Reviews Category RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Reviews RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network Madden 18 Review: A Worthy G.O.A.T. Contender That Falls Just Short of the Goal Line https://www.gameskinny.com/z18v4/madden-18-review-a-worthy-goat-contender-that-falls-just-short-of-the-goal-line https://www.gameskinny.com/z18v4/madden-18-review-a-worthy-goat-contender-that-falls-just-short-of-the-goal-line https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/1/3/2/132-cd7cb.png z18v4/madden-18-review-a-worthy-goat-contender-that-falls-just-short-of-the-goal-line Sat, 19 Aug 2017 12:13:25 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Just like any real football dynasty, the Madden series has franchised only the very best additions to the team this offseason. With so many titles in its trophy case already, it's hard to believe the perennial sports game could accrue anymore -- but with Madden 18, EA's done just that.

Increasingly a football simulator over its past several iterations, Madden has a new playbook this year -- one that resolutely focuses on that realistic verve, taking on- and off-the-field immersion to new heights. In true wildcat style, it's full of flash, excitement, and most of all, interesting surprises. From its Longshot story mode to improvements to the Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) mode, Madden 18 isn't just a sports game -- it's a true NFL experience. 

A Longshot That Ultimately Pays Off

It's fitting that quarterback legend Tom Brady graces the cover of Madden this year. Not because the 17-year veteran's won five Super Bowls. Not because he's been to 12 Pro Bowls. And not because he's won more playoff games than any other QB in NFL history. It's because like the Madden franchise itself, he's consistent, reliable, and tenacious. 

With Madden 18, EA brings all of that to bear and more, reflecting in nearly every game mode Brady's inimitable competitiveness and panache. It's clear that like the New England signal caller, the studio's not afraid to take chances -- and like most of their gambles on the gridiron, those chances often turn into high-percentage plays.

This year's no different.

One of the biggest additions to Madden's playbook in 2017 is the game's Longshot story mode. I'll admit that when I first heard about it earlier this year, I wrote the mode off as a gimmick -- there's no real reason for Madden to have a story mode, especially when you've got such an in-depth and robust franchise experience. But surprisingly, it's a risk that pays off for EA. 

Longshot puts you in the cleats of Devin Wade, a high school football star turned Collegiate bust, as he laces up for the Indianapolis Regional Combine -- his last chance at making it into the hallowed halls of football legend. Joining him for his journey of sacrifice and redemption is high-school teammate and wideout Colt Cruise. Together, they grind through the combine in search of glory and a coveted spot in the NFL Draft. 

It's a story full of cliches, stereotypes, and mechanically unlosable situations, but the crazy thing is that almost in spite of itself, Longshot works. As someone who essentially grew up between the hedges, I felt as if I was suiting up for my very own Varsity Blues, Friday Night Lights, or Any Given Sunday every time I stepped into Wade's shoes -- which is exactly what writers Mike Young and Adrian Todd Zuniga were aiming for when penning Longshot's story.

So even though I quickly deduced Longshot's outcome before I'd even stepped foot on the field, it didn't make the narrative any less intriguing or the mode any less fun to play. 

And that's a good thing, because it's been a long time since the series iterated this intelligently, crafting a mode that re-envisions Madden's strengths in inventive ways. From dialogue choices and moral decisions that affect the duo's draft stock to QTEs and situational exercises that teach you the underlying dynamics of Madden's gameplay, Longshot invites new players to learn Madden's minutia while also catering to longtime franchise fans. Some of its gimmicks are immersion-breaking -- such as steering a pigskin toward a target mid-flight -- but once you get on the field with the likable, well-written, and well-acted Wade, those little quirks are easily forgiven. 

Longshot may have been a gamble for EA, and it may not exactly put you in the shoes of a G.O.A.T. like Tom Brady, but it brings a certain graceful elan to the otherwise fraternal atmosphere that's dominated Madden since its inception. It's a breath of fresh air that the series has sorely needed for a long time. 

OTAs Have a New Name 

Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) mode is still the fantasy football meta you've come to love, not changing all that much from last year's installment. You'll still grind through challenges to unlock new players and pay in-game or IRL money to get your team on the road to greatness faster. But a key improvement helps MUT 18 stand out from previous iterations -- and that's MUT Squads. 

Taking teamwork to an entirely new level, MUT Squads sees players take each other on in electric three-on-three gridiron melees. Adding to the realism and immersion that exemplifies Madden 18, there are three positions to fill on each squad: Offensive Captain, Defensive Captain, and Headcoach. Unlike other restricted Madden co-op modes from years past, MUT Squads sees each player commanding a specific mechanic and controlling any position on the field not occupied by the other two players -- opening myriad on-the-field possibilities never before seen in a Madden game.

In my time with the mode, I mostly saw players taking control of skill positions, harkening back to when Madden only let players command certain roles, like wide receiver or quarterback. But in MUT Squads, it's possible to control an offensive lineman to pass-protect your QB or control a defensive end to wreak havoc in the backfield.

It's a freedom of choice that really sets online multiplayer apart from the game's other modes in a way that's been long overdue for the Madden franchise as a whole.

But not every new mechanic crosses the goal line. 

With the development of MUT Squads and the ability to take on any position on the field, EA has also lifted the restrictions on player movement. That means players are able to streak across the field in any direction they choose in MUT Squads -- even deviating from predetermined routes and play selections, for example.

To balance this out, EA's developed what they call Targeted Passing, which affords QBs more "flexibility" during passing downs, letting them lead receivers into opens areas of the field. 

In theory, the mechanism works wonders. In practice, it's much harder to pull off. The problem lies in one simple mandate: Targeted Passing immobilizes the quarterback. Dropping back to pass and evading the rush is hard enough on certain difficulties and exacerbated when playing against logically strategic human opponents. 

As any fan or player knows, mobility in the pocket is paramount, even if you're not playing Cam Newton or RGIII. So when Targeted Passing arrests you to a certain position in the pocket, it's almost impossible to accurately use the mechanic in the four to five seconds it takes to execute even a rudimentary passing play. It's a mechanic that's worth trying out --because on the rare occasion it does work, Targeted Passing makes you feel like a Montana-sized mountain in the pocket. But overall, it's a mechanic I'd contend most Madden players won't use due to its overall difficulty. 

The Verdict

Even with all its additions, Madden 18 is still a Madden game at its core. Like any great NFL team, it's got its studs and it's got its duds. 

Because of the Frostbite engine, the overall experience is more engrossing than it has been in a very long time. The game is utterly gorgeous and player models are rendered in uncanny detail from the first snap to the final second. And overall, passing feels crisper this time around, while the running game feels smoother and more organic. 

But the switch to the new engine doesn't eliminate some of Madden's peskier hobgoblins. Character models still flop around like catatonic fish in a majority of pile-ups and the framerate occasionally stutters when big nasties tangle up with DTs on ISO or off-tackle plays. Incompletions also occur a lot more frequently, even when a wide receiver smokes the defender in the open field.  

New playstyles such as Arcade, Simulation, and Competitive deftly augment Madden's standard Rookie to All-Madden difficulty settings, allowing for more explosive plays, more realistic physics, and more big hits, respectively. But on the other hand, 18's A.I. is as belligerent and curmudgeonly as ever, making sometimes impossible plays even on the easiest of settings. 

So no, Madden 18 isn't perfect -- not by a longshot. But by crafting an experience that caters to both the casual and hardcore Madden fan alike, adding tremendous replay value via new modes and playstyles, and taking chances on new mechanics such as Targeted Passing, EA has once again shown why it's the Tom Brady of the sports-game world -- and why Madden is here to stay. 

[Note: EA provided a copy of Madden 18 for review.]

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West Of Loathing: One of the Year's Best Games is Made of Stick Figures https://www.gameskinny.com/tczly/west-of-loathing-one-of-the-years-best-games-is-made-of-stick-figures https://www.gameskinny.com/tczly/west-of-loathing-one-of-the-years-best-games-is-made-of-stick-figures https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/m/a/x/maxresdefault-ab6cd.jpg tczly/west-of-loathing-one-of-the-years-best-games-is-made-of-stick-figures Fri, 18 Aug 2017 17:51:42 -0400 Ty Arthur

Until just very recently, I had never even heard of Kindgom Of Loathing or developer Asymmetric, which now seems like a sad oversight on my part. Out of nowhere we've now got a full-length, Western themed follow-up to that browser game, and it just may be the sleeper hit of the summer.

Sure, the gaming world is in the doldrums without any AAA big name releases until autumn arrives, but as West Of Loathing very clearly shows -- we don't even need 'em!

Saddle Up, Pardner

On the graphical front, West Of Loathing might have seriously been drawn in Microsoft Paint. The gameplay is just as simplistic as the art, with each map segment behaving like an adventure game -- peppered through with occasional combat that offers up a bare bones, turn-based RPG style.

Elements from classic cRPGs of bygone eras like Fallout are present, where you've got perks and skills to develop that can be used in dialog or various world map situations. Some are gained just by leveling, while others appear by completing tasks (like foolishly walking into cacti over and over).

The combination of six-shooters with magic along with the dusty Western setting will obviously bring to mind Wasteland 2 or Hard West, but there are none of the gameplay or graphics pitfalls from those titles, because West Of Loathing doesn't bother with anything even remotely complex or complicated.

 She may only have her grandpa's brass knuckles and a bit of moxie, but she's ready to take on the whole weird west!

How Is This So Much Fun?

Not long after deciding whether to be a Cow Puncher, Beanslinger, or Snake Oiler, our gritty protagonist has left her farm life behind to discover adventure out in the west. As in any RPG, there's adventure aplenty to be found in some dusty little hamlet.

As it turns out, the local Sherf (yes, the Sherf) can't lock anyone up anymore because the last criminal to break out took the cell door with him. The Sherf is too busy practicing his chair tippin' and nappin' to go find it himself.

During the adventure I pick up the Walking Stupid perk, and now I find myself staring at my Cow Puncher as she glides, crawls, digs, flaps, flies, levitates, and cartwheels across the game world. It's a stick figure, but somehow it's more interesting than an open 3D world.

While out searching for the cell door I find myself trying to convince a skittish horse (who has seem some serious shit, man) that it should put the locoweed down and accept reality in all its harshness. When finally discovering the varmints who stole the cell door, I remember seeing a wanted poster about a bandit who steals faces, which seemed like a pointless joke. Turns out I can convince the gang that I'm that very face-stealer, letting me get the door without even pulling out my pistol.

Somewhere in all this silliness it suddenly dawns on me... I'm actually having more fun playing this ludicrous RPG parody drawn with stick people than I did with the bigger budget Wasteland 2.

 There's never been a barrel labeled TNT that shouldn't be blown up!

Silly Mode: Activate!

Remember playing classic RPGs like Torment or Icewind Dale II and realizing all those seemingly-useless items did in fact have a purpose, or that places you'd been to before actually had a lot more to discover once you acquired some new item or nugget of information? That's basically the entire game with West Of Loathing, just with joke after joke after joke coming at you hard and fast.

There's a fabulous meta-ness to the jokes that somehow straddles the line between silly nonsense and legitimately being funny on multiple levels. For instance, you can wear many hats throughout the game, including a secret hard hat that... makes the game more difficult.

It's a black and white game... with a color blind mode. Locks are picked with needles, which are found by opening haystacks. "When The Cows Come Home" goes from a quaint Western colloquialism to a phrase filled with dread, as it now means flaming demon cows tore open a portal from hell.

The pun-tastic tone here is something along the lines of Discworld or the Xanth series if they were set in the old west.

 Coincidentally, his name was Cactus Man before he mutated into a Cactus Man

The Bottom Line

Considering the vastly different tones, size of the development crews, and amount of money that went into them, it would be silly to try to compare West Of The Loathing to any of the AAA games that came out this year, from Resident Evil 7 to Prey to Horizon Zero Dawn.

But here's the thing -- for RPG fans who like a little parody every now and again, this tiny little indie title might be just as fun as any of those gamesWest Of Loathing is a testament to what you can do when you have a fun concept, solid gameplay, and enough polish on the style front.

It doesn't matter that these are literal stick figures, or that the game is entirely black and white, or that each area is tiny. It's silly, it's accessible, it's enjoyable, and I could play it all day long without getting bored.

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Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor DLC Review -- An Underwhelming Addition https://www.gameskinny.com/xlx7k/hearts-of-iron-iv-death-or-dishonor-dlc-review-an-underwhelming-addition https://www.gameskinny.com/xlx7k/hearts-of-iron-iv-death-or-dishonor-dlc-review-an-underwhelming-addition https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/hearts-iron-death-dishonor-free-download-6547a.jpg xlx7k/hearts-of-iron-iv-death-or-dishonor-dlc-review-an-underwhelming-addition Wed, 16 Aug 2017 10:40:16 -0400 Skrain

Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor is Paradox Interactive's most recent expansion to its WW2 grand strategy game. With a name like Death or Dishonor, anyone with a historical knowledge of Japan's Sengoku period would assume its DLC related to that, or to Asia in general.

Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Sorry China -- you'll just have to deal with the generic national focus tree Paradox cursed you with. Because in spite of whatever historically informed opinion you might have, Death or Dishonor  doesn't have anything to do with Japan, or Asia, or anything even vaguely relevant to that part of the world. Instead, this DLC is focused on the Balkan area of Europe.

Death or Dishonor in Southeastern Europe 

Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia are the four countries this Hearts of Iron IV DLC targets -- adding a range of country events, leader portraits, music, and most importantly, unique national focus trees. Unfortunately, this leaves Austria and Bulgaria sitting there, completely out of place with no change to their National Focus trees. Paradox could have put more effort into these countries as well, considering they are influenced greatly by this DLC.

These added focus trees are the major change you'll see with the Death or Dishonor DLC. And it really changes the gameplay for certain countries. Hungary, for example, becomes one of the most interesting of these countries when it's given the ability to invite the Habsburgs back into power and reform the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Romania focuses on dealing with their lavish king and his ornate lifestyle, which deeply affects the efficiency of the government. Czech is allowed to focus more on denying the Germans the Sudetenland, or willingly giving up the region in an attempt to keep some autonomy. Finally, Yugoslavia gets a slew of options for handling the increasing unrest from angry Croatian separatists and poor national unity.

Miscellaneous Changes 

Other (non-nation) changes include an equipment conversion feature that allows you to turn captured enemy gear into a more usable local variant, and the ability to convert older equipment into more up-to-date variants. Military variants can be purchased or sold to other countries, as well -- meaning theoretically you can build British Spitfires as any country, if they sell you the license.

Fascists also gain new levels over subjects -- such as the Reichskommissariat, which forces their puppets to grant them their equipment licenses, partial industry, and strategic resources. Governments affected by Fascist overlord control will also find it much more difficult to break free from this grasp. 

Potentially Interesting, But Poorly Executed

Overall, the additions in Death or Dishonor strike me as trifling and lacking major depth. The ability to purchase licenses is irrelevant given that most times, you could simply come up with a functional equivalen -- or simply surpass what the still horrid AI can come up with. New national focuses, whilst good in their own right, should honestly have been either part of the base game in the beginning or released later as a free patch. Paying to have vital content that should already be accessible leaves a bad taste in my mouth -- and the cost to gain ratio doesn't even out either.

There are still bugs regarding many events linked to new focuses as well. One glaring example is the event for Austria to accept Hungary's invitation for coming together as one nation again. On multiple playthroughs, I've had the event fire for Austria accepting, and then a single in game hour later the same event fires as them refusing to agree. Romania has a few of these "false start" style events, too, which seem to fire both a success and fail. 

Verdict

Unfortunately Death or Dishonor is nothing special to write home about. Several of its new features are never really useful, the new national focus trees are just mediocre, and things are still pretty buggy. Rather than pushing the DLC, I still recommend free, player-made mods to get the ultimate Hearts of Iron IV experience. 

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Sudden Strike 4 Review: A Tactical WW2 Adventure That Could Have Been Great https://www.gameskinny.com/w3ipf/sudden-strike-4-review-a-tactical-ww2-adventure-that-could-have-been-great https://www.gameskinny.com/w3ipf/sudden-strike-4-review-a-tactical-ww2-adventure-that-could-have-been-great https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-bb736.jpg w3ipf/sudden-strike-4-review-a-tactical-ww2-adventure-that-could-have-been-great Tue, 15 Aug 2017 17:27:05 -0400 Kellan Pine

The Sudden Strike series of World War II strategy games made its original debut in 2000. Last year, it was announced that Kite Games was developing a new entry in the series for PC and PS4. Then on August 11, players got to step back into the shoes of World War II generals with Sudden Strike 4.

What kind of experience can you expect if you choose to join their ranks? Unfortunately, not one that's as good as it could have been. This new RTS from Kite Games is graphically impressive and delivers on the promise of tactical gameplay. However, glaring issues with the campaign and an inability to access multiplayer make it tough to recommend.

Gameplay and Graphics

Sudden Strike 4 is a real time strategy game in which players assume the role of historical World War II commanders. At the start of each battle, the player is given control of a group of infantry, armor, artillery, and support vehicles. These units are designed to be realistic in appearance and function, from the sound of weapon fire to the relative fire range (a submachine gun will not have the same range as a rifle).

Unlike many games in the genre, Sudden Strike 4 requires players to monitor things like ammunition and fuel. Unit health can be complicated as well. Infantry can be injured and require a medic, while vehicles can suffer critical damage and need repaired. But it will behoove you to pay attention to matter how much is going on. Because tactical play, like encircling enemy forces or hitting a tank in its weak spot, is rewarded with badges that improve the player's score at the end of the battle.

One major gameplay difference between Sudden Strike 4 and other games in the genre is its lack of any base building or unit production. This fits the setting well and encourages players to think more strategically.

While these gameplay elements come together to form a mostly satisfying experience, the flow is occasionally broken by the game's AI. Because of the sometimes strange behavior of NPCs, you might find yourself using odd strategies just to trick the game to your advantage. Enemies, for example, target the closest unit first -- meaning that it can sometimes be more effective to use empty transport vehicles as a way to soak up damage than to actually arrange units tactically.

Tanks crossing a bridge

Graphically, the game is impressive. The maps are extremely detailed, with excellent effects for the water and vegetation. Buildings and vegetation are destructible, and the animations for that destruction are fantastic. Vehicles catch fire and explode when damaged and projectiles hit with a visual impact. Even infantry units bleed when hit.

Yet for all the visual flair of the game's action, the menus and interface in the game are surprisingly basic. The UI as a whole is a simple black-and-white affair with a slightly translucent effect similar to old Windows 7 menus. It gets the job done and is easy to navigate, but it gives the game a strange feeling of being dated that contrasts jarringly with the actual gameplay.

Campaign Missions

The main feature of Sudden Strike 4 is the single-player campaign set in historical World War II battles. The campaign is split into three sets of seven missions -- German, Soviet, and Allied.

Those familiar with World War II history will notice that Japan is not represented. The absence of Japan is disappointing from a historical perspective, of course, but also from a gameplay perspective as well -- because it means that the environments players encounter are restricted to Russia and mainland Europe. The more tropical environments of the Pacific would have offered a nice change of scenery. The North Africa campaign is also absent from the game.

Urban tank battle

Most of the major battles of the European theater are represented, but there are several repeats. Stalingrad and the Battle of the Bulge, for example, are both in more than one of the three campaigns. This really only serves to draw attention to the absence of notable North African and Pacific battles like the Siege of Tobruk and the battle of Iwo Jima.

Historical oversights aside, the immersion of campaign missions that the game does have also suffers from poor voice acting and inaccurate accents. The German campaigns NPCs, for example, are all British or American.

Multiplayer

Sudden Strike 4 supports multiplayer battles with up to 8 players. Players select a commander that provides them with a set of bonuses and their starting units. They are then loaded into a map and must use their forces to capture all the field headquarters to the win the game. Rail stations and harbors can be used to bring in reinforcements.

Unfortunately, online matchmaking is not possible currently. As of launch day, the server browser for Sudden Strike 4 on PC does not populate. It is possible that this problem is caused by the review copy of the game (provided through GOG.com) not syncing with the servers used by the Steam version. However, the servers are created within the game client. This makes it much more likely that there is a networking bug or simply a low player count.

Infantry with tank support

Whatever the cause, a skirmish against the AI was the only way for this type of match to be tested for review. Essentially, it became a campaign mission without the benefit of a basis in history.

Verdict

Sudden Strike 4 is a game with great ideas. And it executes some of them extremely well. If you have ever wanted to play an interactive World War II documentary, then this may be the game for you.

Fans of the RTS genre looking for a new game might want to pass on Sudden Strike 4 for now, though. Future bug fixes or the official mod support on PC may make it worth a second look in the future, but the stunning graphics and entertaining gameplay are not enough to overlook the game's problems at launch.

Sudden Strike 4 is available for PC, Mac, Linux, and PS4. Mod support is currently not available on the PS4, and no plans have been announced to bring mods to that platform. If you want to pick it up for yourself, you can find it for $49.99 on GOG.

[Note: A copy of the game was provided by GOG for the purposes of this review.]

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Hearthstone: Knights of the Frozen Throne Review https://www.gameskinny.com/ad7w8/hearthstone-knights-of-the-frozen-throne-review https://www.gameskinny.com/ad7w8/hearthstone-knights-of-the-frozen-throne-review https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/k/n/i/knights-frozen-throne-banner-5f7ca.jpg ad7w8/hearthstone-knights-of-the-frozen-throne-review Tue, 15 Aug 2017 16:53:54 -0400 Kellan Pine

As CCGs become more and more popular, it's invariable that those holding the most mindshare in the space will iterate and try to stay at the head of the pack. And Hearthstone is no different. With Knights of the Frozen Throne, Blizzard has made a series of improvements to do just that. From Legendary Hero Cards that allow players to replace their heroes and hero powers to new mechanics such as Lifesteal that allow players to heal their heroes by dealing damage with certain cards, a lot has changed in Hearthstone -- and we dug into the new expansion to find out if it's worth your time.  

Knights of the Frozen Throne Single Player Missions

The new single-player content in Knights of the Frozen Throne is loosely based on the World of Warcraft raid Icecrown Citadel. The missions are separated into three wings, with the prologue and Lower Citadel available to players at launch and the remaining two wings unlocking over the next two weeks. These missions are similar in structure to the adventures Hearthstone introduced in earlier expansions, but the primary differences here are that these new missions are free-to-play and do not unlock exclusive cards. Instead, they reward players with card packs as they progress.

Overall, the prologue is a relatively brief experience, but full of the usual Hearthstone charm. Characters break the fourth wall in amusing ways while staying consistent with their established personalities and lore from the overarching Warcraft franchise. The Lich King, for example, threatens to disenchant players for arcane dust and exclaims, “Your ranking will suffer!” during this early mission, which coincides well with his character and lore. 

The writing here also pokes fun at World of Warcraft raids. The prologue features a raid leader that is late to the game (Tirion Fordring), as well as cards such as Eager Rogue (which deals no damage when attacking), and Terrible Tank (which does not taunt). While players that are not familiar with World of Warcraft may not get the jokes, the writing helps make the mission fun and entertaining.

On the mechanics side of things, this first mission acts as a tutorial that introduces players to some of the new cards found in Knights of the Frozen Throne and provides a taste of what the single-player missions will be. After completing the prologue, the player is rewarded with a random Death Knight Hero Card. 

The Lower Citadel continues to display much of the same writing style found in the prologue. However, the difficulty is significantly higher than previous single-player Hearthstone content. This level of challenge will make it hard for new players to complete missions, as the strategies required essentially need a large card collection and multiple decks in order to succeed. The Lower Citadel rewards players with a Knights of the Frozen Throne card pack on completion.

Knights of the Frozen Throne Opening Packs

I opened 50 packs from the new expansion and received 178 Common Cards, 57 Rare Cards, 12 Epic Cards, and three Legendary Cards.  

These results are roughly in line with the official probabilities that Blizzard released in China. Legendary cards should drop from roughly 1 out of every 20 packs, with epic cards coming from 1 in every 5 packs. The guaranteed legendary card introduced with this expansion will be useful for players that buy packs exclusively through in-game currency and for newer players. In larger sample sizes, it makes no appreciable difference for the drop rate. So overall, the packs seem to provide a good value for the price, but the experience of opening them is largely unchanged from previous expansions.

Knights of the Frozen Throne Cards and Mechanics

The new cards and mechanics introduced by Knights of the Frozen Throne are still finding a place in the metagame. Prior to the expansion, several of the most common decks were highly aggressive. These typically focused on overwhelming opponents with a large number of low-cost minions early in the game.

The new Lifesteal mechanic is a potential counter to these types of decks and was used against one of my own decks in exactly that way on launch day. The legendary Death Knight Hero Cards received a lukewarm reception from the community because although some of these cards fit immediately into existing deck archetypes and are already common in online matches, others are struggling to find a place on deck lists.

Compared to the previous expansion, Journey to Un'Goro, the new cards and mechanics are well-executed. Knights of the Frozen Throne is less reliant on randomly generated effects like adaptions, and the Death Knight Hero cards, even if they are a little situational, are able to complement a deck instead of requiring a very specific list like the quest cards from Journey to Un'Goro.

Verdict

Knights of the Frozen Throne has a lot to offer Hearthstone players. The introduction of new mechanics and card types will breathe some life into multiplayer matches, giving players new approaches when building decks.

The single-player missions are entertaining and challenging, providing a worthwhile alternative to multiplayer when you need a break. All this means that existing players should load up the game just to try out Icecrown Citadel -- if for no other reason.

However, this expansion does not give new players much of a reason to jump in. If you have not been interested in Hearthstone, this expansion is unlikely to change your mind.

Hearthstone is available on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and FireOS.

If you're looking for more information about the new cards available in Knights of the Frozen Throne, click here

 

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Sonic Mania Review: Bringing Back Classic Sonic https://www.gameskinny.com/4pakf/sonic-mania-review-bringing-back-classic-sonic https://www.gameskinny.com/4pakf/sonic-mania-review-bringing-back-classic-sonic https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/s/o/n/sonic-mania-20170814173324-9484a.jpg 4pakf/sonic-mania-review-bringing-back-classic-sonic Tue, 15 Aug 2017 12:11:03 -0400 David Fisher

Sonic is back with two titles this year -- and the first of them, Sonic Maniahas just launched for all three major consoles, with the PC debut delayed to later this month. Unlike Sonic Forces, Sonic Mania acts as a callback to the Genesis days of Sonic the Hedgehog. But does the Sonic Genesis trio have what it takes to bring fans into a mania -- or will it spin dash the Sonic Cycle back into a depression?

The Gameplay

The Good

If you are coming into Sonic Mania for the chance to relive your childhood, or you're looking for a solid classic Sonic the Hedgehog experience without having to play on outdated 4:3 specs, then this game will give you everything you are looking for.

With the exception of a new special stage style, Sonic Mania is a replica of the Genesis classics down to the smallest detail. One of the few changes you'll come across is to Sonic's abilities, with the new drop dash. This ability lets Sonic charge up his spin dash in mid-air to allow him to get back into the action at top speed the second he touches the ground.

Other than that, there's not really much new to Sonic Mania in terms of core gameplay. That said, what Headcannon and PagodaWest Games have done is create wonderful remixes of classic stages from the Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis series, as well as a healthy number of stages of their own design. There are also a number of callbacks, Easter Eggs, and other hidden gems throughout the game that will be sure to put a smile on any longtime Sonic fan's face.

You know Sonic Mania takes pleasing the fans seriously when Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine makes an appearance!

Those who were afraid of nostalgia being the main selling point of this game have no need to worry, as remixed stages are more of tile-sets and stage mechanic callbacks more than anything, since all of the stage layouts are completely new. Second acts also provide new puzzles and platforming mechanics in retro stages to ensure everything stays fresh.

As for the game's difficulty, if you had trouble getting through the second or third zone in Sonic the Hedgehog games in the past, and are only returning to it now for the first time since the Genesis days, expect to die...a lot. The game's difficulty is perfectly in tune with a classic Sonic the Hedgehog feel, so don't worry if you thought this game would be toned down for modern audiences.

One last feature I would like to note is that the special stages are by far my favorites in the entire series. Using Sonic R style models, and a Sonic CD style map, Sonic Mania's special stages have you chasing after UFOs in order to get the Chaos Emeralds required for the true ending. They are perhaps one of the best examples of how this game is an homage to all things Sonic the Hedgehog, and it's only a part of the whole tribute that this game is.

While Blue Spheres make a return as a bonus stage, it should be noted that they are there for extra lives, and not necessary for completing the game.

The Bad

While there isn't much to complain about in terms of Sonic Mania being a faithful Sonic the Hedgehog game, that might also be its downfall. In Chemical Plant Zone, for example, the rotating block stairs gimmick from Sonic 2 makes a return. Along with it comes the almost unfair case of what I call "broken toe death", where players will lose a life if the blocks happen to touch Sonic and Co. in just the wrong way. This is due to the game believing that Sonic has been "crushed" by the blocks, even when he could simply fall or be pushed away.

For returning players, this may not be an issue since it is expected. However, this and other old school platforming mishaps are bound to frustrate newer players, as it is not exactly something that would be expected in a modern platformer. Anyone looking to step into Sonic Mania as their first experience with the Sonic the Hedgehog series should keep in mind that this is merely a part of the experience and not an unintended side effect.

Presentation

Sonic Mania is a wholehearted tribute to the SEGA Genesis in terms of presentation. To say that alone is a bit unfair though, as the sprite art and graphics are beyond that of even Sonic CD. With a 16:9 ratio, solid 60 frames per second, and crisp HD sprites, Sonic Mania is basically what your nostalgia filled eyes remember the Genesis Sonic titles looking like rather than what they actually did.

Music in Sonic Mania feels very much like Sonic CD remixes of old songs, alongside new themes for the Mania exclusive stages. Tee Lopes's talents really give the game life, and the energy brought into the title by the soundtrack is something to be experienced to believe. Even alone, the songs are fun to bob your head alongside. A personal favorite of mine is the theme of the Hard-Boiled Heavies, as their boss stages pack quite a bit of energy in.

The second this theme starts playing,  you know you're in for a fun battle!

The Verdict

Sonic Mania brings Classic Sonic back. That's about the only way to summarize it. Between the enhanced Sonic CD-like graphics, music, and revamped Genesis gameplay, it would be a lie to say that this game isn't a true sequel to the original Sonic the Hedgehog titles. It is a must-have for Sonic the Hedgehog fans -- and a must-try for anyone who hasn't played a Sonic title in the past.

If you can forgive a couple of bumps and bruises from the game's old school engine, then this is a game you can't afford to miss out on. As such, Sonic Mania gets a solid 9/10.

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Nex Machina Review: A Heavenly Shooting Gallery True to Its Arcade Roots https://www.gameskinny.com/n2wzm/nex-machina-review-a-heavenly-shooting-gallery-true-to-its-arcade-roots https://www.gameskinny.com/n2wzm/nex-machina-review-a-heavenly-shooting-gallery-true-to-its-arcade-roots https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/n/e/x/nex-machina-56837.jpg n2wzm/nex-machina-review-a-heavenly-shooting-gallery-true-to-its-arcade-roots Tue, 15 Aug 2017 12:00:19 -0400 Jonathan Moore

One could be forgiven for thinking that the twin-stick shooter genre couldn't evolve much more than it already has with the likes of Resogun, Helldivers, and Geometry Wars. These games have undeniably taken the genre in exciting new directions over the past several years, but as time moves forward, so does the invariable progression of the genre. And Nex Machina, Housemarque's new foray into the twin-stick shooter space is a fantastic beast of a game -- one that innovates on tried-and-true concepts while all at once introducing itself as the new standard bearer of the genre. 

Taking detailed notes from games of yore such as Robotron 2084 and Smash TV, Nex Machina is a modern slant in the logical progression of all things chaos. Working in conjunction with the Eugene Jarvis, the grandfather of the frenetic arcade shooter, Housemarque has ventured into new territory while remaining faithful to the edicts that set twin-stick shooters apart from any other video game genre.

Crisp Controls and Adaptive Strategy Define Nex Machina's Gameplay


Nex Machina wastes no time throwing you into its utterly wonderful maelstrom. All you need to know about this Skynet-inspired futurescape and its conceit is that the human race has become complacent, allowing technology to (inevitably) morph into draconian robot overlords. And being the hero that you are, you unsurprisingly ride full speed into this raging fury, hell-bent on this new regime's destruction. 

With such a storied legacy to live up to in Robotron and even Resogun, it would be understandable if Nex Machina buckled under the weight of its forebears. But that's not the case here. Instead, Housemarque graciously embraces its inspirations and takes them to exciting, if not sometimes familiar, new levels of sensory overload, eschewing story for intense combat in the best ways possible. 

With the odds unflinchingly stacked against you, enemies inundate every maze-like level with mad ambition. Dead set on your demise, they pour from portals with sound and fury, lobbing reticulated projectiles from every direction, in every direction. From ingeniously designed laser traps and artillery to arcing energy orbs and pulsating fusion bolts, enemies flood the screen with cornucopias of death-dealing projectiles even at the easiest difficulties.

But several things keep you alive in this bedlam. The first is Nex Machina's tight, responsive controls. Sure, it takes quick wit and blazing reflexes to stay alive for more than 60 seconds, but that's all for naught without a solid control scheme to guide you through this mad labyrinth. So taking notes from the developer's previous top-down shooter, Resogun, Nex Machina makes it easy to dispatch hordes of unrelenting AI as you aim with one thumb and fire with the other -- freeing up brain power to focus on getting around the map, saving humans, and staying alive. 

Through my about 10 hours with the game, I never once experienced control lag using a Dualshock 4 controller. And although playing Nex Machina with a mouse and keyboard isn't ideal, the game handles those PC controls adequately if you choose to go that route. 



On top of that, power ups strewn across each level keep you alive and transform your little hero in a hulking tyrant of destruction -- considering you're able to push through the pandemonium and pick them up. Whether it be a triple-dash that leaves explosions in its wake or a satisfying rocket launcher that obliterates even the largest of mobs, these power ups make fighting through Nex Machina's robot hordes not only easier but more fun. My only complaint is that the power-ups aren't more varied, especially in their penultimate state, where the only differentiation between them is personal preference, not power. 

And even though enemies flood the screen with their murderous machinations, each has its own idiosyncratic behavior and path. This is your third lifeline. In my first few minutes of Nex Machina, I wasn't immediately able to discern patterns or develop winning strategies -- I was just trying to survive. But as I fell into the groove of methodical robot murder, I began to notice that nearly all enemies in the game follow a type of pattern through each section of each world.

Dying copious times only resets enemy spawns, not their behavior, so it's relatively easy to memorize patterns and strategize accordingly as you move through each stage once you get a grip on things. It's something you'll want to use to your advantage as you chase that high score or search for each stage's hidden areas. 

A Masterclass in Design and Sound

There's no doubt about it -- Nex Machina is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous game from start to finish. It's clear that Housemarque not only took cues from other successful games in the genre, but that they also dedicated themselves to poignantly iterating upon what they created in Resogun

Each level is radiant, full of pink, red, and orange neons that pulsate against vibrant backdrops. It's heartening to see Housemarque venture beyond the repetitious backdrops of Resogun and instead opt to set Nex Machina in a diverse world of magma caves, luminous city skylines, and dark, foreboding research labs. 

These stages are long, twisting warrens segmented into definable sections that you'll have to clear to move on to the next. Each is (mostly) highly-detailed and beautiful, although I did run into a few issues where muddled design and slightly disproportionate assets led me to think a pathway was open when it wasn't -- which delivered me directly into the gaping maw of death. 

Adding to the character of these stages, the development team partnered with Ari Pulkkinen, Tuomas Nikkinen, and Harry Krueger to compose a stunning 80's-inspired soundtrack that perfectly fits the game's overall throwback aesthetic. Many of the well-mixed tracks feature thrumming bass lines amid frantic electronic beats that perfectly pulsate with the chaos surrounding you at any given moment. In short, Nex Machina is a masterclass in sensory bombardment without the overload -- and makes you feel as if you're truly living Running Man.

Verdict

Nex Machina is a blast to play. With tight controls, intelligently belligerent AI, beautiful design, and interesting bosses that redefine bullet-hell insanity, it's exceedingly difficult to find another twin-stick shooter that bests it. 

If you're a fan of the genre that loves climbing leaderboards and going for the highest scores against the highest odds, Nex Machina scratches that itch better than any game currently on the market.

Outside of the traditional arcade mode, where you'll play your heart out rescuing every human, nabbing every relay, and unlocking every secret, the game offers modes like survival and score-attack to supplement its core gameplay, effectively extending the roughly hour-and-a-half campaign (on normal difficulty) to 10 hours or more depending on your skill. On top of that, a hella' fun local co-op mode will see you and a friend blasting robots to the cybernetic underworld for hours on end. 

It would have been nice if the game was a bit longer and the weapon upgrades showcased a bit more variety and scope, but overall, Nex Machina is an experience that no gamer should miss out on, especially those who are fans of solid shooters.

You can pick Nex Machina up on the PlayStation 4 and PC for $19.99 on GOG.

[Note: Good Old Games provided a copy of Nex Machina for review.]

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Agents of Mayhem is an Enjoyable Open-World Shooter You Should be Playing https://www.gameskinny.com/6dv00/agents-of-mayhem-is-an-enjoyable-open-world-shooter-you-should-be-playing https://www.gameskinny.com/6dv00/agents-of-mayhem-is-an-enjoyable-open-world-shooter-you-should-be-playing https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/f5d9f7f43cdc62bc8581008d1166238c.jpg 6dv00/agents-of-mayhem-is-an-enjoyable-open-world-shooter-you-should-be-playing Tue, 15 Aug 2017 11:34:19 -0400 Justin Michael

I'm going to come clean from the start and say that I wasn't expecting much from Agents of Mayhem. I don't really get on the hype train for many AAA titles anymore after quite a number of letdowns, but I'm happy to say that this game has been quite an enjoyable experience and a pleasant surprise. 

For those not in the know, Agents of Mayhem is being made by the same studio that brought us all of the Saints Row games -- Deep Silver Volition. I was a fan of Saints Row II & III so that gave me a bit of hope for this being a good game. With that out of the way, and close to 12 hours logged, let me break down what's great and not-so-great about this action-packed adventure.

Welcome to Mayhem, Agent

In Agents of Mayhem you take control of a 3-man squad of super-powered, over-the-top, certified badasses who are trying to stop the nefarious forces of L.E.G.I.O.N. from causing destruction to the sprawling game space of a futuristic Seoul, South Korea. And when I say sprawling, I mean it.  

The game world is a decent size, but what some might say it lacks in landmass it makes up for in vertical exploration with its numerous parkour-like methods of exploring skyscrapers for loot chests and crystal shards -- an integral part of upgrading your various characters.

There are also a lot of agents to choose from -- 12 in total, plus the bonus character Gat from the Saints Row games if you pre-ordered Agents of Mayhem

Quite the Cast of Characters

You'll start the game out with 3 agents -- the self-absorbed movie star Hollywood, dual-wielding techie Fortune, and tough as nails Navy vet Hardtack. Each of them has their own quippy attitudes, hilarious dialogue, and interesting back stories that you can delve deeper into through special missions.

The additional characters are unlocked as you progress through the game and play their special solo missions -- unique missions that give you some of their backstory as well as act like a mini tutorial system for their unique weapons and abilities. 

One of the agents that I really enjoy playing as was Oni -- a former Yakuza hitman who makes use of a silenced pistol, fear debuffs, and critical damage attacks. There is something about his cold, calculating nature as he makes his way through a mob of enemies, scoring critical headshot after headshot with the survivors running in fear, that is just so satisfying. 

Sorry, that got a little dark. Suffice it to say there is an agent for everyone's playstyle, and plenty of options to mix and match to make the right 3-man squad for every situation. 

Get to the Chopper Ark!

When you're not rolling squad deep on some nametag-less Legion cronies you'll likely be doing upgrades to your crew on the Ark. The Ark is your mobile base of operations where all of your support staff are -- vehicle guy, weaponsmith grandpa, R&D girl, base upgrade man, and hipster VR challenge bro. 

For the majority of the big upgrades -- both functional and cosmetic -- you'll have to go to the Ark with all the loot scavenged from the generally one-sided murder of aforementioned cronies. There are certain upgrades, namely Legion schematics and Gremlin tech that comes from raiding the numerous legion outposts and finding loot chests that pop up at random all over the place. 

For simpler upgrades, like changing out character gadgets -- slight tweaks to their specific abilities -- you can do those pretty much anywhere, so no worries. 

The Technical Stuff

Now that I've finished gushing about some of the fun features of the game, let's talk about all technical stuff that gets you audio/visualphiles all riled up. Visually, the game is appealing. I'm running it on an EVGA GTX 1070 and the frames are crisp with that ever so slightly cel-shaded look going on. 

The audio for the game is also pretty on point, with the music fitting the theme and flow the majority of the time. Its voiceovers are also pretty well done, and the game goes with a very Saints Row style of humor which is almost a guaranteed good time. You can also tell that they take a few jabs at some pop-culture, but I'll let you find those gems for yourself.

Controls handle very well -- both keyboard & mouse as well as Xbox 360 controller. If I had a gripe it would be that some of the bindings on the keyboard are a bit wonky, but that's nothing that a rebind can't fix. 

There is also a fair bit of gameplay to be had. At the time of writing this, I have roughly 12 hours on the game and am around the 24% completion mark. There are a number of random event missions that happen -- like giant laser attacks, ambushes, Legion retaking their bases from you, and etc. Hell, even just running around the city climbing buildings in search of loot chests and crystal shards is fun.

Verdict

Agents of Mayhem is an enjoyable, third-person, open-world shooting experience that doesn't take itself too seriously. The characters are fun and vibrant, combat is quick but has a layer of strategy, and the game world is enjoyable to explore. 

Agents of Mayhem will be released for PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4 as of August 15th, 2017 in the US and August 18th in Europe. 

[Note: A copy of this game was provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.]

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Observer Ups the Ante with the Layers Of Fear Format in a Dystopian Future https://www.gameskinny.com/mogrk/observer-ups-the-ante-with-the-layers-of-fear-format-in-a-dystopian-future https://www.gameskinny.com/mogrk/observer-ups-the-ante-with-the-layers-of-fear-format-in-a-dystopian-future https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/2/0/1/20170728233713-d9640.jpg mogrk/observer-ups-the-ante-with-the-layers-of-fear-format-in-a-dystopian-future Mon, 14 Aug 2017 13:00:01 -0400 Ty Arthur

There have been some clunkers on the horror front this year. From intriguing concepts falling short of executing their primary conceits to flops that just weren't quite ready for full release, 2017 hasn't been the best year for horror games. 

And after the bigger-but-less-scary Outlast 2 tried admirably to give us backwoods hillbilly scares but being slightly detached, the horror fan base is ready for something more personal and mind-bending -- and that's what you get with Bloober Team's Observer.

Boiled down to its component parts, this is Layers of Fear meets SOMA but in a futuristic noir detective story. Want a more horror-themed version of Blade Runner? Well, you've got it now.

You can check out our full Observer game review below but if you're looking for guides instead, check out our walkthroughs here:

A Dark, Alternate Future

Observer has style in spades. It's abundantly clear from the intro movie that's a bit like a cross between the opening segment of Seven and something from Westworld. In fact, much of the game feels like a Tool or Marilyn Manson video distilled into first-person gaming format.

The story revolves around one Daniel Lazarski, a detective in a bleak future Poland, where everything is mechanized or digitized and the world is very much broken into the haves and the have-nots.

Life isn't pleasant for those who can't afford the tech to get a cushy job with the monolithic corporation risen from the ashes of the last world war. There is a clear cyberpunk/Shadowrun vibe here, with the corps that are above the law and the way technology has wildly changed humanity.

 As it turns out, shithole apartments are still a thing in the 2080s

In the role of detective Lazarski, you slowly learn about this version of future Earth and how it came to be while interrogating tenants of a disgusting apartment on lock down, searching through computers and hacking into the brains of the deceased.

There are some interesting twists along the way, however, like discovering the Immaculates -- people with no tech in their bodies. And in such a tech-obsessed (and dependant) society, they are considered backward, religious fanatics, begging "repentant unclean" to beg for forgiveness for their obsession with technology. But on the plus side, they can't contract the nanophage outbreak that has already killed so many in this dirty, dystopian world. 

It's Bladerunner meets terror, in a dark and dreary future. 

 The future is a dreary place, for sure

Observer's Gameplay

Considering the complaints about Bloober Team's previous game, Layers Of Fear, there's going to be one overriding question going into Observer: Is this a game you could just watch on YouTube and get the full experience?

While that was mostly true of the developer's previous game, it's not the case here. There is a lot of walking and interacting with objects, sure, and there's no shooting or jumping, but it's clear a lot more effort went into increasing the gameplay mechanics in Observer.

There are two main "modes" of the game. The first involves searching crime scenes for clues, which is where Lazarski's enhancements come in to play. You can use tech vision for finding electronic objects that need to be investigated and organic vision for finding clues involving blood, fingernails, hair, etc.

 Scanning a body for organic clues

The second mode is when you connect to a body for neural Interrogations. At first, this is basically an excuse to do that thing from Layers Of Fear where everything wigs out and you have to repeatedly turn around and go down hallways while everything's glitchy...

However, that style of play is integrated into the game a lot better this time around, and the cohesiveness of the atmosphere and style make it work much better. The janky environmental effects are more refined -- and why everything is going all crazy makes more sense here.

 A night club becomes a disorienting hellscape
when jammed into your memory

Your first interrogation is a nightmare version of a drug dealer's memories and thoughts over years of monotony, all jumbled together into one giant mess. The scene is effective in showing that Lazarski's memories are getting screwed up with those he's interfacing into, and I desperately wanted to be out of this dead guy's mind by the time the trip was over -- which I suspect was the intent.

As you go into different interrogations down the line, the Layers Of Fear feel fades away and Observer really starts to shine. It's a totally different experience jacking into the head of the drug dealer's wife, with her nightmare vision the endless cubicles of a corporate wage slave.

OK... sometimes it still feels like Layers Of Fear

It isn't until most of the way through the second brain interrogation segment that what's going on with the game's story starts to become clear. Instead of just offering a weird avante garde heavy metal music video of an experience, things begin to focus.

Like with SOMA or Outlast (and others of its ilk), there is a “monster” that can kill you in some segments, meaning you'll have to hide or outsmart it from time to time. But because of the nanophage affecting hardware, this monster has a different style and tone than of those found in other games. It's there for you -- but not for anyone else. Having that added element really pushes Observer out of the walking simulator territory of Layers Of Fear.

Finally, for the completionists, there's a fun little mini-game that has you playing an old-school DOS style adventure on various computer terminals throughout the apartment complex.

 Getting caught by the monster

Observer's Game Length, Size, And Replay Value

Although primarily consisting of a single building, the game world is bigger than you'd think -- the apartment complex has a lot of sections to explore.

Although to be clear, this isn't something like Deus Ex or Far Cry where you are going to be employing all your different sci-fi abilities over a huge world. It's definitely a more contained and focused experience with a specific story moving in one direction.

Diverging from Layers Of Fear, you can tackle the different elements of the case in varying order. For instance, you can go to the tattoo parlor and investigate a body there or instead head off into the depths of the apartment complex and find some other clues first -- or vice versa. The whole experience is a few hours longer than Layers as well, making it a bit beefier from that point of view.

It is possible to miss some elements if you don't fully explore the basement or upper floor segments, so there is some replay value if you rush all the way through or want to go back and get the collectibles you missed. With multiple endings as well, there's more replayability than with Bloober Team's previous game.

 Plus, how many times did you hide from thought detectors in a corn field in Layers Of Fear?

The Bottom Line

Somehow, Observer flew under the radar and didn't even make our list of most anticipated horror games of 2017. But it absolutely should have! While the base mechanics are very similar, this is a much fuller experience than Layers Of Fear, and the switch to a bleak sci-fi future is a welcome change.

Although the bulk of the game takes place in a locked-down apartment building, you'll explore varied locations like prisons, a corn field, an office building haunted by a destructive technological monstrosity, and more due to the ability to hack into people's brains.

All along the way, you will find yourself asking, "Is any of this even real?" There might not be any zombies or giant killers with pick axes, but in terms of unsettling atmosphere and thought-provoking horror, Observer absolutely delivers.

Just be careful because the seizure disclaimer at the beginning ain't kidding either -- if flashing lights aren't your thing, take it easy with this one. 

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Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice Review: A Beautiful Darkness https://www.gameskinny.com/yb5nf/hellblade-senuas-sacrifice-review-a-beautiful-darkness https://www.gameskinny.com/yb5nf/hellblade-senuas-sacrifice-review-a-beautiful-darkness https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/r/e/v/review-header-20850.jpg yb5nf/hellblade-senuas-sacrifice-review-a-beautiful-darkness Wed, 09 Aug 2017 12:53:23 -0400 Synzer

From the moment you start your journey in Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, you are in for a wild ride. This game deals with psychosis as one of its themes -- and warns you beforehand so you're prepared for the headspace you're going to enter. The opening was chilling and does a great job at setting the tone for the rest of the game.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice combines a unique mental mechanic and an ambient experience with punishing gameplay that forces you to use your (messed-up) head. But there are also some mechanical issues and a seemingly empty threat of permadeath that put a slight damper on this strange experience. 

The Good Stuff

The game's theme of psychosis is one of my favorite things about it. Ninja Theory consulted specialists to properly replicate the experience of a person who experiences this mental phenomenon, and the extra effort shows as you go through the game. They recommend playing with headphones to get the full effect -- which definitely brings the game to a new level.

I would not suggest doing this if you scare easily, or don't want the chance of going crazy yourself. The voices are constantly there, and they come from every direction. (But in a fun little twist, they're occasionally helpful and try to point you toward the right direction in lieu of a map, objectives, or any other helpful UI info.)

Note: This game could be a trigger for those that have mental illness or experienced anything shown in the game. So be aware of that before you boot it up.

Game Mechanics and Combat

hellblade senua's sacrifice combat

The game does a great job at seamlessly pulling you into the world. There is no HUD, inventory, quests, objective markers, or anything like that -- just a pause menu that lets you adjust settings.

I have to commend this game for being so entertaining with such a minimalist approach to UI and mechanics. In fact, I got halfway through the experience before I actually realized there was no UI or inventory.

Doing something like this is risky, but the game pulls it off flawlessly. The first battle you get put in gives you an idea of how combat will work, and the way everything flows it just feels natural. The game does not tell you how to fight, though, so make sure you look at the controls beforehand.

Once you do that, fighting is very intuitive. There are no tutorials, but I instinctively knew when I should block, or evade, and attack. You can even slow down time with your Focus ability to makes attack easier, which is a requirement for some fights. 

It was very refreshing playing a game that didn't hold my hand or make me play through numerous tutorials before I was finally free to fully experience the world.

Story and Characters

hellblade senua's sacrifice review

The story of Hellblade follows a woman named Senua, who is seeking to be reunited with her love, Dillion. Senua must face her psychosis in this Norse-inspired world as she embarks on a journey into Helheim to reclaim her beloved's soul.

Senua herself was interesting, and I found myself wondering how she got to this point. I was invested early on and wanted to know more of her backstory. We get a lot of that through her thoughts and the voices in her head, as well as the flashback scenes that punctuate the game at various points.

Like I mentioned above, Senua's voices are a great addition to the game that actually helped quite a bit during puzzles and combat. They tell you to focus so you know when there is something important around. They often tell you to evade or watch behind you during combat. And they give hints during puzzles if you pay attention. But they also constantly disagree with each other, so you have to know when to listen to them, and when to ignore their useless prattling. 

The sort of direction these voices provide feels more natural and subtle than quest instructions or NPCs. These voices are another prime example of the natural flow this game follows while you move through it.

Puzzles

Not many games give me a great sense of accomplishment when I get through a puzzle, but this is one of them. Most of the puzzles Senua encounters aren't really that difficult -- but with no direction of what to do, completing them successfully is far more fulfilling than it would be otherwise.

hellblade senua's sacrifice balancing

What's Not So Great

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice can be challenging for sure, which is a big plus in most cases. But the fact that you must figure things out on your own is a blessing and a curse, as it can lead to frustration in more difficult areas of the map or harder combat situations. 

My biggest frustration is with the balancing sections of the game. For the longest time I had so much difficulty with these areas, and I died many times trying to complete them. I found out that it's much easier if you strafe instead of trying to move the mouse around, but I still had problems getting through some of the bridge areas. This is something that others may not have much of an issue with, but I can see some players quitting out of sheer frustration over these parts.

"Permadeath"

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice boasted a "permadeath" feature that interested a lot of people. The game uses a rot system that starts on your right hand, then slowly creeps up your arm with each death. During your tutorial, you're told after your first battle that if you fail enough times, the rot will take over once it reaches her head and your progress will be lost.

But in spite of the hubbub made about permanent death, it's unclear if this is actually a thing -- or if the game is just trying to scare you. I died many times, mostly from the aforementioned balancing sections, and never saw the rot move past my shoulder.

It might be that not all deaths count (or count as much) toward the rot, which I was grateful for. But players who were expecting this to be an unforgiving mechanic will be disappointed. Personally, I think the rot should only spread if you die during combat. 

So until someone can confirm one way or another, we can't be certain whether this threat of permadeath is real. It could be an intentional design on the developer's part intended to toy with your mind even further. 

PC Control Options

Let me preface this by saying that the actual controls for PC are fine, and you can customize the buttons how you want. I just wish I could have used my controller while playing PC.

Since the game is also on PS4, it would have been nice if this game had controller support on PC -- which most other games offer these day. I would have had a much easier time using a controller, but this is simply a matter of personal preference I wish the devs had chosen to offer support for.

EDIT: Steam does offer controller support, but the game does not on its own.

Verdict

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a unique game that intriguingly captures mental illness and offers a punishing-yet-fluid set of mechanics, all wrapped inside a compelling journey through a vibrant world. I felt like I was with Senua every step of the way, and couldn't wait to see what was around the next corner.

The occasional frustration and lack of a real permadeath feature could put off some players, but this is definitely one to try out. If you're interested in picking it up to experience Senua's journey through madness yourself, then you can pick up the game for $29.99 on GOG.

[Note: A copy of the game was provided to the writer for the purpose of this review.]

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Day of Infamy Review: Not Their Finest Hour https://www.gameskinny.com/62su3/day-of-infamy-review-not-their-finest-hour https://www.gameskinny.com/62su3/day-of-infamy-review-not-their-finest-hour https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/c/c/3/cc38ed9af3b812cdba9c6a359efed4a9085c6597-ef080.jpg 62su3/day-of-infamy-review-not-their-finest-hour Wed, 09 Aug 2017 12:05:27 -0400 Skrain

As a fan of New World Interactive's Insurgency and a fan of previous World War II shooters, I was quite excited to see this developer's take on the genre with Day of Infamy, a multiplayer tactical FPS. But one initial release and two major patches later, I still feel as if Day of Infamy left early access to quickly.

New World Interactive began development of Day of Infamy as a free modification for Insurgency back in early 2016. By mid-July, they had released a closed alpha --  followed by approval for Early Access on July 28th. It hit Steam's service shortly before Christmas, the game was considered finished and fully released just a few short months later in March 2017.

Much of the gameplay in Day of Infamy is drawn directly from Insurgency, and features two primary modes: Standard Multiplayer that pits players against each other, and a Cooperative Mode against AI. The United States Army, The Commonwealth (including Scottish, Australian, Canadian, British, and Indian forces) and the German Wehrmacht are all playable factions. Each faction has unlockable units that actually saw combat in WW2, such as the American 101st Airborne, the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, or the 1st Fallschirmjäger. Once unlocked, these units are purely cosmetic -- but certainly help keep things interesting for at least a little bit, especially if you know your WW2 history.

With nine playable classes ranging from Officer or Radioman to Machine gunner, Day of Infamy includes a fair amount of unique equipment to select from.

An Immersive Cooperative Experience

We'll start off simple with the cooperative mode. New World Interactive has made some improvements to the systems in this game over its previous title -- including better AI, different objectives, and multiple game modes. In this revamped cooperative mode, up to eight players are pitted against hordes of AI with selectable difficulty, in game modes like Entrenchment defense maps, Stronghold assaults, or fast-paced Raids.

These cooperative modes can be just as challenging as going against other players in many situations. And in my opinion, this is where the game shines brightest. It's extremely fun to experience with friends, it's immersive if you let it be, and doesn't suffer from the more detrimental effects that plague PvP multiplayer.

And when I say these modes are immersive, I mean it. It's utterly horrifying to have your squad stacked up and ready to enter a building, when suddenly a flame thrower spurts hot death all over everyone. In some co-op matches, I've screamed out loud before frantically trying to duel with bayonets, as bullets flew around me and into my friends.

My biggest complaint with cooperative mode, however, is that not every map in the game has all three modes available. For example, you can assault Saint Lo as the Allies in Stronghold mode, yet there is no Entrenchment mode equivalent for defending that same map.

On a lateral note, the maps available are fixed to certain attackers and defenders. The Wehrmact will always attack Crete, while the US/Commonwealth will always defend. There's no way to switch these roles for more entertainment, even though I can't imagine this is would have been a hard feature for the developer to implement. This issue is a holdover from New World's cooperative modes in previous games. It's a shame because it feels like a missed opportunity. Who wouldn't want to reenact D-Day with the Wehrmact storming Dog Red, and the US Army defending from the bunkers?

Less Impressive Multiplayer

The standard multiplayer in Day of Infamy is where my enjoyment of the game begins to wane for several reasons.  There are seven game modes in the standard multiplayer -- Offensive, Frontline, Liberation, Invasion, Firefight, Sabotage, and Intel. The first four modes are featured on a standard "Battles" list, while the final three are listed as "special assignments".

Unfortunately in my experience, finding a full game for special assignments seems nigh impossible with the hours I keep. Thus I only got a little experience with the "true" multiplayer, as finding a game with people in it in one of these special modes was very difficult. The game's current population is averaging around 600-700. This is obviously rather low, and so it causes issues when you want to find games -- especially if you're in regions like Australia. 

But it's not just the difficulty finding a good multiplayer match that made this multiplayer experience underwhelming. When I did manage to get into a game, other issues made themselves apparent.

Complaint 1 of 3: Poor Balance

Some weapons are utterly useless against a player with a standard reaction time. Certain weapons are seemingly so slow you don't need to be in a showdown against gunslinger Doc Holiday to die -- Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh would be enough to end you. This problem doesn't really exist in co-op, where most weapons against the AI can be used well enough (though not perfectly).

Complaint Number 2 of 3: Sub-par Pacing

The action in Day of Infamy seems far less fast-paced than Insurgency. Even on an attacking team, it unfortunately seems as if the design on many maps forces players to take up the same positions repeatedly -- causing a lot of matches to slow down considerably.

This is understandable in an era with bolt action rifles, and emplaced machine guns, but choke points on certain maps require absolute team unity and effort to get past before your time runs out. More often than not however, this unity just isn't there -- even if you're trying to organize the team as the Officer.

Final Complaint: Limited Maps

There are only 13 maps -- yes only 13 maps -- to choose from, two of which were only added a couple weeks beforehand. Although this complaint isn't universal to the standard multiplayer, it's usually exacerbated by the same maps being voted for repeatedly, causing many lobbies to grow very stale. Some maps, such as Dunkirk and Bréville, are so small they don't generally last very long anyway. And other maps, like Ortona, are rarely ever voted for at all.

This is hardly a surprise, though, when the disparity in map quality is so obvious. Many of the maps are well constructed, including Crete and Dog Red. But others are poorly vetted -- like Rhineland and Comacchio, which seem to have issues with invisible walls and strange clipping on body models. 

A Few Miscellaneous Issues

Day of Infamy does a lot of things right. Many weapons feel and sound very powerful -- and the sound direction in general is extremely well done. It's strange how bad other weapons feel in contrast when the majority of them are so satisfying to use. The BAR and Lewis gun, for example, feel strange to move around and fire. But the Thompson 45 and Ithaca shotgun feel fantastic.

Another technical issue myself and many others have noticed are that achievements rarely seem to unlock or even progress properly. Having been affected by this myself, I somehow managed to unlock an achievement for getting 50 head shots at the same time I got one for getting 10 head shots.

This doesn't ruin anything by any means, but the issue of bugged achievements still plagues the game and hasn't been formerly acknowledged yet.

Verdict

Overall, Day of Infamy is a solid shooter best enjoyed with friends against the highly fleshed out AI. The multiplayer mode is far less engaging, especially given how the lower player population also hurts players ability to find a game unless they live within the United States or Europe.

The inconsistency of this game's content leads me to believe that its development in Early Access could have been extended at least two months before seeing a full release. It's left me slightly disappointed, and I feel as if New World Interactive could have learned more from its previous venture to create a better WW2 experience in this title. 

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Sundered Review: A Great Metroidvania With Tons of Replayability https://www.gameskinny.com/s62ff/sundered-review-a-great-metroidvania-with-tons-of-replayability https://www.gameskinny.com/s62ff/sundered-review-a-great-metroidvania-with-tons-of-replayability https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/s/u/n/sundered-listing-thumb-ps4-29sep16-77ac2.png s62ff/sundered-review-a-great-metroidvania-with-tons-of-replayability Mon, 07 Aug 2017 15:21:16 -0400 Wizard of Warsaw

Thunder Lotus Games' latest release, Sundered, is bound to be a hit. As a fan of their last game, I jumped at the opportunity to play this new one -- and I'm honestly hard-pressed to find something about this title that I dislike.

The story is interesting, and told in a way that lends itself to the mysterious atmosphere of the world. Most fun of all is the way its gameplay fluctuates between intriguing exploration and hectic survival, keeping you constantly on your toes.  

You play as Eshe, a cloaked wanderer, as you take on the challenges of the endlessly transforming caverns that make up the game world. With each death, the world around you will shift -- making each life a new challenge.

The use of procedural generation makes the game pretty intense, since the map changes drastically every time you die. And death is a fairly common occurrence, since you will be attacked by randomized hordes of enemies throughout your travels.

In true Metroidvania style, the game includes a ton of interesting abilities. While the powers aren't particularly unique to Sundered, the game allows you to corrupt and upgrade these powers with Elder Shards that you collect from defeating bosses. By deciding whether to corrupt your abilities or not, you also make a decision on which ending you'd like to see -- as each of the three endings is determined by how many abilities you corrupt.

So between the multiple endings and the procedural generation, there's a ton of replayability potential here -- which is excellent given how fun the game actually is. 

Sundered also features a massive upgrade tree. You can modify a ton of your stats, allowing you to tailor your gameplay to your personal preferences. The modifications range from basic damage upgrades to more behind-the-scenes stats like Luck.

Apart from stat boosts, the upgrade tree features a few extra powers that can ease the difficulty of your game. My favorite upgrade so far has been the ability to destroy projectiles when hitting them with my weapon. The power is fairly minor, but it allowed me to reserve dodges for other enemies, which has since saved me from a ton of deaths.

 

The impressive gameplay in Sundered is further enhanced by the impressive artistry of the game's atmosphere and characters. Its hand-drawn horrific monsters and beautiful scenery speak for themselves as a testament to the work put into this game.

You face eldritch horrors that are an unsettling combination of tentacles, wings, teeth, and technology. Colossal boss fights show off a beautiful style similar to the developer's previous game, Jotun. All in all, a vibrant aesthetic mixes with some truly gruesome sights, making this game stand out among the wealth of indie Metroidvanias currently available on the market. 

Verdict

By mixing procedurally generated areas with the exploration typical of a Metroidvania game, Sundered has created a world that is massively enjoyable to explore while being incredibly difficult to navigate. All in all, the game is difficult but ultimately satisfying.

The game's art design is fascinating and serves the game well, and there's a ton of replayability potential here because of the procedural generation and multiple endings to discover.

If this sounds like your kind of Metroidvania experience, you can pick up Sundered for $19.99 on GOG.

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Citadel: Forged With Fire Review: Promising But Flawed (So Far) https://www.gameskinny.com/hbmd5/citadel-forged-with-fire-review-promising-but-flawed-so-far https://www.gameskinny.com/hbmd5/citadel-forged-with-fire-review-promising-but-flawed-so-far https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/headerwithtextresized-bcec7.jpg hbmd5/citadel-forged-with-fire-review-promising-but-flawed-so-far Fri, 04 Aug 2017 14:08:29 -0400 Joseph Rowe

Citadel: Forged With Fire's description reads like a D&D fan's sandbox dream game. But in reality, it comes up short in so many areas that it might not be worth buying until the devs address the numerous bugs that plague the game.

I want to preface this review by saying that the game is in Early Access. It is not polished in the least and that's to be expected. That being said, many developers in the Early Access section of Steam make big promises but fail to keep them. The final release of Citadel: Forged with Fire might be bugless, but since it's definitely not as of yet, these issues will factor into my review.

It's also worth nothing that I am writing this just after the patch that introduced the infernal dragon and tried to address the telekinesis issue. Hopefully more of the problems I bring up in this Citadel: Forged with Fire review will be addressed in the future, because this game has a lot of promise so far.

The Basics: Solid Mechanics with Some Flaws

Just like most other sandbox games, Citadel: Forged with Fire gives players a world in which to kill enemies, harvest resources, and build structures while exploring a large map. The difference between Citadel and other sandbox games is in this one you get to be a wizard, witch, warlock, mage, or however you want to refer to the people who do that groovy magic thing.

 The map is large and features beautiful scenery with varied biomes. You can wander the woods, climb snow-capped mountains, roam the beach, and explore resource-rich caverns -- all while harvesting different herbs, minerals, and other materials to build castles, craft incredible weapons, and brew some sweet potions. You can fight and tame enemies like dire wolves, blood orcs, and dragons. As you level up, you learn new recipes for armor, weapons, buildings, etc. Of course, you also learn spells! You can throw fireballs, pacify enemies to tame them, and go berserk with an axe...among many other abilities.

Combat in Citadel: Forged with Fire can feel boring at times. Some fights -- especially the more heart-racing ones against dragons -- are exciting. But a lot of the "fights" aren't really fights. There's a bug where enemies just straight up don't attack you. This has happened in the majority of the servers I've played on so far. How can you call them enemies if they refuse to fight you? You're a wizard, Harry, not a blood-crazed murderer. Why should we kill these innocent orcs if they're just standing completely still at their campfires? You still need the resources so you have to kill them, but it makes you feel like a real magical jerk.

The game is also a bit slow depending on your server settings. If you're playing with the vanilla settings, you'll have a long grind to get anywhere in terms of levels, spells, items, resources, etc. But if you play on servers with 2x-10x exp, attribute points, knowledge points, etc. then the first 20 levels go by in a breeze (though the rest still take a while) and PvE combat becomes even less dangerous. Some players like a long grind, while others don't. I wouldn't mind it so much if bugs didn't complicate things (see bugs section).

Hop on a Broom to Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

This is my absolute favorite part of the game. If there's one thing that will draw interest to Citadel: Forged With Fire, it's the ability to soar on a cleaning instrument like a dang Quidditch player. They've also, thankfully, built the map around it so there are fast travel towers placed occasionally for you to walk/fly to.

While the sound design is neither something to complain about or praise, you can tell a lot of effort was put into the graphics and visual design -- so it's definitely worth flying around to take in one of the best parts of the game.

My favorite moment of the game so far was after I finished building my first broom. I flew further north than I had ventured yet on foot. As I pressed forward, off in the distance I was able to vaguely see a giant stone monument built into a mountain. It reminded me of exploring Skyrim for the first time, and I loved it. This is definitely one of the most solidly built features the game has to offer.

Can Be Tamed

Another one of the draws Citadel: Forged with Fire has is its ability to tame enemies. Whether it's an elk to mount or a blood orc to raid an enemy's fortress, you can tame enemies within 10 levels of yours.

Many players have voiced frustration with the system, however, as you have to craft expensive scrolls to keep your pet for more than 4 hours at a time. If you log out for the night, your new best friend might just be gone in the morning.

Another aspect of this feature that players have complained about is your inability to revive dead pets. This is absolutely heartbreaking -- and I did not rest until I avenged my beloved elk, Goofus, whose tale will be told in full soon in another article. Rest in piece, you noble beast.

More Bugs Than a Cheap Motel

Aside from the pacifist enemy bug, there are a ton more. Your game will crash, you will be disconnected from servers, you will lag beyond all belief if there's more than a couple of other players on a server at once, and (most frustratingly for me on the day of writing this review) you can fail to load your previously completed servers and lose all your progress.

Losing your progress in a game with a progression system like Citadel: Forged with Fire is soul-crushing at times. You can put a lot of effort into building a structure or leveling up your character just right, but it might just fail to launch if it's your server, or you might not be able to find the server you joined ever again. The server browser tabs like history, LAN, etc. do not work at all -- so if you have a favorite server, write its name down and keep your fingers crossed it's still up when you come back.

Furthermore, the game is poorly optimized. This is especially a problem for AMD graphics card users. There are times when the game's performance will dip for seemingly no reason. Though, to me, dipping to 25FPS isn't quite as frustrating as losing all your progress.

Should You Buy This Game?

Citadel: Forged With Fire is still very, very obviously in Early Access. It has way too many bugs for me to feel okay suggesting purchasing the game at even a $20 price tag without some serious consideration over whether you want to put up with the glitches or not. However, if you are aware of all the issues the game has and are still wanting to hop on a broomstick or murder an Orcish pacifist, then by all means this might be the game for you to do it in.

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Overall, Citadel: Forged with Fire is flawed, but promising so far. It's riddled with so many bugs that it can be a truly frustrating experience to play. But its graphics, spells, flight, base building, and crafting all work well when the game lets you play. If the bugs are addressed, the combat is developed a bit more, and/or some more features are added into the game, this will be a truly great experience.

[Note: Blue Isle Studios provided a code for Citadel: Forged with Fire to the writer for the purpose of this review.]

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SteelSeries Rival 700 Review: An Accurate Mouse Laden With Bells and Whistles https://www.gameskinny.com/wnkp2/steelseries-rival-700-review-an-accurate-mouse-laden-with-bells-and-whistles https://www.gameskinny.com/wnkp2/steelseries-rival-700-review-an-accurate-mouse-laden-with-bells-and-whistles https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/r/i/v/rival-700-header-6df84.png wnkp2/steelseries-rival-700-review-an-accurate-mouse-laden-with-bells-and-whistles Fri, 04 Aug 2017 10:46:20 -0400 Jonathan Moore

For the modern PC gamer, choosing a good gaming mouse isn't just about functionality and performance. More and more, it's equally about customizability and distinguished aesthetic. With hyper-personalization in vogue across the market via RGB lighting, infinitely programmable buttons, and granular DPI dialing, the SteelSeries Rival 700 crashes through the gates brandishing a few new weapons in the ever-escalating peripherals arms race. 

Some of these additions are competent and exciting, letting the mouse take interesting steps forward on the tech front -- but others seem more like gimmicks than truly useful iterations. In a world flooded with gaming mice and other must-have peripherals, the Rival 700 pulls off its ideas well enough to stand out, even if those ideas function in some situations better than others.

Let's jump in and see what the Rival does for casual and experienced gamers alike -- and if it's worth it. 

The Rival 700's Design

Unlike some gaming mice on the market today, such as Corsair's Scimitar RGB Pro, the Rival 700 is nothing to gawk at out of the box. Featuring a slick black finish on its backplate, and a matte black finish on the left- and right-click buttons, the Rival 700 is sleek and professional, if not understated. Textured rubber grips on the left and right sides set off the look while also giving your fingers firm purchase of the mouse while in use.

As for its size, the Rival 700 measures 1.65 inches deep, 2.70 inches wide, and 4.59 inches high. And while it's not the biggest gaming mouse on the market, its relatively hefty size had me worried it might not comfortably fit my hand or playstyle. But after a few hours of use, I was glad to find that the mouse grew more and more comfortable the longer I used it, snugly fitting into my hand to allow for both palm- and claw-grip use.

But the Rival 700's design comes with two important caveats. First, its asymmetrical shape means this mouse is for righties only, which is a bit of a bummer considering how good it feels to hold for long periods of time. And second, an arguably more important point: The Rival 700's side buttons are awkwardly placed, to put it lightly.

The back-most thumb button is easily pressed if using a palm-grip style -- even if you don't mean to. And no matter which style you choose, the front thumb button is woefully out of reach, meaning you'll have to completely shift your grip to press it 100% of the time. It's not a deal-breaker, of course, but it feels like an oversight for a mouse that's obviously been meticulously engineered. 

Customizing the Rival 700

Like many modern mice, the Rival 700 features myriad customization options -- some right out of the box and others after you've downloaded SteelSeries' Engine 3 software.

Modular Customization


Out of the box, the Rival 700's modular design lets you choose between a 6-foot braided cable and a 3-foot plastic cable. Changing these out is a breeze, requiring no more effort than unplugging one from the front of the mouse and plugging the other in. On top of that, you're also able to easily change out the mouse's backplate -- although you'll have to plunk down some extra cash to do so.

For $14.99, you can nab SteelSeries' Cover Pack, which features one glossy black backplate and one matte black backplate. And for $19.99, you can purchase the Cover Color Pack, which features red, blue, and white backplates. Both seem like pricey additions for a mouse that already retails at $99.99, but having the option to change things up is a nice touch if you're into that sort of thing.

And for what it's worth, there's also a customizable name plate on the back of the Rival 700 that lets you emblazon the mouse with anything from your name to your favorite phrase. You'll just need to know how to use a 3D printer. SteelSeries provides the necessary files to get started -- but with a relatively high barrier to entry, I don't see many average gamers taking advantage of this customization option.   

RGB Customization

As for tailoring the Rival 700's RGB lighting options, there are plenty of available avenues as SteelSeries' Engine 3 lets you choose from more than 16.8 million colors and five different illumination effects. These can be selected for the whole mouse or for individual sectors, such as underneath the mouse wheel or for the SteelSeries logo on the Rival's backplate. If you've owned -- or even tinkered with -- an RGB mouse before, you know what's going on here. 

DPI Customization
  

For DPI, the 700 doesn't reinvent the wheel but instead provides you with the granular sensitivity options you've come to expect from modern gaming mice. It allows for two distinct DPI (CPI) settings -- each ranging from 100 to 16,000 -- which you can easily switch between with the DPI toggle just below the mouse wheel. And based on your preference of laser sensor vs. optical sensor, you can easily switch the 700's stock PixArt PMW 3360 optical sensor for a PixArt 9800 laser sensor simply by removing four screws on the bottom of the mouse.

OLED Display Customization

An interesting (if not odd) addition to the Rival 700 is the inclusion of a white and black OLED screen on the front-left corner of the mouse. Using Engine 3, you can display a 128x36 logo or GIF on the screen, either of your own making or from SteelSeries' small pre-made selection.

But that's not the only use for the screen; you can also display in-game information, such as your K/D, and your current DPI settings. The problem is that the screen is so small that it's near impossible to see during a firefight or frenetic arena battle. And since the only games that display real-time in-game information are those included with Engine 3, your options are terribly limited until SteelSeries adds more supported games to the software. 

Overall, it's an interesting addition and shows that SteelSeries is constantly thinking outside of the box when engineering their mice (which is a very good thing), but the OLED display doesn't really add anything of true value to the Rival 700. It's more of a cool vanity item than anything truly revolutionary. 

Haptic Feedback

Haptic feedback isn't new technology, but the Rival 700 is one of the first gaming mice to implement the feature. As such, I was a bit dubious on the prospect of a rumbling mouse. I had also somehow convinced myself that the technology, which heavily features in console gaming, would somehow affect the accuracy of the Rival 700. Long story short: it does and it doesn't. 

The main draw here is that the tactile feedback is supposed to alert you to specific in-game events, such as when cooldowns are expiring or when you're running low on health. But unless you're playing one of the few games that are compatible with Engine 3, you're going to have to manually program the alerts into the Rival 700. And that process can be a real pain in the ass.

It took me about 5 minutes to figure out that Victor's grenade cooldown in Paladins was 8 seconds -- and then I had to convert seconds into milliseconds to program the mouse. And that was just for one champion on a roster of 30, all who have different cooldown timers for various abilities. 

It's easy to see that this feature can get pretty cumbersome and inefficient when working outside of the designated Engine 3 games. And for games like SMITE, where CDR items and other abilities constantly buff and debuff cooldowns, it's impossible to effectively program the Rival 700's haptic feedback feature. 

Verdict

The Rival 700 is a good mouse. Being the flagship of the SteelSeries line, it ought to be. It's reliable. It's accurate. It's precise. It's flexible. Thing is, a lot of other mice are, too, making it difficult to argue that the Rival 700 really does anything revolutionary to put it at the head of the pack. Its OLED display is fun, but not entirely useful. Its modular design is perfect for personalization but can get pricey for a mouse that starts at $99. And its rumble feature is innovative, but not ubiquitous (which is a huge bummer). 

If you loved the Rival 500 from SteelSeries, the Rival 700 is a natural progression in that line and a must-buy. It is currently available on Amazon for $72.46. If you want a mouse that's ready to rock right out of the box, you may want to check out SteelSeries' other offerings, such as the Rival 310.  

Note: SteelSeries provided the Rival 700 for this review.

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Tacoma Review: Houston, We Have A Problem https://www.gameskinny.com/unpje/tacoma-review-houston-we-have-a-problem https://www.gameskinny.com/unpje/tacoma-review-houston-we-have-a-problem https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/t/a/c/tacoma-pool-table-153f8.png unpje/tacoma-review-houston-we-have-a-problem Fri, 04 Aug 2017 09:39:05 -0400 ActionJ4ck

Set in the year 2088, Tacoma puts players in the shoes of a contract worker sent aboard the titular high-tech space station to recover the ship's AI as well as the data stored there. In doing so, players will discover the traces of the ship's former crew and slowly unravel the details surrounding the workers' final days aboard their ill-fated ship. 

If you are familiar with developer Fullbright's previous title, 2013's Gone Home, then you know what you are getting into. Like the admittedly polarizing Gone Home, Tacoma is an interactive narrative experience that sets you loose in a rich environment containing a story about crisis, acceptance, and motivation that slowly unfolds before your eyes. 

As you traverse the Tacoma space station -- guided from access terminal to access terminal by your employers' instructional messages -- you'll come across 3D recordings of the station's former crew members, which can be viewed with the press of the button. These AR holograms will converse with their coworkers, open up personal computers (which can be perused for additional info), or wander off to some other area of the room. These interactions serve to deepen the narrative or yield clues to aid in your search of the space station.

Because these scenes can often include multiple conversations between different crew members spanning across several rooms of the space station -- with different narrative clues popping up in different locations at different times -- you'll usually find yourself missing out on key pieces of information if you just stick with one holographic person. Luckily, each scene comes with the handy function to rewind/fast-forward/restart at will, enabling you to watch each narrative thread unfold.

The ability to manipulate the recording at will is perfect for eliminating repetition in a game that would greatly suffer without it. Rather than having to re-watch a full 5 minute recording over and over again to eavesdrop on every conversation taking place, players can simply rewind back to the point where two characters diverged and pick up from there.

Additionally, each recording comes with sort of marker system to denote when important information is popping up -- meaning you can leave recordings with the knowledge that you found everything you needed to find. Both features are impressive conveniences that I wish more narrative-heavy games possessed. 

These recorded scenes are strung together by an environment that excellently guides you along its path, while simultaneously making you feel as though exploring it was your idea to begin with.

An early example of this is at the first data access terminal. After initiating a data download and seeing a slow-moving progress bar pop on my character's screen, my natural inclination is to glance around the hallway. Doing so, I see signs pointing to an "Obsolescence Party" over in the lounge. Curious, I followed the signs to the employee lounge where I found the next batch of narrative revelations.

By manipulating players' natural curiosity into taking them where the game wants them to be, Tacoma does a masterful job of making the game feel as though you are actively exploring it rather than simply being taken for a ride. It's a shame that the narrative it unveils so well falls so flat.

Though Tacoma's universe and characters are well fleshed out -- you'll learn everyone's favorite music and that Taco Bell lasted well into the future by the end of it -- the game's gradually-paced narrative about the crew's last days aboard the ship and their relationship with their companion AI ultimately failed to leave an impression on me. There were moments where I felt a bit concerned for the characters and moments where I felt a bit relieved, but at no point was I blown away or felt as though I was experiencing something amazing or unique.

This overall mellow narrative arc, coupled with a gaping plot-hole near the end that left me furrowing my brow and saying "Well why would they [spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler]?" left me largely unsatisfied, especially give how enthusiastically I had been willing to explore the environment over its ~3 hour campaign.

Though such a lackluster story may fly in a more action-heavy game, the entire purpose of Tacoma is to deliver this narrative to you. Like Gone Home or any of the Telltale Games series, the game is intended to be a medium through which to tell this story. But when the story fails to deliver, so does the game itself. And while I can't deny that Tacoma pulled me in and gave me a well-crafted world to explore using features that I wish existed in other story-driven games, that isn't enough to save it from a bland narrative.

Verdict

While Tacoma succeeds with how it guides you through its narrative, the story that it delivers ultimately fails to impress. It's an exemplar of carefully considered game design, but the story falls so flat that even perfect execution can't make up for it. 

If you want to check it out for yourself, though, you can pick up Tacoma on GOG for $19.99.

[Note: A digital copy of Tacoma was provided to the writer for the purpose of this review.]

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Beholder: Blissful Sleep DLC Review - What's Your Life Worth? https://www.gameskinny.com/20m0c/beholder-blissful-sleep-dlc-review-whats-your-life-worth https://www.gameskinny.com/20m0c/beholder-blissful-sleep-dlc-review-whats-your-life-worth https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/2/0/1/20170729173820-c3124.jpg 20m0c/beholder-blissful-sleep-dlc-review-whats-your-life-worth Wed, 02 Aug 2017 11:51:29 -0400 Jeffrey Rousseau

How far are you willing to go to save yourself? Would you do anything while forsaking your morals? These are the questions that I kept asking myself while playing Beholder's DLC, Blissful Sleep.

The new content is a separate story from the base game that focuses on Hector. Hector is the previous apartment manager whom you see being hauled away in the beginning of the main Beholder game. What you'll experience are the events that led to him being replaced. 

Vanilla Beholder, in case you forgot, is a point-and-click adventure developed by Warm Lamp Games. Both the DLC and game tell the story of a man serving his totalitarian government. The game is uncomfortable, unnerving, and spooky.

Blissful Sleep is a bit different than the main game. At the very start of the game you are given an ultimatum: you are scheduled for the "blissful sleep". That's the nice way of saying euthanasia for citizens at age 85. Problem is, Hector is not that old, and it's a blatant setup.

To avoid this dire fate and survive, you must follow their commands. You are given the protocol to gather DNA samples from everyone within your building. This task is part of the government's "genetic purity" agenda. (And yes, it's exactly what it sounds like.)

From a gameplay perspective, this DLC is identical to the main game. The only difference is that the time constraint is much shorter, and there aren't quite as many missions to complete. So you can never really lose track of the main objective -- not wanting to die.

Again, you need to work your way into your tenants' lives. It feels easier here, as Hector is more likable. To find out the necessary details to keep yourself alive, you need to be everyone's friend -- well, to an extent anyway.

Everyone will offer a quest, and you'll play errand boy to find a necessary item. This may or may not involve some dealings with a black market dealer. After you gain their trust, your reputation increases. The more trust you gain will eventually increase your chances to obtain those DNA samples in their rooms.

Aesthetically speaking, Blissful Sleep still maintains what makes Beholder uncomfortably creepy. The music still features the same eerie tracks you're used to, and the character art really accentuates a sense of soullessness -- as we can only see their silhouettes and white eyes.

The only real downside to this DLC is, well, the game itself. Everything you're being asked to do is so very wrong if you think about it morally. But that's what makes it great. Not many games can make you feel like a dirt bag, but Beholder (and the Blissful Sleep DLC) does so effortlessly.

Verdict

If you want to relive your Beholder experience, this DLC is for you. Once again, you get to spy on your tenants, serve a horrible government, and throw our morals straight into the dumpster.

If you looking for an unnerving point and click adventure experience, then Beholder: Blissful Sleep is definitely for you. The DLC is available now via Steam.

[Note: Publisher Alawar Premium provided a copy of the game for the purposes of this review.]

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AdventureQuest Dragons Review https://www.gameskinny.com/x6lbx/adventurequest-dragons-review https://www.gameskinny.com/x6lbx/adventurequest-dragons-review https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-cb82d.jpg x6lbx/adventurequest-dragons-review Wed, 02 Aug 2017 11:36:26 -0400 stratataisen

AdventureQuest Dragons is a casual, idle, clicker game created as a collaboration between the makers of AdventureQuest Worlds and Cookie Clicker. AdventureQuest Worlds is a free-to-play, browser-based MMORPG created by Artix Entertainment.

The game takes the fantasy elements of AdventureQuest Worlds and the clicker gameplay of Cookie Clicker and meshes them together in this fun mobile game. If you’re thinking of giving it a try, it’s available on both the Google Play and Apple App Stores.

Simple But Addictive

I like the look of this game. The UI is simple and very user-friendly, and its solid artworkfits the theme very well. And most importantly, each dragon looks amazing -- from their eggs all the way up to their final evolved forms.

At a glance, AdventureQuest Dragons seem like a straightforward game. You click to hatch a dragon and then click some more to gain gems and buy upgrades. These upgrades improve your dragon’s ability to get gems on its own, which gets you more gems, which then gets you upgrades to improve your...you get the point.  It’s pretty much a big loop of getting gems, upgrading, getting more gems, and upgrading some more.

Like many clicker games, there’s no real end goal. You just constantly level, upgrade and gain more gems. Curiously enough, each dragon in this game levels separately, including their upgrades. They also have their gem currency that is uniquely their own and unaffected by any other dragon.

However, despite this simplicity, this game rather addictive. I think the addictiveness of it lies in seeing how many more gems you can get, and how far you can upgrade your dragon. AdventureQuest Dragons is an excellent time killer, I spent a good hour or so playing this game without realizing it...and I’m only at one dragon so far. 

Dragon Keys

Like many free game apps, there are ads in AdventureQuest Dragons. These display at the bottom of the app as small banners. However, you can get rid of these ads by supporting the game with any purchase of Dragon Keys. Great, but what are Dragon Keys? Dragon keys are a currency used to unlock things like other dragons or upgrades -- I’ve only run into one at this point, and that was after upgrading it with gems to a certain level. If you have nothing else to use them on, you can also exchange them in for more gems to level your dragons.

Obtaining Dragon Keys isn’t limited to just micro-transactions; you can also get them by watching ads -- limited to one key a day -- or upgrading your dragon. The current and only dragon I have has an upgrade that I can unlock for one trillion gems; this upgrade gives ten Dragon Keys. The beautiful thing about this is that it takes ten keys to unlock the cheapest dragons -- with the most expensive requiring sixty keys.

I feel you can probably take a completely non-IAP route in this game, as long as you have the patience. If you seriously want to ads gone and don’t mind supporting the developer, the cheapest pack is $1.99.

Verdict

Overall, AdventureQuest Dragons is a fun game that’s easy to pick up and great to kill some time with. I give it a solid 8 out of 10. If you’re looking for some mindless entertainment, give this app a try. You can download it on iOS or Google Play for your device. 

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The Long Dark Review: Survival of the Fittest https://www.gameskinny.com/9xkxs/the-long-dark-review-survival-of-the-fittest https://www.gameskinny.com/9xkxs/the-long-dark-review-survival-of-the-fittest https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/l/o/n/long-dark-0a13a.jpg 9xkxs/the-long-dark-review-survival-of-the-fittest Wed, 02 Aug 2017 10:43:03 -0400 Sergey_3847

It took three years for Hinterland to finally bring the complete version of The Long Dark to PC and consoles. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to the main character in The Long Dark, then you now have the chance to discover the full story behind an estranged survivalist in the ice cold wilderness.

The Story mode, titled “Wintermute”, is now available for purchase -- and the first two episodes will take you on a journey of many questions and answers. We don’t get to see the complete story yet, as there are three more episodes to come, and the developers are hinting on another season after this one. However, that kind of decision strongly depends on the popularity of the game.

In any case, it looks like we’ve got a lot of story to go through, so let’s see what the game has to offer at this early stage.

Story Mode: Through the Eyes of a Survivor

Crash-landing is not the end of the story -- it's the beginning!

The Story mode begins with the first episode – “Do Not Go Gentle”. The main protagonist of the game is the pilot named Will Mackenzie, who crashes somewhere in the North Canadian area. He is looking for his partner – Dr. Astrid Greenwood – who got sidetracked in the process.

The episodes are divided into smaller chapters, which makes sense given that each one is rather long (up to 15 hours for the first two episodes). This is the result of several years of development -- and initially the Story mode was planned to be released in 2016, but it took another year to put all the pieces together.

Without spoiling too much, the main character will have to face many different obstacles on his way through the wild forests. Just like the Sandbox mode, there is a change of day and night in the Story mode that serves as the game’s progression indicator.

The tutorial mode is embedded into the Story mode, so new players will have no trouble adjusting to all the mechanics. The task to find Astrid becomes the main priority here, but the rest of the activities are pretty much similar to the Sandbox mode with all of its survival elements.

The nights in The Long Dark are extremely beautiful... and cold.

Right from the beginning you need to get warm and find some food. The first few hours are not terribly exciting, as the character is basically located in a small enclosed area. But later on you will find the way out.

Every day brings new challenges and you learn new things. Fortunately, the first days of survival are accompanied by flashback cutscenes that give you a more intimate look at what’s going on between the characters and why they care so much about each other.

As soon as the character reaches the first town, there is hope for something extra… and indeed there is. The looting process begins and new things start coming up. At this point you start to understand that behind each item and each building there is a story that is being revealed more and more.

Mackenzie meets other survivors and some more meaningful plot points are being explained. Whether the story in itself is good or not is to be decided by each player individually, but at times you may find yourself wanting to return to the Sandbox mode, where everything is much more mysterious and intriguing. 

New Mechanics and Interactions

Tip of the day: If you see wolves -- just run!

The new update includes a few other things except the Story mode, such as polished visual and audio elements. The Sandbox mode received a new location, although not as large as you would assume. But it’s all about the new mechanics in the Story mode that elevates the gaming experience to new heights.

Some mechanics have been updated and will serve you well, such as the ability to dry wet clothes by the fire. But other things have become more complicated -- including the making of the tea that now requires the preparation of rosehips and reishi mushrooms. So more clicking ensues!

The wild animals are just as annoying, but at times it seems that the wolves are bugged, or maybe it was intended. If you get stuck in some areas with the wolves, they’ll be patiently waiting for you to show up -- while before the update they got bored pretty quickly, and you could continue walking your way. Now they’re sniffing around for far too long.

You may find yourself wanting to return to the Sandbox mode, where everything is much more mysterious and intriguing.

A trust system between the NPCs has been implemented as well to make the dialogues and interactions more realistic. The players must take on many fetch quests from Grey Mother for her to be able to reveal more plot points. Successfully accomplished tasks build the trust even further and help the story progress.

Sometimes getting into small debacles about the item distribution makes the world of The Long Dark more believable. But in the end it all boils down to rather shallow decision-making, which should be improved in the future.

On the other hand, finding collectibles is not a chore at all, but turns out to be a series of fun logical puzzles that elevates the whole looting process -- but may get stale in a while.

The Verdict

The technical execution in The Long Dark could be better than it is currently. The game has been in development for three whole years, so why there are still crashes and glitches all along the way? Reportedly it has something to do with the incompatibility of the Unity engine and Radeon graphics cards -- but then again, the updated release should have fixed it all.

Other than that, The Long Dark’s story is well-rounded and quite satisfying. Although many plot points will be revealed only in the future episodes, it is already clear that Hinterland put a lot of effort into the writing, animation, and voicing process.

At this point The Long Dark has taken the shape of a real product and not just an experimental survival sandbox that is way too extreme at times. So even if you couldn’t play the game before, now you will be greatly motivated to help Mackenzie find Astrid and the way out of the frozen hell that is North Canada.

If this sounds like your sort of survival experience, you can pick up The Long Dark for yourself from GOG.

Note: A copy of the game was provided to the writer for the purposes of this review.

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Happy Wheels Madness Reactivated on YouTube https://www.gameskinny.com/8k2be/happy-wheels-madness-reactivated-on-youtube https://www.gameskinny.com/8k2be/happy-wheels-madness-reactivated-on-youtube https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/a/p/happywheelsyoutube-90e4c.jpg 8k2be/happy-wheels-madness-reactivated-on-youtube Wed, 02 Aug 2017 07:00:02 -0400 JP_4974

By today’s standards, Happy Wheels is an ancient Web game. It was released in 2010, which was an era filled with simple Flash games that were swept to the wayside. Yet Happy Wheels is still popular. In fact, it’s played now more than ever, thanks to a recent surge in visibility on YouTube. Game-streaming celebrities, such as Kwebbelkop and Jelly are dedicating entire YouTube series to the seven-year-old Happy Wheels. There’s something special happening here, and it’s worth a closer look.

Summing up the Excitement
Happy Wheels is a terrifically violent game. It glamorizes over-the-top, cartoon bloodshed via ragdoll physics. If released on consoles, Happy Wheels would most certainly receive an M (Mature 17+) rating from the ESRB. This game isn’t on consoles though; it’s available to anyone with a computer or smartphone. As such, Happy Wheels has been played over 8 billion—yes, billion—times since its release. Players of all ages have enjoyed the arm-breaking, leg-chopping, explosive hilarity for free.

In 2010, Happy Wheels became an instant hit. It had a few unique, silly characters in its roster—a list which has grown significantly since then. Now, gamers can play as a brave moped rider, wacky pogo fanatic, or Santa Claus. Each character rides its own “vehicle,”  anything from a motorized lawnmower to a modified wheelchair.

Staying in the Limelight
No other Web games from 2010 remained a worldwide hit. Happy Wheels kept its top-tier status due to one key aspect: sharing user-created levels. A level editor isn’t a new concept; many games allow players to create their own worlds. Very few titles, besides Super Mario Maker, rely on this idea for core gameplay. In Happy Wheels, the best levels are those created by other players. The included editor features a vast, unparalleled set of tools and items for maximum creativity.

The level editor allows players to build, stack, and draw their own structures from scratch. There are also pre-made building blocks (logs, rails), hazards (guns, landmines), and boosters (cannons, jets). A quick glance at the available user-created levels reveals countless new types of challenges. There are Wild West cowboy adventures, ninja obstacle courses, and rope-swinging competitions.

Viewing and Learning on YouTube
The best YouTube gamers know how to capitalize fun. Many subscribers rely on their favorite channels to share the latest gaming trends. This year, Happy Wheels benefited greatly from this phenomenon. Kwebbelkop’s YouTube channel has an entire series on the game, showcasing the most exciting, tough, and grueling levels. Viewers can learn how to beat certain challenges and get entertained while failing others. Jelly’s YouTube channel features nearly 200 videos on Happy Wheels. With millions of views, these YouTube channels (and others) are maintaining and raising the game’s popularity.

The Happy Wheels game is available on Poki, and it includes many of the best user-created levels. The game’s active community contributes hundreds of new levels per day, so there’s always something new to try. Hop onto your vehicle of choice, and ride through the chaos in Happy Wheels!

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Cloudbase Prime Review: A Unique Experience You Will Never Forget https://www.gameskinny.com/xku25/cloudbase-prime-review-a-unique-experience-you-will-never-forget https://www.gameskinny.com/xku25/cloudbase-prime-review-a-unique-experience-you-will-never-forget https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/c/b/p/cbp-d6573.jpg xku25/cloudbase-prime-review-a-unique-experience-you-will-never-forget Tue, 01 Aug 2017 17:10:14 -0400 Damien Smith

Some video games offer an experience so unique, different and impactful that they end up being forever etched into the player's mind, while so many others are generally largely forgotten over time. Indie FPS 3D platformer Cloudbase Prime is one such game.

Developed almost entirely by Tyrus Peace under Floating Island Games, it was originally released on Steam Early Access. But as of July 26th, the game received its 1.0 release. Despite this being my third time to playing the game, its great gameplay, good humor, beautiful visuals, and excellent plot have made it been just as enjoyable this go round as it was the very first time.

A normal day at the office turns into a fight for survival

You take on the role of a gas mine worker, where you are situated inside of a robot controlled with your keyboard and mouse. Upon arriving to begin your shift, the zone comes under attack by robots with corrupted programming. As you battle your way through the various sectors and hordes of corrupt robots, you eventually find yourself falling into the depths below.

You land on an unknown platform far different from the one above and you begin your mission to find a way back home and uncover the mystery and agenda of these once friendly robots.

The plot to Cloudbase Prime is an intriguing one that is well written and nicely paced. It keeps you gripped from the very beginning right to the end -- especially because of the well-designed and well-written characters you meet along your journey, whose dialogue is often comical. The fix bots in particular are fun to interact with.

I love how the main characters, that of the robot you are controlling and of the giant one you ally with throughout the game, both have their own strengths and weaknesses, which are revealed as events unfold.

Near the end of the game, the plot really kicks it up a few gears to give the player one hell of a twist -- and one of the most memorable finales of a video game in recent memory. It is such a well-crafted story, and I hope a lot more people will experience it now that the game has officially released.

Excellent and unique gameplay

The gameplay in Cloudbase Prime is a blend of 3D platforming and FPS action. You traverse the levels and move from platform to platform by launching yourself into the air and gliding across using your architect ability, which allows you to move the terrain up and down as you please.

As you progress through the levels you need to collect fix bots in order to unlock the later levels. These are either found throughout certain levels or obtained by completing specific objective levels. In the levels where you need to search for the fix bots, they act as check points along with restoring your health upon collecting them.

While this may sound arduous, it is quite simple as the location of the fix bots is marked on the screen with a letter representing their name. All you need to do is head in the direction of their letter to find them. It keeps the gameplay from slowing down, while also preventing the player getting stuck and frustrated in their search.

As for the additional game modes such as Score Attack, they are a fun distraction to change up the gameplay from time to time to stop it from becoming monotonous. 

Along with the fix bots, there are also new weapons and abilities to be found hidden throughout certain levels. These include Homing Shot that allows you to lock on to multiple enemies or a single enemy several times, Combust Ammo that gives you explosive shots and Holotile where you can create a shield to block incoming bullets and rockets, just to name a few.

While the new weapons are more powerful variations of the standard shot, abilities work a bit differently. In order to use them, you require fuel that is acquired by launching enemies into the air and killing them while still airborne. How much fuel is needed for abilities depends on which one you use.

They really add a whole new level of depth to the game and are all useful in different circumstances. All the weapons and abilities can make a huge difference between a level being quite difficult and relatively easy, so it's crucial to use the right ability at the right time. 

Finally is the ability to grapple. This is introduced later in the game and allows the player to hook onto terrain both close and distant. It is extremely useful for moving across large distances quickly and reaching otherwise inaccessible areas.

It is a really cool feature but my gripe with it is that you don't receive it until near the end of the game. I wish that you would get to begin using it a bit sooner than you do.

The gameplay to Cloudbase Prime is engaging, extremely fun, and wonderfully executed. The combination of the novel mechanic of moving the terrain and using it to launch yourself and enemies into the air, the different weapons and abilities, the various game modes and of course amazing boss battles, creates a gameplay experience you will never forget.

Beautiful and varying level design

Throughout the course of the game, you venture through a series of worlds, each with their own unique environment and design -- from lavish green plains to underwater zones with giant jellyfish creatures, to a massive city. Each world is unique and beautiful to experience.

As you progress through the levels, slowly you are introduced to new mechanics, such as wind tunnels that make you move at a rapid pace, temporary bridges, movable platforms and more. The worlds aren't massive either, coming in at only a few levels each -- so not a single one of these worlds overstays its welcome to the point that it becomes boring. 

A game you will never forget

There are few games out there that I can say I have played multiple times through, but Cloudbase Prime is one of them -- and I loved every minute of it each time. It has great gameplay, its characters are well-written and designed, and also having a great sense of humor about them.

The visuals are beautiful as are the worlds, the level design is wonderful, and most of all it has an excellent plot with one of the best and most memorable finales I have experienced in years. 

Cloudbase Prime isn't a perfect game, of course. But there are few games that are so brilliantly executed and wonderfully fun. It has an elegance that most can only ever dream of having, and I hope that more people have the pleasure to experience this absolute gem as I have.

[Note: A copy of the game was provided to the writer for the purpose of this review.]

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Pianista Review -- A Sour Note Concerto https://www.gameskinny.com/02o4l/pianista-review-a-sour-note-concerto https://www.gameskinny.com/02o4l/pianista-review-a-sour-note-concerto https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/5b464f378f47304f9d2ff0e83e2741d9.jpg 02o4l/pianista-review-a-sour-note-concerto Mon, 31 Jul 2017 15:27:08 -0400 daisy_blonde

Around seven years ago, music and rhythm games were at their height of success. Rockband and Guitar Hero were selling plastic guitars like hotcakes, both on home consoles and on their handheld counterparts. However, at this time, there was a lack of games that covered playing the piano. Sure, drums, guitar, bass, and singing were covered, but those of us who wanted to practice our keyboarding skills didn’t have a game to play. Now, the rhythm game craze has pretty much passed on consoles in favor of twin stick shooters or open world exploration.

However, the smartphone market has kept up the rock star trend, with the touch screen being an accessible and ideal way of getting those notes on point in your favorite songs. Granted, there are lots of free-to-play rhythm games available, but Superb Corp’s Pianista app is a rhythm game which is catered to playing the classical piano, differentiating itself from the Guitar Hero clones so readily available.

Pianista Gameplay

The object of the game is to touch the notes when they hit the white line at the bottom of your phone screen. This can sometimes include chords (two or more notes you have to play once) and notes you hold down. I was impressed with the tutorial, which explained this very well and succinctly.

Unfortunately, after that, I felt like I jumped into the deep end. The first song in career mode, Elgar’s Salut d’Amour, was quite challenging – and this very steep difficulty curve at the outset (in Normal Mode) may put off less skilled (or less patient) players.

Having learned basic classical piano when at school, I found the easiest way to improve my score was to use my fingers as if I was playing an actual piano. This was especially useful for the chords that sometimes occur in the classical pieces and for holding down notes effectively. I felt that this was a good emulation of how to play the piano in real life, unlike Guitar Hero, which is quite different to playing an actual guitar, etc.  

Pianista is a good introduction to famous classical musicians such as Haydn, Chopin, Handel, Beethoven, and Verdi. My personal favorite was playing Verdi’s La Donna e Mobile, which is a piece from Verdi’s opera, Rigoletto. If you’re a fan of Swan Lake, you’ll also find that in this collection. As with other music games, I wasn’t sure if the difficulty of each piece corresponded to how hard you would actually find it on a piano, but broadly speaking, the slower tempo songs, such as sonatas, are paced appropriately. The syncing of the music track to your movement is also on point.

Music Note Micro Transactions

A major downside to the Pianista, like most free-to-play titles out there, is its reliance on in-app transactions (IATs) – otherwise known as micro transactions. Whether you’re in Career Mode or Collection Mode, you only have a finite amount of energy, represented by music notes. When you run out of energy, you have to wait for 10 minutes just to get one music note – and you need at least two to play a song. Considering the huge cooldown time in relation to actually playing the game, this seems pretty unfair.

You can also upgrade your piano so that you can get through songs with more errors. This can be paid for by coins you earn in career mode or through IATs. If you want to play a specific song, you can also buy it – but some of these cost at least $2, and you’ll still need energy to play them.

Verdict

I used to play the piano, and I found Pianista was a good way to improve my skills and get back into that hobby. That said, I was having flashbacks to music exams with some of the pieces – which are pretty challenging even in Normal mode. Technical difficulty for me was nigh on impossible, and I just managed to pass the first Career Mode song after quite a lot of practice (I suppose that’s the only way you get to Carnegie Hall!).

Portraits of all the composers was a nice touch, as sometimes these names can seem quite far removed from today when you just listen to classical music on the radio, and the syncing of audio to touch input worked fluidly – a marked change from going through the sync screens in Rockband or Guitar Hero back in the day. Unfortunately, the emphasis on micro transactions coupled with the steep difficulty level are deal breakers for me, which were left unchanged in a recent app update.

If you want to learn to play the piano, then other apps such as Piano and Yousician are good alternatives. There are also other better rhythm games available on mobile that don’t rely so much on IATs.

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Fable Fortune Review: Albion Gets The CCG Treatment In A Very Familiar Way https://www.gameskinny.com/w6gty/fable-fortune-review-albion-gets-the-ccg-treatment-in-a-very-familiar-way https://www.gameskinny.com/w6gty/fable-fortune-review-albion-gets-the-ccg-treatment-in-a-very-familiar-way https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/f/f/c/ffcov-88277.jpg w6gty/fable-fortune-review-albion-gets-the-ccg-treatment-in-a-very-familiar-way Mon, 31 Jul 2017 13:45:36 -0400 Ty Arthur

Whoa, woah, woah: I thought the next Fable game was canceled and Lionhead Studios was shut down for good? What's this Fable Fortune you speak of?

Talk about a winding development journey! Somewhere along the way, we went from Fable 4 to the asymmetrical F2P online entry Fable Legends to sadly nothing at all -- and now somehow, a surprise collectible card game from Flaming Fowl Studios.

This may not be the new Fable entry I was expecting or hoping for, but as a fanatic of the main entries, I dove in with wild abandon anyway, eager for anything that would take me back to Albion.

Let's take a look at how my journey fared. 

Working The Modern CCG Format

For anyone who has played Hearthstone or Bethesda's attempt to cash in on the success of Hearthstone with Elder Scrolls Legends, everything about Fable Fortune will feel very familiar.

I've Played This Card Before...

There's no more random drawing of mana (referred to as gold this time around, hence the Fortune name), and instead, everyone starts with the same pool that increases at a rate of 1 gold each round.

Six different classes are available -- each with a specific ability that costs 2 gold to activate on any given round -- that will give you some serious deja vu. Of course, there's a stable of neutral cards for padding out your deck no matter which class you pick.

 Notice any similarities yet?

Your 30-card deck will be built around an even distribution of low-to-high gold cost, and strategies revolve around cards firing off effects when they die or first hit the board. Even the board layout, attack animations, and sound effects show their influences on their collective sleeves.

So why play this game instead of just re-installing Hearthstone? For starters, the problems with the later expansions to Blizzard's CCG juggernaut aren't yet prevalent here. Fable Fortune isn't hyper balanced to the level of pointlessness at this stage, and there aren't cards like Yogg-Saron that turn any hard played match into a random coin toss.

This is only funny the first time... and only if you are the one casting it

A Little Taste Of Albion

A few twists on the formula pop up in an attempt to differentiate the game from its very obvious starting point.

Varying quests in any given match will have you modifying your strategy on the fly to hit goals like summoning a specific number of high-cost creatures or using your class ability X number of times. So, repeatedly completing quests in a match can result in large bonuses that give you an edge.

On top of that is the morality system, with an option to go good or evil (and thankfully, evil no longer meets "overweight with horns and flies"), which will change your class ability and even alter how some cards function on the board.

The end result is that strategies have to be modified mid-game based on how you and your opponent play each match.

      If you couldn't tell, I went evil this round

Fable Fortune's Flaws

I'm a sucker for computer CCGs of just about any variety (I even played Might And Magic's Duel Of Champions into the ground), so while I'm having a fun time with this Early Access entry, there are some flaws worth noting for the potential player.

Lack Of Cards

It's inevitable you are going to see the exact same card and combo iterations over and over in multiplayer matches and while opening packs, so there are really only a handful of strategies to employ at this point.

When you combine that with the fact that three of the classes are just objectively better than the other three, there's a lack of playable content that needs to be addressed. Of course, the card roster will increase over time, assuming Fable Fortune survives, so this is more of a temporary concern.

 It's sort of stupid to NOT play this card twice a match

No Single Player Campaign

This element is a staple of any of the Magic: The Gathering digital renditions and it's sadly missing here: the ability to play single-player beyond just practice missions -- which give no rewards.

Although they are locked behind paywalls, even Hearthstone gives you single-player missions with a connected storyline. Not so here, and that's a shame because the game is ripe for Fable humor in a single player progression with Chesty, the chicken costumes, and series staples like the Normanomicon.

Beyond the lack of single-player, there are no daily rewards and only two game modes: random matches against a player and random co-op matches with a player against the same AI opponent -- over and over. Obviously, the Early Access edition is lacking in content, but maybe that will change.

 This is the extent of the game modes on display

Where's The Fable Feel?

Of all the game's flaws, this one is the biggest and potentially the reason not to play. Yes, there are cards with classic Fable characters like Hobbes and Hollow Men, and yes, you do engage in the tried and true mechanic of deciding to lean good or evil during a match, but that's where the similarities to the series end.

Honestly, it's all just window dressing. This doesn't feel like a Fable game at all... it feels like Hearthstone with slightly different card animations. Even the six classes don't particularly feel like the Hero iterations from Fable, and instead feel like re-named versions of Rogue, Priest, and Hunter.

There are several glaring missed opportunities, too, as none of the animations, tokens, or card edges particularly evoke the flavor of Albion -- and the game board is bland, too!

If there's one single thing I hope the developers change in Early Access, it would have to be this: overhaul Fable Fortune and make it feel like you are actually playing a Fable game -- not a Hearthstone spin-off.

 Even with a Hobbe and a Balverine, this doesn't really scream Albion to me

The Bottom Line

As an Early Access game, there are still a lot of kinks to be worked out in Fable Fortune, but if you dig PC CCGs, it's well worth trying out to see if you dig it more than Hearthstone.

Want to give the game a shot? Check out our beginner's strategy guide here and get on building your perfect Bandit or Hollow Man-based deck!

Note: This review reflects the current state of the game in Early Access. Expect significant changes to be made prior to full release!

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EWin Champion Series Gaming Chair Review: Sturdy, Comfy, and Sleek (Oh My!) https://www.gameskinny.com/2ptbf/ewin-champion-series-gaming-chair-review-sturdy-comfy-and-sleek-oh-my https://www.gameskinny.com/2ptbf/ewin-champion-series-gaming-chair-review-sturdy-comfy-and-sleek-oh-my https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/a/d/d/addtext-com-mdawmte3odc1mdi-37b17.jpg 2ptbf/ewin-champion-series-gaming-chair-review-sturdy-comfy-and-sleek-oh-my Fri, 28 Jul 2017 09:46:04 -0400 Auverin Morrow

I've never owned a nice office chair. In the many, many years that I've spent hunched over my desk, grinding MMO dungeons and carrying teams in MOBA matches, I've only ever used sub-par chairs that offer the bare minimum in terms of comfort. And in the last few weeks, my current desk chair has finally started showing signs of its mortality -- mostly by swiveling as far left as possible any time I don't plant my feet firmly on the floor.

Needless to say, getting my hands on an actual gaming chair meant for long-term comfort was long overdue. Enter the Champion Series gaming chair from EWin -- an ergonomic office-style chair that's made with marathon gamers in mind. 

EWin's designs echo the familiar aesthetic of brands like DXRacer, which you'll see behind nearly every streamer on Twitch. But does it offer the same level of quality? From what I can tell, absolutely. I can't speak for the other chairs in the EWin line, but the Champion series is a solid chair that's not too costly, and offers lots of functionality to help you maximize your comfort.

Unboxing and Assembly

The EWin Champion does require some assembly out of the box to get the base, seat, arm rests, and cushions into a single unit. You can pay about $83 to have it done for you, but putting this thing together was so easy that it renders "professional assembly" totally unnecessary. It took me and another person about 10 minutes to get it in working order. 

Some of the instructions along the way were a little confusing, though. It seems like they were tailored for a model that was slightly different than the one I had, and some parts didn't quite go together the way those instructions said they should. Once we got that figured out, though, the rest of the assembly was quick and painless. 

Because of how easy it was to put together, I was a little concerned that the chair might not be structurally sound without a ton of intricate mechanisms to hold it together. But so far, it's held up just fine. 

Look and Feel

Overall, this is a pretty sleek chair. The faux leather covering feels nice to the touch and is super easy to keep clean -- so you can snack between matches or eat lunch at your desk without worrying about stains or sticky fabric.

Its patterns are a good fit for the racing aesthetic, and the colors are about as vibrant as you'd want them to be. The GameSkinny green accents on my model pop nicely against the solid black body. And though they're not the main attraction, the armrests are sturdy and nicely textured as well. 

Although it's not the household name of gaming chairs, EWin obviously paid close attention to the quality of its product. Even the stitching is clean, tight, and discreet. You'd have to do some serious damage to this thing before it started showing any signs of wear. 

Use and Customization

So it's easy to assemble and it looks nice. That's great and all, but does the EWin Champion have the functionality to back up its sleek design? Definitely. 

You can adjust this chair in a number of ways to suit your needs, whatever they are. You can adjust the height like a standard office chair, but you can also tweak a number of other structural aspects to maximize the comfort and support you get from this seat.

Its back cushion slides up and down so you can position it wherever you most need lumbar support. This is a huge boon for people who struggle with chronic back pains -- especially in situations where the lower back needs far more support than usual. I would have liked to see the same range of motion with the head pillow, but that part still fit my posture nicely, so I can't complain about it too much. 

You can also adjust the reclining angle of the chair so that you're sitting slightly back, slightly forward, or in whatever position is most comfortable for you. Or you can do what I did, and lean it all the way back to stare at the ceiling between your SMITE games and wonder why the hell the matchmaking gods have condemned you to playing with filthy casuals forever. Either way, making the adjustment is a quick (and very quiet) lever pull away. Your insides might be hardening into pure salt, but at least you're comfortable. 

Of all the customization options, though, I found myself more impressed with the arm rests than anything else. You can move them in just about any direction you desire. Slide them forward or back so they sit where your elbows naturally rest. Move them up or down to suit the height of your desk and keyboard. Push them inward or outward to make a wider or narrower base that your arms can rest on. You can even angle the armrests in or leave them parallel to each other. No matter what configuration will be most comfortable for you, you've got the option to do it with EWin's Champion gaming chair. 

Comfort Level: Maximum

With so many options packed into one chair, the real question is this: Is it comfortable? Can it keep your body feeling supported even during long gaming marathons?

After spending a week of 8-hour work days in this chair, I'd have to say that it can.

I've got lower back issues so bad that I've had multiple surgeries trying to fix the problem. So proper support is paramount -- and I'd be the first to notice if something wasn't up to snuff. But where most office chairs hurt my spine in one way or another, I could spend loads of time in the EWin Champion without feeling any sort of pain. 

I knew this chair was doing something right when the uncomfortable popping that usually happens in my lower back after being seated for long periods of time started to dissipate the more I sat in it. It wasn't curing my back problems, of course, but it offered enough support to significantly help the posture issues that cause the popping in the first place. 

If you're a sloucher, you might experience a fair amount of discomfort at first, as this chair is definitely not one that you can hunch over in. And it took me some time to stop doing so myself -- especially during really intense dungeon runs. But the extra support and the lumbar cushion made it much easier to pull myself upright and find comfort in a position that didn't make me look like Gollum.

The TL;DR here is that EWin's Champion chair offers long-lasting comfort -- once you find the position that's right for you. And as a bonus, it's got excellent rolling capabilities to boot! With a wireless headset and relatively smooth floors, I could wheel across the room fast enough to make it back before my death timer was up.

The One and Only Caveat

Personally, I've had a great experience with this gaming chair. But I want to note that if you don't take the time to really play around with it and try every configuration for the armests, lumbar cushions, recline angle, and so on, it's very easy to have a terrible time with it. 

The first few configurations I tried felt great at first, but ended up putting terrible pressure on my hips and somehow making my knees ache. I had to tweak lots of things time and time again until I finally found that sweet spot that let me sit for hours at a time without feeling arthritic. 

It's also worth mentioning that while this is a fairly roomy chair -- one that I had enough room to pull my knees up into and cry over lost qualifying games in ranked -- it may not be very well suited to heavier-set people. Even for someone hobbit-sized like me, the chair is quite narrow when you take the raised sides of the seats into consideration. So that's something to be aware of. 

Verdict

EWin may not be the name you think of when you think of gaming chairs, but it should definitely be one of them. The Champion model is a fantastically built seat that will offer you hours of comfort in a durable package. It looks nice, feels even better, and is fully customizable to give you the best seating experience possible. If you need something to help you sit tight through hours of gaming -- or all the time you spend on that 9-5 work grind -- this is definitely one you'll want to consider. 

The EWin Champion is retails for $279 on Amazon. But if you check out the official EWin store page for it, you can use the code "GS" to get 15% off your order. This chair is well worth diving into your pockets for. 

[Note: EWin provided the Champion chair used for this review.]

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Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles Review https://www.gameskinny.com/2zn6b/yonder-the-cloud-catcher-chronicles-review https://www.gameskinny.com/2zn6b/yonder-the-cloud-catcher-chronicles-review https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/y/t/c/ytcc-header-img-ee2db.jpg 2zn6b/yonder-the-cloud-catcher-chronicles-review Wed, 26 Jul 2017 17:12:35 -0400 daisy_blonde

When traversing the rolling green hills or dark gloomy caves of Prideful Sloth’s debut title, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles, it’s hard to believe that only three people developed the game. The changing seasons, character customization, weather patterns, and diverse landscape depicted are not too far removed from an open world you’d find in AAA titles such as Zelda or Final Fantasy.

This game differentiates itself from the ordinary RPG in that you don’t actually have to fight any monsters or baddies. Instead, you explore the open world of Gemea and release little creatures known as Sprites, who will help you on your way to repairing the Cloud Catcher (hence the title). While exploring, you can fish, collect materials, join guilds to improve your crafting, and adopt livestock for your farm as well as pursuing the main story quests.

But is a glorified walking and farm sim with no combat enough to keep you entertained for many hours like your standard RPG? Absolutely.

You start your journey on a boat to the mysterious island of Gemea. Suddenly, you enter a storm and are spirited away directly to the island, where you arrive at the town of Fairmont with only a compass to point the way. While there, you are given a few tools to help you with the basics of the game, such as a mallet for breaking stone and a scythe for cutting grass.

The world is vast from the first moments of the game, but some areas are blocked off by purple areas known as Murk. These reminded me of the demon gates of Okami -- but unlike Okami, there is no combat involved. Instead, you interact with the murk, which requires a certain number of sprites to be cleared up. Sprites are marked by blue glows, and they are usually hiding in rocks or shrines throughout the area.

Critics may say that without puzzles and foes, there’s no risk and therefore no reward for the player -- but I would argue that there are few titles that allow you to happily explore without making you rush at some point or giving you a game over. Even falling off a cliff in Yonder just puts you back to the top after you glide down with a multi coloured umbrella until the screen fades to black.

Yonder’s reward comes in taking your time with the game and not rushing to the next puzzle or quest. And personally, I found this enjoyable and relaxing. When I’m playing a big title like Final Fantasy XV, it’s nice to take a break from the combat through fishing or chocobo racing. To me, Yonder is essentially just the side elements you’d find in an RPG  -- but this works to the game's advantage, as it taps into the part of your gaming psyche that wants the immersion and relaxation of the fantasy world without the combat.

When compared to similar crafting and farming sims like Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing, the game doesn't get tedious or repetitive – without that crippling mortgage to pay, there’s no pressure to rush through the world.

It’s when you unlock the farm nearest to Fairmont and obtain more tools that the game really starts to develop, and you spend more time fishing, crafting items and taking care of animals than actually following the story. 

Akin to (but much easier than) the settlements in Fallout 4, there are also objectives in each area you visit to keep everyone happy by planting trees, befriending the local wildlife, and clearing the Murk -- which happens organically as you traverse your surroundings looking for Sprites and collectibles rather than acting as an irritating side quest.

I certainly adored discovering new animals and adopting them for my farms by offering them food -- such as the Groffle (which looks very like a Highland Cattle but with deer antlers), a Squomble (which looks a bit like a beaver), and the cute Sprig Pig (which is essentially a porcine creature with flowers growing all over it). Later in the game you can breed animals, which is pretty much a cuteness overload.

The only major downside to the game is the lack of voice over. Although the squeaks and noises the animals and Sprites made were pretty cutesy and endearing, the strange sounds the human characters made were a bit annoying and repetitive. Admittedly, the team behind Yonder took inspiration from older titles like Ocarina of Time, but I felt that taking away voice acting and going back to text-based dialogue was something best left in past games rather than being preserved as a nostalgic element. Perhaps in an update, voice acting could be done for the main story quests at least. 

That said, the musical score is excellent – particularly the haunting vocals in the title screen song. While not quite at Final Fantasy level, it's certainly a lot better than Animal Crossing.

Another potential drawback is pursuing the story. The story in full clocks in at around seven hours, which is quite short when compared to sprawling RPGs. I did not mind this, as I found the world more compelling than worlds you find in more narrative-driven exploration games, such as Journey.

Additionally, I felt that the core gameplay of Yonder lay in the crafting elements rather than the narrative, which -- although not rushed -- takes a backseat as you find your bearings. 

When I was traipsing round in the dark, it was initially very difficult to see where I was going. The game has been patched since I first played it, and nighttime vision seems to have improved in my post-patch version of Yonder.

If you are a fan of farming or exploration simulators with a bit of story, then be sure to pick this up. What Yonder lacks in story and combat it makes up for in a breath-taking world, beautiful mythical creatures and brilliant quests.

[Note: Prideful Sloth provided a copy of Yonder for the purposes of this review.]

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Doctor Kvorak's Obliteration Game Review - Bizarre, Unique, and Awesome https://www.gameskinny.com/7uu6l/doctor-kvoraks-obliteration-game-review-bizarre-unique-and-awesome https://www.gameskinny.com/7uu6l/doctor-kvoraks-obliteration-game-review-bizarre-unique-and-awesome https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-89f2a.jpg 7uu6l/doctor-kvoraks-obliteration-game-review-bizarre-unique-and-awesome Tue, 25 Jul 2017 23:00:01 -0400 Damien Smith

As a child, puzzle games were one of the many various genres that I played. Despite their simple design and the technological limitations of the time, games like Lemmings and Push-Over were charming, challenging, and downright fun. Sadly few modern puzzle games have that same charming personality, except for rare titles like Portal. That is of course until the release of Doctor Kvorak's Obliteration Game.

Doctor Kvorak's Obliteration Game's combination of a unique premise, complex and interesting characters, and good humor mixed with reasonably challenging puzzles made for one of the most memorable puzzle games I've played in recent memory.

More to this story than being a savior

DKOG opens up with Kvorak, a planet collecting deity, starting the most recent episode of his show which you are starring in. As the contestant on this show, you are charged with solving puzzles that allow you to collect fragments of each planet. If you collect all the pieces, then the planet is saved (aka added to Kvorak's collection); otherwise, the planet will be destroyed.

At the start, the story seems like nothing more than the player taking on the role of an alien playing a deity's galactic game show. But, you begin to realize the main plot isn't about Greeboo, the player's character, or the potential plights and evils associated with planet collecting, but rather the deity Kvorak himself.

Throughout the game a big space chicken named Eggloot will show up speaking in rhymes, often bickering with Kvorak. For instance, Eggloot shows up talking about how Kvorak's fear of bugs. Seeing this holier than thou world destroying deity, who often talks about how other sentient life is purposeless, in obvious denial about his fear of insects adds levity to the game while also exploring Kvorak's quirks.

At first glance, it is easy to see him as this evil god who is a self-proclaimed collector of worlds. However, as the game progresses, you actually start to like Kvorak despite him being the antagonist, which is something I admire since that is very hard to pull off in any form of writing.

Without this, there'd be little intrigue to the plot. But with it, I often found myself being propelled to play the game just as much by the compelling character interactions as I was by completing the next set of puzzles. In this way, it reminded me of the Portal series, which is obviously high praise for any game-- whether it be of the puzzle genre or otherwise.

That being said, I can see Kvorak's odd German (?) accent and Eggloot's off-putting French accent being potentially disarming for some players. However, I felt that the well-written characters and perfectly placed dialogue made up for that.

The More, The Merrier

The goal of the game is to complete all 15 zones (levels) to save the Planet Noo from being obliterated. As you progress through the game, the levels introduce new mechanics, puzzles and traps at a satisfying pace that never feels too fast nor slow. Unlike a lot of puzzle games, the difficulty doesn't reach obnoxious levels that cause you to get stuck on puzzles.

To progress through the levels, you will need to move blocks and platforms to grant you access to areas, use lasers to power doors, use the different characters to activate bridges, or any number of other small objectives. That is, of course, all while avoiding falling to your death, being electrocuted, or shot by the many threats present in the game.

To accomplish these tasks you will utilize three different characters over the course of your journey. At first, you will only have Greeboo, the blue alien, available to you but as you progress he will be joined by two other characters Micmac, the red cat-like being, and Tiktok, the green insect alien. Each of the characters has their own unique abilities that are exclusive to them.

Greeboo is able to create a holocube, which can be used to grant access to unreachable areas or to keep a button pressed down. Micmac is able to turn himself into a spectral form allowing him to bypass barriers and avoid being hurt by traps. Lastly, Tiktok has the ability to switch her position on the map with either of the other two characters.

The introduction of the new characters adds a whole new level of complexity to the puzzles and helps to drastically change up the gameplay. Sadly, Tiktok doesn't appear until too close to the end of the game. In fact, you only have her available for the last three levels of the game.

Excellent level design with a few minor issues

While all the levels do use the same environment, their quality design and interesting puzzles, that continue to test the player with new obstacles and challenges, help ensure that no two levels feel the same. Whether avoiding environmental hazards or finally finding a solution to a puzzle that requires you to deftly utilize all three characters, the level design shines. 

Each of the levels slowly adds in new mechanics that are presented in such a way that you don't need large amounts of on screen text or images to understand how it works. Instead, the levels themselves are designed in a way that teaches you the new mechanics before slowly and steadily increasing the difficulty.

There were a few problems I ran into along the way, though. In Zone 12, I had an issue with the laser puzzle and if it wasn't for some out of the box thinking (that I am pretty sure 'technically' broke the game) I would probably still be stuck on that level.

Note: The Zone 12 issue is now fixed

Along with that a few of the levels did have a bit too much backtracking. While that wasn't too bad by itself, the slow movement speed does make this frustrating. The turrets can be avoided by simply jumping as they fire, due to hit detection not kicking in. The 50 collectibles throughout each of the levels at times glitch out, making them appear as something completely different like a character skin for example, and also seem to be pointless to collect since I never received a reward for my efforts.

Don't let this handful of problems fool you though, all of these things are minor and didn't significantly detract from my enjoyment of the game. 

One of the most unique and enjoyable puzzle games this year

DKOG is a strange game but never the less one of the most unique and enjoyable puzzles games to release this year. There are a real charm and personality to the game that really shines throughout from start to finish. Its gameplay is great, its characters are complex and well written, it has humor and is a decent challenge. 

There is definitely a 90s feel to the game and its design. It is ridiculous, colorful, light-hearted and has a catchy soundtrack that you will find yourself humming as you walk around the house after playing it, all of which are things I have missed with modern day puzzle games as they either take a more realistic approach to aesthetic and physics, or seek to merely adopt a sleek design, foregoing characters, plot, and world building altogether.

It may not redefine the genre, but it fills in a massive hole that has been left in the puzzle genre in recent years. If you enjoy puzzle games or are simply looking for something different and unique to play, then Doctor Kvorak's Obliteration Game is well worth checking out.

Doctor Kvorak's Obliteration Game will be available to buy on Steam for PC and VR on July 26th.

A copy of the game was provided to the writer for the purpose of this review.

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Unbox: Newbie's Adventure Review -- Fun With Boxes https://www.gameskinny.com/4i9io/unbox-newbies-adventure-review-fun-with-boxes https://www.gameskinny.com/4i9io/unbox-newbies-adventure-review-fun-with-boxes https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/acb078f02f5b627751c7ca846b870fd6.jpg 4i9io/unbox-newbies-adventure-review-fun-with-boxes Mon, 24 Jul 2017 12:00:01 -0400 Erroll Maas

Picture this, a new 3D collectathon platformer which isn't a spiritual successor to or a remake of the nostalgic games of the past. This particular game also features no cartoonish humans, anthropomorphic reptiles, marsupials, or sentient magical gloves. You might be asking how that's even possible. Well, Unbox: Newbie's Adventure has the answer you're looking for.

Unbox: Newbie's Adventure is a 3D platformer by Prospect Games which stars Newbie, "the world's first self-delivering box," in a world inhabited by sentient boxes. It's up to Newbie to rescue the Zippies--generic white, always smiling delivery boxes--from the devious Wildcard gang and their leader, Boss Wild, and ultimately to save the entire world for all of box kind.

Unbox is perhaps one of the most open 3D platformers in recent memory. Its nonlinear structure encourages exploration of each of the three levels to find secrets and various collectibles. In every level--besides the hub world--the main goal is to collect 10 out of 18 stamps by completing missions or finding them hidden throughout the level. 10 stamps can usually be obtained by completing all of the missions in a level, while the other eight are hidden in the nooks and crannies or behind platforming puzzles of said levels.

After collecting 10 stamps, the boss of the level will be unlocked. The missions which need to be completed in order to obtain stamps may consist of racing, platforming, collecting items, or destroying objects and defeating enemies. Missions can also be repeated as many times as the player desires, which yields no extra stamps, but is beneficial if players want more practice to help improve their skills.

Other than the normal running (or rolling, in this case) and jumping typically expected of a game in this genre, Unbox features a unique mechanic called "Unboxing," which allows the player to not only double jump, but also use five more extra jumps all at the cost of "health."

Contrary to what one might think, "health" does not lead the player to lose a life once they're at zero, but the player will not be able to unbox until their health is regained by either collecting the "health" boxes spread throughout the level. The player can also recover "health" by dying or completing a mission to reset the unbox amount.

Certain obstacles, such as fire vents, can also cause Newbie to lose its "health," causing players to think more carefully when platforming through certain missions. Interestingly enough, Unbox also features no true health or life system, and if Newbie dies by falling or getting crushed, it just respawns at the previous checkpoint.

It's easy to assume that unboxing would make the game too easy, but depending on the mission, it can create more difficulty. Also, plenty missions don't allow the use of unboxing, which then requires more careful thought when gaining momentum and jumping between platforms.

In some missions, different types of fireworks can be used as weapons to destroy targets or hit enemies. The type of firework the player receives is determined by a shuffle after they pick up a blue fireworks box, which is similar to an item box in Mario Kart. These particular missions can be somewhat chaotic due to enemies also having weapons, forcing the player to be careful not to get hit.

This becomes even more apparent in missions where the player has no weapons, but still has to face enemies. The player can still defeat these enemies with a basic slam attack, but hitting them isn't always easy and takes a bit of practice. In these missions, it's usually better to avoid these enemies when possible, especially while jumping your way through an already harrowing platforming section. 

As previously mentioned, the levels in Unbox are expansive and players may find themselves distracted by exploration between missions. Each area is enjoyable to explore, and with vehicles and plenty of other secrets spread throughout, exploration is definitely encouraged.

Unlike other games in the genre, Newbie's appearance is completely customizable and new accessories are unlocked after completing certain missions and challenges. Newbie's appearance can either be changed on the title screen through the Box-O-Matic feature, or at the Swift Tailoring shop which is in each level.

Unbox also features competitive splitscreen multiplayer. Up to four players can race and battle against each other across 11 different multiplayer maps. Players are also able to customize their own tournaments.

Unbox is a delightful game, but has a couple of flaws keeping it from being as amazing as it could be. The two biggest flaws of Unbox are its music and its unwillingness to go further with unique mechanics. When in a level, only one music track plays during exploration and missions until the boss fight. The music itself isn't terrible, the soundtrack just needs more variety, since hearing the same track on repeat can easily become irritating when exploring levels or completing missions. As creative as the unboxing feature is, they could have experimented with it more with it to create more unique and diverse missions. This game could also benefit from a co-op mode, due to how fun exploration of each level is.

The Final Verdict--Boxes Are Great Fun, But Delivery Could Be Better

For the most part, Unbox is a normal 3D platformer. Its unique concept, singular new mechanic, and multiplayer features help make it more enjoyable than just a rehash or remake of  older games. If Prospect Games adds more content in the future, then Unbox could mark the return of new, original 3D platforming games. It should be tremendous fun for any fan of the genre, and is generally recommended to any other interested players.

Unbox: Newbie's Adventure is currently available on Steam,  and will release for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on July 26. The game will also release on Nintendo Switch at an unspecified date later this year.

A review copy was provided by Prospect Games.

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Pharmakon Review https://www.gameskinny.com/vbss7/pharmakon-review https://www.gameskinny.com/vbss7/pharmakon-review https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/p/h/a/pharmakonreviewheader-3ab46.jpg vbss7/pharmakon-review Mon, 24 Jul 2017 09:31:00 -0400 ThatGamersAsylum

Pharmakon is an indie turn-based strategy title with light RPG elements developed by the one-man team at Visumeca Games. In Pharmakon, you play as an agent who uses a drone to destroy elemental beasts. Agents come from one of five elementally based nations -- water, ice, fire, earth, and electricity -- who are each dead set on destroying the beasts in their native lands.

The game starts with your agent being assigned a mission on a previously undiscovered island. Upon arriving, you learn that beasts of all elements are intermingling on the island, and you are forced to adopt more than just your native elements to fight them off. 

Combat

A.K.A. The Whole Game

Combat sees you commanding your own drone against these beasts. You program its attacks by arranging tetrominoes, just like you might see in Tetris, into the drone. Each of the five elements has its own set of corresponding small, big, and huge beasts, along with its own set of tetrominoes.

Each type of elemental tetromino deals a certain amount of damage to each of the five elements. For instance, fire does the most damage to ice (4) and no damage to other fire enemies. One thing I really love about Pharmakon's combat is how the game tells you a lot about the beasts through its gameplay. Unlike almost any game ever, the enemies in this game never attack, they only counter attack after you have either attacked first or enraged them. Using mechanics to display the true nature of these beasts was honestly brilliant.

When you attack an enemy, you must choose to attack it from the top, bottom, left, or right. Attacking from one direction pushes it in the opposite direction, which allows you to push enemies into one another, which causes damage based on the enemy's size. Once an enemy dies, it explodes, dealing elemental damage to enemies in the eight adjacent squares -- four cardinal and four diagonal.

Knocking enemies into one another, or blowing them up on one another, causes them to become enraged. After three of these indirect attacks, an enemy will counterattack. The only way to calm enemies is by attacking them (which makes sense?). If an enemy is left alive after an attack, they will counterattack.

Once an enemy counterattacks, it leaves behind a square of its element in your drone’s grid, which causes you to actively plan around that obstacle. The only way to actually fix your drone is to sacrifice your attack tetrominoes. Sadly, the game doesn't give you a reliable way to earn more attack or repair pieces throughout the game, so you are often left scraping by between battles.

It All Comes Together

Often, the injuries from a previous battle were too grievous
to overcome in a subsequent battle.

In short, there is a lot to the battle system and for the most part, it is all thrown at you within the initial tutorial, at which point you are required to sink or swim. While it can be a little tough at times, I felt that the encounters you face early in the game were easy enough to allow you to adjust to the difficulty.

That being said, I felt the relatively barren battlefields of the early game weren’t how the game was meant to be played. In fact, it was only later into the game, once the battlefield was often halfway (or more) full of enemies, that I felt that the strategic elements really began to shine.

In these moments, the system worked extremely well. It forced you to rearrange the tetrominoes thoughtfully, carefully consider the use of your abilities and the number of attacks left until said abilities were charged, where enemies were on the field, how many hits it would take to kill or enrage them, how much you can heal, and more. It was then that I saw a truly stellar strategy title in the making.

It All Comes Apart

One Element Too Few

Sadly, however, there were also frequent problems that derailed the fun. Because you play as an agent of one particular element at any given time, the six tetrominoes you receive all belong to the same element. Since the battles and your element are randomly generated every time you die and retry, you can often get placed into situations where your tetrominoes can’t actually effectively handle your opponents. While you do also receive an extra 2 tetrominoes that are of a different element than yours, that only patches up your deficiencies and still often left me as a dead man walking. There were many times I would literally be placed into unwinnable situations which eventually lead to me dying in a war of attrition or just committing suicide (by scrapping all my attack parts for repair parts) to expedite the process of dying.

While you do also receive an extra two tetrominoes that are of a different element than yours, that only patches up your deficiencies, and can still leave you a dead man walking. There were many times I would literally be placed into unwinnable situations that eventually lead to me dying in a war of attrition or just committing suicide (by scrapping all my attack parts for repair parts) to expedite the process of dying.

I saw this screen way too many times thanks to forced suicides. 

The Rich Get Richer

The game also has a large problem with positive feedback loops. If you are not familiar with this concept, it is best described as the rich get richer. In other words, you need money to make money, which helps you make more money, which you need to make more money, which helps you make more money, and so on and so forth.

In Pharmakon, you get caught in a situation where you need to sacrifice your attack tetrominoes to heal, which means you deal less damage, which means it is harder to kill enemies, which means you will get counterattacked more often, which means you will need to heal more often, which means you need to sacrifice attack pieces more often…

This is only worsened by the fact that a piece heals what it is strongest against, so you usually have the choice of attacking the ice enemy with your fire pieces or healing all of the ice damage you’ve taken, which you eventually have to do in order to have room to place your tetrominoes, or, you know, not die.

Because of these two factors, I rarely played two missions in a row without dying.

The tutorial insists a huge part of the game is repairing, but you were never given enough pieces to sustain such a strategy. 

Thankfully, death really has no consequence, which is not so much a compliment to the game as it is a small appreciation that the game didn’t demolish me. Ultimately, this undermined the design decision to have your HP, tetrominoes, and repair parts carry over between battles. Why should I care about surviving when I know that it is highly likely that I will be placed in a situation I literally can’t fight myself out of? And if I succeed at that, then my reward is being placed in a battle that is even harder to fight my way out of because I am even more severely wounded because the game rations new pieces like it is the middle of winter during war time.

Discontent With Lack of Content

The game also has a few more problems that are less design related and more content related. While the game as a whole is sorely lacking overworld exploration or something else to help diversify its gameplay, the combat system also lacks variety. You face the same enemies from the beginning of the game all the way to the end. While you do face larger quantities of enemies with more difficult foes, that is about all the variety you get from Pharmakon's core gameplay. Moreover, there are no unique tetrominoes, so your strategies really needn't evolve much over the course of the game.

The Verdict

As I finished Pharmakon, I was left with an odd feeling. On one hand, this is one of the most unique, and interesting battle systems I have ever used in a turn based strategy game and I love that. While its combat system might sound extremely complex from the description in this review, actually learning it, using it, and mastering it felt much more fluid.

A full screen of enemies was challenging, but also rewarding.

But on the other hand, the meal feels incomplete. Not in the sense that the steak was undercooked, but in the sense that I wasn’t given the baked potato and string beans that I assumed came with my order. What's in the game was fun, but there wasn’t a ton of it, nor was there enough variety to compliment its great combat. And while it was mechanically sound at its finest, it literally compelled me to commit digital suicide on numerous occasions thanks to broken procedural generation.

Looking at the bigger picture, I was amazed how a few balancing tweaks and some additional content could make this game terrific. But realistically that is a lot of extra work.

So I leave you with this. If you find unique battle systems in games interesting, then you should check this out. Because I left the game feeling invigorated with new ideas thanks to its fresh gameplay. But if you’re looking for a sprawling, consistently well-balanced SRPG, then this game can’t claim to be the game you’re looking for.

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Editor's Note: A review copy of Pharmakon was provided by the developer. 

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The End is Nigh Review: Rage without Regret https://www.gameskinny.com/ht4z7/the-end-is-nigh-review-rage-without-regret https://www.gameskinny.com/ht4z7/the-end-is-nigh-review-rage-without-regret https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/e/n/d/end-nigh-06c76.jpg ht4z7/the-end-is-nigh-review-rage-without-regret Mon, 24 Jul 2017 09:00:02 -0400 glados131

It's hard not to think of Super Meat Boy when you load up The End is Nigh, a brutal platformer and the newest game from Tyler Glaiel and indie legend Edmund McMillen.

In many ways, The End is Nigh feels like a sort of spiritual successor to that game, as it features the same art style and type of platforming. However, level selection is replaced with a fully interconnected world, and the sentient meat cubes and evil fetuses are replaced with a delightfully weird take on the end of the world.

The story centers on Ash, a blob entertainingly voiced by Rich Evans. He is one of the few survivors of a seeming apocalypse, and he has a major problem -- his favorite game cartridge just broke. This means he must do the unthinkable and (gasp!) go outside and make a friend.

As in, literally build a friend out of scattered body parts.

It's difficult to comment fully on the story, because in classic McMillen fashion, there's more than meets the eye. On the surface, this is a story about the end of the world and learning to let go. But there are certain elements of the plot that seem to warrant further analysis. I won't say what, because I don't want to spoil the plot. Of course, as a McMillen platformer, the story isn't the main draw here.

Die, Die Again


Believe it or not, one of the easier screens in the game.

Those familiar with McMillen's work will be expecting a certain level of difficulty here. They won't be disappointed.

For a while, I wasn't sure how difficult The End is Nigh was going to get. Sure, it was challenging, but it hadn't quite reached the nigh-sadistic level of difficulty McMillen is notorious for (outside of bonus content, anyway).

It took a long time and many worlds before I really got frustrated with this game. The controls have been fine-tuned to an insane degree, making Ash satisfying to control. The game never puts you in a situation where it feels like the controls aren't doing what you're telling them, and it's highly intuitive as to what maneuvers you can and can't execute. 

My concerns about the game's difficulty were put to rest with a twist halfway through drastically increased the difficulty in an ingenious way you genuinely won't expect. This is when the game started getting frustrating for me.

I can safely say that this game is one of the hardest platformers I've ever played. It rivals and almost surpasses Super Meat Boy at some points. Spikes, enemies, bottomless pits and more all combine to create insanely demanding precision from the player.

In addition, there isn't any wall-jumping in this game -- instead, there are tiny ledges on walls you can cling to. You can either jump off them normally or pop out for a long-distance jump. These ledge jumps limit where you can move, but they do so intentionally and give you a better idea of where you are expected to go.

In a similar move to Meat Boy, death is an event that takes less than a second to recover from, so there's no forced downtime before you're able to attempt the screen again. 

Most importantly, McMillen and Glaiel went to great lengths to eliminate RNG. When you die, the screen resets completely and all enemies and obstacles return to the same locations they started in. This means that if a certain strategy was working well for you, you can attempt it again. It seems like a small change, but it works wonders for preventing frustration. 

Curiosity Killed the Ash


Secrets sometimes contain these weirdos.

The other main aspect of gameplay is what sets it apart from Super Meat Boy: the exploration. All levels interconnect, with some later levels even requiring you to return to sections of screens you've already passed.

You can easily traverse the world through a world map that lets you fast travel to any level. It's not exactly a level select, as it only puts you at the start of a level, meaning you'll have to work your way through potentially several screens to reach your destination. This can be frustrating, but once you reach the late-game levels the early ones will feel trivial by comparison.

You can collect game cartridges that you can play back in the starting area. These play like retro versions of the main stages. You can also collect hundreds of tumors, which serve as the main collectible of the game. That may sound morbid, but for McMillen it's par for the course. Get your hands on as many of those tumors as possible!

In addition, The End is Nigh has secrets areas. These areas are well-hidden, so there's always a great rush of satisfaction when you figure out how to reach one. Secret areas tend to be much tougher than the level they're located in, but they reward you with a special "mega tumor" that counts as five tumors.

These secret areas contain one of my only gripes with the game. Most are fine, but in certain high-up areas, getting mega tumors proves to be a chore. Many aerial secrets have screens with no floor. In some, if you fall, the usual happens -- you die, and start the screen over. With some, though, it's treated as an area transition. You're taken to the top edge of the screen, which is located geographically below. This means you need to make your way back to the secret area, which might be difficult to access. It's a cheap way of making the player lose progress, and one of the only times the difficulty didn't feel fair.

Soundtrack of the Apocalypse


The world ends not with a bang, but with Verdi's Requiem, apparently.

The soundtrack consists of rock remixes of classical music from the likes of Mozart, Verdi, and Tchaikovsky. Ridiculon returns as the composer, following his collaborations with McMillen on The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. Some may be disappointed with the lack of fully original music, but it's hard to argue that music as grandiose as the tracks represented here fit an apocalyptic setting a little too well. Look how well it worked in Mad Max: Fury Road.

The Verdict

The End is Nigh is not a game for casual gamers; nor is it for those who want a game they can be guaranteed to be able to beat. But for those who want a game that holds nothing back, or just want to see how far they can get, this is a game extremely worth your time.

The End is Nigh is currently available on Steam for $14.99. A Switch and PS4 release is planned for some point in the future.

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Fortnite Review: A Jumbled Mess Of Awesome https://www.gameskinny.com/vmdrr/fortnite-review-a-jumbled-mess-of-awesome https://www.gameskinny.com/vmdrr/fortnite-review-a-jumbled-mess-of-awesome https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/r/e/v/reviewcov-2e1f3.jpg vmdrr/fortnite-review-a-jumbled-mess-of-awesome Fri, 21 Jul 2017 22:51:40 -0400 Ty Arthur

Online, team-based games are absolutely dominating the gaming scene right now, from MOBAs to MOSAs to CCGs to base defense and more. Elbowing into that crowd is Fortnite, a new hybrid game from Epic, who has been responsible for Paragon, the earlier Gears Of War games, and the upcoming Unreal Tournament reboot.

Following in the footsteps of so many other developers these days, Epic is testing the waters with a huge pool of Beta testers, opening up Early Access at least five months (and potentially much longer) before full release in 2018.

After having torn up Husks, Lobbers, Pitchers, and Llamas by the hundreds, we're now ready to give a full analysis of what's on display so far. Keep in mind that this is a review based on the current state of Beta -- the full game isn't slated to launch until next year, and many changes are expected to be made before that time.

 Get ready to rack up an impressive kill count on these guys

A Satisfying Mess

Somebody let out some mad science and accidentally zapped 98% of the population off the earth, while simultaneously creating giant killer storms that also... summon hordes of zombies? Eh, just go with it. Then there's a race of seemingly-sentient and very helpful bots who would really like you to help lead humanity on a quest for survival. 

How are we going to save the world and perform some truly dangerous science experiments at the same time? By building up bases filled with traps and then slaughtering wave after wave of the shambling undead, of course.

The big focus on collecting / crafting in the first phase of any mission has echoes of Ark, where you smash everything apart while running around so you can build a new wood wall or ceiling for your collection.

 I'm somehow dismantling a tractor with a pickaxe to acquire metal bars

Bashing literally anything and everything across the landscape to pieces nets you crafting parts for not just base components but also weapons and traps, which will of course bring Minecraft to mind. In the tutorial you'll utterly annihilate cars and trees to craft... a gun.

Did all the gun stores disappear with the storm too? I guess so, since you have to craft them, or find them by destroying pinata llamas randomly awarded at the end of missions (yeah, this game gets weird). 

If you couldn't tell, Fortnite is a jumbled hodgepodge of styles and atmospheres, although for the most part this all really works well. There's humor along the lines of Borderlands or Portal, base defense and trap building game play similar to Dungeon Defenders, and a cutesy art style that will make you think of any recent Blizzard title.

 Exploding pinata llamas play a fairly prominent role in Fortnite

Base Building

Most bases for each map are transitory -- meaning they'll be gone after the quest is over -- but your primary home base is permanent and builds up over time. I named mine the Illustrious Kingdom of Home Basington. As you complete quests, your sphere of influence from the home base expands.

After you've left the map a barren wasteland by hacking apart every structure and object for spare parts, base building is a big component of the game to prepare for the waves of incoming monsters.

This part is actually quite satisfying, with an array of traps to build that must be earned by loot drops and then crafted. From healing pads to help your team to gas traps, darts, electricity jolts, and reloading spikes, there's no shortage of devious ways to protect your home and keep invaders out.

 Beginning to expand out to new locations

Beyond traps, there are plenty of different strategies to employ on how you want to design your base. Protected roof tops nests for snipers? Winding maze of tunnels filled with spike traps? Funneling the enemies with stone walls into a kill zone? You can do all that and more.

Structures can be reconfigured on the fly, adding doors to walls and building stairs to get where you need to go. Creative use of base editing can get floors and ceilings into some interesting configurations without blocking your line of fire and while keeping your precious Atlas safe.

After playing for a couple dozen hours, I've come to the hilarious conclusion that Fortnite somehow has a more of a satisfying building UI than Fallout 4 that's both more intuitive and easier to navigate. Take notes on that, Bethesda.

There is a downside to the base building that will need to be addressed before full release though -- if you have four players really on top of things, the enemies will rarely ever reach your traps.

Breaking with the style of the aforementioned Dungeon Defenders, unless you are on a particularly difficult quest or feel like trying to solo a map, sometimes all that effort put into base building feels wasted. Whether the enemies need to be tougher or the player damage needs to be lowered, that issue could use some tweaks.

 It looks empty now, but soon a sprawling complex will develop here

Sometimes A Not-So-Satisfying Mess

There's always some new, unexpected element being thrown into Fortnite, like saving wayward Survivors or suddenly playing whack-a-troll with your pickaxe when an interdimensional being pops into existence for no apparent reason.

While that leads to plenty of fun and excitement, it also results in a confusing mess of elements after each quest is completed. There are an absurd number of elements at play here drawn from a variety of game genres, and many of them aren't readily accessible or immediately easy to understand, like building Squads or switching to a different primary Hero.

 Every screen has too many options and it isn't clear what half of them do or why they are locked

There are several Hero classes to switch between - soldier, constructor, ninja and outlander, along with a horde of sub-classes for different skill lineups - as well as different classifications for various Survivors.

Those non-Hero characters (which level by a different experience track than you) are grouped into Survivor Squads, Defender Squads, and Expedition Squads, all of which have multiple slots to unlock, groups to assemble, and bonuses to accrue based on how you assemble them.

This is all complicated by randomized card drops for everything from Heroes to Survivors to Schematics for base objects, so working towards a specific build isn't always a viable option.

On top of that, there's a quest to upgrade your overall Collection of all these different elements by permanently sacrificing cards you've earned, but you can't access that area until you unlock a specific skill later on in the unwieldy tree. While skill points are earned by completing quests, research points generate over time, but you can upgrade their accrual rate by using skill points.

Between multiple star versions of the same characters who can be leveled independently, three different experience tracks, the ability to evolve anything, four different skill trees... it all becomes clear that Fortnite is in need of some simplification. Or at the very least, a more coherent tutorial that makes it more clear how all this works from the beginning.

That being said, even though there's too much going on, each of those individual elements is a ton of fun to play with, so it's less of a complaint than you'd think. With a little tweaking, this could be the new big mutliplayer franchise to look out for.

Ready to try out Early Access? Check out our beginner's guide here before you get started building and killing!

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Splatoon 2 Review https://www.gameskinny.com/oi24s/splatoon-2-review https://www.gameskinny.com/oi24s/splatoon-2-review https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/2/0/1/2017072113080300-cba841b50a92a904e313ae06df4ef71a-a2c23.jpg oi24s/splatoon-2-review Fri, 21 Jul 2017 16:26:38 -0400 David Fisher

While the Wii U had a decent lineup that included plenty of great titles, many of its games did not get to meet a wide audience due to poor console sales. As such, a number of those titles have been getting remasters, ports, or sequels on the Nintendo Switch. Splatoon 2 is one of these latter games, and hopes to capture fans of the original as well as new players with its updated graphics, enhanced gameplay, and expanded modes.

But does this new title have what it takes to be a fresh squid kid, or will it reek of month-old calamari? Dive into our review find out!

The Plot

Meet Pearl and Marina, your new hosts in Splatoon 2

Splatoon 2 takes place two years after the Octarians were defeated in the original Splatoon. At the very start of the game, you'll be greeted by the two new hosts of SquidTV -- Pearl and Marina -- who will reveal that the Great Zapfish has disappeared once more. Not only that, but Squid Sister Callie has gone missing as well.

Should the player choose, they can enter a manhole on the left side of Inkopolis Square to enlist in Marie's New Squidbeak Splatoon to help find the Great Zapfish by battling the Octarians once more.

Marie's attitude and references to the first game are abound in Hero Mode

Splatoon 2's story mode is a little more dynamic than the previous title, as Marie's narration is filled with much more personality than Cap'n Cuttlefish. Other than that, most of the story is told through gameplay and brief conversations that ultimately lead to a battle with the final boss.

While the story mode has no real effect on the game as a whole, it's a fun little diversion that can unlock rewards for the main game. Most of these are cosmetic -- other than the tickets that can be used to buy food at Crusty Sean's food truck to get experience and cash bonuses.

The Gameplay

Single Player

Splatoon 2's single player Hero Mode is more of the same to an extent, but it vastly improves upon the formula from the first game. Whereas players would be given a single mechanic to understand per-stage in the first game, Splatoon 2 very quickly incorporates various obstacles from the earlier stages into the next ones. This makes for a steeper difficulty curve than the original, and helps keep things feeling new as you progress along the campaign.

As you travel along the various stages you will meet various Octoling types, each with their own style of combat. The AI hasn't improved by very much, but the developers seem to have compensated for that by increasing the number of enemies in an area at any given time. Not that the AI enemies needed to be particularly effective either, as the Hero Mode acts more as a type of training room for new players so that they can adjust to gameplay more than it does as a serious campaign.

That said, Hero Mode is much tougher this time around from the get-go than it was in the original Splatoon title, so don't get too comfortable too quickly. This is especially true of boss enemies, as they are much more aggressive -- and effective -- than they were before.

Multiplayer

Multiplayer in Splatoon 2 is as fun as ever. With new weapons, strategies, and more, the game has truly evolved as gameplay is much more dynamic than in the Wii U title.

Thanks to many of the weapons changes, the game has a much higher skill ceiling than before, but without sacrificing the ease of access for newcomers. Rollers are more than just a means of covering the map as they are now more aggressive, chargers are exponentially more effective at taking out enemies as intended, and other weapons just work better for their intended uses than they did before. Furthermore, new weapons such as the Splat Dualies also fill the voids for absent weapon classes by allowing for agile, offensive, and high-skill gameplay.

Ranked modes have also been rebalanced to ensure players aren't being carried to the top by being good at a single ranked battle type. Also, the individual battle types have been reworked to ensure that teams can make easier comebacks, as objectives no longer feel like game-breaking issues if you don't get to them first.

Add onto this the fact that free updates will be delivered in a similar fashion to the Wii U game, and this game is guaranteed to stay fresh for at least 2 years.

Many of the special weapons found in the original Splatoon are gone now, but they have for the most part been replaced, adapted, or separated into the many new special weapons found in Splatoon 2. Overall, they feel much more skill-oriented than they did in the first game, and none feel remarkably overpowered. Instead, they feel more like a reward for doing well, but not so much so that you feel frustrated when the enemy gets one.

Salmon RunSplatoon 2's co-op mode, is another fun feature that all players have to play to truly understand how great it is. Whether it is played locally, with friends online, or even just with complete strangers online, Salmon Run offers a challenging - and sometimes brutal - side game that will have players scrambling to collect salmon eggs while simultaneously avoiding getting wiped out.

Playing Salmon Run will also help players get special gear that cannot be unlocked by traditional means, so it pays to give it a shot.

Local has been greatly improved over what was found in Splatoon on the Wii U. Now, players can enter local lobbies with their friends via the Switch's wireless capabilities to play private battles or host Salmon Run games. This is a blessing from the sky compared to the weak local multiplayer found on the Wii U, and should preserve this game well beyond the inevitable server shutdown many years from now.

While Splatnet 2 is a great feature, I feel it important to mention that the voice chat portion of the Nintendo Switch Online app is a disaster at the time of writing. This serves as the only weakness I would really pin on Splatoon 2 -- as the flimsy means of teaming up or speaking with teammates really pulls away from the overall experience of online play. Voice chat is only available in Private Battle, League, or Ranked Battle modes with friends. Meanwhile, standard online Turf War multiplayer rooms still don't have a party system, and hurts the experience.

To add onto the mess, the Online App needs to have your phone dedicated to the app, and to stay on (not even in sleep mode) to make sure friends can still hear you. It honestly feels as though the developers of the mobile app ran out of time or simply have no idea how to create a phone app.

If I was forced to say something good about the voice chat portion... at least the voice quality is good? While it is certainly an upgrade to the radio silence that we had in the first Splatoon, it isn't exactly effective as-is. 

To put it plainly: until Nintendo reworks its Nintendo Switch Online app so that lobbies can be made outside of the game itself, it might as well have never existed in the first place.

The Presentation

Splatoon 2 is every bit as beautiful and lively as its predecessor, and then some. Running at a steady 60 FPS at adaptive 1080p during gameplay -- and 30 FPS while in Inkopolis Square -- you quickly learn to appreciate the smooth framerate during hectic Turf Wars.

Models and textures have been greatly improved. And while it might not be noticeable in the images provided, animations have been made much more fluid than ever before. The game overall feels very alive, and doesn't at all feel as alien as it did on the Wii U.

Most importantly, the music in Splatoon 2 definitely sounds as though it benefited from a higher budget this time around. Whereas Splatoon had more of a mainstream J-Rock and J-Pop influence, Splatoon 2 aims for a more underground sound that still carries the same energy that the first game was known for. With over 50 individual tracks, Splatoon 2 overtakes Splatoon's song count by 20 tracks -- and the quality sticks.

The Verdict

Splatoon 2 looks, feels, and plays great. If you enjoyed the first Splatoon, you'll love it even more this time around. That said, Nintendo does need to make some quick changes to its online phone app if it's going to make the already messy phone-console setup at least remotely viable for voice chat. Sure, playing with the phone on speaker mode is great and all, but I would personally like to see Nintendo put a little extra effort in to ensure that everything runs just a bit more smoothly.

Aside from the current voice chat situation, Splatoon 2 is undoubtedly a must-have for any owner of a Nintendo Switch console. It's a fun, beautiful, and action-packed ride that will have any third-person shooter fan clam-oring for more.

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Jump for Joy with Bean's Quest! https://www.gameskinny.com/9j3ha/jump-for-joy-with-beans-quest https://www.gameskinny.com/9j3ha/jump-for-joy-with-beans-quest https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/i/m/g/img-3099-3e991.PNG 9j3ha/jump-for-joy-with-beans-quest Thu, 20 Jul 2017 17:35:54 -0400 daisy_blonde

Not to be confused with the Mr. Bean played by Rowan Atkinson, Bean's Quest is a quirky platformer developed by Kumoblus Games available on iPhone. The titular character is a small (possibly jalapeño) green bean with a sombrero who leaps from platform to platform; in fact, he's so full of beans that you cannot control the jumps, putting a unique twist on the general controls of traditional 2D platformers.

There is real challenge in timing your movements by tapping on the left or right of the screen so that you don't fall down gaps or get taken down by enemies, which can take a bit of getting used to. The soundtrack is very reminiscent of old platformers such as Super Mario Brothers and Sonic, and the gameplay does change in difficulty to make it enjoyable and challenging. In this short review, we’ll evaluate the graphics, soundtrack, and gameplay to see if it’s worth a download.

Bean's Quest Graphics

The graphics for Bean's Quest are vibrant and incredibly reminiscent of an 8-bit or 16-bit platformer from the 1990s. In fact, the early build of the game was promoted with a poster that looked like a Sega Master System cartridge case, so you can see the kind of aesthetic the developers were going for.

The main playable character (a green bean) and the sprites can be described as a mixture of 8-bit and HD – kind of like the stylized retro platformers indie game developers on the whole are currently making. The collectible axolotl (a Mexican salamander) looks very cute and is a great cartoony depiction of the animal.

Overall, the graphics are right up your alley if you're a fan of SNES or Genesis titles from yesteryear. 

Bean's Quest Soundtrack

The music by Flashy Goodness isn’t terribly memorable, but it has nice synth trumpet effects that you’d expect in a bigger game like Samba de Amigo. It certainly gives off the right vibe that you are in a cartoony version of Mexico, making the game more "realistic" in that regard. 

Bean's Quest Gameplay

Here's the meat and potatoes. The gameplay in Bean's Quest is extremely addictive and keeps you striving to reach all your objectives. You have three main objectives in each level: to collect all the gems; to find and rescue axolotl; and to only bounce the number of times set by the level. This third objective is a bit like golf in that you have to reach the par score of the level or begin again.

The first few levels are pretty easy, but the game gets harder as you progress. The main element of Bean's Quest is timing. You have to time your bounces to perfection to avoid hazards such as spikes -- or from falling off ledges. Getting used to the bouncy nature of this platformer can take a bit of familiarization, but much like driving a car, it soon becomes second nature.

The game has a total of eight worlds: Grasslands, Dusty Desert, Crystal Peak, Skyruins, Wizard’s Lair, and Malmagoz. Each world has at least eight levels, so there is a lot to keep you playing. The levels are pretty short, meaning that you could quite easily fit this in during your lunch break at work or your morning commute (but we don't necessarily advocate gaming and driving). There are no boss fights like in Sonic – the challenge is in reaching all three of your objectives for each level. 

Is Bean's Quest Worth Buying?

The game is a fun platformer with a bit of a twist. The Aztec-inspired environments are amazing and the colors of enemies and sprites are very vibrant. That said, the enemies can sometimes be a bit generic and the difficulty level does ramp up very quickly. I did find the controls to lag a bit on my phone, and unlike similar games, you only have the option to move the bean by clicking on the left and right arrows – you can’t switch to swipe controls.

The different objectives make it very reminiscent of the platformers of old, and it’s these that will make you keep coming back to the game for one more go.

The game is available to download for $2.99 on the App Store and for $2.99 on Google Play.

Get Bean's Quest on the App Store

Get Bean's Quest on Google Play

 

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Logitech G433 Review: A Colorful Headset That Gets the Job Done https://www.gameskinny.com/p2nvu/logitech-g433-review-a-colorful-headset-that-gets-the-job-done https://www.gameskinny.com/p2nvu/logitech-g433-review-a-colorful-headset-that-gets-the-job-done https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/l/o/g/logitech-review-hero-caf83.png p2nvu/logitech-g433-review-a-colorful-headset-that-gets-the-job-done Mon, 17 Jul 2017 15:34:50 -0400 Jonathan Moore

To say I'm a big fan of Logitech G would be an understatement. Their G533 gaming headset blew me away when I reviewed it, and I'm a pretty big proponent of most of the products in their peripheral catalog. So it's no surprise that I jumped at the chance to get my hands on the Logitech G433, the newest headset in an ever-growing line. 

We'll get into specifics in just a sec, but the G433 is a universal headset that does a lot of things very well -- it just doesn't seem to push the bar forward in substantial ways. And coming in at $100 (just $50 less than Logitech-G's robust G533 flagship), you'd expect it to give you just a little more bang for the proverbial buck. 

The G433's Design is Sleek, Understated Chic

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the headset's sound quality and comprehensive performance, let's talk about the G433's overall design out of the box. 

Compared to Logitech G's other headset offerings such as the G430 and G633, the G433 is more vibrant in color but understated in aesthetic. Coming in red, blue, camo blue, and black, it's sleek and streamlined -- and it makes sense, seeing as it's made for people on-the-go and for use across multiple devices. Not only does the G433 work on your PC, console, and mobile phone, but it also looks and feels like a pair of Beatz headphones -- which is great for its portable, platform-agnostic ethos.

On top of that, the G433 comes packaged with interchangeable earpads (cloth and suede) that provide two distinct feelings. I found that the suede earpads were softer, more comfortable, and blocked more ambient sound. But the cloth earpads were rougher, breezier, and did a better job of wicking sweat away from my ears during marathon gaming sessions. 

Overall, the headset is comfortable and snug, with a padded headband keeping its weight evenly distributed across the top of the head. The G433's headstrap isn't as agreeable as those found on the Arctis 3 or Arctis 7, but it's competent for long gaming sessions and easily adjustable.

However, the biggest gripe I have in this department is that the headset is creaky -- especially when eating or when turning your head from side to side. Sometimes this overpowered the sound booming from the 40mm Pro-G drivers. And the headset chassis feels a little flimsy around and above the earcup hinges -- but so does the G533 on that last account, so it's probably something you're already used to when using Logitech headsets. 

The G433's Music Performance



From a functionality standpoint, I was never really blown away by the G433 in my 30 or so hours of use. The Pro-G drivers, which are designed to ameliorate distortion at low frequencies and provide tones closer to the quality of the source audio, felt just above average out of the box. While they did their job of effectively eliminating distortion even when the headset (and computer audio) was set to max volume, they weren't nearly as immersive as the drivers in the G533. 

And while the G433 sounds best when plugged into a computer using the USB dongle and Logitech Gaming Software, it also provides competent sound quality when plugged into an iPhone or Android device. The headset comes out of the box with a 3.5mm cable that easily slots into your mobile device and is suited for analog connections, making it more ubiquitous than the G533. 

When it came to music, the G433 did an adequate job of parsing individual instrument tracks in songs such as The Way the News Goes from Periphery: III and Wagner's Flight of the Valkyries. It also brought deeper bass tones out of Kendrick Lamar's Humble and highlighted the kick drum in Periphery's Alpha. But overall, it felt as if the music surrounded me -- instead of bringing me inside of it. It's a subtle difference between the G533 and G433, but a difference that's worth noting as a major variance in immersion. 

But when stacked against the Arctis 5 from SteelSeries, for instance, the G433 wins across the board, providing a richer, more vibrant tonal soundscape. 

The G433's Gaming Performance


But since we're really here to talk about how the G433 operates in a gaming environment, let's get this out of the way right now: the G433 is the third best gaming headset I've ever used. When compared to others in its class, it performs steps above the competition -- especially when coupled with Logitech's hardy gaming software. It doesn't outperform the G533 or the HyperX Cloud Revolver S, but that's expected when those are the flagship headsets of their respective lines. 

In-Game Sound

When tested in games such as Battlefield 1 (basically the benchmark for impeccable in-game audio) and Nex Machina, the G433 performed well. The thrum of a .50 caliber machine gun brings you into the trenches of the war to end all wars, while the rhythmic thumps and crescendos of Nex Machina's psychedelic neon concerto bring you directly into a Robotron-inspired world. With Paladins, the announcer at times felt obnoxiously present (even with the in-game settings adjusted to lower volumes). But overall, the custom acoustic port proprietary to the G433 brings out the lows and mids that accentuate each game.  

The only real gripe I have in this department is that the DTS 7.1 surround sound baked into the G433 (easily turned on and off via Logitech's gaming software) feels imitated instead of realistic. Using the G533 with Battlefield 1, I was able to pinpoint exactly where enemies were hiding or from what direction they were shooting; but that was harder to do with the G433 even on the same settings and in the same environment. In essence, I wasn't able to get a good sense of directional panning, which keeps this headset from being truly immersive across media when connected to your PC. 

In-Game Communication

Another big point for gamers is (obviously) communication when playing multiplayer games such as SMITE, League of Legends, and Overwatch. The G433's flexible boom mic, which connects via a 3.5mm pin to the headset's left earpiece, is crystal clear in nearly all gaming scenarios tested. When plugged into your PC via the USB digital sound card dongle, communication is crisp -- aided by a 5mm pop filter that cancels most ambient sound. There are no thrums or hums to be had here, which is especially helpful for eSports players and streamers alike. 

That story changes slightly when plugged into a phone or mobile device via the 3.5mm cable, with more pops slipping through the filter. However, the mic operates well for meetings and phone calls in this capacity, adding distinct volume and clarity to your voice. 

The Verdict

The Logitech G433 is a very well-executed headset that adds ubiquity and style to the gaming headset submarket. It implements new and old technology well, but it doesn't reset the bar for gaming headsets on the whole. Its main selling point, the custom acoustic port and chamber, is interesting in theory and does provide deeper bass tones and richer mids in practice -- but doesn't stack up with the G533, which is just $50 more. 

However, if you're a gamer who's looking for a global headset that provides great sound both on the go and at your PC, you couldn't do much better than the G433. It doesn't really matter that I wasn't blown away by the headset in my time with it or that it doesn't do everything exceptionally well. What matters is that it's a competent headset which gets the job done and is ultimately affordable for a section of the market that may not be able to fork over for higher-end models. 

If you want to pick up the G433 for yourself, you can grab it on Amazon.

Note: Logitech provided the G433 unit used for this review.

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Oceanhorn: Breath of the Mild https://www.gameskinny.com/nkwsl/oceanhorn-breath-of-the-mild https://www.gameskinny.com/nkwsl/oceanhorn-breath-of-the-mild https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/6/5/9/6595cf0d7defd4.jpg nkwsl/oceanhorn-breath-of-the-mild Wed, 12 Jul 2017 20:01:54 -0400 eleccross

Oceanhorn is a game that originally released for iOS back in November of 2013 and got console ports on Xbox One and PS4 three years later. Now it's on the Nintendo Switch, going back ever so slightly to its mobile roots.

Oceanhorn very obviously takes inspiration from The Legend of Zelda series. This is pretty damning because that means there are better games like it to play, especially on consoles.

The story isn't bad, but could be executed better

The story goes that long ago there was a civilization that thrived on technology, but by going to far they unleashed a powerful evil on the world that left it as a shell of what it once was and eradicating the most technologically advanced civilization. One of the beasts, Oceanhorn, that was unleashed by this evil is alive to this day and hunts down your bloodline. Your father left you to protect you from the Oceanhorn but years later you find you must leave your island to defeat the Oceanhorn and maybe find your father.

 The story has a great premise but the execution isn't very great. Characters are very forgettable and aren't given much background.  At some point you go to an island where you're asked to help with a ceremony, you fight a boss, and suddenly you have a love interest.

The graphics leave something to be desired

Oceanhorn's graphics are about what you'd expect from a critically acclaimed mobile game. The textures and models look good and are reused often, but aren't applied particularly well. This is especially apparent in cut scenes where the camera pans down to the character's level and you can sometimes catch a few cracks between the models. Occasionally you'll come across a random object that is difficult to move around for no good reason, such as a log placed in the middle of a cave that you have to squeeze past one way and can't get by the other way.

The general lack of any background during these cut scenes makes the world feel a lot more empty. You could argue against this point because the whole game takes place on islands. However, the same problem persists in caves too, where the cave walls only go so high and then drop into a flat plane that goes on until the draw distance runs out.

Speaking of islands, the ocean is probably the worst looking thing in the game. It's depicted as just a shiny reflective surface that wobbles a bit. In a game that features good textures, the lackluster presentation of water feels very out of place with the game's art style.

Despite the fact that it has areas that could be improved, nothing is particularly bad looking though. Looks are probably where Oceanhorn shines the most. Still, the placement of objects seems random and just generally not thought out at times.

The gameplay is somewhat awkward at times

The gameplay is like a simplified 2D Zelda game. You move around the world with the control stick. There is no jumping, like in most Zelda games. You can drop down from ledges, but only ones that are closer to the ground below. Which feels very limiting. There are times when a ledge is just barely too high to jump off simply because the game wants you to take a longer route.

Among the other movement options is a very wonky dash. You can only dash in a straight line and there's a long lag between letting go of the button and being able to move normally again. The stamina bar is also very weird, it feels like even if you use more than half of the bar, it seems to drain the whole thing even if it seems like it shouldn't have. The dash works, but not without problems.

Combat is as bland as bland can get. Swinging your sword will do one of a few random attack motions, which makes randomly attacking enemies difficult. The only other thing you can do with your sword is a spin attack, which you do by holding the attack button down. You have a shield which blocks any damage that hits it when you hold down the button, but it's not worth it for any enemies except those that actually require your shield, which you can just run past. Combat never evolves beyond these mechanics and gets very old very fast.

Enemies are mostly punching bags and don't put up much of a fight. When you're hit or even die it feels less like you're at fault and more like you where cheated. There's a very small variety of enemies in the game, most of which just run at you in an attempt to make contact. Boss fights use the usual Zelda formula of "use X item on Y weakness," so they don't offer much variety either.

There are some boss fights where the camera lowers and it turns into a sword duel. However these are nothing more than a slap fight. You're supposed to wait for them to put their shield down and go in for a strike, but when they have their shield up or down is questionable most of the time. You save time by just swinging at them until they go down.

You pick up an assortment of items and magic through the game, such as bombs and a bow. These are better saved for puzzles, unless you really have trouble taking down the bigger enemies.

The puzzles in the dungeons are very simple and rarely challenging. They range from arranging boxes in a way that allows you to pass, to pushing buttons that are slightly out of the way to open a door. Sometimes you'll need an item for the puzzle, but not very often. An item will rarely see use outside of the dungeon you get it from, which even Zelda has moved away from.

A unique feature of this game are the levels. Completing challenges and killing enemies gives you XP gems which level you up when you collect enough. Leveling up gives you upgrades like higher item capacity or more effective spells but will also occasionally just give you coins. Each island shows you three challenges, but unless it's specified, you can complete them anywhere. This is an interesting feature that adds a mechanic to a game that usually wouldn't have it, but because Oceanhorn is a game where you need to progress linearly, levels can't reward you with much.

Traveling between islands in Oceanhorn looks like how it is in Wind Waker, but extremely bare bones. When you leave an island a map of the world opens up. You select an island and the boat moves on a straight path to your destination. Once you hit level 2, you get a gun on the boat and random clusters of crates, mines, and enemies. The boat section between islands is nothing more than padding, possibly to make the game more like Zelda. The game would be better without it.

Oh, and there's fishing thrown in. You can sell the fish you catch for money and there's a fish book you can fill if you're a completionist. To the games favor, it's one of the best fishing mini-games I've played in awhile. It's nice and simple.

Oceanhorn is relatively unimpressive and a little dated

Oceanhorn probably worked better as a mobile game back when not much was expected of such games. But as a modern game on consoles there are so many better options. It's bland combat, promising yet disappointing story, and gameplay padding are all relics of an age of mobile gaming that we're long past. The graphics, art style, and lore are all good, but that still doesn't warrant a $15 price tag for an $8 mobile game.

What do you think? Does Oceanhorn still have a place in modern gaming? Leave a comment below and keep your eyes on Gameskinny for more Switch reviews and the like.

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Antihero Review - An Honest Review about 'Honest Thieving' https://www.gameskinny.com/f2gdq/antihero-review-an-honest-review-about-honest-thieving https://www.gameskinny.com/f2gdq/antihero-review-an-honest-review-about-honest-thieving https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-81044.png f2gdq/antihero-review-an-honest-review-about-honest-thieving Mon, 10 Jul 2017 16:01:37 -0400 Angelica Dimson

Antihero is strategy game published by indie developer, Versus Evil -- the same publisher who developed the Banner Saga. It is created by Tim Conkling, who created the flash game Corpse Craft: Incident at Weardd Academy, which is also a strategy game with a similar dark aesthetic.

In Antihero's story based campaign mode, you take on the role of Master Thief, playing either as Lightfinger or his friend, Emma. As Master Thief of your own guild, you must defeat other crime leaders -- using bribes, blackmail, and assassinations to come out on top.

Stab, Plunder, Blackmail. Repeat?

Time to conquer everything!

The Basics of Being a Crime Lord

Overall, I found the gameplay addicting and really easy to learn. Taking on the role as Master Thief, you can hire special units to help you succeed against the AI. There are urchins who infiltrate buildings, bodyguards who block the path of your opponent, gangs to help beat up baddies, and so many others! For the first three levels, the game takes its time to teach you the basics and gradually introduces more aspects to its gameplay.

Time to rob somebody.

At its core, the gameplay reminded me of some resource management table top games such as Settlers of Catan or Lords of Waterdeep, except with a twist of debauchery. To win against your opponent, you have to gather enough "Victory Points" which come in the form of obtaining information to blackmail people, assassinating a specific figure on the map, or gaining bribes.

In order to do so, you need to gather two types of resources: gold and lanterns. Lanterns unlock perks in the guild to assist you in your goals such as gaining more character types to hire or power ups for your Master Thief. Whereas coins are used to hire more thugs to help you against your enemy.

Initially, I was afraid that the formula of earning Victory Points would make the game boring. However depending on the level, Victory Points are achieved differently. For example, instead of gaining five Victory Points the usual way, in one level I had to break into the royal palace and steal their treasure before my other Victory Points counted.

Don't take the children! The urchins like that orphanage! Nooo!

This was a welcome change that prevented monotonous gameplay. In addition, the first few crime bosses I came up against had different strategies on how they obtained their Victory Points. One was more aggressive than the others, and thus assassinated more while the other would wait to gain enough resources in order to obtain blackmail. It made it so you had to adapt to each enemy's strategy, which made it even more addicting.

Creepy and Charming

So it's Lightfoot versus those eight scary, criminal characters? Oh dear.

When I first started playing Antihero's story mode, I found myself drawn to its ironic aesthetic. Even though it deals with dark criminal machinations, the art style has a creepy charm to it -- similar to Don't Starve characters, while still being original.

The cutscenes played out as comics, while a British narrator framed the story. It was a very nice touch to add to its Dickensian atmosphere.

More Game, Less Story

Lightfinger, I don't know why someone wanting to kill you is a surprise. It's not like you're the leader of some uprising guild. Oh wait.

Even though the gameplay is very enjoyable, I found that the "story-based campaign" took a backseat to the over-arching strategy gameplay. Initially the comic book format with a narrator was charming however as it went on, it was only a brief moment before a long tactical battle.

The story presents itself in an overly serious tone while failing to raise the stakes because in gameplay as a Master Thief, nothing can hurt you; only hire-able units could be eliminated. 

What I believe could have helped is if the narrator dramatized more while telling the story. He had a very steady tone throughout all the cutscenes that didn't add a sense of dread to Lightfinger's dilemmas.

Verdict

Overall, Antihero is a fun, addicting game for those who like both resource management and intrigue. It prods players to adapt to different strategies and goals to beat your opponents. Despite its formulaic gameplay, it doesn't tire its concept and alters the winning formula which is a welcome challenge for players. 

Although it has a Dickensian atmosphere and charming art, its story doesn't shine through its aesthetic. So it's not for those who are in it for the story. However if you want to plot against your enemies and eventually your friends (once Antihero releases their online gameplay), you'll spend hours on end to defeat them.

Antihero is available for purchase on Steam

Note: The developer provided a copy of the game for the purposes of this review.

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Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age Review https://www.gameskinny.com/zborf/final-fantasy-xii-the-zodiac-age-review https://www.gameskinny.com/zborf/final-fantasy-xii-the-zodiac-age-review https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/f/f/1/ff12-review-head-80e4e.png zborf/final-fantasy-xii-the-zodiac-age-review Mon, 10 Jul 2017 08:00:01 -0400 Ashley Gill

If there was one game that really and truly disappointed me on the PlayStation 2, it was the original release of Final Fantasy 12.

That's not a great way to start a review, but it's the truth. I, like many others at the time, expected something different and a little more traditional after the series veered into MMORPG territory with Final Fantasy 11.

Final Fantasy 12 didn't use a traditional turn-based system, the plot was immemorable and convoluted, and the game's slow speed overall made its huge dungeons a test in tedium. That was my opinion then and it's still my opinion now: The original version of the game was not very good.

But here we are in 2017, and I'm giving The Zodiac Age a full-on 9. How could this happen?

Improved twice over

Surely you've heard of something being "ahead of its time", and in some ways the original game was just that... at least in the combat department.

See, The Zodiac Age is not FF12's first revamp. It itself is actually a remaster of a previously Japan-only version of the game (International Zodiac job System version -- or IZJS) that came out in 2007 and had almost all the bells and whistles seen in this newest release. At least, it had the majority of the functional ones.

IZJS contained all the job classes, new Gambits, equipment tweaks, new weapons, New Game+ and - modes, Trial Mode, and speed up button back in 2007. The additions and changes were simply staggering at the time and changed the game completely, from a slog to a joy to play.

Jelly grinding at 4x speed is great.

These additions in IZJS have been brought over to TZA, with some even more welcome features and improvements. An overlay map so you don't have to open the full map every 20 seconds, the addition of second classes for each character, a reorchestrated soundtrack, enemy balancing, cleaned-up visuals, and the removal of the spell buffering that made mages less than ideal in the original and IZJS.

The Zodiac Age is a brand new game when compared to the original Final Fantasy 12, and deserves to be remembered as the true twelfth mainline entry to the series rather than the original release.

Jobs, Licenses and Gambits

For those uninitiated, Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age's combat system may seem strange. It's a sort of hybrid between the classic turn-based menu battle system and real time combat, with a bigger focus on menus.

The player can only directly control one character at a time, with that character and the other two in the party functioning based off Gambits, which the player sets up to suit their playstyle and the situation. The combat system was one of the fanbase's biggest complaints about the original game with criticisms that it "played itself" but that was not the case then and certainly is not now.

One could easily claim that Final Fantasy 12's battle system has gotten better with age, but much of that boils down to perception when comparing today's JRPGs to those of a decade ago -- plus the speed up function makes the game several times more enjoyable.

The License system from the original release is still intact, but here in The Zodiac Age each character chooses jobs instead of everyone working with the same License board. Each foe kill grants License Points (LP) you can put toward learning to use new Magicks, Technicks, passives, and equipment.

Each character can choose two jobs, which are permanently chosen once locked in. You start with one and unlock the ability to use a second once you've progressed the story to a certain point.

The job system was one of my personal biggest draws to the IZJS release and is a pretty big draw in The Zodiac Age as well, as it serves as the game's primary source of character customization. With 12 total jobs, two to a character, there is a lot of room for playstyle customization.

Living in The Zodiac Age

This version of the game has some unique rebalancing compared to its predecessor, specifically in the foe difficulty department.

Players of both the original Final Fantasy 12 and IZJS will notice the game is much easier than either previous iterations. For some that may sound good, but it makes it so you finish the game at a much lower level than before and boss fights, which were once a real challenge, don't require a lot of effort outside the optional high-tier Marks and Esper fights.

The game's hardcore challenges lie in Trial Mode and New Game- (Weak) Mode. Players must complete Trial Mode to unlock Weak Mode, which starts every character at a single-digit level and keeps them there for the entire game.

But those who want to play through again and feel like a monster can similarly complete the game and run through it again on New Game+ (Strong) Mode, which starts each character at level 90 to run through the game with ease.

Most remaster releases simply bring visual and audio improvements, and while The Zodiac Age's improvements and additions go far past that point, it does look and sound significantly better than the original release.

The game's textures look great with few low-res textures found, everything looks crisp, and the PlayStation 2 character models hold up surprisingly well. Visually it's a modest improvement, though one could certainly complain about the motion blur in many cutscenes.

If the above sounds a bit lukewarm, it's only because the reorchestrated soundtrack is so much of an improvement over the original that it completely takes the cake. I don't enter an area and think, "Wow, this looks great," I enter a new area and think, "Wow, this sounds amazing!" You can choose to listen to the original soundtrack instead, but why would you? The reorchestrated one is simply better with zero contest. It is absolutely fantastic.

Solidifying Final Fantasy 12's place in the series

Final Fantasy 12, whether a decade ago or now with The Zodiac Age, has never been known for having a fantastic plot. Much like the other black sheep of the series, Final Fantasy 5, all the draw is on the job system and the gameplay.

The world of Ivalice as it is in this game is the most fleshed out of any game featuring Ivalice as a setting, despite the game's actual plot going terribly awry somewhere past the halfway point. That is why this review is not a 10/10 -- because the plot is just as broken and uninteresting as it was a decade ago.

With all of the improvements in this newest version, there's something new for those who played the original game and a whole new world for first timers. With a little light strategy in the mix with the Gambit system and a ton of side content to tackle, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is the most solid and worthy version of a game that has been otherwise forgotten.

This is one of those games you come to for the gameplay and skip through the cutscenes, at least on your second playthrough. The Zodiac Age is easily my favorite Final Fantasy game in a very long time, even if I've already owned the IZJS version for nearly a decade. It is simply too fun, too beautiful, and too expansive to pass up.

Note: Writer was granted a review copy from the publisher.

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Death Squared for Nintendo Switch Review https://www.gameskinny.com/y3pwg/death-squared-for-nintendo-switch-review https://www.gameskinny.com/y3pwg/death-squared-for-nintendo-switch-review https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/d/e/a/deathsquared-1920x1080-a24b5.png y3pwg/death-squared-for-nintendo-switch-review Fri, 07 Jul 2017 17:34:18 -0400 Zantallion

"Alright, don't get on the blue switch yet; go into that little corner instead."

"Ok I'm there, now let's see what the red switch does..."

BOOM.

Upon pressing the red switch, the laser cannon both of us forgot about fires, and the blue cube explodes. We laugh for a bit -- and as the stage resets, we make sure to keep an eye on the laser, only for one of us to overexcitedly careen off the edge of the stage. The laughter starts anew. 

This is what it looks (and sounds) like to play Death Squared, a clever little game with a simple goal: get all of the players' cuboid robots to the correctly colored circle-pads on the floor.

Where the fun comes in is with the variety of different puzzles and traps involved in getting to those circle-pads. The robots have only one thing they can do to solve these puzzles: move. And the puzzles you must solve vary via a series of clever mechanics involving this basic movement. Some objects, like lasers or blocks, move as your cube does, meaning that moving too quickly could end up frying your partner.

The puzzles do a good job of staying varied by slowly introducing you and your cuboid pals to new concepts, teaching you how they all work and slowly increasing the difficulty in applying those ideas. As you get further into Death Squared, it starts pairing these different concepts with each other and bringing old ones back out of nowhere to catch you off guard. Remember those spike traps from level 11? Here they are again (suddenly) in level 32, and now, there are also ghost blocks that will shove you into them if you feel like speeding through without your partner.

Death Squared keeps you on your toes with each puzzle, but here that means being cognizant of what elements you need to deal with. It's not the type of game that requires twitch reactions and split-second inputs. The progression of ideas from level to level feels natural, and most every death is because you (or your knucklehead partner) didn't consider everything, not that the game screwed you. The game also does a fantastic job of keeping you playing for a good long while. Almost every stage can be done pretty quickly if you do it right, so "One More Level" syndrome in Death Squared is alive and well.

Death Squared is a Game About Communication 

This is a game where conversation and planning strategy with your partners is absolutely necessary if you want to proceed. If even one of the cubes dies, it's over for every player, meaning that if you want to get to the next stage, you need to cooperate and communicate.

Each cube has different things they can control or interact with (and are colored appropriately), so planning every move everyone makes is essential in some levels if you don't want to explode. After all, if Green runs to that button before everyone is ready, Blue explodes and it's back to the beginning with all of you. The game does a great job of fostering this conversational attitude over time, too; early levels can be blasted through quickly, but as you progress, you'll need to talk with your partners more and more to make sure everything falls in line to avoid a fatal slip-up.

Every threat looks the same every time, meaning that after the first encounter, there are no surprises, and they're all easily identifiable. And even if you don't plan well, the penalties are light and quick enough that failing is far more humorous than it is frustrating -- and sometimes it's extra satisfying to shove your partner off the stage because they messed up that one time when you were so close.

Not Much Plot, But Lots of Witty Quips

As far as plot goes, there's not much to speak of. The player characters are AI bots being run through a series of test chambers, monitored by two offscreen voices who work for your usual world-controlling corporation. One of these is David, a human male worker who acts as the comic relief, and the other is I.R.I.S. -- a female AI who is the straight man to David's antics. The influence of Valve's megaton Portal franchise is clear from the get-go, but David and I.R.I.S. are unique enough that, at worst, they feel like homages rather than ripoffs.

Their effect on the game is minimal, and you never actually see them, but they banter in between levels and make comments if players do exceptionally well or exceptionally poor. These two disembodied voices provide a bit of backstory with their dialogue, but there's not much -- and to be fair, it's not really needed. 

A Simple and Colorful Aesthetic

Visually, the game is quite simple -- but not in an ugly or otherwise unpleasant way. The levels are all made up of cookie cutter blocks and objects, and the characters are simple (though expressive) cubes that you can decorate with some decals if you like. Considering what the game's aiming to be though, these visuals are a good fit. Death Squared is a game solely focused on having a good time with some friends, and it does that quite well.

A Few Hang-Ups and Death Traps

Like any game, Death Squared isn't without its flaws. The puzzles are fun and fast, but in some stages, the threats aren't 100% apparent. In a few of the stages of our playthrough, I got fried several times by a laser cannon I didn't even see activate because it was offscreen.

Movement in Death Squared is also very sensitive -- meaning that if you're slightly off-center on a block, you might get caught around a corner and slide off the stage. But that's something that you get used to as you play the game, and is in no way a dealbreaker.

On the Switch, with some Joycons' tendency to not always send the right inputs, this problem can get exacerbated a bit. However, even with a buggy Joycon, the game still controls just as well as any other version and, barring the occasional slide that's a little bit too long, it doesn't negatively affect gameplay too much.

Taking the game on the go is obviously the big draw to the Switch version, but with a game that requires you to be conscious of so many different puzzle pieces in one environment, this might be one of the few instances where the smaller screen hinders the experience. 

Death Squared's biggest problem, though, is the limited amount of content. The game only has 80 two-player levels, 40 four-player levels, and a gallery for each unlocked by beating them. Considering how fast these puzzles can go, that's not much. If you've got the people for it, you can knock the game out in a few hours -- and with no real replay value, that's all you'll get out of it. Some kind of versus mode or time trials would've added some replay value, but no such option exists as of now. 

---

All in all, Death Squared is a blast to play through with friends, but that blast doesn't last long. The puzzles are quick, creative, and fun -- but the limited content you get for its price point of $20 means that the game will be over all too quickly. If you're looking for a day's worth of puzzling fun though, Death Squared is a great choice.

If you don't own a Nintendo Switch, this game is also available for PC and console. Check out our review for Death Squared on PC for more information!

Note: SMG Studio provided a copy of Death Squared for the purpose of this review.

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Who Am I? - The Tale of Dorothy - Review https://www.gameskinny.com/vofc3/who-am-i-the-tale-of-dorothy-review https://www.gameskinny.com/vofc3/who-am-i-the-tale-of-dorothy-review https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/6875c77d854431c712338ba6330d01ba.jpg vofc3/who-am-i-the-tale-of-dorothy-review Fri, 07 Jul 2017 16:46:24 -0400 daisy_blonde

Not many video games, especially causal ones you can play on your phone, attempt to address mental health issues and disorders. Who Am I tries to buck the trend with addressing the effects of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). In this endearing “Choose Your Own Adventure” -style game, you play as 14-year-old Dorothy Watson, a young girl in middle school who is so deeply troubled after an early traumatic experience. So much so, her personality has broken up into different parts that fight against each other and make her anxious. It is your job as counselor to bring these personalities together as a cohesive part of Dorothy.

When you start the game, you are given the option to play Week 0, which serves as a tutorial level. During Dorothy’s “Dream Time”, you speak to Dorothy and the three distinct personalities inside her head: Alice, who acts like a small child and doesn’t want to face up to reality; black hoodie wearing Gretel, who is very angry and aggressive; and cheery Cindy, who is optimistic about life and concerned that Dorothy is not getting out of her shell. The objective of the game is to get each personality to integrate with Dorothy by raising their integration bar in each counselling session whilst making sure that Dorothy does not get too stressed when you are asking questions about her life.

A neat touch to the game is that the scenarios are randomised, so the Week 1 scenario I faced in my first playthrough was different to the one I faced in my second playthrough. Your choice of dialogue can negatively affect Dorothy by making her more stressed whilst raising the integration of a certain personality, meaning that it can be quite hard to strike an effective balance. For example, I found it very hard to talk to Dorothy about her previous childhood trauma without her stress levels going dangerously high. This was a good way to illustrate how difficult counselling can be in real life.

Sometimes you will get a clue as to which personality you should be talking to after Dorothy has discussed her day. For example, one week she rescues a real bunny from a forest and calls it Snowy. The name she gives it is the same name as the imaginary bunny her childish personality, Alice, refers to. This is your cue to talk to Alice and attempt to raise her integration with Dorothy.

The only downside to the game is some of the phrasing of language and noticeable typos within the text based dialogue. The developer is not a native English speaker and had the game fully translated, but some sentences did seem off and occasionally put me in danger of causing a game over. For example, my three dialogue options in one of my conversations with Alice was “How are you?”, “Who are you?”, and “What’s your ideal type?”. I picked the third one, which seemed to scare her off and raised Dorothy’s stress levels.

Also, mental health experts may feel that by having Dorothy’s personalities as beings you can talk to during “Dream Time”, the game is over simplifying what is a debilitating and serious illness, as this would be physically impossible to do in a real situation.

On the whole, I feel that Who Am I is a brave and unique take on mental illness. According to the Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors (PODS) project, “dissociative identity disorder is almost exclusively caused by repeated childhood trauma in the absence of appropriate parental support”, which we do see clearly within Dorothy’s description of her life years before.

By getting to speak to each personality, you do feel like you are helping the whole person, and you get the impression that this is a coping mechanism Dorothy has developed. Onaemo Studio's app therefore teaches the player the nature of DID effectively, distinguishing it from other mental health issues such as schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

If further refined and developed, this app could be a useful tool for those studying psychiatry or counselling. Tweaks also need to be made to the written conversations in future updates so that is easier to follow - especially given that text is the driving force behind the game.

Who Am I: The Tale of Dorothy is available now from the Android App Store for $1.99 and the iPhone App Store for $0.99. 

Have you played this app? Do you think that it tackled mental health issues effectively? Let us know in the comments below!

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SteelSeries Qck Prism Review: Not Necessary, But (Kind of) Worth It https://www.gameskinny.com/s1pzg/steelseries-qck-prism-review-not-necessary-but-kind-of-worth-it https://www.gameskinny.com/s1pzg/steelseries-qck-prism-review-not-necessary-but-kind-of-worth-it https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/q/c/k/qck-prism-hero-79342.png s1pzg/steelseries-qck-prism-review-not-necessary-but-kind-of-worth-it Thu, 06 Jul 2017 17:27:00 -0400 Jonathan Moore

On the surface, SteelSeries' Qck Prism mousepad is totally a vanity gaming accessory. But the good thing about it is this: underneath its RGB lighting functionality, it's a mousepad that makes your gaming life a little easier. 

And since I'm not an RGB nerdonaught, that's a good thing. Sure, I get why so many gamers want the functionality and love it, but I'm certainly not one that needs neon rays bombarding my peripheral vision while playing Cities: Skylines or Fallout 4. So when I first heard that the Qck Prism had RGB lighting, I was nonplussed that another piece of gear was being added to the cadre of RGB accessories and peripherals. 

But after I unpackaged the Qck and put it into action, I quickly realized that its selling points are really its ubiquity and its intuitive design -- not its RGB capabilities.

Size and Surface Usability

The Qck Prism measures a moderate 11.51 inches wide, 0.34 inches high, and 14.04 inches deep. I had to rearrange my tight home setup to accommodate for its size, but its relatively expansive nature also meant that I didn't find myself careening off the edge like with other pads. So it was worth the reorganization. Overall, the Qck's size feels just right for most situations, coming in at the lower end of SteelSeries' other offerings. 

On top of that, the mousepad has two sides: cloth and hard-polymer plastic. Using the SteelSeries Rival 700 with the Qck, I preferred the cloth side of the pad for its accuracy at higher DPI settings, as well as its tactile feedback as I maneuvered across its surface.

However, those who prefer hard plastic to cloth will find that the opposite side of the pad functions just fine -- and increases movement speeds for MOBAs and FPS deathmatches. Flipping the pad from one side to the other is (mostly) quick and (mostly) painless, although I did have to bend the Qck's base from time to time to pop the pad out and turn it over, which can be precarious with the RGB lighting that runs around the pad's periphery. 

Staying Where You Need It to Be

Another thing the Qck Prism does very well is staying put. The silicon rubber base makes sure that the Prism doesn't float around your desk, something I found very useful when compared to other mousepads I've had the misfortune of using in the past. 

Having the USB cable intuitively placed on the side of the pad also helps in this regard, and it keeps your mouse cable from getting tangled during use. 

Qck Means RGB

Although I opined about not being an RGB enthusiast in the opening graphs of this review, I will say that if you're fiending for more RGB in your life, the Qck Prism is bright, but not too bright -- providing a nice accent to your RGB arsenal.

Setting the colors and patterns on the Prism is a cinch, too. Featuring 12-zone, 360-degree illumination, and varying dynamic effects, such as steady, colorshift, and breathe, you can set each of the Prism's zones to the color and speed you want. You can even set the Qck to illuminate when you're low on health or when you complete certain in-game tasks, providing you're playing Dota 2, CS:GO, or Minecraft. And, for those that just want to take advantage of the Qck's amazing surfaces, you can even turn the illumination properties completely off. 

The Verdict

At $59.99 and compatible with PCs and Macs, SteelSeries' Qck Prism isn't a cheap mousepad -- but that's because it isn't one. Out of all the SteelSeries products I've tested, the Prism is one of the best, providing precision mousing and accurate movement on a comfortable pad with nice illumination. It won't revolutionize your game, but it will give you the solid and functional foundation on which to take it to the next level. It's just kind of hard to dole out $60 for a mousepad. 

Note: SteelSeries provided a Qck Prism model for the purpose of this review. 

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MMM Review: A Visual Novel About A Murder Most Misfortunate https://www.gameskinny.com/rtafa/mmm-review-a-visual-novel-about-a-murder-most-misfortunate https://www.gameskinny.com/rtafa/mmm-review-a-visual-novel-about-a-murder-most-misfortunate https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-b4054.jpg rtafa/mmm-review-a-visual-novel-about-a-murder-most-misfortunate Sun, 02 Jul 2017 09:34:00 -0400 stratataisen

MMM: Murder Most Misfortunate is a visual novel adventure created by Foolish Mortals, a small independent game studio based out of Canada. The game takes place in an old, secluded mansion where an evening party is happening. The party is brought to a halt when a murder occurs, and you are the prime suspect! It’s up to you to search for clues, interrogate the other guests, and unmask the real killer before you take all the blame.

Spoiled Before It Began

Before I even got into the game, some of the story was already spoiled -- not from reading a review or looking at a guide, but from the very store page for the game on Steam. It flat out tells you you’re the prime suspect for the murder in the description, which the feature list reinforced by saying you can blame someone else for the murder so you can get off the hook. That little fact is something I’ll discuss later in the review.

Overall, I think the developer should have left out this piece of information from the description; it would have had a greater impact  on you as a player if suddenly the story had taken a terrible turn against you without you knowing it beforehand.

Can You Make It In Time?

One of the featured mechanics in this visual novel is the timer. You have about an hour and fifteen minutes to solve the murder. If you don’t find the killer in time or are unable to prove someone else killed the victim, you are carted off to jail instead. This gives you a nice challenge and keeps you on your toes so you don't just loll around the game at an easy pace.

But in case you don’t like feeling rushed to complete the game, you can uncheck the box that appears when starting a new game. This option turns off the time and allows you to have all the time in the world to find the killer.

Were You Looking For This?

There is a search mechanic in the game. It’s nothing pivotal -- you simply hover your mouse cursor over various objects looking for the red spot that tells you can interact with it. Some dialogue will play and you’ll either continue on with your search, or with the story if you’ve found the object you were looking for. They explain this mechanic fairly well in the game, so it's an engaging way to interact with the world as you try and solve its mystery. 

Unraveling the Story, the Characters, & The Endings

The story isn’t half bad -- if a little too short for my tastes. It’ll take you about an hour or two to complete, depending on how fast you’re you’re going through the dialogue and if you’re trying to beat the timer. With the timer off, you’ll have the chance to explore every nook and cranny, which will likely lengthen the time it takes to complete the game. Despite the diminutive length of the story, though, it was still engaging, well-written, and rather humorous at times.

The characters were rather intriguing, but I can’t tell if that’s the writing or the voice acting -- maybe it’s a bit of both. The game has fully voiced dialogue with talented voice actors for each of the characters. The VA’s did a phenomenal job bringing out the personalities and quirks of their characters. I think my favorite by far is Prince Titanico.

A Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

Admittedly the hand drawn art wasn’t entirely to my tastes; there were only a few characters I liked the design of, while the rest were kind of ‘Meh.' The different backgrounds were good, and you could tell just by looking at them that the developer took their time to create each room or area. However, having 3D backgrounds made the characters feel a bit out of place. I think 2D environments would have served better here. Granted, I know other visual novel games have had a mixture of both, but it just didn’t seem to work for MMM.

Play Us a Song

There’s not much to say here. The music was good and fit the theme of the game well.

Finding the True Killer...

...seems pointless. As I mentioned earlier, you can blame the murder on someone else so you can get off the hook -- even if they are innocent. And before you say “OMG where’s the spoiler warning!?”, this information is also something that the description mentions on the Steam store page.

“Multiple Endings: Finding the true killer is ideal, of course, but maybe building a plausible case against one of the other characters is good enough to get you off the hook!”

-- MMM Steam Page

Personally, I would have preferred that they kept this quiet, because knowing that I could just blame someone else made everything feel too easy. With the kind of anti-heroine that Miss Fortune is, it would seem more likely that she’d find the easiest way to keep from going to jail -- which would be to blame anyone she had enough evidence to convict of the murder, whether they be innocent or not. 

The story is decent, but the motive for the player to find the real killer isn’t there when a loophole like that is so obvious. It would have been much more fun if that option only revealed itself as the timer started to run down with no good clues to peg the real killer with.

If I Could Change Anything...

If there was one thing I could change about the game, it would be that there's only one real killer, with no chance of there ever being another in different play throughs. I would have liked for the real killer to be random each time I played. Perhaps the first playthrough it’s the valet, next time it’s the victim's love interest, the third the Comtesse.

I’m seriously drawing on some inspiration from the Clue movie, based on the board game of the same name. The movie has three different endings, and when released in theaters the ending you got was random. It paid homage to the board game and how random the killer, scene of the crime, and murder weapon could be. I think adding something similar to this it would make MMM a little more enjoyable and replayable.

Verdict

Overall, MMM: Murder Most Misfortunate is not a bad game. Visual novels are not for everyone, but this one did a rather decent job at keeping my interest. The story’s sound, the characters, and their voice actors are entertaining, and the timer mechanic keeps you on your toes. My only gripes revolve around what I considered spoilers in the game description and there being a lack of motive to find the real killer -- especially if you’re trying to beat the clock.

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Diablo 3: Rise of the Necromancer Review - Is It Worth the Price? https://www.gameskinny.com/ab7si/diablo-3-rise-of-the-necromancer-review-is-it-worth-the-price https://www.gameskinny.com/ab7si/diablo-3-rise-of-the-necromancer-review-is-it-worth-the-price https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/r/e/v/review-header-edbc6.jpg ab7si/diablo-3-rise-of-the-necromancer-review-is-it-worth-the-price Fri, 30 Jun 2017 15:02:54 -0400 Joseph Rowe

Diablo 3 fans have waited too damn long for something resembling an expansion, and we finally got it with Rise of the Necromancer. Blizzard successfully revives this gruesome class from Diablo 2 in a fresh and fun way that will delight most players. There are also two new free zones: the Shrouded Moors and the Temple of the First Born. There's even new free bounties to check out in the freshly added Realms of Fate!

New Zones and Bounties

I won't spend much time talking about the new zones, as they are just a free part of the patch itself -- but once again, the art team has outdone themselves. The Shrouded Moors are spooky as hell and the Temple of the First Born has some ghastly-yet-cool features (like its copious amounts of flowing blood).

If you're bored with the current zones, both of the new ones and the Realms of Fate will give you somewhere new to farming spots for loot. I was pleased with what Blizzard had to offer, because I'm a sucker for terrifying temples. But keep in mind that this content is by no means a new act and won't last as long as some might hope.

Challenge Rifts

One of the coolest features of the new patch is the weekly challenge rifts. You can use other players' builds and gears to try and beat their time in the rift that week and get some free loot. If you're the competitive type, you can also fight for the top rank on the leader boards. This seems to be fitting in with Blizzard's recent attempts to add weekly content into their games.

Necromancer

Here's the part everyone's been waiting for: the new class in Rise of the Necromancer. Whether you're into pet classes, bones, or just the whole necromancer aesthetic, you won't be disappointed with this skeleton raising son/daughter of a gun.

In terms of visuals, Blizzard found a way to take the classic design from Diablo II and build on it. The necromancer's armor is sufficiently bony, and both the male and the female version look great in their class sets. The skills all look impressive -- and whether it's a big zone of blood on the floor from one of your curses or literal exploding corpses, the gore shines without being too over the top.

Speaking of skills, the class plays amazingly. There is enough variation in spells to have quite a few fun and interesting builds. You can raise an army of skeletons to engage with your foes while you shoot bone spears at them from afar, or you can get up close and personal with your grim scythe and death nova.  

The Necromancer has quickly tied itself with the barbarian as my favorite class in D3. When the game originally launched, I didn't have as much fun playing the spell casters as I had hoped, but this character pack has fixed that for me. They're visually striking, fun to play, and I heard a rumor that if you yell "welcome to the bone zone" as you use your skills, you'll increase your damage by 0.1%. What's not to love?

Price

The price for the Rise of the Necromancer pack would be a bit steep if it was just the class, but the pack also comes with wings, a half-formed golem non-combat pet, two new character slots, two new stash tabs, a pendant, portrait frame, banner, and sigil. With all this bonus content, $15 isn't too outrageous. However, you're out of luck if you just want the class without the other items. That being the case, it's understandable why a number of players have grumbled at the price tag.

What the hell is transmogrification?

Final Judgment

In my opinion, the Rise of the Necromancer pack is worth getting because the Necromancer is superb and the little pet is cute in the grossest of ways. If you're really excited to play the new class, I'd say it's worth it -- especially if you're a sucker for cosmetics like me.

If you don't think you'd play the class much and aren't interested in the character slots, pet, etc. then you can definitely pass on this since the rest of the content that comes with this patch is free.

If you end up buying Rise of the Necromancer, check out our leveling builds and power leveling guide for getting started and our build guide for when you've hit 70. 

Note: Blizzard provided a code for "Rise of the Necromancer" to the writer for the purpose of this review. 

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On/Off Review: Give Your Brain a Challenge! https://www.gameskinny.com/fmd4r/onoff-review-give-your-brain-a-challenge https://www.gameskinny.com/fmd4r/onoff-review-give-your-brain-a-challenge https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/8/e/1/8e144e54c18c957bd523a6c79b935a84-6edf7.jpg fmd4r/onoff-review-give-your-brain-a-challenge Thu, 29 Jun 2017 18:20:44 -0400 daisy_blonde

This little gem of a game has been around to download from the Apple App Store since 2013. I was drawn to it as the premise is very much like a tile slide puzzle game you may have had when you were a kid, when you have to slide the tiles in the correct order to get the pattern (such as an animal) underneath.

On:Off was developed by French team 1Button. It seems very simple at first, as it looks as though you just need to match the colors up with the color indicators (for example, you put the blue tiles beside where the blue lines are). However, the difficulty levels of Hard, Harder and Hardest rather than Easy, Medium and Hard, should give you an idea of the difficulty level of the game! 

The game costs $1.99, and if you get stuck on a level, you can purchase a 5 key pack for $0.99. Personally, I would advise against buying the keys as I think it’s much more fun to try and work it out yourself.  

The game also tracks the number of seconds you take to complete the level, so you can go back to beat your score and try and get the solution in a shorter amount of time.

The sound effects are retro but effective, and there is no musical score. It's probably just as well, given that you have to concentrate quite hard. My personal peak was level 4-17, as you can see from the screenshot below. It started to get a bit more difficult from there!

Overall, the game gives your brain a great workout, and really lives up to 1Button’s tagline to "Turn on your brain!" Similar to a cryptic crossword, the deceptively simple interface and color scheme conceals a true challenge.

The app is available to download for $1.99 on iPhone and iPad.

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Drifting Lands Review -- Shmup Stirred, Not Shaken https://www.gameskinny.com/wcpn3/drifting-lands-review-shmup-stirred-not-shaken https://www.gameskinny.com/wcpn3/drifting-lands-review-shmup-stirred-not-shaken https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/4f7573381b9d909d6c6967f46f43e8df.jpg wcpn3/drifting-lands-review-shmup-stirred-not-shaken Thu, 29 Jun 2017 16:33:09 -0400 Jeffrey Rousseau

A cocktail is an alcoholic beverage that is made up of two or more other drinks mixed together. In a cocktail, the proportion of drinks is enough to tip the scales between the utterly forgettable and the so-good-you-can-never-recreate-it. Thankfully, Drifting Lands is a shmup that falls into the latter category thanks to combining unique genres and mechanics into something that is both satisfying and memorable.

Developed by French studio Alkemi, Drifting Lands is an arcade shooter set in a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic world where mankind lives in a dystopic and broken world within the sky. To make matters worse, corporations have become powerful, selfish, and totalitarian nations. Oh, and there's also the threat of machines that want to annihilate humans.

In Drifting Lands, you take up the reins of a pilot tasked with protecting your caravan from various dangers and threats -- both inside and outside of your aircraft. 

Take 1 Cup of Shmup...

At its core, the title is a horizontal shooter, much like R-Type. From the beginning of Drifting Lands, you can choose among three ship types: balanced, fast and squishy, or slow and tanky. Your preferences will probably depend on your skill level. For instance, first-time players may want a more balanced ship, while shmup veterans can opt for speed.

Yes, you will shoot down squadrons of enemies. However, missions vary from time to time. Some require you to survive for a set amount of time, while others task you with finding a target/items and so forth.

Throughout the game, you'll face a number of stages across different environments. As you progress in the story, the game's difficulty organically increases. Of course, you'll meet new enemies, more dangerous than the last at each new turn.

Instead of receiving a score only within stages, you actually gain income. You receive a certain amount of your earnings after each stage. The better you perform the more it'll pay off. Like any shmup, you also get to have fun facing off against large bosses. It's tense and unforgiving like the classics of old. 

Add 1 Ounce Of Adventure...

While Drifting Lands' combat heavily borrows from its shmup roots, it chooses to diverge via the inclusion of a narrative. The title presents a large colorful cast of interesting characters, with each playing a special role within the plot. Your pilot will often question the motivations of comrades and commanding officers alike.

For example, the main story involves following the caravan leader for the good of the people. However, at the same time, your retainer implores you to go on missions that will help undercut her influence. 

We, as the audience, even see our pilot play the part of unwilling pawn to shadowy schemes. The missions satisfyingly follow along with the narrative by increasing the difficulty and stakes in just the right ways. 

Honestly, I really enjoyed how the narrative interwove these social-economic, political, and mystery themes together. Even more impressive is how the plot hardly falls flat. 

One example is a subplot that involves the black market. Fueled by a need for more money, you potentially put your caravan in danger working with criminals. This branch of the story plays out slowly across the larger narrative.

Pour A Dose of RPG...

If you feel that an RPG is only as good as how deep its systems can get, then you will be delighted to know that Drifting Lands is a proverbial bottomless ocean.

At the core of the game, you have to maintain your ship and keep its performance top notch. There are a number of options available to the player to accomplish this. 

First are skills; these are either weapons or abilities to use in battle. You're able to use/equip a number of active skills and auto skills. An active skill, for example, would be explosives, which detonates around your ship to blow up foes. There's an added layer of strategy at play as well. Active skills have a cooldown after each use, so you can't merely just spam them. You have to be aware of your actions at all times. 

You then have passive skills such as auto-retreat. For example, when you lose all HP, you'll automatically retreat to the base. It's one of the first skills you have in the game and the most valuable. It has the added bonus to help you not lose your ship. More advanced skills become available via story progression and difficulty escalation. 

You can also improve your ship directly with currency. For a price, you can -- and should -- level up your firepower, maneuverability, or durability. These stats not only dictate your overall performance but also determine what parts can be equipped.

This brings us to the deepest part of the RPG experience: ship parts. Parts can be bought or collected via the plentiful loot drops left in the wake of your enemies' remains. Tougher stages, a better personal performance, and a higher difficulty setting also helps with gaining war spoils. Specific rewards are also available via side quests and so forth like any RPG.

Add A Dash Of Futuristic Tunes...

So what would you expect in a futuristic game's music? Electronica? Maybe some subdued atmospheric tunes? You would be correct, friend. It's one of the best soundtracks I've heard this year. Composed by Louis Godart, the soundtrack is a unique blend of musical genres. Godart crafted an album that also consists of rock, orchestral tunes, and a bit of eerie spacefaring tunes. The soundtrack was composed over a number of years and your ears will definitely confirm that.

Mix Feverishly...

These various mechanics and genres blur beautifully. You'll wonder where and when the action adventure stops and the shmup begins. One of the best examples, when genres blend effortlessly, is loot hunting.

Hunting for better gear has been a role-playing staple for years. So with your trusty ship, you can spend a good day shooting down tons of enemies for performance sake. During the course of this, you're becoming more skilled at the art of shmup. At the same time, you're making use of resources you have available in skills and so forth. The brilliance really is that it comes organically and doesn't feel separate. 

An Acquired Taste?

Yes, this is a very fun and fulfilling game to play. However, it does have its flaws. The downsides to Drifting Lands are really due to it being an indie title. It's hard to believe but there are a number of people that will ignore a game because it is indie. Yes, it makes no sense but it happens. The other knock against the title is that some may feel that it's too difficult at times. But that's a criticism that even the best of shmups receive. 

Drink & Enjoy

Yes, I realize I've written quite a lot about this title. To repeat, Alkemi was able to create one hell of a video game cocktail. Who knew that we needed a full blown adventure shmup. The game can be tough as nail and makes you pull your hair out. At the same time hours will be lost mulling over stats and equipment. The music is perfectly complimentary and is never out of place. Lastly, the narrative present isn't watered down in anyway -- I guarantee you that this game will hold your attention and challenge you from start to finish. 

Fans of action RPGS and shmups can purchase Drifting Lands for PC here.

Note: A copy of Drifting Lands code was provided by the publisher for review.

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The Tenth Line Review -- Not Quite Your 90's RPG Nostalgia https://www.gameskinny.com/9j2yf/the-tenth-line-review-not-quite-your-90s-rpg-nostalgia https://www.gameskinny.com/9j2yf/the-tenth-line-review-not-quite-your-90s-rpg-nostalgia https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/3/5/0/35047862010-d94f2a4221-e7bb5.jpg 9j2yf/the-tenth-line-review-not-quite-your-90s-rpg-nostalgia Thu, 29 Jun 2017 15:52:44 -0400 Erroll Maas

The Tenth Line is the first commercial game project from Sungazer Software and was created by Elliot Mahan over the course of 2 years. Mahan handled the concept, design, production, programming, writing, and marketing/distribution outreach by himself while others handled the art and sound design.

The Tenth Line is heavily inspired by PlayStation RPGs of the 90’s, such as the Final Fantasy titles of that era. The game prides itself on "unique" gameplay, "quick" 2D platforming, and "a fantastical story about friendship, faith, and finding your place in the world." Those are some decent qualities to aspire to, but is The Tenth Line able to deliver on all of these promises? Let's find out.


A Fantastical Story in a Typical RPG World

The Tenth Line takes place in a world populated by humans and various fantastical creatures, who struggle to coexist following the assassination of the king of an area called Skyweather. The player controls the Princess of Easania, a small kingdom with little influence, on the run from a mysterious cult. After escaping from them, she recruits two peculiar beastmen that she meets in the forest, promising them wealth and glory as long as they get her home safely. Of course, not everything goes as planned and the group sets out on a grand adventure to save the world from destruction.


Well Known Gameplay Features, Which Don't Do Anything Differently

There are some common RPG gameplay elements in The Tenth Line, but the game fails to put a unique spin on them, making it feel like they were all taken straight from other games without offering any changes to make them feel new or different. This lack of an unique identity often left me feeling bored.

3 Different Modes

A considerate feature of The Tenth Line is its three difficulty modes. There is a "Full Challenge" difficulty mode in which everything is intact. It is also the only mode which includes post-game content, special challenges, and a New Game Plus option. Then there is the “Light” difficulty mode, which plays closer to a more traditional RPG with training and specialties removed. Lastly, there is a “story” difficulty mode that keeps the exploration, platforming, and story intact. However, story battles are greatly reduced in difficulty and all other enemy encounters are removed entirely, which removes any need to leveling up.

The "Full Challenge" mode is recommended for veterans of the genre. The "Light" is recommended for more casual players who want a slightly simplified experience. And the "Story" mode is recommended for players who are more interested in the story than the gameplay. Personally, I prefer the "Light" mode, as battles are more appropriately paced and don't feel slow when fighting multiple enemies, as they sometimes would in "Full Challenge" mode.

There are also some unique dynamics associated with each of these modes which I will mention below. 

Active Time Battles

Battles in The Tenth Line use an active time battle system similar to some Final Fantasy games. Players can choose skills for each character to perform, then carry them out with well-timed button presses. There are three options for each core party member when fighting enemies: Fight, which is self-explanatory; Rest, which restores HP and SP (Skill Points); and Look, which examines the enemy.

All attacks cost a certain amount of SP and main party characters aren't allowed to use the same attack two turns in a row regardless. If one character defeats an enemy that another character was going to attack after, the latter character wastes their attack on nothing instead of switching targets, which could be frustrating or tactical, depending upon the situation.

The party also has two assist characters who can each use one of two attacks once their SP gauge is filled, depending on whether the gauge is 25% or 100% full. These characters feel unnecessarily strong because they can take out several enemies at once -- albeit from specific ranges -- cannot be attacked, and don't have levels. They're useful but can also hinder a player's strategy by defeating characters that you may have had another character also plan on attacking -- as previously mentioned -- making certain strategies somewhat more difficult to implement.

When it’s the enemy’s turn to attack players can have their party members defend by again using well-timed button presses. Party members can only defend from one attack each turn, and with around 9 or more enemies at a time in most fights, it's difficult to determine which enemy will attack which character. It can also feel awkward to press each character's defend button at the same time, but fast and unpredictable enemy attacks can make this a requirement at times. If a character defends from a weaker enemy's attack then gets hit by a stronger enemy, it can feel unfair. In "Light" mode this particular problem wasn't an issue but it did happen a few times in "Full Challenge" mode.

In addition to regular defending, each character has a super defense which can protect them from specific attacks -- for example, the dracon -- a dragon person type of beastman -- character, Tox, can resist magic attacks. Super defenses can only be used once before they have to be recharged, but this doesn't take long. Fighting and defending also gives the party Momentum, which allows characters to generate more SP to use their strongest attacks.

In "Full Challenge" mode, enemy encounters can seem endless. In this mode, many encounters will start with ~9 enemies with reinforcements arriving as each is defeated. Because enemies are usually replaced with carbon copies which also die and get replaced with identical foes, the gameplay can feel somewhat repetitive and boring.

In light mode, however, these features aren't as tough to manage with a slower attack timer, slightly slower and weaker enemies, and other simplified mechanics.

Slow Platforming

Rather than the top down or 3D third person view of a typical RPG, The Tenth Line features side-scrolling platforming, similar to the Valkyrie Profiles titles. Each core party member can jump and also has their own world skill -- such as the princess being able to push certain obstacles or beast man Rik being able to engage enemies from a distance. The platforming would be fine if it wasn't for the fact the player has to get all three core party members through each area separately one by one, since they don't jump between platforms on their own despite the follow option, which feels rather useless after this revelation.

Characters will also get constantly attacked by nearby enemies when jumping between platforms, so there are always bound to be a few unwanted battles in "Full Challenge" or "Light" modes when traversing through an area. If an enemy engages a lone character in battle, the other characters join in after 1 or 2 turns depending on how far they are.

On paper this was a neat concept, but in practice it just made me more frustrated that characters didn't properly follow one another on the overworld in the first place. If they can join in battle from being far away why can't they jump across platforms by themselves? A small inconsistency, but irritating nonetheless.

The All Too Familiar Power Flow System

A feature called the Power Flow board allows characters to have their stats increased or learn new skills, similar to the systems seen in games like Rogue Galaxy or Final Fantasy XII. It seems that the power flow board increases stats in place of stat increases from leveling up, or it at least increases them more, making levels seem almost pointless.

There is also a Training option in "Full Challenge" mode, where characters can make certain attack types stronger. This is done by giving them consumable items which each provide a different amount of experience.

Items in The Tenth Line are only for the power flow board and training as there aren't any recovery items -- which magic skills and resting are used for instead -- or no armor and weapons to equip. Weapons instead level up through story events.

Conflicting Art Styles

The graphical and art styles in The Tenth Line aren't anywhere near the worst I've ever seen, but it definitely leaves something to be desired. The pixel art graphics are okay, but they do suffer from some rough animation. In game character art is reminiscent of a cross between the browser based MMO Adventure Quest and generic pieces seen on DeviantArt. In stark contrast to this, the out of game artwork -- shown in the header image -- is phenomenal. This all just ended up leaving a bad taste in my mouth as it felt that the game often wasn't as pretty as maybe it could have been.

A Contingent Soundtrack

The music featured in The Tenth Line is hit or miss. Some tracks are enjoyable and get stuck in your head easily, while others are a bit more basic and forgettable -- such as the elevator music which plays in practice battles. At times it was difficult to determine if the way these lesser tracks sounded was intentional or not.

The Final Verdict -- An RPG Which Provides Nothing New 

The Tenth Line is definitely not a "bad" game, but it lacks the quality and spirit that other RPGs -- even some of the lower budget indie titles that it is competing directly against -- have. The game also doesn't do much to help flesh out its own identity. The game seems like it rips a lot of its attributes out of the games which inspired it, rather than just taking cues from those attributes and transforming them into its own. 

If the game interests you, or if you're just a dedicated fan of JRPGs, then you might as well try out The Tenth Line for yourself. But in a relatively saturated market, there are plenty of other better similar RPGs out there, including the games which inspired The Tenth Line, many of which are readily available nowadays.

The Tenth Line is available on PlayStation 4 through the PlayStation Store and on Steam.

A review copy of the game was provided by Sungazer Software.

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Ever Oasis Review: An RPG Baked into a Town Management Sim https://www.gameskinny.com/c2q2s/ever-oasis-review-an-rpg-baked-into-a-town-management-sim https://www.gameskinny.com/c2q2s/ever-oasis-review-an-rpg-baked-into-a-town-management-sim https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/e/v/e/everoasisheader-60f8f.png c2q2s/ever-oasis-review-an-rpg-baked-into-a-town-management-sim Thu, 29 Jun 2017 14:40:29 -0400 Autumn Fish

Ever Oasis for the Nintendo 3DS is a colorful, cheery town management game mixed with puzzle RPG elements that really make it one of a kind.

It's been marketed as a sort of cross between Zelda and Animal Crossing -- and after spending dozens of hours completing the game, I can assure you that this is only half true. The Zelda inspiration is obvious, but I want to make it clear right away that the town management portion of Ever Oasis is nothing like Animal Crossing -- it's actually rather reminiscent of mobile games.

Since this game is kind of an odd mash-up, let's review the town management and puzzle RPG portions separately, shall we?

How Ever Oasis Handles Town Management

Your main character is a special Seedling that can partner up with a Water Spirit to grow an Oasis, which serves as a safe haven for those that roam the desert. However, Chaos has ravaged the land and destroyed the last of the Oases, leaving you and your Oasis as the final bastion of hope in the face of dystopia.

After meeting a Water Spirit and creating your Oasis, you're dropped into town management right away when a stray Seedling decides to stop by and see what all the ruckus is about. After fulfilling her request, she'll become your first resident.

Ever Oasis Review Town Management

Since she's a Seedling, she'll be able to grow a unique Bloom Booth to serve as a shop that attracts people to your Oasis. The Seedlings that operate them share a portion of their profits with you, but they require you to bring them the materials needed to create and sell their products.

Materials can be hard to find and maintain a supply of, especially once you plant and level up a bunch of shops. Later on, you gain the ability to assign Seedlings to the Garden to farm certain resources. Additionally, after enough desert folk like the Drauk, Serkah, and Lagora move in, you'll be able to send them on Expeditions out in the desert to hunt or gather for materials found in the regions you've explored.

When you gain more Residents, you'll be able to level up your Oasis, which greatly expands it and even gradually provides benefits like extra health and revivals for while you're out exploring. If you hope to retain these buffs, you'll need to make sure your Residents stay happy -- though in all honesty, you'd have to actually try to upset them.

Eventually, you'll even be able to earn Stamps from shopkeepers, giving you the go-ahead to hold different kinds of festivals. Festivals are cutscene events that empty the stocks of your stores and bring in a lot of sales and the potential for prospective residents. The best part, though, is that it maxes out your Residents' happiness for an entire day afterward -- making it an excellent way to lift spirits in a pinch.

That's about the extent of the town management in Ever Oasis. It's pretty simple and monotonous, though thankfully it's fairly easy to squeeze in between the exciting story and action RPG gameplay.

Ever Oasis Review Shops and Micromanagement

How Ever Oasis Holds Up as a Puzzle RPG

Chaos is threatening to consume the desert, and it's your job to stave it off. Over the course of your adventure, you'll battle powerful monsters, explore four varied zones, and puzzle through five unique dungeons.

Combat is a rather simple yet thoughtful affair. There are heavy and light attack buttons, as well as a dodge button, which you'll need to get used to if you hope to survive most battles. Each weapon type is powerful against specific enemy types, so it's definitely rewarding to put some thought into each encounter.

You can run around with up to 2 extra party members. Each uses their own weapon types and have special abilities that help when trying to solve specific puzzles. The main character utilizes the power of the wind, while side characters have unique abilities like breaking boulders or turning into a pellet to squeeze through tight spaces.

At any time you can warp back to the Oasis, swap out your party members, and jump right back to the spot where you left off, so you never have to worry about not having the right team with you for the job -- rather, you need only worry about how often you want to sit through a loading screen.

As you're exploring, you may come across people out in the desert who may visit your Oasis if you help them out. There may even be cases where you can't progress unless you find a new resident that has the abilities you need. In fact, the main quest gates you every now and then, asking that you grow your Oasis before continuing -- which was never really that big of a hassle, but it does artificially break things up.

Without spoiling anything, I can say that the main story was an especially wild ride. It starts off dull, cliche, and terribly predictable, but takes an interesting twist after the third dungeon that really builds up tension which ultimately leads to a rather confusing ending. It brings up some profound and thought-provoking ideas that I'm personally a huge fan of, but the game's really not clear about letting you know that there's an extra boss-rush type dungeon available to wrap everything up -- which just makes the ending seem almost anti-climactic.

Ever Oasis Review Puzzle Action RPG

If you decide to go after Chaos in the final dungeon, the game will end -- and rebooting the file just reverts you back to your last save. There's really not much else to do other than expanding and perfecting your Oasis.

Verdict

Ever Oasis is enjoyable, has excellent pacing, and boasts an interesting story. If you're a fan of town management games or are simply looking for a good puzzle RPG, you'll probably like this title.

Never did town management feel like a chore, though it did start to stress me out near the end. Something about the rhythm of both adventuring and managing your Oasis had me so engrossed that I would blink and suddenly hours had passed.

The Puzzle RPG and Town Management mix is a unique one, and Grezzo pulls it off fairly well, though there is definitely room for improvement here. Everything on the table feels well thought out -- if only a little shallow.

Ever Oasis is out now on the Nintendo 3DS eShop for $40.

If you're planning on picking up the game, why not check out our Ever Oasis guides? It never hurts to have a leg-up, after all.

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Mages of Mystralia Review -- An Enchanting World of Magic, Mystery,and Mad Moose Bunnies https://www.gameskinny.com/nkdzn/mages-of-mystralia-review-an-enchanting-world-of-magic-mysteryand-mad-moose-bunnies https://www.gameskinny.com/nkdzn/mages-of-mystralia-review-an-enchanting-world-of-magic-mysteryand-mad-moose-bunnies https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/m/a/g/mages-mystralia-logo-32a2d.jpg nkdzn/mages-of-mystralia-review-an-enchanting-world-of-magic-mysteryand-mad-moose-bunnies Tue, 27 Jun 2017 22:39:52 -0400 Erroll Maas

Containing delightful visuals and an fantastical score, Mages of Mystralia sends players to a magical land. The storybook fantasy might have players occasionally entranced, but the game leaves much to be desired.

Mages of Mystralia began as a Kickstarter campaign by Borealys Games on March 17, 2017, and reached its initial funding goal in less than 16 hours. The full game released on Steam shortly after on May 16, 2017. Between solving puzzles, combining spells, and fighting against typical magical creatures Mages of Mystralia is frequently described as a mix between The Legend of Zelda and Harry Potter. One of its biggest strengths, however, is its ability to differentiate itself through its story, gameplay, art style, and music.

An Appealing Yet Similar Story

In Mages of Mystralia, you play as Zia, a young woman who realizes she has magical powers. Because magic is banned from the kingdom, she is forced into exile and forced to learn more about her powers. In this world, heroic mages find sources of corrupted magic, like evil sentient trees or a giant frost lizard, all while keeping the world safe from wayward magic.

The game's' story is written by bestselling author Ed Greenwood, creator of the Forgotten Realms fantasy world of Dungeons and Dragons, which led to games such as Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights. The story isn’t the best, but it's still decent and compelling enough for what it is.

The Best Experience Comes With Use of a Controller

From the start, the game recommends using a controller and automatically adjusts when switching from one gameplay method to the other. Using mouse and keyboard controls isn't terrible, but playing with a controller makes fighting enemies, spell crafting, and solving puzzles much easier.

Deep and Detailed Spell Crafting

One of the most notable features in Mages of Mystralia is its detailed spell crafting system. Players use over 200 different spell combinations to defeat enemies and solve puzzles throughout the game's world. These spells are separated into 4 different specific types: Immedi, Actus, Creo, and Ergo.

Immedi is used as the basic close range attack and actions. Actus is for moving orbs through the air, which can help solve puzzles and become offensive spells over time. Creo spells are for creating objects to help the player progress through certain parts of the world, such as ice platforms used to cross a body of water. Lastly, Ego spells help protect the player from harm, like a transparent magical shield which can be used to block attacks.

Spells can be modified further by adding different runes to them. Behavioral runes affect the way spells are cast -- like how a simple fire conjuring spell can be turned into a more offensive fireball by using the 'Move' behavior rune. There are also runes which can modify spell behavior or attach additional  spell effects when specific conditions are met.

Magic spells are the only attack in the game, and they all cost a certain amount of mana. Mana can easily be replenished by standing still, and fills up faster when the player is in possession of a mana charm.

Common Enemies, And A Few Odd Ones

Players will find themselves running into several peculiar enemies like goblins, bats, skeletons, and giant tree monsters. Perhaps the strangest of the enemies are the jackalopes, which I’m convinced are descendants of the Rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The player encounters a few of these creatures in the beginning of the game, and they may seem harmless as they don’t go out of their way to attack. But take this as a warning -- don’t provoke them unless you're quick enough to defeat them or barely escape with your life. These surprisingly feisty creatures turn into their demonic forms as soon as you hit them. They’ll gang up and chase you until you've either escaped, defeated them, or have been led to your demise.

A Storybook Like Art Style With A Touch of Oceanhorn

Although Mages of Mystralia's art style looks somewhat similar to the fun yet blatant Legend of Zelda ripoff, Oceanhorn, it creates a stronger identity through slight art style differences. The art style in Mages of Mystralia is similar to that of a storybook, which fits the narrative rather well. The art style doesn't exactly stand out much, but it's still pleasant to look at.

An Enchanting High Quality Soundtrack

Another similarity to Oceanhorn is that the music in Mages of Mystralia may be one of the finest aspects of the game. The soundtrack was recorded live by the Video Game Orchestra and orchestrated by Shota Nakama, who has also orchestrated music for well known games such as Final Fantasy XV, and Kingdom Hearts II.5 HD ReMIX. Due to its whimsical quality, players may find themselves wanting to listen to the soundtrack even when not playing.

A Few Flaws

Despite all of its admirable elements, Mages of Mystralia still does have a few flaws once you delve deeper into it. To start, the game can feel a bit slow. With an average playtime of only about 7 hours, it's understandable that the developers wanted make sure to stretch out certain parts -- but this ultimately causes pacing issues with player progress and the game's story.

There are plenty of additional tasks and side quests for players who want to take the game the completionist route, but the problem with these quests is that they aren't always engaging enough to be interesting. Some feel like they're only in the game for those who want to make sure they have extra things to do.

In addition to this, these activities require quite a bit of backtracking. This would be a great opportunity to learn more about the various inhabitants of the world and examine it more, but the game falls completely flat on this aspect. Some seemingly important characters are completely sidelined by the end of the game. and quests can also become somewhat repetitive. Whether they consist of defeating waves of enemies, and/or solving puzzles, they're not quite as distinctive or as entertaining as the various quests one may see in other titles.

The smaller scope of Mages of Mystralia seems to be one of its greatest weaknesses. If it received an expansion or sequel sometime in the future,  it would benefit immensely from a more expansive world with more depth to it.

The Final Verdict -- Generally Recommended For Fans of Magical Journeys Despite Its Faults

Mages of Mystralia may have a few pitfalls, but it still manages to be an enjoyable game if only for a short while. The game has a great deal of charm and plenty to offer for those who enjoy smaller or shorter experiences, and new players won't feel overwhelmed by the spell crafting mechanics once the game shows them how to manage it properly. There are plenty of other magic spell based games out there, but for what it's worth Mages of Mystralia provides a satisfying experience for those intrigued in the genre.

Mages of Mystralia is currently available on Steam for $24.99 and will be on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sometime later this year.

Review copy provided by Borealys Games.

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Thea: The Awakening Review - Sometimes "Life-like" Is A Bad Thing https://www.gameskinny.com/h2r8q/thea-the-awakening-review-sometimes-life-like-is-a-bad-thing https://www.gameskinny.com/h2r8q/thea-the-awakening-review-sometimes-life-like-is-a-bad-thing https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-arta-126e9.png h2r8q/thea-the-awakening-review-sometimes-life-like-is-a-bad-thing Tue, 27 Jun 2017 20:19:23 -0400 ThatGamersAsylum

Thea: The Awakening -- MuHa Games' first major release -- is an odd game because of the many different genres that you can find bits and pieces of throughout. At its heart, the game is a 4X title, but it manages to pinch elements from other genres and games including Minecraft, card-based titles, and visual novels. Rouguelite mechanics are even thrown in for good measure. Despite the number of varied influences, I think the game was able to pull off the genre-melding rather well; in other words, it's not one of the game's major problems. 

In Thea, you play as a god from Slavic mythology who seeks to regain its power after a century long blackness destroyed much of the world. The game itself takes place on a large, procedurally generated hex based world map with your home village located in the middle. This is where you can construct buildings, craft items, and store all of your loot. Since this is your only base of operations, it shapes your whole experience with the game.

As you move around the map, random events may occur. A large box of text will pop up, accompanied by an appropriate hand drawn painting for the event as well as a narrator who will read out the progressing tale. After a small section of text -- ranging in size from a few sentences to several paragraphs -- you will be given options based on the skills of your teammates. Although a broader range of dialogue options open up later in the game, they are unfortunately quite limited early on.

Many of these events are enthralling, especially on your first playthrough where they are regularly new and fresh. I particularly loved the fact that text could recount stories that were too technically complicated for the 3D medium. For instance, I once came upon a cursed elf in an abandoned village where all of the items therein would turn to dust upon being touched. You’re just frankly not going to see that in any other game because it's too expensive to make a throwaway level and I love that. 

The events crafted a world that I became interested in learning more about. 

Sadly, I felt that the game didn’t take full advantage of this as many of the events could easily incorporate 3D game technology. For every village that turned to ash or ice princess that asked me to take her to a distant tower, I would get approached by a traveling merchant or seduced by a Striga. Moreover, many of them could just be failed, which only achieved a sour taste in my mouth. Sure, I could start a new playthrough for the King Arthur inspired quest reward, but that’d be a tall order to ask for something that, frankly, wouldn't be worth it.

I also enjoyed the crafting system as it allowed for versatility amongst the items you created as opposed to the rigidness imposed by most systems. However, this wasn’t always perfect as it favored small incremental boosts via slightly better crafting materials over new, and genuinely interesting items and buildings.

Thea: The Awakening -- much like a gambling addict -- has a problem with chance.

But let me clarify. Chance can be -- and often is -- a great thing in video games. Landing a blow that you know should have missed in Fire Emblem always feels great. Seemingly uninteresting encounters can be made all the more interesting when a little bit of unpredictable chance is thrown in there.

Like any dish, though, too much ruins the whole meal. When a game becomes too driven by chance, then player agency takes a back seat. This is part of the reason that popular F2P progression mechanics are so infuriating; they have nothing to do with your skill as a player or the choices you wish to make because it's merely determined by a roll of the dice.

As you might expect, the random events (random is literally in the name) are one of the many areas that chance rears its ugly head, and unfortunately, a lot of them are downright evil. One such event pits you up against an endgame enemy that will wipe your whole team… unless you sacrifice a child or party member. Keep in mind that I saw this at least a dozen times and success requires around 30 units. In short, this one event alone drained a huge amount of resources. On top of this, other horrible events also have the chance of happening in rapid succession, ones that will easily set you back several hours or make you outright lose -- all for no good reason.

The "optimal" solution is to sacrifice children. Soak it in.  

The combat system, which is honestly its own huge bag of worms, also relies too heavily on chance. At the beginning of a challenge, all of your units are randomly split into two halves, both of which transfer into one of two hands. The battle hand is your primary form of offense, whereas the tactical hand uses support skills to provide defense. 

This immediately means that a lot of your attack units will get placed into the tactical hand and vice versa. While tactical cards can be used as attack cards at the expense of a penalty, attack cards can't be chosen as tactical cards, which means that those extremely frail combatants are functionally useless in the battle hand.

Once all cards have been separated into hands, the person that goes first during each round is determined randomly. The starting player -- you or the NPC -- thus garners a distinct advantage since you can play your largest and most powerful card, forcing the opponent to adequately counter. You could play a weak card as fodder, but injuries from combat transfer to the full game, which means dead units.

Lastly, RNG determines who each unit attacks. When all cards have been played you enter the fighting phase. The fighters battle from left to right, but the catch is that each unit has a 50% chance of attacking the nearest enemy to their left or right, regardless of their strength. This often leads to a weak unit getting killed early while the stronger, unscathed unit ends up killing you further into the fight.

To add insult to injury, it is always possible that your group randomly gets attacked by a much stronger enemy group on the world map. This is especially true of the home base which has units being unfairly and infuriatingly wiped out because of the opposition's sheer brutality. However, this is such a rare occurrence that having units guard it is a wasteful affair anyway. Enemies don’t even move in intelligent or predictable ways on the world map either, thus reducing their movements to random nonsense as opposed to something you can strategically prepare for.

There are 9 types of Challenges, each of which use different stats to determine your combat efficacy. 

The main way you actually get units in the game is by planting cabbage patches to “attract children” (I can’t make this up, folks) which will randomly show up at the start of a turn. This, along with the sheer number of various “challenges” that are constantly thrown at you means that you can never adequately prepare for any situation.

I don’t have a problem with a game being hard when it is designed well. The difficulty popularized by the Souls series is largely based upon skill and memory. These are things you can actively learn from and use in future attempts to get better. But the difficulty found in Thea is not something you can learn from. I know that there will eventually be a giant that will either murder my whole team or demand that I sacrifice a unit, but I don’t know when and I have no way of really fighting against it or preparing for it. So… I’m just screwed.

A lot of my above complaints also lead to a couple of other problems as well. It’s honestly astounding how much of the game boils down to "Throw a larger number of units at it until it becomes painfully easy!". This is all thanks to the game’s unpredictability concerning difficulty. Combined with the fact that each group has its own chance to produce random events means that it is extremely inadvisable to split your units up into multiple expeditions lest they all get systematically murdered/cursed.

Admittedly, cabbage patch babies are kinda adorable.

Moreover, much of the game is extremely brutal early on while rewarding you for being powerful later on. This is known as a positive feedback loop, or in the real world: the rich get richer. It also means that there is an astounding difficulty curve at first, while later in the game you will be able to thrive on your previous, hard-fought successes.

At this point I have gone over most of the bag of worms that I alluded to when I first mentioned combat, except for one small detail: you can skip all combat by merely auto-resolving it. Unlike most games, where a feature like this always ends with your most powerful units running headlong into combat (I’m looking at you, Fire Emblem Heroes), this game’s auto-resolve not only saves you a ton of time, but actually performs well, even to the point that it regularly surpasses my own skill. And let’s be frank, no one ever likes to be outdone by a robot.

The Devil Is In The Details

The game also suffers from some other smaller problems that really aren’t acceptable considering the dizzying amount of larger problems on display. 

I was genuinely scared of that black cat murdering my whole village.

The UI isn’t horrible, but there are a lot of functionalities which are bad and not merely because the game is ported from PC. For instance, you can only dismantle items one at a time despite getting huge batches of useless loot.

Large teams also become frustratingly tedious to equip just because of the sheer number of units. This felt like a larger design problem to me. Either don’t have so many units, have less equipment for each unit, or find a creative way to manage equipment. Moreover, large teams were a pain to actually battle with; what card game ever lets you have 30 cards in your hand at once? 

With there being so many units at once, there are a plethora of classes from which to chose. Out of the 15 or so classes, I found that only 3 or 4 of them had distinct benefits in comparison to the others. They only really determine stat growth and not any actual abilities or skills, which was a really disappointing discovery after gathering magic users and mythological teammates. Wind spirits, orcs, elves, witches, goblins, etc, -- none of them really stand apart. If classes had been done well, then a lot of the other gripes could have been overlooked.

Orc Matriarchs are badass.

Thea plays way too slowly to be viewed as an engaging roguelike as well. Your life contributes to leveling up patron gods, but even though I successfully beat the main campaign, my patron god’s own small campaign, and the expansion campaign over the course of ~30 hours, I still only got my god to level 2 out of 5. Dying also ends up diminishing your patron god's leveling since you have presumably not done as much. In short, the whole process is extremely slow, which made me unwilling to seek out the potential rewards. This in turn diminished any interest in replaying the game that I might have had. 

The game's general desire to just hold you in utter contempt as it orders the sacrifice of units means that save manipulation will be a sure-fire method to retain your sanity upon reaching the point of giving up.

In short, the game feels relentlessly challenging, much like real life.

Too much of the game is out of your control and the few things that are in your control can either be skipped, like combat, or just aren’t that fun, like navigating superfluous menus. The best part about the game -- the fun stories experienced through the random events -- became dull all too fast since they repeat with such frequency. The game even had the audacity to tell me that I’d only experienced about 25% of the events, so where were the rest?

As hard as I have grilled this game, I can’t deny that I had some fun with it. Even as I watched the launch trailer a short while ago, I felt this surge of joy. But looking back, most of that fun was due to my own naivety, much like a youthful relationship. Oh, how I expected the game to become something in the early hours that it never would become in the later hours.

The main reasons I would suggest for playing this game would be to see the unique mashup of genres, which is admittedly refreshing, and to experience a sort of trance-like state where you passively play as you tick your time away. 

---

Disclaimer: The review code was provided by the developer. 

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God Wars Future Past Review: A Brilliant, Classic Tactics RPG https://www.gameskinny.com/oezkg/god-wars-future-past-review-a-brilliant-classic-tactics-rpg https://www.gameskinny.com/oezkg/god-wars-future-past-review-a-brilliant-classic-tactics-rpg https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/r/e/v/review-logo-7f4e8.jpg oezkg/god-wars-future-past-review-a-brilliant-classic-tactics-rpg Thu, 22 Jun 2017 11:50:54 -0400 Synzer

God Wars Future Past is a tactical RPG that has a healthy amount of Japanese culture and myths woven into it -- from the classes and abilities, to the story itself. Fans of this genre, and the PS1 era of games, will love this one.

What I Liked

Right away this game imparts a sense of nostalgia when you see the visuals and characters. It is nice to see games like this every now and then to give us a break from the modern fare. The animations and characters look old, but still great at the same time.

Jobs and Character Customization

god wars future past jobs

I love the Job system. It's my favorite part of the game, and what keeps me playing the most. There are 3 base Jobs -- Warrior, Priest, and Magician -- which can evolve and branch into even more Jobs.

Each Job has its own skill tree, skills to use in battle, passives, equipment it can use, and more. It was fun to set up my characters the way I wanted them -- and with the ability to use a main and sub Job, there are many combinations available.

Every character also has their own unique Job, in addition to the other 2 that you choose. You eventually get multiple characters, so there are times when you must choose who to take with you based on their specializations, adding another layer of strategy.

Options and Difficulty

There are options to speed up battle by not showing detailed info, which is great when you want to do a bunch of Shrine Battles that aren't part of the story. 

But my favorite option is the difficulty setting, which lets you adjust how hard the game is. The caveat here is that there's no benefit to playing higher difficulty levels, and you don't miss out on anything by playing on Easy.

In fact, Easy gives you more rewards than the other modes. This may not be good for people that want a challenge in the battles, but not in the rewards.

Still, it makes the game more accessible and I would rather have difficulties that don't require me to play hard mode to get the most out of the game.

What's Not So Great

Mechanics

If you are someone that does not like to spend a lot of time getting your characters ready for battle, this game is not for you. Battles themselves can take a while, plus you will have several skills to choose from when leveling.

Each character can have 3 Jobs, so that is a lot of planning time -- not to mention choosing the right equips, going to the shop, upgrading your Shrine, etc.

Battles

This isn't really a con if you are a fan of this genre, but I can see battles getting repetitive late in the game. Players could find themselves using the speed battle option more and more as the game goes on. This can lead to them wanting to just get through the fights instead of just enjoying them.

Of course some people, including myself, might do this just so they can level their Jobs faster and get to the more specialized advanced Jobs.

Graphics

god wars future past battle system

Again, this is not much of an issue for fans looking for an old-school Tactics game, but modern gamers that aren't familiar with the style might be put off. This definitely feels like a game that could have been released on the original PlayStation, though that is part of its charm.

The Verdict

God Wars Future Past is a fantastic  RPG that fans of the genre will surely love and want to buy. Those unfamiliar with the genre, or more into faster games should be cautious when deciding on this game.

The bottom line is that this game succeeds at what it set out to do -- a brilliant tactics game with an old-school feel and interesting enough to have you coming back for more.

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3..2..1... Grenades! Review -- An Alright Game With Great Potential https://www.gameskinny.com/vakq7/321-grenades-review-an-alright-game-with-great-potential https://www.gameskinny.com/vakq7/321-grenades-review-an-alright-game-with-great-potential https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-88c22.jpg vakq7/321-grenades-review-an-alright-game-with-great-potential Wed, 21 Jun 2017 11:54:30 -0400 Damien Smith

Ah, the days of sitting on a couch with friends, surrounded by packets of crisps, Coca-Cola cans, energy drinks, and empty pizza boxes as your group plays a co-op or multiplayer game, working together or battling out for bragging rights. It certainly brings back some good memories from a form of gaming that was gone for a long time.

But in more recent years, it seems that nostalgia has led many a developer to create their own multiplayer party or co-op games. With titles like Gang Beasts, Screencheat and Move or Die, there is no shortage of such games these days.

The latest title to be added to that growing list is 3...2...1... Grenades, a co-op multiplayer FPS game developed by indie developer Banyango. Despite the game having a lot of wonderful potential, its gameplay lacks depth and its single player campaign is quite monotonous when played in short bursts.

Save Grenades Co from the Horror it Unleashed

You take on the role of a rookie soldier sent into a factory called Grenades Co, a producer of grenades, to take care of a problem. While making grenades is their main game, the shady company has also been meddling in other research and development endeavors.

That new form of research involves teleportation and opening portals, which has resulted in the factory being taken over by a massive monster -- and all the robots within the facility going rogue. Your job is to go in, destroy the robots, earn and find golden grenades, and then destroy the giant creature, saving the day.

Any fan of the FPS genre will begin to see the influences on the game's plot. Essentially, it is Half-Life but with robots and one giant monster to deal with. It holds the Half-Life flag so high that it even has a level that is designed after Xen, the alien world of the Half-Life universe, as well as a room that is similar to where Gordon Freeman sets off the resonance cascade.

While I don't mind a developer being influenced by others when creating and crafting plot, when that plot contains almost no originality, then I have a problem. This is essentially Half-Life but with arena-based combat against robots, where you eventually make your way to the Lovecraftian horror you need to defeat.

Along with that, there is zero consistency between the gameplay and the plot. As you progress, you play in all forms of arenas, from trains to islands to alien planets and so on. There is no explanation as to how doors in a grenade factory lead to these locations. If the doors led to portals, it would be understandable, but they are not depicted as portals, so it's kind of weird.

At the end of the day, the plot does as it is intended to, even if it isn't that creative and has many holes. The problems that the plot has isn't a game breaker because the gameplay is the primary focus, of course, -- it just would have been nice for the plot to be a better executed.

Fun yet Hollow Gameplay

There are two different game modes in 3...2...1... Grenades! One is the quest mode, which contains the plot, and the other is Quickplay. Quickplay allows the player to set up a match of their preference either against bots or with friends. (Note: Levels and game modes need to be unlocked through playing the campaign). Here they get to choose the match type, victory conditions, and other preferences. In Quest mode, the player must make their way through the Grenade factor winning matches against bots. To progress, you must obtain golden grenades which are awarded to you by winning matches.

In Quest mode, the player must make their way through the Grenade factor winning matches against bots. To progress, you must obtain golden grenades, which are awarded by winning matches.

When you have enough golden grenades, you will be able to unlock a new door leading to a new level, eventually progressing to the boss fight, of which there are two in total. Each level has a total of five different matches, except for one, which has four. Each of the matches has its own victory conditions and quirks.

For example, some matches will have tiny characters, others will be in slow-mo or even have all characters or grenades invisible. There are also different game modes like paintball, which is like Splatoon, capture the pug, which is like playing basketball with a pug, and one mode where you need to drop your opponents off of a destroyable platform.

Mixing these game modes with the many quirks that are on offer creates an array of varying and fun matches for you to experience. But they aren't without their problems. Because the game focuses solely on grenades as a weapon, the levels are very empty. They each contain a more powerful grenade pick up, but that is about it.

Due to this, even with the many different modes and preferences to choose from, the gameplay feels hollow and has no longevity. Also, some of those zany match changes like slow-mo, tiny characters, invisible characters and invisible grenades, do nothing to fix this glaring gameplay pothole.

Instead, what should be done with the buffs and quirks is turn them into power-ups to fill the levels with. Having a power up that makes the player tiny or invisible or makes grenades invisible would be a real game changer on the field. It would add a whole new level of depth to the game that it is currently missing and bring it from being something bland to exciting.

The gameplay to 3...2...1... Grenades! isn't bad, it is just missing depth. 

Skill Levels to Suit Everyone

The bots in the game can have their difficulty adjusted to suit the player's skill level. At any point while in the overworld, the player can approach a robot that is standing in the center of the level-select room to change the game's difficulty. There are three difficulties to choose from: Easy, Medium, and Hard, each changing up the intelligence and skill level of the enemies.

The higher the difficulty, the more accurate and agile enemies are, making it harder to hit them. Easy difficulty is for those who are new to FPS games, medium is for experienced players of the genre, and hard is for veterans looking for a good challenge.

No matter how experienced you are at playing these arena style combat games, there is a game mode to suit all.

Mostly Good Level Design, but More Hazards are Needed

The level design for 3...2...1... Grenades! is good for the most part. The levels are not too big (where you spend ages looking for something to kill) but also not so small that they are constantly crowded. They are colorful, have plenty of environmental variety, and are generally enjoyable.

The best levels are some of the later ones because they contain hazards like traffic -- where players can be run over. It would be great if more levels had imaginative ways of dying for reckless play, as very few levels actually have possibilities for environmental death.

Again, as previously mentioned, the levels do need a bit of beefing up, with the likes of power-ups and the like. But despite needing a bit more depth and a few more environmental hazards, the levels are genuinely good and really help bring out the fun of the game. 

A Game Best Played with Friends

3...2...1...Grenades! is a game that is entirely in its element when played in multiplayer, be that destroying each other or playing the campaign in co-op. The single player campaign is fun, but best only played in short bursts, as it quickly becomes monotonous.

There is a great game in 3...2...1...Grenades! with the potential to join the ranks of the many other local co-op games. But it needs more depth than it currently has to stay entertaining for longer than one evening, a pizza, and a few beers.

Right now, it isn't a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a game that is simply just alright. A few design changes, a bit of refinement, and polish (along with adding in online multiplayer) would make a big difference.

Note: A copy of 3...2...1...Grenades! was provided for this review.

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Corsair K68 Keyboard Melds Dust, Water Resistance With Proven Reliability https://www.gameskinny.com/1x5sq/corsair-k68-keyboard-melds-dust-water-resistance-with-proven-reliability https://www.gameskinny.com/1x5sq/corsair-k68-keyboard-melds-dust-water-resistance-with-proven-reliability https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/k/6/8/k68-red-03a07.png 1x5sq/corsair-k68-keyboard-melds-dust-water-resistance-with-proven-reliability Fri, 16 Jun 2017 16:50:02 -0400 Jonathan Moore

I've reviewed enough Corsair products at this point that I can confidently say the company is nearing the pinnacle of peripherals development. However, that doesn't mean that the Corsair K68 mechanical keyboard doesn't bring some new innovations to the table.

But it does mean that outside of several new advancements, the K68 ticks many of the same boxes as other keyboards in the company's line, specifically those of the Corsair K63.  

So what's the biggest difference between the two keyboard, besides about $20? Let's take a look. 

The Corsair K68 is (Mostly) Water and Dust Resistant

Unlike the K63 model, the Corsair K68 adds several new features that make it dust and water resistant up to IP32 standards. And for those that don't know what the heck IP32 stands for, here's a quick rundown.

The International Protection Rating, also known as the Ingress Protection Rating, was developed to measure how electronic products (such as keyboards) are protected against intrusion from dust, water, and other foreign bodies. It's an important system because it informs consumers on product protections via a demonstrable number, instead of relying on traditional "waterproof" marketing mumbo jumbo. 

So while the Corsair K68 isn't waterproof or dust proof, an IP32 rating means that it is protected against dust particles and debris larger than 2.5mm, as well as vertical water spillage and dripping water.   

How Does It Do It? 

 

Corsair's engineers specifically designed the K68's defenses from the inside out. First, a translucent rubber covering keeps water from seeping into the plate-mounted Cherry MX switches. It also keeps dust and other debris from entering the keyboard chassis itself. Secondly, the K68 contains built-in channels within the chassis to funnel any residual water past components and out of drainage ports on the keyboard's backside. 

I inadvertently tested this functionality when I spilled what we'll just call an ice-cold beverage on the K68 during a frenetic, late-night Paladins match. Tilting the keyboard to dump the beverage was easy, and the little bit that did make it into the keyboard dripped out of the back for easy cleanup. About six hours of use later, and the keys still function as good as new.  

It's pretty difficult to find a water resistant mechanical switch keyboard in general, not to mention one so easy to take care of -- so Corsair is setting the K68 apart from the competition in this regard.  

Other Important Features of the Corsair K68

Fully Customizable Macros

Just like Corsair's other keyboards, such as the K95 RGB Platinum, the K68 features fully customizable macros, remapping, and disabling. From text-pasting to fully remapped keys to toggling profiles and modes, the K68 allows for complete user-friendly customization. 

It doesn't have the versatile "G" keys of the K95, though. So if you're an MMO player that needs as many keys as possible to pull off a successful raid, you're going to want to look at the company's other offerings. But for the average MOBA, RTS, or FPS player, the K68's offerings are plentiful. 

N-Key Rollover and Compact Keys

I absolutely love that the K68 offers NKRO, giving me the ability to easily strafe left and forward while throwing a grenade in Battlefield 1 -- all before instantly going prone to crawl toward enemy lines. But the proximity of the K68's keys to one another, coupled with N-Key Rollover, means that I'll sometimes throw an ill-advised ult in Paladins or jump into V.A.T.S. over and over again in Fallout 4.

In the scheme of things, I'm really being nitpicky when it comes to this. But because the K68 is a compact 10-key keyboard, it would have been nice to have a bit more room between keys for my fat cigar fingers. But if you enjoyed the K63 -- or if you're willing to put a little practice into the way you type -- you'll be right at home with the K68 in no time. (It could also be that I'm just a sloppy player, but let's not talk about that ...)  

 

RGB Backlighting

If you've ever used a Corsair product, then you've seen this before. Like the K63, the Corsair K68 provides Red RGB backlighting and pattern customizability through Corsair's CUE software. From Rain to Pulse to Tap-Lighting and Static coloring, you can hone in just the right pattern for looks and functionality. You can even turn the RGB lighting off as a preset if you'd rather have no light at all. 

The only real downside here is that the K68 doesn't provide full-spectrum RGB presets or capabilities. If you don't like red, you'll have to opt for the K68's blue brethren, which have Cherry MX Blue Switches and are only sold in APAC as of this writing. 

Rubber Cable 

This is another nitpicky spot for me. The K68 doesn't provide a braided USB cable, but instead opts for a standard rubber cable. And while the inside functionality of a braided cable isn't decidedly different from that of a typical rubber cable, braided cables do a better job of protecting wires from tangling. They also safeguard against bending stress when wrapping around sharp corners, which does depend on your PC set up. 

I also found that the K68's rubber cable slipped across my desk considerably more than my K95's braided cable. This meant I had less slack on top of my desk to freely move the keyboard when I needed a quick reposition between Overwatch and XCOM 2

Again, it's not a huge deal and is really up to personal preference, but it does feel like a bit of an oversight for a keyboard that offers other incredible functionality. 

The Verdict

Corsair's K68 mechanical gaming keyboard is a nice addition to the company's line of premiere keyboard products. And coming in at $100, it fits snugly between the K63 and K95 Pro RGB in both price and functionality. Its dust and water resistant design differentiates it from both other Corsair keyboards and many keyboards currently on the market. But outside of that, the K68 is essentially the K63 with a numpad

At the end of the day, the Corsair K68 is reliable and competent -- a masterful example of how to implement IPR protections into a sleek keyboard design. And while it doesn't reinvent the wheel for gaming keyboards, especially others found in the Corsair catalog, it's a worthwhile investment if you can't afford the K95 Pro and want a compact, 10-key option. 

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DiRT 4 Review: Back to the Core of Driving https://www.gameskinny.com/83jk8/dirt-4-review-back-to-the-core-of-driving https://www.gameskinny.com/83jk8/dirt-4-review-back-to-the-core-of-driving https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/ced7456f515ae92288e5f9ef527e17a4.jpg 83jk8/dirt-4-review-back-to-the-core-of-driving Wed, 14 Jun 2017 16:42:55 -0400 Pierre Fouquet

DiRT 4 is the latest entry in the DiRT series, which started off with Colin McRae DiRT back in 2007. Evolving the formula from the Colin McRae Rally series -- and bringing in more off-road action such as Landrush, Trailblazers, and Rallycross -- DiRT 4 takes this evolution one step further. Though it does so at the cost of some content.

By bringing together the beloved simulation driving model of DiRT Rally and the more arcade driving of DiRT 3, Codemasters basically built two games. One game is for the controller toting, more casual fans of cars who play for fun and a slight challenge. The other game is for the die hard driving lovers who want to push themselves and their cars to the limit. So no matter what camp you're in, there's something in this game for you.

DiRT 4 hones the Rally-centric focus of DiRT Rally, while also adding in extra elements that make DiRT what it is at its core -- a fun and accessible off-road racer that pays homage to Colin McRae's love of all things wheeled.

The addition of the Hoonigan teams FocusRX is welcome.

DiRT 4 is Smaller, Yet More Focused

When I first booted up DiRT 4, the first thing I noticed was the reservation taken with the menus. They are not overly stylized like those in DiRT 2 and DiRT 3. DiRT 4's menus are functional, and pleasing without being too much.

The same is true for many of the audio effects in the game as well, which is a nice change. Gone are the days of some surfer dude yelling in your ear about being "crazy fast, man". Instead, straightforward commentary is provided by actual normal-sounding people -- be they American, English, or so on. If you want, Welsh legend Nicky Grist will tell you that "you did a good job". But if you want a Cali-bro telling you how sick your moves are, you aren't going to find it here. And that's a good thing.

Simple and functional are the name of the game here. DiRT 4 doesn't over-complicate anything. It's streamlined and focuses only on the most important aspects of any racer -- the driving.

The game's two handling modes, Gamer and Simulation, further lend to this simplicity. Do you want to have a bit of fun, and be a bit silly? Hop into Gamer mode. Want to drive the car around a corner to test your skill, speed, and luck? Simulation mode is for you.

Got to love the classy Swedish banks, with Classic Subaru blue and yellow.

Handling Modes Don't Cut Content

No matter what handling mode you use, you will not miss any content. The whole game can be played in either mode, but they do widely vary in feel -- that's why I consider DiRT 4 to be almost two games.

Gamer handling is the easiest to play with, and it isn't just a simulation with all assists on -- it's far more than that. You can play Gamer handling with all the assists off, and it'll still be both accessible, and a heap of fun on whether you're using a controller or racing wheel. With very clever tech working behind the scenes, Gamer mode handling feels like it's managing the weight shift for you, which includes managing the throttle, brakes and steering through a corner.

Yet all of this is accomplished without making you feel the game is holding your hand (which other racers like DiRT 3, Gran Turismo 6 or Forza 6 are guilty of). It's fun and satisfying, while still giving a challenge to those who are more casual with their racers.

Simulation handling is the opposite of Gamer. It builds off DiRT Rally's beloved simulation focus, but feel better in all aspects -- other than the historical Rally vehicles, which feel a little sticky and too much like modern cars. Sim handling gives you the challenge of barreling around a Rallycross track, Landrush course, or firing yourself down a Rally stage without any help.

Trophy Trucks are beasts to be tamed.

Fewer (But More Focused) Game Modes

DiRT 4 really only has 4 different games modes (a limited number compared to the 6 found in DiRT 3). But the smaller number of modes means that each one which is actually included in the game tends to be far more focused than what we've seen before. These modes include:

  • Landrush: Gives you four different types of vehicle to use, two buggy types and two Trophy Truck types (a RWD and 4WD version).
  • Rallycross: Gives you five different vehicle classes, with the FWD Super 1600s, Historic Group B, then RX2 and WorldRX cars, and crazy Crosskarts.
  • Joyride: Offers a nice break from competition, giving two cool challenge types to compete in.
  • Rally: The main mode which includes all forms of vehicles.

But the real centerpiece for DiRT 4 is Your Stage.

Your Stage Builds Stages with Personality

Your Stage was much touted in the run up to release. It's a tool which enables players to randomly generate a track, with a few variables like track length and complexity. Each and every time a stage is generated it will look and feel slightly different from any other you've played before -- and that's because it actually is.

Some might be a little more bland than others, but they all feel unique in some way. Personally, I found the Wales stages to be the only ones that were consistently underwhelming. Each Welsh stage had very similar landmarks -- with forested mid-right handers, into square rights that all had a road off to the left and an ambulance sitting there, and a faster open section. They weren't always in this order, but even so there seemed to be little variation in these particular stages. I could have just been unlucky, but I doubt it. It's really a shame, too, considering how much I loved the Welsh stages in DiRT Rally.

Other stages are a sharp contrast in how different they all felt. Spain boasted winding asphalt stages that were fast and fluid or winding through tight village streets. Michigan felt a little lifeless, but had a little bit of everything and still managed to seem variable enough that it was never the same race twice. And Sweden threw something new at me every time I raced there.

The DirtFish Rally School teaches you the basics, then let's you fly.

Open Your Career at the DirtFish Rally School

When you first start the game, you are shown the Rally ropes. Then you're transported into the DirtFish Rally School and given the option to take a few lessons. These are fully optional, and are not graded -- they have no fail states and will simply reset you if you stray too far.

This is a welcome addition which enables newer players to learn the ropes of Rally and Rallycross driving so that they can start gearing up for a career. It can even help experienced players to get to grips with the new handling model, and maybe learn a few things.

The career in this part of the game builds its difficulty with grace -- unlike DiRT Rally which just threw you in and hoped you could swim in the sim. The difficulty curve takes a very nice, steady pace with each new license level, allowing the player to grow naturally without having to brute force restarts or get too frustrated.

DiRT 4 Might Feel Lacking, But It's Perhaps the Best Rally Game

Content wise, DiRT 4 doesn't have the breadth of modes on show that other titles like DiRT 3 did. But there is a more pointed focus on getting the modes that are included to feel as rewarding as possible. Each one feels different than the last, and has something special to it. DiRT 4 trimmed the fat, got fit, then focused on getting everything right. If that was the aim Codemasters had, then they nailed it.

DiRT 4 is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. If you have just picked the game up, and need a little help getting started, check out our DiRT 4 guides to get ahead of the curve.

Note: A copy of DiRT 4 was provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.

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Life is Feudal: Forest Village -- Is It Just a Graphically Superior Clone Game? https://www.gameskinny.com/z1btz/life-is-feudal-forest-village-is-it-just-a-graphically-superior-clone-game https://www.gameskinny.com/z1btz/life-is-feudal-forest-village-is-it-just-a-graphically-superior-clone-game https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/3bb7185b15d16db65aff526fd814fee4.jpg z1btz/life-is-feudal-forest-village-is-it-just-a-graphically-superior-clone-game Wed, 14 Jun 2017 14:46:02 -0400 Justin Michael

Lately, I have been very fond of city builder games as a way to relax and unwind in a way that is still mentally engaging. So I was excited to check out Life is Feudal: Forest Village -- a medieval sandbox city-builder game that is incredibly similar to another game out on the market.

After sinking several hours into it, I've found lots to like about Forest Village, but also a lot of reasons to call it something of a clone game. Let's dive into some specifics and talk about what this title is really offering to you as a player. 

 

A Good Premise With Some Balancing Problems

You start the game off with a handful of villagers, some shacks, and storage for your materials and food. You also start off with a bit of food, which is important because your people eat like they have tapeworms. The game is pretty par for the course when it comes to this genre -- you can build farms, hunter's lodges, gather huts, and a dock to fish on. 

 

That said, there's a pretty considerable balance issue here. Material costs for some of the more advanced buildings are a bit on the grindy side, and your population grows at a snail's pace -- though you'll have more luck with that aspect once you upgrade the crap shacks you start off with into small houses or a big house. Smalls can house 5 people, and bigs can house 10. And the nicer the house, the more likely people are going to do the good ole "no-pants dance" that'll keep your population growing. So at least it's realistic in that regard.

For the first few years, you're really going to have to micromanage your villagers -- which isn't so bad, because the bigger buildings are expensive and you're going to want to focus on keeping your food stocks up and resources flowing.

But just when things are going smoothly, the game will find a way to screw with you. Your villagers might eat up all the bread and potatoes you had in storage, for example, and then die from hypothermia because it takes forever to chop timber into firewood. Or maybe your only builder gives birth and dies in the process, leaving you with just enough worker-age citizens to keep food production up but nothing else. 

This is also a slow game -- and I mean slooooow. I generally have to run it at 2x speed if I'm focusing solely on the game and nothing else. (Though a lot of the time I run it at 5x speed and pretend that I'm a God controlling the lives of a bunch of sprinters).

Is This a Throwback or a Carbon Copy?

They say that mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery. I personally find it less than endearing, but apparently "they" are cool with it. With that in mind, Forest Village feels very much like a graphically superior clone of Banished -- another city-builder sandbox game with a medieval feel that was developed by a different studio.

I'm not the only person to make this connection, as a number of other players have cited the extreme similarities between these two games on Forest Village's Steam page. But the developer at least seems to be aware of this, as the team has announced in their Steam updates that they were inspired by Banished -- and even made a jab at that game's developer while citing that their game has "many key differences" and "new features and gameplay options".

But at the time of this review, there are really only a few minor differences between the games -- the biggest of which is that you can take control of a villager in Forest Village. While the first-person view and a level of control over your villagers is really fun, it's also a bit buggy and has crashed my game on several occasions while trying to manually perform tasks like gathering resources or picking up animal hides.

Forest Village also prides itself on its better graphics, which I can somewhat agree with. That is, until you terraform the terrain -- then it just looks terrible because the textures get all stretched out and deformed. On top of that, the interior of the houses and some of the various buildings are also incredibly sparse. I'm not expecting hi-poly models or god rays, but some buildings are completely bare inside -- which kinda ruins an otherwise decent level of immersion. 

And as far as the wild animals are currently concerned, the only dangerous one is the fox, who'll kill your chickens in their coop. I've had bears wandering around my village that have never once attacked my villagers. Hell, my hunter was basically walking up to wolves and stabbing them like he was Rambo. I'm not saying that I want to fire up the game and have little Sven get mauled to death by wolves or anything, but when you list "Wild Predators" as one of the things that makes your game better, you should probably have them act like predators. 

The Verdict

Forest Village is a game that you play when you're doing something else, like writing a paper for college or Skyping with those relatives that have no idea how technology works. If it's your focus and actually keeps you entertained, then chances are you're a die-hard fan of the genre or possibly under the influence of mind-altering substances. 

Here's the rundown of what you can expect:

  • Graphics that are good but still have room for improvement
  • Animals that should have more realistic A.I.
  • Terraforming which needs texture work to keep from looking awful
  • Lots of bragging about how this game is different, though the only features that would make it truly so are yet to be implemented (Viking incursions, expeditions, trade, etc.)

All things considered, I can't recommend the game at its full price of $24.99 on the Steam Marketplace. But if you catch it on sale, it might be worth getting once some more distinguishing features are added to it. 

Note: A copy of this game was provided by the developer for this review.

Think I'm being too harsh? Let me know what you think in the comments below and thanks for choosing GamSkinny for your news, guides, and reviews!

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Hover: Revolt of Gamers Review - The Unadulterated Joys of Freerunning https://www.gameskinny.com/uy8dn/hover-revolt-of-gamers-review-the-unadulterated-joys-of-freerunning https://www.gameskinny.com/uy8dn/hover-revolt-of-gamers-review-the-unadulterated-joys-of-freerunning https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/2/0/1/20170610145720-3d5f7.jpg uy8dn/hover-revolt-of-gamers-review-the-unadulterated-joys-of-freerunning Sun, 11 Jun 2017 20:10:00 -0400 Autumn Fish

Hover: Revolt of Gamers thrusts players into the heart of an open-world dystopian city where fun and entertainment have been outlawed by a tyrant called the Great Admin. Two resistance groups known as the Gamers and Breakers are rallying together to protest the new laws the best way they know how -- by having ludicrous amounts of fun.

The Gamers have recently captured a cloning chamber, and your team is next in line to take full advantage of it. As a clone, you'll have access to a Hoverheat Energy Gauge to fuel all the crazy running, grinding, and jumping you'll be doing to get around the city.

In fact, that's pretty much the point of the game -- freerun around Hover City and have a hell of a time. Maybe challenge yourself to a few missions and progress the storyline. It's all up to you. You're not even locked into a linear level (tutorial aside) until you go to face off against the Admin.

So if you're a fan of ideals like freedom and exploration and showing off your slick moves, you really need to check out this game.

Master Precise Controls and Bound Across the City

The controls feel clumsy and almost unwieldy at first, like trying to walk after growing a brand new pair of legs. Don't go blaming the game for missing your jump for the umpteenth time, though. It takes a lot of time to really learn the controls, but when you do, it's a joy to zip around the city in style. They're pretty simple, too.

Hover uses traditional 3D movement controls for both character and camera, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

The jump key is pretty standard. The longer you press it, the higher you jump. Additionally, jumping right when you hit the ground from a long fall lets you bounce, carrying on whatever momentum you had from the fall.

The grind key is hugely versatile, allowing you to grind on rails, slide on floors and walls while in motion, and perform tricks when used in conjecture with jumping.

Finally, the rewind key allows you to return from whence you came. Note that it just takes you back to where you were before, it doesn't rewind time or undo your last actions. And if you try to rewind while holding something, it'll simply drop.

Tied together with expected functions like the interact key, a menu, or a U-Turn, the controls are simple yet astoundingly exhilarating in practice. When I really got the hang of them, I leapt across the city -- gleefully giggling at the wonderful time I was having. It's weird to say it about a game with no fighting or combat system to speak of, but I felt truly powerful in those moments where the controls just clicked.

Hover Revolt of Gamers Review Controls Gameplay Freerunning

It can be a struggle to learn the controls, though, if you don't have a direction or anywhere specific to go. That's why there's plenty of missions littered throughout the city that challenge you to refine your skills if you ever hope to complete them.

Challenge Yourself to Various Missions in a Vertical Open-World

There are a plethora of missions to try your hand at. Whether you're racing, making deliveries, playing gameball, or spraypainting satalights for the resistance, there're plenty of ways to refine your skills in Hover. Nearly every mission offers a respectable challenge (one that may seem too hard at times), and you can even replay most of them after beating them to try for a better score.

Unfortunately, some missions suffer from not being clear about what you're supposed to do or where you're supposed to go. For example, there's a quest chain in the first zone where you need to chase down and capture traitors. Instead of pointing the traitors out with the HUD's arrow, however, it simply points your camera in the general direction of the traitor after you're done talking with the quest giver. It took me ages to figure that out on my own, which is frustrating because the problem could have been circumvented entirely had they simply used the HUD elements they taught us to pay attention to throughout the rest of the time.

No matter how confusing they can be, though, missions are certainly worth doing. Not only will you progress the story and gain experience, but you'll unlock new character DNA for completing certain quest chains. Each character specializes in certain things at the expense of their other stats, which can then be further augmented with skill chips to coax out a character's full potential and cover their weaknesses. Having a full team of specialized freerunners that you can swap between at any moment really transforms how you make your way around the vertical, open-world environment of ECP17.

Hover Revolt of Gamers Review Missions Vertical Open World

I'll be the first to admit that the "open-world" of Hover is a tad small. However, the levels were designed with verticality in mind, which makes the relatively minuscule stages feel gigantic. I still occasionally get lost in the larger stages after 40 hours, and getting lost isn't really something I do on the reg -- I'm the type that could walk you through every step of Dark Souls entirely from memory.

Now be careful while traversing the streets. If the E-Cops spot you and catch up to you, they won't hesitate to dole out punishment. The first two offenses are warnings, and you'll be let off the hook at the nearest detention block. However, if you don't hack your name out of the system before you're caught for the third time, you'll be locked in a cell deep within the Prison, which you must then escape.

While you're off avoiding the law and gallivanting around the city, you may run into other players if you happen to have your game set to Online.

Race Against Other Players Online ... If Your Internet is Flawless

If your multiplayer options are set to Online, you'll automatically join a peer-to-peer server when you enter a map. You interact with players the same way you would on any other online game out there -- by bumping into them and saying hello through a chat box in the bottom-left corner of the HUD.

If you see another player initiate a mission, you may ready up and challenge them, if you so wish. The only problem is that if you or the host has a spotty connection, the mission may end prematurely and without warning, giving you no prompt to try again and forcing you to trek all the way back to the quest giver should you wish to give it another go. Currently, the only way I know to fix this issue is to straight up switch to Solo mode in the multiplayer options.

Unfortunately, that's not the only issue that seems linked to playing Online, either. The framerate often stutters when someone joins the server. As if that wasn't bad enough, the framerate will occasionally tank from a solid 60 to an average of 15 fps simply from being online. (That is to say that I never experience framerate tanks like that at all while playing Solo, which I did more often than not simply so I could complete the missions.)

Hover Revolt of Gamers Review Online Multiplayer

Admittedly, these are issues that may get patched out eventually -- but until they do, they significantly impact the Online Multiplayer experience to a point where I really don't want to deal with it sometimes. When it works, it works well, and really makes the game that much better.

Verdict: Deceptively Simple and a Sheer Joy to Play

This is by far the most fun I've had playing a game for review yet. It may be simple in execution, but I couldn't help but chortle at the delightful time I was having running and jumping across the city.

Hover: Revolt of Gamers lacks direction and flat-out refuses to hold your hand to the point where it doesn't explain anything aside from how to move your character. You have to figure out how races work and how to play gameball all on your own. If you're the type of person who likes this, you'll probably enjoy the heck out of this game. I definitely did.

Interested? It's on Steam right now for just $20. Don't have a good PC? PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch versions are confirmed, but release dates are yet to be announced. So keep an eye out.

If we managed to push you over the fence, be sure to check out our Beginner's Guide while you wait for your download to finish. Let us know what you think of Fusty Games' and Midgar Studio's new parkour game in the comments below!

Note: A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. 

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Monolith - One of the Most Fun Roguelikes This Year https://www.gameskinny.com/hwhhj/monolith-one-of-the-most-fun-roguelikes-this-year https://www.gameskinny.com/hwhhj/monolith-one-of-the-most-fun-roguelikes-this-year https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-86ffd.jpg hwhhj/monolith-one-of-the-most-fun-roguelikes-this-year Fri, 09 Jun 2017 15:39:31 -0400 Damien Smith

After previewing Team D-13's shoot'em up roguelike Monolith just over a week ago, I was left wondering to myself, what more could they do to make an already outstanding game even better. The game released yesterday, and I was surprised to see just how much polish and refinement really went into it.

What is Monolith?

For those who may not know what Monolith is, it is a roguelike that uses similar level design and mechanics to The Binding of Isaac and combines them with good old-fashioned shoot'em up gameplay. The player takes on the role of a small ship that enters a long-abanded facility in search of wealth, power and an effort to piece together the past.

Throughout your journey, you will have to defeat all kinds of enemies along with enormous and powerful bosses, collect debris (money), buy upgrades and weapons from merchants and find secret rooms containing additional upgrades and supplies.

So, now that we have the gist of what Monolith is about, let's get down to the nitty-gritty details.

Roguelike level design and mechanics and shoot'em up are a perfect match

Awhile ago, if someone told me, "how cool would it be to combine a roguelike with a shoot'em up?" I would have probably looked at them with a confused expression on my face. This wouldn't be because of it not being a good idea, I just wouldn't be able to get a mental image of how it would work.

But when it comes to it actually being done, it is a match made in heaven. Just like The Binding of Isaac, you move from room to room having to defeat all enemies within each to progress to the next. All the levels are randomly generated, resulting in a unique experience in every playthrough.

Along with the level design, there are also other elements from TBoI such as shops where you can buy new power ups and supplies and secret locations to unlock using your bombs. At the end of each level, you must face a boss that is only possible to fight once you have unlocked the door by killing the minibosses (Nimbus') throughout the floor.

It is within the gameplay that the game gains an identity of its own with its fast-paced, bullet hell action. To help you on your way, you have a selection of weapons at your disposal from rapid firing weapons, to charge up weapons to laser beams or fireballs.

However, these are just the weapon types. Each of the weapon types has randomly generated properties to them which gives them more possibilities such as crossfire, ricochet, freezing enemies and much more. On each floor of the facility, there is also an upgrade station that grants you an upgrade.

These upgrades come in the form of increasing your maximum health, your damage, swapping your dash ability with teleport and more. It is also worth noting that there is a feature that instead of backtracking through rooms, using the map, you can instantly teleport to any room you previously cleared. This results in there being zero backtracking between rooms to get to anywhere which is just an added bonus.

Between the randomly generated levels, weapons, upgrades and shops, no two playthroughs are the same. That mixed in with the adrenaline filled, chaotic, fast-paced action of the shoot'em up genre, creates an exhilarating experience that you will fall in love with and can't stop playing.

Awesome enemies and bosses

One of the most important aspects of a game like Monolith is to ensure that the game's enemies and bosses are not just challenging but also induce fear into the player. While the more basic enemies at the earlier stages of the game are expectantly easy, as you progress they become more unpredictable and dangerous.

This slow build of difficulty has two purposes that Monolith executes perfectly, that being a warm-up for the challenges ahead and also a false sense of security. There have been so many occasions throughout the game where I have felt invincible only to then get my ass handed to me by the tougher enemies on the next floor.

As for the bosses, they are brilliantly designed both in visual design and their balance in attacks. They are visually unique and look intimidating to a point that you know you have a battle on your hands. With the shoot'em up genre it is very easy to make a boss imbalanced, but in Monolith they are challenging, but well balanced, resulting in there always being a possibility to win. It just depends on your experience, skill, and reflexes.

The best thing about the bosses more than anything is that they are memorable. From the ginormous devourer that swallows everything to the fire blazing, firewall to the supernatural daemon. Each requires different approaches to defeat them as they all have their own form of attacks that you need avoid.

The enemies and bosses of the game are really well designed and balanced in every possible way and give the player some really memorable moments throughout their experience.

An outstanding title

Little has changed with Monolith since I previewed it little over a week ago. But there has certainly been some tweaks here and there and a good overall polishing to it. With that said, so little needed to be changed or adjusted, as it was simply just that good.

Even now I still stand by what I said in my preview, that being that it is one of the most fun roguelikes to release this year. It is a frantic game with adrenaline filled action, balanced enemies, plenty of unlockables, awesome weapons and a brilliantly fitting soundtrack to top it all off.

This isn't a game that would suit anyone who hates bullet hell gameplay but if you don't mind it and enjoy shoot'em ups and roguelikes, then Monolith is guaranteed to give you one hell of a good time that is worth its asking price.

Disclaimer: A copy of the game was provided to the writer for the purpose of this review.

Monolith is available to buy on Steam for $7.99

 

 

 

 

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AereA Review: An RPG Built Around Instruments and Music https://www.gameskinny.com/d87nq/aerea-review-an-rpg-built-around-instruments-and-music https://www.gameskinny.com/d87nq/aerea-review-an-rpg-built-around-instruments-and-music https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-a616f.jpg d87nq/aerea-review-an-rpg-built-around-instruments-and-music Fri, 09 Jun 2017 14:49:51 -0400 stratataisen

AereA is an action-adventure RPG created by Netherlands-based game developers, Triangle Studios. This stylistic game world revolves around music, it being both (literally) your weapon and your enemy. As you play the game, you complete quests, solve puzzles, and defeat enemies all to obtain the nine primordial instruments, relics of power that can restore balance and peace to the world of Aezir.

And after diving into the game and dedicating several hours to it there are several things, both good and bad, that got my attention.

Spin Me a Tale

The story is by no means an epic tale that will leave you wanting more. Without going into spoilers, it’s your basic going on quests to save the world type of tale. Truthfully, I didn’t hate it, but it was just... ‘meh.' I started button mashing my way through the dialog at one point because I wasn’t invested in the story anymore.

I picked up quests and read what I needed to do and where I needed to go, but after a while, that was about all I read. Of the parts I did stop and pay attention to at the beginning, I caught a few spelling and grammatical errors.

The Heroes

There’s not much to say about them, and they don’t have much personality beyond the instruments that they use as weapons. Visually, they look fantastic and fit the classes that the developers designed them for. A good example of this is the lute-mage, Jules, who has the look and feel of a mage: tall hat, robes, wooden staff, the whole nine. Beyond that, however, I don’t know much about him or Jacques the Cello-Knight, whom I played as for the majority of the game.

I do wish there was more melee variety in the classes as there are three ranged heroes and only one melee hero. Flute-daggers maybe? Victoria the Flute-Assassin? Give me something. 

That Look, Though

I’ll admit it: I love the way AereA looks and it’s a part of the reason the game appealed to me in the first place. It’s polished and has an almost claymation/cartoony feel to it. The visual effects are also just as good because the developers have almost flawlessly incorporated the world with the game's musical theme. 

The animations are also decent... except for the trumpet-gunner. A lot of his movements seem stiff, especially while he’s running. Also, he’s dual-wielding trumpet-guns but only fires one, so that's kind of strange.

Fetch Me Shrubbery!

The quests in AereA are your typical ‘kill so many enemies’ or ‘bring back so many items’ quests that one finds in any RPG. At any one time, you’ll be on two quests, the story quest, and a side quest.

Of course, the story quest will lead you from quest to quest so that you won't miss any of them. However, the side quests are the ones that you can fall behind on or miss altogether. The other students of the concert hall are the ones who provide the side quests, all one of them. Hubert.

Side quests complete the minute you kill or gather all the items you're tasked with, so you only have to talk to Hubert to pick up the next side quest. However, he doesn't always have a quest available for you, and he gives no indicator of when he does. So my suggestion would be to talk to him each time you return to the concert hall. Oh, and he roams around a bit, so you’re going have to find him first.

One Foot in Front of the Other

On the PC you can play with either a mouse and keyboard or a controller… However, I’m going to start this out by saying that this game is not keyboard and mouse friendly. I was wrong with my initial assumption that the player movement would be similar to Diablo 3. The game uses the WASD keys for movement, and they are not very intuitive with how the camera angles and map layouts are. I got frustrated enough with them that I went and bought a $20 controller so that I could get through the game enough to review it.

 

Play That Funky Music

The audio for AereA is fantastic. The soundtrack uses classical themed music that fits each area from whimsical to adventurous. The sound effects fit the game's style and theme, all being musical of course. I greatly enjoyed slashing the air with my cello-bow sword!

Finding the Path

While the levels themselves do not procedurally generate, the player does start at a different spawn point each time they load into the same level. Also, the puzzles for the level do seem to differ from the last time it was completed. I’ll discuss the puzzles more in the next section.

The navigation in the game is limited to the mini-map in the corner of the screen. On smaller map layouts this is fine because you can navigate around easily enough and remember where the teleporter out of the area is. On a larger map, however, this is not the case. More than a few times I’ve gotten lost trying to remember which floaty isle I saw the teleporter on earlier in the level.

Solve Those Puzzles & Watch Out For The Traps!

Locked doors are a recurring theme in AereA, and all of these doors are unlocked by the player in one of four ways: Walking up to them, killing the monsters in the area, activating a metronome lever, or moving the glowy box to the glowy square. These puzzles are by no means Rubix cubes, but they can become more than a little frustrating and tedious after having to solve them over and over again each time you re-enter a zone after returning the concert hall.

You, of course, have to solve these puzzles while dealing with enemies and avoiding traps. The music energy altar, aka glowy box, resets back to its original position if you leave it on the ground for too long.

Defeating the Enemy

I preferred using the cello-knight because I found melee was a bit easier for me to handle. Ranged was okay, but I found it difficult to position the character just right to land a shot at times. When I did play as a ranged character, I opted to spin in a circle randomly firing and hoping I hit something (oh wait...that’s how I play everything…).

Some of the monsters the player will fight have unique looks, like the bagpipes cicada or lyre scorpions, but for the most part look like normal creatures. They do have the tendency to get stuck in the environment or pushed behind objects where you can’t get to them.  They also respawn rather quickly, almost too quickly for my liking.

The More the Merrier!

AereA has a co-op mode. Unfortunately, there was only one beta key, so I didn’t get to experience what playing with friends (or in my case victims) was like in the game. I can see where it would be helpful, especially when trying to solve some of those puzzles and getting attacked while doing so.

Extra Half-Notes

Get it? Half-Notes as in music notes… I’ll go sit in a corner now.

These are some additional thoughts and opinions about minor things in AereA.

Helpful Tips

Most of the tips at the start of the game when you’re playing with the tutorial on don’t match what is happening when it pops up. I got a hint about traps when there were no traps around and a hint about boxes (which I was already smashing open earlier in the game) when looking at a bunch of spike traps.

Airship

The airship that you ‘board’ when you go from the concert hall to another area seems like an extra load screen that is not needed. I’m not sure if it has significance in co-op, but it seems pointless in single player.

What Does This Do? And Where Can I Store It?

There is no way to tell what an item does when you pick it up out in the field. The only way to find out what it does is by either finding its recipe book or using it. If you do use the item, it could mean wasting a really good potion if you’re able to figure out what it does after using it. I’ve had that happen with a couple of items so far, and I still don’t know what some of them do.

The player can only carry four items at a time, and they do not stack. If the item limit is going to stay the same, please lessen the number of boxes with potions in them except for boss fights.

I'm Safe, Right?

Health doesn't regen when back at the home base, the concert hall. Out and about I get, that’s what HP potions are for, and it makes it so the player doesn't throw themselves in the thick of battle like Leeroy Jenkins. However, at home where there is no danger health should be regenerated or there should be an NPC that can heal the character by speaking with him.

Wrapping It Up

I’m giving AereA a solid 6 out of 10. Overall it isn’t a horrible game; I see a lot of potential with it. It has a great look, fantastic music, and an amazing theme. It could be a bit more user-friendly to its keyboard and mouse players, so they don’t have to go out and spend at least twenty more bucks just to play it. With a bit more work and polish here and there this game could shine!

Oh, and  I found out why almost every character in the game has hair over their eyes...

 

 It's because THEY HAVE NO EYES! o.O

AereA is available for purchase on Steam, Xbox One and PS4

The publisher provided a copy of this game for review purposes. 

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Bio Inc. Redemption Review: a Fun Look Into Unhealthy Lifestyles and Diseases https://www.gameskinny.com/v4vcr/bio-inc-redemption-review-a-fun-look-into-unhealthy-lifestyles-and-diseases https://www.gameskinny.com/v4vcr/bio-inc-redemption-review-a-fun-look-into-unhealthy-lifestyles-and-diseases https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-image-91c1f.png v4vcr/bio-inc-redemption-review-a-fun-look-into-unhealthy-lifestyles-and-diseases Fri, 09 Jun 2017 13:57:42 -0400 Dan Roemer

Developed and self published by DryGin Studios, Bio Inc. Redemption is an early access strategy simulation game revolving around the human body and various diseases. The game offers two separate modes of play known as “Life and “Death”.

Life and Death, or in Bio Inc.'s case A Question of Morality

First up we have the “Death” mode, in which you as the player can choose to torment your victims by creating and manifesting different diseases to kill your victim. The game has a percentage bar that indicates how well they're doing. From there you'll collect “Bio Points” by clicking on various spores in different systems within the body. You navigate these systems on the left side of the screen by clicking between them.

Once you've gained enough Bio Points you can open up your “Bio Map” and then invest these points in various diseases, horrible life styles, various things known as “Risk Factors”, and methods of screwing with the AI doctors trying to stop you. For example, you can put the doctors on strike, give your victim bad doctors in general, or invest in horrible eating habits to make your victim obese.

Once you start infecting your victim with different diseases and multiple risk factors, the various systems within your victim's body will start to slowly weaken before finally shutting down. While this is going on, the doctors will try to stop you by diagnosing different symptoms and treating different diseases you've infected them with, which in turn will block off specific areas on the Bio Map.

This leaves you to decide what diseases and parts of the Bio Map you want to unlock. Some diseases also depend on different risk factors such as being over 60 years old or specific heredity conditions--all of which you can unlock with Bio Points you've earned. Once your victim's overall health drops down to 0%, they'll die and you've essentially won. However if the treatment bar on the right hand side reaches 100% -- you've lost.

 

In the “Life” mode, you play as the doctor attempting to stop the AI from killing your patient with numerous diseases and risk factors. In order to do this you'll first begin collecting Bio Points once again by clicking the screen in various different systems.

Instead of selecting various diseases and risk factors, you'll instead try to diagnose various symptoms and pin-point what disease your patient potentially has so you can treat it. You'll also want to select healthier lifestyle choices like lifting weights, yoga, proper hydration, and so on. Once you've hit 100% on the treatment bar on the right hand side, your patient is considered “saved” from the AI -- and you've won.

Fun in the Sun, Unless You Get Skin Cancer

Admittedly I played the Death mode much more than Life during the roughly six hours I spent with Bio Inc. Redemption. What that says about me I'm not sure. I could be a psychopath or a fun loving person who enjoys long walks on the beach (Maybe both?)

What I do know for sure is that killing someone with morbid obesity and constipation never got old for me. I just found it more enjoyable to experiment with different diseases and methods of killing people than curing them and figuring out which disease is behind the different symptoms. “Death” mode overall I found to be a bit more diverse in terms of strategies, thus in-turn more fun.

Easily my favourite thing about Bio Inc. Redemption was reading all the different descriptions of the various symptoms, diseases, and life styles. I had very little knowledge on diseases and the game features plenty of detailed descriptions on them. I found myself spending countless minutes simply reading, which is great.

All Substance, Yet No Flash?

The game is in early access, so pretty much everything discussed here is subject to change, but my biggest issue so far with Bio Inc. Redemption is the lack of presentation. From the moment you start up the game, you're greeted with a corny but entertaining intro video of a crazed doctor talking about experimenting on another victim and  another doctor attempting to save lives.

The gameplay itself though is pretty much devoid of any theatrics like vocals or audio because pretty much everything in the game revolves around text (outside of the few animations you'll get from unlocking different risk factors and life style choices). Bio Inc. Redemption would really benefit from having a better soundtrack, voice acting, and more visual depth in general as different diseases progress and get worse for your victim or patient.

The various game modes you'll unlock as you progress in either campaign are also a bit lackluster and are more or less very slight alterations to the core game mode. For example, competing against another AI to see who can kill their victim first left me wondering, “why isn't this just an online mode to begin with?"

The difficulty levels are a bit artificial. I played a few games on the harder difficulty and they're difficult -- yes. But it honestly just boiled down to the Bio Points being much more quick to disappear and difficult to obtain, as opposed to the AI doctor or the AI diseases and symptoms being more difficult to manage.

The Skinny on Bio Inc. Redemption

Bio Inc. Redemption is a great game in short bursts, but it leaves you little reason to come back once you've played it a few times. Which shouldn't surprise anyone considering it was originally a mobile game back in 2014 and still very much feels like one in overall design.

However, it's a very smooth experience for an early access game. I had no bugs or crashes during the six hours I spent with the game and there is some depth to be found in the various methods of killing a victim or saving a patient in each campaign. It also may surprise you with the various diseases and symptom descriptions and just how unhealthy an inactive life style can be.

You will love this game if:

  • You enjoy strategy games similar to Plague Inc.
  • Are interested in various diseases
  • Enjoy quick pick up and play style of game in short bursts

You may not like this game if:

  • Are looking for a game with various unique game modes
  • Looking for a long form play session or something to sink hours into
  • Expect more presentation (higher production values)

Bio Inc. Redemption is available for purchase on Steam now.

Note: The developer provided a copy of this game for the purposes of this review.

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Randall Review -- Skinny Jeans and Telekinesis https://www.gameskinny.com/rxve9/randall-review-skinny-jeans-and-telekinesis https://www.gameskinny.com/rxve9/randall-review-skinny-jeans-and-telekinesis https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/8/5/5/85593707a9e1b62.jpg rxve9/randall-review-skinny-jeans-and-telekinesis Fri, 09 Jun 2017 11:36:46 -0400 Jeffrey Rousseau

Do you like punching bad guys in the face? Good. Then you'll like We The Force Studios' brand new beat'em up, Randall; their first major title for both Steam and PlayStation 4.

The game takes place in a future where life just plain sucks thanks to a totalitarian government and a very not nice police force in control. Oh, and scientists regularly experiment on the populace. Talk about a dreary dystopia.

In the midst of all this weirdness is our titular hero, Randall. He wakes up with amnesia and is clueless about the world at large. Our skinny-jean armed hero knows a few things, however. The world isn't right and he's taking matters into his own hands, I mean, fists. 

 

Fisticuffs

What Randall offers at its core is a fun beat 'em up. You literally can punch and kick your way through all opposition. The game starts simple enough where you're just brawling with the authorities. You can pull off fun combos and have some maneuverability in battle as well.

Randall, however, is more than just a street fighter. As the game progresses in its exploratory fashion, you'll find an assortment of powers. So aside from punching your way through everything, our hero will have options available. Telekinesis is the weapon in Randall's arsenal. They also allow you to tackle the environmental hazards to progress onward.

 

Wanderlust

Often times, it feels like too many games hold our hands. I believe it's better to wander around and learn where you can and can't go. The game offers the kind of fun where you can just get lost. Sure there's an overarching plot of why the world sucks and the hero's memory is missing. But the world itself invokes exploration with no directions.

A Charming Hero

Randall has a charm to it that isn't available in most games. Due to his mental state, he often has conversations with himself. Sure at first glance that's troublesome, but it's presented with a dose of humor.

His psyche pokes fun at his circumstances, his clothing choices, and so forth. The clever writing is one of my favorite features of the game. Often times dystopian titles feel highly doom and gloom with little room for much else. Here, however, you're punching crooked authorities in the face along with your mind's running commentary.

The Jams

So, can we talk about the soundtrack? It's a mix of various genres and is pretty fun. During fights, you'll hear thumping house or EDM which gets louder depending on the situation. As you traverse the City of Nook you'll hear ambient, haunting electronica. Certain areas of the city have their own unique sound, and when serious scenes and events take place the music shifts to be more grandiose as well.

Randall didn't just miss leg day...

Now the title isn't without its shortcomings, and an example of this is found during battle. At times, things get dicey when you're fighting multiple enemies. Crowd controlling isn't easy and it certainly isn't fool-proof. It's far too easy for an enemy to smack you in the back while you're attacking a different enemy. An unchecked foe can stop you if you're not focused on attacking many of them at a time. At times, it's frustrating to lose due to numbers alone. Randall is a one man army after all. 

The other issue involves the controls. For the most part, the controls are fine but at times they don't feel as responsive as they should. This was pretty noticeable during the platforming sequences within the game. Randall didn't seem to move as precisely as I needed him to. Not game breaking but apparent. 

So this Randall...

Randall is a fun beat'em up, no question. But it's also very much a Metroidvania and has its fair share of humor.  It may not be the best on the market, but you can easily spend a weekend with this and enjoy the time.  It is a fun outing for We Are The Force. Honestly, I look forward to more from them. 

Randall is available today on Steam and PlayStation 4 via the PlayStation Network.

Review code provided by the publisher. 

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Inner Chains Review: Great Potential Shackled by Poor Gameplay https://www.gameskinny.com/wi98b/inner-chains-review-great-potential-shackled-by-poor-gameplay https://www.gameskinny.com/wi98b/inner-chains-review-great-potential-shackled-by-poor-gameplay https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-2f8ab.png wi98b/inner-chains-review-great-potential-shackled-by-poor-gameplay Tue, 06 Jun 2017 17:45:10 -0400 ReverendShmitty

Inner Chains, the latest work from Telepaths Tree, is a sci-fi horror, first-person shooter meant to be revolutionary in its design and function. Boasting "unprecedented ways of interaction between weapons, their users, and the environment," the game was announced on Kickstarter in March 2016, where it accumulated 906 backers who donated a total of $18,708 -- nearly double Telepaths Tree's $10,000 goal.

And it's a fact that makes me all the more confused by the game's lackluster mechanics and boring story.

Inner Chains' Gameplay is Sometimes Frustrating

With first-person shooters, you can typically expect an identical control scheme from the last one you played. Clicking left shoots, WASD moves, and spacebar jumps. Inner Chains is no exception, but it makes a few errors along the way that make things complicated.

Controls cannot be remapped, something I think every game should feature, especially given the number of disabled and handicapped players in the world. This also means players are forced to hold CTRL to crouch instead of being able to reset it to another combination or keystroke. 

The F-key is also the designated melee button, which is fine, but it does feel weird to use in the game's opening half hour when you have no weapons and all fights are with your fists. Spamming the F-key instead of left-clicking just felt wrong when my hands were literally the only weapons I had. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that enemies near the beginning of the game require upwards of 5 to 6 punches to kill. On top of that, sometimes swings don't even register, so it takes even longer. 



And that brings me to my next issue: the lack of a HUD.

Don't get me wrong, I love immersion in my games, particularly with first-person shooters. But it has to be done properly. Inner Chains, unfortunately, does not implement the system in a logical way.

For example, player health is indicated by an illuminated shackle embedded in your right wrist. This is a great way of avoiding an obstructing HUD that takes you out of the experience, but it is also a great way for you to die. You see, the lights will dim on your wrist, but nowhere else will you carry any indicator of low health. No red edges, no heavy breathing, no fading colors. Nothing. The player character reacts exact same way at full health as he does on the precipice of death.

And when you combine this with achingly slow movement speeds and three-pack-a-day-asthmatic sprint duration, the game simply isn't enjoyable to play.

A Shivering Setting Wasted by a Nearly Hidden Story



In a dark, dilapidated world left to ruin after humans vanished, technology and nature evolved and fused until everything became some form of biomechanical monstrosity. Now returned, humans are at the bottom of the food chain in a world where everything wants them dead. How did it become like this? Where did humanity go?

These questions linger and drive you forward as you play. The intrigue and mystery really captivated my imagination and left me genuinely curious where the game would take me.

Unfortunately, Inner Chains tells virtually none of that story. Dialogue is non-existent, with the few speaking characters talking in unintelligible groans and whispers. The written word is in an in-game language that requires players decipher it by finding stone tablets containing individual letters. This means players are forced to not only find every single tablet, many of which are off the beaten path but also replay the game with this knowledge -- just to get the gist of what's going on.

This lack of story left me progressing through the game blind and deaf, just following along without understanding.

 

No Can Hear You Scream ... or Walk ... or Breath ... or ... 

When I first jumped into Inner Chains, I immediately noticed the world was silent. Ghastly pale and sickly travelers covered in wounds and filth passed by without a sound. I thought it was poignant and eerie at first -- a striking design choice. Then I came across a gathering cheering at a decoratively dressed speaker, their fists punching the sky.

And still, there was no sound.

That's when I realized this wasn't some artistic decision, but a failing on the developer's part. NPCs, aside from very specific scripted events, make absolutely no sound. No speaking. No breathing. No footsteps. Nothing. In fact, a majority of the world is completely devoid of sound.

Ambiance and music are both fleeting. Sometimes you enter a new area and a creepy drone will echo to remind you this place isn't safe. But other times it doesn't. Sometimes music will climb as you come across a group of enemies bent on killing you. But other times it doesn't. This inconsistency is a grave error given the game's traveling, horror-centric theme -- as wall as its lack of conventional storytelling.

Inner Chains is a Gorgeous Game

For all the bad things that make up Inner Chains, this is where the game truly shines. Created in Unreal Engine 4, the game is a sight to behold. Textures are sharp, character models are detailed, and the environments are breathtaking. Multiple times I found myself stopping to look around and take in the amazing backdrops and wonder how they came up with such fantastic designs.

Architecture, in particular, was amazing and expressed the evolution of the world without a single word. Buildings are both ancient and high-tech, many with organic matter clinging to them and drooping from them. Flames leap off the screen against the dreary darkness of the world and particle effects such as firing the lightning gun send sparks scattering and light up the grim tombs you find yourself in.

Now, there are a few areas and objects with muddy textures that look out of place, but these were few and far between. More important were the numerous graphical glitches in the opening level. Several times I watched the distant background flash and distort into an endless plane of stretched polygons. And while I never encountered this past the opening, this is a fatal flaw to have in the oh, so important opening hour of the game when developers really need to grab the player's attention.

Despite this, I'm amazed an indie developer was able to make such a beautiful game without the use of a cartoony, stylized art style. If there was ever a game to faithfully capture the concept art, no matter how intricate and detailed, this is it.

---

At the end of the day, Inner Chains is a beautiful game with a promising setting. If you want a short 4- to 5-hour experience with amazing graphics, then look no further. But if you want something deeper and more meaningful to take you on a story-filled adventure, look elsewhere. With a lack of both character development and story progression -- despite its vast potential -- Inner Chains is all flash and no substance.

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Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind Feels Like Home Despite the Differences https://www.gameskinny.com/a82xr/elder-scrolls-online-morrowind-feels-like-home-despite-the-differences https://www.gameskinny.com/a82xr/elder-scrolls-online-morrowind-feels-like-home-despite-the-differences https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/headerimg-580f2.png a82xr/elder-scrolls-online-morrowind-feels-like-home-despite-the-differences Tue, 06 Jun 2017 08:00:01 -0400 Justin Michael

I have a few unhealthy obsessions -- Korean food, craft beers, and immersive lore make the top of my list. So, when I was asked to review Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind, it was like Christmas came early. I love the Elder Scrolls games and have easily devoted thousands of hours playing TES III, IV, and V -- chief amongst those being Morrowind.

The great storytelling of that game that just sucked me in until I spent hours upon hours reading all of the text from the NPCs and the various books scattered around the world -- and the sheer size of the map to fueled my lust for exploration and adventure. With large shoes to fill and an obvious difference in mechanics, how does ESO: Morrowind measure up? Let's talk about that.

Background

ESO: Morrowind is set 700 years before the original Morrowind game, and you can really tell from the flora and fauna. After the tutorial, you end up in the somewhat familiar port town of Seyda Neen. There are a number of differences that TES III veterans will notice, which is to be expected given the timeline difference, but there are still a number of key landmarks that stand out to -- such as the lighthouse and the massive bug-beast of burden known as the Silt Strider.

Progressing along the main quest line, you'll encounter a few familiar names and factions while exploringmore iconic places from the original game -- the most stunning of which was Vivec City. I easily spent an hour just walking around the various under-construction cantons and districts, soaking up the lore. 

You even get to meet the legendary warrior-poet Vivec himself as you help to unravel several mysteries that are plaguing the people of Vvardenfell. There is so much lore and many nods to the original game sprinkled throughout the various locations that make it feel very nostalgic, despite the number of differences between the original main series game and its MMORPG counterpart. 

For size comparison, Vvardenfell is roughly 40% larger than the ESO: Orsinium DLC, which makes it the largest addition to the game since its initial release. 

The Allure

What I find most exciting about ESO: Morrowind is the diversity of Vvvardenfell and its denizens. From the vastly different great houses of the Dunmer to the tribal Ashlanders, and the scores of other adventuring groups, there is no shortage of intrigue for the player to delve into.

Speaking of delves, there is a number of them in with the DLC -- and some of them are rather breathtaking. I found myself just staring at all of the intricate buildings and zones of Nchuleft ruins, filled with mechanisms of the Dwemer still very much operational and very deadly. But this deadliness can be combated with the new Warden class that's unique to this DLC.

The Warden feels like a mix between the Sorcerer class and the Dragonknight -- well-rounded in combat and capable of summoning creatures into combat to help fight foes. Wardens who go the route of the Green Balance are also capable of healing themselves and nearby friendly units, making them a force to be reckoned with. But I'll go into more detail about that in my beginner's Warden guide. 

PvP & Raids

While I primarily am a PvE player, there is PvP added into the DLC in the form of the Battlegrounds. Battlegrounds has a number of fast-paced modes for players to test their skills and builds against each other -- modes like Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, and Domination. These PvP encounters are quick, the maps are small, and combat is chaotic. This is perfect for when you want to take a break from the main quest or spice up a lull in adventuring.

As far as raids go, the DLC offers an intense raid called Trial: Halls of Fabrication. This is a 12-man raid/mission that takes the player into The Clockwork City -- the domain of Tribunal member and God Sotha Sil. I still have some time yet before I can enjoy this raid myself, but I look forward to seeing The Clockwork City for myself (as pictures can only do so much justice). 

The Skinny

ESO: Morrowind and ESO, in general, has become quite polished over the years. I rarely have connection issues these days -- and a number of the gripes that I had with the game when I was a beta tester back in 2014 have been fixed. ESO: Morrowind is fresh and new, but still imparts a sense of nostalgia for me with its beautiful graphics, immersive storytelling, and tidbits of lore references from the original game. 

If you haven't picked the game up on pre-order, then you can expect to see it hit the shelves/digital marketplaces June 6th for $39.99 for just the Morrowind DLC.

What are you most excited about with ESO: Morrowind? Let's chat about it in the comments below! And stay tuned for lots of guides that will help you get started on the right foot when you embark on a new adventure in Vvardenfell.

Note: A copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.

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Dark Rose Valkyrie Review: A Decent, New JRPG https://www.gameskinny.com/lhxre/dark-rose-valkyrie-review-a-decent-new-jrpg https://www.gameskinny.com/lhxre/dark-rose-valkyrie-review-a-decent-new-jrpg https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/c4cc8c10649b65c25f9a27987c50aa60.jpg lhxre/dark-rose-valkyrie-review-a-decent-new-jrpg Mon, 05 Jun 2017 17:50:20 -0400 Synzer

Dark Rose Valkyrie is a game about a virus that wiped out 3% of the world's population and infected many people with "Chimera". In this alternate version of 1929 Japan, people infected will turn into monsters. It is up to your Special Force Valkyrie to help control the spread of this virus.

This is a turn-based JRPG, but it is far from traditional. There are some unique aspects and exciting things in the game for you to do, but is it enough?

What I Liked

One of the things I like the most was character progression and customization. You have 8 party members to choose from, with 4 being active and 4 assigned to each character as the rear guard.

You have a lot of control over which gun parts you put in your Valkyrie weapons and how your combos are set up.

In this game, you don't simply attack with a single, normal attack -- you do combos. If you put certain moves together in your combo, you'll perform Riot Combos, which add extra attacks.

Each attack also has an attribute or element, so you will want to use different ones for different situations. This leads to a lot of choice and experimenting to find the best combos.

dark rose valkyrie combo system

Story

This one was a love/hate relationship. I actually really enjoyed the main story as I progressed through the game, but I hated the interludes. It involved what I call "busy work", and I just wanted to get on with the game. There were times when I was tasked with fighting way more enemies than needed and trying to find locations that were hard to pinpoint on the map.

Detective Work

There is another cool mechanic in the game that involves you interviewing squad mates at time to determine the "traitor" among you. You will need to talk to people to gather info so you can make a final decision. You only get a limited number of questions across all the people you talk to, so you must decide wisely.

What Could Be Better

Combat

I want to start by saying that I actually like the combat. It uses a Tactical Wait Gauge, which shows each participant in battle on a bar to the left of your screen.

This lets you see who will be fighting next, and if you attack an enemy, it actually pauses their place. You can have multiple characters combo on the same enemy, there are several attributes and abilities to take in consideration, and combat is an overall joy.

The only problem is that it gets old after a while and when you have many battles, it gets tedious going through this system.

dark rose valkyrie combat

There is an auto fight feature for when you need to grind, but I feel like I shouldn't need to use this in any game.

Mingling with your Team

I like the idea of talking with your team, but this is another feature that can get tiring. Most of them are not required for you to move on with the story, but it still looks daunting every time I finish a portion of the story, and see a bunch of conversations available.

Some of them are really interesting though, and give you background to your team, so I think it's still worth doing.

The Verdict

The game can get a little repetitive at times, so it is up to you to decide whether that is worth it or not. Overall, this is a decent JRPG, and definitely worth looking at if you want something different. The combat and customization system is unique, and the other features may be enough to overcome its shortcomings.

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A Review of Gears of War: The Board Game https://www.gameskinny.com/bvpf7/a-review-of-gears-of-war-the-board-game https://www.gameskinny.com/bvpf7/a-review-of-gears-of-war-the-board-game https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/g/e/a/gearsofwarboardgamereview-97eff.png bvpf7/a-review-of-gears-of-war-the-board-game Sun, 04 Jun 2017 15:32:32 -0400 Kevin S. Behan

When I first saw this game, I had to ask myself "What kind of insane board meeting happened to let this thing come to life?" with a sort of bemusement. Fantasy Flight Games, the producer of many Star Wars and Warhammer board games, is not known for quick cash-grabs. They produce high-quality content, there's a lot of thought that goes into their games, and they're a big part of the reason we're going through a sort of board game renaissance these days.

Gears of War is known for tight, cover based shooting, with tension and stress behind each movement as you out-flank and out-play your foes. Its campaign missions are intense, demanding your focus for the entire length of a stage. Even on the easier difficulties, it's rare for you to be given a chance to "stop caring and run forward". How do you convert all of this to a medium that is generally turn-based while still including the core Gears of War gameplay?

Well. Gears of War: The Board Game does it perfectly. I'm still somewhat in disbelief over it.

How Gears of War: The Board Game Plays

We'll start with the basics. It's a one-to-four player co-operative game, meaning you can sling it with up to three mates, or go it alone. You choose from the four primary COGs of the original trilogy -- Marcus, Dom, Cole, and Baird, each with a small ability that gives them a slight edge at particular strategies.

You choose your mission -- the campaign-style format meaning you should probably start with mission one if it's your first show -- but the lack of a heavy story means you can tackle them how you please. You set up your map from various cardboard components, giving each level a unique layout before you get going.

This technically is in the 'dungeon crawler' category of board games, but it avoids the trappings of the genre that require a lot of bookkeeping. How much health and ammo you have, how many more shots that grub needs to go down, what special abilities you have, and much more are condensed and refined to keep the game's pacing tight.

Your guns can essentially shoot forever unless it's a special weapon like the boomer. However, you can spend ammunition tokens to get more powerful attacks, with the risk being that once you run out of ammo, that gun is useless to you unless you find more.

Fully painted miniatures posted by Igor Di Mauro on boardgamegeek.com

Enemies simply have three states of health: full, wounded, and dead. Each state has a target number you need to hit with your attacks for enemies to die, any amount of damage bringing them to the wounded state, which makes eliminating them slightly easier. This means teamwork will preserve ammo and take out enemies before they can even get an attack off. The sheer thematic perfection of the game is what gets me going, and it's mechanically efficient, too.

Your health is represented by your hand of cards and your orders. These let you perform special maneuvers. However, when you spend them you no longer have them as health, and you don't recover it very quickly! Getting behind cover and waiting out the action is the way to recover, again, and it's incredibly similar to how the video game plays. It's bloody genius, and I love it.

And if you go down, you're not out -- you're crawling on the ground until a teammate can get to you, pick you up, and get you an order card back in your hand.

Even the enemies are great. You've got your basics: grubs, grenadier -- "theron guaaardsto quote Baird -- and they all have unique mechanics. But then you get the crazy stuff, like berserkers, who, similar to their video game counterparts, can't truly be harmed without the hammer of dawn. They're blind, but move closer to player characters every time they make an attack option, ready to pummel you into the dirt if you're unlucky enough for them to actually hit you.

The components of this game are gorgeous, too, with highly rendered miniatures that evoke the setting. Each is ready to be painted, though they're color coded with red for player characters and gray for enemies if you're busting out the acrylics.

The tiles used to construct your mission layout are evocatively illustrated, divided into sections that dictate your line of sight in a very simple, clear-cut manner. It even provides cover points for you to slip in and out of that give you a defensive bonus against enemies -- or them one against you.

Image originally posted by Ze Masqued Cucumber on boardgamegeek.com

There Are, However, a Few Flaws

This wouldn't be a fair review without pointing out some flaws. The game can run a little bit long sometimes, expect to spend at least an hour, and can get a little bit dull when players run out of ammunition and are just firing pistol shots. A lot of work can go into a failed mission, dice rolls can be cruel, and if you're not the type to accept that as part of a challenging game, this might not be for you.

And while technically the board game contains no gore or blood, it is based off a M-rated product, which you should keep in mind before giving it to teenagers. However, if you can get past those flaws, it's an absolutely beautiful product.

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Gears of War: The Board Game might be a bit of an older game, but I'm calling it out for you primarily because it's such an amazing example of design. And if you missed out on it, you'd really do yourself a service to try and find a copy. It's incredible fun for a group of competitive players, challenging enough where you're not guaranteed to win every mission if you don't play optimally. There are moments where the whole team is cheering good shots, sighing with relief over enemies missing, and panicking as that berserker draws closer and closer.

It's hard to snag a copy these days, but keep an eye out for it. You never know where out-of-print board games will show up.

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Tekken 7 Review: Great Fighter, Subpar Storyteller https://www.gameskinny.com/inrz4/tekken-7-review-great-fighter-subpar-storyteller https://www.gameskinny.com/inrz4/tekken-7-review-great-fighter-subpar-storyteller https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/u/n/t/untitled-aada5.jpg inrz4/tekken-7-review-great-fighter-subpar-storyteller Sat, 03 Jun 2017 21:36:31 -0400 Sergey_3847

The long-awaited sequel in the Tekken’s main series is here… and available on PC, which is a real treat for those who don’t own a console yet.

Tekken is a favorite fighting game of many generations of gamers since the times of Tekken 3 that was a massive international hit on the very first PlayStation console. But up to this moment it was never available on PC, which greatly limited the availability of this excellent fighter.

In Tekken 7 you will be able to see the end of the epic Mishima clan saga, try out all the new and old modes, and even experience the game in VR. Now, let’s get deeper into each of these features!

Story Mode: “Father, I will tear you to pieces”

With that “heart-warming” phrase begins the story mode of Tekken 7 -- the one that should have answered so many questions regarding the Mishima clan. Then, the first fight begins with a ridiculous clash between a little boy and his father that doesn’t end well as you would assume.

The story goes on showing the present world being engulfed in a terrible war provoked by Jin Kazama -- an heir of the Mishima clan, who’s gone missing. So Heihachi returns and reclaims the order in the clan with an announcement of the King of the Iron Fist Tournament.

Usually, PC ports of exclusive console games rarely turn out well, but Tekken 7 is an exception, and the game runs very well even on the low-end machines.

After thirteen chapters of testosterone-infused fights accompanied by the short cutscenes, we finally get to see the end of the epic Mishima clan saga. Or is it so? Well, one of the major characters dies (not going to spoil which one), but that doesn’t mean that the story is over in a full sense of that word.

If you expected a massive resolution at the end, then you will most likely be disappointed. But in all honesty, story mode was never a distinguishing characteristic of the Tekken series -- it has always been about the arcade/versus modes, and by the looks of things, from now on will always be about the online battles. That is where the game really shines.

Combat Mechanics, Graphics and Optimization

Tekken 7 introduces a few really powerful new combat mechanics, such as Rage Arts, Rage Drive, and Power Crush. The Rage Arts is especially interesting, as it allows you to deal insane amounts of damage, when your character is on the brink of death.

At first, it may be challenging to activate this ability, especially for the new players, but you can always learn how to activate the Rage Arts offline. It is always a good idea to switch to Practice Mode that allows you to keep the Arts activated throughout the entire match, so that you don’t have to wait until your character drops below the 25% HP mark.

The only drawback of the Practice Mode is that it has absolutely no frame data available for each of the characters, so if you take your fighting skills seriously, you will need to search for it outside the game.

But let’s not get distracted. The new combos not only work well, they also look fantastic! But the animations in the Tekken series have always been mind-blowing, so this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Since the new game runs on the Unreal Engine 4, you can imagine how detailed and polished all textures look even at 60 FPS.

Usually, PC ports of exclusive console games rarely turn out well, but Tekken 7 is an exception, and the game runs very well even on the low-end machines.

Player and Character Customization

Since the game is now fully adapted for online battles, the players can customize their tags, which can be unlocked through Treasure Battles or simply by winning online and earning the fight money. There is a huge pool of options that allow you to change the look of the health gauges and the fighters themselves.

You can change your characters’ appearances by adjusting their clothes, hairstyle, make-up, and other fun stuff. It’s really nice to see such a diversity for each of the fighters, where every player’s character can look different and really fit their own particular tastes.

There are all kinds of styles available from grungy and trashy to cute and fluffy -- the choice is all yours. But that’s not it! The custom animation sequences are also available, and in this way you can start a fight by representing your character in some cool cinematic way.

Online Tournaments

Just like the story mode suggests, you can create your own tournaments in Tekken 7. You will have two options: single or double elimination. Also, you can limit the tournament to only a few private persons, or make it open to all global players.

A normal tournament may last for up to one hour, but it really depends on how many slots you have opened, and if you have the simultaneous battles activated or not. If you do have them activated, then it will go faster, since there is no queue as such, and if you get bored, you can always spectate other players fighting each other.

You can change your characters’ appearances by adjusting their clothes, hairstyle, make-up, and other fun stuff.

The overall presentation of the tournament mode is fantastic, and it can really create a solid foundation for the global competitive scene for Tekken 7. You can follow the changes in the brackets live as the players progress through the stages of the tournament, and even win prize fight money.

Many players will also be interested in solidifying their position on the global leaderboards, but this, of course, requires a lot of grinding/fighting on the ranked ladder.

Verdict: 8/10

The gameplay is what’s making Tekken 7 a truly great game, and if you want the story, then go look for it somewhere else. Fortunately, the subpar story element cannot distract you from excellent combat mechanics and animations.

On a technical level Tekken 7 is definitely the best installment in the series with its rich customization menu and online tournament modes. There is also a VR support, but it is something of an acquired taste, and does not translate well in the actual fights.

And, if you ever dreamed of becoming a professional gamer, Tekken 7 gives that chance to everybody. You can start earning points right away in online modes and earn the place in the Tekken World Tour that will start on June 16 in Orlando, FL.

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Tokyo 42 Review: A Syndicate of Ideas With Flawed Execution https://www.gameskinny.com/cdsi3/tokyo-42-review-a-syndicate-of-ideas-with-flawed-execution https://www.gameskinny.com/cdsi3/tokyo-42-review-a-syndicate-of-ideas-with-flawed-execution https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/t/o/k/tokyo42-cover-4d38d.png cdsi3/tokyo-42-review-a-syndicate-of-ideas-with-flawed-execution Fri, 02 Jun 2017 14:09:13 -0400 Kris Cornelisse (Delfeir)

Imagine a near-future world where the very first murder of the year is a newsworthy event, because people now have medicine and nanomachines to revive them if they die.

Imagine that you are an ordinary person living in this world that is framed for the murder, and you learn about it right as the police are coming for you. Imagine then that in order to clear your name and survive, you hide out and work as an assassin, which is now a legal and lucrative business; after all, your targets won’t truly die.

Welcome to the beginning of Tokyo 42. True to its name, the game is set in a cyberpunk view of Tokyo in the year 2042, loaded down with trappings borrowed from Blade Runner and Shadowrun, alongside other classics.

This version of Tokyo is fully realized in a good-sized open world map, tackled from an isometric perspective that allows you to view the strange and colorful splendor that the future city has embraced. Full of missions to complete, collectibles to find, and secrets to uncover, there’s quite a bit on offer at first glance. But how does Tokyo 42 hold up under scrutiny? Let’s dive in.

Get Rich or Die Trying

Tokyo 42 cites itself as a love letter to the original Syndicate and the top-down Grand Theft Auto games, and this is immediately apparent upon loading in. After the initial chase and escape in the intro sequence, you’ll be presented with the open world map and allowed free reign within it. With the objective of clearing your name, you immediately thrust yourself into the heart of the seedy criminal underbelly of Tokyo with the goal of building your reputation.

To do so, you’ll be largely roaming the map between mission locations and then completing the missions themselves. There’s a handful of characters as colorful as the city itself that will guide you and set you up with contracts, as well as automated terminals where you can pick up side missions. It’s largely a matter of picking your mission and then proceeding with it.

Missions themselves all take place within this large open world, usually cordoning off an area and filling it with hostile guards and goons. Your objectives are often diverse in terms of means and approach, but the end result is usually simple: kill the target.

You’re given an inventory wheel that quickly fills up with tools and weapons to select from, ranging from the relatively weak but fast-firing and infinite-ammo pistol, to assault or sniper rifles, to grenades and high explosive weapons. You also have the melee option of using a katana or other bludgeoning weapon. This gear will either be picked up as mission rewards or purchased from shops with your hard-earned cash, though replenishing ammo is often up to you. Should you run out of fancy powerful stuff, however, you’ll still have basic options to resort back to.

Tokyo 42 styles itself as a stealth game, and this usually an option (frequently the preferred option) presented to you. For example, an early mission has you climb to the top of a temple and assassinate the target with a blade. You thus have the option of going in all guns blazing and fighting to the top before executing the guy, or else sneaking around at a precise pace, taking out guards one by one with your katana until you can finish off the target and escape.

Gunfights in the game are usually quite frantic affairs, with bullets flying everywhere from all directions. Not only are they frantic, but they’re quite lethal, as a single hit will kill most targets in the game -- the player included. Taking cover is advised, and your frailty means that stealth and picking your fights carefully is strongly encouraged. One single stray bullet can end an otherwise successful run and force you to start the mission over. There’s little other penalty besides this, but it can be a nuisance all the same.

The game is largely balanced between tackling these missions (whether simple shootouts or elaborate infiltrations) and giving you the freedom to roam around the world map and choose your next contract. While there aren’t too many main story missions, there are a whole slew of side missions for you to take on, as well as optional challenges within them to further spice up the game.

Cat and Mouse (But Mostly Cat)

Tokyo 42’s multiplayer mode is worth discussing. I unfortunately didn’t have a chance to test this myself, but many of its elements are presented quite clearly even in single player mode.

Often times in the campaign, completing a mission or shooting up a gang will cause a “Nemesis” to be deployed. You’ll be warned about this -- it means that another assassin is attempting to hunt you down, and you’d best keep an eye out for them. Often, there will be no enemy warning or marker to identify them; you just have to keep an eye out and be ready for when that one NPC starts advancing on you with a katana.

The multiplayer plays a lot like this feature of the game. Players are deposited in an area full of NPCs and have to mingle while trying to identify one another and kill the enemy first. It plays a lot like the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer modes, and the concept is quite interesting.

One of the key means you have of identifying a Nemesis, be it NPC or player, is the tracking cat item. Deploying your cat will have it sniffing out your target, but of course instantly reveals you as an assassin to anyone watching -- so it can be a double edged sword. The cat itself is customizable with collectible skins found in game, too. As such, Tokyo 42 truly can become a literal game of cat and mouse.

While I’m quite curious to see how how the multiplayer shakes out, I imagine that for a niche title such as this, it might be hard to build up more than a very small community of players. The game simply doesn’t have the play-by-play strategic applications of Frozen Synapse, a game released by Mode 7 (the publisher of Tokyo 42).

The Future is Stylish

The obvious thing to note from the screenshots I've included -- and the detail that originally drew me into the game -- is that Tokyo 42 is gorgeous, bringing to mind the recent title Monument Valley

Individual character models are small and low detail -- but with the camera zoomed all the way back, the city of Tokyo is the real star. You get to see a wide view of a stylish city that feels incredibly cyberpunk; a little too clean, a little too spotless, with strange advertising and eye-catching monuments or structures everywhere.

Exploring the city for a while is as much a cornerstone of gameplay as the missions are. There’s a lot of secrets to find -- whether they’re little easter eggs that you can check off by observing them through your binoculars, or collectibles that include different weapon skins or cash drops.

In addition to the super stylized visuals, the music is really well handled. There’s an upbeat jazzy tune greeting you at the main menu, which quickly segues into a number of somewhat ambient tunes that feel right at home in the artificial cyberpunk world on display.

The game’s inspiration is worn on its sleeve, as with a simple key press you can don a brown cloak straight out of Blade Runner. This can be customized with different colors and styles as you progress and find various collectibles. Also a factor of both plot and customization is the ability to change your “Skin” with a single button press, which turns your character model into a random one. This is often crucial for stealth or for quietly leaving the scene of a gunfight.

Whatever your stance on the actual gameplay, it’s hard to deny that Tokyo 42 feels really well done in the style department, and it’s certainly a treat to behold and experience.

Things Get Messy

Unfortunately, that feeling of being awestruck by the game’s design doesn’t hold for too long, because once you delve a little into it the cracks begin to show. The biggest problem that Tokyo 42 has is the isometric viewpoint. You have the ability to tilt the camera in increments of 45 degrees with a single button press, but the city of Tokyo is so sprawling and filled with a network of towers, monuments and buildings that it becomes very hard to visually manage.

Moving through some areas will involve minor platforming elements such as jumping from rooftop to rooftop or climbing up elevators. The problem is that, even with a marker appearing on the ground beneath you to represent your position in mid-air, it can still be extremely hard to gauge perspective.

Here's an example. One set of side missions has you racing against the clock to collect all the pickups in a line before the timer runs out. In attempting to do this, I tried multiple times to follow the path, but frequently had to slow myself in order to shift the camera to grab a mid-air pickup… only to completely miss the mark and overshoot the tight time limit, forcing a restart.

This camera perspective can also be a massive detriment in gunfights. Once a fight breaks out, you’ll often be swarmed by multiple enemies from all directions with a range of incoming weapons fire. With all sorts of cover, raised terrain, different viewpoints and so on, it often was hard to judge what the biggest threat was or how to go about dealing with it.

Multiple times I would set up on what looked like a good vantage point to snipe someone, only to find I was three levels above them while somebody I thought wasn’t a big issue blasted me with a shotgun from below. Given that a single shot takes you out, there can be a lot of trial and error before you make it through a firefight unscathed.

This really encourages stealth gameplay quite a bit, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing… it’s just a style of play that effectively removes over half your arsenal from consideration. Almost every weapon I found had enough loudness that firing it anywhere near an enemy would instantly put them on alert. Which leads into the next major issue: psychic guards.

Once you’re discovered by a guard, everyone in the area knows who and where you are and starts closing in on you, starting one of these frenzied firefights -- assuming you aren’t taken out instantly by an errant shotgun blast or high powered sniper rifle.

Whether they just happened to spot you or you fired a shot with a relatively quiet weapon that killed its target, it doesn’t matter; the fight is on, and you either need to bail and restart your approach with a new skin or else fight it to the death.

While the stealth approach can be fun, having to limit myself to the katana and methodically moving through at a crouch for every mission felt like it was doing a disservice to the rest of the game. At the same time, the firefights are so chaotic and quick to kill you (often because, again, the camera perspective made it difficult to judge angles of incoming bullets) that I felt inclined to resort back to stealth in order to make headway.

Ultimately, there were multiple times where I just got frustrated and had to put the game for a while, even though I really wanted to continue exploring it. For a game that I really wanted to like, it ended up being far too disheartening more often than not -- and even looking for an alternate mission or going secret hunting often lead to the same issues.

It’s also worth mentioning that the plot of the game is largely just window dressing for missions. There are a number of characters that you’ll interact with in the game and usually take on missions from, but they’re largely bland and forgettable aside from their pixel art portraits.

There are a few concepts on offer that could have been interesting, such as the existence of several gangs that you’ll encounter repeatedly. There’s also the science of the NanoMeds that allows people to “respawn”, live forever, and change their skins, which is pivotal to the entire plot. Again, however, it’s largely just window dressing and not overly explored well. The writing for the game is basic, hastily executed, and full of errors (at least in the review version I played, which may have been adjusted for release).

It could have been more, but it largely relies on its visuals and setting to make the statement for it. While that works, it’s a minor disappointment all the same.

Like Tears in the Rain

I went into Tokyo 42 eager to explore it and was immediately impressed with its appearance and the world it was presenting to me. The early missions got my attention, and the level of freedom and variety on offer seemed quite immense. Hunting down secrets was enjoyable, and some gunfights were genuinely fun affairs.

Ultimately, however, the veneer was pretty quick to wear off as Tokyo 42 continued. There’s a lot to do, but there were multiple missions that proved frustrating purely because of camera issues or psychic guards. Even with multiple attempts and few penalties for death, it still proved problematic time and again.

There’s a genuinely enjoyable experience here that is simply marred by questionable execution and small yet frequent issues. Tokyo 42 was a game I truly wanted to like and one I really, truly, honestly wanted to score higher. Even now I’m considering going back to dabble in it some more -- but each time I’ve gotten that urge, I was quickly shot down quite in a literal hail of bullets.

But for all that I complain, I really did want to like the game. While I won’t openly recommend Tokyo 42 to everyone, I’d still suggest giving it a shot or keeping an eye on it. It’s not going to have the legacy of the classic Syndicate, but it is a respectful attempt at building something in its image.

Note: The developer supplied a copy of this game for the purposes of this review.

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Hover: Revolt of Gamers Review -- Futuristic Free Running Fun https://www.gameskinny.com/35sa8/hover-revolt-of-gamers-review-futuristic-free-running-fun https://www.gameskinny.com/35sa8/hover-revolt-of-gamers-review-futuristic-free-running-fun https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/o/v/hover-revolt-gamers-bbad4.jpg 35sa8/hover-revolt-of-gamers-review-futuristic-free-running-fun Fri, 02 Jun 2017 13:26:05 -0400 Erroll Maas

Originally beginning as a Kickstarter campaign by Midgar Studios in 2014, Hover: Revolt of Gamers had its initial goal and stretch goals fully funded in about a month. Three years later -- after some additional help from French indie developer Fusty Games -- the final version of the game is now available on PC, Mac, and Linux via Steam.

When looking at Hover: Revolt of Gamers, a keen and avid gamer may notice that it's been developed in a vein similar to SEGA's Jet Set Radio series. And they'd be right. Hover: Revolt of Gamers is indeed a spiritual successor to the rollerblading action series, but with a few key differences and improvements. On top of that, there's a little Mirror's Edge and other futuristic science fiction elements thrown in.

A Familiar Story

The new Great Administrator of Hover City has reformed laws to make most forms of entertainment illegal and will arrest anyone who breaks them. These laws have caused a secret resistance to form, which hopes to end this unpleasant dictatorship. The player's job is to join this resistance group -- known as "Gamers" -- and help them prevail.

The game takes place in Hover City, a large and vibrant futuristic city -- separated into several different areas -- which players can adventure through and explore. Rather than moving around on roller blades -- as players would in Jet Set Radio -- the player character free-runs, performing parkour tricks. Players can also choose whether they want to participate in race, stealth, or sports missions. Graffiti spraying -- or in this game, holo-grafitti spraying -- is only mandatory in certain missions but can be done on just about any wall throughout the world.

A  (Literally) Colorful Cast of Characters

When starting the game, the player creates a name for their new team -- starting at Rank 0 -- and creates their first character -- starting at level zero. Only two characters. who are pretty much the same, are unlocked at the start, but eight more characters can be unlocked by progressing through the game.

Character colors are also fully customizable -- for two specific characters at least -- and can be changed at any time, which is a nice minor feature. The only flaw with the characters is that there are two pairs of characters that are just alternate skins, which seems rather pointless due to the color customization option.

Various Traits and Stats Affect Character Performance

Characters have different traits -- such as Basic -- which affect their beginning stats in some way. Basic seems to just be the minimum setting with no particular stats standing out.

Each character has six different stats which can be increased which are:

Strength -- bump force, resistance, heavy lifting, and throwing force.

Jump -- Bounce power and how high a character can jump.

Grind -- How effectively the character can grind on rails and slide on other surfaces.

Speed -- Maximum speed and boost power.

Hack -- The ability to hack electronic systems, detection avoidance, rewind reactivity, and graffiti efficiency.  

Energy -- Production speed and storage.

As one can see, each stat improves a different type of movement or ability, and all are useful for a handful of different situations.

Sleek Gameplay with Unique Features & A Minor Flaw

Dynamic Camera Views

Players can utilize either a third-person camera view, a first-person camera view, or an auto camera view, which switches between first-person and third-person and provides players with a unique experience. There are a few minor flaws though, at least with third person view. At first, when using a DualShock 4 controller -- which is arguably better than a mouse and keyboard for character movement -- sometimes the character would randomly jump while the camera is being manually adjusted.

At first, when using a DualShock 4 controller -- which is arguably better than a mouse and keyboard for character movement -- sometimes the character randomly jumps while the camera is being manually adjusted. There's also an auto adjust, but it tends to be a bit slow. Players who prefer to use a controller should not be distraught after facing these or similar minor problems, and simply have to either reconfigure their settings or reconnect their controller.

Energy Fueled Motion

Movement uses up energy and the faster players move and the more tricks they perform, the more their energy decreases and their hoverheat suit gets closer to overheating. Once a character's energy stat has been increased, it's much easier for the player to move more efficiently and perform more tricks, but energy use isn't too much of a problem at earlier levels, especially if the player is paying attention to their gauges.

Tricks and Missions Provide Points and Experience

The more tricks the player executes successfully, the more points they earn, which also helps them gain experience. Completing different missions throughout the game also gives experience for players to level up, and it also provides a bit more than just running around the futuristic city doing tricks does.

Can't Get The Hang of a Certain Trick? Try Again

A useful rewind function is also available for players who wish to re-do certain obstacles or master a specific trick. This may be one of the best features of the game, as it allows players to stock up on points and get more experience to become more accustomed to the controls.

Use Items to Solve Puzzles and Improve Skills

Certain items players automatically pick up can help them solve puzzles in certain missions while scanning items known as Augment Chips can upgrade their skills when added to their skill grid. Augment chips and contain skills which provide certain stat boosts and can either be found by exploring the world or earned through completing missions.

One may think equipping multiple chips with the same skill would stack and improve performance, but using more of the same type of augment chip is actually less efficient, causing players to think a little more about which skills they want to equip as they gain points and level up.

Parkour Fun With Other Players in Multiplayer Mode

Hover: Revolt of Gamers also features an online multiplayer mode where players can interact with each other -- as strangers or in a friends only mode -- in the open world and play various types of missions together. Players can also create their own challenges for each other via use of an easily accessible mission editor menu, which provides a whole new level of challenge for players in case they have become bored of the game's other missions.

A Funky Soundtrack

Just like the games it's based on, Hover: Revolt of Gamers has an excellent soundtrack by Hideki Naganuma -- the original composer for the Jet Set Radio games -- which will change depending on what type of mission is being played or will just cycle through a few tracks when running around the open world. Players may find themselves really enjoying the music as they jump off the walls of Hover City.

A Rather Basic Art Style With Plenty of Vibrant Colors

The art and graphical style of Hover: Revolt of Gamers is a little generic when compared to other games with similar art and doesn't look like anything new, but the bright colors seen throughout the game help it stand out a lot more. According to the developers, the art direction is based on a colorful and "cartoon" atmosphere, which this art style conveys well.

Despite a few minor controller problems and some character selection flaws, Hover: Revolt of Gamers is an enjoyable experience. While it doesn't necessarily redefine its genre, it makes some welcome additions and improvements to the framework that Jet Set Radio laid out for it. Fans of the series will see this as a worthy successor, and those who have never played any games in the series may enjoy giving this game a try.

Hover: Revolt of Gamers is now available on Steam for 19.99 and has Oculus Rift compatibility. The game is also planned to be released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sometime in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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Perception Review: Style Over Substance https://www.gameskinny.com/8ycuj/perception-review-style-over-substance https://www.gameskinny.com/8ycuj/perception-review-style-over-substance https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/p/e/r/per-8b9fc.jpg 8ycuj/perception-review-style-over-substance Thu, 01 Jun 2017 17:15:25 -0400 Ty Arthur

Ever since the Kickstarter campaign was announced way back when, Perception has solidly been sitting on our various lists of most anticipated horror games.

Indie horror directly funded by the fans has been stepping in and doing what the big publishers and studios aren't willing to do: offering genre fanatics everything from the surprise hit movie The Void to the recently-released Friday The 13th: The Game.

The big draw for Perception, of course, is the game's primary mechanic: playing through a horror game as a blind woman. You are unlikely to see something that interesting or innovative from any AAA developers these days, and that's the power crowd funding offers for smaller dev studios.

 Welcome to the world of the blind

Stumbling In The Not-So-Dark

Something that wasn't clear from pre-release info is that there's actually a really interesting color scheme going on in Perception. It's not just the white, black, and blue you may have seen from the trailers. Instead, there are vibrant greens popping up in locations alongside memories to collect and dark oranges and reds flashing across the screen when something unexpected appears.

The Deep End Games also cleverly overcame some of the restrictions involved with the main character being blind. The echolocation mechanic lets you see the basic shape of objects, of course, but obviously, Cassie can't read the text on pill bottles, sheets of paper, and so on.

That's a problem for these adventure/horror game hybrids, where the vast majority of the game is uncovering what happened through notes and journals. Whenever such an item is found, Cassie whips out her camera, snaps a pick, and then uses a text to speech program to see what's written on objects.

In instances where this isn't feasible, instead, she uploads a picture so someone else on the phone can describe the scene, adding an interesting extra layer to the experience.

 Scanning an object to read the text

A Familiar Experience

There are a couple of rather memorable times where Perception got me with some pretty good scares, like when the entity in the house repeated back something Cassie had previously said in a very creepy way, or when a red doll appeared out of nowhere and then faded away.

Other than the blindness aspect, the horror tropes on display aren't particularly refreshing or innovative, however. Lost memories of an orphanage where bad things went down and a couple traveling to an idyllic town to have a baby while bad things are happening with pregnancy are both pretty standard fare.

Granted, there are a few twists in there along the way, like flashing back to different stories of people who lived in the mansion long ago, interacting with the ghosts of the past to uncover new information.

In a lot of ways, Perception is essentially Layers Of Fear with a different color scheme. Personally, I really enjoyed that descent into the painter's madness, even though it was extremely light on gameplay elements. But now that several games have all been pumped out in that same style, the sub-genre is starting to feel a little played out. 

On that note, Perception is on a very similar level to Layers Of Fear on the gameplay front, too, with the player mostly just tapping the space button to activate echolocation while examining objects or listening to memories. Occasionally, if you tap too often, Cassie will have to run and hide from enemies, but overall, the experience is quite similar to other horror games in the subgenre.

 We're also pretty heavily in sudden jump scare territory

A Few Missteps

Cassie is much more chatty than the mad painter, and she obviously has a very different viewpoint and personality, which may shatter the overall experience for some players. If you find her quips and one-liners ruin the horror vibe, the game offers an option to only have Cassie speak at plot critical segments. 

A lot of the game is experienced through memories and tape recorder segments, and while the dialog and voice acting aren't actively bad, there's something about them that feels off. Whether it's the writing itself or just the delivery, I had a hard time feeling immersed in the story and frequently found the dialog unbelievable.

There's also an issue with the scope of the game that's worth mentioning. At first, it seems like the mansion is a large area due to the overall disorientation and lack of light, but quickly it becomes apparent that Perception is beyond linear.

There's barely any play area at all in many segments of the game, but sometimes, even those tiny areas get frustrating in their overly similar appearance as the house re-arranges itself when you turn around to go back the way you came.

Have I already walked through this door six or seven times?

The Bottom Line

Despite all my raving about the wonder of indie crowd funding in horror, sometimes the lack of resources shows in the finished product, resulting in something that has the atmosphere but doesn't quite nail it on the mechanics - like Phantaruk or Inner Chains. That's what we are also dealing with here to a degree.

While there's polish on the graphical side and the base premise is a new twist on the adventure horror genre, overall the experience just feels like style over substance, with not enough meat on the gameplay or story for Perception to become truly memorable or beat out the competition.

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ARMS Review: An Innovative and Fun Nintendo Fighter https://www.gameskinny.com/m484p/arms-review-an-innovative-and-fun-nintendo-fighter https://www.gameskinny.com/m484p/arms-review-an-innovative-and-fun-nintendo-fighter https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/8253ad329f1a47c7ffa9d7fa5e470d9c.jpg m484p/arms-review-an-innovative-and-fun-nintendo-fighter Thu, 01 Jun 2017 10:00:01 -0400 Synzer

I have had extensive time with the full version of Arms thanks to a review code provided by Nintendo -- and I'm loving the game so far. The Arms Direct really opened my eyes to the depth of this game, and the Testpunch got me hooked.

I can say that if you were excited by either of those events, the full game does not disappoint.

What I Love About Arms

My favorite things about this game are the Arms and Character combinations. Each arm type is unique and can completely change a playstyle.

There are signature arms for each character, but you can also unlock all of them for all of the characters. This really opens up the possibilities -- something the game ensures you know about.

Each character also has their own character ability that can change how you play as well. Combine the two and you will find almost limitless possibilities. Half of the fun of Arms is trying different combinations to see the results.

arms combinations

Controls

Motion controls are great -- and a focus of the game, of course -- but I'm so glad that there are other control schemes available. I haven't gotten used to using the motion controls yet, and do much better with a normal controller.

When using the controller, I have more control over my movements, but the motion option gives me better control at aiming punches.

Method of Getting New Arms

I like the way Nintendo implemented unlocking new Arms for your characters. It involves hitting targets and boxes that have new Arms inside. You can extend the timer by hitting clocks and it's based on how fast/accurate you are at hitting the targets. (Check out my guide to getting Arms for more information on this.)

Even though it is random, the first Arm you get will be for the character you attempt the challenges with. The long timer will also lean toward that character. When I did this, I got around 15-17 Arms -- and 7 of them were for the character I was using.

Party Match is a Blast

I imagine that this is the main mode people will be playing. It is a grab bag of everything in the game and is great, even if you play for short bursts. It is cool how you can see everyone in the lobby and see what others are doing while you are not in a match.

It is also great that there is a warm-up mode you can do while waiting.

What Could Use Improvement

Not everything is perfect, there are some things I didn't like.

Lack of Proper Practice Mode

This is so important to any fighting game and is surprisingly missing from Arms. Sure you can practice many different aspects of the game in a normal match format, but there is no "Free Training" mode for you to just practice things.

I will say that it is nice to get so many options to practice, even if there is no free training.

arms training modes

The closest thing we have is the "warm-up" mode, which you can only do while you wait in a party match lobby.

Ranked Mode

There are tiers, which is cool, but nothing special about this mode otherwise. You can even use custom loadouts if you've unlocked other Arms. There is a requirement you must fulfill before unlocking Ranked, which I won't say here, but I don't really see a reason for that given how Ranked mode is set up.

One thing that is really cool is that you can play Grand Prix and Versus modes while waiting for a match.

Lack of Customizable Options and Controls

You can't change the audio/video or the controls in ARMS. You can choose a different control scheme, which I'm grateful for, but you cannot change how the buttons are assigned.

This is something that is minor for me, and I didn't even notice it until someone pointed it out.

The Verdict

There are multiple modes to keep everyone busy, the actual fighting is very fun as well, and it is so satisfying to connect your punches.

I can see this game (possibly) getting more popular than even Splatoon, which is saying a lot. ARMS is another example of how Nintendo can make great new IPs -- and I'm excited to see more.

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Dynasty Feud Review -- A Fun Multiplayer Platformer With More to Work On https://www.gameskinny.com/tdhaf/dynasty-feud-review-a-fun-multiplayer-platformer-with-more-to-work-on https://www.gameskinny.com/tdhaf/dynasty-feud-review-a-fun-multiplayer-platformer-with-more-to-work-on https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/d/f/e/dfeud-236d5.jpg tdhaf/dynasty-feud-review-a-fun-multiplayer-platformer-with-more-to-work-on Wed, 31 May 2017 09:36:04 -0400 Nick Lee

The first game from Kaia Studios, an indie development team based in Spain that was founded by former DigiPen Institute of Technology students, Dynasty Feud aims to create a multiplayer brawling platformer that promises plenty of characters and fun along the way.

It's almost impossible to play a game like this and not immediately think of games like Super Smash Bros or Brawlhalla. Where star-powered characters lack, Dynasty Feud allows players to take control in different game modes with cute sounds for okay characters. And while Dynasty Feud has its faults, it could shine in the future with some improvements.

I have always loved platform games and the classic brawlers that allowed diverse characters with their own abilities to win. In Smash Bros., I would always pick my favorite character, and leave the rest to chance. The magic came mostly in playing with friends, and the games always had longevity as we learned the abilities of every character. Sadly, this game skips the learning and discovery in favor of fast-paced, fun-and-gun game play that is mostly lost in capturing that brawler game magic.

While no one should expect Dynasty Feud to match a legendary game with such characters, they shouldn't give it slack for missing the mark at launch. From the game's uneasy start to the characters that didn't win me over, the current build of Dynasty Feud feels more underwhelming than it needs to.

Some Game Modes, a Lot of Characters to Come

The characters in Dynasty Feud are all based off of warriors from different eras, and the ones we got to use during Early Access were barbarians and wild west outlaws by the names of Clan Yngling  and The Cartwrongs respectively. The very wild westerners used exactly the weapons you'd think of: guns, bullets, and dynamite. Meanwhile the Ynglings used swords and axes. Each character's sound attack produces a fun little moment that would make us want to explore more of the characters signature moves and attacks if there were more at launch.

One aspect that didn't make much sense during character selection was the fact that when playing 1 v 1, you have the choice of one-to-three star characters. It would seem the obvious choice was the three-star unless you and a friend had previously discussed otherwise. Beyond the lack of characters, the actual game play felt lacking, even in this early build.

A Huge Lack of Training

In a game with different characters and even more on the way as the game grows, it's hard to imagine why the training section wouldn't involve any real words of advice. The game simply allows players to either learn or just read the controls from a list and from there sends them into multiplayer. A game that doesn't even humor gamers with the classic "press x to jump," isn't doing itself any favors.

Another issue with the actual training is that it didn't really offer any challenge to the player. Once you're in training, a set of dummies is placed on the map with a timer until they fire a rocket in the player's direction. The more you destroy, the more eventually spawn in. These dummies are just that -- dumb. They offer no challenge whatsoever. They never increase in difficulty or offer variability in their attacks, leaving the training mode a useless feature that could have been left out altogether.

Multiplayer Matchups

One of the first things players will attempt after training is multiplayer. Unfortunately, every character suffers from low health and differing abilities. And while the latter wouldn't normally be an issue, the lack of training and fast-paced gameplay (coupled with low health) rendered us unable to even get comfortable with any character -- unless we ran away from our opponent just to get basic moves down. 

Players can utilize either ranked or friend online match-ups, but they'll soon find that playing goes by quickly, giving little time to know any of the characters. Instead, the game tasks us with finding an entire team of characters we like and sticking with them, presumably after they add more of the dynasties.

Where the characters lack longevity, the transition between them is even worse. In multiple instances, when either myself or an enemy died, the other would just wait around at a vantage point for us to spawn in and inevitably take the other out. This coupled with not being familiar with the characters makes for ever-changing gameplay that in all honesty doesn't portray the fun mix devs might have wanted.

Winning Doesn't Feel Rewarding and The Annoy Button

Probably the biggest issue with the game is that for however quick the matches were, even when we won, the victory held little merit. This feeling is warranted after even a number of losses--winning was only a temporary stall. It isn't like the game needs a story mode or a new multiplayer mode. The game is truly just being hindered by unmemorable characters with a limited amount of choice. 

Underdeveloped characters hurt any game, but the ones in Dynasty Feud just felt clunky, with one or two being more favored than others. It should go without saying that in a brawler like this, you don't want just a few fighters to shine; you want all the characters to have their advantages. If you don't, the roster is lopsided at best. 

Another aspect of the game, though minor, seems to be the ability to annoy your opponents, and for them to do the same in turn. When your character dies, their ghost hovers above, waiting to return to battle. While doing this, you can hit "x" to annoy opponents through a lightning bolt. The annoy feature works the other way however, in that the person who dies more gets to annoy you while your living opponent wins rounds. While it's a cute feature, it only reminds us that even when you win, this game's full of annoyances.

--- 

Overall Dynasty Feud doesn't quite capture the magic of platformer brawlers in its genre. However, with added characters and improvements, it could be something. So far, the limited options and limited training is going to hurt an expanding player base from launch. 

I will definitely give this game more chances as more content appears, but as it stands, Dynasty Feud is an OK  game in the genre. For those looking to test exactly what is right and wrong with this game, right now you can purchase Dynasty Feud on Steam for 10% off at $13.49

As always, remember to keep a look out for GameSkinny's coverage of the updates, news, and more for Dynasty Feud.

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Prepare to Become Addicted to iOS Mobile Game Hyper Beam https://www.gameskinny.com/nns8d/prepare-to-become-addicted-to-ios-mobile-game-hyper-beam https://www.gameskinny.com/nns8d/prepare-to-become-addicted-to-ios-mobile-game-hyper-beam https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/488702b5d3c62c6352a324cd476764f6.jpg nns8d/prepare-to-become-addicted-to-ios-mobile-game-hyper-beam Sun, 28 May 2017 10:10:49 -0400 Kat De Shields

Rinikulous Games is back at it again with their latest mobile game for iOS, HYPER BEAM. In this twin-stick arcade shooter, use your thumbs to zap enemies, travel through different sectors, and unlock items along the way. It’s a fast-moving, action-packed game that you’ll have a hard time putting down.

A friendly warning: At first, this game will make your thumbs feel crazy. But trust me, it's totally worth it. 

Iron Man Challenge for Your Thumbs

The twin-stick aspect is a challenging departure from mobile games that glorify use of the index finger or simple thumb swipes. In HYPER BEAM, your thumbs control two players that are joined together by an energy beam capable of destroying incoming enemies. Your weakness is the two end-points (players) of the beam, and you’ll want to make sure that enemy attacks don’t come in contact with them.

Pro tip: If you can floss your teeth using your thumbs, you’ll master the movements required to power through this game.

One hit will deactivate your beam (it reactivates after a few very vulnerable seconds), and two hits will end the game. You can lengthen or shorten the beam as needed, and once charged, you can enter "Hyper Mode." In Hyper Mode, you’ll still need to protect your players from coming in contact with enemies, but the super-powered beam will obliterate anything in its path.

Practice makes perfect, and it definitely takes a little bit of getting used to the twin-stick mechanics. At first, it feels odd to orchestrate the movement of your thumbs to maneuver a beam across the screen, and it's easy to get frustrated. Keep at it. Once you conquer this aspect, see it fast and kill it quick is the key to acing this game. That and not blinking. No, seriously. Blinking can cost you your life. And while you're at it, iPhone banner notifications also need to go.

One of the five Hyper Modes you can unlock in the game.

Getting through a sector without getting hit unlocks a warp zone (save point) and also unlocks different Hyper Modes and color schemes. There are five sectors to get through before you unlock the infinity sector, in which the game becomes endless and moves a lot faster. 

Micro Boss Fights Galore

HYPER BEAM is unique in that there are more than 40 different types of enemies that drift into your sector, and each one has its own unique personality and attack style. You have enemies that track you, rocket launchers, proximity bombs, black holes, stealth gurus, and just overall mean SOBs that you’re better off avoiding. One of the best parts of the game is meeting new enemies and figuring out the trick to defeating them.

The game system keeps individual and comprehensive stats for how long you survived, how many kills you made and what you were killed by. There’s also a library of all the enemies you will encounter in the game along with kill stats.

It's about remembering specific attack patterns
just as much as it's about strategy.

HYPER BEAM is the kind of game you'll keep coming back to -- whether it's to try to beat your last score or getting through a sector without taking any hits. It moves fast enough for pick up and play while waiting in line, but once you gain momentum, you'll want to keep playing. For a mobile title, HYPER BEAM is a challenging and engaging experience that caters to your competitive streak

Soundtrack, SFX and Design Aesthetic

HYPER BEAM’s visual aesthetic doesn’t disappoint. Against a black, space-like background, the enemies are comprised of different variances of complimentary colors that pop. One of the developers, Nik, has a design background, and it shows because Hyper Beam is a beautiful game. Each sector has its own track, and the music blends seamlessly as you travel from sector to sector.

W
hen you enter Hyper Mode, the energy-filled buzzing of the beams infuses you with a sense of power. Before the game was launched, the mini trailers with the sound effects to be included in-game caught my attention. As a complete product, it adds an incredible amount of atmosphere to the game. 

Narrative Generated from Negative Space

Due to my love of stories, I’m constantly searching for the deeper meaning of things. HB made me realize that you don’t need a narrative at all to have a great game. The story is your journey as you play it -- the things you learn, the workarounds you develop, and the adaptations you make along the way to improve your chances of making it to the next sector. Even the enemies have their own personalities. Simplicity doesn’t mean story deprived. You just have to make the connections for yourself instead of having it served nice and neat.

The only tutorial you're gonna get. 

In keeping with Rinikulous’s previous title, Lonely Sun, HYPER BEAM’s meaning and design philosophy is a metaphor for life:

“Aside from its gameplay mechanics, HYPER BEAM could be viewed as yet another metaphor for life -- a simplified version of life’s complicated nature, tribulations, and hurdles. Navigating, dodging, and fighting constant waves of multiple dangers and threats, planning and remembering what you’ve gone through, learning as you go… all these are meant to make you resilient, determined, and patient. The inevitable nature of failure gives you two choices: pick yourself up and try again, protecting the bond, or let the memory of your attempts fade away.”

The Skinny on HYPER BEAM

You’ll like this game if:

  • You like competing against yourself to beat existing stats
  • You enjoy games that allow you to figure things out as you go along
  • Sound effects make you giddy

You may not like this game if:

  • You get frustrated easily
  • You don’t have an appreciation for minimalist design
  • You have stiff (or no) thumbs

TL;DR: If you’re looking for a minimalist mobile game that will exceed your expectations, HYPER BEAM is a twin-stick, arcade game that quickly becomes addicting.

HYPER BEAM is available for download for iOS. The game is free to download, though you’ll have to sit through ads if you exhaust all your plays. For $2.99, you can remove ads from the game and play to your heart’s content. It’s well worth it to improve your trek toward Infinity.

The developer provided a copy of HYPER BEAM for review purposes.

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Caveblazers Review - Spelunky on Steroids https://www.gameskinny.com/p6c5t/caveblazers-review-spelunky-on-steroids https://www.gameskinny.com/p6c5t/caveblazers-review-spelunky-on-steroids https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/c/a/v/caveblazers-6f5b5.jpg p6c5t/caveblazers-review-spelunky-on-steroids Fri, 26 May 2017 12:28:32 -0400 Damien Smith

The roguelike genre has experienced an explosion of content over the last several years, especially in the indie gaming scene. With titles like Rogue Islands, SpelunkyThe Consuming Shadow, and Crypt of the NecroDancer, there is no shortage of roguelikes to be found (just) on Steam.

But the latest roguelike making its way out of Steam Early Access is Caveblazers. Developed by Rupeck Games and published by The Yogcast, Caveblazers released on Early Access in 2016 and is set for a full release May 24th.

Caveblazers is an excellent roguelike platformer that has plenty of content, fun and addictive gameplay, and definitely, stands alongside the other great titles in its genre. If there was any criticism to be had of the game, it was this: the bosses are a bit too difficult -- but we'll get to that a little later

A Cave that Holds Unimaginable Power

The story of Caveblazers is simple: you are an adventurer on a journey to find a cave that's said to hold unimaginable power. Upon finding the entrance to this cave of legend, you are greeted by an old man who states that you will fail, just like all the others have before you.

Ignoring the old man's words, you enter the cave to find it a place of danger, treasures, weapons and magic. The cave is ever changing and the threats ever constant. Dare you enter the cave? Can you make it through the cave and find the "unimaginable power" that it is said to hold? Only time will tell.

Like a lot of titles in the roguelike genre, the primary focus of Caveblazers is the gameplay, while the plot is secondary. But whether it's at the fore or in the background, the plot does exactly as it is designed to do: it fleshes out the world of Caveblazers and gives players a good reason to be in it -- even if the plot never gets more than skin deep. 

A Case of "Just One More Run"

The objective of the game is to find the "unimaginative power" that lies at the center of the game. To do this, you will need to venture through its many procedurally generated maps, facing off against dozens of enemies and finding other adventurers (NPCs) both hostile and friendly along the way.

To help you on your quest, you will have an old, rusty blade, a bow, and a quiver of arrows, all of which you'll (definitely) need to defend yourself. As you progress through Caveblazers' ever changing levels, you will find much-needed new and better equipment, as well as items with magical powers. You'll also find blessings that improve your stats and shrines that can present you with both favorable and unfavorable rewards.

At the end of each area, you will face off against a boss monster that you must defeat to progress further in the game. When you die, you receive points that then unlock new clothes, perks, and other various unlockables that can be used in the next playthrough.

Caveblazers' procedural generation makes each playthrough different from the last. From level layouts and enemy placement to items, shrines, and blessings, everything is different on each and every playthrough. In the end, this really increases the game's replay value. 

Enemies are Unique and Fun to Fight

Each of the enemy types is unique. Each type possesses its own attacks, advantages, disadvantages, and behaviors that you must learn to counteract to survive. If there were to be any criticism found in Caveblazers' gameplay, it would be that one or two of the boss monsters are a bit more difficult than they need to be.

One that sticks out is the jellyfish boss, Medusa, whose attacks are fast and compact, resulting in the player needing stupid fast reaction times and precise timing to avoid its varying attacks and survive. It's not necessarily that the battle is hard -- it's that it feels slightly unbalanced. 

On top of that, Caveblazers is a difficult game but not to the point that it is unfair or sets out to purposely anger or frustrate you. When you die in this game, it is because you made a mistake. Whether that's not being quick enough or simply not paying attention to enemies' attack patterns, Caveblazers punishes players with their own inadequacies. If you enjoy a challenge, then Caveblazers is certainly going to give you one.

But aside from that, the gameplay is excellent. It by no means revolutionizes the 2D platforming roguelike, but it does execute the mechanics of the genre very well. It is one of those games where you will keep saying to yourself, "just one more run." And that one more run quickly turns into an all night bender.

Lots of Content that Increases Replayability

If there is one thing that can be said for Caveblazers, it is that the game has a ton of content. From its huge amount of weapons, items, and blessings to its unlockable apparel stylized customization options, there is plenty on offer.

The one factor that increases the replayability over any other is the game's perk mechanic. At the start of each playthrough, the player has the opportunity to choose a perk. This is essentially a character's class, and each one affects the player's starting stats, and at times, weapons and items.

Each perk changes the gameplay quite a bit, adding new advantages and disadvantages to the player. It also adds a whole new level of replayability to the game that a lot of other titles in the genre don't. 

To further increase the replayability of the game, there are also various in-game challenges to complete. Upon completing challenges, the player is rewarded with new unlockables, including previously unavailable perks like Vortex, as well as new weapons and items.

For an asking price of $9.99, there really is a whole lot of content on offer here. If you love Spelunky or Risk of Rain, then prepare to say goodbye to your social life for a whileIf permadeath and games where you die a lot isn't something that takes your fancy, then this is certainly not going to be to your liking. There are games that cost much more than that and don't provide half of what Caveblazers does.

 

A copy of Caveblazers was provided for review. 

 

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Friday The 13th: The Game -- Live Your Own Camp Crystal Lake Summer https://www.gameskinny.com/zq8q0/friday-the-13th-the-game-live-your-own-camp-crystal-lake-summer https://www.gameskinny.com/zq8q0/friday-the-13th-the-game-live-your-own-camp-crystal-lake-summer https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/c/o/v/cov-83329.jpg zq8q0/friday-the-13th-the-game-live-your-own-camp-crystal-lake-summer Fri, 26 May 2017 09:15:02 -0400 Ty Arthur

Friday The 13th may be arriving a bit late to the game, with Dead By Daylight already having its foot in the door with a full year jump start, but this is a strong contender in the asymmetrical horror arena that's very likely going to edge out the competition. If you thought DBD was going to be king due to its earlier release date, think again: Friday The 13th offers a different take on the style.

I've got admit, the early alpha footage wasn't really stunning me, so I was in for a surprise with the end product, which is easily among the best of licensed horror movie games to date.

And yes, you'll hear plenty of the iconic cha cha cha, ah ah ah while running for your life from a machete-wielding monster.

Welcome To Camp -- Don't Get Lost!

 There's a serious thrill the first time you pop into Jason's skin

Besides the fact that its Jason Voorhees slaughtering counselors by the hundreds at various camp locales, the biggest difference between this game and any other in the genre is in size and scope, with this asymmetrical slaughter fest allowing up to eight players to run around Camp Crystal lake at any moment in 7 vs 1 matches.

This is pronounced by Friday the 13th's huge maps, which is both good and bad. You'd think Jason would be overpowered, and in some instances, he most assuredly is, but just getting to wherever the counselors are hiding can be half the battle. Luckily. as the hockey-masked killer, you've got Morph on your side, letting you essentially "teleport" across the area (representing how Jason always seems to be everywhere at once), while the counselors have to hoof it the old fashioned way.

Variety Is The Spice Of Death

One major concern I had, where it seemed like the previous Dead By Daylight and upcoming The Last Year were going to dominate Friday the 13th, was in the options each game provides players for killing their victims.

However, you can unlock different eras of Jason throughout the killer's filmography. Each has different stats and appearances, but where the real variety comes in is from unlocking and selecting a number of different kill types.

There's everything from machete crotch kills (grimly displaying "neutered" in how a counselor died at the end of the match), to eye gouging, ripping jaws in half, decapitations, and many, many more. Contrasting with the aforementioned Dead By Daylight, which has more base killers but who all have essentially only two main attacks, Jason gets an incredibly wide range of kill animations.

 A romantic evening with Jason Voorhees

Besides the kill types you're able to equip, there are environment kills available, too, ranging from creative uses of fire places to getting thrown through glass windows.

Adding balance to the game, Jason's powers grow over time and throughout the match, so he isn't a total killing machine all the time. At first, he just has access to the Morphing mechanic, but eventually, he is able to use Sense for advanced hearing and sight, and then Stalk for extremely rapid movement when chasing down faster counselors.

After several matches, you can unlock unique new kills for Jason, as well as rolling random perks for counselors, with new characters available as you level up. More than just change to aesthetics, some versions of Jason are more or less resistant to stun, move faster or slower, and have other buffs that make them worth checking out and using in certain scenarios.

 Choosing kills to utilize during a match

Run, Hide, and Die

Ok. That's all well and good for the one lucky player who gets picked as Jason, but what about the seven other players as counselors? 

Just like there are different ways for Jason to slaughter counselors, there are also different ways for counselors to win the match. From gathering car parts, gas, and car keys to calling in the police and escaping to safety, there's a bevy of ways to escape Jason's murderous clutches. 

You've got a lot of balancing elements on your side as a squishy counselor, too, like the fact that Jason can't go through windows and many doors you can open freely he has to break down. There are also plenty of ways to fight back, from unexpectedly stabbing Jason if he goes in for a grab kill instead of a machete whack and stunning him with fireworks, flare guns, or shotgun blasts, to laying bear traps at places you think he'll be lumbering through.

 How should I escape certain death today?

With such large groups of counselors all working toward escape, there's a huge amount of opportunity to work together -- or not, as the case may be.

One match in particular will stick with me forever. Everyone very quickly gathered the components to get in a car and drive far, far away from the camp. Unfortunately, Mr. Voorhees caught wind of our plan and camped out at the car, sending us all scattering.

After escaping his crushing grip and using my fireworks to keep Jason off our backs, my disloyal crew took off in the car without me, even though they could see I was all of five feet from grabbing the back passenger door.

They laughed about it while speeding away, mocking the color of my sad level 1 sweater. Needless to say, I wasn't a fan of that group.

 Sacrificing myself for a group of major assholes

Some Bugs And Issues

There are already anti-abuse measures in place to prevent exploits and problems right at launch, from anti-cheat software automatically installed to 500 bonus XP awarded if you complete the full match instead of rage quitting after dying.

There are still ways to screw the whole thing up, though, as I learned pretty quickly. In one round, about half the group were pre-release streamers who all knew each other and decided to help one another out. I stared in wonder as Jason literally followed counselors around without killing them so they could earn maximum experience by completing various tasks. Anyone who wasn't part of this "in group" didn't get that treatment.

Yeah, there's something not quite right with this picture...

As would be expected, there is also an imbalance between people of higher and lower levels. A level 24 Tommy, for instance, can pretty much forever outrun a level 1 Jason, but you'll end up in the same lobby anyway. In an early match, I spent a very frustrating five minutes chasing this guy down while trying to figure out how the Stalk mechanic worked.

On the technical front, there are a couple of issues that need to be addressed post-launch, like the fact that the intro cinematic is exactly the same in every match.

Unfortunately, there are a handful of annoying bugs that interfered with the game. In one instance, after I'd chopped down a door as Jason, I was stuck in place and couldn't move for about 20 seconds. Likewise, the "use item" key is a little wonky, and you usually have to press it twice to actually grab at a throwing knife or open a car door – all the time that's needed for someone to kill you or escape.

After several hours of trying out different matches, I also have a serious question for the developers: where is the space level and super powered space Jason? That's simply got to show up as DLC, no question.

The Bottom Line

Despite the fact that the insular pre-release community wasn't exactly welcoming at first, over time, a newbie will start to have a much better time when getting used to the game's mechanics and learning to work with other players to escape.

A good team can create effective strategies, like having one experienced player lure Jason away while the others converge on a car or boat, or make their way toward the police escort.

On the visual and audio front, Friday The 13th absolutely nails the tone and atmosphere, with fun little flourishes like the screen going into fuzzy VHS mode when Jason is on your trail.

Finally, there's a great progression system that rewards sticking with the game over the long haul, and if you've got a good group that remains in communication, it can actually be fun to just watch the surviving players go about their business even after you've bitten the dust.

Well yeah, but I had fun doing it!

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MidBoss Review -- With Friends Like These, Might As Well Possess Them https://www.gameskinny.com/1ok1f/midboss-review-with-friends-like-these-might-as-well-possess-them https://www.gameskinny.com/1ok1f/midboss-review-with-friends-like-these-might-as-well-possess-them https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/e68b146f4c8f10d978a758df0bd3dbf0.jpg 1ok1f/midboss-review-with-friends-like-these-might-as-well-possess-them Thu, 25 May 2017 15:44:43 -0400 Erroll Maas

MidBoss is a turn-based roguelike RPG created by Emma 'Eniko' Maassen and developed by Kitsune Games that has a lot of interesting elements that set it apart from other games in the roguelike genre. But even though it's a charming game with a great initial concept and plenty to offer, one particular flaw holds it back from being the great game it could be.

In MidBoss, you play as an imp, the weakest creature in the dungeon, whose only ability is being able to possess other beings. Tired of being bullied by the other monsters in the dungeon, you journey through the ever-expanding floors of the dungeon. Along the way, you possess different enemies to become stronger and stronger. You'll bring along your talkative fireball sidekick, Mid, who affectionately calls you Boss, as you unlock various abilities and take on multiple forms -- all on your way to becoming the most powerful being in the dungeon.

Possessing and Defeating Your Enemies in MidBoss

Possession

One might assume that to possess an enemy, you have to leave them at the brink of death, with only the tiniest bit of health left, but possession is done a little differently in this MidBoss. To possess an enemy, you must first cast the Possess spell -- preferably before you start fighting them -- and then defeat them in battle in order to take control of them. It's an interesting way to implement a possession concept, but it works well enough. Some enemies may also be more aggressive than others and will be more likely to notice your mischief and attack you if you aren't stealthy enough.

Combat

The combat of MidBoss is turn-based and consists of the player repeatedly "bumping into" their opponents using grid-based movements. Depending on your form, various weapons can be equipped to deal major damage to enemies. But luckily, the combat itself is well paced and its speed can be altered slightly via the options menu. A battle can be over in the blink of an eye if you're facing an enemy a bit stronger than your current form, so watch out.

Each form can also use up to three different abilities -- 60 different abilities are available throughout the game and can be either active, passive, or innate -- although you gain more as you level up that form. Different abilities can be selected via the forms menu screen, but as an imp, your only abilities are possession and dispossession, which you keep as you change forms. Using depossess also recovers some health.

Abilities also consist of several different damage types: physical, magical, poison, and fire, and the damage each type deals is affected by how high a certain stat is -- such as condition damage like poison or fire being affected by the force stat.

Once a form has been "Mastered" it allows access to that form's innate ability, which is always applied when in that specific form, even if the ability itself isn't equipped. However, if the equipped form is optional, the innate ability won't be activated unless it's equipped.  All "Mastered" forms also multiply the meta attributes of imp form. This is useful for when you're in a form you may not particularly enjoy and want to take on a previous form you're more accustomed to -- provided that the particular enemy is around of course.

Level Up to Improve Your Attributes

Your meta attributes --Violence, Cruelty, Adamancy, and Relentlessness -- define your strength, critical hit ratio, status effect damage, defense, and stamina. These carry over through your various forms and are multiplied by your form's stat multiplier. This creates your core attributes. Points to increase your meta attributes are gained as you level up, and can change your play style depending on which stat(s) you focus on and which enemies you prefer to possess.

A Great Deal of Items to Find and Buy

Like various other roguelikes, MidBoss features plenty of equippable and consumable items. There are six rarities: common, uncommon, rare, epic, legendary, and unique, which include unidentified and cursed items.

Equippable items include shields, armor, boots, and accessories. Both types of items can be found in treasure piles or chests -- or you may find some of these chests and piles completely empty. On top of that, a royal chest spawns in a random location on each floor and may contain special loot.

Potions are randomized. Cursed items provide great benefits but also have intense risks. For example, the Infernal Slayer's Staff of Spirit, which increases your melee and magic damage, as well as your spirit, also decreases your evasion by 15 points. Not the best item to use early in the game. However, it may be useful once you have gone through a few floors and can possess stronger forms that make the stat multiplier increase more.

Weapons and consumables can also be bought from a mysterious Cat Merchant -- no you can't kill or possess him, no matter how much you want to -- by using as currency balls of yarn you find in treasure piles.

Other than potions, you can also rest to restore mana just by pressing the dedicated key and staying still while waiting for the gauge to refill. A useful trick that more games should use rather than leaving you low on mana until you can find the right consumable item.

Death Cards Can Help, But Choose Wisely

When you die, you obtain a customizable death card that summarizes your past run and can be shared on social media. Saving a death card to the gallery will allow you to start with an item from said card -- from that specific run -- in a new game, or it will allow you to try again with the same settings to help you improve your performance. Shared cards can also be uploaded from images of them to be used in your own game.

If you beat the game instead of dying, you get a victory card, which has most of the same functions as a death card. However, it allows you to play the game in new game plus mode where you can keep all your previous abilities and items.

Additional Game Modes

MidBoss also features a quick-play mode for those who prefer shorter play sessions with their roguelikes and a custom game mode that allows them to play the game the way they want to.

In the custom game mode, players can adjust level size, tile size, the experience multiplier, how often rare items drop, whether cheats are allowed, and whether all innate abilities are already available for imp form. This mode is perfect for players who want to experiment with the difficulty of the game, or those who just want to learn more about the mechanics.

Other Features in MidBoss

The art style of the characters was created by Emma Maassen. It provides plenty of charm to the overall experience, and it's also a great art style that could be put on clothing and merchandise if the game gained enough popularity.

The soundtrack in MidBoss was composed by 'yuzuki' and provides the game with a rather haunted and medieval feel, which is a perfect fit for the game's generic RPG dungeon environment.

MidBoss also features 12 retro mode filters that change the appearance of the game screen for those who long for the games of the past, such as a Game Boy and a Pen & Paper filter, among others.

One Huge Flaw

While MidBoss is a decent game with plenty to offer, its movement speed is its biggest weakness. The grid based movement works fine for battles, but it's terrible for traversing through the dungeon. You can only move tile by tile with the use of either the mouse or the keyboard.

Using the mouse, movement can go a bit faster, but there's plenty of excessive clicking, which can get annoying. Using the keyboard isn't much better. The controls won't always get you where you want to go -- if they do, not fast enough.

Of course, this movement can be slightly sped up in quick-play and custom game modes, but the awkward movement still persists. This not only makes it hard to navigate the dungeon but is also a problem when a strong enemy notices you and starts chasing you, which can lead to your death. If this aspect could be improved upon, in addition to improvements to more minor details --which is likely to happen anyway -- then MidBoss could turn out to be the great roguelike that it should be.

A Decent Game With Hidden Potential and Room to Improve

Ultimately, MidBoss is a charming game with an amusing concept, enjoyable soundtrack, unique art style, and mostly satisfying gameplay. However, it falls short due to its slow movement speed a sometimes fickle movement controls. For those who have the patience to navigate a dungeon one tile at a time while narrowly avoiding certain enemies -- or getting killed by them after having no place to run -- this may be a great experience. And who knows, maybe the team will make various improvements in the future. If this game interests you at all, it's at least worth a try.

MidBoss is currently available on Steam for $14.99.

Kitsune Games provided a copy of MidBoss for review

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Starpoint Gemini Warlords Review- It's A Long Way To The Top https://www.gameskinny.com/1e4vs/starpoint-gemini-warlords-review-its-a-long-way-to-the-top https://www.gameskinny.com/1e4vs/starpoint-gemini-warlords-review-its-a-long-way-to-the-top https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/s/p/g/spgwreviewheader-9389c.jpg 1e4vs/starpoint-gemini-warlords-review-its-a-long-way-to-the-top Thu, 25 May 2017 12:04:05 -0400 ThatGamersAsylum

Starpoint Gemini Warlords is a space flight sim, RPG, 4X strategy game developed by the Croatian-based studio Little Green Men Games. It serves as a sequel to the previous two Starpoint Gemini titles. However, Warlords seeks to add in 4X elements, which drastically increases the game's scope. 

The game starts out with you taking up the reins of Tara Higgs during a brief tutorial prolog. Shortly thereafter, you are allowed to create your own character. And well, that’s about it for story since the build I am playing is the early access beta-build. The final release, however, features the full story/campaign mode.

Once done with the tutorial, you are thrown out into the world to fend for yourself. And when I say fend for yourself, I mean it in the purest sense of the phrase. While part of my struggle stemmed from an unfamiliarity with certain aspects of the genre, a significant amount of my struggles were due to the game itself.

Anything I say that betrays the fact I know what I am talking about has been hard-earned knowledge.

The game does a really poor job of explaining much about itself. There is a 35-page "Quick Start" guide, which, while moderately helpful, was also out of date on some key topics, such as classes. There’s also several in-game tutorials, but while these are helpful, they are also tucked away in the “Geminipedia,” which took a while to stumble upon.

One Genre Too Many?

If the combination of so many, complex genres doesn't make it immediately apparent, let me soothe any worries: there is a lot going on here. And this can make SPGW feel a little sloppy in some regards.

For instance, the space flight simulation inherently has action oriented combat. But this betrays the fact that most of your impact on the world will be through your fleet and not through your actual combat exploits.

Despite being able to make an impact in combat, you are ultimately just another cog in the larger machine when it comes to combat. This is made exceptionally clear by the fact that you will often be battling multiple enemies on multiple fronts.

This is made worse by the fact that the part of the game you spend the most time interacting with -- the space sim part -- is not the core of the overarching gameplay loop -- the 4X part. In fact, they're only loosely connected. Little of what you do in the RPG and space sim aspects of the game -- which largely focus around upgrading your ship -- really feel meaningful because there are so few uses for that ship which actually further the larger war effort.

There is one activity you can do with your ship to impact the 4X loop -- boarding and capturing enemy ships. Once you do this you can either add them to your fleet or scrap them for materials -- the resource used to make your own ships. This was an epiphany. The sort of epiphany that completely changed the game for me.

I went from solely depending upon a small stipend of materials received at intervals to being able to actively accelerate my progression. But I just learned this absolutely essential mechanic through trying out all of the various options available to me.

A little direction would have gone a long way.

A lot of people might say,”Oh I don’t want tutorials jammed down my throat!” and “Games like this are supposed to have a steep learning curve.” But tutorials don’t have to be ham-fisted and while the steep learning curve is inherent, it can be lessened. XCOM: Enemy Within explained its similarly complex systems without ever feeling overbearing, which consequently helped lessen the learning curve.

On top of that, SPGW already has a slow build up to the larger 4X elements of fleet management, trading, etc. which would make it easy to slowly introduce new concepts as the player expands his influence, gains resources, etc. If nothing else, the beginning of the game needs rebalancing.

This leads me to perhaps the biggest problem I had with the game -- pacing

I know RPGs and 4X games are inherently slow progressing genres, but the amount of grinding on display in this game is absurd. Just building up enough resources to be able to make your first push to capture an area can take an extremely longtime.

I spent hours upon hours playing through procedurally generated missions -- more on that later -- to earn money to build up my ship. I then got into a small fight and lost a couple ships, which took hours to recuperate since materials takes so long to build up.

This was all prior to learning about capturing and scrapping enemy ships. But even now that I have heavily invested in the research and perks that allow me to board and capture enemy ships more easily, I still can’t reliably capture enemy ships. Even now losing a couple ships from my fleet can leave me in the red for an hour or more. Once I finally captured an area using vastly superior fire power, I quickly faced retaliation from a nearby zone that nearly decimated my fleet.

It’s worth talking about the procedurally generated missions for a moment since you spend so much time doing them. I do think this is the best implementation of procedurally generated missions I’ve ever seen; although I'm not sure that's saying much.

While there are some duds since RNG leads to some odd twists-- I once had a convoy escort mission last for about 10 minutes once with nothing happening along the way-- I’ve also had a ton of unique experiences from seemingly identical missions.

For instance, Seek and Destroy missions allow you to put your coercion to the test, which can force enemies to surrender prior to battle. Once I even captured a destroyer that I had only a 2% chance of capturing, which felt great. It’s still in my fleet even now.

To make all of this slog worse, after each mission you must return to your base so that you can pick up a new mission (Why the hell do I need to go to a mission board when we have intergalactic travel?!). This results in you going to and from your base A LOT! Thankfully, there is an autopilot feature in the game. All you have to do is click a location on your starchart (map) and your ship will automatically fly there. It’s actually really handy.

However, There are Some Great Things About SPGW

I do have a few more thoughts to add that don’t fit into the larger narrative. The art is really nice, especially the ships, although I found it easy to confuse the front and back of many of the vessels. I also hope to see the particle effects for some of the abilities gain a little more oomph, but that’s nothing huge.

I also had no notable bugs during my time with the game, which is great. In fact, the game ran really smoothly and that was on a less than optimal rig. I’d also like to give a shout out for great controller support. Although it currently says that the game only has partial controller support, I can confirm that the complete game is playable with a controller.

The option to have the game pause while in the context menu or starchart was another nice touch that helped you customize your experience. You can also decide whether you want the map to be slowly revealed as you play, or completely revealed from the beginning. It’s always easy to complain about wanting more options, but some of the options on display currently are really useful.

I may have had some major to moderate gripes about this game, but I also enjoyed it a great deal. There is something great about flying around in space destroying other fleets on your own while getting your hands dirty and developing your own empire that is just so attractive to my inner nerd. While that helped me hang on through the rough early hours where I literally couldn’t tell the ass of my ship apart from its face, it eventually stepped aside to an awesome, rewarding experience.

While I hope they add more ways for you to affect the world as a pilot, I truly did enjoy the combination of genres. Whenever you make a crossover like this, you sacrifice bits and pieces of the constituent genres to create something entirely new. And that's true here too. The real question, however, is whether this game made something that was better than, or at least as good as, the genres it was inspired by.

Personally, I don't think there's an easy answer to that question, which is why I don't give this game a 7 lightly.

I also don’t want you to think I am knocking it for not having a story mode. That being said, I do think that the addition of a campaign, and the mission structure that goes along with it, could potentially greatly help with this game’s two biggest problems -- teaching the player and pacing/grinding. I think that with time and future updates (or through the modding community which the devs have more than vocally supported) this game could very easily become a 8 or 9. I’m definitely looking forward to what the devs are able to pull off in the near future.

A review copy of Starpoint Gemini Warlords was provided by the developer.

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Everspace Review: The Must-Play Space Roguelike https://www.gameskinny.com/u91g5/everspace-review-the-must-play-space-roguelike https://www.gameskinny.com/u91g5/everspace-review-the-must-play-space-roguelike https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/e/v/e/everspace-colonial-gunship-screenshot-1030x579-d76f9.jpg u91g5/everspace-review-the-must-play-space-roguelike Thu, 25 May 2017 03:15:01 -0400 Justin Michael

When Everspace first hit Early Access in September of last year, I was all over it. I mean, my first time playing it I shut off from the rest of the world for a solid five hours -- there was nothing else but the void of space and me, trying my damnedest to survive wave after wave of drones, outlaws, and aliens alike. 

I'm no stranger to fantasy space games like Freelancer, X3: Terran Conflict, and Galactic Civilization II, which made up a lot of my high school years. Everspace is a different type of beast, though, with its feet firmly planted in the roguelike genre -- a genre of games known for their unforgiving nature and sometimes steep skill curve. Developed by Rockfish Games, a studio made up of former Fishlabs Entertainment vets who brought us the massive mobile success series Galaxy on Fire, the expectations were high for this game as it exited Kickstarter.

And it did not disappoint.

I wrote another review of the game back when it first hit the Steam Early Access where I praised it and it's many virtues with only 10 hours of playtime. Now that I've got more than 100 hours in the game, close to 15 of those on the full release, let's see how it stacks up compared to my first impressions.

Graphics

Graphically, this game is visually stunning. The details are meticulous -- down to visible internal damage on your ship if you've taken too much of a beating. I've had runs where I was limping through jumps with a meager 10 hull points remaining, my sensors shot, my life support failing. Never has eminent demise looked so good.  

Even something as mundane as flying through asteroid fields or crawling a damaged chunk of a derelict space station has a number of small visual details that almost make you forget (for a second) that things are trying to kill you. And let's not forget the anomalies of space, such as nebulae, singularities, and solar storms, which are as beautiful as they are detrimental to your survival. 

Compared to the early release of Everspace, the graphics here are highly polished and very much AAA. I'd love to see how this game looks on VR. Oh yeah, that's right, the full release of Everspace will have full support for play on the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive... lucky you, VR owners.

Gather, Craft, Survive

Generally, as soon as you warp into a fresh field on your run, the first thing you'll find yourself doing -- aside from fighting off whatever enemies may be lurking around the corner -- is looking for resources. This is where the roguelike nature of Everspace kicks in -- gather resources, craft the supplies, live to fight in another sector. 

As you play, enemies have a chance to drop blueprints upon destruction. These blueprints can be anything from primary or secondary weapons, weapons mods, consumables for the short-term edge, or ship systems for the long-term advantage. There are easily more than 100 different blueprints to collect and even at close to 100 hours, I have only managed to gather about 58 of them. 

Depending on your style of play and your ship, you can outfit a number of systems -- from the cloak on the scout ship, making it a silent killer, to a laser turret on the gunship, giving the shieldless behemoth a level of defense against nimble enemies.

All in all, there are lots of modifications you can perform in Everspace to make your ship the baddest in the galaxy, and one that will flitter from sector to sector with ease. 

In Death There is Progress

Like I stated above, this is a roguelike, and death is an eventuality. In fact, it's not exactly a bad thing. When you die, you get a chance to spend the cash that you've earned on your run to upgrade both personal pilot skills as well as ship-specific skills. Even with upgrades, runs don't ever feel like you're fully in control, and it's kinda fun that way -- seconds from total chaos or a run-ending firefight. The expected suspense keeps you on your toes and your wits sharp. 

The beauty of this is that every sector you traverse, you unlock a bit more of the story. It is fun to slowly unravel your character's past and the addition of cutscenes is a nice touch the Early Access version was missing. Even when you finally finish a run and make it through the last sector, there is still more to do. (Don't worry, no spoilers here.)

In-game achievements aside, there are also 25 Steam achievements for those hunters out there that love seeing that 100% completion call out on their game profile. 

The TL;DR

Everspace is a textbook example of a well-made game and a successful Early Access release. The graphics are on par with any game made by any AAA studio, the audio and soundtrack are very well done and fit the game, and the controls are tight and responsive. The fact that the full release will support VR has me envious of those of you with the hardware to enjoy it. 

I look forward to spending many more hours with the game and look forward to any updates or DLC packages.

If you are at all a fan of roguelike games or space shooters in general, then I highly recommend purchasing Everspace. The game can be found on its Steam page, and is currently retailing for $29.99. It is also on the Xbox One. 

Rock Fish Games provided a copy of Everspace for review.

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Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada Review -- Satisfying Hack and Slash With Some Improvement https://www.gameskinny.com/oioyf/samurai-warriors-spirit-of-sanada-review-satisfying-hack-and-slash-with-some-improvement https://www.gameskinny.com/oioyf/samurai-warriors-spirit-of-sanada-review-satisfying-hack-and-slash-with-some-improvement https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/s/a/m/samurai-warriors-215c5.jpg oioyf/samurai-warriors-spirit-of-sanada-review-satisfying-hack-and-slash-with-some-improvement Wed, 24 May 2017 11:03:32 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Koei Tecmo has been making hack-and-slash action games for a long, long time. In fact, the Samurai Warriors series began on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in 2004. Thirteen years later, the latest release in the franchise, Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada, has arrived in the West for the PlayStation 4 and PC. 

A sister series to the Dynasty Warriors franchise, Samurai Warriors carries with it many of the elements which made that set of games beloved by hack and slash aficionados the world over. Spirit of Sanada captures a lot of that lightning in its own bottle, but ultimately, some of it escapes, leaving the experience dimmer than its predecessors. 

Spirit of Sanada is a Samurai Warriors Sequel

Don't be fooled because there's not a number in the title: Spirit of Sanada is a Samurai Warriors sequel through and through. Taking place in the Sengoku period of Japanese history, where warlords and daimyo vied for power and supremacy across the island, Spirit of Sanada follows the eponymous Sanada clan as they fight for both the Takeda and Oda clans.

Spanning 54 years of Japanese history, players follow Masayuki Sanada and his sons Nobuyuki and Yukimura. Unlike other games in the franchise, secondary and subsidiary characters are often kept to a minimum -- in fact, it's nearly 15 hours or so before players are able to take control of Masayuki's son Yukimura, taking him toward his final battle against the Tokugawa shogunate at Osaka Castle. 

Unlike other games in the franchise, secondary and subsidiary characters are often kept to a minimum. As the game's multi-stage battles unfold (more on that in a bit), players predominantly find themselves playing as Masayuki Sanada -- but as the game progresses, new characters slowly come under the player's control for various tangential battles across Japan. In fact, it's nearly 15 hours (depending on how quickly players advance through Spirit of Sanada) before players are able to take control of Masayuki's son Yukimura, taking him toward his final battle against the Tokugawa shogunate at Osaka Castle. 

These secondary characters have many of their own fighting styles, weapons, and special moves that add layers to Spirit of Sanada's gameplay, but unfortunately, many aren't available for a majority of the primary battles found throughout the game. With a roster of 60 characters, it seems like a bit of a waste -- even if (somewhat) historically accurate -- to keep these characters locked to specific battles and skirmishes. 

Combat is Repetitive, But Stays True to the Series' Roots

Make no bones about it: Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada doesn't reinvent the wheel in regards to its combat. Unabashedly hack-and-slash, Spirit of Sanada's combat unfolds over various chapters that see the Sanada Clan clash with warlords and daimyo in a plethora of multi-stage battles across Japan. These battles often begin at the game's Castle hub, where players are able to gear up, buy potions, buffs, and new weapons -- or train, fish, farm, and advance the story by speaking with townspeople and other warriors and warlords. 

Venturing out into the dangerous lands of 16th-century Japan, players find themselves battling in various locales. And while many of the major battles of the period are represented in these newly implemented multi-stage skirmishes, players are also able to take part in less prominent battles leading up to the major ones. That means that there's a variety of battlefields in Spirit of Sanada -- at least in theory. While each location has myriad obstacles to overcome, feudal Japanese castles to sack, open fields to gallop through, and tight valley passes through which generals can flank enemy battalions, many of the maps end up looking cookie cutter the longer the game goes on. 

This only underpins the repetitive hack-and-slash combat Spirit of Sanada employs. Killing thousands upon thousands of footsoldiers and countless lieutenants and commanders is a blast in the game's early stages, but as time marches on, battles take on a sluggish quality -- not because of the speed at which battles unfold, but because of the never-ending glut of enemies thrown at the player. 



There's an interesting wrinkle Spirit of Sanada adds to the series' traditional gameplay, but it's not quite enough to pull new players out of the mire combat becomes in Sanada's mid-to-late game. (Though I will concede that long-time fans of the series won't mind the endless barrage of enemies constantly thrown at them in each battle.)

As engagements unfold, players are able to enact Strategems that work to affect the tide of battle. Often made available from prior engagements, exploring the Japanese countryside, or taking part in subsidiary battles where players achieve special objectives, Strategems range from flanking enemy forces at key moments to providing reinforcements and provisions to units on the front lines.

However, as interesting as this mechanic is to the game's core gameplay, it rarely feels that these Strategems turn the tide of battle one way or the other. If you miss the window to enact a Strategem, you won't necessarily lose the battle at hand. Sure, things may unfold differently or your path to victory may become (slightly) more difficult, but I never once found myself in a situation I couldn't hack and slash my way out of. But if you're a completionist going after the Strategist and Master Strategist trophies, you'll want to make sure you get these Strategems and use them because they do affect your battle rankings. 

However, even with these wrinkles in its gameplay, Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is kind of a mash-fest, one where combos don't really matter and each character's special ability and Musou attack should be spammed as much as possible. Like I said earlier, this is something fans of the series will be fine with, but the combat here doesn't do a whole lot to differentiate itself from other installments in the Samurai Warrior or Dynasty Warrior franchises. And at the end of the day, it's kind of a shame that Omega Force didn't push this iteration a bit further in this arena. 

Spirit of Sanada is a Competent Addition to the Franchise but Doesn't Really Move it Forward

Honestly, that's my biggest gripe about Samurai Warrior: Spirit of Sanada: it doesn't do too much to actually take the series to new heights. Sure, there are new elements like fishing that juxtapose and supplement new features like fishing, but overall, the game is verily similar to other installments of the franchise. 

While multi-tier battles add new wrinkles to the formula, pushing the player to fight through battles tactically (to some extent), the core gameplay is indelibly the same. And while Spirit of Sanada will assuredly satiate fans' thirst for more hack and slash melodrama until the next iteration drops, it's a missed opportunity for Koei Tecmo to take a stab at something entirely new and innovative. 

Koei Tecmo provided a copy of Samurai Warrior: Spirit of Sanada for review. 

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Oafmatch: A Match 3 Game With a Bit of a Difference https://www.gameskinny.com/4ikxf/oafmatch-a-match-3-game-with-a-bit-of-a-difference https://www.gameskinny.com/4ikxf/oafmatch-a-match-3-game-with-a-bit-of-a-difference https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/o/a/f/oafmatch-0071a.jpg 4ikxf/oafmatch-a-match-3-game-with-a-bit-of-a-difference Tue, 23 May 2017 13:29:22 -0400 Damien Smith

If there is one genre that has been developed to death within the video game market, it would be match 3 -- especially with the likes of BejeweledPuzzle Quest and HuniePop. From good games and bad games to the downright weird games. There really isn't much that hasn't been done in this genre.

Oafmatch, from NCR Games, is the latest match 3 game. While the primary gameplay isn't all that different from most games of the genre, its party-based RPG mechanics make it stand out from the crowd.

 

A Quest to Save a Stricken Homeland

You take on the role of Knuckles the Oaf and his loyal companions as they attempt to save their stricken homeland from destruction. They must travel the lands and face dangerous monsters, pirates, mercenaries as they grow stronger, find more powerful weapons, and make new friends to join them in their quest.

The plot to Oafmatch is interesting, but is a bit slower paced that it needs to be. It makes it feel like it is dragging out and it can take time before you meet new characters. With that said, however, the plot is a good length that definitely gives you your money's worth.

As for the characters themselves, they are fun and unique. Each has their own personalities. For example, Knuckles is a slow-minded yet incredibly strong character, the cleric is an easily traumatized and sarcastic type of character while the thief is optimistic yet greedy.

These different personalities, mixed with quirky dialogue and circumstances, lead to some rather funny moments throughout the game's plot. As previously mentioned because of the slow pacing, it takes time for new characters to be added to your roster.

This does cause problems with the game actually showing just how in-depth it is. Before the player can really appreciate what Oafmatch has to offer, they need a good selection of characters at their disposal. It wasn't until I played the additional Roguelike mode that I truly began to like and understand what Oafmatch is about. 

Ultimately it is through playing this additional mode and having more characters at my disposal that changed the overall score of this review from a 5 to what it is now. Without having patience with the plot or playing the Roguelike mode, it is easy for a player to not understand what the game is attempting to do.

Well-Balanced Traditional Match 3 Gameplay

As far as the general gameplay goes, it is good old-fashioned 3 match fun. In order to attack your enemies, you need to match gems of the same color. Doing this will damage the selected foe and end your turn, along with increasing your mana so you can activate equipment items. The enemy will then take their turn.

There are two different types of enemies: standard and classes. The standard enemies can only attack by placing an attack on the board that counts down. This is done by generating mana with each turn until they have enough to cast an attack on the board. If the player doesn't match the enemy attack by the time it reaches 0, the attack activates and deals damage.

The enemy classes work the same as the player. They match three or more gems, dealing damage each turn. If you collect 10 or more black gem mana, it will cause a terrain effect to take place. There are a variety of terrain effects, such as "Pleasant Breeze" that grants additional mana or "Waaaaagh! Bats!" that stuns your enemies. 

This is just the basic gameplay mechanic, without getting into the RPG side of things. It is easy to follow and get into and doesn't force an onslaught of tutorials on you. From a difficulty standpoint, the game is well-balanced and fair. It never feels that the odds are constantly against you, like you find in some titles like this.

My only complaint here is that the game can be a bit slow when your enemy is taking their turn. While this is likely a design choice, it would be nice to have an option to speed things up a bit.

Aside from that, if you are interested in match 3 games, you will feel right at home with Oafmatch.

RPG Mechanics Bring a Whole New Level of Gameplay

It's the RPG mechanics of Oafmatch that really separate it from the galaxy of match 3 games on the market. Every character in the game has their own stats and unique abilities that take effect whenever they make a match. For example, the cleric heals all party members.

Each character uses different colored gems to make a match, depending on their stats. Red gems represent strength, yellow gems are dexterity, and so forth. The party member with the highest strength value attacks when a match of three or more red is made. The amount of damage dealt depends on how high the stat of a character is. As the characters' levels are increased through training, their stats also increase so they do more damage when they make matches.

Then you have equipment items that help you in an assortment of ways. Some come in the form of weapons, allowing you to dish a set amount of damage to an enemy. Others affect the board by allowing you to swap two gems, or destroy large clusters of gems. Every piece of equipment needs a specific amount of mana before it can be used. The type of equipment it is determines what type of mana it requires.

Between the character levels, equipment items and the special abilities of each of the characters, there is plenty of strategy to make this game more interesting. As you progress, you begin to realize that specific characters and equipment work better in certain instances, while not so much in others. This gives the game a lot of depth that most others in its genre don't have. To round it all off, it is quite well balanced, so combat encounters are never too tough nor too easy.

My only real complaint here is that at the beginning of each wave of enemies, your mana pool is emptied. While this is most likely done for game balance, it is still frustrating. Emptying the mana pools also causes a loss of tactical depth, as keeping your mana from wave to wave would add a whole new level of tactics. Apart from that, the RPG mechanics of the game really do set it apart.

Get Some Roguelike 3 Match Gameplay

Along with a new game plus mode for the campaign, Oafmatch also has a roguelike mode available to play. This is exactly what it sounds like -- everything is procedurally generated and permadeath is a real threat. 

In this mode, each area gives the player two randomly generated choices. The rewards for these choices include gold, healing or reviving party members, new equipment items, new characters, and stars that are required to progress further into the dungeon. 

Upon completing a battle the character's health is not regenerated, and they must be healed in battle or by finding a healing fountain. Once all of your characters are dead, the run is over. Upon restarting you get to choose four new characters from all of those you unlocked on your previous run.

All of the equipment items you unlocked also transfer over to the next run and are available right from the get-go. It is a mode designed for veteran players of Oafmatch, intentionally difficult and at times unfair.

Despite the spike in difficulty, this is a really fun mode to play. So much so that I actually wish the entire game itself was designed like it. There is an intensity and a whole new level of strategy involved in the Roguelike mode that would have made Oafmatch a more interesting game in its entirety.

A Match 3 Game With a Bit of a Difference

That's how I would sum up Oafmatch in one sentence. It does things differently that most match 3 titles, but certainly doesn't redefine the genre. There are a few issues here and there, but nothing that would majorly affect your experience. Overall it is an enjoyable game that's well-balanced, fun and quite humorous at times.

If you enjoy match 3 games, you are going to have a great time with Oafmatch. If the genre isn't generally your cup of tea, this title probably won't change your mind.

Disclaimer: A copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.

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Run the Criminal Underworld in Killers And Thieves https://www.gameskinny.com/5fntx/run-the-criminal-underworld-in-killers-and-thieves https://www.gameskinny.com/5fntx/run-the-criminal-underworld-in-killers-and-thieves https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/k/i/l/kil-7b119.jpg 5fntx/run-the-criminal-underworld-in-killers-and-thieves Tue, 23 May 2017 12:00:01 -0400 Ty Arthur

While there had been trickles of info here and there over the last two years, Killers and Thieves is essentially a last-minute surprise release from Stoic's Alex Thomas (known for The Banner Saga series), and we're stoked to be bringing you one of the web's very first reviews of the finished product. 

As would be expected from someone involved with The Banner Saga, there's a very distinctive art style on display here, but it's presented in a much different way from that iconic game. While there are clear influences from the developer's previous series, don't expect turn based strategy combat here!

Somewhat akin to X-COM, the game is broken out into two main phases: a resource management segment, and then a real time segment where you control multiple thieves for heists.

Running A Guild From Top To Bottom

At home in your headquarters you oversee your various thieving enterprises -- recruiting new thieves, training existing ones, selling off items you've stolen, and so forth.

From there your rag-tag band of cutthroats and pickpockets heads out into different districts of a large city to undertake story missions, or to just try your luck at robbing homes in different locations.

 Exploring A District

Each district has different stats that impact how you play: varying levels of guard activity, a greater or lesser market for certain types of stolen items, and so on. For instance, you can't sell famous art for high prices in the slums, where there's no market for it.

After finishing up the strategy element of the over world map, the game switches to a side view for real time gameplay that look like a cross between Sim Tower, The Banner Saga, and Knock Knock.

This is where things get tricky, as staying hidden from guards while making off which as much loot as possible is quite difficult -- and there's permadeath to boot. Between that aspect and the ability to raise morale and recruit new thieves by carousing at taverns, you'll find a bit of a Darkest Dungeon feel in this game.

Home Base

The focus in the real time phase isn't on combat for the most part, though -- and even when you do fight, you don't directly control the thief's attacks or dodges. So it's not really an "action" game by any stretch of the imagination. Rather, the outcome of combat is determined by stats, skills, and (presumably) random number rolls.

If you put more time training Strength and adding skills like Critical Strike, the more likely your killer is to come out victorious if caught by a guard. Of course, once you've been in battle, its time to high tail it out of there or you'll be overrun.

Staying In The Black

You can't keep your thieves happy and in line without regular pay checks, and that means going out on heists, finding store fronts to fence property, and completing story missions to open up new turf.

When leaving your headquarters and heading to the world map there's basically three main types of activity: stakeouts, missions, and heists.

Stakeouts take the least direct activity, simply keeping a thief busy for a set amount of time while providing you with info like how wealthy the neighborhood is and what kind loot can be found there.

Missions have a little more interactivity, but are still done “behind the scenes” as you advance time and have a variable chance of success depending on who you assign and how many thieves are put on the job.

You can do a full loadout for the highest chance of success, but then you will also have fewer thieves available for a few days for other jobs. At the end you either succeed or fail, with a corresponding amount of resources gained or lost.

Succeeding At A Mission

Some missions have specific requirements, like bringing along one thief with a Strength above 60 and another one with the Vigilance skill. I haven't quite decided if this is a bug or an intentional feature yet, but this can lead to some dead blocks where you have to keep waiting day after day for new recruits to come in, or instead repeatedly risk your heavy hitters on non-story heists to earn experience.

For instance at one point I needed two thieves with a specific skill for a mission, but I didn't have enough skill points to add that skill to an existing thief. My only option was to put people in the tavern to increase the number of recruits per week and keep clicking "advance day" until another one showed up with the required skill. Due to the luck of the roll, several weeks went by before I got the skill I needed.

Heists are where you go to the ground level and take more active control of the thief crew. You'll have to keep track of and utilize multiple thieves, switching between them to use various skills as needed. 

One thief might have the ability to pick locks, one has the ability to fight, one can hide while moving, one can jump out windows to the ground for quick escapes, and so on. You can train your recruits in multiple skills, but it takes time -- and the major skills like Knife Fighting require more skill points than you will initially have available.

 Learning New Skills

Some of these skills seem more immediately useful than others. I wouldn't really want to send any thief into a building without Vigilance, which shows you whats in the next room without having to peek through a keyhole. Eavesdrop reveals more rooms than Vigilance, but overall seems less useful since you have to stop and hide to activate the skill and it takes time to use. 

A Few Concerns

There's a lot of fun to be had running things behind the scenes or taking over direct control and robbing people blind, but there are some downsides here too.

Once a player has the basics of sneaking, stealing, selling, and training down, it's essentially the same thing from that point on, just with different objectives or story text in between each heist. There aren't a lot of differences visually in the heist areas either, so there's a considerable amount of repetition here.

Some of the game's high points might also be its low points. In order to balance the scales and force you to use multiple characters, some thieves will be able to fight and others wont, and that gets frustrating in a lot of instances. As the developer puts it - you have killers and you have thieves, but you don't have both.

There's also a minor UI issue where you have to right click to move across the heist map, which is kind of annoying when you're trying to quickly flee somewhere and accidentally try to scroll on the edge of the screen like normal. Hilariously, after getting used to that method of moving the screen by playing for a few hours, I found myself trying to right click and drag across websites after I'd closed the game. Why not just put in a standard edge scroll like every other game in existence?

 Robbing Homes While Others Keep Watch

The Bottom Line

In some ways, Killers And Thieves reminds me of a more fully realized Domina with its character and resource management on one side and then 2D real time gameplay on the other. Unlike Domina, you can change the difficulty here, making it easier to hide from guards or starting with extra thieves if you find the level of challenge too frustrating -- and that's a plus.

In his first news message to players on the splash screen, Alex Thomas himself states this isn't necessarily meant to be the type of game you are still playing a year or two later and have sunk hundreds of hours into. Its something you'll enjoy tinkering with to figure out your perfect thief loadout, then probably get upset at when your prize killer dies or best lockpick goes to jail and rage quit for awhile to cool off.

That being said, there are ways the life of the game could easily be extended. Because of its modular nature, it would be simple to add in new content just by swapping out story text and heist or mission objectives, occasionally throwing in a few new art assets here and there.

If I had to boil it down, Killers and Thieves is essentially made by cooking together a dash of X-COM, a sprig of Domina, and a sprinkling of Darkest Dungeon. The game is a fun mashup of several different familiar styles worth trying out to see just how good you are at running a successful criminal enterprise.

 Plus, There's A Bad Ass Lady Assassin!

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Trigger Time Review: A Good Mix Between Survival and Puzzle Solving https://www.gameskinny.com/gsdds/trigger-time-review-a-good-mix-between-survival-and-puzzle-solving https://www.gameskinny.com/gsdds/trigger-time-review-a-good-mix-between-survival-and-puzzle-solving https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-abf71.jpg gsdds/trigger-time-review-a-good-mix-between-survival-and-puzzle-solving Mon, 22 May 2017 17:46:49 -0400 Jerline Justo

As an action gamer enthusiast, I love to immerse myself in that tense moment where it's do-or-die -- either my enemy or me. My survival instincts kick into high gear and push me to move forward and try harder in a game.

When I entered Trigger Time, a top-down shoot-em-up from Shephf Games, I was looking for that same survival drive and heart-pounding experience. And after playing about three hours of the game, I find myself becoming addicted -- but not solely because of the survival instinct it stimulates.

This indie action game has a lot to offer, from awesome weapons to engaging puzzles.

Controls And Perspective

You enter Trigger Time as a marine soldier who has received orders to infiltrate the Professor Nathan’s laboratory and destroy his research. Using standard W/A/S/D movement controls and shooting with your mouse, you can cycle through a number of weapons and try out different strategies to take down any and all enemies you encounter. 

The top-down perspective in this game allows you to get a better sense of your surroundings and the enemies you're facing, but without sacrificing any of the action that makes a shmup exciting. Whenever those baddies come at you from multiple directions, you can respond quickly and maneuver your way to a better position that'll let you blow them all away.

Because I'm primarily a console gamer, I struggle with playing games like this on PC. But in the case of Trigger Time, I didn't have nearly as hard of a time as I usually do. This game has full controller support, but feels so natural to play without it that I didn't find myself wanting one. 

Different, Complex Puzzles

As you work your way through the nine levels available in Trigger Time, you'll encounter a number of different types of puzzles that are based off physics facts. You'll have to solve them to move forward, of course, but the game will give you a set amount of hints based on the difficulty level you've chosen. Easy offers a fair number of hints, normal offers a few, and hard offers none at all. 

These puzzles add a lot of variety to the game, making it about more than just shooting. Solving a puzzle also comes with a different kind of satisfaction than what you get from defeating enemies. By balancing action with problem-solving, this game feels well-rounded and has a lot more to offer players than pure bullethell madness.

At times, some of the puzzles were quite difficult to solve. I enjoy puzzlers, but sometimes found myself staring at my screen in search of what to do next. I was playing on normal difficulty, so I didn't get hints for every single puzzle. And while that did make the game more challenging, it sometimes kept me from progressing as quickly as I wanted. 

Weapons Galore!

In Trigger Time, you have eight primary weapons and three secondary weapons at your disposal -- including include shotguns, rocket launchers, and explosive mines. Along with those weapons, you can use a gravity gun that acts as a weapon or a tool to solve puzzles. 

Your weapons don't progress with you through levels, but it's fairly easy to get a sense of what sorts of weapons you can expect to see introduced or reintroduced at the start of each level. No matter what weapon you end up using for a level, it'll offer epic firepower that feels satisfying whenever you use it.

But I do have to give special mention to one exemplary weapon -- the gravity gun. You can use it to capture and throw metallic objects or small enemy robots. This is by far the most unique weapon in the game, and it outshines all the other. I ended up using it more than any other secondary weapon just because it was so fun to play with, and added an even more action-packed feel to this game.

Verdict

Trigger TIme is not necessarily as “story-driven” as it claims to be. The story does help move the game forward and tries to draw connections between the characters and the enemies they're fighting. But most of the time, I found myself be skipping through cutscenes to get to the firefights.

With its unique perspective, tons of weapons, and some challenging puzzles, there's a lot to keep you moving forward to see this game through to the very end. It's sure to be a fun and addicting experience for anyone who loves shoot-em-ups.

Trigger Time is currently available on Steam for $4.99.

Note: A copy of this game was provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.

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Beyond Reality Review: An Enjoyable RPG Experience with a Few Quirks https://www.gameskinny.com/4wswd/beyond-reality-review-an-enjoyable-rpg-experience-with-a-few-quirks https://www.gameskinny.com/4wswd/beyond-reality-review-an-enjoyable-rpg-experience-with-a-few-quirks https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/8/0/a/80a4f0b283127281e3396df6fc3ab14192feaddc600x338-05523.jpg 4wswd/beyond-reality-review-an-enjoyable-rpg-experience-with-a-few-quirks Mon, 22 May 2017 16:58:23 -0400 Ally_Cat

I first picked up Beyond Reality as part of a collection of RPG Maker-style games on Steam. As an aspiring game-maker myself, I wanted to learn from those who had gone before, and thus picked up a variety of similar games. But Beyond Reality is more than just a learning tool; it's a great little diversion that you can easily sink a day into.

If you want a game to which you can devote days or weeks, this isn't the game you're looking for. But if you want an interesting fantasy game that you can finish in about eight hours, you should take a look at this one.

Solid RPG Foundation With a Few Quirks

Some of Beyond Reality's features will be familiar to RPG fans, as a turn-based combat system and visible, on-map enemies are chief among them. Other features include a wide variety of weapons and armor, and more than 50 different enemy types to encounter -- including a number of 'special' enemies that give you Steam achievements when you defeat them. Additionally, you can choose the character naming method you want to use -- fantasy (which includes names like La'lele and Sulada) or modern (which uses Fallon and Asha).

But in terms of actual execution, it feels like a few things were overlooked in this game -- especially early on in the story. The protagonist's initial behavior, for example, raises a few questions. The first time you see Fallon/La'lele, she appears to be shaking her arms around (though to be honest, it kinda looks like she's smacking herself). And when her driver first arrives and calls for her, she refers to him as “the driver” when talking aloud to herself, despite the fact that he calls her by name and their banter indicates that they're acquainted.

These aren't necessarily huge issues in the larger context of the game, but it did cause a few hiccups in the game's immersion, which you don't want to see in an RPG. 

Once you get past the initial questions and quirks and really get into the story, though, such issues are easily put aside. You learn more about Fallon's team and the work they do -- and when a normal day at the office gets interrupted by a magic-wielding time-traveler, you're whisked away to the past for a mission you never agreed to!

Tons of Fun to Play

Beyond Reality is an engaging story with music that never feels out of place, and a simple-but-pretty JRPG art style reminiscent of your favorite games of old. Follow the main quest or take on one of the many side quests, most of which are designed to help you strengthen your party.

The battle system is straightforward, with stationary character and enemy images. Simple visual effects and dialogue boxes tell you how the battle is progressing, along with easy-to-read HP bars at the bottom of the screen.

Within a few minutes of gameplay, you're swept out of your world of trains, pollution, and corporations -- and into a world of magic, clean air, and government secrets. You're tasked with discovering why a government would turn on its people, and the only way you'll get back home is by getting to the bottom of things. Of course, such a mission is rarely simple, and soon you'll find there's more going on than anyone expected -- even the people who brought you to their time!

If you like RPGS full of magic, secrets, and family bonding, give Beyond Reality a try. It's currently available for $4.99 on Steam. You'll be glad you picked it up!

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The Dream Machine: A Point and Click Masterpiece https://www.gameskinny.com/41ue3/the-dream-machine-a-point-and-click-masterpiece https://www.gameskinny.com/41ue3/the-dream-machine-a-point-and-click-masterpiece https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-c6f10.jpg 41ue3/the-dream-machine-a-point-and-click-masterpiece Fri, 19 May 2017 10:30:46 -0400 Damien Smith

It is a strange thought that developers are still finding new and curious ways of creating video games, even now in 2017. One such developer is Cockroach Inc, who has made a unique point-and-click adventure out of clay, cardboard and other such materials.

The Dream Machine is an episodic game that began development back in 2008 by a two man team. Its first two episodes released way back in 2010. It was only on May 11th, 2017 that the long-awaited final chapter of the game released.

The art design, plot and atmosphere of this game are all quite unique, while its gameplay is far more traditional of the point-and-click genre. While it is an outstanding game, there are a few issues that hinder it from receiving the top score.

A written plot that falls short at the last hurdle

In The Dream Machine, you take on the role of Victor Neff. Victor and his pregnant wife Alicia have just moved into a new apartment and are getting settled in, hoping to start a new and quieter life. That dream is cut short when they find that something is very wrong with their new residence and its owner.

Victor must seek answers to his many questions, and embarks on a journey far from anything he could have ever expected. To say anything further about the plot to The Dream Machine would only serve to ruin what the first two chapters have in store for the player.

What I can say is that to begin with, the plot seems very simple -- perhaps even a bit uninteresting. It revolves around completing daily tasks that pretty much everyone has to go through when moving house, along with learning a bit more about Victor and his wife.

It isn't until the very end of Chapter 1 that things take a dark twist and the intrigue really kicks in. From Chapter 2 onwards, the story continues to kick it up a notch and keeps the player gripped as more of is revealed to them. It is, however, the final chapter of the game where the narrative trips up and stumbles in its very final moments.

While the ending to The Dream Machine wouldn't bother someone who only played the game as of the final chapter's release (like me), those who waited years for it may be disappointed. I won't spoil it, of course, but I will say that for a game which has so much creativity and imagination put into it, the ending just isn't on the same level.

I knew the kind of ending the developer was aiming for, but I expected something a bit more unusual than what was delivered after everything I had experienced prior to that -- and it left me feeling slightly underwhelmed.

Despite its hiccup of a conclusion, though, the plot to The Dream Machine is one of intrigue, with good writing and excellent imagination that will please any fans of the genre.

 

Traditional point-and-click gameplay

Anyone who has played any modern point-and-click adventures should feel right at home when it comes to the gameplay of The Dream Machine. Throughout your adventure, you will need to talk to characters, interact with the environment, collect items, and solve puzzles.

The dialogue and interacting with the characters is one of the highlights of this title. While a lot of games in the genre can have moments that are very heavy on exposition, The Dream Machine keeps a good balance between its dialogue and gameplay. Never does it feel like exposition is being rammed down your throat, and it is never long before you are back in control and exploring the world again.

As for interacting with the environment, that is similarly well-designed -- as everything which can be interacted with is always in view. You don't have to hover your mouse over the screen looking for something that is barely visible.  

As for the puzzles, they are well-designed and fun to solve. There are a few that would be considered a point-and-click cliche, like the sheet of paper to get a key puzzle. Aside from that, though, the puzzles are all logical and can be solved with a bit of brain power and patience.

Overall The Dream Machine doesn't do anything to reinvent the gameplay of the point-and-click, adventure but it does execute the traditional gameplay of the genre perfectly.

A unique art design with amazing atmosphere

What sets The Dream Machine apart from every other video game out there is its unique art design. As mentioned in the introduction of this review, all the visuals of the game are made entirely out of clay, cardboard and other everyday items.

While a similar art design was used in the development of The Swapper from 2013, it was The Dream Machine that invented this style. It gives the game a unique atmosphere to it that no other can quite deliver. Even in moments of calm like when Victor has breakfast with his wife, there is always this sense of unease.

There is no mistaking that it redefines how the visuals of video games are made. But developing a game like this comes at a great cost. Due to everything you see being made by hand, the time it takes to make the game is excessive -- and this ultimately led to the long periods of time between each episode. So there is an advantage and a disadvantage to its design.

With that said, there is never a point in the game that it isn't visually appealing. Through the entirety of the game, I was in awe as new and incredible sights were revealed to me. If you are looking for a game that does things a bit differently from an artistic perspective, The Dream Machine is certainly going to take your interest.

A point-and-click masterpiece

I actually feel bad giving this game a 9 as opposed to a 10. It's beautifully designed, well-executed, and everything you could hope for from a point-and-click adventure. The problem is that its best feature, the innovative art style, is also a bane that created long gaps between episodes. 

The conclusion to the plot was also not as fitting as it could have been. If I had waited seven years for it just like many have, I would have been even more disappointed with it. Make no mistake -- despite its downfalls, The Dream Machine in its entirety might very well be one if not the best point and click adventure game to date.

Disclaimer: A copy of the game was provided to the writer for the purpose of this review.

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Abstract Bullet Riddled Death, A Review For Nongünz https://www.gameskinny.com/ns53r/abstract-bullet-riddled-death-a-review-for-nongunz https://www.gameskinny.com/ns53r/abstract-bullet-riddled-death-a-review-for-nongunz https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/n/o/n/nongunz-header-image-3aeea.png ns53r/abstract-bullet-riddled-death-a-review-for-nongunz Thu, 18 May 2017 11:01:14 -0400 Dan Roemer

Developed by Brainwash Gang and published by Sindiecate Arts, Nongünz is a bloody, disturbing mess in the best possible way. It offers roguelike elements such as unique generated levels and enemies and different upgrades to equip, while remaining brutal in difficulty -- as upon death, you immediately lose everything. All this is combined with action-packed platforming, gunplay, and boss fights...If you can even survive the dungeons to get to them.

No Hand Holding...Death Awaits

You start the game off as a headless skeleton waking in what appears to be a black and white graveyard with a variety of weapons and skulls. You begin the actual game by entering the nearby building and delving down below into the gothic dungeons, which act as the generating levels.

Here you'll find plenty of grotesque yet interesting enemies -- ranging from worm-like detached fingers that leave a trail of goo which is harmful to the touch, to annoying fly-like enemies that were the bane of my existence and lead to a great deal of deaths.

Beware: death will be an extremely common occurrence, as it comes swift and unexpected in Nongünz. But as quickly as it comes, you can get right back into the action just as quickly -- which gives this game a pick-up-and-play nature that makes it pretty addictive.

However you'll also find plenty of things that can help you, such as chests throughout the environment that, at the cost of your own health, will reward you with random upgrades.

Different shops will also offer different upgrades you can purchase with points you collect from killing and building a score multiplier. You'll also be able to find windows in each area that allow you to escape the dungeon back to the graveyard hub-world and restore your health. You can also find other types of chests hidden through sections of the level that will sometimes offer weapons or unique types of skulls with different abilities.

Very much reminiscent of another roguelike, The Binding of Isaac -- these skulls will give you different upgrades, from being able to do a quick dash in mid-air, to more over-the-top abilities such as creating portals.

You'll also be able to find death cultists hidden throughout levels and trapped in cages. Despite their name, these guys are an absolute godsend -- because the more you collect, the more points you gain back in the black and white graveyard hub-world.

Once back there, they'll pray to your monument of guns and skulls down below. The more you have, the more quickly you'll earn points, which you can then use towards different weapons and skulls at the monument itself -- so hurrah death cultists!

What's The Story Behind it All?

In short, your guess would honestly be as good as mine. The game is extremely abstract in terms of story -- so much so that during my few hours spent with Nongünz, I couldn't legitimately tell you if it even has one. Is this a bad thing? For me personally, not at all.

This game is a seemingly mundane yet somehow enjoyable loop of exploration, death, and beginning from scratch again. However, it does have a few unexpected moments that I won't spoil, and those hint at a possible narrative to be told in this abstract world.

Nongünz is extremely beautiful in terms of art direction and soundtrack, while also filled with a dark metaphorical presentation and style. 

Perhaps a Bit...Too Abstract?

At times Nongünz can be a little too abstract -- specifically with its upgrades, which sometimes bordered on complete confusion. I had plenty of moments where I unlocked a chest and was given an upgrade of some kind, but had no clue at all what it even did.

As another example, I remember being very low on health and found an item shop selling an item with a heart on it. So I figured “Oh great, health, I'll take that!” -- my health bar didn't budge or get replenished whatsoever.

It got to a point where I pretty much just avoided opening chests unless I still had tons of health -- and would just randomly buy stuff at the shop without really much thought, because I'd still have no clue what any of it even did or upgraded.

The menus and UI can also be somewhat confusing as well. Just navigating the in-game menu or interacting with stuff like the monument of guns and skulls took me a brief moment to wrap my head around.

Key bindings were an issue, too. I wasn't crazy about jump being default set to W -- so I immediately changed that. But I ran into minor control issues navigating the in-game menu. The key binding menu itself was somewhat of a mess to navigate and bind keys in general, leading me to accidentally binding keys I didn't want to bind to begin with.

The Skinny on Nongünz

Nongünz is perfect for pick up and play, short-burst gaming sessions. Despite some minor control issues, the occassional bug, and things being a bit obscure at times, Nongünz is still a fantastic roguelike action platformer that bleeds style and presentation. And it will keep you coming back for more, especially with that possible narrative buried deep below the game's surface to leave you guessing.

You will love this game if:

  • You enjoy a challenge with no hand holding
  • You're a fan of roguelikes
  • You enjoy quick pick up and play action platformers

You may not like this game if:

  • You expect a narrative of some kind
  • You aren't a fan of generated levels and enemies, or roguelike systems in general

Nongünz is available for purchase on Steam and is set for release on May 19th, 2017.

Note: The developer provided a copy of this game for the purposes of this review.

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Review: Fire Emblem: Echoes - Shadows of Valentia https://www.gameskinny.com/ui158/review-fire-emblem-echoes-shadows-of-valentia https://www.gameskinny.com/ui158/review-fire-emblem-echoes-shadows-of-valentia https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/f/i/r/fire-emblem-echoes-1920x1080-74ced.jpg ui158/review-fire-emblem-echoes-shadows-of-valentia Thu, 18 May 2017 10:47:40 -0400 David Fisher

While most of the world first heard of Fire Emblem through Super Smash Bros. Melee, the series has a long history in Japan, dating all the way back to 1990 on the Famicom. Since then, the series has gone through a number of remakes, revisions, and even great departures in areas such as core gameplay mechanics. Fire Emblem: Echoes - Shadows of Valentia seeks to bring the series back -- albeit temporarily -- to its roots by completely overhauling a cult classic in the vein of the original NES lineup: Fire Emblem Gaiden.

It's clear that this return to an old formula has caused some fans to be apprehensive, but it's important to look at Fire Emblem: Echoes - Shadows of Valentia from both the perspective of a newcomer and the series veteran.

The Plot is a Stark Picture of War

If it hasn't already been made clear by the dozens of advertisements published by Nintendo since the Fire Emblem Direct PresentationShadows of Valentia's story follows the paths of two characters: Alm and the Princess Celica.

Whereas modern Fire Emblem titles typically start off on lighter notes and grow progressively darker, Shadows of Valentia pulls no punches by immediately setting a dark tone for the game -- something that hasn't really been done since The Sacred Stones.

In the opening cutscene, we see a foreshadowing: Celica being stabbed by Alm. We then move to a prolog where the main cast is threatened with death by a group of knights. And shortly thereafter, the tutorial mission puts you in control of child units as soldiers -- all of whom can be killed.

If that's not dark enough, the game is full of war-like undertones, many suggesting sexual violence, the threat of starvation, and more. Even the gameplay accentuates the game's utterly dire circumstances by adding the fatigue system from Thracia 776, as well as giving the player limited resources -- particularly food items.

In between the gruesome consequences of war, Shadows of Valentia does retain the series' penchant for comedic relief. However, the sense of levity is often overshadowed, taking players on a veritable roller coaster ride through the game's narrative. And of course, the story has many twists and turns, but Shadows of Valentia is one of the more dynamic stories in the Fire Emblem franchise, redeeming the series for those who disappointed by Fates' storytelling.

On top of that, linear support conversations support Shadows of Valentia's plot; rarely are characters shown regressing in the narrative arcs, and the premeditated relationships serve to flesh out characters instead of making them into overbearing tropes. And while some may miss the "Shipping Simulators" that were Fates and Awakening, players who enjoyed those features should still give Valentia a chance. This entry shows how carefully devised support chains can improve the haphazard relationship building of the previous two titles.

And unlike previous titles, where personalities were sometimes difficult to realize from textual conversations alone, characterization is enhanced by Shadows of Valentia's voice acting. Characters much more coherently demonstrate sarcasm, anger, and other personality traits, which were otherwise impossible to convey through text. 

The animated cutscenes done by Studio Khara are also quite entrancing, but at times, they left me wanting more. While in-game cutscenes have improved over those found in Fates and Awakening, the game feels like it could have benefited from pre-rendered animated scenes. But in the end, Shadows of Valentia's story feels like what Fates could have been -- albeit told in a single linear narrative.

Gameplay -- Both the Classic & New Combine

Fire Emblem: Gaiden was a unique title in the Fire Emblem series because it blended classic JRPG elements with turn-based strategy on a gridded map. In Shadows of Valentia, most of your battles begin on the world map. Here, you are given statistics on your enemy's unit count (all the units that will appear on the battle map) and total rank (the stats of each enemy unit). 

Alternatively, exploring dungeons -- such as shrines -- will render a 3D exploration map reminiscent of Fire Emblem Fates' 3D view in My Castle. The difference here is that the area is fully accessible while in 3D mode. There you can find various enemies (which trigger the standard battle maps), items, and more. In essence, the dungeon mode is where Shadows of Valentia feels the most like a regular JRPG.

Battles are much shorter in Shadows of Valentia because skirmishes typically don't see massive hordes of players. Furthermore, the weapons triangle is absent. At first blush, this would imply that taking weapon advantages into account would make strategizing simpler. But in truth, it makes the game much more difficult because comparing and contrasting character abilities against opponent abilities is more crucial than ever before.

Mages and archers have also been reverted to the standards found in Gaiden, with archers being able to attack from anywhere between melee-range and three spaces away. On top of that, mages lose health based on the skill they use. Terrain tiles also take the forefront in strategy because buffs are much more important in the absence of the weapons triangle. This is exacerbated by the fatigue feature. While not getting in the way of gameplay, it forces players to maintain a balanced army -- more so than in previous titles.

And of course, there are plenty of JRPG elements in Shadows of Valentia. For instance, all characters have their own unique stats, as well as learnable arts and talents. As such, two units with the same class may not necessarily learn the same spells -- particularly when it comes to magic-based classes. Furthermore, loadouts and equippable items stack onto planning during a playthrough. While no particular decision can lead to an unwinnable situation, it certainly does increase your odds of victory, especially on harder difficulty settings.

All-in-all, Shadows of Valentia is relentless compared to recent Fire Emblem installments because the difficulty curve starts very early. Even those who have played most of the games between the Gameboy Advance and 3DS eras may find this Fire Emblem a challenge. 

Presentation Could be Better on More Powerful Hardware

With voice talent reshaping the dynamics of its storytelling and characterization and new battle mechanics melding with those tried and true, Shadows of Valentia shows the age of the 3DS hardware, especially in its models. The game reeks of dated graphics. All the fanciful choreography in the world can't hide the game's obvious low-fi textures and polygons. In essence, Shadows of Valentia truly pushes the 3DS to its limits.

Had the game been built solely for New 3DS hardware, maybe there would have been some room for improvement. However, as it stands, the series is at this point begging to be developed for more powerful hardware -- like The Switch.

Another reason the series should move to more powerful and capable hardware is because the music in Shadows of Valentia is wonderful. And I say that with a gritted teeth as it is only so if you force yourself to listen to the game via good quality headphones all the time. The speaker quality of the Nintendo New 3DS is just not enough to capture all of the energy found in pieces such as the standard battle theme or the sweet sorrow of the game's violin pieces.

The talent and capability is certainly there, but until Intelligent Systems reveals its plans for moving the series to the Nintendo Switch, this game's potential may leave a bitter taste in some gamer's mouths.

The Verdict

Despite being held back by hardware limitations, Fire Emblem: Echoes - Shadows of Valentia will -- hopefully -- act as a strong last hurrah for the Nintendo 3DS. While the recent reveal of Nintendo's New 2DS XL might herald another few years for the system line, I am hoping that Intelligent Systems's announcement of the next Fire Emblem title on the Nintendo Switch will mean a higher presentation quality for the series from now on.

But should you buy it?

Ultimately, Fire Emblem: Echoes - Shadows of Valentia will slightly divide the fandom. While all the charm and character of the newer 3DS titles is certainly there, Shadows of Valentia is ultimately a game that harkens back to the more strategy-intense gameplay the earlier games were known for in Japan.

If you enjoyed Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest's challenge, are a Fire Emblem veteran looking for a return to classic formats, or even just a fan of well-told JRPG stories, then Echoes will be a sure buy for you. If you preferred the haphazard eugenics and shipping simulators that were Fire Emblem Awakening and Fates: Birthright, you might have a hard time getting into the more structured narrative of this game -- but might want to pick it up nevertheless.

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Portal Knights: Fractured But...Well, Just Fractured https://www.gameskinny.com/lvd54/portal-knights-fractured-butwell-just-fractured https://www.gameskinny.com/lvd54/portal-knights-fractured-butwell-just-fractured https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/p/o/r/portalknightsheader-ed108.jpg lvd54/portal-knights-fractured-butwell-just-fractured Thu, 18 May 2017 10:03:09 -0400 Seth Zulinski

Recently, I've been on the gaming grind a ton. With new MOBA seasons, the reemergence of the Arena Shooter, and H1Z1 making its presence felt on the team game scene...it's been busy out there for us multiplayer addicts. Booting up my rig has felt a lot like clocking in for work, and I needed a vacation -- badly. 

So when I was handed a copy of Portal Knights, an offbeat action adventure RPG by Keen Games coming out of Early Access, I figured "why not?". With a solid rating on Steam, an army of thumbs ups, and a Very Positive overall rating...it's gotta be good, right? 

So Polished It's Shiny

If you're waiting for the inevitable second boot to fall from a sentiment like "how bad could it be", you'll actually have to keep waiting. 

Portal Knights is really smooth. The characters, reminiscent of modified Lego people, all move fluidly. The worlds are vibrant, and range from powerful pastel palettes to dingy dungeon crawls. The animations flow (though chaining different actions together does feel a bit sticky at times). And once you get the hang of the game, nothing feels like it demands too much of you. 

Really, they've given you a relatively beautiful (if block-based) world to go adventure around in -- and since most enemies and obstacles can be beaten by rolling around and hammering R2, you have plenty of mental space to dedicate to taking it all in. 

Edgy Combat for a Block-basher

Speaking of rolling around and hammering R2, Portal Knights offers a fairly huge upgrade over its "smash blocks and build things" relative Minecraft, sporting an active combat system that reminds me more of a toned-down Dark Souls or Platinum title than it does Steve relentlessly pickaxing his fiftieth skeleton down in the mines.

"Toned down" is the operative phrase there, however. While there are three different classes to choose from (Warrior, Ranger, Mage), a minor elemental system in play, and even Boss Fights, nothing really required you to do anything too complicated to achieve victory. 

Sure, you can be an agile Ranger, swiftly punching holes in your foes with arrows. You could be a mighty Warrior, bellowing and slashing foes to bits. You could even be a Mage, a wielder of arcane and elemental forces that can cause nature itself to rise up and smite your foes.

You can wield devastating scythes, magic wands, powerful staves, far-reaching bows, legendary swords and axes. You can outfit yourself in the finest armors, leathers, or robes available, brimming with bonuses and stacked with stat buffs until you're an unstoppable juggernaught that annihilates everything before you. You can even level up, granting access to even better abilities and equipment...

...but in the end, you'll still mostly be rolling in a circle hammering R2. The classes and weapons feel more like flare than actual core differences -- like various skins you could put on Portal Knights to make it feel like you'd changed a little something. Whether I picked a bow, a wand, or a sword, I inevitably defeated most enemies with a combination of "roll around" and "basic attack". So while the attacks may be different, they certainly didn't feel different. 

Of course, you at least don't have to break your right trigger alone. Portal Knights does have the outstanding bonus of good multiplayer -- and four of you spinning in circles is often a lot more fun (and less worrisome for bystanders) than rolling about by yourself. An archaic form of multiplayer called "split screen" is also available for those of you who want to jam some Portal Knights in a good ole-fashioned couch co-op session, as well.

The Building Blocks

Lastly, Portal Knights is, despite the action/adventure designation, a "blockbuster" -- more or less the "smash bricks with your face until you can make things to smash better bricks" gameplay we've come to know (and many have come to love) from Minecraft and Minecraft-likes

Right from the start in Level 1-0 (more or less "Big Glowy Tutorial Island"), you can get right to chopping down trees and shattering boxes with your bare hands (or starter weapon) to find wood for a crafting table. You can use the crafting table to make a pickaxe. You can then use the pickaxe to get stones more quickly, so you can upgrade your gear. That allows you to more quickly defeat monsters to get to materials you need to upgrade your crafting table...you see where I'm going with this.

Fans of the Minecraft style of gameplay will feel immediately at home in Portal Knights' deep crafting trees, and will soon find themselves pickaxing away at rare mineral deposits buried in the giant floating islands that make up the game world. Now, you and I both know that technically we're supposed to be defeating portal guardians to reunite a world shattered by The Fracture...but we're both pretty sure we have enough dirt to make a magical hovering path up to that big floaty island there. It's not like the portal guardians are going anywhere, right? Right. 

The downside to the relatively robust crafting system, if any, may be that a great many of the items felt like Upgrade Clones, despite the occasional individual bonuses attached. Shiny Metal 3 Sword is, in most cases, the same as Slightly Less Shiny Metal 2 Sword -- it just does a bit more damage. 

TL;DR

With a Souls-lite combat system and Minecraft gathering and crafting, you may be wondering why I left that "What could go wrong?" hanging in the air at the beginning. Aren't those good titles to emulate? 

Sure they are. But Portal Knights' biggest problem, if anything, is that it captures its comparative games very well in mechanics -- but not so much in spirit.

While combat feels like it came from an action RPG, it's a superficial feeling -- the depth of combat found the source material just isn't translated here. There's not the difficulty that usually comes with that sort of combat system. Similarly, the Minecraft-esque building segments do an admirable job of capturing the joy of breaking trees with your face to build a log cabin -- but stop short of some of the truly absurd things you could engineer in the iconic block-builder. About the coolest thing you can make is a stone cabin a.k.a. "sweet castle".  

All of this leaves me feeling a bit confused after having played Portal Knights -- Souls without difficulty, Minecraft without complexity, RPG without depth. Portal Knights is a smooth, shiny, pretty, musical little number -- but who exactly does the game want to play it, and will they feel like they've played it before? 

For being a relatively fun romp through a rather pleasant little world, Portal Knights earns itself six stars -- but for giving me the unshakable feeling of deja vu right from Level 1-0, they'll have to craft the rest. 

If you want to see whats behind Portal #2 yourself, you can pick up Portal Knights for $14.99 on Steam as early as today, and on PS4 or Xbox One within the next week (May 19th in EU, May 23rd in NA).

Note: A copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.

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What Remains of Edith Finch: Exploring the Bittersweet Intersection of Death and Memory https://www.gameskinny.com/lypx8/what-remains-of-edith-finch-exploring-the-bittersweet-intersection-of-death-and-memory https://www.gameskinny.com/lypx8/what-remains-of-edith-finch-exploring-the-bittersweet-intersection-of-death-and-memory https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/e/d/i/edithfinch-logowhitesm-f2ba9.png lypx8/what-remains-of-edith-finch-exploring-the-bittersweet-intersection-of-death-and-memory Wed, 17 May 2017 11:35:50 -0400 Kat De Shields

Created by Giant Sparrow, What Remains of Edith Finch is a beautiful illustration of the intersection between the vastness of the world around us, family secrets that lurk in the shadows, and an exploration of the way death can maintain a powerful grip on the future. A curse follows the Finch family--one that kills its members one by one. Accompany Edith, the last surviving member of the Finch family, as she unravels the mysteries of the Finch family tree.

If there's one constant emotion in this game, it's the feeling of being small -- of not knowing everything and trying to understand the true meaning lurking beneath familiar images. This is the task facing Edith as she returns to her family home on the precipice of realizing that what was once familiar as a child is now completely new as an adult. As you approach the Finch estate, the looming, piecemeal house sets the tone for the dark and surreal tales that follow.

Just looking at it makes you a bit uncomfortable. 

Gameplay That Adds to the Experience

As a first-person adventure game or walking simulator, What Remains of Edith Finch maintains a perfect balance between interaction and observation. Most of the game's controls involve walking through the maze of the Finch house and interacting with the mementos of members long gone.

The utilization of button and joy thumbstick combos to do things like turn the page of a book or pull open a door are moments that ground the player in the game. It's a lovely touch that manages to break down the "point and click" feeling that sometimes occurs with first-person adventure/walking simulators.

Finding mementos triggers interactive sequences that transfers perspective from Edith to the subject at hand, so you get sequences like the one below where interactivity peaks in beautifully surreal situations. 

Another one of my favorite sequences of the game. 

 Atmospheric Surrealism at Its Best

A theme of childhood nostalgia runs deep within the game -- from monsters under the bed, to flying kites, to seeing how high you can go on a swing set. While some of the Finch family members died in their old age, others were heartbreakingly young. The familiar tropes of childhood are threaded with things dark and unsettling to create an atmosphere that keeps you curious and slightly on edge.  

The living rub elbows with the dead in this game, as many rooms in the house serve as mini-shrines to deceased members of the Finch family. Rooms are left exactly as they were when the Finch family members passed away, and candle-lined portraits (painted by Edith Sr., the matriarch of the Finch family) are placed in the rooms in memoriam.

It’s interesting how something so bizarre is normalized, simply because it’s business as usual within a family. It makes you remember that family dynamics are miniature systems all on their own, with variances in behavior and tradition -- and it’s always interesting to learn the inner mechanics of a family unit (real or imagined). Each family member’s story has a unique edge, so there’s never a worry of getting bored with the individual narratives.

As such, Lewis’s story is one of the most impressive portions of the game. With one thumbstick, you control the movements of Lewis in his adventurous imagination. With the other? Your blood-covered, blue glove slices off fish heads. The sequence is genius in its extended metaphor of a wandering mind -- it's a metaphor you’re actually playing. Eventually, the slicing of the fish heads fades to muscle memory (as it does for Lewis) and you, the player, also become lost in the land of your imagination. This sequence is definitely worth playing twice, because it’s loaded with overlapping symbols.

A scene from Lewis's story.

Once you complete the game, there is an option to replay certain areas in an episodic fashion. Though the game is a short three or four hours to complete, I recommend replaying some of those sequences. Even broken apart from the larger narrative, each character’s story is a powerful experience on its own.

Throughout the game, I couldn't help but notice that What Remains of Edith Finch is a wonderful ode to the various forms of telling a story -- be it a journal, news clips, photographs, notes and letters, flip books, or even the game itself. (Or maybe it’s just my insane love of the art of storytelling.)

It goes without saying that the focal point of the game is the bizarre story that unfolds as Edith learns the history of her family members and what caused each of their deaths. The stories are connected in that the life and thoughts of one family member are referenced in sequences outside of their own. The narrative structure is subtly woven together in a way that gives life to the shadowy secrets Edith discovers as she walks through the house.


Everything tells a story...

The Soundtrack Is the Cherry on Top

What Remains of Edith Finch has a gorgeous soundtrack that is worth buying on its own merit. The orchestra-based OST is a beautiful pairing with the visual aesthetic and narrative -- more so because there are key moments when it is activated. Most of the time, you’re treated to the sound effects of an old house full of secrets. During the character sequences, the soundtrack matches the mood to perfection (and sometimes the orchestra is abandoned completely). While playing, I found myself lingering to absorb the music and soak in the feeling it evoked. Milton’s story is one of the most beautiful pairings of sight and sound I’ve seen in a game.  

The Skinny on What Remains of Edith Finch

You will love this game if:

  • You enjoy surreal, atmospheric settings 
  • You love a damn good story that lingers after you hear it
  • Enjoy episodic adventures where it all ties into a larger story

You may not like this game if:

  • You're a button-mashin' action junkie
  • Stories that leave lingering questions irritate you
  • You can't take the time to play it all the way through in one sitting (3-4 hours)

TL;DR: What Remains of Edith Finch is a story-rich, first-person adventure game that is sure to satisfy any gamer looking for an experience that can be completed in one sitting, but will linger in mind long after the end credits roll.

What Remains of Edith Finch is available for purchase on Steam, and the PlayStation store for $19.99.

Editors Note: The developer provided a review copy of this game. 

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Injustice 2 Review: NetherRealm at its Finest https://www.gameskinny.com/6pjfo/injustice-2-review-netherrealm-at-its-finest https://www.gameskinny.com/6pjfo/injustice-2-review-netherrealm-at-its-finest https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/r/e/v/review-header-d1b6c.jpg 6pjfo/injustice-2-review-netherrealm-at-its-finest Wed, 17 May 2017 11:10:33 -0400 Synzer

Injustice 2 continues the DC-based fighter franchise with plenty of additions to keep fans and newcomers busy. More than your average fighting game, even people unfamiliar with the genre can have a great time with this game. The starting roster is huge at 28 fighters, with 9 more characters coming in DLC.

There have also been great additions such as the gear system, which I have already spent several hours tinkering with. NetherRealm, the developer of Mortal Kombat, has proven once again that comic book characters fighting each other is top-tier entertainment.

What I Loved

I have to put the story at the front of this review because that is not something you usually praise about a fighting game. Injustice 2 has a fantastic story that made me want to play until it was finished. Each battle was entertaining, and I feel like they paced the game well by not having too long to wait between fights.

It was also nice to earn rewards for the fighters that you play during the story, so I was still gaining things I could use once it was over. There are times when you can choose between 2 characters, which slightly alters how you see the story. I won't give any spoilers, but you will need to play through more than once if you want the full experience.

That said, there were certain times and characters that didn't seem to fit and felt more like they just wanted to justify them being in the game -- but overall it was a great experience.

Gear and Character Progression

injustice 2 poison ivy gear

This is my absolute favorite part of the game. I'm an RPG fan, so I love to customize and progress my characters. The extent that you can do that in this game was a surprise to be sure, but a welcomed one.

There are countless combinations of gear that can greatly change your characters, and will also change the way they look. You can even choose to Transform a piece of gear to look like another piece if you want a specific look of one piece while keeping the stats of another.

Of course you don't have to worry about these advantages in Ranked, and you can choose to play without them in private matches.

Characters also level up, so you benefit from sticking with a character until you master them.

Guilds and Multiverse

The guild system is another great addition to the game. You can create and join guilds with other players and work together to complete specific challenges. You can earn Guild Credits to buy Mother Boxes for loot, earn trophies to get more money, and rank up the guild to unlock EXP boosts and more. This system really makes you feel even more connected to your friends as you play the game.

The multiverse is also fun and allows you play with some unique modifiers. It is the main means of leveling your character, so I'm glad its enjoyable enough that the grind won't be completely tedious.

injustice 2 guild

A.I. Battle Simulator

I was not expecting to like this mode as much as I did, but it is surprisingly fun. You can set up a team of your characters to fight another player's team with full A.I. control.

You can gain rewards whether you win or lose, but it is much better if you win. There is a cap of how much you can earn daily, but it is also helpful just watching the A.I. fight at times. I actually learned a few things about my character by watching these fights.

What I Didn't Like

Just like any game with RNG, the gear system can get frustrating at times. After rolling the 12th piece of gear for a character I did not play, I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get Harley Quinn gear.

Luckily, you can sell gear you don't need, which allows you to buy even more Mother Boxes. There are also times when the Multiverse will have a world that gives gear to a specific character, so look out for those.

Speaking of multiverse, the modifiers mixed with the amazingly good A.I. gets ridiculous at times. You might find yourself frustrated more than usual on some of these fights, so prepare yourself.

The Verdict

Injustice 2 is a definite buy if you are a fighting game fan, or even a fan of DC. It has all you want in a fighting game and more. Even if you are new, it is worth trying out to see how the gear and multiverse system affects the game. The good story is also a bonus, and I never thought I'd be able to say that about a fighting game.

You can purchase Injustice 2 for PS4 or Xbox One at $59.99.

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Akiba's Beat Review -- Just A Fun Beat https://www.gameskinny.com/75ndr/akibas-beat-review-just-a-fun-beat https://www.gameskinny.com/75ndr/akibas-beat-review-just-a-fun-beat https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/b2ddf8aa44532f6865fb0288fad3cf1a.jpg 75ndr/akibas-beat-review-just-a-fun-beat Tue, 16 May 2017 15:00:01 -0400 Jeffrey Rousseau

It would be easy to merely mention a game's shortcomings in a review. However, that would ultimately be a disservice to JRPG fans looking for a quirky gaming experience in Akiba's Beat. There really isn't anything on the market quite like it for the PlayStation 4,  so here's what we thought of the game.

Published by Xseed Games, the game stars Asahi Tachibana, an unassuming young resident of Akihabara. Our hero is a neet: a young person who is not in education, employment, and/or training. He's sort of on a permanent vacation...with no money. After a chance encounter, he and others relive Sunday continuously. At the same time, mysterious circumstances cause people's desires, dreams, and delusions to become real and endanger reality. Thus our unlikely hero and friends task themselves with saving Akihabara.

Beat: A Strong Rhythm 

After playing my fair share of JRPGs, I can say that Akiba's Beat's gameplay is quite modern. The game is fully aware and respects the player's time. Essentially, it plays on two fronts. On one hand, you spend time exploring the city for clues, advancing the plot, and side quests. The other side of the game is dungeon exploration. 

In both instances, saves aren't very far away from each other and the game reminds  you to save often. You have the ability to make some noticeable progress and resume at your own pace. Even in 2017, not many games can claim this and I'm glad Akiba's Beat does.

Now with the dungeon exploration, you also take part in battle. So how is battle in this game you ask? Battle is in realtime and takes place in a confined space. You can run, jump, and attack on a basic level. You also have the ability to assign battle tactics to your AI controlled party members. You can tailor you party to play a certain way so you can remain focused only on yourself. Battle also depends upon the  level of your offense. You have a special gauge that fills as you attack foes. When the gauge fills to 100, you and your party become dangerous.

While in this trance like state (glowing eyes and everything!) you gain bonuses as you increase your combo number. For example, you can gain percentage boosts in attack power. Ashai and comrades are also able to attack continuously. If necessary, you can exhaust your special meter to unleash massive damage. As a player, you'll be full of glee to see you and the party conquer with overwhelming force.

Heart(beat)...

At its core, the game doesn't take itself seriously and proudly displays its quirkiness. When you play the game it feels like a sitcom. Party members often poke fun at each other because the opportunity merely presents itself. At its core they're kids being kids in the midst of some weird otherworldly goings on.

The light mood also applies to the game world. The city, NPCs, the culture, the craziness...nothing is safe from a good joke. That spirit of humor is consistent from start to finish. The humor is arguably at its best when the characters are targeting themselves. Honestly its refreshing because JRPGs can be very serious and this is very welcomed.

Follow the beat...

One aspect of the game that shouldn't be overlooked is its aesthetics. The art design, color, and music all mesh very well. Speaking as an audiophile, I can say that the soundtrack to this game is pretty impressive. Tracks range from rock, jazz fusion, electronica and much more. I found myself standing idly by to enjoy the songs played during dungeon themes and enemy encounters.

Going hand in hand with the music are the vivid visuals. Much like the actually Akihabara, the game is drenched in color. NPCs pepper environments with the brightest shades of the color spectrum. The city areas and dungeons display their various themes confidently alongside the urban theme. To take it one step further, the characters and monsters also mesh well. Yes, you have a characters in urban wear fighting fantasy creatures, but nothing stands out so much that it doesn't fit. Not many games can pull that off for a number of reasons and Akiba's Beat does it well.

 

Let's Beat This

If you were to me ask does this game present or offer the best of JRPGs on the market? Honestly, no it doesn't. There are a number of games that look much better, play a lot smoother, and have better plots. Ultimately, it would be very easy to label Akiba's Beat as an average game. However when you dig in the game has enough charm and a unique set of aesthetics to keep you engaged. You'll laugh with characters, save the day, and do it all while listening to fun beats.

JRPG fans can purchase Akiba's Beat today at both retail and PlayStation Network.

Note: Review code was provided by publisher

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Stay! Stay! Democratic People's Republic of Korea! Review https://www.gameskinny.com/cghm4/stay-stay-democratic-peoples-republic-of-korea-review https://www.gameskinny.com/cghm4/stay-stay-democratic-peoples-republic-of-korea-review https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/s/t/a/stay-stay-header-268d0.png cghm4/stay-stay-democratic-peoples-republic-of-korea-review Tue, 16 May 2017 14:54:29 -0400 Kris Cornelisse (Delfeir)

Sometimes, when browsing the new releases on Steam, a game will catch your eye for reasons that you wouldn’t expect. It might be an anticipated title that released while you weren't looking, or a new entry in a franchise or genre that compels you to investigate further.

Or, in Stay! Stay! Democratic People’s Republic of Korea!’s case (hereafter referred to as Stay! Stay!), it was the bizarre nature of the title and its game previews that drew me in.

Stay! Stay! is largely a budget visual novel that markets itself with memes and self-aware humor in order to cash in on the appeal of its waifus. Such titles aren’t uncommon nowadays -- nor are they necessarily bad games -- but you tend to know exactly what you’re getting into with them. But at least Stay! Stay! does it with a neat pseudo-political twist.

Stepping into True Korea

The premise for Stay! Stay! is simple: the nameable protagonist is a US soldier recently returning from deployment in Afghanistan who has decided to meet up with two Korean military pen pals he’s been contacting. Somehow, he’s blissfully unaware of the fact that Pyongyang is not, in fact, a suburb of Seoul. As such, he finds himself a tourist in North Korea, staying with his two attractive female pen pals, and trying to make the most of his time in one of the harshest dictatorships of the modern world -- all while avoiding trouble at the risk of being summarily executed.

From this concept, the game plays out as a straightforward visual novel, with the story progressing through a combination of simple backdrops, character portraits and text, and gameplay that only consists of intermittent dialogue options. If true visual novels aren't your thing, then Stay! Stay! wont' be for you. But if you enjoy them, this one is par for the course.

During the main character’s stay, he’s given a map of notable date spots tourist locations to pick from each day, and he'll embark on a guided tour of said location with the girl who best knows that area. This is the main avenue of choice given to the player, as each locale has totally different themes and character conversations attached to them.

Every stop will also build up a relationship with the chosen guide, allowing you to pick your favorite to accompany you. After three days of this, there will be a group outing with a number of different dialogue options which allow you to favor one girl or another -- and then the game will select the ending route and conclusion based on those choices. You’ll watch things flourish with your romantic partner of choice, see a fancy CG screen of them, and then the finale plays out. That’s the game in a nutshell.

Overall, completing a single path won't take you more than a couple of hours. I reached all four endings in around five hours. For $10, there's not a lot of content here, but this is pretty standard for a visual novel. The question is...does the writing make that price tag worth it?

Smarter Than It Looks

Perhaps surprisingly, the writing in Stay! Stay! is actually pretty good. I admit that I didn’t go in with very high expectations -- which is often the case when you’re relying on memes and sex appeal to sell a game -- but the writers are much better at conveying the story than you might think.

The game is incredibly self-aware and quick to poke fun at itself or the tropes it’s using, but does so with enough infrequency that it doesn't feel cheap. And the little references often caught me off guard enough to earn a chuckle here and there.

The game really took me by surprise in how it pertains to real-world North Korea. If the writers didn’t do their research, they at least did an extremely convincing job of feigning that research, as there’s a surprising amount of history here. Each date spot is based on a real place, and greatly detailed in terms of the locale's history -- as well as the perceived history of the locale as depicted by someone living within the propaganda heavy country. There were moments where I felt genuinely informed and interested beyond the immediate adventures of the characters.

More than that, the game also shows some of the struggles and hardships that the people under North Korean dictatorship face. Complete with power outages, food shortages, poor infrastructure, bitter resentment toward the Japanese for their historical annexation, huge amounts of propaganda… Stay! Stay! showcases it all in a surprisingly real and stark way -- to the point that the game even has to stop and remind itself that it’s supposed to be a comedy.

Amidst all the humor and romantic interludes, there was a genuine sense of unease that affected both the protagonist and the player. It truly felt like you’d have to watch everything you said and did to avoid falling out of line -- and even if you did everything right, you were still very much unwelcome.

That’s not what people are coming to play the game for, mind you… but the fact that these real situations were addressed in such a manner caught me completely off guard and is absolutely worth mentioning. Couple this with frequently clever dialogue and humor, and the writing quality in Stay! Stay! proved quite impressive.

The Waifu Wars

All that said, the real meat of a budget visual novel such as Stay! Stay! is the allure of the cute female characters you get to romance. There are two such options in this game: Jeong (the warmer, friendlier and, uh, more well-endowed of the pair), or Eunji (the typical tsundere who alternates between being shy or angry, despite her deep-seated sweetness).

With three date scenes each, as well as numerous group interactions, you’ll have plenty of chances to pick your favorite, learn something about them, and still get to see a bit of both before you have to make your final choice. By the end of the game, the characters may not be immensely fleshed out, but there’s still plenty of detail there.

Do note that despite it being a common thing people buy this kind of game for, there’s no 18+ content. Not even with patches.

Altogether though, both girls are somewhat lacking in depth. While more aspects are hinted at least a little bit in places, most of the time the game plays it completely straight with the characters. You’ll largely know what they’re like within the first five minutes of the game just from cliches and tropes alone. That doesn’t make them uninteresting, mind you, just somewhat predictable.

Even with that said, the humor and cute interactions are generally entertaining enough to keep the game from being dull. Couple that with the above sections regarding Korea itself, as well as some nice art, and you've really got something. While I’m not about to take to forums and start declaring who I think is Best Girl, I did enjoy my time with both options.

Eunji is my favorite though. So there.

Best Korea?

I went into Stay! Stay! with low expectations and had them exceeded. I didn’t think it’d be much more than a cheap cash grab, but I enjoyed my time more than I thought I would.

There’s still not a lot here as far as gameplay and content is concerned, but what’s there is pretty good. It’s not the best visual novel of its type out there, but it’s definitely far from the worst. The humor and surprisingly unsettling insight into True Best North Korea made this game much more intriguing and entertaining than I would have thought at a first glance.

I can’t really say I’d recommend it at its price point to anyone but an enthusiast, but should you find yourself considering it, know that there’s a fun experience to be had.

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Empathy: Path of Whispers Review https://www.gameskinny.com/blwdp/empathy-path-of-whispers-review https://www.gameskinny.com/blwdp/empathy-path-of-whispers-review https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-ccbb0.jpg blwdp/empathy-path-of-whispers-review Tue, 16 May 2017 06:00:02 -0400 ThatGamersAsylum

I stare down a dark hallway trying to gain my bearings when a voice pops in, seemingly out of the ether. It's warm, almost nurturing, and reassures me that everything will be okay. All I need to do is go forward through the hallway and press the big red button. Upon reaching the room with the button, I see a handheld device, whose manual calls it E-15P. It has a radar-like interface that seems to display odd frequencies. What it’s used for isn’t immediately clear -- but the voice assures speculates that it might be useful, so I take it and go ahead with my assignment. I press the button.

Red flashing sirens start going off. The voice in my head seems upset. It’s clear that this is not what was supposed to happen when I pressed the button. Everything goes black and I awaken in a child’s bedroom. The window is partially ajar, but I can’t quite make out what’s in the distance. On the floor is a train set and a carpet that looks like a little city. Drawings are scattered across the wall and the top of the desk. This room is clean, but it's thoroughly lived in.

Leaving my room, I find some keys. Following the stairs leads me to the door that they’re used on. Walking through the now opened door, I am taken into the world I could only barely see through my window. Ruined skyscrapers pollute the skyline with a dilapidated railway weaving between them. In the distance, a statue of the titan Atlas is holding an island of earth aloft in the air. It’s a breathtaking marvel.

The dissonance between the ruined world and this miracle of engineering (or magic?) are almost shocking. Instinctively, I turn around to return to my room, but all that stands behind me is a doorway, unconnected to a building.

This is the intro to Empathy: Path of Whispers. If this were a review of the first 5 minutes of the game, it’d receive a 10. It lays out so many interesting questions from the very beginning. Who is the voice? What’s this device and how’d it get on that panel? What was the red button supposed to do? How did I transport here from my room? Why’s the world destroyed? And where are all the people?

Sadly, after beating the roughly 10-hour campaign I couldn’t give you a good answer to any of those questions.

Instead of delving into these mysteries, you are sent along an ill-defined quest to do something that will make the red button work. But what that is never clearly gets explained. You just sort of do it, and then are told to continue on your way to press the button -- which will somehow return everyone… hopefully.

The Basics

Empathy is like a bad relationship. When you start out you have general vague ideas of what will go wrong, but you don’t know how it will play out. And progressing through the game reveals deep systematic problems.

Each new area introduces new characters and their issues. While there are some consistent characters throughout the entirety of the game, their stories aren’t fully fleshed out -- it’s not clear how they got from point B to point A.

You slowly unfurl the story of each area by finding mementos upon which people have imprinted their emotional connections and the events that happened around said emotions. All important mementos require the use of the E15P, while unimportant objects are merely clicked on....though I can't really say why that is or what determines whether something's important.

E-15P puzzles start off interesting, but don't develop as the game goes on.

Interacting with a memento usually rewards you with an audio sample. For instance, a toy sword recalls a young girl named Joyce playing pretend with someone. A clipboard reveals part of Andropov’s investigation. A padlock details the mistreatment of inmates at the hand of their military officer captor.

It’s an interesting format that allows for a huge amount of storytelling opportunities. The concept is wonderful and the implementation works well.

Too bad there are issues. A lot of issues.

For all its merits and initial intrigue, this game goes really wrong really fast -- like the aforementioned bad relationship. I wanted to learn more about the story and the world and everything else, but the inner workings of the game actively kept me from doing that at every turn. 

It's time to talk about those gripes. So strap in, because you're gonna be here a while.

Editor's Note: Developer Pixel Grounds has since updated this game and patched out many of the issues mentioned below, saying: 

The collisions of the geometry, gameplay bugs, and incorrectly compiled materials for wooden huts have all been addressed recently and are no longer present in the release version of the game. We've also added additional narration details into the game to give more info about some of the stories found in the world. The game has now a more satisfying ending cinematic too!

Several key components are underdeveloped and unresolved.

The issue with the game's overall discovery structure is that none of those arcs which are slowly developed in each area ever get resolved -- nor do they do much to help you understand the greater mysteries from the beginning of the game. It's a damned shame too, because I got really invested in learning more about the characters within the first area. But once I realized that this was going to be a trend throughout the game, I started to care less and less.

Why should I pay attention to characters’ plights when the game doesn’t even care to reward me with the resolution?

Too much walking for a walking simulator...

Empathy has a walking problem. All of its areas are way too large to walk around and explore in any reasonable amount of time. The train station is one of the biggest offenders in this regard -- the building could have been scaled down to half size, and it would have been a way more functional play space to walk through. But the train station isn't the only guilty party; nearly every building I encountered had this exact same problem.

I hope you like backtracking, because this game is chock full of it. You are often given batches of mementos to find at a time. You're supposed to use your E-15P as a radar to track them down, solve the frequency puzzle, then continue on your way. After you've successfully found them all, you're given a fresh batch to hunt.

But the problem is that each area has several of these batches to find. So you'll often backtrack through a level multiple times when you could have gathered all those mementos on the first go round -- if only you'd known that you needed to pick them up. This makes absolutely no sense in terms of gameplay. These mementos would have made sense regardless of whether or not you picked them up in their predefined order, so there was no real reason for the game to make me go back to the same area as often as it did.

Signals as mixed as a shaken cocktail

Empathy also sends a lot of confusing signals to the player. I'll refer back to the train station once more as a prime example. At one point in that area, you're told to fix the train because you need to get out of the city -- even though up until then it was never made clear that you were supposed to be leaving the city at all. As if that weren't disorienting enough, there was no way to actively seek out options to stay or leave, or how to fix the train, or really anything. All you can really do is follow the path of whispers that pop up on your E-15P until things eventually fall into place for you.

Honestly, the art design gave me a newfound appreciation for vistas.

Turns out that fixing the train didn’t involve finding parts for it, nor did it involve creatively using mementos. Because why would it? That would make sense, after all.

After following mementos for a while, I eventually discovered the memories of a man who once fixed the train. Then I fixed the train through him. (How does this work within the lore? I have no clue!) Even then, though, the train wasn’t ready. It was stated that the train was almost fixed, but not completely. So my goal wasn’t complete? I honestly don't know, since I eventually rode the train without ever actually finishing that last repair.

Problem-solving is problematic

The few times you actually are tasked with using mementos to solve problems, you don’t really know what you are trying to do. On numerous occasions, I used the E15P to see mementos, and I could tell they were far underground or some other similarly inaccessible place. But the method by which I was supposed to reach these places was never quite made clear. While exploration is a good thing, searching an area for the fifth time with a fine-toothed comb is extremely grating.

Reused assets are everywhere

Many of the game’s assets are reused several times. While each area has unique architecture, you will explore the same set of buildings over and over again within that area -- which really only adds to the extensive walking and backtracking issues I mentioned earlier.

There were a handful of times I got lost because I confused nearly identical landmarks. I do understand that the team is indie -- and for the most part, they did a good job of taking the same handful of buildings and using them in interesting ways -- but that didn't really help me when I felt like I was looking at the same interior for the hundredth time.

Glitches Galore!

As if the general structural flaws weren't enough, I had to fight through some rough glitches to beat this game. One glitch in particular repeatedly crashed the game until it corrupted my data, forcing me to restart the game after I was 3 hours in.

Another glitch wasted about 30 minutes of my time -- and almost convinced me that I had to restart the game after about 7 hours -- because a hatch that was supposed to be open was now shut. Eventually, I realized you could still use the ladder through the hatch anyhow, so everything was rectified. (Though confusing nonetheless.)

That’s not even counting the smaller quality-of-life glitches I experienced, like all the textures for wood that were missing in an area filled with wooden huts, or the fact that exploring the edges of the game world can make it hard (or impossible) to scale the level geometry back up. And it turns out that climbing the rocks too much will get you irrevocably stuck. Whoops. 

Who needs textures in their game anyway? That's so 2016!

"The End...?"

Perhaps appropriately, the game ends with yet another question: a black screen with white text that reads, "The End…?”

I know I missed mementos -- it comes with the territory -- and all the unanswered questions almost assuredly means there is more to the mystery. But when the game design that outlines this whole experience is systemically bad and the story was so unfulfilling the first go around, it’s hard to be at all satisfied with such an open ending. Perhaps “The end…?” is the cruelest question of them all. Do you dare play on to find the answer? I don't think I do.

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Smash and Dodge Your Way Across a Brutal Sci-Fi World in The Surge https://www.gameskinny.com/9i626/smash-and-dodge-your-way-across-a-brutal-sci-fi-world-in-the-surge https://www.gameskinny.com/9i626/smash-and-dodge-your-way-across-a-brutal-sci-fi-world-in-the-surge https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/2/0/1/20170514231003-bcb42.jpg 9i626/smash-and-dodge-your-way-across-a-brutal-sci-fi-world-in-the-surge Mon, 15 May 2017 21:29:17 -0400 Ty Arthur

I've got to be honest here: I hear the term "sci-fi Dark Souls" get tossed around and wasn't actually that excited for The Surge. I don't see the appeal of that particular series, and it seems now we've got to wait patiently for it to hit all the different styles from samurai to medieval to sci-fi before finally dying out in popularity.

Having now given The Surge a fair shake, I'm not sure it's fair to simply call it a sci-fi Souls clone, although its clear that was the basic inspiration. If I had to boil it down, I'd say its essentially Space Siege meets Lords Of The Fallenwith a more interesting visual flair.

Whether its the aesthetics, the tweaked approach to difficult ARPG gameplay, or the focus on crafting, this particular entry in the style is a lot more consistently entertaining than anything presented in the typical Souls fashion.

 There's just something fun about taking on killer robots in a futuristic junkyard

Combat And Gameplay

The heart of the gameplay is dodging and smashing combat, and that aspect is actually really satisfying. Bear in mind that statement is coming from someone who gets very frustrated with the Souls style very quickly -- so if you enjoy the masochistic aspects of those games, then this one may be too easy for you.

That said, the combat's difficulty level is pretty punishing. It's easily a level of magnitude harder than the average action game, even if its not on the level where you'll be throwing your controller every few minutes.

Of course there's a stamina gauge to manage between your different types of strikes and to balance attacks against dodging or guarding. If you aren't smart here, three or four hits will have you dead.

The hardest part is when new enemies show up in surprising locations, taking you out before you've figured out their attack patterns. There are a lots of cases where enemies with unknown attacks styles are lying in wait in unexpected areas.

Your starting gameplay style will change a bit depending on which "class" (or in this case, which base exo-rig suit) you choose. Rather than a static clicking option at a character creation screen, the selection is built into the intro as the main character decides whether to apply for the agile and versatile Lynx technician position or the Rhino heavy tech position at Creo.

        I went with the Rhino. Subtlety isn't my strong suit.

Upgrades And Severed Limbs

Besides your basic attack and dodging types, a system is in place for targeting specific body parts of an enemy, with some locations more armored than others.

Can't get through a heavily-armored torso or metallic limb? Switch to the soft, squishy head instead! Because the enemies have the same piecemeal equipment style as you, sometimes you'll be tearing off legs or smashing arms to bloody pulp instead.

There's more to this than just damage reduction though. The game is based around building a suit of armor component by component, which means you need to pull specific parts off dead enemies.

In a wonderfully brutal addition, you have to sever body parts to use in your own exoskeleton. You don't always get the part you are going for, though, even if the execution was timed correctly -- and sometimes you'd rather have more tech scrap than a severed part. Besides giving you new parts to work with, you can also learn about particular strengths and weaknesses of enemies by seeing the specs on severed equipment.

This adds in a strategic element that makes the grind more tolerable while trying to build a specific component or get the parts necessary to upgrade an existing piece of armor. 

As a bonus, the slow-motion, camera-blurring finishing moves that result in a severed piece of equipment are simply a thing of beauty. Think Spartacus in a sci-fi robot factory, and you've got the level of gore down perfectly. 

On the melee front, there are satisfying differences between the weapons in terms of speed and attack radius, and they all look phenomenal because most of them aren't meant to be weapons. You might have a snapped-off piston, an electrified hydraulic press, jagged forklift pieces, and so on.

Crafting new parts and upgrading existing ones, in addition to swapping out implants for different bonuses or skills, provides a very well-rounded experience overall that isn't all combat -- even though everything is essentially based around destroying robots and zombie cyborgs.

Severing An Arm To Add To The Arsenal

The Grind...Oh God, The Grind

Despite the high level of quality and fun on display, The Surge does suffer from a major setback -- and it's not the overly difficult nature of the enemies. Rather, its how those enemies respawn in their original positions every time you return to the med bay.

On the one hand, that means there's lots of opportunity to earn more tech scrap and get more severed parts. On the other, this sort of destroys immersion, since it feels less like you are moving through an unfolding story and more like you're wandering around an area filled with actors who reset every time you rest.

As with the other games in this style, this element adds in an ungodly amount of grind. You will "git gud," but the downside is having to re-kill the same enemies in the exact same locations a couple of dozen times.

You'll have to make a tactical decision -- return with the amount of tech scrap you've got now that might be enough to upgrade your suit's core, or keep fighting and potentially die and lose it all unless you hack your way back to your corpse?

Either way, though, it results in that same grind. When you go to the med bay the enemies respawn, but they also respawn if you die and have to return to your body's loot pile -- so it's kind of a lose/lose.

Upgrading Equipment Piece By Piece 

As a final downside, and this might be more of a big deal to some than others, the beeping sound of the indicator when near a hidden item gets pretty annoying when you can't immediately find said item. It seems like this system is probably better on the console than PC, since I assume you get a controller vibration instead.

The Bottom Line

Visually, The Surge's color scheme is really eye-popping, and the animations of the Aliens-inspired yellow exoskeleton feel more refreshing than the more drab Dark Souls/Bloodborne/Nioh style.

On the story front, I really enjoyed discovering information about the world and the Creo corporation through propaganda, graffiti, audio logs, and equipment descriptions.

I was frequently reminded of all the darkly comedic descriptions of worker life on Mars in the Doom reboot, and got a good chuckle every time the med bay informed me that "this isn't a scheduled break time" when I went to heal and re-configure my equipment.

With several twists on the typical Souls-isms, there's reason even for non-fans to give this difficult action RPG a try -- just beware of the huge amount of grind on the horizon!

For more information on The Surge, you can check out the trailer below or visit its Steam store page to pick this sci-fi action game up for $49.99.

Note: A copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.

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OVIVO Review: A Zen-Tastic Platformer With Beautifully Complex Imagery https://www.gameskinny.com/lc28m/ovivo-review-a-zen-tastic-platformer-with-beautifully-complex-imagery https://www.gameskinny.com/lc28m/ovivo-review-a-zen-tastic-platformer-with-beautifully-complex-imagery https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-review-b286d.jpg lc28m/ovivo-review-a-zen-tastic-platformer-with-beautifully-complex-imagery Mon, 15 May 2017 19:27:40 -0400 Jerline Justo

Imagine a world where everything is in black and white. Although these two beings are complete opposites, they come together to create a sense of balance -- and they do it beautifully in the peaceful world of OVIVO.

This "metaphoric" game is chock full of hidden messages and illusions. Your character, OVO, is made of both black and white, and can switch between the two in order to traverse a dangerous world of images and collect symbols that help unravel the story.

When I entered this game's world as the circular protagonist OVO, I did so without any instruction as to what I needed to do. But the more I discovered about the game's world, the more I became immersed in it. This little indie gem from developer IzHard has proven that games can be both simple and engaging. 

Relaxing Soundtrack and Design 

OVIVO focuses on images and symbols, with basically no text to supplement them. It doesn't tell the player what to feel or how to interpret things, and instead pushes them to come up with their own ideas about what's really going on -- while simultaneously creating more questions about the game's story that encourages them to keep moving forward. Think of it like high-contrast zen.

The music of the game complements its images well. The sountrack, composed by Brokenkites, pulls players deeper into the experience and also relaxes the mind. Listening to it gives a sense of peaceful purpose in each level.

There are no sound effects, but this works in OVIVO's favor. Without those extra sonic distractions, the player only focuses on the music and atmosphere of when entering each level.

Flowing Gameplay and Simple Controls

OVIVO's controls feel natural and simple enough that players can truly focus on the images they're trying to navigate. OVO can cross between the black and white worlds with a simple press of the spacebar, creating a seamless experience between the two halves. 

Gravity works differently depending on which half of the world you're in. The black world pulls you down, while the while world pushes you upward. So needless to say, gravity awareness and timing are the main factors to making progress through each level. Using the gravity force allows players to find inventive ways to get from one point to another. And doing so successfully was oh so satisfying. 

Though I did struggle with this game later on in my playthrough, I never became so frustrated that I wanted to give up. The flow of the gameplay and the fascinating atmosphere kept me engaged even when it got tough -- and no matter how much effort it took, getting to the other side always felt rewarding.

One Unusual, Therapeutic Journey

From the music and design to the gameplay and overall experience, this indie game is actually kind of therapeutic. Its duration is perfect -- long enough to feel like a full game, but short enough that it doesn't feel like it's dragging on. OVIVO has a large world, but the game was so easy to follow and move through that I could simply flow along with OVO and trace the metaphoric images on each level. 

Although it may look (and even feel) relatively simple, there's a lot of depth here that you have to play the game to appreciate. Taking a journey with OVO will give anyone a break from the fast pace of everyday life and let players enter a world where they can relax and flow along with the natural tensions between dark and light. 

If you want to experience the mesmerizing OVIVO for yourself, you can pick it up on Steam for $7.99. 

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Review: Injustice 2 Mobile Isn't Quite a Flawless Victory, But It's Really Close https://www.gameskinny.com/0d2km/review-injustice-2-mobile-isnt-quite-a-flawless-victory-but-its-really-close https://www.gameskinny.com/0d2km/review-injustice-2-mobile-isnt-quite-a-flawless-victory-but-its-really-close https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/925e01d7826ee9f117a2372f59774a78.jpg 0d2km/review-injustice-2-mobile-isnt-quite-a-flawless-victory-but-its-really-close Mon, 15 May 2017 17:07:54 -0400 Capt. Eliza Creststeel

When Injustice: Gods Among Us came out for consoles, the mobile version could have just as easily been a tie-in product to promote one of the biggest fighting games on PC, Xbox, PlayStation and Wii U. But with amazing Unreal Engine graphics, quick action, and deep gameplay, Injustice became a mainstay on phones and tablets for nearly four years.

And now to coincide with the console release of Injustice 2, NetherRealms Studios has its mobile app cousin.

Parts Ain't Broke, So Don't Fix'em

In the same vein as what you'll remember from Injustice: Gods Among Us, this new Injustice game brings back the familiar fighting action with quick tag-in teammates. The DC Universe is well represented here, with old favorite heroes like Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman, plus villains like The Joker and Harley Quinn.

Like before, you fight your way through the single player challenges, with the option to take on other player teams in the PVP Arena. As you earn experience, you can upgrade your roster's base ability, their special moves, and personalized gear.

Your Kung-Fu is Strong

What has changed first and foremost with Injustice 2 is the fighting mechanic. In the original Injustice: Gods Among Us, you'd tap for a basic attack, swipe for a heavy attack, and hold to block. Then you'd build up to your special attacks -- and for many players, it was easy to get into a rhythm... maybe a little too easy.

Injustice 2 feels even more like a console fighting game now, because they've added a whole new dimension with character movement. You can swipe left to back up or flee attacks. Swipe right to lunge into your opponent or pursue. Down swipes perform a low attack, while swiping up performs an aerial assault.

You still hold to block and tap for quick attacks -- but now it's not just tap, tap, block, swipe, swipe, block etc. You have to change up your strategy and be ready for whatever the opposition brings. Old school Injustice players might be a little thrown at first. But I really welcomed this improvement.

And of course, the roster has grown. Characters like Dr. Fate, Gorilla Grodd, and Black Canary have joined the fray. You can be sure more will be coming later as the game grows.

Something I really dig is the addition of nameless thugs on the enemy side. And the baddies aren't limited to just 3 member tag teams. You might be facing 3, 4, even 5 or MORE enemies -- which can totally change your tactics.

Look at All the Goodies!

Injustice 2 showers you with upgrades, gear, and loot. Each character's special moves can be improved, special abilities can be unlocked and reset, and customizable outfits or objects can be added to your fighters as well.

Unlike the original game, where you bought a new character outright, you can find or earn shards to upgrade or unlock new fighters -- similar to DC Legends. There are other ways to increase your roster as well.

Another feature similar to DC Legends is the SIM cards, which let you repeat battles for extra loot without having to spend the time to actually fight them. Of course, you have to unlock the battle the old-fashioned way first.

Besides fighting single-player campaigns and duking it out in multiplayer, NetherRealms gives your team plenty to do. You can send unused team fighters on Operation Missions. These allow you to get experience while finding more coins and potential gear items.

And Now Our Feature Presentation...

If you played the console version of Injustice: Gods Among Us, you'll remember the single-player Story Mode. It followed various characters from Earth 1 as they encountered their Regime or Insurgency doppelgangers and tried to set the multi-verse back to normal.

This mode featured one-on-one battles, and you played whichever character was in the story for that chapter. Which was a pretty cool cinematic experience.

Injustice 2 brings this portion of the console game to the mobile app -- and it's gorgeous. Players get to see full-on cinematic animation leading into fights, then picking up for the next chapter. And since you can't use your own roster of fighters, it's not as easy as you'd think.

The new story picks up with Supergirl's origins and her journey to Earth, as it also recaps how Superman went all world-domination-y after Lois' death.

Getting Some Justice

Take it from an old-school gamer, who grew up playing NetherRealm's original Mortal Kombat games -- this team just keeps topping itself. And Injustice 2 is another achievement. The only thing holding me back from a perfect 10 review is that I did encounter some staggers or pauses in game play. 

The Android phone I use is barely a year old with plenty of storage space, so the handful of inconvenient times the game froze on me were a little frustrating. So keep in mind that such a powerful app will need a top-end device to play properly. I'm hoping the performance issue is addressed in future releases.

Like the original mobile game, Injustice 2 is completely free to download and play, but it offers micro-transactions to help jump start your fight roster or get that one character you really, really want. You can pick it up now on Google Play and iTunes.

If you need help getting started with the game, check out our beginner's guide for Injustice 2 on mobile. And let us know what you thought of this new mobile fighter in the comments below!

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SnarfQuest Tales Review: A Nostalgic Point-and-Click Adventure https://www.gameskinny.com/zwog1/snarfquest-tales-review-a-nostalgic-point-and-click-adventure https://www.gameskinny.com/zwog1/snarfquest-tales-review-a-nostalgic-point-and-click-adventure https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/9cada2ba810f2f6e72efe4324ab1e0fe.jpg zwog1/snarfquest-tales-review-a-nostalgic-point-and-click-adventure Mon, 15 May 2017 13:03:57 -0400 ESpalding

I recently got the opportunity to check out a game which is being developed by Cellbloc Studios from Atlanta, GA, called SnarfQuest Tales. This may sound familiar to some, because it is an adventure series that has been around for years in magazine and tabletop format.

Created by Larry Elmore in the 1980s, the original SnarfQuest was a feature in the D&D magazine series Dragon. It became so popular that it spawned its own series of books and, eventually, a tabletop adventure game. Cellbloc Studios has now brought Snarf and his friends to life in this fun point-and-click adventure. It is currently in Early Access on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux.

SnarfQuest Tales follows the adventures of a young male Zeetvah called Snarf. He decides to go on an adventure for fame and fortune, and the throne of his people. You start off questing alone, but along the way you are joined by other characters from the original series -- such as Aveeare, an armored wizard from space, and Telerie Windyarm, a human warrior woman. As with any good adventure game, there's also a whole host of characters to meet and interact with.

So, let's get down to talking about the game. To be honest, it is really good. The storyline is typical of a point-and-click, in that you have to find things and complete various puzzles to progress further. However, the characters you interact with all have their own comedic personalities, which makes even the dullest of quests (like finding someone their favorite food) giggle-worthy and fun to complete.

In addition to quests, you have puzzles to negotiate. I really like the addition of puzzles to the game. They tend to be ones that most people already know how to solve, even though they can get frustrating. Within the first set of quests, you have to complete a sliding block puzzle -- and boy did it infuriate me! I have a lot of patience but this kind of puzzle makes me want to throw things across the room! There are lots of other kinds of puzzles to keep you amused, so try your best to push through the bits that annoy you.

The artwork is relatively simple, given this day and age where detailed graphics are a "thing". But this certainly doesn't detract from the game -- in fact, it just adds to it. SnarfQuest has always been a cartoon so it doesn't need anything hyper-realistic or flashy. All of the characters from Elmore's original concept are in the game and have been created under his watchful eye, so nothing in the way that they look has been lost in the translation from paper to screen.

So far, the only gripe I have about the game is that sometimes the cursor wasn't very precise. It wasn't a huge issue most of the time, but it became especially prominent during a puzzle where I had to turn logs around while another zeetvah was trying to cross a lake. It was hard to get Snarf into a particular position to time his movements correctly and make sure the other character didn't get eaten by a crocodile.

Other than that, though, the game is stable and works exactly as intended.

SnarfQuest Tales is shaping up to be a really fun and entertaining game. I think it would not only appeal to those you are already familiar with the original series and D&D players, but it has the potential to interest anyone who enjoys "straight forward" point-and-click adventures. I would even go as far as saying that it would be suitable for younger teenagers upwards.

If you like the sound of the game, check out the trailer above. You can also visit the SnarfQuest Tales Steam store page to pick it up for yourself. 

 

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Prepare to Die in Rising Storm 2: Vietnam's Utterly Nuts Beta https://www.gameskinny.com/fstoe/prepare-to-die-in-rising-storm-2-vietnams-utterly-nuts-beta https://www.gameskinny.com/fstoe/prepare-to-die-in-rising-storm-2-vietnams-utterly-nuts-beta https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/9/2/5/9259162ef05d2ea.jpg fstoe/prepare-to-die-in-rising-storm-2-vietnams-utterly-nuts-beta Fri, 12 May 2017 18:02:01 -0400 Ty Arthur

I'm in a helicopter on a machine gun. The pilot is screaming incoherently because he has no idea how to fly. I see buildings and figures below, and assume I should be shooting at them. Hopefully they're the bad guys, because I just went to town on that village at a rate of about a hundred bullets a second.

In the event those were our guys or even just innocent civilians, the day is officially saved when we crash land in the jungle. Miraculously, I survive... for about 5 seconds, when I'm cut down by a Vietnamese soldier who was waiting for me to jump out of the wreckage.

That was my official introduction to Rising Storm 2: Vietnam. The tutorial videos aren't active yet, so I figured I'd just jump on an ongoing game and see what happened. The next two hours were some of the wildest of my life outside of a GTA Online server.

My Very First Moment Of Rising Storm 2

After the helicopter debacle, next I spawn next to our team leader...and get cut down in about 3 seconds because he's run into a kill zone. Hmm, maybe I'll pick a different spawn location next time.

U.S. soldiers have the option to spawn at the team leader or instead at advance bases farther back, while the Viet Cong place tunnels to spawn on. There's a lot to learn here, and a whole lot of dying to do along the way.

Realistic Historical Warfare

Normally I'm not a huge fan of the "realistic" war shooters like Arma, Squad, or Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. I get the appeal in theory, but in practice they seem more like exercises in frustration than anything legitimate fun. I always end up dying before I even see or hear an enemy soldier, and after a couple of dozen times of that happening the appeal diminishes (surprise, surprise, I don't dig Dark Souls either).

However, this iteration does a better job of appealing to both player bases. It took a lot of work, but eventually I got to a point where I could hold my own and not immediately die.

For about the first hour, I mostly just stayed a bit behind the rest of the players and waited for them to get cut down so I knew where the enemy was. Brutal? Yep. Treasonous? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely.

Running with wild abandon through the jungle, it dawns on me that I'm spraying gunfire all over the place while the guys calmly standing still seem to take me down in a single trigger pull. Suddenly I realize running drains stamina and low stamina means low accuracy.

When my kill counter on the scoreboard finally went from "0" to "1" I nearly stood up and cheered.

Smoke-Filled Trench? What The Heck, I'll Run In At Full Speed!

Mass Combat Hysteria

In what used to be very rare, but is now becoming typical of the style, you can have a huge number of players (up to 64) all engaged in active warfare against each other at once. There's a ton going on in any given map, and the objectives of taking and holding different locations keeps me plenty busy while trying to figure out how my current loadout works.

While waiting to re-spawn after getting torched by a flamethrower, I notice for the first time that our squad is apparently  named “We Touch Kiddies.” Can't say I'm thrilled about that -- but other than the kiddie diddling thing, these dudes seem like a bunch of decent guys. That is, except for our squad leader who (like most of us in the beta) apparently has no idea how to play the game.

It wouldn't be that big a deal for the average grunt, but he's got our ability to call down artillery strikes -- and he keeps failing to use it, so we're getting torn to pieces. Everyone on the squad is bugging him on chat to either get with the program out drop out of the team leader role. We're in for a fun surprise next -- he doesn't speak English and has no idea what we're all yelling at him. This isn't going well.

 Napalm's A Hell Of A Drug

Rising Storm 2 Gameplay

Trying out different loadouts as we switch maps, there's actually some key differences between the classes, and some big differences between the classes on the U.S. and Vietnamese side. But at this point in the game's development, you've got to figure out how to work them through trial and error.

Since much of the defensive Viet Cong side is based on tight tunnels and holding locations rather than taking them, some of their classes have abilities like setting traps. This is pretty much useless in the jungle or wide open hillsides (unless you can funnel enemies a certain direction), but in trenched areas, these are your best friend.

Extra elements like suppression -- which cause negative effects until you crouch and get to safety -- offer a little something outside the norm, and there's an astonishing 80+ achievements to earn.

The maps themselves are spacious, and you'll never run out of interesting locations to discover (and brutalize). Each map has an A, B, C, D, E, and F location that will keep you frantically running from one area to another, then digging in to hold the line and praying to the war gods that you don't hear the whir of a helicopter machine gun.

Setting it apart from a lot of the competition, the map layouts and lush graphics are more pleasing than the typically dull maps of other realistic war simulators.

 Vietnam Sure Is Pretty This Time Of  Year

The Bottom Line

It's a familiar style that focuses on cooperation aspects, but I'm actually digging Rising Storm 2's take on the genre more than competitors like Squad. The varied maps are a ton of fun, the different classes offer lots of different ways to play, and switching back and forth from ground to air combat adds a lot to the overall experience.

In just one map, I managed to die by grenade in a labyrinth of trenches, get torn to pieces in the jungle because I was running rather than crouching, be burned alive in an underground cave complex, die by artillery strike on a blasted hill covered in dead trees, and take a bullet to the head courtesy of an enemy sniper when I popped out of cover inside a thatch house. But somehow, I also managed to have an incredibly entertaining time doing it.

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Logitech G Pro Gaming Keyboard Review: A Great Thing in a Small Package https://www.gameskinny.com/fybgb/logitech-g-pro-gaming-keyboard-review-a-great-thing-in-a-small-package https://www.gameskinny.com/fybgb/logitech-g-pro-gaming-keyboard-review-a-great-thing-in-a-small-package https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/l/o/g/logitech-pro-gaming-keyboard-30ed3.jpg fybgb/logitech-g-pro-gaming-keyboard-review-a-great-thing-in-a-small-package Tue, 09 May 2017 16:40:58 -0400 Auverin Morrow

My gaming desk is decked out with Logitech peripherals -- my favorite of which is my G900 Chaos Spectrum mouse. So when I had the opportunity to get my hands on their newest entry in their gaming line, the G Pro tenkeyless mechanical keyboard, I jumped on the chance. 

This keyboard was designed from the ground up for eSports players. And it's no surprise since the tech giant is a sponsor for Team SoloMid; the development team behind the G Pro worked alongside professional gamers to create a peripheral that balances comfort and performance with a diminutive size that will equally suit a pro-LAN setup and a small desk at home. 

Specs for the Logitech G Pro

The Logitech G Pro uses its namesake's proprietary Romer-G mechanical switches. These custom switches are designed to have both short actuation distance and low actuation force, which means this keyboard packs some of the fastest response you'll find on any mechanical switch in the market. These switches have tested for a lifetime of 70 million key presses, so they'll withstand just about any amount of stress you put them under. 

While it has all the standard keys you'd expect from a keyboard -- including extra keys to toggle game mode and lighting -- this keyboard doesn't have the 10 keys that normally take up the right side of the board. That means it's significantly smaller than your standard gaming keyboard. The unit itself measures 153mm by 360.5mm, or 6 inches by 14.2 inches. That makes it small enough for pretty much any space -- even my cramped little corner desk.

Even though the keyboard itself isn't wireless, its braided USB cable is detachable so that it's easier to travel with -- a clear nod toward those eSports players who are going to spend all their time on the road to hit LANs

Last but not least, the Logitech G Pro also features fully customizable RGB lighting. And when I say fully customizable, I mean it. The newest iteration of the Logitech G software that powers this keyboard allows you to not only control the color of each key, but also allows you to create and edit your own dynamic effects. So if you want to make rainbows dance across each key anytime you pop your ultimate key in game, you can do just that. 

Beutiful Performance from a Well-Made Keyboard

I tested this keyboard in a number of SMITE games, ESO dungeons, and in my everyday writing and editing for the GameSkinny site. And it handled everything beautifully. 

This keyboard feels as sleek as it looks. The key caps offer good grip inside its brushed metal chassis, and the response from each key press was as immediate as it was satisfying. Each key sits high enough that it's nearly impossible to accidentally press two at once, which makes a serious difference when you're in the heat of battle. 

For day-to-day typing, the G Pro works well enough. Like any mechanical keyboard, it's not going to let you fly across keys at breakneck speeds without missing a few letters here and there. But even so, this is the only gaming keyboard I've typed on that has actuation speeds and distances which can actually keep up with how quickly I tend to type when I get on a roll. 

Aside from its stellar response in and out of game, my favorite thing about the G Pro is its size. As I mentioned earlier, I work out of a very cramped desk in a small office nook. Between my two monitors, my keyboard, and all the geeky knick-knacks that populate my workspace, there's rarely enough room for my mouse to get the full range of movement it needs to get those killer snipe shots in Paladins

But that's not the case with this keyboard. Without those ten keys -- which I rarely use anyway and didn't miss much when they were gone -- the size of the G Pro is perfect. The extra space it gave me to move my mouse around really helped me out in-game. Not once in my SMITE games did I miss a skillshot or run into an enemy ultimate because my mouse was colliding with my keyboard. And it felt so, so good. 

The G Pro's Software is Excellent, Too. 

I've always loved Logitech's customization software. I use it often for my Chaos Spectrum, and I was excited to get to do a little bit more with it than I have with other Logitech peripherals. 

I sank more time than I'm willing to admit messing around with the custom effects and lighting patterns. It can be a little time-consuming until you get the hang of how everything works, but it's tons of fun to play around with. And it was nice to have basically endless options at my fingertips any time I wanted to bring a fresh look to my keyboard. 

The customization options that are available with the hundreds of game profiles attached to Logitech's PC game database are pretty cool, too. You can get this keyboard to do all kinds of cool stuff in-game -- like light up different colors to let you know your League of Legends match has started, or flash bright red when an enemy is hitting you with an ultimate. 

The ability to turn off certain keys when you activate game mode is also a huge boon that often goes overlooked. Personally, my pint-sized pinky finger has trouble hitting the Tab key instead of Caps Lock when trying to pop my ultimate. Being able to turn the Caps key off entirely doesn't solve my own shortcomings as a gamer, but it does keep me from wasting a valuable ultimate on a single bad key press. 

Verdict

The Logitech G Pro is an all-around great keyboard. It feels nice to use and comes with a ton of customization features that can help you tailor your experience to whatever you want it to be. And it packs a lot of high performance and typing prowess into a small, sleek body that doesn't take up any more room than it needs to. Whether you're an aspiring eSports pro or just a gamer with a limited amount of desk space and an eye for good peripherals, the G Pro should be right up your alley. 

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Creativerse Review: A Worthy Competitor to Minecraft https://www.gameskinny.com/tmsq4/creativerse-review-a-worthy-competitor-to-minecraft https://www.gameskinny.com/tmsq4/creativerse-review-a-worthy-competitor-to-minecraft https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/head-6e257.jpg tmsq4/creativerse-review-a-worthy-competitor-to-minecraft Tue, 09 May 2017 11:47:10 -0400 ReverendShmitty

The landscape is familiar. I recognize the dirt and trees and water. They remind me of home. I walk further into the forest and spy several pigs trotting back and forth. I switch from my gauntlet to my stick and attack. To my surprise, the pigs squeal and fight back, ramming me with their tiny tusks.

I fight them off, pick up their loot bags, then continue on my way. I switch back to the gauntlet and begin mining. Fortunately, the gauntlet functions like a vacuum and sucks up the dirt and wood blocks so I don’t have to go pick them up on my own.

This was my first hour with Creativerse, a sandbox builder incredibly similar to Minecraft. And I mean that in the best way possible.

The feeling of wonder when you first drop into Creativerse and Minecraft is like being a child all over again. The map is so beautiful. You walk around, taking it all in, imagining what you might find. You have this big open world in front of you, and it's up to you to explore it and see what is has to offer.

After a lot of roaming, the sun begins to set and I look around for a large flat space to build a shelter. I don’t know if the nights are dangerous here, but years of experience have taught me to be cautious when carrying a fully loaded inventory.

I build a small 5x4 hovel of dirt and go through my crafting menu, checking recipes to see how difficult it would be to build a door. Suddenly, there’s a flash of blue light and I leave the menu just in time to watch the roaming pigs burst into cerulean flames and transform into demonic forms of themselves.

They charge at me, and I slam down dirt blocks to fill in the doorway just before they reach me.

Creativerse's Robust Gameplay

When you log on to Creativerse, you get to name and design your character. It’s no Elder Scrolls, mind; you only have a few options available, but it’s still a nice touch that makes it easier for casual players who don’t know how to upload skins in a game like Minecraft. You then build your world, which other players can potentially join, and you spawn in with nothing but your Power Cell, a gauntlet that can mine and vacuum up blocks.

The inclusion of the Power Cell simplifies gameplay by not immediately requiring players to craft tools to mine harder blocks like stone. Players also don't have to make a point to walk around and pick up dropped blocks they may have missed. This means players can have a weapon in their hand and still be able to place an item from the quickbar without having to swap, which inevitably saves time and lives.

The crafting is more complicated than Minecraft’s, with most builds taking at least three individual items to make, but you’re not left in the dark like early Minecraft. The Crafting menu lists blueprints for every item in the game and tells you exactly what you will need to make something. Hover over one of the components, and it will list where you can find or create it.

This makes for a much smoother creation experience that feels rewarding without being too complicated, though the required creation of related items, such as being forced to build a chair in order to make a bed is a bit tedious. Similarly, having to build Extractors to mine nodes is frustrating considering Extractors only last for a single use.

Continuing in the vein of Minecraft, your weapons and equipment can be improved through better materials. But rather than let you create any high-level items by having a lucky spawn in the beginning, the game requires you build the low-tier items first and work your way up. This was an odd touch in the beginning, but after a while, it really made progression more consistent.

The component lists also began to add parts dropped from more powerful creatures and enemies, meaning I had to prepare a well-balanced character in order to kill them. There was no way I could just focus on swords while ignoring armor and potions. In short, the game really pushes the need to be well-equipped and knowledgeable.

Combat is a straightforward hack n' slash affair, but the diversity of enemies, multiple tiers of weapons and armors, and powerful gadgets -- like grenades -- kept it interesting. Monster drops are incredibly important in Creativerse, and some of them have special abilities than can easily kill an unprepared player.

The powerful -- and prevalent -- enemies in the game forced me to focus especially carefully on having a truly safe shelter. My initial hovel was cramped and exposed, with enemies just outside the walls. As soon as the sun rose over the horizon, I was on the move for a good location.

In the end, I decided to build on the edge of a cliff to gain the high ground and have fewer sides the monsters could spawn and approach. I built my cabin out of strong wood and stone (no dirt to be found here), and surrounded it with stone walls. I found that monsters can leap two blocks high, so I made all of my defenses at least three tall.

With enemy jumping and random spawns, I put far more thought and effort into not just what I wanted my base to look like, but how well it would keep enemies out. This was night and day compared to my years with Minecraft, where I exclusively focused on aesthetics.

Graphics Make Creativerse Beautiful

Not that the builds in this game don’t look great, though. The textures and art style make even a simple cottage looked fantastic. With multiple types of walls, floors, roofs, doors, furniture, and other accessories, the types of buildings possible in this game are limited only by imagination. You can easily impress your Minecraft friends by showing them your house in Creativerse. It just looks fancier.

Fully maxed out on Fantastic settings in both 4k and 1080p, the game looks great. The active lighting has bloom and godrays that create an extra level of depth in the game and help bring it to life. Textures are vivid and pleasing; just the right amount of detail without alienating the cartoon art style.

The character models are fully realized and armor affects appearance wonderfully. Animals and monsters have fluid animations and small details that make them stand out. Miru’s multiple eyes have an eerie glow you can spot in the dark, Leafys’ oversized reptile eyes shine and reflect light, and Pigsies stretch slightly when they run and charge to show how chubby they are.

Combine these vivid characters with the beautiful biomes, and you have a game that is just lovely.

It’s nothing we haven’t seen before and it won’t win any awards. It’s not Naughty Dog, after all; these graphics are not photo-realistic. But the graphics flesh out the world and remind me of an animated film or television show. And when you compare to them to its most similar competitor, Minecraft, the game is downright gorgeous.

That said, the render distance goes only so far, leaving to a lot of pop-in in the distance. I’ve also had several experiences where blocks seemingly failed to visibly load, leaving me able to see straight through to the bottom of the world. This was easily fixed by interacting with the invisible blocks, but it was very jarring and left me worried I would fall through and become stuck.

Other than those few odd occurrences, the game runs great.

A friend of mine played the game on an old laptop running two GTX 650Ms in SLI, and he was still able to run it on "Good" settings, which is essentially Med-High as it's the middle of the three options, with a solid 60 frames a second.

Pro accounts are able to make more worlds and have more options in their world seeds, get free currency for the in-game store, and can sprint for twice as long. And unfortunately, incredibly useful items like the Glider and Flashlight are available exclusively to Pro players.

This is something I, as someone who is critical of Free-to-play games, hate to see, as it leaves great aspects of the game behind a paywall and punishes players who choose not to buy the pro membership.

They're by no means crucial, so the game still functions perfectly without them, but in a game that flaunts its diversity, it's a shame to see things taken away.

Overall, Creativerse is a beautiful game with a lot of depth.

If you can put in the time and effort to progress through the extensive -- and occasionally tedious -- crafting, you’ll be rewarded with a fulfilling experience of trial and growth. Some of its best aspects are restricted to Pro accounts only, but sandbox builder fans should look no further, because this free-to-play title is a great alternative to any other on the market.

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Expeditions: Viking Review - Somewhat Viking-y, Somewhat Broken https://www.gameskinny.com/budia/expeditions-viking-review-somewhat-viking-y-somewhat-broken https://www.gameskinny.com/budia/expeditions-viking-review-somewhat-viking-y-somewhat-broken https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/r/o/m/roman-fort-91b75.jpg budia/expeditions-viking-review-somewhat-viking-y-somewhat-broken Mon, 08 May 2017 11:00:01 -0400 Trevor Talley

Editor's Note: Since the writing of this review, developer Logic Artists has made numerous patches to the game that have remedied a majority of the bugs mentioned below. More patches are still to come, as well. 

There’s a part of me that wants to give every new CRPG a break, just for existing in the late 2010s. I grew up in the heyday of the genre, and between games like Baldur’s Gate II, the early Fallout games, and Avernum, that period around the turn of the millennium was absolutely brilliant for fans of complex, story-heavy, party-based gaming. After that period, though, there was a long period in which there weren’t as many giant, beautiful CRPG titles, as things moved more to MMOs, first-person RPGs, and action-heavy titles.

Your friendly writer here was very sad, spending his days dreaming of crawling dungeons with a motley cast of characters, each of their own fantasy race complete with the requisite varieties of pointy ears.

But, hurrah, it’s 2017! And within the past few years, my original favorite genre is back and then some, with not only beautiful remakes of my original favorites, like BG II, but also an array of new CRPGs of staggeringly high quality, such as Wastelands 2, Tyranny, Pillars of Eternity and Divinity: Original Sin. This resurgence in CRPGs, it might not surprise you, is downright thrilling, and I’ve been riding on an orc-slaughtering, pocket-picking, spell-slamming high for a few years now, as I play through all of these gorgeous new adventures.

So when I picked up Expeditions: Viking, a new indie CRPG featuring a (you guessed it) Viking-era setting and storyline, there was that nostalgic, high-riding part of me that wanted to give the thing a break for its mistakes, simply for being what it is.

But even with my love for the genre, Expeditions: Viking is simply not a very good game, and it might not even be worth the trouble of trying to play at all.

It's Lackluster. Everything is Lackluster

I realized I was going to have to lower my expectations and look for the subtle strengths of this title right when it started up because there were some immediate weak spots that didn’t bode well for the rest of the game.

The first issue was that Expeditions: Viking throws you into character creation with very little information about how the actual combat and gameplay works. A lot of CRPGs do this, but in Viking, it became a problem as my choices ended up keeping me from being able to complete the early game. More on that in a bit.

The Uninteresting Tale of Vikings Pt.1: The Graphics

Once I got to the actual game, I have to say, it wasn’t exactly thrilling in the early going, either. The visuals stand out as sub-par right away: the actual graphics look at least 10 years old (very, very simple textures and detailing) and the sets, characters, weapons etc. are flat out uninteresting.

I mean, I get that these are straightforward Vikings, those without the need for a lot of aesthetic embellishment, but just about nothing in this game is visually memorable. The village you’re from is forgettable, with no distinguishing features; the characters all look vaguely the same except for different colored hair and clothes; the weapons are basically just sticks with bits of gray on their ends. And the list goes on.

The supposedly mighty Dane Axe is particularly anticlimactic, making your character look like they just found a stick and stuck a wedge-shaped rock on the far side of it. It doesn’t seem to get better as the game progresses either; I saw camp site locations reused within the first four that I visited, and the next big location, the town of Ribe, is literally just a ton of buildings in a semi-grid that look almost identical.

It wasn’t even just ugly: it was hard to get around, and it even gave me a bit mental strain just looking at all of those super-similar roofs... one after another after another after...

The Uninteresting Tale of Vikings Pt.2: The Story (Potential Spoilers)

Story-wise, it’s the same issue.

There’s nothing surprising here at all: Dad dies, you get the clan, someone doesn’t want you to get the clan, you get it anyways, then you fight to make it more powerful. There are few somewhat interesting characters, but none of it was very compelling.

In games like BG II and Divinity: Original Sin, characters feel alive because of complex backstories and interactions during quests and side quests that allow them to talk to each other and the player extensively. After a good eight-ish hours of play (hard to know exactly with all of the bugs and reloading I dealt with), I kind of know that my brother is not a good fighter and is sad about it, and that my sister is a good fighter and is happy about it, and there’s like, a witch that seems available for romance (maybe) and a fighter I convinced to join me that is loud and big.

But that’s mostly all I know. I mean, these guys do talk a little, but it’s not much, and it didn’t draw me in anyway. After a decent amount of time spent with them, I don’t really care about the characters in Expeditions: Viking, nor do I care what they are doing, which is not what you want from a game. And certainly not from a narrative-focused CRPG.

The Uninteresting Tale of Vikings Pt.3: Combat

Combat is okayish, but it could be better -- and sometimes it breaks

It might be acceptable to be weak in the story and graphics departments if the combat part of a game is good, but there’s nothing to write home about here, either.

Viking goes for a turn-based hex-grid style of play, which seems interesting at first, but it makes some mistakes in design that cause it to be mostly a boring, frustrating slog to the end. For instance, you’ll spend a lot of time just moving around the map chasing guys because, for some reason, the AI likes to either run right at you or run right away.

When you do run into someone, combat basically just devolves into hitting them, them hitting you, and back and forth until the guy who can do a bit more damage or has a bit more life is left standing. There are a few special moves and synergistic combos you can do, but they tend to just ramp up the damage, and you usually can only do one action outside of your movement per turn, even if it’s something like a buff or poisoning a weapon.

That means that you often have to choose between buffing/healing/other spells and actually hitting someone. And considering your characters are dying all the time, you usually have to choose hitting. That makes most of the spells useless in a big way, which is neither fun nor indicative of a well-built combat system.

Combat becomes pretty straightforward at that point, and it gets worse when you get into fights that you realize you can’t win.

This happened to me a lot when playing, especially before I gave up and totally respec-ed my first character, which made it better (for a while). I shouldn’t have had to do that, but even with a better understanding of the needs in combat, and what abilities are basically useless, I still found myself in fights later in the game that I was completely unprepared for. That might be okay if it seemed like it was something I should come back to do later, but for the most part, these fights fell along the path of the story. Each very much seemed like I was taking them at the right time.

The problem was twofold: I simply had not acquired the specific gear or skills to win them, plus the RNG of being hit (or not) would often destroy half my party before I even had a chance to attack. Again, not good.

The Worst, Though, Is That It Is Just Plain Broken at Times

It took me far, far longer to get through this game and be able to write about it than it should have, not only because I had to start over with a new character that was better prepared to take on the early game, but because this game crashed on me at least 12 separate times.

This came in the form of freezing loading screens, and bugging out then freezing during conversation and responding to an alt-tab to write a note down with a total freeze and crash. My machine is way over the requirements — and honestly, considering the low-end graphics and lack of features here, they shouldn’t be as high as they are anyways — so this was definitely the game just bugging out.

Not Worth It, Even If You Love Vikings

I simply can’t recommend this game in any way. It might look like a CRPG, but all of the bits of magic that take that genre from a plain combat system with various locations and some dialogue to something that’s engaging just aren’t there.

There could be a fan of the genre out there that can put all the clunky, junky parts of this game aside and just dig that you can gain stats and use skills and take a long, combat-filled journey across a land filled with swords. But for everyone else, I’d suggest that you put your money into one of the proven recent entries into the genre, or even revisit an old one with one of the remakes that we’ve been seeing.

Because between uninteresting visuals, boring writing, very boring and sometimes broken combat, and being just plain buggy at times, this is not a title worth buying. It is a deeply mediocre entry in a storied genre, and there are far more interesting lands with far better combat out there to spend your time exploring. Find those, not this.

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Robot Unicorn Forever Attack Review: A Four-Legged Android's Fever Dream to Freedom https://www.gameskinny.com/u0ba5/robot-unicorn-forever-attack-review-a-four-legged-androids-fever-dream-to-freedom https://www.gameskinny.com/u0ba5/robot-unicorn-forever-attack-review-a-four-legged-androids-fever-dream-to-freedom https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/r/o/b/robot-unicorn-attack-forever-banner-7e50c.jpg u0ba5/robot-unicorn-forever-attack-review-a-four-legged-androids-fever-dream-to-freedom Mon, 08 May 2017 09:00:01 -0400 GeorgieBoysAXE

Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim has been running for over fifteen years, so it’s natural that the brand would expand beyond the role of broadcasting a late-hour block of mature cartoons and into something much bigger; a video game publisher and part-time game developer.

While Adult Swim has bankrolled the distribution of some stellar indie affairs like Jazzpunk and Völgarr the Viking, they’ve also made a name in gaming with titles they’ve developed in-house. And one of their more prominent properties is the ridiculously enchanting Robot Unicorn Attack.

The series has spawned a few light-hearted sequels, but nothing as ambitious as the newest entry to the fold, Robot Unicorn Attack Forever. The latest effort from Adult Swim Games and GetSet is an evolution of the Equestrian Droid’s wish-chasing quest in every way you could imagine, and then some — it’s just too bad that a lot of the new depth offered is a bit limited because of at times poor execution and obnoxious paywalls.

In an age where endless runners have saturated the mobile space of gaming, Robot Unicorn Attack remained engaging because it recognized the undeniably effective allure that its bizarre presentation had. The previous entries took strides to prioritize the expansion to its themes over its gameplay.

The focus of Robot Unicorn Attack Forever is different, however. Adult Swim has shifted their direction toward gameplay this time around, and has fortunately done so in a manner that doesn’t compromise the novelty that gives the Mechanical steed its appeal. For starters, there’s a lot more at stake than simply running and jumping through deceptive death-traps. The score accumulated from your performance, for instance, is now used as experience to level up the capabilities of Robot Unicorn, alongside the newest edition to the series, the Citadel.

You’ll not only earn spoils for the fabled horse, but you’ll also earn points that will level up a magic base of operations that will offer a variety of functions to your adventures.

The Citadel will periodically generate the collectible tear drop currency from RUA’s second outing, as well as other special stones that can be used in its in-game store, where purchases from its market generate back a sum of experience to the base. The more experience you earn for the base, the closer you get to leveling it up to the next tier, which will not only significantly improve the output of its resource regeneration, but will also unlock a new stage for you to endlessly roam through. However, that task is easier said than done.

While the grind to get new goods is a little more demanding than it should be, the dynamic to purchase new ‘corns for use is satisfying, if not a bit messy.

Players will get to arrange a personalized team of their own horned beauties from a roster of over 40 different galloping bots, with the caveat of having to maintain your growing collection unicorns within a limited stable space. The concept is a bit frustrating as the manner of upkeep is clunky as hell; the only way to make room for more horses is to salvage the ones you don’t want for parts. Sounds simple enough, right?

It isn’t, not by a long shot…

All the new horses you buy are generated randomly through a gachapon-styled lottery, and while that doesn’t sound like an issue at first, it gradually becomes one when you realize that you can only salvage the horse you don’t want if there’s an upgradable horse available. If there isn’t, then you can’t trash them. And if you can’t trash anything, you won’t be able to buy anything— which left me with killing off Unicorns that I didn’t want to sacrifice. This left me with a full stable filled with incompatible unicorns.

 

The only way to efficiently grow the citadel beyond the standard horseplay is to recruit more horses, so I was left with no choice but to spend real-world money to expand my stable space by two more slots. Even as we speak, I narrowly avoid that dreaded stable scenario each and every time I visit the store to buy a new steed; it’s needlessly frustrating.

Aside from the gripes that come with growing the Citadel with clumsy resource management, the other method of expanding its abilities comes from directly playing the game itself, which thankfully is the most polished version of the formula yet.

Every rainbow-clad trot you run through will go toward upgrading Robot Unicorn, granting the steel beast new passive perks that will vary by its level; these perks range anywhere from additional smash bonuses to percentage increases for any of the experience points or items earned. In addition to their inherent abilities, you can upgrade the fabled creatures with companion bots, new floaty helper drones (available to buy from the Citadel’s store), and stacking additional perks onto the Unicorn as they hover alongside.

The other new addition introduced in Robot Unicorn Attack Forever is raiding, which will let you assign one of the unicorns in your stable to go out on a mission that takes place asymmetrically. These happen under a range of different time frames so that you can farm extra bonuses for your stone stash.

The feature isn’t mind-blowing, but it certainly is useful in taking on some of the glut from RUAF’s demanding grind. It also gives you something that you can do with the extra pair of hooves that’re taking up residence in the Citadel’s cramped stable.

While there’s been a lot of work done to add depth to the core game, the team didn’t forget about the importance of the title’s trademark nihilism, as Robot Unicorn Attack Forever has a load of dark humor behind it. There are plenty of moments where the irreverent Lumina will dish out plenty of backhanded ribs that’ll be sure to slap a dumb smile on your face, and the bios of the different unicorns that you collected in the game’s unidex are comedy gold, almost making up for the game’s flawed system that manages them.

I never did like the phrase “you can’t beat free” because there’s one other precious commodity that’s spent with video games that you just can’t earn back, and that’s time. Robot Unicorn Attack Forever doesn’t do the best job of respecting that time, but it’s still the most enjoyable entry that the series has ever produced.

There’s plenty of fun to be found, and the sequel does deserve to be played every now and again. I would just recommend not sinking your teeth too deep into the new depth it offer, as the payoff is more groan-inducing than it is rewarding.

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Prey Review: Sci-Fi, Horror, and Action Collide https://www.gameskinny.com/296u0/prey-review-sci-fi-horror-and-action-collide https://www.gameskinny.com/296u0/prey-review-sci-fi-horror-and-action-collide https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/c/p/v/cpv1-2cba3.jpg 296u0/prey-review-sci-fi-horror-and-action-collide Fri, 05 May 2017 15:00:29 -0400 Ty Arthur

Despite being one of our most anticipated games of the year, somehow this AAA title has gone a little more under the radar in comparison to other big-name games like Mass Effect: Andromeda or Resident Evil 7.

Other than a few Hulu commercials and online ads, there hasn't been a ton of promotion for Prey, a reboot of a previous innovative sci-fi shooter that used some truly unexpected elements.

That's a shame, because what Arkane Studios and Bethesda have on their hands here is a real winner that melds together shooter mechanics with psychic powers, heavy stealth elements, and a light RPG slant which utilizes a skill tree and crafting stations.

Alternate Futures

Similar to how Bioshock: Infinite presented an alternate past world where people in a cloud city worshiped John Wilkes Booth, Prey envisions an alternative future world where Kennedy was never assassinated. He subsequently steered the U.S. and Russia forward into an advanced age of space exploration together as allies.

 Thankfully, there's no space Songbird chasing you

This led to some huge leaps in science and technology -- from viable space stations where large groups of people can comfortably live, to the beginnings of terraforming Mars, and even "neuro mods" that give people instant access to new skills and knowledge.

Of course, since this is a horror shooter, everything goes terribly wrong. Talos I turns into a nightmare station. And not just because of the shadowy alien things that can take the form of any everyday object before sucking your life force out. There's also clearly something nefarious going on with the Transtar corporation itself, with experiments being done that are very much not on the up and up.

 Death by Mimic isn't a pretty way to go

Gameplay

After getting through the psychologically-challenging opening, the base of the game revolves around searching Talos I while avoiding (or killing) the Typhon and various other dangers. The station feels a bit like a sci-fi version of the Dishonored areas, and that's no coincidence since the same developer is involved.

Morgan (who can be a man or a woman -- with Arkane thankfully ditching the pointless face customization that never means anything in a first person game) will spend time exploring and finding materials to craft anything needed -- whether its Medkits, 9MM ammo, Gloo canisters, or other, more exotic equipment.

Recycling and Fabricating are crucial to remaining well equipped

Although a space station seems like it would be restricted, each area consistently surprised me with how much stuff I could explore or interact with -- from finding roundabout ways to reach restricted areas to tracking down bracelets for missing crew members and even locating secret weapons.

Speaking of, there are loads of different weapon types to play with here, and some of them are quite outside the norm. At the moment my personal favorites are a grenade that breaks objects down into usable materials, along with a non-damaging Nerf style gun that seemed pointless at first but can be used later to hit objects you can't reach.

Each of those weapons can be upgraded, with some upgrades off limits unless you pick specific skills. Facing enemies head-on is viable if you go down the Soldier skill path, but it's not very elegant. I prefer to always carry a turret along with me (with points in Repair to fix 'em up as they get damaged) and enjoy lobbing explosive pressurized canisters whenever possible. For those who prefer the cloak and dagger route, there's plenty of opportunity for stealth play too.

 Never travel without one of these in tow

Multiple Routes

There aren't just different ways to approach combat and stealth, but also different ways to approach how you access areas. Increasing one skill repeatedly, for instance, lets you easily move aside large objects in your way (in addition to using those objects as weapons).

If you don't get that skill, you might need to do some real thinking about how to find passwords instead -- and they aren't always just lying around. A few early ones in particular are brain teasers that show the level of detail put into the game's design.

Here's a great example. Near the start of the game, Morgan comes across a white board with "safe code" prominently written on it, but the code's been wiped away. Later you read an email reminding people not to put safe codes where anyone can see them. So how do you learn the code? Later on, a video plays where the whiteboard is visible before its been cleaned -- but you have to be quick and pay attention, as it ends quickly and can't be re-watched.

In some cases the game even out-thinks you, like in one case where you find a code scratched on a wall by a psychiatric patient. The code doesn't work, because security changed it after seeing he'd scratched it on the wall, so you have to find it another way.

I guess the lesson here is "don't listen to psych ward patients"

Some of the later skills get truly crazy, like assuming the form of objects as the Mimic enemies do. Its clear Arkane wants you to think outside the box when approaching each area. The developer encourages you to do things like using the Gloo Cannon to create makeshift ladders for accessing out-of-reach locations, or shifting into an object that can fit where you wouldn't normally be able to go.

Mood And Tone

There's a lot going on in this story that revolves around memory and how you can't trust it, since your mind is reset to the moment before a neuro mod was implanted if it is ever removed.

Without question, there's a clear SOMA feel going on in how you aren't sure if any of this is really happening -- and there's this sinking suspicious in the back of your mind that all is not as it seems. 

The mixing of sci-fi with horror and action is satisfying, and you can learn a lot more about the background of what's going on by reading various books, notes, emails, and so on. Or you can skip all that and just enjoy the challenge of figuring out each area's design.

In particular, I enjoyed learning about the lives and quirks of people on Talos I by going through old documents or finding unexpected items -- like discovering the security officer's D&D character sheet locked in a filing cabinet.

Captain Stabfellow seems like a nice enough chap.

The Bottom Line

On the technical and gameplay fronts, Prey is mostly top-notch and on par with anything else AAA coming out this year. The only exception is that the shooting aspect can occasionally be a little wonky with some of the guns, and the controls take a little getting used to as they are different from your standard FPS.

For the most part though, there aren't any major bugs or design flaws that detract from the experience. There's also more than meets the eye in terms of game length. Gaining new abilities (or finding new key cards and codes in later sections) gives you incentive to go back to the earlier parts of the game and further explore locations that were previously off limits.

In terms of style and feel, clear influences from Bioshock, Deus Ex, and Dishonored create a very familiar atmosphere in Prey. But it's taken to the next level as elements from those games are refined in this sci-fi setting. Whether on console or PC, this is a title well worth playing, and it will almost certainly be in my "best of 2017" list.

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HyperX Pulsefire FPS Review: An Inaugural Mouse with Excellent Design https://www.gameskinny.com/2fpi7/hyperx-pulsefire-fps-review-an-inaugural-mouse-with-excellent-design https://www.gameskinny.com/2fpi7/hyperx-pulsefire-fps-review-an-inaugural-mouse-with-excellent-design https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/u/n/t/untitled-7e8f8.jpg 2fpi7/hyperx-pulsefire-fps-review-an-inaugural-mouse-with-excellent-design Fri, 05 May 2017 15:00:01 -0400 Auverin Morrow

It's no secret that HyperX makes great tech. Their extensive line of headsets offers top-notch quality and comfort at a number of price points, and their alloy keyboards are excellent as well. Now the company is expanding its lineup to the final limb in the holy trinity of gaming peripherals -- the all-important mouse. 

The Pulsefire FPS is the inaugural mouse in HyperX's new venture. And it's a strong start that proves the tech giant isn't kidding around. From a well-rounded design to top-quality performance across the board, the Pulsefire is a serious contender in the peripheral arena that's got me excited to see what comes next.

Simple Specs With No Fuss

Like most of HyperX's products, there aren't a lot of frills to the Pulsefire. It sports a simple black body, two shoulder buttons, a standard scroll wheel and center button, and a durable braided cable. 

Under the hood, there's a PixArt 3310 sensor, Omron switches rated up to 20 million clicks, and a 400-3200 DPI range that's demarcated in four presets you can cycle through. 

At just 95g, this mouse is a great thing in a lightweight package. It's a far cry from products like Logitech's G900 Chaos Spectrum or Corsair's Scimitar Pro, but that's alright. The more I used the Pulsefire, the less I found myself missing all the extra bits. 

Design is Where This Thing Really Shines

There's a lot more to the Pulsefire than meets the eye. At first glance it's easy to dismiss it as a run-of-the-mill gaming mouse, when really it's anything but. Though its design is simple, the smaller details really put this mouse a few steps ahead of its competitors. 

My personal favorite feature is the textured side grip. While the top of the Pulsefire is smooth unibody plastic from front to back, its sides sport slightly textured rubber for better grip. And when I say "slightly", I mean it -- the diminutive notches in the grips are just enough to give your hand traction without feeling like you're trying to play Call of Duty with a truck tire. 

Speaking of sides, the shoulder buttons on this thing are masterfully done. When I chatted with PR Manager Mark Tekunoff about the mouse at PAX East, he mentioned that it was designed according to feedback from a number of pro players who know what they're looking for in a mouse. And for a considerable portion of those players, one of the biggest issues with current mice on the market is the placement of shoulder buttons -- they just never seem to be in quite the right spot. So HyperX took extra care to place them as best they could when designing the Pulsefire. 

The careful consideration definitely pays off here. Though I've used a lot of mice in my gaming career, I can't recall a single one that's had shoulder buttons quite as perfectly placed as the Pulsefire's. Claw grippers might find the back shoulder button a little hard to reach, but palm grippers rejoice -- this mouse is a dream come true for you. Without having to change your grip style or shift your thumb, you'll finally be able to hit that front shoulder with your fingertip and that back shoulder with your thumb joint. (Unless you have exceptionally large hands.)

Not only are these buttons well-placed, but they're incredibly satisfying to click. You need to put a bit of pressure on to get a response, but not so much that it'll slow you down in-game. There's a great balance between sensitivity and practicality here, which means you can click away in the heat of battle while keeping accidental double-taps or both-button clicks to a minimum. 

The same can be said for the left and right mouse buttons as well. They feel about as sturdy as those on my go-to G900 Spectrum, but they'll still respond as rapidly as your fingers can depress them. Accidental clicks were rare, even at breakneck speeds while auto-attacking the crap out of a helpless mage in SMITE. The unibody design of this part of the mouse also gives each click a bit of bounce and resilience that feels really nice. 

The only design aspect I didn't like so much is the scroll wheel. It's quick and works just like it should -- and I really like that HyperX opted for a slightly smoother grip than the raised, edgy texture that you'll find on most gaming mice. But for me, the response was just a bit too flimsy. It feels a lot like a notched wheel that's trying to free scroll, which might really appeal to some people. I just prefer having a switch that lets me do either/or depending on the situation. 

You Can't Ask For Better Plug-and-Play Performance

A well-designed mouse is nothing if it doesn't have the performance to match. And the Pulsefire definitely has both -- without the need to tweak anything in customization software

I rarely get time to sit down and play games anymore. So when I do, I want to plug in and get going straightaway. That's exactly what the Pulsefire does. This mouse, like its other HyperX brethren, is 100% plug-and-play. There's nothing extra to install, no lights to mess around with, no custom button mapping, no complex DPI options to configure.

This will probably be a huge turn-off for those gamers who want to have as much control over every part of their peripheral performance as possible. But the simplicity of this mouse is a major plus for me -- and it's the same reason I prefer HyperX's Cloud S Revolver headset over more complex competitors like the SteelSeries Arctis 7 or the Logitech G533

Even without any sort of fine-tuning, this mouse handles beautifully across a number of games. It's highly responsive, latency-free, and has butter-smooth tracking to boot. Not once did I notice any sort of stuttering or poor control. 

The DPI presets sit at 400, 800, 1600, and 3200 -- which means that even without the ability to adjust them to your exact preferences, you'll have the general setting you need for whatever you're playing. The DPI button in the center of the mouse will light up different colors according to the setting you've picked, so you don't have to guess which one you've cycled to. After wrapping up a SMITE game at 1600 dpi with blue illumination, I could easily cycle down to 400, where the white glow would let me know that I've got the right setting to nail headshots in Paladins.

To put it plainly, not once did I feel like I needed customization software to make up for sub-par performance. And that's fine by me. 

Verdict

The Pulsefire FPS is a top-notch foray into the final frontier of gaming peripherals. It's obvious that HyperX put a lot of consideration into its premier mouse, and the results are admirable. 

If you're married to the idea of total customization and lots of little extras, you'll want to look at other products. But if you want a well-designed, no-fuss gaming mouse that does exactly what it's built to do -- and does it better than many of its competitors at this price point -- then the Pulsefire is definitely worth your consideration. Your wallet and your palm-gripping hands will thank you. 

You can pick it up for yourself for $49.99 on Amazon.

Note: HyperX provided the Pulsefire mouse used for this review. 

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Little Nightmares Review: A Perfectly Creepy Platformer https://www.gameskinny.com/7ehv0/little-nightmares-review-a-perfectly-creepy-platformer https://www.gameskinny.com/7ehv0/little-nightmares-review-a-perfectly-creepy-platformer https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/l/i/t/little-nightmares-5753b.jpg 7ehv0/little-nightmares-review-a-perfectly-creepy-platformer Thu, 04 May 2017 15:00:01 -0400 ESpalding

I want to start this review by saying that I don't normally play games that scare me. It's not that I'm a "chicken". I don't find enjoyment in playing games that are meant to scare. But there was something about Little Nightmares that made me want to give it a go. I'm really glad I did because I wasn't disappointed!

Little Nightmares is a dark, creepy platform puzzler from Swedish developers Tarsier Studios and has been published by Bandai Namco. You must guide a little girl called Six through a massive mysterious vessel called The Maw. You are small enough to hide in tiny places and scurry through pipes and under floor boards and you really have to because there are other beings onboard who want you for a despicable purpose.

The first thing that struck me about the game is that it is very quiet. Aside from the constant sound of water dripping or hitting the side of the vessel, there is no real musical soundtrack. You can hear soft breathing, Six's heart beating, clangs and clunks of metal, and furniture hitting things as the vessel sways with the waves outside and that was enough to bring out the jumps in me! It creates something very atmospheric and even the simplest of loud noise comes as a surprise to the player (even more so if you play with headphones on).

Aside from the eerie noises, the artwork does a heck of a lot to amplify the creepy atmosphere. Imagine a giant dollhouse which has its doors open and each room is on display. Each room has its own feel and has been crafted in such a way that it emphasizes the fact that you are a very small girl in a very large and horrid nightmare. From having to stand on a suitcase to flick a switch or creating steps out of a large filing cabinet, you need to find a way to overcome the giant obstacles.

Controlling Six, for the most part, is okay but sometimes it can be a bit clunky. This becomes apparent when you have to drag things across a room. The movement isn't as fluid or precise as I would have liked. You have no superpowers or weapons to control, so the controls are pretty basic. Other than movement, the only thing you have at your disposal is a little cigarette lighter which you use to light gas lamps (these function as checkpoints) and to shed some light on darker rooms or crawl spaces. 

As you have no weapons or ways of protecting yourself, you have to rely on your own reactions and grasp of the controls. You just have to make sure that things don't touch you, see you, smell you etc. and utilize aspects of your surroundings to prevent this.

It takes a while before you can get any kind of clue of what is going on onboard The Maw, and the storyline is a bit lacking until you get closer to the end of the game. Why is Six there? What was supposed to happen to her? What really goes down in The Maw? Given that the game is rather short, approx. 4 - 5 hours, it does leave you wanting more. More story and more explanation. To be honest, I really hope that they have a sequel or even a prequel in the works. I'd love to ultimately know why Six has ended up in this situation or where the other inhabitants of The Maw have come from.

Little Nightmares comes at a time when horror and "jumpscare" games are very popular but it takes the horror aspect down a few notches to make the game very accessible while still getting the scares in. Instead of outwardly disturbing themes, developers opted for "cuter" antagonists to soften their sinister actions. For example, the blind janitor who sniffs you out and grabs you with his long gangly arms doesn't look overly disturbing but when you see the things he does further down the line... well... I don't want to spoil it for you!

So, to conclude, the game is good. In fact, it is very good. The puzzles are at a great level of difficulty that would cater to anyone wanting to play. The setting, the artwork and the soundtrack all come together to form a game that is disturbing yet cute, creepy and amusing. As I have already said, the game in its current state is possibly a bit short for many people but there is plenty of scope to expand, and I really hope that Tarsier Studios are already considering it.

Little Nightmares is available digitally, on PC, XBox One and PS4 but there is also a physical "Six" edition which not only includes the game on DVD but also a 10cm figure of Six, a cage themed box, A3 poster, sticker board and the original soundtrack composed by Tobias Lilja.

If you do decide to get this great game, you should check the Little Nightmares walkthrough guides here on GameSkinny!

Note: A review copy of the game was provided for free by Bandai Namco.

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Corsair Glaive RGB Review: A Responsive, Accurate Addition to a Growing Catalog of Quality https://www.gameskinny.com/f2838/corsair-glaive-rgb-review-a-responsive-accurate-addition-to-a-growing-catalog-of-quality https://www.gameskinny.com/f2838/corsair-glaive-rgb-review-a-responsive-accurate-addition-to-a-growing-catalog-of-quality https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/g/l/a/glaive-rgb-reviewers-guide-final-b3fc4.jpg f2838/corsair-glaive-rgb-review-a-responsive-accurate-addition-to-a-growing-catalog-of-quality Thu, 04 May 2017 09:03:21 -0400 Jonathan Moore

The more Corsair products I use, the more I’m convinced the company is completely in tune with its core demographic – gamers. A cursory glance at Corsair’s rapidly expanding catalog of gaming mice is a testament to that. From the Harpoon RGB to the Scimitar RGB Pro, Corsair mice offer myriad bells and whistles with the reliability and durability both competitive and casual gamers demand.

Its latest offering, the Glaive RGB, is no different. Built for speed and precision, the Glaive is no doubt a mechanically sound and efficient gaming mouse. Coming in at $69.99, the Glaive’s price point nestles snugly between the M65 Pro and Scimitar Pro RGB and provides gamers with a suite of features from both mice. But don’t worry; it brings a few new tricks of its own to the game, too.

It may not be the absolute best mouse in Corsair’s expanding line (although that’s still up for debate), but it undeniably fills a niche and provides a wonderful experience on multiple fronts.

Looks and Swagger: The Glaive RGB is a Beautiful Piece of Hardware

We’ll get to specs in just a second, but I want to first talk about how gorgeous this mouse is. The Glaive RGB is the most strikingly elegant mouse in Corsair’s line. Its sleek, contoured design is accentuated by sharp cuts and angles near the front, which lend it a mechanical look from that angle. More so than its brethren, the Glaive RGB looks sophisticated and futuristic – it’s not as clunky looking as the M65 Pro, but provides much more visual pop than the Harpoon RGB or Katar.

On top of that, the Glaive employs the same 3-zone RGB backlighting customization that Corsair uses in many of their other mice and keyboards. That means by using Corsair’s CUE customization software (which keeps getting better and better, by the way), you can fully customize the color on the Glaive, from the light strips on either side of the mouse to the Glaive’s grills across the front and the Corsair logo emblazoned on the aft of the mouse.

I know it’s odd to say, but the Glaive carries with it an aura of class. It’s not trying to do too much, but it’s also making a statement: Bright and flashy aesthetics don’t always mean gaudy and fantastic button arrangements.

Unboxing the Glaive 

As with all Corsair products, the Glaive comes packaged in sturdy box that doubles as a quick and easy-to-use carrying case. In addition to the mouse and a user manual inside, Corsair also provides three interchangeable thumb grips that offer gamers a trio of tailored fits for increased comfort during gameplay. What I especially like about these grips is that each easily snaps onto and off of the left side of the mouse with minimal effort. Unlike other mice, you won’t need any tools, making substitution on the fly effortless, even during fierce multiplayer matches. 

What’s more, I found that each grip provided a different benefit, depending on the game I was playing. The thumb rest variant proved beneficial for slower games like Ark: Survival Evolved and Subnautica, where quick movements were few and far between. But the more traditional rubberized thumb grip offered added control for twitch shooters like Counter Strike: Global Offensive. The third variant, a conventionally smooth thumb grip often found on other mice, proved a bit slick for my personal taste. But nonetheless, its inclusion affords players a viable third option.

The mouse features standard L/R buttons, Omron switches guaranteed to last 50 million clicks, two shoulder buttons, a middle column button with an aluminum, rubber-grip, clickable scroll wheel, DPI cycling button, and a durable braided cable.

Functionality & Feedback: Where the Glaive Really Shines

The Glaive provides some of the best accuracy and stability of any mouse I’ve ever used. In Paladins, I was able to pull off monster headshots and crits with Victor and Tyra, taking my game from a typical 20-12 to an average of 32-8 over 10 or so matches – a massive upswing in performance. And it was because the Glaive is so responsive.

I won’t lie: the Glaive took some getting used to. As I’ve said in other reviews, my every-day mouse is a wireless Razer Type-R II, and while it’s a great mouse for my needs on a regular basis, it’s not nearly as responsive as its wired counterparts -- like the Glaive. So there was a bit of a (re)learning curve when it came to Glaive, but it didn’t take long to slip back in those comfortable Corsair shoes.

The Glaive’s Buttons are Airy, but Responsive

The L/R buttons on the Glaive are light and tad bit airy, but hyper-reactive nonetheless. That means I was able to click them as fast as I could and they responded over and over again, which came in handy in more than one firefight. But the great thing about the Glaive’s new Omron switches is that they’re not only responsive, but they’re micro-contact gap means they’re also accurate. Given their slight airiness, it wouldn’t be surprising if I made a few accidental clicks here and there, but that never happened in my more than 30 hours with the Glaive.

On top of that, one of my favorite things about the Glaive is how big the L/R buttons actually are. Taking into consideration a plethora of grip styles, both traditional and hybrid, the Glaive’s left mouse button is clickable from the front of the mouse all the way up to the top of the DPI selector light-rail. On the other side, the Glaive’s right mouse button is clickable nearly to the back of the mouse – more than ¾ down the side. This feature really comes in handy if you’re working or playing in a confined space and need to change your grip as you move the mouse around.

Where the L/R buttons feel well-made, the Glaive’s shoulder buttons carry an economic feel. Regardless, they are just as responsive as the L/R buttons, requiring only the slightest touch to activate. And just like the L/R buttons, these shoulder buttons took a bit of getting used to. Where the shoulder buttons on my Razer Type-R II require a methodical push to activate that sometimes compromises my grip on the mouse, the Glaive’s larger shoulder buttons are decidedly more sensitive and easier to find.

Rolling your thumb up from the thumb rest and pushing slightly in will easily activate the buttons. And while the shoulder buttons aren’t so responsive that an accidental touch will activate them, they are responsive enough that a light press that doesn’t compromise your grip most certainly will.

The Glaive’s rubber-gripped aluminum scroll wheel feels nice and is positioned high enough that you’ll never accidentally click the L/R or DPI cycle buttons while scrolling. It’s accurate enough that switching weapons in Battlefield 1 was a breeze, but it’s not as fast as I’d hoped for. Scrolling through web pages took a few more spins of the wheel than I’m typically used to. The button beneath the scroll wheel is a bit awkward, too, but considering how all scroll-wheel buttons are a bit awkward, the Glaive’s falls in the more user-friendly end of the spectrum.

And lastly, the Glaive’s DPI cycling button is placed nicely enough, although moving to it can be cumbersome at times, especially if you’re a palm-grip player. Outside of that, it’s a responsive button that allows you to quickly cycle through the Glaive’s five available DPI settings, all of which are customizable using Corsair’s CUE software (the stock DPI settings are 800; 1,500; 3,000; 6,000; and 9,000). What I do really like about the Glaive – on top of mostly everything else – is the DPI selector light-rail, which is a nice user experience touch, providing easy and quick reference for which DPI setting I’m actually using. It’s not a big deal, per se, but it’s definitely one I appreciate more than I thought I would. 

The Glaive’s Sensor is Damn Good

 

Much like Corsair’s Scimitar RGB Pro, the Glaive uses a custom pixart sensor that brings high-performance and crazy-reliable accuracy right to your desktop. Where all of Corsair’s other gaming mice – sans the Scimitar – only go up to about 12,000 DPI, the Glaive is able to hit that elusive 16,000 DPI setting for ultra-speedy sniping or radically precise movements in the RTS and MOBA space.

On top of that, the Glaive also allows users to fully customize their DPI settings from 100 to 16,000, settable at 1DP steps, allowing the Glaive to be fine tuned to any mousepad or surface type. Accentuating this is CUE’s ability to calibrate the Glaive to any play surface as well.

Typically, I play without a mousepad on a less-than-optimal desk covered in divots and scratches from years of moving (yeah, I need a new desk …). But the problem I often run into is that the sensor on my Razer Type-R II sometimes gets lost in the maelstrom, causing my cursor (and avatar) to freeze while I turn the mouse off and on – or frantically shake it until it comes back to life.

But with the Glaive, it doesn’t matter that I’m lazy and won’t get a mousepad – or that my desk has seen better days. Instead, I’m able to calibrate the Glaive in CUE and get continued and reliable response from the sensor day in and day out. And that feels really good.

Lastly, the polling rate for the Glaive is pretty insane. When Corsair claims that the Glaive provides “ultrafast 1ms lag-free game play” they really mean it. The Glaive executes your actions precisely and with minimal delay. Where a typical non-gaming mouse will send a signal to the PC about every 8 milliseconds, the Glaive sends a 1,000Hz signal every single millisecond, meaning that your movements, no matter how rapid, are registered for high-precision, which really makes a difference in those to-the-fire firefights in Paladins.

Comfort

Corsair stresses that they put a lot of emphasis and comfortability with the Glaive – and there’s no doubt they did. But I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in that arena. Sure, the Glaive’s uniquely contoured and sculpted chassis fits myriad grip styles, but its slick surface sometimes makes these grip styles uncomfortable or obtuse.

I’m a palm player and while it took some time to get used to how high my hand rests on the Glaive compared to even the Scimitar Pro RGB, the one thing I couldn’t quite get over was how slippery the Glaive felt – specifically with the thumb-rest grip. In that configuration, I often felt my palm slipping up and down, which caused me to grip the mouse harder and my hand to get fatigued.

Ultimately, I remedied the situation by switching to another thumb-grip (thank you, Corsair for providing more than one). But I can’t help but think that while the Glaive’s finish provides for increased ease-of-movement, it was a bit of an oversight to make it so slick.

But overall, the Glaive RGB is a fantastic feeling mouse that may make claw-grippers feel more at home, but is suited for gamers of all grip styles. Even after 30 hours of play and a few 8-hour marathon sessions, my hand never got tired once I found my optimal configuration.

Verdict

Corsair’s Glaive RGB is a highly responsive, low-latency mouse that provides moderate to high comfortability an incredibly versatile set of grip styles. It’s reliable and accurate with a powerful and consistent sensor that expertly performs on numerous surfaces. It’s a mouse that delivers on nearly all of its promises and doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.

Coming into Corsair’s peripheral catalog between the M65 Pro and Scimitar RGB Pro, the Glaive combines into a responsive and elegant package a lot of what makes those mice great. At $69.99, the Glaive is one of the more comfortable mice in its price range – and it provides the precision and functionality of a mouse that carries double the price.

The Glaive RGB isn’t the best gaming mouse on the market, but it isn’t claiming to be. It’s lightweight frame and precise angle snapping make it ideal for FPS players, while it's fully customizable DPI settings let RTS and MOBA players dial in the accuracy they need to move across the battlefield. At the end of the day, the Glaive provides a well-made reliable product to competitive and casual gamers who are looking for quality without breaking the bank.

And that’s just something you can’t argue with.

Note: Corsair provided a Glaive RGB model for review.

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Dawn of Andromeda Review: Another Foray Into the Depths of Space https://www.gameskinny.com/o5y01/dawn-of-andromeda-review-another-foray-into-the-depths-of-space https://www.gameskinny.com/o5y01/dawn-of-andromeda-review-another-foray-into-the-depths-of-space https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/cc678c33681cb7c99a7cddfff1e25f2e.jpg o5y01/dawn-of-andromeda-review-another-foray-into-the-depths-of-space Wed, 03 May 2017 14:23:53 -0400 Justin Michael

I love space. Growing up, I used to watch NASA launches, build model rockets, and I earned my high school volunteer hours working with children at our local planetarium. So I'm a sucker for a good space-themed game -- especially strategy games. With hundreds of hours spent playing games like Galactic Civilizations II, Endless Space, Sins of a Solar Empire, and Stellaris, you might just say I'm crazy about space games.

When I was asked to review Dawn of Andromeda -- a 4X, real-time strategy game getting ready to leave Early Access on Steam -- I was more than excited to see how it would stack up against the competition. I mean, after the "Very Positive" reception of Stellaris by the Steam gaming community, it was really only a matter of time before we would see a contender to the throne. So, let's dive in and see what this game brings to the table.

The Basics in Dawn of Andromeda

Much like other games of the genre, DoA gives the player a number of preconfigured races to choose from -- each with their own strengths and weaknesses. You can also build your own custom races if you want to, which is generally what I end up doing. 

So we pick/make our race, set a number of other parameters like galaxy size, resource rarity, space pirate spawn, and etc and woosh! We get whisked away to the beautiful galactic view screen. Up until this point, I've only played on the small galaxy setting -- which has somewhere around 50 systems in it -- but it still has a vast "space" feeling to it.

The start you picked for your civilization determines what you'll begin your game with. In my case, I went with the "Homeworld" start -- which gives me a center of government and a starting scout ship to begin mapping out the neighboring systems.

I generally set the scout to auto-explore and basically forget about it, like every other space game. Now, something I have noticed about ship movement in the game is that all of the ships tend to follow an invisible path -- which has caused some traffic jams when you start building up larger fleets to show those rude pirates that you don't need their protection because you're a war-mongering bad ass who eats nails and broken glass for breakfast.

Unfortunately, you're a bit limited in terms of defensive structures, as you can only build a few defensive stations around your planets. The game is still Early Access, though, so there is room yet for some additions like minefields or maybe even planetary weapons platforms to make invaders think twice.

The Gripes

As you progress through the research tree -- something I'll talk about a bit more later on -- you'll unlock a number of modules and weapons upgrades for your fleet, but it all comes down to basic rock/paper/scissors in terms of damage. There really isn't really anything unique about the upgrades that you research; they're essentially lighter weight/higher damage versions of the previous iteration that are slightly more expensive. 

Another gripe that I have involves ship-related combat. So, you roll up on these pleb pirates who have been talking crap about you, trying to extort your space monies with their pathetic insults. You roll up tough -- 10 ships deep (#SquadGoals) -- and then both sides just sit there, shooting at each other... completely still. 

No trying to dodge/strafe/flank, just sitting there static firing and taking hits like were back in the Napoleonic times with fixed bayonets and muzzleloaders. I feel like this would have been a good time to follow suit with Stellaris and have the ships moving, trying to flank and dodge volleys like civilizations evolved enough to be space-faring should be doing. 

Aside from that, let's revisit the tech tree I mentioned above. Currently, the tech tree is a bit on the lackluster side, especially in the areas of war tech. As I stated, weapons and defenses function on something like a rock/paper/scissors system where certain weapons are good/bad against a particular defensive measure. 

The Good

In terms of research and economy, there are a few cool bits of tech that go along with the interesting way that the government is run in the game. As you research some of the areas of the tech tree, you'll unlock Empire Policies. These policies can be used to manipulate different aspects of your society and, depending on what you picked, it shapes your empire's government type. Your government type can help or hurt you based on the council advisers that you picked in the beginning of the game, which adds another layer of depth to the decision-making process. 

One of the coolest aspects of the game is that not every civilization is at the point of being space-faring. During your exploration of the galaxy, you'll stumble upon a number of less advanced races that you can influence and possibly build alliances with -- increasing the strength of your empire by bringing them into the fold. You'll also have to contend with the AI trying to do the same, which can become interesting if you're both trying to convince the same civilization to join your side. 

Graphically, the game is beautiful. The ships look great and the weapons effects are about on par with other games of the genre. I'm running the game on high graphics with solid framerates on my GTX 760, which is over the recommended GTX 660 specs on their steam page. The music is also great, riding that line between relaxing/engaging without feeling overpowering.

TL;DR

Dawn of Andromeda is a great addition to the 4X space strategy genre. It boasts great graphics and enjoyable music as well as gameplay mechanics on par with other games of its kind. There are a number of alien races, victory conditions, and levels of depth to keep you busy for some time.

If this sounds like a game you'd like to play then pick it up on their Steam page currently retailing at $24.99.

Note: A copy of this game was provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.

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