you want something different. It might be short. It might have some narrative problems. It might sometimes have gameplay issues. However, you cannot get a similar experience from anything else released in the last few years. For all of Event[0]'s flaws, trying to communicate with Kaizen-85 and unravel its lies and secrets was a refreshing adventure that I feel grateful exists. Event[0] is available now for PC and Mac View full article
  19. The dark of space was made for keeping secrets. Murder, conspiracy, sabotage, all manner of things perhaps better left unseen and unknown can be hidden in the vacuum between worlds. But what happens when unlikely events begin to bring those mysteries to light? Event[0] takes place in a fictional version of 2012 where humanity has begun mastering space travel and establishing colonies. On one fateful mission to Europa, an incident occurs that leaves a ship in ruins. Alone in an escape pod with minimal chance of rescue, the mysterious ship Nautilus offers the player a respite from impending death. Unfortunately, the Nautilus seems to have been damaged in various ways and the bridge placed into lockdown. Interacting with the Nautilus’ decades old AI, Kaizen-85, becomes the only way to proceed through the ship, reveal its secrets, and perhaps return to Earth. In many ways, Event[0] fits into the gaming genre of “walking simulator.” I know just mentioning that phrase will unfortunately turn off many people, but many of the in-game objectives boil down to “walk around for a bit until you find a clue” or getting from Point A to Point B, much like genre classics Gone Home or The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. However, while those basic goals probably don’t excite the imagination, the core gameplay sets Event[0] apart from anything else available in the indie or even AAA gaming space. Interactions with Kaizen-85 present the only way the player can progress through the Nautilus. The 80s-era AI controls the ship via various terminals, and the player can only talk with Kaizen-85 via typing. Want to open a door? You have to ask Kaizen. Want to use an elevator? You have to ask Kaizen. Want to seal an airlock so you can breathe? You have to ask Kaizen. The entire game maintains a mounting sense of panic as it becomes clear that Kaizen doesn’t process information rationally. It lies. It refuses requests. It might even attempt to kill. Some players might be understandably suspicious of how well the AI can respond to user-generated sentences and phrases. The team at Ocelot Society created over 2,000,000 unique responses for Kaizen and it can respond to a vast array of random inputs. While I certainly encountered a number of repeated phrases when I talked with Kaizen-85, it felt in-character for a malfunctioning artificial intelligence. To Ocelot Society’s credit, I felt like I was able to develop a rudimentary relationship with Kaizen. In that respect, Event[0] feels like a more fully realized version of the 2006 indie title, Façade, which allowed players to interact with a human couple in a room and attempted to account for all possible player inputs. Games have obviously come farther in the decade since Façade. It makes me wonder about the possibility of using a similar approach to modeling human interactions in future games (obviously with the caveat that typing as a replacement for speaking would only work in select instances). Putting all of those details and comparisons aside, the defining mechanic of Event[0] works very well. Event[0] contains a number of qualities that lend themselves toward horror, but the game stops just short of becoming a fully-fledged horror title. It settles for being unsettling and laid back at the same time. The soundtrack does a fantastic job at capturing that feel with a score that highlights the mystery of the Nautilus, thick with anticipation of what might happen next, and tempers that anxiety with a gorgeous, jazzy number performed by Julie Robert and Camille Giraudeau called 'Hey Judy.' All of this is underscored by sound design that both captures the isolation of space and manages to ratchet up the tension when taking risks in a spacesuit. These sounds might be ones with which you're familiar, but they're executed flawlessly. People won't be drawn into Event[0] by its visuals. While certainly serviceable, there just isn't much to see, which relates to the length of the game, too. Almost the entirety of Event[0] takes place aboard the Nautilus, a relatively small ship. The objects are very nicely detailed and each room feels lovingly crafted. However, you can see almost everything in under three hours. For some people, that might be another deal breaker as Event[0] currently sells for around $20 and there are certainly games that offer longer gameplay experiences for a similar price. The story of Event[0] itself feels a bit less exciting than its core mechanic. The struggle to survive armed with only your wit and words against a crazy AI seems like it should be enough on its own, but the situation becomes complicated with an often unnecessary backstory. The ending left me with a feeling a little confused and like I had missed some key piece of exposition. Event[0] rushes to a conclusion that might have been better served with some earlier set up. There are multiple endings to Event[0] that depend on how the player treats Kaizen throughout the game, which is another testament to the power of the core mechanic - the game can determine the player's tone. Conclusion: Play Event[0] if you want something different. It might be short. It might have some narrative problems. It might sometimes have gameplay issues. However, you cannot get a similar experience from anything else released in the last few years. For all of Event[0]'s flaws, trying to communicate with Kaizen-85 and unravel its lies and secrets was a refreshing adventure that I feel grateful exists. Event[0] is available now for PC and Mac
  20. If there’s one lesson that 10 years of singing, instrument-playing, and dancing have taught me, it’s that the show must go on. The number of people I’ve seen take “break a leg” beyond pure metaphor, and still soldier on, genuinely astounds me. No matter the error, no matter the number of botched notes, or missed steps, you power through a performance with all you can, for surely the alternative is always worse. For a game so wrapped up in the power of music, it’s odd to see Klang (developed by the one-man team at Tinimations and composed by EDM guru Jordan Aguirre AKA “bLiNd”) take so much of its ethos to heart, and yet stumble on that one key point. As the cybergoth-inspired rave warrior, you’ll fight and headbang your way towards defeating the evil Soundlord Sonos in a world absolutely soaked with neon and musical minutia. Levels, many of which feel like they’re ripped from the stages of your favorite rock venue, pulse with each distinctive track’s beat. Streetlamps shaped like clef notes hang above your head as you dash on by. Each track helps to define the rhythm of combat or exploration. Enemies gather around you to lob carefully synchronized attacks, while a directional meter lets you know when to strike it back. Giant soundwave attacks demand you either leap or slide your way to safety, and it all comes together in the game’s later stages to create a beautiful maelstrom of action. The music is, as advertised, an amazing and eclectic mix of hard-hitting EDM and more tranquil house music beats. BLiNd’s work might not be for everyone (to say nothing of the genre as a whole), but the marriage between Tinimations’ aesthetic and composer Jordan Aguirre’s infectious rhythms are undeniably beautiful. Rather than a simple backdrop, the soundtrack plays a vital role in determining movement during combat and exploration. The heady thud-thud-thud of a classic EDM beat, coupled with a damaging force field that blinks on and off of a wall, dictates how you must traverse upwards using a classic wall jump maneuver. Much like a music aficionado might use a song’s rhythm to guess what’s coming next (think the “drop” in nearly any EDM song), so must the player, learning to duck and leap away from the next attack, or avoid the deadly searchlights of stationary enemies. The problem begins (and for the most part, ends) with how Klang’s gameplay manages to detract from the success of this marriage. Even for fans of gaming’s most difficult genres and franchises (twitch shooters, Dark Souls), Klang is an astonishingly difficult, often frustrating experience. What issues Klang’s demo had could easily be chalked up to an unfamiliarity with the game’s mechanics, but spread out over the two to four hours of available content, those issues become omnipresent. Even on the game’s lowest difficulty, and employing a “reflex mode” that briefly slows down time when taking significant damage, Klang’s frantic action and occasional one-hit kills proved to be way too much to handle. While the game is great about putting you back in the action almost immediately, you’ll die so often that it won’t feel like it matters, putting you in the position of getting frustrated, and thus unable to concentrate, leading to more deaths. While taking on one of the game’s bosses, I found myself stuck between his constant attacks, a deadly pit of energy behind me, and a continuous gust of wind that threatened to push me into it. I had already gotten used to the mechanics of leaping and ducking to avoid massive soundwave attacks from this boss, but while the game does give you a fair bit of health, all it took was one mismanaged jump (while also deflecting regular attacks) for me to lose my momentum and get swept into the pit. If it’s not the pit, it will be one of the countless, twitchy “security cameras” you must run by without being spotted once for fear of being zapped. If it’s not the cameras, it might be the rapidly dissipating platforms that only solidify once you’ve executed one of 30 precarious jump-deflect combos. If it’s not any one of those things, it will be some combination. You will die. Incredibly often. And as beautiful as bLiNd’s music is, as much as I’m dying to listen to it all over again, you will grow so familiar with the first 10-20 seconds of each track that they begin to lose their luster. Klang almost certainly plays to the kind of gamer that enjoys a ludicrously demanding experience. Unfortunately, the game’s unforgiving nature will likely sour the experience for anyone who doesn’t seek out such a thing. One of the worst things a musician can do is stop their performance after making one, or even many, simple mistakes. Acknowledging and walking back on a commitment always seems less impressive than powering through an understandable, if human, error. You won’t find room for any error, much less human. Beyond the split-second reaction times, its level design is also occasionally flawed. During a boss battle that incorporated cones of vision (and one-hit deaths for being seen), three raised platforms above the boss’ head felt like indicators that aerial attacks wouldn’t work. This turned out to be completely false. Aerial attacks were the only method, but the level design, plus a rapidly shifting enemy cone of vision, plus an unforgiving checkpoint system quickly turned the battle into something as frustrating as it was inventive. Klang’s brilliant soundtrack and unique brand of action platforming would come across as a much more cohesive package if we were able to appreciate it at length and as a whole, rather than gritting our teeth and praying for a checkpoint. For those who do feel up to the challenge, beyond the normal difficulty setting, beating the game unlocks a “Nightcore” mode (maybe don’t Google that) that allows you to play at an even higher difficulty. Conclusion: Klang still carries a sincere sense of recommendation, if only based on its incredibly inventive style and incorporation of music. We don’t often get a game, indie or otherwise, that has the courage to tackle music with such ingenuity. Tinimations’ and bLiNd’s passion shows in every single beat, but their own concept gets too caught up in its own noodling to allow for lesser players to enjoy it to its fullest extent. Klang was reviewed on PC and is now available on Steam. View full article
  21. Joseph Knoop

    Review: Klang

    If there’s one lesson that 10 years of singing, instrument-playing, and dancing have taught me, it’s that the show must go on. The number of people I’ve seen take “break a leg” beyond pure metaphor, and still soldier on, genuinely astounds me. No matter the error, no matter the number of botched notes, or missed steps, you power through a performance with all you can, for surely the alternative is always worse. For a game so wrapped up in the power of music, it’s odd to see Klang (developed by the one-man team at Tinimations and composed by EDM guru Jordan Aguirre AKA “bLiNd”) take so much of its ethos to heart, and yet stumble on that one key point. As the cybergoth-inspired rave warrior, you’ll fight and headbang your way towards defeating the evil Soundlord Sonos in a world absolutely soaked with neon and musical minutia. Levels, many of which feel like they’re ripped from the stages of your favorite rock venue, pulse with each distinctive track’s beat. Streetlamps shaped like clef notes hang above your head as you dash on by. Each track helps to define the rhythm of combat or exploration. Enemies gather around you to lob carefully synchronized attacks, while a directional meter lets you know when to strike it back. Giant soundwave attacks demand you either leap or slide your way to safety, and it all comes together in the game’s later stages to create a beautiful maelstrom of action. The music is, as advertised, an amazing and eclectic mix of hard-hitting EDM and more tranquil house music beats. BLiNd’s work might not be for everyone (to say nothing of the genre as a whole), but the marriage between Tinimations’ aesthetic and composer Jordan Aguirre’s infectious rhythms are undeniably beautiful. Rather than a simple backdrop, the soundtrack plays a vital role in determining movement during combat and exploration. The heady thud-thud-thud of a classic EDM beat, coupled with a damaging force field that blinks on and off of a wall, dictates how you must traverse upwards using a classic wall jump maneuver. Much like a music aficionado might use a song’s rhythm to guess what’s coming next (think the “drop” in nearly any EDM song), so must the player, learning to duck and leap away from the next attack, or avoid the deadly searchlights of stationary enemies. The problem begins (and for the most part, ends) with how Klang’s gameplay manages to detract from the success of this marriage. Even for fans of gaming’s most difficult genres and franchises (twitch shooters, Dark Souls), Klang is an astonishingly difficult, often frustrating experience. What issues Klang’s demo had could easily be chalked up to an unfamiliarity with the game’s mechanics, but spread out over the two to four hours of available content, those issues become omnipresent. Even on the game’s lowest difficulty, and employing a “reflex mode” that briefly slows down time when taking significant damage, Klang’s frantic action and occasional one-hit kills proved to be way too much to handle. While the game is great about putting you back in the action almost immediately, you’ll die so often that it won’t feel like it matters, putting you in the position of getting frustrated, and thus unable to concentrate, leading to more deaths. While taking on one of the game’s bosses, I found myself stuck between his constant attacks, a deadly pit of energy behind me, and a continuous gust of wind that threatened to push me into it. I had already gotten used to the mechanics of leaping and ducking to avoid massive soundwave attacks from this boss, but while the game does give you a fair bit of health, all it took was one mismanaged jump (while also deflecting regular attacks) for me to lose my momentum and get swept into the pit. If it’s not the pit, it will be one of the countless, twitchy “security cameras” you must run by without being spotted once for fear of being zapped. If it’s not the cameras, it might be the rapidly dissipating platforms that only solidify once you’ve executed one of 30 precarious jump-deflect combos. If it’s not any one of those things, it will be some combination. You will die. Incredibly often. And as beautiful as bLiNd’s music is, as much as I’m dying to listen to it all over again, you will grow so familiar with the first 10-20 seconds of each track that they begin to lose their luster. Klang almost certainly plays to the kind of gamer that enjoys a ludicrously demanding experience. Unfortunately, the game’s unforgiving nature will likely sour the experience for anyone who doesn’t seek out such a thing. One of the worst things a musician can do is stop their performance after making one, or even many, simple mistakes. Acknowledging and walking back on a commitment always seems less impressive than powering through an understandable, if human, error. You won’t find room for any error, much less human. Beyond the split-second reaction times, its level design is also occasionally flawed. During a boss battle that incorporated cones of vision (and one-hit deaths for being seen), three raised platforms above the boss’ head felt like indicators that aerial attacks wouldn’t work. This turned out to be completely false. Aerial attacks were the only method, but the level design, plus a rapidly shifting enemy cone of vision, plus an unforgiving checkpoint system quickly turned the battle into something as frustrating as it was inventive. Klang’s brilliant soundtrack and unique brand of action platforming would come across as a much more cohesive package if we were able to appreciate it at length and as a whole, rather than gritting our teeth and praying for a checkpoint. For those who do feel up to the challenge, beyond the normal difficulty setting, beating the game unlocks a “Nightcore” mode (maybe don’t Google that) that allows you to play at an even higher difficulty. Conclusion: Klang still carries a sincere sense of recommendation, if only based on its incredibly inventive style and incorporation of music. We don’t often get a game, indie or otherwise, that has the courage to tackle music with such ingenuity. Tinimations’ and bLiNd’s passion shows in every single beat, but their own concept gets too caught up in its own noodling to allow for lesser players to enjoy it to its fullest extent. Klang was reviewed on PC and is now available on Steam.
  22. There’s a reason not many superhero games place players in the average shoes of the hero’s normal alter ego. How many people are itching to transcribe interviews as Clark Kent or partake in science projects as Peter Parker when they could be performing superhuman feats as Superman and Spider-Man, respectively? Telltale Games tackles this challenge in their episodic Batman game by attempting to make the events of Bruce Wayne’s life as important and exciting as the Dark Knight taking on the crooks of Gotham. While acting out the role of the brooding billionaire doesn’t always get the blood pumping, some promising narrative set-ups and tense decision-making keeps the Bruce Wayne experience from being the drag it easily could have been. Realm of Shadows begins on a high note. A break-in at the mayor’s office leads to a showdown between the Bat and armed mercenaries. Batman’s full display of combat prowess during this sequence translates to Telltale’s signature style with mostly successful results. Quick-time events consist of fast-paced button prompts and analog swipes to capture some of the rush of hand-to-hand combat. It’s a more engaging gameplay experience than in previous Telltale titles, and while I wouldn’t call any of the prompts difficult, they’re a solid test of your reflexes that demand your attention. Batman’s arsenal of high-tech gadgetry is also on display and sport unique mechanics, such as moving a reticle inside the center of a circle to fire the grapple hook. Nailing a QTE provides some level of satisfaction, but players can blow every prompt and scenes still proceed largely as planned with insignificant differences and only handful of hard fail states sprinkled about. It’s like getting a trophy for participation: you still win even if you don’t try. A new finishing maneuver attempts to counter this by offering a small incentive for getting things right. Successful button inputs fill a meter that when activated, unleashes a stylish - and often brutal - conclusion to confrontations, such as Batman violently smashing a thug’s face in. Finishers are a good idea in theory, but the lack of freedom in using them takes much of the fun out as Telltale clearly pushes players to activate the move during specific moments. In one encounter, I purposefully failed every prompt to see if I could complete the scene without triggering my finisher so that I could save it for another fight. The result was a fatal gunshot and a game over screen. There’s little satisfaction in working towards a mandatory reward. Maybe this hand-holding only occurs in this pilot episode. I hope so, otherwise you could easily do away with the meter altogether and present these maneuvers like any standard button prompt. Outside of fisticuffs, players also dabble in detective work. This boils down to inspecting points of interest and literally connecting the dots to see if clues add up, such as linking a bullet hole with a headshot victim. Since these are introductory puzzles, don’t expect your deductive skills to be pushed to their limits, but the design shows potential and fits nicely within Telltale’s framework. I hope to see these puzzles grow in complexity in future episodes, but the offerings presented here are acceptable as an appetizer. The same dot connecting feature mechanic extends to planning an assault against a group of enemies. Unfortunately, with only a handful of options (do you hurl a guy against some stairs or smash his head into a column?) and the lack of ill-advised choices you don’t feel smart or clever here because you're just choosing variants of the same cutscene. That leads to my big issue with the Batman side of things in this episode: choices don’t feature much consequence. Either you die outright and have to start over or a missing a prompt means nothing. There’s great opportunities here to make decisions have some weight via combat. In one scene, I dodged gunfire from a gangster only to take him down soon after. Failing to dodge the gunfire in the scenario results in Batman taking a bullet, but it’s irrelevant because everything proceeds as planned anyway as if Batman wasn’t shot at all. Make it so that getting wounded leads to altered scenes/gameplay where an injured Batman has to cope and produces tougher gameplay - anything to make me care that I messed up a sequence. Decision-making is more substantial in the lengthy Bruce Wayne segments. Batman’s narrative centers Harvey Dent’s mayoral campaign, which Bruce supports morally and financially. The success of Dent’s campaign hinges on which characters Bruce chooses to interact with and he how he behaves doing so. Whether it’s mingling with an influential family to gain their support or addressing the media during a crucial press conference, your actions paint Bruce in either a favorable or less savory light that reflects on Dent’s image. The focus is very much on Bruce in this episode with his various dilemmas serving as the foundation for a majority of the narrative. It sounds boring on paper but, thankfully, most of the choices you confront feel important and aren’t so much about right and wrong but rather different methods of approaching situations. Are you confrontational towards a mob boss’ thinly veiled threats or do you play along and project the appearance of submissiveness? Is it more effective to release crucial evidence publicly through Vicki Vale and the media or to trust Jim Gordon and the police to perform their duties? Unlike Batman’s combat, which needs clearer punishments, the shades of grey for Bruce Wayne is appropriate. I like how decisions feel more like choosing a preferred method instead of just simply doing the objectively right thing, and the consequences have enough weight (or at least hint that they will) to make them matter. Realm of Shadows does a commendable job of planting intriguing narrative seeds set to bloom in future episodes. Chief among them: A dark secret that could irreparably damage the reputation of the Wayne family. The most surprising twist occurs when Batman’s world bleeds over into Bruce’s normal life during a moment I won’t spoil here. Toss in the mysterious re-emergence of Bruce’s childhood friend, and upcoming installments are already brimming with storytelling potential. Conclusion: Realm of Shadows is a solid introduction that thus far delivers on its promise of making the decisions of Bruce Wayne feel as important and engaging as Batman’s. The narrative shows promise as do gameplay elements such as crime scene investigations, but the lack of player freedom and consequence in combat leaves that aspect feeling somewhat flat. All in all, this is very much another Telltale adventure game and that extends to their increasingly dated graphics engine. There’s plenty of narrative intrigue and affection shown for the property to make Realm of Shadows a surefire recommendation for Batman fans. Anyone else, especially those burned out on the Telltale experience, need to ask themselves if the license alone is enough to carry them into another episodic adventure series. Batman: The Telltale Series Episode 1 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is now available for Xbox One and PC. It’s also coming soon to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS and Android View full article
  23. There’s a reason not many superhero games place players in the average shoes of the hero’s normal alter ego. How many people are itching to transcribe interviews as Clark Kent or partake in science projects as Peter Parker when they could be performing superhuman feats as Superman and Spider-Man, respectively? Telltale Games tackles this challenge in their episodic Batman game by attempting to make the events of Bruce Wayne’s life as important and exciting as the Dark Knight taking on the crooks of Gotham. While acting out the role of the brooding billionaire doesn’t always get the blood pumping, some promising narrative set-ups and tense decision-making keeps the Bruce Wayne experience from being the drag it easily could have been. Realm of Shadows begins on a high note. A break-in at the mayor’s office leads to a showdown between the Bat and armed mercenaries. Batman’s full display of combat prowess during this sequence translates to Telltale’s signature style with mostly successful results. Quick-time events consist of fast-paced button prompts and analog swipes to capture some of the rush of hand-to-hand combat. It’s a more engaging gameplay experience than in previous Telltale titles, and while I wouldn’t call any of the prompts difficult, they’re a solid test of your reflexes that demand your attention. Batman’s arsenal of high-tech gadgetry is also on display and sport unique mechanics, such as moving a reticle inside the center of a circle to fire the grapple hook. Nailing a QTE provides some level of satisfaction, but players can blow every prompt and scenes still proceed largely as planned with insignificant differences and only handful of hard fail states sprinkled about. It’s like getting a trophy for participation: you still win even if you don’t try. A new finishing maneuver attempts to counter this by offering a small incentive for getting things right. Successful button inputs fill a meter that when activated, unleashes a stylish - and often brutal - conclusion to confrontations, such as Batman violently smashing a thug’s face in. Finishers are a good idea in theory, but the lack of freedom in using them takes much of the fun out as Telltale clearly pushes players to activate the move during specific moments. In one encounter, I purposefully failed every prompt to see if I could complete the scene without triggering my finisher so that I could save it for another fight. The result was a fatal gunshot and a game over screen. There’s little satisfaction in working towards a mandatory reward. Maybe this hand-holding only occurs in this pilot episode. I hope so, otherwise you could easily do away with the meter altogether and present these maneuvers like any standard button prompt. Outside of fisticuffs, players also dabble in detective work. This boils down to inspecting points of interest and literally connecting the dots to see if clues add up, such as linking a bullet hole with a headshot victim. Since these are introductory puzzles, don’t expect your deductive skills to be pushed to their limits, but the design shows potential and fits nicely within Telltale’s framework. I hope to see these puzzles grow in complexity in future episodes, but the offerings presented here are acceptable as an appetizer. The same dot connecting feature mechanic extends to planning an assault against a group of enemies. Unfortunately, with only a handful of options (do you hurl a guy against some stairs or smash his head into a column?) and the lack of ill-advised choices you don’t feel smart or clever here because you're just choosing variants of the same cutscene. That leads to my big issue with the Batman side of things in this episode: choices don’t feature much consequence. Either you die outright and have to start over or a missing a prompt means nothing. There’s great opportunities here to make decisions have some weight via combat. In one scene, I dodged gunfire from a gangster only to take him down soon after. Failing to dodge the gunfire in the scenario results in Batman taking a bullet, but it’s irrelevant because everything proceeds as planned anyway as if Batman wasn’t shot at all. Make it so that getting wounded leads to altered scenes/gameplay where an injured Batman has to cope and produces tougher gameplay - anything to make me care that I messed up a sequence. Decision-making is more substantial in the lengthy Bruce Wayne segments. Batman’s narrative centers Harvey Dent’s mayoral campaign, which Bruce supports morally and financially. The success of Dent’s campaign hinges on which characters Bruce chooses to interact with and he how he behaves doing so. Whether it’s mingling with an influential family to gain their support or addressing the media during a crucial press conference, your actions paint Bruce in either a favorable or less savory light that reflects on Dent’s image. The focus is very much on Bruce in this episode with his various dilemmas serving as the foundation for a majority of the narrative. It sounds boring on paper but, thankfully, most of the choices you confront feel important and aren’t so much about right and wrong but rather different methods of approaching situations. Are you confrontational towards a mob boss’ thinly veiled threats or do you play along and project the appearance of submissiveness? Is it more effective to release crucial evidence publicly through Vicki Vale and the media or to trust Jim Gordon and the police to perform their duties? Unlike Batman’s combat, which needs clearer punishments, the shades of grey for Bruce Wayne is appropriate. I like how decisions feel more like choosing a preferred method instead of just simply doing the objectively right thing, and the consequences have enough weight (or at least hint that they will) to make them matter. Realm of Shadows does a commendable job of planting intriguing narrative seeds set to bloom in future episodes. Chief among them: A dark secret that could irreparably damage the reputation of the Wayne family. The most surprising twist occurs when Batman’s world bleeds over into Bruce’s normal life during a moment I won’t spoil here. Toss in the mysterious re-emergence of Bruce’s childhood friend, and upcoming installments are already brimming with storytelling potential. Conclusion: Realm of Shadows is a solid introduction that thus far delivers on its promise of making the decisions of Bruce Wayne feel as important and engaging as Batman’s. The narrative shows promise as do gameplay elements such as crime scene investigations, but the lack of player freedom and consequence in combat leaves that aspect feeling somewhat flat. All in all, this is very much another Telltale adventure game and that extends to their increasingly dated graphics engine. There’s plenty of narrative intrigue and affection shown for the property to make Realm of Shadows a surefire recommendation for Batman fans. Anyone else, especially those burned out on the Telltale experience, need to ask themselves if the license alone is enough to carry them into another episodic adventure series. Batman: The Telltale Series Episode 1 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is now available for Xbox One and PC. It’s also coming soon to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS and Android
  24. Daniel Jones

    Review: Abzû

    With 2012’s Journey, thatgamecompany succeeded in creating a type of interactive tome, replete with all the self-reflective ambiguity of an abstract painting. Debates over video games as art notwithstanding, Journey could hardly be described as anything but. While it wove an astoundingly rich visual tapestry, the surprisingly effusive weight of its anonymous multiplayer carried the brunt of its artistic meaning. So it’s impressive that developer Giant Squid—founded by Journey’s Art Director, Matt Nava—has created a game in Abzû that not only sparkles with aesthetic brilliance, but also finds its own voice as an emotionally driven work of artistic expression. The fact that it occasionally feels slight in the shadow of Journey’s monolithic legacy is something I struggle to hold against it, especially when the overall experience feels so singularly divine. Abzû’s wordless story begins in a serene corner of its ocean setting, as your avatar, a wet-suit-clad scuba diver awakes on the surface. Subtle visual cues and camera tricks help to guide you along your trek through underwater caverns, dense kelp forests, and even some less organic structures that I dare not detail further. Along the way, you’ll interact with all manner of sea life from the smallest clownfish to blue whales the size of a naval submarine. It’s in the interaction with these creatures that Abzû sets itself apart from any game I’ve played before. Each of the game’s environments is its own mini ecosystem, teeming with aquatic inhabitants that interact with each other and the player in fascinating and believable ways. Sharks will chomp on smaller fish, dolphins flip and twirl in their pods, and giant squid spray ink when you come near. These interactions are rarely scripted, often relying on your input to trigger, such as enticing a massive humpback whale to breach the surface or hitching a ride with a turtle. Finding new ways to play around with Abzû’s wildlife proves fun and engaging, while nicely complimenting the game’s naturalistic themes. Just as playful is the game’s soundtrack from Austin Wintory, whose work composing Journey earned him a Grammy nomination. The lively strings, twinkling harps, and celestial choir simply sound exactly like Abzû looks. Wintory’s scores have an exquisite knack for capturing the essence of a game’s visuals and themes, and his work on Abzû is no exception. This inimitable, ever-present music ties into the gameplay and adapts appropriately to your actions, making it as vital a part of the experience as the vibrant visuals and the smooth controls. As you might expect from the art director behind Journey, Abzû’s visuals inspire awe, a true sight to behold. Each area exhibits a distinct color palette with what can almost be described as a bouquet of marine wildlife. Seeing thousands of fish all animated on screen at once is jaw dropping more so for its audacious beauty than its technological achievement. Abzû has much in common with thatgamecompany’s earlier title, Flower, as you spread life through the world, making each new area more vibrant and lively than it was when you first waded into its waters. This is more than just pretty visuals at thirty frames per second; it’s emotion through gameplay and gameplay through art. Abzû’s ocean is not all smooth sailing, however, as a few questionable design decisions muddy the otherwise clear waters. Each area has a few hidden shells that you can collect, much like the scarf pieces from Journey. But whereas those pieces granted your avatar with a longer jump and eventually—if you were able to find them all—a white robe with an infinitely regenerating scarf, Abzû grants the player no such rewards, besides a gold trophy. A sense of progression would have served Abzû well, and would’ve made the already enjoyable movement even more gratifying. Though it may seem unfair to hold Abzû to the standards set by its predecessor, the corollary couldn’t be more apt. Make no mistake about it, this game—though not designed by Journey mastermind Jenova Chen—is a clear successor to that modern classic. Though the visual stylings and game design present a unique twist on the sub-genre, the level structure and pacing are lifted almost wholesale from Journey. As someone who has played through that game more times than I can count, I often found myself predicting what would happen next. Though the beats are familiar, each new area still kept me engaged as the game floated towards its conclusion. It’s just disappointing that Giant Squid chose to stick so vehemently to a previously established formula for a game that otherwise presents wonders I had never experienced before. That statement’s not completely true actually; I do have some experience with the grandeur of our planet’s oceans. I have been snorkeling on a few occasions, off the coast of Maui and Hawaii, and though it was over a decade ago, the adventure has hardly faded from my memory. Never have I been so humbled by nature as when I found myself surrounded by all manner of sea creatures, from turtles to barracudas to massive manta rays that dwarfed my six foot frame. This is the type of feeling Abzû so deftly replicates; that of a stranger in a strange land, discovering wonders your eyes weren’t meant to see. I never expected a game to make me want to don the flippers and goggles again, but that’s exactly what Abzû has accomplished. Despite that, Abzû isn’t a scuba simulator, and it never attempts to be. You don’t need to manage oxygen levels, or worry about depth pressure, or fear any of the predators that lurk in the deep. While the fish are all modeled after real species in both design and behavior, this is a stylized version of underwater ecosystems, not a perfect replication. So in place of realism, Abzû fosters a wondrous sense of respect for the species that exist in our oceans, and it’s all the better for it. Conclusion: After my second playthrough, I still haven’t uncovered all of Abzû’s marvels, and I can’t stop thinking about my next dive in its magical world of color and life. I want to unlock all of the fish species, collect all of the mollusk shells scattered in the hidden corners of the world, and I want to find every last meditation statue. Mainly, though, I look forward to revisiting Abzû anytime I just need a break from the noise and bustle of human life on the surface of this Earth. The flaws that keep Abzû from being an unequivocal masterpiece are of little import when fully submerged in the adventure’s calming beauty and spectral wonder. Abzû was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is now available on PS4 and PC
  25. With 2012’s Journey, thatgamecompany succeeded in creating a type of interactive tome, replete with all the self-reflective ambiguity of an abstract painting. Debates over video games as art notwithstanding, Journey could hardly be described as anything but. While it wove an astoundingly rich visual tapestry, the surprisingly effusive weight of its anonymous multiplayer carried the brunt of its artistic meaning. So it’s impressive that developer Giant Squid—founded by Journey’s Art Director, Matt Nava—has created a game in Abzû that not only sparkles with aesthetic brilliance, but also finds its own voice as an emotionally driven work of artistic expression. The fact that it occasionally feels slight in the shadow of Journey’s monolithic legacy is something I struggle to hold against it, especially when the overall experience feels so singularly divine. Abzû’s wordless story begins in a serene corner of its ocean setting, as your avatar, a wet-suit-clad scuba diver awakes on the surface. Subtle visual cues and camera tricks help to guide you along your trek through underwater caverns, dense kelp forests, and even some less organic structures that I dare not detail further. Along the way, you’ll interact with all manner of sea life from the smallest clownfish to blue whales the size of a naval submarine. It’s in the interaction with these creatures that Abzû sets itself apart from any game I’ve played before. Each of the game’s environments is its own mini ecosystem, teeming with aquatic inhabitants that interact with each other and the player in fascinating and believable ways. Sharks will chomp on smaller fish, dolphins flip and twirl in their pods, and giant squid spray ink when you come near. These interactions are rarely scripted, often relying on your input to trigger, such as enticing a massive humpback whale to breach the surface or hitching a ride with a turtle. Finding new ways to play around with Abzû’s wildlife proves fun and engaging, while nicely complimenting the game’s naturalistic themes. Just as playful is the game’s soundtrack from Austin Wintory, whose work composing Journey earned him a Grammy nomination. The lively strings, twinkling harps, and celestial choir simply sound exactly like Abzû looks. Wintory’s scores have an exquisite knack for capturing the essence of a game’s visuals and themes, and his work on Abzû is no exception. This inimitable, ever-present music ties into the gameplay and adapts appropriately to your actions, making it as vital a part of the experience as the vibrant visuals and the smooth controls. As you might expect from the art director behind Journey, Abzû’s visuals inspire awe, a true sight to behold. Each area exhibits a distinct color palette with what can almost be described as a bouquet of marine wildlife. Seeing thousands of fish all animated on screen at once is jaw dropping more so for its audacious beauty than its technological achievement. Abzû has much in common with thatgamecompany’s earlier title, Flower, as you spread life through the world, making each new area more vibrant and lively than it was when you first waded into its waters. This is more than just pretty visuals at thirty frames per second; it’s emotion through gameplay and gameplay through art. Abzû’s ocean is not all smooth sailing, however, as a few questionable design decisions muddy the otherwise clear waters. Each area has a few hidden shells that you can collect, much like the scarf pieces from Journey. But whereas those pieces granted your avatar with a longer jump and eventually—if you were able to find them all—a white robe with an infinitely regenerating scarf, Abzû grants the player no such rewards, besides a gold trophy. A sense of progression would have served Abzû well, and would’ve made the already enjoyable movement even more gratifying. Though it may seem unfair to hold Abzû to the standards set by its predecessor, the corollary couldn’t be more apt. Make no mistake about it, this game—though not designed by Journey mastermind Jenova Chen—is a clear successor to that modern classic. Though the visual stylings and game design present a unique twist on the sub-genre, the level structure and pacing are lifted almost wholesale from Journey. As someone who has played through that game more times than I can count, I often found myself predicting what would happen next. Though the beats are familiar, each new area still kept me engaged as the game floated towards its conclusion. It’s just disappointing that Giant Squid chose to stick so vehemently to a previously established formula for a game that otherwise presents wonders I had never experienced before. That statement’s not completely true actually; I do have some experience with the grandeur of our planet’s oceans. I have been snorkeling on a few occasions, off the coast of Maui and Hawaii, and though it was over a decade ago, the adventure has hardly faded from my memory. Never have I been so humbled by nature as when I found myself surrounded by all manner of sea creatures, from turtles to barracudas to massive manta rays that dwarfed my six foot frame. This is the type of feeling Abzû so deftly replicates; that of a stranger in a strange land, discovering wonders your eyes weren’t meant to see. I never expected a game to make me want to don the flippers and goggles again, but that’s exactly what Abzû has accomplished. Despite that, Abzû isn’t a scuba simulator, and it never attempts to be. You don’t need to manage oxygen levels, or worry about depth pressure, or fear any of the predators that lurk in the deep. While the fish are all modeled after real species in both design and behavior, this is a stylized version of underwater ecosystems, not a perfect replication. So in place of realism, Abzû fosters a wondrous sense of respect for the species that exist in our oceans, and it’s all the better for it. Conclusion: After my second playthrough, I still haven’t uncovered all of Abzû’s marvels, and I can’t stop thinking about my next dive in its magical world of color and life. I want to unlock all of the fish species, collect all of the mollusk shells scattered in the hidden corners of the world, and I want to find every last meditation statue. Mainly, though, I look forward to revisiting Abzû anytime I just need a break from the noise and bustle of human life on the surface of this Earth. The flaws that keep Abzû from being an unequivocal masterpiece are of little import when fully submerged in the adventure’s calming beauty and spectral wonder. Abzû was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is now available on PS4 and PC View full article
×
×
  • Create New...