Reviews Category RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Reviews RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network ELEX Review https://www.gameskinny.com/vijf5/elex-review https://www.gameskinny.com/vijf5/elex-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/e/l/e/elex-header-6635f.jpg vijf5/elex-review Wed, 18 Oct 2017 10:57:18 -0400 Kieran Desmond

Up until a week ago, I had never heard of ELEX, and I imagine the same goes for a lot of gamers out there. In a month where some truly huge titles have been dropping left and right, Piranha Bytes’ science-fantasy RPG will likely receive far less attention and appreciation than it deserves. Which is a shame considering how much fun I had during my time with it.

The World of Elex is Vast and Full of Wonder

ELEX is set in the post-apocalyptic world of Magalan. After being struck by a meteor, which devastated the planet, the rare element, Elex, was discovered. Having a diverse array of uses, Elex became highly sought after and divided the people of Magalan into different factions, who disagreed on how this precious new element should be used.

The main story is interesting if not somewhat predictable. You play as Jax, a former Alb Commander, betrayed by your people and left for dead. It’s a familiar tale of revenge, so nothing too special there. But because of your past identity, it makes exploring the rest of the world consistently suspenseful as you never know how people will react to your background. That’s if you choose to tell them, of course.

And as you go about your journey, ELEX's hand-crafted open-world is beautiful and fantastic. You get the sense that Piranha Bytes went over every inch of Magalan with a fine tooth-comb trying to jam pack locations with environmental stories akin to something that you'd see in a Fallout game. And with just a compass and no mini-map to rely on, the exploration feels real and intuitive.

The eponymous element is one of ELEX’s greatest strengths, as is the vast amount of quests that are practically dumped on you by every NPC you can bear to converse with. And as with any story centered around futuristic elements and sci-fi tropes, NPCs are unsurprisingly often pledged to specific factions, adding even more layers to the game. 

Of the four main factions, each represents completely different affiliations and ideals. The antagonistic faction, the Albs, consume Elex, making them stronger but emotionless and myopic. Addicted to the substance, Albs seek to conquer the world to claim all Elex for themselves.

The Beserkers seek to restore the world to its natural green, lush state and reject all technology. They live by a strict set of honor-based rules and represent the fantasy aspects of the game as they prefer to use swords, bows, and magic.

Then there’s the desert-dwelling Outlaws, who look like they've been ripped straight out of Mad Max, studded-leather outfits and all. With little respect for anyone (including each other) the Outlaws hold freedom to do whatever-the-hell-they-want above all else.

Finally, the Clerics are a faction that fully embraces technology, donning Mass Effect-esque suits of armor and wielding laser weapons. They silence all who speak against their god using the Power of Suggestion, which is basically a Jedi mind trick.

This mish-mash of genre tropes is what makes Elex such a compelling world to explore as there’s plenty of ideological conflicts to get involved with, drawing parallels with some hot-button issues in our real-world politics.

You’re only able to join one of the factions, however, which I felt was unnecessarily restrictive due to the handful of abilities locked to each faction. For example, my favorite faction was the Outlaws, but I was shooting myself in the foot by joining them as they have the weakest set of exclusive abilities by far -- no Power of Suggestion or big laser cannons like the Clerics, and no magic like the Beserkers. Sure, you can only modify weapons if you’re an Outlaw, but that pales in comparison to the other factions’ abilities.

It would have been infinitely more interesting if I could have joined one faction, learned some of their skills, and then defected to another. So you can imagine my frustration when I met a character in ELEX who had done just that -- she was raised a Beserker, defected to the Outlaws, and then finally decided to ally with the Clerics. If in the game’s lore it’s possible to switch between factions at least once, then the player should be given the same opportunity. This would give you a rounded set of skills and a chance to be involved with each faction, ultimately making for a more enjoyable experience.

ELEX Isn't an Easy Game, Combat is Difficult to Master, and ... Bugs

I think it’s important that you know how difficult this game is right from the get go. In classic Piranha Bytes fashion, the first few hours of ELEX are going to be rough. Even the weakest mutated rats will relentlessly destroy you (and your soul) if you give them the chance. And enemies with skull icons next to their health bars? Forget about it. Do yourself a favor and run.

The combat consists of heavy, light, and special attacks and is difficult to master due to its stamina based system similar to Dark Souls. Some hit detection issues, which see you taking damage even when it’s clear that the enemy made no contact with you, impact the flow of combat and cheapens some undeserved deaths.

The game also has several annoying bugs that, although will most likely be fixed via future patches, are worth mentioning. An unsheddable hobgoblin is the falling animation, which is very temperamental. Sometimes you'll be falling from a great height while Jax is just casually standing upright, which is frustrating if you don't know how far you're falling from. 

The companions that you can recruit to fight beside you, (who are incredibly useful most of the time) sometimes won’t defend you from attacking enemies. They just hang around like nothing’s happening until you attack an enemy, at which point they stop daydreaming and jump into action. Again, this is all small stuff compared to what ELEX does right, but it did affect my perception of the overall game. 

Verdict

Overall, ELEX is a fun, engrossing experience. And like with almost any game, it has its issues -- some that keep it from being truly great. From voice acting that feels forced at times to the inability to change factions and a few wonky bugs, ELEX has a few blemishes. But those are blemishes that can be overlooked. 

The game world is engrossing and the combat is fun overall despite a few hiccups. And did I mention you get a jetpack? Adding verticality to the game, the jetpack makes exploring ELEX a blast -- and nailing awesome landings after jumping off tall mountain peaks never gets old. 

I was very impressed by ELEX and I'm glad I didn't take the game at face value. If you're willing to put in the few hours it takes to figure out why ELEX is so great, then you'll be rewarded with an awesome and memorable experience -- especially if you’re an RPG fan. You'd be doing yourself a huge disservice if you don’t at least give ELEX a chance -- purely because of the vast and hugely interesting world that the team behind Gothic and Risen have created.

You can purchase ELEX on Amazon

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

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FAITH Review -- A Deceivingly Simple Horror Game https://www.gameskinny.com/uryqu/faith-review-a-deceivingly-simple-horror-game https://www.gameskinny.com/uryqu/faith-review-a-deceivingly-simple-horror-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/13f9b0515e87c724cbe45e8d21eba703.jpg uryqu/faith-review-a-deceivingly-simple-horror-game Wed, 18 Oct 2017 09:24:05 -0400 spacechaser

When I first started playing FAITH, I couldn’t understand what it was that made the game so unsettling. The somber music and garbled text-to-speech voices were definitely part of it, but those, of course, are things I'd seen before in other horror games. So what was it that kept my eyes on the screen, unable to look away?

Well, a good many things.

In FAITH, you play as a priest who returns to the house where, a year earlier, an exorcism went terribly wrong. It’s up to you to restore the woods surrounding the house to its peaceful state -- and finish what you started. It's an unsettling experience that stays under your skin for hours after you've finished. 

At its core, FAITH is a pixel-art horror game produced by Airdorf Games, and it's terrifying despite its appearance. In a time where most horror games aim for realistic graphics that surprise you with jump-scares, FAITH's Atari-era inspired gameplay is a breath of fresh air.

Its limited gameplay mechanics add a feeling of helplessness to everything you do, something that’s difficult to recreate in modern horror games. There's no sprinting or running in this game, and there's no way to hide from the horrors chasing you. With a cross as your only weapon, you must navigate the map at a snail's pace, looking for clues to aid you in piecing the story together.

While wandering the woods on my hero's errand, I was continuously nervous, on the lookout for my dastardly pursuer, one that could appear at any moment, from any direction. And to ramp things up, the feeling got worse when I'd near the edge of the screen (just when I thought I'd made it out alive) because that's when the fiend would be at its worst. 

Things were made more stressful by the game's simple pixel style, which often resulted in an interesting -- and possibly frustrating? -- difficulty curve. I found myself walking up to anything that caught my eye and holding my cross up to it, hoping it would have some kind of effect, all with mixed results. Luckily, once you actually enter the house, items of note are highlighted in a different color, making them easy to distinguish from uninteresting scenery.

The developer breaks up the monotony with striking and disturbing rotoscoped cutscenes, which, after playing in a bright pixel landscape for an hour, are extremely jarring. This realism is different from the photorealism used in AAA titles nowadays: what makes it so striking is the contrast between it and the rest of the game's style, not the actual quality of the graphics themselves.

Overall, the entire FAITH experience is only two hours long, but it leaves a lasting impression. There are five possible endings, each spinning a new light on the situation at hand. Some make you question the main character's motivations and choices, some leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, but only one is the true ending. Each gives you more insight into the story, and the developer leaves it up to the player to decide for themselves what the truth is.

As someone who considers horror games to not really be their cup of tea, FAITH left me pleasantly surprised. If you’re looking for something to scratch that horror itch this Halloween season, FAITH is a must. Alfred Hitchcock once said, "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it," a concept FAITH absolutely nails. Its genuinely creepy atmosphere and engaging plot will leave you wanting more.

You can purchase FAITH here!

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Vive Le Roi Review - Maybe The King Isn't Worth Saving https://www.gameskinny.com/thmx7/vive-le-roi-review-maybe-the-king-isnt-worth-saving https://www.gameskinny.com/thmx7/vive-le-roi-review-maybe-the-king-isnt-worth-saving https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/v/i/v/vive-roi-4af1b.jpg thmx7/vive-le-roi-review-maybe-the-king-isnt-worth-saving Tue, 17 Oct 2017 17:59:16 -0400 Wizard of Warsaw

In Vive le Roi, you are tasked with saving King Louis XVI. You do this by working your way through each level undetected in what would perhaps be best described as a stealth puzzle game. The game consists of 30 unique levels, each being its own puzzle, where everything in the foreground is merely a silhouette. It's got the quirky charm and unique premise that we've come to expect from indie titles, but sadly that's not enough to get it across the finish line.

Puzzles 

Any puzzle game lives and dies based off of the quality of its puzzles, and Vive Le Roi is no exception. While there are a lot of good puzzles, especially early on, as the game progresses they tend to become frustrating because they require flawless timing. Since there is so little room for error and the game relies entirely on mouse clicks, which feels unresponsive, I found myself thinking I had the wrong solution to a puzzle rather than merely mistiming my movements. On multiple occasions, I was able to understand how a puzzle was meant to be solved, but I still ended up failing because I waited a second too long to start moving.

One of the game's strong suits is its variety of tools present in puzzles, from fireworks to barrels all of them provide new elements to utilize in the subsequent puzzles. Sadly, while the additional tools are interesting at first, the game never really progresses in terms of the puzzles' complexity. Instead, the game sticks firmly to the reliance on timing rather than interaction, which -- as I already mentioned -- this is not its strong suit. Additionally, the new items are sometimes hard to notice at first, since the minimalist silhouette-based art style doesn't draw much attention to interactable objects. 

None of this is assisted by a lack of replayability. In fact, the only reason to replay the game would be to earn a higher rating, which doesn't seem to have any real value other than completion. 

Art Style 

The art is one of the best parts of this game. The cartoonish silhouettes for the characters and environments give the game a comical feel. It's a nice use of minimal art that still provides most of the necessary information to play. The only major blunder in this department is that it was common to run into situations where I wasn't aware of how objects worked which caused me to restart a number of levels. 

Vive Le Roi is ultimately a mixed bag. I enjoyed my time with the title; the puzzles were generally satisfying and the game had a charming art style. But with it sitting at $3.99 on Steam ($2.99 on Android and iOS), while only offering 30 puzzles -- with many of the later being unnecessarily tedious -- and no replayability, I find it hard to recommend unless it's on sale. As a free flash game, it'd be a short yet enjoyable experience, but as an actual purchase, it's a little underwhelming.

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South Park: The Fractured But Whole Review (Spoiler-free) https://www.gameskinny.com/wzr0j/south-park-the-fractured-but-whole-review-spoiler-free https://www.gameskinny.com/wzr0j/south-park-the-fractured-but-whole-review-spoiler-free 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/d/red-wine-drunk-randy-969c8.png wzr0j/south-park-the-fractured-but-whole-review-spoiler-free Tue, 17 Oct 2017 12:06:10 -0400 Ashley Gill

To say South Park: The Stick of Truth surpassed almost all of my expectations is an understatement -- The Stick of Truth was one of my favorite games of 2014 thanks to its nearly- perfect TV-to-game transition and how closely its humor was tied to the show's apologetically crass early years.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole puts on the big shoes The Stick of Truth left behind and wears them pretty competently, but don't come into this game looking for the same experience. It's its own thing.

This time around, the game continues from where last week's episode left off, with the boys' superhero league, Coon and Friends, getting broken apart due to Cartman's uneven franchise plan. Because, you know, why become a superhero if you don't get to be a main part of the franchise? I highly recommend watching season 21 episode 4 on the official South Park website before diving into The Fractured But Whole.

Watching the above episode alone should fill you on the type of humor you're going to encounter here. The Fractured But Whole's satire and irreverence is closer to the show's more recent episodes -- albeit a little toned down -- than its predecessor. Despite this, much of the game should be fairly familiar to those who played The Stick of Truth. South Park itself hasn't changed all that much between the two games, so it makes sense that the humor in The Fractured But Whole wouldn't change extensively either. 

As the player takes the role of the new kid in town, you get a fresh start in Coon and Friends. This means you get to choose your own starting class from the three available options. Each plays very differently from the last, but don't stress about your choice at the outset: Cartman will allow you to change your class if you ask. Later in the game, you're given further class options, allowing you to mix and match your abilities to come up with a combination that suits your playstyle.

While flexible via class combinations and pseudo-equipment called Artifacts and DNA, the game is not very difficult. Most players will have an easy enough time directing the new kid along with Coon and Friends in combat.

Unlike the traditional turn-based combat in The Stick of Truth, combat in The Fractured But Whole is instead more akin to tactical RPGs. You have to navigate the battlefield to position your party (or your enemies) for success. In addition, each ability you use requires some Paper Mario-style inputs to make the most of them -- but thankfully, messing them up won't penalize you.

Certain boss fights break the mold of the rest of the game's combat, making players fight against a real-time clock in an otherwise turn-based battle system. These fights are frustrating and push the player to make hasty and rash decisions just to get a turn in before the boss interjects. I can certainly say it adds some much-needed tension to the encounters these bosses are featured in.

But one thing to note that many players will surely remember from Stick of Truth is the game's perhaps over-reliance on status effects. Stacking bleed and grossing enemies out was pretty much the best way to play the game, even more so on its hardest difficulty. This is not the case here in Fractured. Status effects are definitely more balanced, for better or for worse. Bleed spamming was pretty great...

The map is almost the same, combat is different, but what about everything else?

Exploration in South Park: The Fractured But Whole is almost identical to that of The Stick of Truth, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. Exploring the town of South Park and "helping" the townsfolk was one of the best things about the first game, and it continues to shine here. As before, you feel like you're inside the show.

There is far more side content here than in Stick of Truth, too. One second you're finding Jimbo's wallet to get him to take a selfie with you and the next you're trying to master pooping in the women's toilet in the police station for completion's sake.

As you progress in the story, you unlock both new places to explore and new abilities to make you an even better crime fighter -- you know, to make it into the franchise plan. But it does keep the gameplay fresh and interesting. 

Each inch of increased capability feels worth it and, despite most of what you take on being easy, feels earned. Even if you're just finding a powerful dildo artifact in a bathtub or are simply being pushed along by the story, everything has a sense of pride attached to it. In other words, you did it, new kid!

In addition to all of the above are minigames, which range from frustrating to pretty fun -- and each of them provides a wealth of customization options for your character, adding a sense of depth to the Fractured. Really, what more could you want from a South Park game?

The Verdict

Essentially, South Park: The Fractured But Whole is a worthy successor to 2014's The Stick of Truth, but it's not perfect.

The game's crafting system feels tacked on and ultimately unrewarding. Most of what you craft boils down to consumables and costume items, though the Artifacts are certainly welcome.

You get all these referential items while digging through people's drawers and trash, but they all culminate to be generic crafting items in action. You see the item name when you pick it up, then it's chucked into the stack of generic crafting items. The reference is fleeting and disappointing, sort of like the overall crafting system.

In addition to the above, something feels a bit off. While The Stick of Truth was completely in your face with every disgusting aspect of South Park, The Fractured But Whole feels a little safer.

This may be a reflection of how the show has changed over the years (with one of the big draws to the first game being its similarities to the show's earlier seasons) but answer me this: How does a South Park game have a pooping minigame where the poop is represented as blue instead of brown considering the overall content of the show? I think our answer lies in some sites dedicating such large portions of their reviews to how offensive The Fractured But Whole's humor is. Way to waste their time and the time of their readers by complaining about offensive jokes in a South Park game. High five, guys.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole does a fantastic job of filling the shoes of its predecessor. As with The Stick of Truth, you're tossed right into a scenario that fits perfectly within the South Park universe and it eases you into its intricacies like a sociopathic chunky kid with a complex franchise plan. It's not perfect, but if you enjoy the show you simply should play The Fractured But Whole. Just don't get too sad over the lack of bleed spam.

(Note: A review copy of the Fractured But Whole was provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.)

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Holobunnies: Pause Cafe Review -- A Blase Set of Minigames https://www.gameskinny.com/rzczh/holobunnies-pause-cafe-review-a-blase-set-of-minigames https://www.gameskinny.com/rzczh/holobunnies-pause-cafe-review-a-blase-set-of-minigames 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-55c29.jpg rzczh/holobunnies-pause-cafe-review-a-blase-set-of-minigames Mon, 16 Oct 2017 14:14:06 -0400 Angelina Bonilla

It’s always interesting to see the development of a project prior to a game’s release, especially for a game like HoloBunnies: Pause Cafe. But this particular game has been in development for quite some time, being funded on Kickstarter just a few years ago. Honestly, I was starting to give up all hope that it was going to be released, figuring it was a game that had just fallen by the wayside like so many others.

However, Q-Bit Studios, the developers of HoloBunnies, went a different route than what was initially stated on their Kickstarter. Originally, the game had been a sort of metroidvania platformer, and while this game is still coming out, the developers decided that they’d release something to tide fans over in the interim -- a handful of minigames given the subtitle of Pause Cafe.

Is this game enough to satisfy the backers until the Kickstarter game's release in 2018?

Your mileage may vary on that.

We are given three different mini-games in Pause Cafe: an endless runner, a boss rush, and a brawler. All of these try to be distinctive while remaining familiar to those who play games in those genres. The pixel art graphics are cute and fun, while the music is cheerful as well as catchy. And yet... something about it feels like you’re waiting in an elevator that will never get to its destination. Sure it smells nice, has a mahogany wood finish and plays elegantly composed

Sure it smells nice, has a mahogany wood finish, and plays elegantly-composed waiting music, but is it worth being stuck in there knowing the real deal is just a floor away?  You start out in the titular cafe itself, where you can talk to the other Bunnies who seem to be tired from an unseen adventure. That's great and all, but wouldn’t you have rather actually gone on the adventure? If your answer is yes, me too.

You start out in the titular cafe itself, where you can talk to the other Bunnies who seem to be tired from an unseen adventure. That's great and all, but wouldn’t you have rather actually gone on the adventure? If your answer is yes, you're not alone.


In the endless runner mode, you play as this strange little creature that seemingly doesn’t have anything to do with the HoloBunnies. You need to time your jumps perfectly and occasionally save the creatures that pop up during your run cycle. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The Brawler mode is essentially an out-and-out melee with the other bunnies, each having their own distinctive abilities that are very unique and creative. Their attacks range from magical to musical, with each character feeling and playing different from the other, despite the fact that they’re all bunnies. The brawls can be fast paced and vicious or slow and methodical depending on the character you choose and your personal playstyle, which is nice. It shows the potential this game had as an action platformer.

Lastly, there’s the boss rush, which puts your skills to the test, making you learn each individual bunny's playstyle and test it against their natural match when it comes to the boss fights. Each bunny is paired with the bosses splendidly, and it gives us a chance to see their abilities in action. 

For example, Danielle’s healing counters the massive amounts of damage you take from the Shepherd of Fire and Mephisto’s dodging ability negates the onslaught of otherwise unavoidable icicles that rain down from the ceiling in Kurglabos’ boss fight. The characters and their respective bosses work organically to create exciting boss fights, making you itch for more, but all you can do is try to defeat the bosses in a shorter amount of time, rather than progressing to a new set of boss creatures or something of that nature. It’s a nice promise of things to come, but is limited for now.

Unfortunately, I find myself wanting more from these developers, and not in a good way. This delivery, while solid in many areas, is also lackluster in others. You can tell it was gutted from the original project in order to quell the masses who supported this game on Kickstarter, rather than bridging the gap between the two games. I could very well be acting too cynical here because I did have fun with the game, but it just doesn't feel like enough.

More mini games, more challenges, progressively harder difficulties, variations in boss tactics, and more could have been added. It’s like I went to the store to buy Oreo cookies and the only pack they had left was the one that’s been on the shelf since 2005. I know the developers are planning on adding more content, which is great given the current price tag, but in many ways, the game is a shell of what it could have been. And if there’s one thing that makes me sad is lost potential.

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The Evil Within 2 Review: Bringing Back Classic Survival Horror https://www.gameskinny.com/li9dm/the-evil-within-2-review-bringing-back-classic-survival-horror https://www.gameskinny.com/li9dm/the-evil-within-2-review-bringing-back-classic-survival-horror https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/4/5/9/459e291db6845d.jpg li9dm/the-evil-within-2-review-bringing-back-classic-survival-horror Sun, 15 Oct 2017 14:51:03 -0400 Ty Arthur

It's been an odd, if mostly satisfying year for horror video games, with several franchises swapping styles entirely or just offering up unexpected changes.

Strangely, while Resident Evil 7 gave us a first-person horror experience in the vein of Outlast earlier this year, it's actually The Evil Within 2 that is taking the role of the archetypal Resident Evil survival horror game.

If you missed the RE of old or just want an all-around solid experience that makes you think of those glory days of console horror games, The Evil Within 2 doesn't disappoint, and it draws liberally from the best franchises out there.

 Nope, that's not creepy at all, not one bit.

Colliding Horror Styles

This game is just absolutely dripping with classic RE tropes, like resource management, zombies overrunning a small town, and healing items derived from herbs and green goo culled from monsters.

Unlike the first game, though, there is a serious dash of Silent Hill going on here. The similarities are just too huge to miss, with the main character a dad searching for his lost child in a small isolated town (where the highway has mysteriously broken off into a cliffside) and strange monsters roaming around. 

As with the first game, the genre and style mashups continue in multiple directions, showing clear nods to other horror games and movies. The character designs and some of the crafting aspects (oddly enough) bring to mind Dead Rising. Don't get me wrong: this isn't ludicrous horror comedy. But there is very much an overall Capcom-y feel to  the game -- even how some of the dialog comes off while a town is being covered by zombies.

 Where's Frank West when you need him?

After the first game's ending, the cat might be out of the bag at this point (spoiler). But even though the game's horrors are in a digitally created world rather than real life, that doesn't stop the terrifying events from being scary --especially when Sebastian heads back into the STEM.

That's because The Evil Within 2 makes excellent use of lighting, sound, unsettling environments, and monstrous creatures to bring the scares. My poor son was holding onto the bottom of the entertainment center when I started the game, getting closer and closer to the TV as I played, and he screamed and fell backwards when several moments of silence were shattered by a telephone ringing out of nowhere in the game. I would have laughed, but I was pretty creeped out too.

Besides the zombies with writhing tentacles in their heads, the big bads and bosses are pretty inspired, and you will legitimately want to run full speed away from them, rather than standing and trying to gun them down. Don't be a hero, because heroes die in Union!

 There are a trio of screaming little girl heads under all that hair, and all three of 'em really wanna slice me up with that giant saw arm

Stealth Meets Action Gameplay

The game is mostly stealth focused, with Sebastian trying to avoid monsters or angling to take them out from behind without being seen. This is a much more satisfying experience in the sequel than its predecessor because the environments tend to be more open and less constrained.

While the big bads frequently can't be killed right away, the random roaming zombies and other various unpleasant creatures can be taken down with weapons. In the beginning, this is sort of a last resort (since gunshots will just draw more of them than you can handle), but over time, it can be fun to shotgun your way through a mini-horde of creatures.

I had a rather hilarious first hour trying to master this system after having just come off a solid week of playing Shadow Of War non-stop. Still in stealthy Talion mode, I kept trying to sprint while sneaking and switch into the wraith world to see the enemies better. Needless to say, things didn't go well for me at first.

But once you get it down, the mashup of stealth and action is a pleasure to play, and doubly so because the levels are less restricted than the previous game, with fewer of those tight corridors where you have to find just the right path to escape unnoticed.

There's also more to do this time around, with side quests to undertake as you follow the ping of the communicator and explore the false world of Union.

 Can't say I share the sentiment...

A revamped upgrade and crafting system is now split between in-the-field crafting and using work benches in safe houses, and it works really well. The system add tension to the game as you have to avoid large groups of enemies to pick up components for needed ammo, health items, and upgrade parts.

The digital city of Union finds plenty of interesting ways to utilize game mechanics that feel like they belong there. For instance, you can heal Sebastian by drinking a pot of coffee at the safe house, but that doesn't make it a one-stop healing shop where you can behave dangerously and then run right back to get patched up. The coffee takes time to brew, so you can only heal every so often.

All the while, there will be hordes of zombified, insectoid, acid-spewing, tentacled things ready and waiting to tear you apart. 

 Yeah, we're gonna have to double tap these zombies.
The first shot to the head just pisses 'em off.

The Bottom Line

Although an improved experience over the first game, there are a few parts where the story or action drag during The Evil Within 2, and sometimes Sebastian's responses don't really seem to fit (why is he questioning anything or behaving like a clueless horror movie hero at this point, having already done this all once before?).

My only other real complaint is that the camera is a little wonky, and I actually have to stand farther away from the TV than normal while playing this game. I found that the way the camera swivels when Sebastian turns around, in particular, makes me feel nauseous if I'm not at least eight feet away or so,

Other than those issues, I really enjoyed The Evil Within 2 -- even more than the previous game, with needed additions and expansions thrown in to improve the experience.

Things get appropriately weird and horrific as Union breaks down and falls apart, and there is some truly messed up stuff going on in this game, which is a positive as far as I'm concerned. It was beyond time we got a true Resident Evil/Silent Hill successor, and The Evil Within 2 more than fits the bill.

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Shadow Of War Review: Bigger Isn't Always Better https://www.gameskinny.com/d9278/shadow-of-war-review-bigger-isnt-always-better https://www.gameskinny.com/d9278/shadow-of-war-review-bigger-isnt-always-better 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/cov91-a778f.jpg d9278/shadow-of-war-review-bigger-isnt-always-better Fri, 13 Oct 2017 17:08:30 -0400 Ty Arthur

Shadow Of Mordor is probably still the best all-around title to have been released on the Xbox One in the console's lifecycle so far. There's a reason why it nabbed so many "game of the year" nods and is still played by legions of fans to this day. With Shadow Of War, we return again to the boundary between Mordor and Gondor as Talion fights to repel the orc hordes from the world of men.

Hype was obviously high for the sequel, and that wait became unbearable when the summer release date was suddenly nixed and pushed back to October. I'm supposed to be playing horror games all month long, not lopping the heads off orcs while chasing the speech-impaired Gollum around!

But now that we're finally able to return to this version of Middle-Earth, fans of the previous entry will be right at home with the incredibly-similar gameplay. Of course the developers have again played it fast and loose with the Tolkien universe (even more so this time in fact), which will annoy the lore-purity nerds, but it's safe to say most won't care and are just going in for the gameplay.

It's a good thing we've got that solid base gameplay, too, because the story isn't quite as gripping this time around, and in some parts, it is actually sort of ridiculous. I was dismayed to discover I'd gone through the entire first game to (spoilers) finally forge a new ring of power... and then Talion immediately gives the ring to spidery seductress Shelob? I guess he's not a character renowned for his wise decision making, but come on, man. 

Don't worry about the story too much, though, because it's just window dressing for the real goods -- namely annihilating orcs and forging your own army to battle the Dark Lord's forces!

Seems like the sort of person I'd want to loan my magic ring to, obviously.

An Orc A Day Keeps The Dark Lord At Bay

On the gameplay front, there are a whole lot of familiar quest types on display, along with some new ones. Where Shadow Of War really shines is in its primary foe, however: the endless legions of orcs.

While the variety of orcs, captains, and war chiefs from the first game was awe-inspiring, here it's reached utterly insane levels. I don't think you could ever run out of unique new captains to square off against, all with updated strengths and weakness beyond what was seen in the first game -- in addition to whole new types of orcs to battle against.

Beyond just extra individual units, now there are entire new tribes of orcs with different foci, from the mechanical and fire-focused Machine tribe to hunters who will drop traps and use smoke bombs.

While you are killing somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 billion orcs, there's also loads more side missions to complete than before. Honestly, it might be too much, as the region maps get cluttered in an ever-expanding flood of new icons to check out.

You can open ancient Ithildin doors by finding ancient Elven words, locate memories to find out why Shelob became the way she currently is, try out online Vendetta missions to take out tough captains who killed other players, pit your orcs against each other in arena pit matches, and much, much more.

 Yep, that dude has an axe sticking out of his head. Cool hat bro!

Better... Or Just Bigger?

While playing through for the first few hours, I was struck by how much Shadow Of War suffers from Far Cry 4 syndrome. The glory of Far Cry 3 was progressing through all of those cool skills that let you kill enemies in new ways, unlocking new crafting options, slowly opening the map by climbing towers, and so on. When the follow-up game started you off with nearly everything from the beginning and just gave you a bigger map to play with, the main focus of the fun was lost.

That's very true here with Shadows Of War, which immediately throws you in the deep end in a sea of thousands of orcs while many of the abilities from the previous game are already available. It's bigger -- there's no question of that -- but in some aspects, it's not better.

The magic is lost a little when you don't really have to work for it at all. More of everything also means more repetition, and there does reach a point where all the endless orc slaughtering and identical quests wear out their collective welcome. The gigantic map can be smothering, rather than being something you want to eagerly explore.

On the opposite side of that, the war trolls, spiders, and drakes show that some of the bigger things, in fact, are better -- or at least bring in a different element to the game to keep the experience fresh.

 The bigger they are, the harder they fall!

Changing The Way You Wage War

Taking control of whole armies and the gigantic siege battles are where the biggest changes come into the series (along with the fact that you can now tame and fly fire-breathing drakes).

This is really the part where the sequel departs from its predecessor and actually takes things to the next level -- instead of just rehashing more of the same. You will experience nail-biting waves of this new siege warfare, between the main campaign and the insane back and forth siege grind that is Shadow of War's post-game. 

Beyond that welcome upgrade, some of the changes in Shadow Of War feel rather out of place, but thankfully, they are far less intrusive than the angry Reddit legions and outraged Facebook keyboard warriors would have you believe.

Of course, the loot chests have to be mentioned. They don't match the feel of a Middle-Earth game at all. I don't know how publishers keep convincing developers to implement these, but it is what it is and they probably aren't going away. Thankfully, they are completely avoidable. You could play the whole game and never need to buy a single loot chest. I know because I did.

From there, we've also got some ARPG elements added in this time around, like item upgrades and gems, along with random drop legendary sets that beef up as you gain more pieces from each set.

 Gotta keep those weapons upgraded!

The Bottom Line

Although I've focused on a lot of Shadow of War's negatives, that's mostly just because they stand out against how strong the game's positives remain. The large-scale one-versus-many combat is just as much of a pleasure now as it was before, and in fact, probably more so with some of the new Shadow Of War additions.

There are now even more options for destroying a horde or tackling a difficult captain, like poisoning, freezing, and lighting orcs on fire in completely different ways. Honestly, it's kind of annoying that the Shadow Of Mordor/Shadow of War Nemesis system didn't ever make it into other games, because this feels like it should (definitely) be utilized in other settings.

Although the story as a whole has ups and downs, I'm also glad they decided to provide a definitive conclusion to Talion's saga if you grind your way through to the secret true ending after 10 stages of increasingly-difficult battles. The book is pretty well closed on Talion and Celbrimbror, as the story goes full circle, dovetailing into the start of The Fellowship Of The Ring and then jumping through the end of Return Of The King. At least now we know that something different will have to happen if there's ever a third game.

While not as groundbreaking or genre-changing as its predecessor, Shadow Of War is still very much worth your time if you loved the previous game, or even if you are new to the franchise and just want to see what all the fuss is about.

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Ready to find out how the Ranger and his wraith companion fully fit into the Lord Of The Rings mythology? Dive into our Shadow Of War guides here and have fun annihilating endless orc hordes!

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Holy Potatoes! What the Hell?! Review: Sinner Chef Tycoon https://www.gameskinny.com/a1709/holy-potatoes-what-the-hell-review-sinner-chef-tycoon https://www.gameskinny.com/a1709/holy-potatoes-what-the-hell-review-sinner-chef-tycoon 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/l/holy-potatoes-what-hell-banner-ca822.png a1709/holy-potatoes-what-the-hell-review-sinner-chef-tycoon Fri, 13 Oct 2017 10:00:01 -0400 Greyson Ditzler (PurplePocketPirate)

Holy Potatoes! What the Hell?! is the third installment in the Holy Potatoes! series of simulation games developed by Daylight Studios. All the games made so far under the Holy Potatoes! name have been simulation games, but all are simulations of a different kind with unconnected plot-lines. The series only shares the simple and cutesy potato-aesthetic and a sense of humor loaded with pop-culture references and puns.

The first game, Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?!, was a business simulator that had players forging hundreds of different weapons in a fantasy setting. The second game, Holy Potatoes! We're in Space?!, was a space adventure roguelite where players had to manage a spaceship. And Holy Potatoes! What the Hell?! is a restaurant management game that happens to take place across the nine circles of Hell. 

You play as a team of chefs who have lost their memories upon entering the unsavory afterlife and must appease the gods with food made from legions of potato sinners in order to earn your freedom and gain entrance to Heaven.

But is Holy Potatoes! What the Hell?! as good (and quirky) as its premise promises? 

Gameplay Predicated By A Pun About Potatoes

Simulation games come in all shapes and sizes, from The Sims to Roller Coaster Tycoon and even Stardew Valley. But for the most part, they share one major element of core gameplay -- and that is the diligent balance of managing time and resources while slowly improving your tool set . Holy Potatoes! What the Hell?! is no different. The game has you using a series of specialized cooking stations that you slowly upgrade from stage-to-stage to process waves of potato sinners, all in the effort to turn them into various ingredients to use in a variety of starchy dishes. 

Every sinner has four stats: Malice, Pride, Greed, and Apathy. And you sort them each into one of your various cooking stations depending on which of their stats is the highest or what ingredient you need the most. You must use these ingredients in order to craft various dishes in accordance with the tastes and temperaments of the numerous gods who drop by at lunch and dinner.

The start of a new round of orders in the middle of the lunch rush.

Every day of gameplay is divided into different sections, and each day always starts with brief prep time (in order to make some ingredients to start with). You'll also have time to upgrade or replace your equipment before the rush begins if you happen to have enough favor from the gods lying around. 

While favor is what you use to buy upgrades in the levels themselves, between those levels you have the chance to spend the game's other currency, $tarch (yes, $tarch), at a shop screen where you can buy minor cosmetic elements, as well as one-time use performance-boosting items.

These items can range from toppings that increase the overall grade of a meal in a pinch to enhancements for your cooking stations that make them temporarily faster. These items are priced depending on their usefulness, with large price gaps between the basic and advanced versions of each power-up. This makes for good balance as you try your best to smartly work to not have to rely on the very expensive items if you can help it.

   This mysterious Ned-Flanders-looking spud's got the goods.

On occasion, you also have to deal with the odd random event involving an incoming sinner. You'll have to decide whether or not it would be smart or not to bring them into your kitchen as hired help rather than additional rations. Your choice matters, too. You'll also have the chance in these situations of gaining temporary bonus effects, negative effects, or nothing at all based on your judgment call.

These effects can be fairly unpredictable because sometimes a shady backstory can result in a quality employee and vice versa, which is interesting but also seems a smidgen imbalanced due to their lack of consistency. But seeing how the negative effects and the positive effects both only last a short time, and there's still a chance that nothing will happen at all, it all seems to even out.

So all in all, the gameplay for Holy Potatoes! What the Hell?! is solid, if unadventurous. You do slowly gain more mechanics as the levels go on, such as the ability to convert any dish into an alcoholic beverage (useful for keeping your patrons patient), as well as generating spices and seasonings on top of regular ingredients. But for the most part, the gameplay stays the same throughout the game. You're cooking using the same ingredients and the same skill-set that you start the game with from start to finish. 

This isn't really a bad thing, as the gameplay is competently designed and adds enough complexity with each stage to change things up and gradually increase difficulty. But if you aren't taken in by it after about an hour or so, then likely won't enjoy the rest of the experience.  

The overall pacing of the game is generally good -- barring the slow start. The game never really reached a fevered pitch like some other simulators, but when I had to keep track of multiple orders at once, keep all my machines up-to-date and functioning, and the sinners were coming in quickly with some good quips to match, it all came together and I was having a good time.

Holy Presentation! What's the Deal?!

The presentation of What the Hell?! is mixed. This is the first game in the Holy Potatoes! series to take place mostly in 3D, and although I think that the jump worked ok, it could have been smoother. The graphics look good for what they are, and the artstyle of the series adapted to 3D better than some have. But I kept getting distracted by how the basic shading and slightly lumpy 3D models looked, reminding me of CD-ROM games I used to pick up at Scholastic book fairs or from second-party GameCube and PS2 games.  

A typical between-chapter story segment cutscene.

The game runs perfectly fine, and I'm not trying to say it looks bad at all because I found the aesthetic fairly pleasant, but the simple and repetitive screen layouts from chapter-to-chapter, the occasionally lumpy models, and the simple textures are noticeable enough to mention. 

I can't say for certain, but the fact that the last game Holy Potatoes! We're in Space?! came out two years after the first game but within the same year as this one, and taking into mind the perfectly acceptable but still fairly basic presentation and gameplay, I get the impression that this game might not have spent too long in development. It doesn't feel slapped together or cheaply made, but I would say that it feels cost-effectively made; each new environment is more-or-less just a new background that doesn't affect the gameplay, and most of the models for the numerous sinners could have easily been randomly generated.  

As for the game's writing, the comedy here is heavily reliant on dark humor, wordplay, and pop-culture references above all else. I don't have anything against these things as staples of comedy, but it just never quite hit me here. The pop-culture references are mostly done for the sake of connecting the game to other works of media, though some are somewhat jovial, and the dark humor gets it's darkest at the start when you realize your processing and serving people to a bunch of gods at a popular underworld restaurant. The randomly generated dialogue for all the sinners is what managed to get the most laughs out of me. Some of my highlights include "I kidnapped a stranger! Because I wanted to be famous!" and "I spanked my husband! The voices in my head told me to!". 

Finally, the story has some light intrigue from the start and, as a framing device for such a fun premise, works pretty well. I wouldn't call the story deep or the characters particularly captivating, but all in all the narrative worked for the story it was trying to tell.

In Punclusion

I'd recommend Holy Potatoes! What the Hell?! to people looking for a decent simulation game -- but only as a casual recommendation. It starts slow and its repetitive core game design doesn't do full justice to the admittedly clever premise. It's a game that doesn't do anything particularly poorly, but it's also a game that doesn't do anything exceptionally well, either. In the end, it's mostly held up by its somewhat unique identity and competent gameplay.

But disregarding the few flaws that stick to it, Holy Potatoes! What the Hell?! is a slightly above-average simulation game with basic gameplay done well, a charming if unimpressive presentation, and a distinct style and personality to back it up. On a scale between stale tater tots to garlic mashed potatoes, I give it an au gratin.  

Holy Potatoes! What the Hell?! is available now on Steam, and there is a free demo available for download if you'd like to try it before you buy. You can watch a trailer for the game below:

[Note: Review copy provided by Daedalic Entertainment GmbH]

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SiNKR Review: A Soothing, Minimalist Puzzle Experience https://www.gameskinny.com/pml9a/sinkr-review-a-soothing-minimalist-puzzle-experience https://www.gameskinny.com/pml9a/sinkr-review-a-soothing-minimalist-puzzle-experience 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/p/capsule640x360-cdb34.png pml9a/sinkr-review-a-soothing-minimalist-puzzle-experience Thu, 12 Oct 2017 13:32:58 -0400 Kat De Shields

I'm the kind of person who likes to end the day with a glass of wine and a good puzzle game before bed. Whether it's The Room series, Monument Valley, or Back to Bed, I enjoy puzzle games where I can move at my own pace and contains the pick-up-and-go quality needed to keep me coming back level after level. I knew I discovered a new, favorite nighttime puzzle game when I came across SiNKR at TERMINUS, Atlanta. 

Developed by Robert Wahler, SiNKR is a minimalist puzzle game where you use hooks, pucks, and other contraptions to clean up each level.  Accolades for the title include being voted Fan Favorite at SIEGE Con Atlanta, the Megashow Selection at Indie Mega Booth, and Indie Selection at Dreamhack, Atlanta. Though the game doesn't revolutionize the puzzle genre, it offers plenty of things to enjoy across its 60 levels. 

Hook, Line, and SiNKR

The core mechanics of the game are simple: guide pucks to their designated place using hooks and hexagons to gently drag them home. Apart from the title screen, there are no words or tutorials. Players have to jump in and start figuring things out on their own. 

As difficulty progresses, elements like hooks capable of changing orientation (and linking together), square pucks, teleporters, and launch pads are thrown into the mix. The learning curve is perfectly paced, and all levels are handcrafted. By the time you become comfortable navigating one mechanic, another is soon added for you to conquer. 

No lie -- later puzzles look overwhelming with all the contraptions and paths on the screen. Sequencing is critical, and it pays to take a moment to visualize paths before you start reeling those pucks to their designated slots. Trial and error is a large part of SiNKR. If you mess up, just tap the reset button in the lower, right-hand corner. No fuss, no worries. The satisfaction of completing a level and progressing forward is worth the effort. 

The grid on the screen definitely comes in handy.
 

Simple Sounds by Design 

There are a few things that stand out about SiNKR — the main point being just how relaxing it is. A large part of this is due to the game's ambient soundtrack — developed enough to be present but not so complex as to be distracting. It seamlessly follows you as you progress through the levels. Its repetitive nature may annoy some, but for puzzle fans where concentration is key, SiNKR offers a soothing track that encourages thinking and relaxation. 

As an added bonus, the soundtrack is also responsive. Your actions are accompanied by piano samples that further create a relaxing atmosphere for the game. With no scores, timers, or distractions, SiNKR is a game where you can zone out and lose yourself in puzzle solving.  

The Skinny on SiNKR

You'll love this game if:

  • You're a legit puzzle game fan;
  • You enjoy a minimalist approach to game design;
  • You like figuring things out on your own with no direction. 

You may not like this game if:

  • A repetitive soundtrack gets on your nerves;
  • You need a lot of action or variation on-screen to enjoy your gaming experience; 
  • Trial and error isn't your cup of tea. 

TL;DR: If you enjoy a good puzzle game to while away a few hours or to unwind with before bed, you'll have a hard time finding something more relaxing than SiNKR

SiNKR is now available on Steam for $0.99 (and is controller supported) with iOS and Android versions coming in the near future. 

[Note: The developer provided a copy of SiNKR for this review.] 

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Oriental Empires Review: A Grand Construction of Ancient China https://www.gameskinny.com/5k5i3/oriental-empires-review-a-grand-construction-of-ancient-china https://www.gameskinny.com/5k5i3/oriental-empires-review-a-grand-construction-of-ancient-china 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/1/a/d1a133ca9909aab1836a44c427377e67e5db1f0a-ce4f9.jpg 5k5i3/oriental-empires-review-a-grand-construction-of-ancient-china Wed, 11 Oct 2017 15:05:54 -0400 Skrain

Shining Pixel Studios released its debut game, Oriental Empires, back in mid-September. Having played the game back when it first entered its Alpha stage about a year ago, I was really interested in seeing how it had evolved in the most recent phase of its development cycle. 

Now that I've spent a fair amount of time checking out what's new in this ancient Chinese 4X strategy game, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of depth it has to offer. But a few clunky features ultimately dampened my interest in exploring more of this civilization building experience.  

Become the Emperor of Ancient China

Set in ancient China, Oriental Empires spans nearly three thousand years of history from 1500 BCE to 1500 AD. Using this setting, Shining Pixel attempts to realistically depict China's progression throughout the ages. From a simple farming village or a set of tribes that rely on animal husbandry, you will attempt to advance through the centuries and bring true cultural progress to your civilization. 

There are a number of different Chinese cultures on display here -- including Han, Shang, Chu Shu, Wei, Qin, Wu, Xianbei, and many more. These cultures range from being distinctly Chinese to other cultures such as Mongolian, Tibetan, and even Siberian. These cultures sustain their populations via farming or herding animals, and the distinctions between them lead to markedly different gameplay depending on what your focus is.

In the northern cultures, for example, the game leans toward herding. Food production is based on the surrounding territory and its fertility or on farms that are earned from captured cities. These farms can then be expanded by using peasants to build on fertile ground, or in hilly rice terraces as your technology skills advance in-game. 

Building Toward Cultural Advancement

The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.

--Confucius

You begin each campaign with a single town, a settler, and a leader. Your ultimate goal is to build your kingdom and become Emperor -- but this won't be easy or quick to achieve. Typically, you'll begin by expanding your farm land, exploring neighboring regions you may want to expand into, claim resources like copper/rhinoceros/mulberry trees/game/horses, and use those resources to get a variety of bonuses for your settlements. 

The technologies that you can explore break down into 4 categories -- Power, Crafts, Thought, and Knowledge. Each of these categories is fairly distinct and demonstrates a lot of thought on the developer's part as to what factors play into the success of a civilization. Power-related technologies involve things like unit recruitment, settlement defense, and food production (because surplus food = power). Craft technologies include mining, pottery, bronze/steel production, and building improvements to mitigate damage from fire and other natural disasters. Thought technologies focus on increasing your faction's culture rating, authority, edicts, and adviser recruitment. Last but not least, knowledge handles technology involving bow craft, horsemanship, and the studies of astrology and health. 

By exploring some of these technologies, you'll eventually unlock edicts -- which act as powerful proclamations that echo throughout your empire. From simple tax edits to powerful general degrees, each edict has a cost to enact in terms of both material wealth and other factors.

And just like you'd expect in any civilization builder worth its salt, your subjects will react in various ways to the edicts that you put in place. For example, peasants won't take too kindly to raising taxes on farms. But the nobles will get rowdy when you demand that a general be appointed. When you make such changes, there may be public order penalities as a result -- and these may be temporary or last as long as the edict does depending on the intensity of your public's response to your choices. 

Combat & Warfare

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors to go war first and then seek to win. 

-- Sun Tzu

Warfare is a large part of ancient China's history, and Oriental Empires reflects that with its unit variety. A mixture of levied peasant militia, professional warriors, and nobles trained for battle from birth are all available for recruitment. From tribal spearmen and dagger-axemen chariots to horse archers and gunpowder riflers, you'll never lack a variety of units to pick from when you have the technological and structural requirements.

Combat in Oriental Empires is rather unlike most 4X or turn-based strategy games. You aren't taken to a loading screen, or given direct command of your units. The strategy element of which units do what is determined by you. You can order a unit to form a main line and charge, act as a ranged support, skirmish with the enemy or stay in the back line and defend. The tactics are handled automatically, and once you've given the orders, your units will attempt to follow them to the best of their abilities.

Similar to how it's been proven to work in real life, your armies will also function better with your faction leader, heir, or generals commanding them.

Once your turn has ended and you've issued the orders you need to, you can watch the battle play out before you. The zoom level for this spectator mode can be changed dynamically at any time from a high strategic vantage point to a ground level view of the terrain. And in most instances, watching your army form up and clash with the enemy line is pretty satisfying. 

 

Constructing an Empire

It is not difficult to govern. All one has to do is not offend the noble families. 

--Mencius

Building an Empire takes time, infrastructure and a capacity to keep the peace. As such, authority is one of the most important values within Oriental Empires. It helps determine the unrest of Nobles and Commoners alike -- and it also determines the number of cities you can govern within your faction without massive unrest penalties. If you have more cities than authority, you risk a revolt in the best case scenario (and a rebellion in the worst). 

As your cities grow, it'll be important to connect them via roads or rivers so they may trade and quickly transport military units during war. Due to a limited number of structures that can be built in a city, you will have to specialize -- which forces you to think strategically about how you choose to expand. Perhaps a city near two other friendly cultures can work on promoting and crafting trade goods for income, while a city near a foreign foe on your border would better serve as a recruitment garrison. 

Less Than Heavenly Issues

Diplomacy is a large part of dealing with other factions and cultures, but unfortunately it's handled poorly in Oriental Empires. The AI seems incapable of conducting any intelligent business, and other empires that you try to engage in diplomacy with will commonly break their own self-proposed treaties of Fraternal Harmony just as often as they offer them. In my time playing, it's been far easier to placate the AI momentarily until you beat them into submission and vassalize them.

Combat also leaves fair amount to be desired in spite of what it does right. The lack of direct control means many mistakes can only be chalked up to how AI is designed to engage and respond to your orders. For example, the Support order seems especially flawed. Any unit I've ever given this order to has just stood there and allowed themselves to get attacked. This order is supposed to form a back row that engages only when enemies get close, but it translates to units basically standing there and doing nothing. 

It can be extremely frustrating to lose an entire army in a single turn simply because your units either didn't engage or let themselves get flanked while standing still. It's a shame, too, because the combat can be really enjoyable and engaging when it functions properly -- but it's got some issues that make it feel a lot clunkier than it should. 

What aggravates me most about Oriental Empires, though, is how clunky and overpopulated the UI seems as turns progress. This was one of my biggest issues with the Alpha build of the game, and unfortunately it still persists here. By the time you've entered the Warring States era, your map will likely be cluttered with so many unit indicators, event messages, battle reports, encounters, diplomatic messages, and building construction reports that it becomes a terribly eyesore. The game lacks any capability to sort through, compile, or filter these reports -- so it quickly becomes an issue when you're leading a faction of 20 cities.  

Verdict: A Little Rough, But Approachable

Despite Oriental Empires' flaws, it does achieve what it hopes to in creating a satisfying experience of growing and expanding a culture through various era of ancient China. For a 4X game, it's unique enough in its mechanics that you'll have to take some time to learn everything, which adds some romance to the early game. 

I would recommend Oriental Empires for people with a passion for slightly more advanced strategy games. It's not quite like Civilization meets Total War, but it could be loosely described as such. Overall it's a solid game, and I look forward to checking out any possible expansions or major content updates as the game moves toward a full release. 

If you want to check out Oriental Empires for yourself, you can do so on the official Steam Page for the game. 

 

[Note: A code for Oriental Empires was provided by the developer for this review.]

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A Hat in Time Review: An Adorable Hat Trick https://www.gameskinny.com/4xzj3/a-hat-in-time-review-an-adorable-hat-trick https://www.gameskinny.com/4xzj3/a-hat-in-time-review-an-adorable-hat-trick 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-20171005-191232-28908.jpg 4xzj3/a-hat-in-time-review-an-adorable-hat-trick Sun, 08 Oct 2017 10:52:45 -0400 Greyson Ditzler (PurplePocketPirate)

A Hat in Time has come a long way to get here. It was originally announced as a Kickstarter project by indie developer Gears for Breakfast, headed by Jonas Kaerlev, and smashed it's original funding goal of $30,000 by closing out at nearly 1000% funding at just over $296,000. 

It's a game that seeks to pay homage to the 3D platformers of yesteryear, as well as other beloved classics of the N64, GameCube, and PS2 era. Games like Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, and Psychonauts being cited specifically as major inspirations. The game also takes clear inspirations from series like The Legend of Zelda and Paper Mario.  

It's all a very nice sounding idea on paper, but as time has shown us again and again, even as recently as the divisive Yooka Laylee, capturing the magic of those old 3D platformers that inspired so many all those years ago can be very tricky, especially when trying to create something familiar yet fresh. So has A Hat in Time finally cracked the code for an inspired platformer that awakens the child in all of us, while also appealing to our adult standards of quality?   

Let's see if all the waiting has been worth it.

The "Cute as Heck" Presentation

Let's get the story out of the way real quick. You play as Hat Kid, a little girl traveling alone in space when she suddenly loses her fuel source, 40 magic hourglasses called time pieces, and must travel down to a nearby planet to retrieve as many as she can in order to make it home. It's a simple story, but with enough presence in the gameplay to give your quest some meaning, and enough twists and turns to really keep your attention.

While the graphics may not be that impressive for this day and age, with a lot of large mounds representing clusters of objects, a few slightly blocky or simple looking character models, and the occasional odd-looking texture, the game's aesthetics more than make up for most of this. The choices of color and overall art design is wonderful, with every area feeling stylistically and tonally distinct from one another while still feeling cohesive to the game's style as a whole. Even with some of these issues holding back the loots a tad, on the highest settings this game can still look fantastic.

It also helps that A Hat in Time has a ludicrously in-depth options menu that allows the player to tweak graphic and gameplay settings to their heart's content. You can adjust the quality of everything from character quality to shadows in case you're running the game on a weaker PC, raise the framerate to 175 FPS if you want, and there's even options for a speedrun timer and automatically skipping all skippable cutscenes. Gears For Breakfast clearly wanted as many people as possible to be able to play their game, and kindly went out of there way to make it as technically flexible as they could.

If there's one thing that A Hat in Time has in spades it's charm. I can't remember the last time I played a game that felt so friendly and welcoming. The characters and locations are all bright and colorful -- even locations meant to be dimmer or foreboding have vibrant color palettes -- and there was clearly a large amount of effort put into making the world feel alive. This is definitely a game with a personality -- and that personality is boisterous and more than happy to invite you to it's birthday party.  

The party's already started, and you're the guest of honor.

The game's protagonist Hat Kid is a particularly expressive for a mostly silent protagonist as well. She feels a lot like a real kid, playful and kind, but also sometimes angry and sassy. She shows emotion in a number of subtle different ways, whether she's stick her tongue out at a Mafia goon as she walks by him, or cowering under a table with a sad expression as she hides from danger. If the whole game is supposed to be "cute as heck", then that would make Hat Kid the president of Heck.

I also found the game's writing to be quite strong for a platformer. While A Hat in Time is not a story heavy game by any means, there are miniature plot-lines in each chapter, as well as a number of different characters fleshed out somewhat with cut-scenes and dialogue. The plot-lines had twists and turns that consistently surprised me, the few bits serious moments and accompanying dialogue were genuinely effective, and the game made me laugh very hard very often with all it's jokes and gags.

I was also pretty flabbergasted by some of the darker jokes that the game managed to sneak in. There were references to suicide, murder, making deals with the devil, organized crime, and all sorts of crazy things I was honestly amazed they got away with, all the while the game standing around wearing it's E10+ rating like a badge of honor. 

The game's narrative elements work their way into gameplay fairly often as well. Jokes are sometimes the solution to the problem, and narrative events can affect the outcome of a fight. There are also some levels with full mechanics that solely apply to that one level due to situational necessity. Overall, the writing did a fantastic job of adding weight to your adventure and tons of clever wit to the easy-going atmosphere the game has going.  

The sound design also deserves special mention. The jingles for collectibles were also distinct and catchy, with every random goody you pick up giving you that little boost of confidence that they should in a game like this, and the cue for the level transition in particular always got me excited for what was coming, alongside the gorgeous title cards that came with each mission.

Title card for the mission "Murder on the Owl Express".

The soundtrack has been stuck in my head the last few days, as right from the get go it hits you with track after track of catchy-as-all-get-out platforming tunes that you'll find yourself humming along to after only a few minutes. The soundtrack as a whole clocks in at a whopping five hours of original music across 78 tracks, and none of it feels low-effort or undercooked. From the spaceship hub theme guest composed by Grant Kirkhope that has you feeling calm and cozy, to the frantic theme to the "Train Rush" mission, to the various remixes of the main theme, the music had me invested in the on-screen action the whole way through.

Running, Jumping, Picking-Upping

While there is some light combat and a fair bit of collecting to be done, the main gameplay mechanic of A Hat in Time is the platforming. The controls and abilities that you start the game with give you a great sense of flow and precision. From the get-go you can easily run part-way up walls, jump off walls, double jump, dive in midair, and even chain most of these maneuvers together in order to cover a great distance and make it up tall platforms and across large gaps.

Most of the time I spent playing this game involved utilizing the platforming and movement mechanics to their full advantage in order to complete the stage or collect more goodies scattered across the usually wide-open maps. This brings me to the subject of collectibles, which in a collect-a-thon, are the bread and butter of the gameplay, which I am happy to say A Hat in Time understands very well.

While there are only 40 time pieces to collect, which does sound rather low compared to a number of other similar collect-a-thons, every level hides oodles of money and secrets to search for and collect, on top of the grand variety of mission objectives. What's important in games based mostly around collecting things is to make sure that every collectible has a purpose, which again, A Hat in Time understands very well. 

Money can be used for all sorts of useful things, such as unlocking certain levels, purchasing badges that allow you to upgrade yourself and customize your playstyle however you want, and even activate displays for special relics you find throughout the levels, which when done correctly gives you both a decoration for your hub as well as access to a bonus challenge level. Money is all over the place, and following it can lead to even more secrets. Just wandering any give level with little direction following the trail of pocket change feels like your making progress.

You can also find tokens in levels that give you access to a slot machine in the main hub where you can pick between one of three random prizes. These can be alternate colors for Hat Kid's outfit, to remixes of certain songs in the game, to alternate designs for your different hats. There's just a lot to find and a lot to do with what you find, which keeps the reward cycle constant. It also helps that the levels are all quite well-designed and visually appealing, which further encourages exploration and further mastering your abilities.

Explore enough and you'll be bouncing off a burger in no time.

Then there are the balls of yarn you can find. Throughout the levels you can find different kinds of yarn balls, and if you manage to both find the correct kind as well as enough of the stuff, you can knit yourself a new hat that acts similarly to new item in the Zelda series, and unlocks a new ability for progression you can use by equipping that particular hat. These things can range from a sprint function, to a ground pound that let's you travel across the map in special ways, to throwing handy explosives to blow up certain objects.  

Having brought up the Zelda series, let's talk a bit about references. I have seen plenty of games that take clear inspiration from others, as well as plenty that outright directly reference what they're inspired by, but it's been quite a while since I've seen one that did it quite as lovingly and blatantly as A Hat in Time.  

There were visual callbacks to Super Smash Bros.Super Mario GalaxySuper Mario SunshinePsychonuats -- the list goes on. On top of the badge system being very reminiscent of the Paper Mario series, there were also a few particular visual callbacks to that series that to me -- as a huge Paper Mario fan -- just screamed homage.

Like, the kind of references that are so specific and so non-memetic that you'd practically have to be somebody who grew up with these games and loved them like the developers did in order to catch them. If you don't believe me then just look at this:

What Could Have Potentially Been Better

I personally had few issues with A Hat in Time's design, but there were still a few things that I feel could have been a little better polished. 

Most of my big gripes with the game come in the form of technical issues. I unfortunately ran into multiple crashes, almost always after returning to the hub or loading a new level, and frame dips happened to me often in a number of areas even when there wasn't much going on.

Going back to the graphics for a moment, while the game still does look nice on the lowest settings, even on higher settings some textures just looked like stickers on top of models at times, and sometimes they would just fail to load, and this would cause some particle effects to be replaced by pattern tests or a series of specks trapped in a square.

Just for reference, I played this game on my laptop, which is not particularly suited for gaming, but could still run the game fairly well on lower settings nonetheless. I am fully aware that my weaker PC was likely the source of a number of these issues, but it still hampered my experience regardless, and I've heard of other people with stronger PC's running into issues with the framerate and textures as well.

Lastly, I honestly wish their had been a bit more combat and boss fights. Don't get me wrong, the core gameplay is still tons of fun with the combat as low-key as it is, but for a 3D platformer I thought the options available to you for battles was pretty impressive, and I wanted to see more out of it. Plus, I thought that every boss fight was just fantastic with their complicated patterns and lots of great banter with your opponents. I just wish there was more of that to appreciate. None of this seriously affected my overall experience -- expect for the crashes -- but they are things that I hope are addressed in the future free content updates that Gears for Breakfast has promised us.

Has Gears for Breakfast Succeeded? 

At time of writing, I have not 100% completed A Hat in Time, but I definitely plan to. For this review I decided to simply play to the end of the main story, but I still played at my own pace and took my time getting there. I finished the game after about 13 hours and I could easily see getting all the remaining collectibles taking another 3-4 hours on top of that, so I feel the game hits the sweet spot in terms of length, where it's long enough to be satisfying but not feel bloated.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have an absolute blast while playing A Hat in Time. Some of the technical difficulties did hamper my experience a bit, and on one or minuscule occasions the game's design got on my nerves, but that didn't stop from playing for hours at a time with a huge smile on my face. I'd even say that I love this game -- but that comes with a qualifying statement.

My score doesn't go any higher than it is because the technical issues and relatively small-scale do hold it back just a bit, but I can easily see that being fixed. If some of the performance issues were updated with future patches, and depending how solid the local co-op update is, as well as how substantial the two planned free DLC chapters are, I could see my score going up further and this game being boosted into the status of a definitive 3D platformer classic.  

But regardless of all it's slight issues, I still think that Gears for Breakfast have succeeded. They've managed to create a game that serves as a spiritual successor to a beloved genre of games, as well as take great inspiration from the titles they love themselves, and make something well-designed and very personal that feels like a glimpse back in time and a step forward all at once. I heartily recommend A Hat in Time to anybody who loves 3D platformers, charming comedic games, or anybody just looking for something full of love and imagination.

A Hat in Time is available now for $30 on PC, and is expected to come out on PS4 and Xbox One later this Fall. You can watch a trailer for the game below:

[Note: Review copy provided by Humble Bundle]

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SteelSeries Apex 750 Keyboard Review: Effective, But Not Revolutionary https://www.gameskinny.com/ml87s/steelseries-apex-750-keyboard-review-effective-but-not-revolutionary https://www.gameskinny.com/ml87s/steelseries-apex-750-keyboard-review-effective-but-not-revolutionary 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/p/e/apex-750-main-1c418.png ml87s/steelseries-apex-750-keyboard-review-effective-but-not-revolutionary Fri, 06 Oct 2017 11:37:36 -0400 Jonathan Moore

If you’re a competitive gamer, you already know the importance of a reliable gaming keyboard. Often, you’re looking for something that’s accurate and flexible, while also being dependable and responsive. And with all the keyboards geared toward those requirements, it can be hard to find the exact keyboard that’s going to keep you moving up the ranks.

But with the Apex M750 mechanical gaming keyboard, SteelSeries has set out to engineer and manufacture the penultimate eSports gaming keyboard to meet those needs. Marketed as a revolution in eSports peripherals technology, the M750 aims high and gets a lot of things right -- like its durable design and granular macro customization. But it also gets a few things not so right.

Spending copious amounts of time using mechanical keyboards for work and leisure, it takes a lot for any particular board to arrest my attention and stand out from the crowd. In my more than 20 hours with the Apex 750, I can’t say that it did that -- but that also doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of your attention if you’re looking for a fully customizable board that (mostly) looks good alongside your other SteelSeries (or RGB-centric) gaming gear.

In other words, revolutionary and reliable aren’t synonymous.

Design

The Apex 750 sports a sleek, somewhat understated design. Its jet-black chassis is made of aircraft-grade aluminum, which means it doesn’t bend or get smudged if you've got sweaty palms from an intense firefight or looming deadline. Measuring 17.5 x 6.0 inches and weighing in at just over 2 pounds, the 750 fits snugly between larger keyboards such as the Corsair K95 RGB and smaller ones like the Hyper X FPS.

During my time with the board, that was one thing I particularly liked about the M750: it didn’t feel so small that I’d break it moving from gaming station to gaming station or so bulky that I couldn’t shove it into a backpack or cradle it under my arm while transporting it. I also especially liked that it did this while accommodating a full numpad and 104 keys, something that’s not entirely easy to do when you’re shooting for compact.

However, there are two design choices that I certainly have misgivings about: the M750’s cable and its removable rubber feet.

The board comes with a 6.5-foot standard plastic cable (at this price point, I’d have expected a more durable braided cable) that functions as you’d expect it to, but it is a bit unwieldy to corral when moving the keyboard around. The cord has a SteelSeries emblazoned velcro strap you can use to bind the cable, but adding in a wire track underneath the board would have made things just a tad bit easier -- as it is in other SteelSeries boards, such as the M800.

But although my foibles about the M750’s cable are more nitpicky than concerning, the board’s rubber feet squarely fall into the latter category. Instead of the traditional hard-plastic feet that come standard on most mechanical gaming keyboards, the M750 eschews this tried and true “technology” for something more "innovative": two sets of detachable rubber feet.

It’s an interesting design choice that certainly sets the M750 apart from other boards in that regard. But in practice, they’re a bit cumbersome to install and use. When I first unpacked the board and set it on my desk, I found that the factory-installed rubber feet set the M750 a bit too low for my liking, so I set about changing them out -- which took me about five minutes to do.

The issue is that despite their notched design, the feet don’t easily slot into the board, and more importantly, they don’t stay attached if you move the board around your desktop. Simply pushing the board away from me and then pulling it back toward me continually dislodged the feet. In a relaxed, non-competitive environment it was frustrating enough, but in an eSports environment, one where peripheral placement is often paramount for each individual player, moving the board between matches could become (very) frustrating.

Performance

Although I used the SteelSeries M750 for both work and play, I can definitively say that this is a gaming-centric peripheral. Of course, that makes sense seeing as the design and engineering ethos behind it is predominantly focused on eSports and competitive gaming.

But with the ubiquity that defines many modern gaming keyboards, it’s worth noting that the M750 didn’t perform as well as I’d hoped in the office for daily writing and editorial tasks -- where my light typing style and the board’s feathery keys conflated to create myriad typos that I don’t typically make with Cherry or Romer G switches. 

Put it where it’s meant to be, however, and the M750 performs extremely well. In my go-to competitive shooter, Paladins, I was able to deftly pull off ults and easily maneuver about the map while racking up eliminations. And in the Destiny 2 PC beta, movement with W/A/S/D felt fluid and natural, while pulling off supers, melees, and more was adequately easy.

This is because each of the M750’s proprietary QX2 switches is responsive, swift, and comfortable in their natural gaming habitat. And what I particularly liked about each of them is that they were sensitive enough to register keystrokes without bottoming out but resilient enough to not randomly initiate ults or abilities by way of an errant finger here or there. It’s a fine line to dance -- but from what I can tell, SteelSeries pulled it off exceptionally well.

But of course, you already know I have a few caveats that I think are worth mentioning if you’re seriously looking into the M750. If you’re looking for a quiet board, the M750 is definitely not it. The M750’s QX2 switches aren’t the loudest switches I’ve ever used, but each switch and floating keycap sounds hollow and clanky. Compared to the meatier sounding Cherry MX Reds found on the Cherry MX Board 6.0 mechanical keyboard, the M750’s QX2s sound cut-rate in comparison.

Another concern that I have with the board is that even though each switch is rated for upwards of 50 million keystrokes, the shift key on the review model I received started creaking about five hours into use, before morphing into a full-on squeak about eight hours into use. I imagine that this is a one-off type of scenario (with an educated guess of something like 1 in 10,000 boards experiencing this issue). But nonetheless, it's something that played into my overall feeling of the board.

Functionality

When it comes to RGB lighting, you’ll find that the M750 provides some interesting and unique lighting options. Using SteelSeries’ Engine 3 software, you’re able to choose from the normative 16 million color RGB spectrum and myriad lighting effects, from static and rainbow to pulse and radiate.

What really sets the M750 apart from other boards in its price range, though, is SteelSeries’ Prism Sync and Image Sync apps. With the former, you can sync your color presets across multiple SteelSeries peripherals (such as the QCK Prism mousepad and the Rival 310 gaming mouse) for a uniform look -- one that really adds character (if not much else) to your overall setup.

With Image Sync, you’re able to choose from a set of stock GIFs to give you even more unique lighting presets. At the time of this writing, there are only 10 GIF presets to choose from, but as the community grows and users see what "cool" lighting effects can be achieved by translating GIFs into lighting effects, more and more will surely become available. 

In the scheme of things, however, Image Sync's current iteration seems more like a gimmick than a true innovation. Most of the preset GIFs aren't entirely discernible or representative to the naked eye of their in-app monikers. For example, if I didn't know I'd chosen a fire-themed GIF as my lighting preset, I honestly would've had no clue that the lighting effect it produced was supposed to be fire. Sure, Image Sync is a work in progress and SteelSeries is sure to refine the functionality as time goes on. But as it currently stands, you probably won't be wowing your friends or colleagues with the feature. 

 

You can also use the Engine 3 software to fully customize your macros (despite the absence of dedicated macro keys), as well as fully reprogram each of the board’s keys to your liking. I found this to be an intuitive choice on the part of SteelSeries’ design and engineering teams because it not only gives you complete control of the M750’s layout, but it also allows you to change layouts from QWERTY to Dvorak to Coleman -- making the M750 one of the more accessible keyboards currently on the market.

Outside of that, you have your typical function keys that control overall key brightness, volume, and playback, as well as a SteelSeries key that brings the Engine 3 software up on the fly. It’s a little disappointing that there aren’t dedicated media keys on the M750 or that there’s no volume control to be found, forcing you to use your function key alternates to raise and lower the volume.

It’s also rather peculiar that in a board at this price point, there isn’t a dedicated lock key on the board that lets you turn off certain keystrokes (such as Ctrl + alt + del) or disable the windows key. Sure, you can manually disable these functions and keys in the Engine 3 software, but you’ll have to do so before jumping into a match or starting work -- unless you want to open the software mid-thought or mid ult.

Verdict

Overall, the SteelSeries M750 mechanical gaming keyboard is a responsive, reliable bet if you’re any type of gamer -- competitive or not. Although I have several qualms with the board, from design to functionality, the M750 is board that stands alongside other competitors in its price bracket. In essence, SteelSeries hasn’t necessarily made a keyboard that’s going to revolutionize the gaming scene (much less the eSports niche it’s geared toward),  but it has made one that functions well and gets the job done.

A few caveats aside, from lack of dedicated macro keys, questionable rubber feet design, relatively loud keys, and some light bleed from the board’s floating keycaps, SteelSeries has the foundation upon which to build its next keyboard that very well could be the game-changer for the space. Until then, the M750 doesn’t stand head and shoulders above its contemporaries, although that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look if you’re thinking of plunking down $130 for a gaming keyboard anytime soon.

[Note: SteelSeries provided the M750 review unit used for this review.]

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Inversus Deluxe Review: Black and White and Outta Sight https://www.gameskinny.com/ajlmn/inversus-deluxe-review-black-and-white-and-outta-sight https://www.gameskinny.com/ajlmn/inversus-deluxe-review-black-and-white-and-outta-sight 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/n/v/inversus-2nd-banner-4f452.png ajlmn/inversus-deluxe-review-black-and-white-and-outta-sight Thu, 05 Oct 2017 14:48:59 -0400 Greyson Ditzler (PurplePocketPirate)

Inversus Deluxe is a grid-based twin-stick shooter developed by Hypersect and recently released on the Nintendo Switch eShop. Though it may look simple and basic at first glance, but closer inspection will prove that this shooter has a surprising amount of depth and intensity built into it's gameplay.

But the real question is this. Is a game that's only 67 megabytes on the eShop worth it's $15 price tag, especially considering everything else that's come out on the Switch lately? Let's find out!

 

Like Playing Between Two Mirrors

This 2D shooter is equal parts capturing territory, mind-games, and intense shooting in four directions. What's most special about Inversus Deluxe is its mechanic of capturing territory with every shot. Using the default color palette, every tile on the map is either black or white (as are you), and you can only move freely through the tiles that are the opposite color to you. But you can also shoot through the same-colored tiles to make more room for yourself.

This effectively turns every competitive match into a hybrid turf-war-firefight. While you're focusing on mowing down your enemy, your enemy is trying to do the same. And while firing back at each other you're trying your best to box them in to shoot them easier -- while at the same time not becoming a fish-in-a-barrel yourself. As you both create and destroy each other's freedom of movement and create walls with every bullet, the tension only continues to grow.

The game's map design caters to these mechanics wonderfully, often having looping exits on opposite sides of the map that follow Pac-Man rules and allow the player to traverse from one side of the screen to the other. This can also lead to situations where the two exits/entrances overlap, resulting in a scenario where there are two of your avatar in play at the same time -- both of which can shoot in the same direction, but are twice as vulnerable out in the open when covering more ground. There are also dozens of maps to unlock and play in in versus mode, and the design of many of these is fantastic.

 
The white player firing from two places at once. 

While this game has a clear focus on multiplayer both local and online, there is a single player experience to be had here. In single player you have access to both Arcade mode as well as 1-on-1 versus mode with bots. The arcade mode has you facing off against both slowly moving docile enemies who overwhelm you with numbers and their explosive personalities, as well a much smaller number of actively aggressive bots trying to shoot and destroy you.

In order to unlock a new map in arcade mode, you need to get a certain high score thatwill earn you one of five stars -- a certain number of which you need to unlock the next map. Then the cycle repeats. Usually the first two or three stars are lower scores that still take some effort, while the higher scores and associated stars are much, much more difficult to obtain and will take a number of tries to get to.

Unlocking new maps in versus mode is much simpler, as you only have to beat an opponent (either man or machine) once per map in order to unlock the next one, and the odds are stacked against you fairly in either scenario. 

Playing against AI opponents in single player mode can never match playing against other humans, but in Inversus Deluxe it's honestly a pretty close second. You can adjust the skill level of the bots before you go up against them, but even on the lower difficulty settings they can be highly strategic and outright malicious.

Rest assured you can still play with your friends locally, and you can do so in two player arcade mode, as well team versus matches, all playable using all Switch configurations and controller types.

Online Options and Unlockables 

Something that surprised me quite a bit about Inversus Deluxe was how many options it had for online play. The fact that it had online at all was something I didn't expect to be fair right off the bat --  but not only does it have online, it has three online game modes as well as lobbies you can join with either friends or strangers. 

But what's unfortunate about the online experience -- at least in my case -- is that it almost always took anywhere between 5-10 minutes to actually get enough players into a lobby for a match of any kind to start.

While this connection process is pretty slow, there is a sliver lining to it, which essentially just merges the single player and multiplayer modes together. While waiting for a match to begin, you have the option to begin a local offline match while you wait. What's especially nice is that if you choose to play an arcade level while waiting and eventually do get connected to a match, then after that online match is done you have the option of either searching for another opponent or continuing your arcade match right where it left off. This helps keep the flow going even when you have to wait for fives of minutes at a time.

In terms of unlockables, there are the already mentioned arcade stages you gradually unlock with higher scores on previous stages, but then there are also cosmetics and light customization options to be unlocked. As you play through the games various modes, you will gradually gain experience and level up. And as you level up in different modes, you will be gradually gifted with new color palettes for your projectiles, the backgrounds of the games stages, and even your square avatars. You can also unlock various emojis and emotes to assign to different buttons and quote at the end of a versus round.

 

A Laser Maze You Can Play For Days

At the end of the day, it's fun to shoot your friends with lasers until they explode -- and Inversus Deluxe offers that with a unique spin on gameplay, plus a stark aesthetic and a respectable amount of content at a reasonable price. For a game made by one guy (head of Hypersect, Ryan Juckett) it's an impressively balanced and polished multiplayer experience that's easy to learn but hard to master.

I recommend this game to anybody looking for an intense multiplayer experience on the Switch at a cheaper price, as well as to anybody looking for a good pick-up-and-play arcade experience that offers a decent challenge. 

Inversus Deluxe is available now for Nintendo Switch and Steam for $14.99.

[Note: Review copy of Inversus Deluxe provided by Hypersect.]

 

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Forza Motorsport 7 Speeds Past the Competition https://www.gameskinny.com/ao9kz/forza-motorsport-7-speeds-past-the-competition https://www.gameskinny.com/ao9kz/forza-motorsport-7-speeds-past-the-competition https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/5/5/9/559d542af3c822.jpg ao9kz/forza-motorsport-7-speeds-past-the-competition Thu, 05 Oct 2017 10:47:11 -0400 Ty Arthur

While patiently waiting for the hours to tick by as Forza 7 downloads I'm staring at the title screen and suddenly it dawns on me... is the Xbox One getting old? Wasn't Forza Motorsport 5 a launch title nearly four years ago?

We've come quite a way from those launch doldrums, with new iterations of Xbox classics like Gears Of War and even the new Shadow Of War nearly here. Among those new entries in hallowed series, Forza 7 sits triumphantly as the cream of the crop in the new AAA racing entries.

Now, you might have noticed I said "hours" of waiting for the download to finish. Make sure to clear some space out on your hard drive, and set aside a block of time, because the Xbox One version is an unbelievable 96 gigs! Luckily, though, there's a whole lot of both style and substance to be found in this hard drive-devouring game.

Life In The Fast Lane

Obviously the cutscenes look better than the campaign gameplay, but there's a phenomenal level of graphical polish to the actual races that makes the transition between the two nearly seamless.

It's not just the vehicles that look amazing (although they do) -- it's things like the dynamic weather effects and a load of small intricacies that really please on the eye candy front, from rattling car parts to drifting sand in Dubai.

Honestly, it all makes me wish I had pre-ordered an Xbox One X so I could see this thing in its full graphical glory next month. But alas, I'm just a poor game reviewer.

 Game screenshot, or work of art? You decide.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the game beyond the visuals, its worth mentioning that I was playing with a standard Xbox One controller, not a racing wheel -- so you might want to take that into account if you are a wheel-only sort of racer.

On a controller, Forza 7 handles incredibly smoothly, with each car feeling different, and there's room for beginners or returning vets alike by changing up the Assists and Drivatar difficulty systems.

So. Many. Options.

Once you get past the shiny new coat of paint, what you have here is essentially Forza 6, just with more options.. and I mean a LOT more options.

From racing semi trucks with drivers who aren't afraid to nudge you off the road to tense, high speed tracks slicked over with rain, every map has something completely different to offer.

At launch, there are a ludicrous 700 different vehicles to pick in different game modes, from sports cars to semi trucks to a stable of cars pulled from the Fate Of The Furious movie.

 Each of these has about a dozen races to choose from

It's not a car free-for-all right off the bat either, and there's a satisfying sense of progression here that offers a reason to keep playing. The Car Collection system controls what you can get next, so you have to unlock new tiers of vehicles by buying or winning a set number of other cars first.

Along the way of building up your roster of vehicles, duking it out in multiplayer, or playing one-off challenges, you aren't ever really going to run out of things to do.

Adding an extra layer of progression are the endless stream of randomized loot crates to pick up with in-game currency. You might get some minor change to a component on a vehicle, or you might get a big bonus to your next racing win, giving you enough credits to buy that next car.

This prize draw system might be a pro or a con depending on how you feel about randomized loot crates as a reward scheme.

If you like the thrill of picking up a series of totally unknown cards -- which could have an awesome new jumpsuit or a needed money Mod but is likely to have nothing of particular interest -- then this is a fun addition.

Personally, I went with the ugly-as-sin lime green jump suit at the beginning to motivate myself to earn more prize crates as fast as possible....

 Is there a less visually appealing color scheme than this?

The Bottom Line

Graphically, I'm not sure there's a better racing experience for console at the moment -- and if you dropped the cash on a new 1080 graphics card for your PC, you'll be sitting pretty as well.

While the visuals have reached an impressive level, the options are off the charts, and there are some tweaks to how things work here and there, overall we're sort of in a Far Cry scenario where there's not a ton of difference between the various Forza iterations.

If you loved the previous couple of games, it's a good bet you'll like this one. If you wanted something radically different, well, it's probably time to try out a different franchise instead.

For those ready to jump into the latest Motorsport and dominate on the race track, be sure to check out our Forza 7 beginner's driving tips here.

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Bannerman Review: Sidescrolling Meditative Combat https://www.gameskinny.com/unkqi/bannerman-review-sidescrolling-meditative-combat https://www.gameskinny.com/unkqi/bannerman-review-sidescrolling-meditative-combat https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/b/a/n/bannerlogo-934fa.jpg unkqi/bannerman-review-sidescrolling-meditative-combat Wed, 04 Oct 2017 15:13:47 -0400 LuckyJorael

Lately, many games have come out that try to capitalize on the success of the Dark Souls franchise, and many outlets praise or condemn those games based on that description alone. When I've tried to explain exactly what Bannerman is to friends, I've leaned on the term "2D Dark Souls" -- but honestly, that's unfair to the game.

I could condense the game down to that phrase, but it feels hollow. Bannerman is a dark, brooding game, and it wants you to think about your actions, all while it demands you to continue onward -- parrying, blocking, and dodging attacks from its myriad enemies. Unlike Souls, you don't fight skeletons, undead, dragons, or the like. Your opponents are almost exclusively people, and the fights are rarely something other than 1-on-1 combat.

Combat is where Bannerman shines. The game teaches you how to change from high to low stance, how to use heavy or fast attacks, how to stun your opponent with a punch, and how to dodge quite early on. You'll need every option you have in the game to survive, because the enemies are even more brutal than you are. And trust me, you are pretty brutal; chopping up enemies with wide arcs of your two-hander sprays blood in a convincing -- and slightly disturbing -- way. In a realm where I've become mostly immune to the violence on display in video games, I couldn't help but feel bad splitting some hapless soldier in two, just because he was in my way.

Bannerman asks you to make some moral decisions on your way, including rescuing a deserter (or not), and pursuing other side objectives before heading screen right to your ultimate goal. The game does a great job offering these side objectives without telling you that you need to go find them. Where an open-world game would hold your hand with on-screen waypoints and a giant overhead map with detailed markers, Bannerman slaps your reaching hand away, telling you to "figure it out".

The game is slow, but in a good way. The hero's normal, almost plodding pace gives you ample opportunity to take in the beautiful visuals, and plenty of time to evaluate your next opponent. Combat is also a slow affair at first; you have the opportunity to size up your opponent, analyze their attacks, change stances, ready to parry or dodge, and set yourself up for a killing blow. I never felt the need to button mash, or that I had to have the reflexes of a mongoose on speed to keep up with the game.

Everything is about timing in Bannerman. Dodge at the right time to avoid that arrow, punch the archer right now to stagger him, and follow up with a heavy swing to take him out.

Combat is executed beautifully; it's the core of the game, and it's easy to tell the developers put lots of time and thought into it. As you go through the game, more options become available; secondary weapons like a one-handed sword, shield, and bow, different combat maneuvers, and choices to make that affect how you play. Do you go for more armor, or more stamina?

Bannerman could be called a 2D side-scrolling Dark Souls, but it achieves more than just a different take on the genre; it is no clone, and plays much differently. It is a difficult, deep, beautiful game that keeps you engaged with challenging combat and fluid visuals. Bannerman is available through Steam and the Bannerman website.

[Note: The developer provided a copy of Bannerman for the purpose of this review.]

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The Fight Wages on With Gundam Versus https://www.gameskinny.com/tjmia/the-fight-wages-on-with-gundam-versus https://www.gameskinny.com/tjmia/the-fight-wages-on-with-gundam-versus https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/a6c9afd87649d8ded91642c70227bdf4.jpg tjmia/the-fight-wages-on-with-gundam-versus Wed, 04 Oct 2017 14:27:09 -0400 Steven Oz

Remember those times as a child when you would rush home from school and turn the television on? When I did that, Mobile Suit Gundam would be airing on Toonami. Giant mechs versus giant mechs. These were stories on a grand scale, where each person was affected.

But this isn't true for the video games. The Gundam games have always been a mixed bag. Each of them has its own flair, but most of them have been fighting games since the release of Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon in 2001. Though each game in the series since has improved on its predecessor, none have been truly good games until now. 

The most recent iteration of mecha fighting, dubbed Gundam Versus, has hit shelves. And it seems that Bandai Namco has finally been able to take data and lessons from previous games and create a truly enjoyable Gundam video game experience.  

Gameplay

The objective of Gundam Versus is to work with your ally and deplete your opponent's life points while preserving your own. But the Gundams themselves factor into this equation, as players lose Cost Points whenever they respawn during a match.

You only have 100 Cost Points in a standard match, and the mobile suit you choose will range from 200 to 500 Cost Points. So while you may want to pilot that insane 500-Cost mecha, you'll end up losing the entire match if you die twice. But opting for that 200-Cost mecha will net you 5 deaths before you go down permanently. So picking suits isn't random at all -- you have to play a numbers game and consider how many risks you're willing to take. 

Gundam Versus also features a few different game modes, along with 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 online matches. Ultimate Battle mode pits you against a neverending wave of enemies and boss battles. Trial Battle is a solo play mode that has you clear multiple missions along a route. Free mode lets you test out mobile suits with a variety of environments, music, etc. In all of these, you can earn XP that can be cashed out for Strikers and other vanity items.

With 94 total usable mechs, there are a variety of mobile suits to choose from -- each with its own unique power, weapons, and very creative armor. Every conceivable playstyle will have a mech to match it, which was great to see. 

I have to say, though, that I felt overwhelmed by the sheet number of mechs. All 94 of them are split into 3 main types -- various (melee+ranged weapons), fighting (swords and sais), and shooter (guns and cannons). And each of those subsets has a few subclasses. And in addition to that, you can equip a striker that gives you a limited power to call yet another suit to your aid. 

After trying around twenty mobile suits with little to no success, I finally found one that suited me -- Gundam Sandrock Custom. A custom Close Quarters Combat Mobile Suit with a submachine gun and two curved blades, this Gundam suit felt balanced to me. Offensively, you can slice and dice your enemies with the curved blades. Plus, the speed of the suit fits nicely with the offensive weapons.

There are so many mobile suits, I could not try them all before writing this review. That might appeal to players who like variety, but it might also be a problem for newcomers to the series. While giving me every single Gundam in every Mobile Suit Gundam series is fine, new players may be overwhelmed.

Controls

The game's controls are fairly simple, even though it was adapted from an arcade stick layout. I would say this gives you a distinct advantage when playing. You only have to memorize one button instead of a button combo. The neat thing here is you can switch between the control styles if you want, as well.

One thing I would criticize the game for is the mechanic that has you auto-locking on enemies. While this works well for playing with your partner, alone it hinders your goals. Oftentimes I would attack an auto-locked enemy, but another enemy will come at me and throw me off -- costing me damage in a crucial fight. I could change the auto targeting, of course, but it transfers me to the enemy closest to the target and not the enemy closest to me. So it would have been nice to be able to turn off auto-locking or even have a semi-locking system instead.

Art Style

I chose the one with the cool shoulder armor

Gundam Versus is a gorgeous game. Nostalgia washed over me every time I played it. Beautifully rendered opening visuals make it seem like you are watching a battle, just like you might see in the anime.

Every single mobile suit in the game is exquisitely designed and detailed -- comparable to the Gunpla models based on these mechs.  Classic characters with their original Japanese voice actors make the world feel alive, and each battlefield tells a story of what these battles are about. I would play the free mode to just to wander around and soak up the atmosphere.

Along with that, there are so many classic soundtracks within this game. While I was playing my first match, I noticed the original G Gundam music. All of these elements add up to a developer that knows what their fans expect and provides it to them.

Verdict

All in all, Gundam Versus is a good game that reminds fans why giant robots are cool. If you're a fan of the Gundam series, you should feel right at home here -- though I would highly recommend that newcomers opt to play the tutorial. With so many suits to choose from and some messy UI design, some gamers might not enjoy it quite as much. But if you can look past those issues, this game is a truly enjoyable mech-fighting experience.

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

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HyperX Alloy Elite Gaming Keyboard Review: The Devil's in the Details https://www.gameskinny.com/o0bag/hyperx-alloy-elite-gaming-keyboard-review-the-devils-in-the-details https://www.gameskinny.com/o0bag/hyperx-alloy-elite-gaming-keyboard-review-the-devils-in-the-details 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-8120d.jpg o0bag/hyperx-alloy-elite-gaming-keyboard-review-the-devils-in-the-details Wed, 04 Oct 2017 12:21:54 -0400 Auverin Morrow

I'm a real stickler when it comes to keyboards. Because I spend 8+ hours a day typing at warp speed (often with a sandwich in one hand), I need a keyboard that's fast, responsive, durable, and functional. Most keyboards that I've tried will check a few of those boxes, but not all of them. In a market that's increasingly ridden with "innovations" like hyper-granular RGB customization and sharp-edged, space-saving chassis, I was beginning to think that the mechanical keyboard of my dreams didn't actually exist. 

But then I got my hands on the HyperX Alloy Elite. This flagship entry in HyperX's relatively new keyboard lineup is nice to look at, and even nicer to play with. After running it through the ringer for weeks of furious typing and frustrated gameplay, this keyboard has proven to be a trooper. With a thoughtful, refined design and unmatched simplicity of use, the Alloy Elite has taken its rightful place as my favorite gaming keyboard on the market right now.  

Unboxing 

Packaged in HyperX's iconic red-and-black fare, the Alloy Elite comes with the keyboard itself, a detachable wrist rest, a set of textured keycaps (silver for W/A/S/D and red for Q/E/R/F), and a handy keycap switcher to change out the stock keys with. 

While this is just about standard for most keyboard unboxings, I quite appreciated the inclusion of the keycap switcher -- almost as much as I appreciated the textured keycaps themselves. Anyone who has tried to remove keycaps for replacement or cleaning knows how aggravating it can be to do so by hand. So having this little tool was a huge boon in that regard, and something that I'd like to see more keyboard manufacturers do for all the money we throw at their products. 

Design

The Alloy Elite sports a solid black aluminum body and a plastic detachable wrist rest that's partially textured on the left side. The keys themselves sit on your standard Cherry MX switches (blue, brown, or red), and include a 10-key numpad as opposed to its tenkeyless sibling, the Alloy FPS. If you choose to install the extra keycaps provided, your home gaming keys will have a slightly textured feel that sets them apart from the smooth caps on the rest of the board.

Like most HyperX products that feature any sort of lighting, the Alloy Elite eschews customizable RGB and offers only its brand-standard red for backlighting. This might be a turnoff for some gamers who are pickier about their color palates, but the coloration is both sleek and highly visible on full brightness. (And an RGB version of this keyboard is already in the works.)

In lieu of a full software suite, the key lighting can be controlled with two setting buttons on the board that let you cycle through a few different lighting schemes and brightness settings. 

In addition to the light controls and the standard game mode key, the top bar of this keyboard also features four media buttons (play/pause, rewind, fast-forward, and mute) and a nifty scroll wheel on the far right that lets you control your volume. On the underbelly of the board, you'll find two feet that let you prop up the keyboard for a different angle. And it's all connected to your computer via a highly durable braided cable. 

For all these features, there is no proprietary software to accompany the Alloy Elite. Keeping in line with HyperX's tradition across all its headsets and the Pulsefire FPS mouse, this keyboard is 100% plug-and-play. While some mod-happy gamers might find this a little archaic, it's one of my favorite things about this keyboard and nearly any other HyperX product. I'm not the type to dig deep into barely perceptible customizations (like you can on the Corsair K95), so being able to connect this board to my PC and never having to fiddle with it again was a huge plus. 

Performance & Comfort

Whether I was typing up articles or trying to hit killshots in SMITE, the Alloy Elite kept up with every keystroke I made. The Cherry switches have an excellent response time (as usual), and I could press as many keys as I wanted at once without losing any input.

That said, light-handed gamers will want to be careful with what switches they choose. These keys require a solid amount of pressure to register, and probably won't be great for typing if you have feather-light strokes. Fortunately for me, I slam on keys as though I'm trying to resuscitate them, so typing with the Alloy Elite was no problem (and felt nice to boot). 

Quality feedback aside, the textured keys were also a nice touch. Though they sometimes distracted me while typing, they were a huge boon in-game. With the raised ridges to anchor my fingers and indicate where my home keys were, I found myself misfiring abilities far less often than I would when blindly trying to reposition my hands. 

There are only a few areas in terms of overall comfort and performance where the Alloy Elite falls short. My biggest gripe was with the placement of the F12 key in relation to the backspace bar. Because of how narrow the space is between the function row and the top row of standard keys, I found myself hitting F12 a lot when I only wanted to hit backspace. While this was a negligible issue at first, constantly activating the F12 DevTools command in Chrome while trying to fix a spelling error did get really tedious. 

Other than that, my only complaints have to do with the body of the board and the volume of its key feedback. While I'm used to loud mechanical keys, the Alloy Elite seemed to have some that were especially loud. The spacebar was the biggest offender -- to the point that the poor editor who shares an office with me complained about it a few times.

Additionally, the wrist rest isn't very comfortable because of its plastic material and lack of padding. It also features a groove between its textured and smooth areas that seems to be good for nothing except catching crumbs. But I really only noticed discomfort if I typed and typed for extensive periods of time. Having a slightly higher angle at which the keyboard sat would have gone a long way here. 

Functionality

The Alloy Elite is probably my favorite gaming keyboard of all time (just barely winning out over the Logitech G Pro), but it's definitely my favorite in terms of secondary functionality. The keys themselves perform exactly like you'd want them to, but peripheral functions across the rest of the board really put it a step ahead of its competitors. 

The backlighting looks nice, and being able to fully control its limited range of settings right from the keyboard was a big plus. There was no need to agonize over specific color schemes or optimal lighting patterns -- I could just cycle through until I found a scheme that worked, then move on. And having all the controls on deck made it a breeze to switch lighting setups without clicking away from my Paladins match. 

Aside from that, I suppose it's time I admit it: the volume wheel in the keyboard chassis is by far my favorite design feature on the Alloy Elite. The simplified lighting controls and textured keys were close contenders, but the volume wheel really did it for me. I've never seen another keyboard that implements volume controls in this way, and the scroll wheel was much easier to use than a keyboard macro, dedicated button, or headset control.

Volume control was literally right at my fingertips both in and out of game -- so I could give the wheel a quick swipe in either direction between auto-attacks to make sure I was hearing enemy ultimates or to tone down party chatter. It's a feature I never wanted until I had it, and I've had trouble using other keyboards since. 

My only issue with the peripheral design features of this keyboard was the placement of LED indicators for Caps Lock, Num Lock, and Game Mode. Because of the key height in relation to the chassis, these indicators were extremely difficult to see at most angles unless you craned your neck (though I'm barely 5'2', so maybe taller folks won't have the same issue). Some slightly different placement would have been nice to see, but overall I didn't find myself too concerned with this minor design hiccup.  

Verdict

In spite of a few issues with long-term comfort and some questionable design choices, HyperX really got it right with the Alloy Elite keyboard. It's well-built, responsive, and offers unmatched simplicity of use in both its plug-and-play design and its peripheral features. 

If you're looking for a keyboard that gives you a full suite of customization options and all those other fancy features that drive up price tags for gaming keyboards, you'll probably want to look to Corsair or Logitech for your next board. (Or if RGB lighting is your only must-have, you can simply wait until the RGB version of the Alloy Elite releases at an undetermined time later this year.)

But if you're willing to let go of a few cosmetic enhancements for a well-rounded keyboard with a wealth of functionality and utilitarian details, the Alloy Elite will be right up your alley. When you're fixing volume and lighting schemes on the fly, you won't regret it. 

The HyperX Alloy Elite gaming keyboard is currently available on Amazon for $109.99. 

[Note: HyperX provided the Alloy Elite keyboard used for this review.]

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Beat The Game Review: A Music Producer's Bizarre Adventure https://www.gameskinny.com/lglq7/beat-the-game-review-a-music-producers-bizarre-adventure https://www.gameskinny.com/lglq7/beat-the-game-review-a-music-producers-bizarre-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/ba0efbe3a915d64c3fca71073f9871a8.jpg lglq7/beat-the-game-review-a-music-producers-bizarre-adventure Tue, 03 Oct 2017 15:39:21 -0400 Jeffrey Rousseau

Imagine, if you will, that Tim Burton decided to make a music game. What exactly would that be like? Well Beat the Game by developer Worm Animation answers that question. The game is a surreal trip that captures the intricacies of music making. Does this title fall on a flat note or does it make beautiful music? -- Find out in our review.

In Beat The Game, players take control of Mistik. Our hero finds himself in another world after a bike crash. He's not your average protagonist; he's a music producer and a DJ. Throughout the game, you are on a journey to find new sounds. As you traverse the land you will eventually create the ultimate soundtrack. 

In essence, the game represents the journey a real world music producer takes when creating. Some say that crafting music is something like lucid dreaming: It involves searching, inspiration, interacting with the world, and ultimately bringing it together. In this title it presents this intimate process in abstract fashion. 

Life Directed By My 808

Upon taking control of Mistik, players will notice he doesn't have much...except for his device. This device, for those that don't know, is an 808. It's actually a nod to the 808 drum machine. The device was used by producers for electronic music during the early 1980s, and set a standard for music creation since then. So, it would make sense that our hero is lead by this iconic piece of music machinery.

Your task in this nameless world is to locate sounds. The device can detect sounds, and the louder the sound is the closer you are to them. Sound itself serves as your compass. This is something of a relief because you are given no directions. Instead of being intimidating, it's actually rather refreshing -- you can take your time.

Upon discovery of a new sound, the 808 will record it and add it to your collection. You'll find sounds from a variety of things: a wind pipe, an otherworldly creature, a lamp fixture, and much more. If you've ever read a producer describe their creative process they'll mention that a lot of the sounds they create and their inspiration come from unorthodox of sources. 

The goal of the Beat the Game is to find all the sounds in the world and perform for the people. Traversing the world and seeing the sights is certainly worthwhile and adds to that sense of wanderlust. You'll never know where you'll find the next sound.

Cassettes and Tape Deck Experiences

Another part of Beat's charm is discovering the places where you'll find these elusive sounds. It's a unique experience to watch how Mistik stumbles across this music.

For example, you find yourself watching another DJ perform. After the performance, you obtain the sound-- after all artists are normally inspired by other artists. Sometimes a new sound can be found at a random party upon hearing an awesome beat. The games make these "aha moments" of finding music really personal. If you remove the surrealism, these discoveries occur a lot like the do in real life.

Aside from the music, you can also collect other items. A floppy disk here, a drumstick there, and so forth. They are all seemingly random...at first glance. One of your discoveries is a cassette tape. You move on and don't think much about it. Later on, you discover a lifeless robot with a cassette tape deck interface. Mistik brings the robot to life much to his surprise. It can then help you search the world for items you may have missed. 

I found this aspect and adventuring in a whacky world to be very fun part of Beat the Game. While in the end things made sense, there were times were they didn't. Making music is often like that--you wander around for awhile before it all comes together. 

The Thrill of Victory By The Turntable

Some DJs/producers would agree that success starts and stops at the turntable. The mark of your music's impact can only be measured if people enjoy it. In the case of Beat, this turntable and goal is made clear to you from the beginning. It's constantly on your mind too as you see nameless NPCs gather around your turntable as time passes.

You must use your arsenal of sounds to create a successful performance.

This is then where the game becomes something of a puzzle. You have to piece together the sounds to increase your success rate as the performance goes on. This isn't easy because it also requires you to add effects and control the volume. You have to warp and craft the music as you see fit. It's a question of what to do and when to do it.

Like a real life performance, there's pressure on the DJ. In this case, however, you have all the time in the world. It's exciting to see...I mean hear what sounds you'll create to move the crowd. Reaching this end goal is what makes Beat The Game so special. No music game really captures the production journey quite like this. 

Production Under The Hood

Beat The Game has an interesting production behind it. Characters are uniquely outlandish but not to an extreme. Mistik fits right into the dream universe. The dream landscape feels empty and at the same time doesn't. It's littered with machines, elaborate background monuments, giant sand, creatures and other wondrously odd things. This small world has a lot going, and it's not telling you all of its secrets. You have to take the time to notice them.

Ah, so what of the game's music? Glad you asked. All of the music within the game was scored by Marc Houle. As a veteran house and techno producer he was able to help create authentic sounds where players can create whatever their minds lead them to make.

Flat Notes

Beat the Game is a unique title for sure, but it's not without elements that people may considered to be flaws. People may feel that the game is small. The world is more like a sandbox compared to other games. This matter of scale may give off the impression that it's not complete. Another issue players may not enjoy is that the journey has no real direction. Some people enjoy games where they know where to go next. Some folks don't like two seconds of feeling lost, never mind a whole game. In addition, this title has no danger, no competition with others, and is very mellow. For some, these elements, or lack thereof, may be considered boring. 

Encore

To be honest, Beat The Game isn't for everyone. I would argue that everyone that enjoys music and gaming should play it. Personally, I've never been so enamored with a game as I was with this one. In my spare time I'm learning music production for the sake of learning it, so maybe the game resonates with me because of this. In my opinion, no music game has done what Beat the Game has done. The journey of creating music and how weird the process is was captured well by Worm Animation and is well-worth playing.

Beat The Game is available now on Steam.

Editor's Note: The developer provided a copy of this game for review purposes. 

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Hob Review -- Weird Giraffes and Ancient Mechanical Marvels https://www.gameskinny.com/ugzsx/hob-review-weird-giraffes-and-ancient-mechanical-marvels https://www.gameskinny.com/ugzsx/hob-review-weird-giraffes-and-ancient-mechanical-marvels 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/b/hob-pre-release-steam-header-e849c.jpg ugzsx/hob-review-weird-giraffes-and-ancient-mechanical-marvels Tue, 03 Oct 2017 11:00:29 -0400 Erroll Maas

Hob is a new action adventure game by Runic Games, created in the vein of the Legend of Zelda series. In Hob, players take the role of a presumably unnamed protagonist who wakes up in a seemingly unknown environment. A mechanical golem then guides players through a tutorial until the protagonists hand becomes infected by a poison afflicting sections of the environment.

The protagonist later wakes up to find themselves back where they started, but now with a large mechanical replacement hand to aid them. They then go out to explore the world and go on a journey to supposedly save it from the source of its affliction. 

The world of Hob is its most notable aspect. Between the strange creatures, the ancient ruins of a rather advanced civilization which cover the world, and certain viewing spots with special music cues  for players to take it all in, the mere extent of the world rarely falls short. It's charming to be able to appreciate the strange world of the game without having to worry about a nearby threat moving closer, as enemies and dangerous obstacles are usually well-separated from viewing spots and other areas, or have already been defeated before the player arrives at a scenic overlook.

In true homage to its inspiration, all the staples of a Legend of Zelda type game are present -- a sword which increases in strength as you progress, the more unique mechanical arm which does the same, various puzzles to solve and enemies to defeat, save points, and fast travel between different areas of the world. New abilities and equipment can also be purchased at certain temples and made from any blueprints that are found throughout your journey.

All of these aspects function as they should, but they all leave something to be desired as well.

Despite an outlandishly gorgeous world and noteworthy overall presentation, Hob has a few significant flaws which keep it from reaching the same level of quality as other games in the genre. The game suffers from a severe lack of direction due to containing no dialogue, and it can be difficult to determine where to go next. Once the map is obtained and markers can be seen, it shows players where to go but gives no insight into how to get there, leaving it up to the player to figure it out (similar in some ways to the first Legend of Zelda game).

While some players enjoy the encouragement of exploration, the vagueness can leave others feeling frustrated, particularly when backtracking and re-exploring areas becomes rather tedious after the map tries to trick you into thinking the path to the next marker is easier than it actually is.

Although the gameplay is adequate from the tight combat with the sword and heavy mechanical arm to the familiar feeling of obtaining upgrades and armaments, it's also relatively standard and provides no new or interesting twists -- bringing nothing to the table that hasn't been seen before. And there are a few hindering mechanics that should have been left on the drawing board. When you're close to a climbable object, for example, the game will do an automatic grab and take you somewhere that you may not have wanted to go. 

Unfortunately, Hob seems to lack the innovative qualities of other previously released games in the same vein.

Verdict

Players who appreciate unique, spectacular visuals and don't mind too-familiar gameplay and lack of direction will get the most enjoyment out of this game. It lacks the innovation seen in other, arguably better, games in the genre -- but Hob can still provide a satisfying experience for some.  

Hob is currently available on PC through GOG and on PlayStation 4 through the PlayStation Store. It costs $19.99 on all platforms. 

[Note: GOG.com provided the copy of Hob used for this review.]

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Road Redemption Review: Road Rash is Back! https://www.gameskinny.com/2hm94/road-redemption-review-road-rash-is-back https://www.gameskinny.com/2hm94/road-redemption-review-road-rash-is-back 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-d1b7c.jpg 2hm94/road-redemption-review-road-rash-is-back Tue, 03 Oct 2017 10:25:17 -0400 Sergey_3847

It's no secret that Kickstarter gave birth to many sequels of classic video games that would have never seen the light of the day otherwise -- such as Wasteland 2, Broken Sword 5, Shroud of the Avatar, and many others.

In the early 90s, Electronic Arts released a racing combat game titled "Road Rash," for SEGA Genesis. Road Rash turned out to be so popular that it spawned five more sequels in the following ten years.

Now, the developers from Pixel Dash Studios and EQ Games made the spiritual successor to Road Rash possible with the help of Kickstarter and Steam Early Access, titled Road Redemption. The new game has a release date of October 4, 2017 on PC, and 2018 for PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U.

If you were a fan of Road Rash in the past, or just like adrenaline-packed racing games, and would like to know more about Road Redemption, then read our review of this fantastic new game from Pixel Dash.

Competition, Fury, and Redemption

The concept of the game is really simple. First, you choose a bike and a rider that differ in terms of speed, acceleration, steering, and the types of weapons you can wield that will be used against other bikers on the highway.

Each rider has their own unique design and personality, including such seminal characters like Jack-o-Lantern and Shovel Knight. Their bikes can be upgraded with the the help of skill tree and purchasable perks from the in-game store.

After you've chosen your hero, the game immediately puts you on a highway across the desert, where you need to race against ten other opponents. The terrain on each map is randomized, so you won't see exactly the same rocks, trees, and other objects each time you race.

Some missions in Road Redemption will require you to finish in the top 3, while others will ask you to chase and kill a certain number of target opponents. In either case, you will have to overtake other bikers on the highway and fight them using melee weapons and firearms.

Melee weapons such as gas pipes, baseball bats, machetes, shovels, etc. are far more effective than things like automatic weapons. But if you unlock a shotgun, then you can do some serious damage from a distance -- especially if you can buy a corresponding weapon perk.

If you have no weapon in your hands, then you can just get close to your opponents, grab them with your hands, and pull them off their bikes. However, this is a dangerous trick, and if you're not careful, you yourself can get easily dragged out of the race.

Additionally, you get to throw some explosives and quickly get rid of the most annoying bikers on the road. So there's a ton of action going on in the span of just a few minutes before you arrive at the finish line.

Level of Difficulty and Multiplayer

Since Road Redemption follows the arcade style of the Road Rash series, you will only have one life for making it through the entire campaign. If you die in the process and can't afford to buy health gain perks, then you will have to start from the very beginning.

This puts Road Redemption into the category of the most difficult games in the genre. If you're used to saving a lot or making a lot of mistakes, then this game will make you scream in agony -- it is that unforgiving.

But there is a bright side to all this, because every time you die, you get to spend your hard-earned XP points on permanent upgrades that will be active during your next playthroughs. So in that regard, Road Redemption does become easier the more you play it.

Concerning multiplayer mode, RR offers a 4-player co-op mode with an option of a split-screen in case you and your friends decide to play on the same screen. Unfortunately, there is no full-fledged multiplayer mode implemented, where you could play with other people online. But that is something the developers are currently actively discussing with their community.

Apart from the online racing mode, there are a few other things that could be improved in Road Redemption.

Wishlist and Final Verdict

Optimization, of course, is a huge matter for any racing game, including RR. The smoothness of the gameplay is crucial for maintaining a stable progress throughout the campaign -- but when your frames are dropping like crazy, at times you just don't want to try anymore. This happens more and more rarely in RR, again due to constant updates, but it is still an open case.

As for the gameplay, RR definitely needs more tracks, weapons, bikes, and other cool things to make it even more fun. This is definitely improving already, let's just hope that developers won't drop the ball on Road Redemption after the realease and give us something really good.

Despite a few minor drawbacks, RR has an absolutely fantastic soundtrack and excellent physics. But the main advantage of the game is the action -- it is undoubtedly one of the most fun games you will ever play.

On the modern video game market there is no other game like Road Redemption, so there is a big chance that more gamers will pay attention to it, and this will inspire Pixel Dash and EQ to further invest ideas into this unique and extremely fun ride.

[Note: A copy of Road Redemption was provided by Pixel Dash Studios for the purpose of this review.]

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Cuphead Review -- Old-School Cool https://www.gameskinny.com/3s7m3/cuphead-review-old-school-cool https://www.gameskinny.com/3s7m3/cuphead-review-old-school-cool 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/u/p/cuphead-review-header-75786.png 3s7m3/cuphead-review-old-school-cool Sat, 30 Sep 2017 10:17:06 -0400 Ashley Gill

Cuphead may have suffered a few delays over the years, but 2017 was the right year to let it out into the wild. This is a year that will be remembered within the gaming community for its plethora of fantastic platformers -- and Cuphead itself will sit right there among them, as it deserves.

There are two things that make this entry to the genre notable and will inevitably be its shining chariot into cult classic status: the signature '30s-era animation style, and its almost-total focus on challenging boss fights that are generally (not always) just as fair as they are busy.

Cuphead's focus on boss fights is one of its biggest draws, but for some, it may be its biggest detriment. Despite its mostly cute (and sometimes unsettling) visuals, the game is almost like a boss gauntlet. There's a world map, NPCs to talk to, run-and-gun stages, and a shop -- but the vast majority of anyone's time playing the game will be spent taking on the game's many bosses. If you're not up for a bunch of projectile-spewing bosses, the game very well may not be to your tastes even when lowering the difficulty.

The game boasts a fair amount of weapons, special attacks, and charms. These can be bought outside of stages and equipped to your liking. But if you were hoping you could buff yourself to make the game easier, you've got another thing coming. Despite the array of options, none of them stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of strength, but there are just enough to suit most playstyles. Weapons with wide spreads -- or the one that automatically targets enemies -- have weaker shots, while the one with the highest single-hit damage potential has to be charged.

Cuphead is balanced from top to bottom. But that doesn't mean it's easy. You've surely seen from, well.. just about anyone talking about it, that the game is hard. That's true: it is very hard. Those in the average-to-slightly-above-average skill brackets will have far more trouble with the game than hardcore platformer players -- what could be an 8-hour game for some may be a 3-hour one for others, even on their first playthrough. I can only imagine for some others it will take a few hours longer longer.

Ultimately, Cuphead is actually quite short but considering the animation techniques used, this is one of the few times I'll toss my ideal $1 = 10 hours of playtime equation to the side. It's short, sure. Nothing's perfect. This review didn't have a glowing "10" at the top, did it?

I have experienced two bugs in particular (so far) while playing Cuphead on PC. One with a less-than-ideal infinite mid-air twirl in the first run-and-gun stage, and the other simply a softlock when paused. The rest of my playtime has been bug-free. Bugs happen, and while these did stall (read: stop) my playing when they occurred, they certainly haven't put a damper on my enjoyment of the rest of the game.

Most who have been anticipating Cuphead have been looking forward to seeing the classic animation in action, and it does look fantastic and often incredibly surreal. The folks over at StudioMDHR got the look and feel of the Popeye and Betty Boop animators, Fleischer Studios, down just right for the modern audience. All of it fits the style, but some of what's portrayed may be far past what would have flown back then. That's A-OK, since the 1930s are long gone.

If I could point out all of the details in the background art, I would. The combination of the game's charming drawings and perfectly-fitting soundtrack does an amazing job of pulling the player into Cuphead and Mugman's self-made plight. Each boss stage is as unique as the last and a big part of the fun in Cuphead is actually seeing what the bosses themselves look like and do through each phase, not to mention all that snazzy music that is really hard to not want to listen to after you're done with the game.

So why a 9? Despite its great just-about-everything, Cuphead just isn't a game I can see many people outside of the hardcore gaming community coming back to. It's just too much like classic run and guns for most of the modern audience, and I'd be willing to bet the vast majority of players don't even make it halfway through the game. Hell, a sizable portion won't even be able to make it through the first world.

Compounded on the above is the fact I can't see anyone but the aforementioned hardcore community bothering to come back to the game once finished -- despite its short length. Pushing through Cuphead is a delightfully painful process, but most people do not have the stomach or time for that type of effort. In a way, its difficulty and short length may doom it to be one of many of this year's platformer lineup that will be consumed and forgotten in a matter of weeks.

Cuphead deserves a 9 out of 10 because it is probably the best example of the genre released in the past 15 years, and everything about it is oozing the love and time of its developers. The actual speedruns that will come out of this beast are going to be a sight to behold, but chances are this game is the opposite of most people's cup of tea -- despite what it looks like.

(Note: The developer provider a copy of Cuphead for the purposes of this review.)

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Citadale: The Legends Trilogy Review - A Decent Castlevania Clone https://www.gameskinny.com/tk5d2/citadale-the-legends-trilogy-review-a-decent-castlevania-clone https://www.gameskinny.com/tk5d2/citadale-the-legends-trilogy-review-a-decent-castlevania-clone https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/21d13072c161843648968199f1da1e7a.jpg tk5d2/citadale-the-legends-trilogy-review-a-decent-castlevania-clone Fri, 29 Sep 2017 13:11:00 -0400 Craig Snyder

When you take one look at Citadale: The Legends Trilogy (as I suggest you do in the trailer above), you know what you're in for. By no means is this being pushed as some high-end title that's going to bring some breathtaking new gameplay experience to Castlevania fans. This game is as raw and nostalgic as it looks at first glance.

Citadale: The Legends Trilogy is an indie Castlevania clone made by Ezekial Rage. It's available on both the Wii U (£4.49) and Steam ($9.99). In Citadale: The Legends Trilogy, you play as Sonja Dorleac and wield a sword-like weapon called the Shadow Blade. You run and jump through this sidescroller killing off demons, zombies, bats, and all sorts of horrible-looking creatures. The "trilogy" in this title comes in the form of three in-game chapters which all play as slightly different games.

Chapter 1 is the original Wii U release, Gate of Souls. In Chapter 2, you play as Sonja's son, Gabriel. In Chapter 3, Sonja's grandson, Christopher, is given the Shadow Blade and you play his role . Like the game itself, the progression through chapters and the intertwining story is relatively simple.

A Shoddy First Impression

One thing worth noting right off the bat is that this trailer doesn't do the game much justice. The tracks that they chose are far from the best you're going to hear in Citadale: The Legends Trilogy, and I really wish they'd have picked better ones. I personally find the opening track of the trailer to be a bit hard on the ears, and that itself may be enough to turn people away. Try to hear past it.

Launching Citadale: The Legends Trilogy on Steam, you're met with what is probably the most simple starting screen I've seen in the last few years. You can start playing the game or check out its (extremely limited) settings and options, shown here:

There's no option to change your controls, which wouldn't be an issue in a game where the controls were intuitive or introduced to the player in some tutorial mode or starting stage. But you don't get that in Citadale: The Legends Trilogy. Through an hour of playing the game, I couldn't figure out how to use my pick-up items. I pressed every key on my keyboard and came up empty. I searched on Google and found nothing. Being that this is one of the key mechanics in the game, I experienced it on a whole different level for first few bosses.

It was frustrating to see an axe in my inventory but not have any way to use it. Then finally, I remembered how you'd do it in the old Konami classic: UpV/Alt. I feel really bad for anyone who doesn't have experience with Castlevania games of the past, because figuring that out would be nearly impossible for them.

The only two other controls (other than movement through A/D or Left/Right) are your jump (C/Ctrl) and taking a swing of your Shadow Blade (V/Alt). You can crouch with S/Down.

Part of me gets the control thing, though. Citadale: The Legends Trilogy wants to be as raw as possible. It lends to the nostalgic and difficult experience, right? While I do agree, the level of keyboard-pounding required to figure everything out doesn't exactly contribute to any sort of fun experience with the game.

Other than the lack of a way to change your controls, Old TV Mode is a neat option that adds a filter to your game to emulate those old TV scan lines.

Decent Visuals & Audio

Getting started with the game, you're met with a few paragraphs of story. It's very shallow and basic, but that's to be expected in a game like this. Sonja is set out one night after her husband's deceased father rises from his grave. Sonja's husband takes off to check out a nearby citadel with his eyes set on stopping the evil forces his father has released, and Sonja is left behind to protect the village.

The graphics and audio were immediately a relief. Again, what I heard in the trailer wasn't exactly pleasant to my ears. The track for the first stage of the game is much better and sounds exactly like something I'd expect from a Castlevania clone, so I have no complaints.

The sprites, both for Sonja and and enemies, are pretty fluid. I expected them to be more choppy and jerky than they are, so that was a nice touch to see.

One thing I will say is that, when looking through reviews of the game, I found two different occasions (here and here) where players made accusations of sprites and MIDIs being stolen and used for the game. In the second link, Ezekial Rage (the game developer) responds to say that he is aware of the strong similarities, although the report is representing something "not in this version of the game."

Speculation aside, I think this just lends more to the fact that Citadale: The Legends Trilogy is trying as hard as possible to be a very close experience to the original Castlevania titles.

The Gameplay I Expected

All the way up until the first boss, which I got to within a matter of minutes, the gameplay was exactly what I thought it'd be. You hack and slash enemies to pick up coins, food, soul gems, and items. It's nothing new, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

You're also met with checkpoints throughout, at which you'll respawn upon dying. This is extremely necessary because you can expect to die a lot. And that's unfortunate, because it doesn't tell you how to save your game anywhere -- except in a line on the Steam page's update notes that says F1 saves your state and F2 loads it.

You are only given one save state across the entirety of the game. If you close the game without pressing F1, when you launch the game again there is no option to continue. Your progress is lost. Before this update, players would need to beat through the entire game in one sitting. Talk about hardcore.

The first boss was a pretty cool experience. She (or at least I believe they were female) spawns in the center of the stage after you clear it on top of a rose. Periodically, she'll cause the vines that you've been slashing through up until this point to spawn. It basically requires you to quickly learn the pattern where they spawn, kill them, and rush to the center of the stage where you can deal damage to her.

The next boss, which couldn't have been more than five minutes away, was arguably even easier.

A dragon-like skeleton floats across the screen and you must jump and slash at him. When being hit, he'll drop skeleton enemies that you've been fighting along the way. You quickly put them down and then get back to jumping and swinging at the boss. You won't find yourself taking too much damage here.

From this point on though, you begin to experience a lot of new game mechanics. There comes a point where you'll (probably) walk across a platform that has a slight discoloration to it, which will result in you falling to your death. Luckily enough, this happens just seconds after reaching a checkpoint.  This is where the game begins to show a bit of cleverness and difficulty.

The next boss you'll reach, which is just steps away from these falling platforms, is exponentially harder than the first two. I won't spoil it for you, but you can expect to die many times before finally figuring it out.

The pick-up items that you'll come across as you kill through giant spiders, slugs, and hordes or hideous monsters are as follows:

  • Holy water, which burns enemies
  • Throwing axes, which can damage enemies above you
  • Throwing stars, which slice through multiple enemies in front of you
  • Potions, which replenish your health

Each require a soul gem to use. Having no soul gems means you won't be able to use your pick-up item. Think of the gems as mana. Players familiar with Castlevania should have no issue understanding this mechanic, nor will they experience the pains of figuring out what button combination allows you to use them (which, again, is UpV/Alt).

A Few Shortcomings

While I admit I stopped one boss short of finishing Chapter 1, because I just couldn't beat it after a good 30 tries, I can confidently state that one of Citadale: The Legends Trilogy's most glaring issues is the difficulty spike. I mentioned the boss from stage 3 being tenfold as difficult as the bosses from stages 1 and 2, and you'll find this happening all throughout the game. You'll cruise through a few stages and then just hit a wall. But this hardcore type of gameplay might be what some people are looking for.

Another issue I have with the game is that the hit detection is pretty mediocre, especially during some boss fights. Hits just don't register as you would expect them to, which is a part of these nostalgic titles that we'd all rather forget than relive.

The skill cap in Citadale: The Legends Trilogy comes mostly from having experience in early Castlevania titles and being able to learn monster and boss fight patterns. The mechanics of your weapon aren't very deep or difficult to learn. The only real quirk about it that you'll have to play with is the way you're able to jump, swing, and turn to hit in multiple directions at the same time with a single swing of the Shadow Blade. Other than that, don't expect to impress yourself.

Conclusion

All in all, I think the people who will want to purchase Citadale: The Legends Trilogy are going to get what they wanted and expected out of it: a nostalgic, difficult experience that's extremely similar to the old Castlevania games on NES. The story, sounds, visuals, and feel of the game are about as similar to the original Nintendo title as I've found.

Citadale: The Legends Trilogy boasts some replayability too. There are alternate endings for the first two chapters, and there's even a boss rush mode for the original game if you manage to get the "good" ending. I can't tell you how to achieve that, but it does add a little bit of hype to a game that has yet to receive Steam Achievements or things of that nature. I'm actually really curious to see what the boss rush game mode is all about and will probably work on it after this review.

If you're a Castlevania fan or someone who just loves raw and classic hack-and-slash titles, Citadale: The Legends Trilogy won't disappoint. For the majority of you though, you'll find this title hard to fall in love with.

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

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Project Cars 2 Review: A Racing Sim Done Well https://www.gameskinny.com/mzop4/project-cars-2-review-a-racing-sim-done-well https://www.gameskinny.com/mzop4/project-cars-2-review-a-racing-sim-done-well 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/s/z/rsz-career06-1500472380-1504886451-35ec1.png mzop4/project-cars-2-review-a-racing-sim-done-well Fri, 29 Sep 2017 12:38:41 -0400 ESpalding

Project CARS 2, one the most anticipated racing games of the year has made its laps and finally crossed the finish line! The racing car simulator -- not arcade racer -- is the sequel to the vastly successful Project Cars which was released in May 2015 by London-based Slightly Mad Studios. 

Out of the box, Project CARS 2 boasts an impressive lineup of 180 cars from nine motorsport disciplines and 29 different racing series. You can start your career in Formula Rookie cars and work your way up to Rallycross, IndyCar, and higher, mimicking exactly how professional racing drivers work their way up through the career ranks. You have to learn each car and set it up with personal variables as work your way to the top.

It's all very involved -- as simulators should be. 

This is a Simulation -- Not a Sunday Drive

This game is full of management options from fuel usage, tire wear, and grip, to suspension, handling settings, and more. It really isn't for the faint-hearted or those who just want to be able to race and win straight off the grid -- which sometimes is not a good thing.

Don't get me wrong, I am a massive fan of simulators and I'm not new to racing sims, but even the level at which you need to understand all the various sliders in Project CARS 2 was beyond me. In a recent interview with Slightly Mad Studios, COO Rod Chong makes a point of saying that the game is accessible to newcomers to the genre -- but I'm not entirely convinced.

You really need to come at the game from a driver's point of view. Thing is, not everyone who likes these kinds of games actually drives on a pro level. I don't even drive a car. I ride a motorbike. And this immediately puts me at a disadvantage. I don't know exactly how a car would race and handle in certain circumstances or different weather conditions. 

I can see how this amount of granular tuning would be great for someone who has played games like this before or knows what they are doing in real life (or have gained a lot of that knowledge from watching races all their lives) but it isn't wholly accessible to non-drivers or first-time players.

There's a lot to tweak -- and the options can be overwhelming -- but new players are in for a bit of luck as the developers have included a handy feature called Race Engineer. It's somewhat hidden and a bit difficult to find, but once you do stumble across it, the feature helps you tune your car without you having to know the specific ins and outs of braking or drifting, for example. Essentially, you are asked a series of questions to ascertain what you need help with (such as if your car isn't accelerating faster enough or doesn't take turns sharp enough) and the game tunes your car accordingly. 

And although you won't have some of the customization options found in other racing games, such as adding nitrous to your speedster or turning one car class into another, you will be able to fine-tune your tires (which you have to make sure are the right type for a specific track's race conditions, such as rain or heat), gear ratios, and suspension, for example. 

The menu to tune these aspects of your car isn't immediately visible, but instead nestled inside a few other menus within the game. However, once you find it, you'll be glad you did -- whether you're a new or a veteran. 

Beautiful, Dynamic Tracks Create New Strategies

One thing the developers have definitely got right, however, is how the Project CARS 2 looks. The graphics are next level, and the attention to detail is impeccable. And it doesn't matter in what area of the world you're racing, either. The game has more than 140 different track layouts spread across over 60 locations, from the tarmac of Brands Hatch to the icy roads of Scandinavia, the locations are all stunning, rendered in gorgeous detail. 

Not only that, but each track is a "living track" with life-like weather conditions and seasons. You could be racing on a sunny day, but then it starts to rain. Not only is the track now wet, but there are puddles on the road -- meaning that you are at risk of sliding off course, making you handle your car differently as you take it through turns and down straightaways. On top of that, tracks also get hot and cold, which drastically affects how your tires grip the asphalt and how your car handles while blazing down the track. 

In the space of a lap, your driving strategy has to change to take into consideration the change in track dynamics. It's an interesting wrinkle and something that racing fanatics and enthusiasts are sure to enjoy. 

All in all, I have found that Project CARS 2 satisfies my need for a decent, in-depth racing game. While the settings may be a bit too much and the gameplay via a gamepad may be a bit off the mark (playing with a gamepad just doesn't feel like actual racing), Project CARS 2 does deliver a great racing experience. You can tell that a lot of time has been taken to make sure the cars, tracks, and environments are as realistic as possible. The dynamic weather feature really adds to the overall experience and keeps the game fresh.

Would I say that this is the best racing game I've ever played? Sadly, no. The game has a lot of accessibility issues and is heavily geared more toward car aficionados. 

[Note: A copy of Project CARS 2 was provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment for the purpose of this review.]

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FIFA 18 Review: Where's My 3v3 Mode? https://www.gameskinny.com/y1nfp/fifa-18-review-wheres-my-3v3-mode https://www.gameskinny.com/y1nfp/fifa-18-review-wheres-my-3v3-mode 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-cb798.jpg y1nfp/fifa-18-review-wheres-my-3v3-mode Fri, 29 Sep 2017 11:47:20 -0400 Joseph Rowe

Put your virtual cleats on and get ready to dribble, because it's FIFA 18 time! Boasting changes to the Football Ultimate Team, a continuation of the Journey, an overhaul to the dribbling system, and more, this year's edition comes out strong.

That being said, many sports game players get sick of having to drop $60 a year on a new version of the same game. Does this year's offering give you enough new goodies to warrant a purchase? Read on to find out.

FIFA 18's Graphics

Like pretty much any other EA Sports game, FIFA 18 looks ridiculously good. Starting with 17, EA Sports switched to the Frostbite engine. A year later, it's still looking like a great choice on EA's part. The player's faces look pretty realistic, the gear looks nice, the stadiums look amazing, and the only thing that doesn't look A+ is the audience. But hey, they're not nearly as important as the players. Who cares if the crowd doesn't look perfect when you can individually count the sweat drops rolling down your player's face?

The menus have a sleek design with a nice mix of big, small, wide, thin, etc. icons. I'm normally not impressed enough by menus to make comments, but kudos to EA for getting this right.

In terms of character creation, you have loads of ways to customize your player to make them visually distinct -- like skin complexion, loads of different hairstyles, facial feature and gear customization, etc. Sadly and kind of confusingly, this game has a much more intricate facial customization system than NHL 18 does, but despite Women's League being in the game, you can't create a female player (while in EA's hockey game, you can). 

FIFA 18's Sound

The sound is just as spot-on as the graphics. The sounds of the audience cheering will get you insanely pumped to shoot some goals, and the sounds of your teammates chattering during scrimmages in the story mode adds a nice bit of ambiance that makes you feel like you're at an actual practice. Just be sure not to drink all of Dave's Gatorades again. 

I'm not familiar with the actual real life FIFA (what is an outside world anyway?) so I have no clue who the announcers are -- but the English speaking ones are funny and a little bit too honest at times. No need to call out my missed chip shot as embarrassing, eesh.

The soundtrack surprised me. It featured a decent amount of bands I actually knew, and I ended up liking some tracks that I normally wouldn't have. I wasn't as much of a fan of EA's other offering in NHL 18, but this game's got everything from Weezer to Danish pop-punk.

FIFA 18's Gameplay

Now what you've all been waiting for: gameplay. In our overview of the gameplay, let's start with how this game differs from 17: it really doesn't. 

EA has swapped out Football Ultimate Team's legends and put in Icons instead. This isn't that big of a change -- but if you're super into the greats of soccer/football, then this will excite you.

One of the more important, albeit minor, changes is the addition of new team styles and tactics. This will make your AI teammates play better and give you more variation when playing offline.

The only other addition of real note is the enhanced dribbling system. They've overhauled the previous system based on player complaints in hopes of solving balance issues, although it's too early in the game's release to say if that's improved the situation or not.

Other than that, there really hasn't been much change since 17 unless you're a really big German Liga fan. The lack of major changes is also a good thing in a way, because the core gameplay of FIFA 18 is stellar for the most part. You have an insane tool kit to work with that lets you make all sorts of intricate plays. You can perform a threaded through pass to a teammate who can simply rainbow into a goal-scoring kick, or you can do what I do and low kick the ball into the corner until the AI makes a mistake and you win by the skin of your teeth. There's ways for players of all skill levels to enjoy the game.

Speaking of terrible FIFA players, there are skill games for you to hone your individual skills (e.g.: lob passing, finesse shots, etc.) either with an actual player whom you're leveling or just for fun as matches load. Some of them are a bit of a chore, but most of them are actually a lot of fun. There's something slightly magical about getting into a serious rhythm with lob passes in that skill game.

The game controlled pretty well even before I spent my time practicing. The basics of the dribbling system are pretty intuitive. If you want something more in-depth, you're in luck! The different skill moves they offer, like the Sombrero Flick and the Roulette, give you complex and rewarding ways to keep the ball in your possession. Some of them are a bit clunky to pull off and there could've been more guidance in learning them in-game, but for the most part, they control well.

FIFA 18's Football Ultimate Team

I ranted about the NHL 18 version of this already, but since the feature is in this game as well, I'll rant about it here, too. EA Sport's Ultimate Team features in their sports games are unnecessary cash grabs.

EA Sports already has the biggest hold on the sports gaming market, so they're not desperate enough for money to justify charging real life cash for randomized virtual cards. As a whole, I can't stand most microtransactions in games (bring me back to pre-DLC times), but this kind of thing just feels like it's designed for wealthy players who don't want to put the time in to get good at the actual game while EA makes tons of cash off their gold and "premium" gold packs.

Maybe if you grind hard enough you can keep up with players who don't mind spending hundreds of dollars on premium currency, but I'd rather have this feature either with in-game currency or for it to not exist at all.

FIFA 18's Story Mode

FIFA 18 brings with it the continuation of Alex Hunter's English premiere league story. Have no fear if you missed the first installation of the series, as you get a recap at the start if you have no FIFA 17 save data. If you do, however, you'll continue with the same club you joined previously along with your traits and honors.

I didn't play 17, so this is my first experience with a story mode of any kind in a sports game -- and it was much better than I thought it would be. But I really wish they would have made 3v3 a playable mode like they did for NHL 18. The introductory 3v3 street game in the Hunter was a blast, and I'd love to see that added in with its own circuit like EA Sports's hockey series.

Verdict

If you're a die hard FIFA fan but aren't sure if 18 offers enough new stuff to warrant the launch price tag even after reading this review, I'd pass. If you're excited with the Hunter storyline's second part, go for it -- because it's one of the best parts of the game. If you're looking for an in-depth soccer/football simulation, then FIFA 18 is the game for you. If you're looking for something that's easy and more fun than realistic, you'll probably want to get PES instead.

All in all, this year's FIFA has something to offer soccer/football fans of every type if you're not too disappointed by its lack of new features. While I can definitely understand the appeal for hardcore soccer simulationists and would likely score this higher if I was one, as a more casual player I give the game a 8. Its core is completely solid and it comes with an interesting storyline, but its lack of more arcade style gameplay like a 3v3 mode and its ridiculous Football Ultimate Team mode detract from its score for me.

Looking for more content for this game? Check out my FIFA 18 tips and tricks guide as well as my trophy guide!

[NoteEA Sports provided a copy of FIFA 18 for the purpose of this review.]

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Total War: Warhammer 2 Brings Tabletop Combat to Life https://www.gameskinny.com/fojo4/total-war-warhammer-2-brings-tabletop-combat-to-life https://www.gameskinny.com/fojo4/total-war-warhammer-2-brings-tabletop-combat-to-life https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/2/0/1/20170927152758-dcc81.jpg fojo4/total-war-warhammer-2-brings-tabletop-combat-to-life Thu, 28 Sep 2017 16:31:01 -0400 Ty Arthur

There are an absolutely stupid number of Games Workshop video games out there, including an unrelenting deluge of Warhammer 40,000 titles that have rained down on mobile devices, consoles, and PCs across the world in the past year or so.

Here's the thing, though: most of them are awful and exceedingly half-baked. Sort of the best you can hope for lately is, "Eh, it wasn't actively bad."

There's no question the space version of Warhammer gets more of the video game love than its fantasy counterpart, so I, for one, always welcome a new PC addition to the Old World. I've got very fond memories of playing Shadow Of The Horned Rat on the PS1 (which is so ugly to look at now as to be actively offensive).

But lo and behold, I don't have to stare at it because there's a new addition to that universe -- Total War: Warhammer 2, the second Total War iteration of Warhammer. It not only gives us the pretty visuals the franchise deserves, but also the satisfying -- if perhaps overly complex -- mix of turn-based and RTS gameplay it needs as well.

 Plus, there's lizard men who ride dinosaurs!

A New Way To Wage War

Many of the mobile Warhammer games that get ported to Steam are too simplistic for their own good, but here, with Total War: Warhammer 2, you need to get ready for the opposite.

To boil it down in terms of genre, Total War is to the RTS genre as Arma is to the FPS genre. It's difficult. It's complicated. It's learning curve is immense. And there are far more mechanics than there probably should or ought to be. But if you manage to actually come out the victor, you will feel like you actually accomplished something.

This isn't Heroes Of Might And Magic or even Starcraft. This is large scale strategy with relentlessly difficult combat. Not thinking ahead will surely see you and your compatriots annihilated. 

 Yeah... there's a lot going on here, and this is just the tutorial mission!

You will constantly be dealing with multiple elements at the same time, from panning the camera in multiple dimensions at once to watching morale, monitoring individual battle progress, tracking reinforcements, popping off your Leader's skills, re-positioning for advantage in combat, checking the treeline to make sure you aren't about to be ambushed, and much (much) more.

My first major battle had me positioning all my units just perfectly before the fighting broke out. We were more than adequately prepared for the barbaric chaos hordes. My cavalry was riding through the trees on the opposite side to flank the foolish Norse warriors and take out their Hellcannon artillery before they could annihilate my melee formations at range.

 It's not so tough when my mounted units sneak up from behind...

I outnumbered them, I was prepared, and I had my Slaan wizard ready to annihilate... then it all went to hell immediately.

Turns out those "foolish" barbarians had also gotten units past me on the treeline. Just as the battle was about to begin, a group of archers starts pelting my saurus warriors from behind. Their morale breaks and they go berserk, ignoring my commands to move forward and engage the enemy, chasing after archers they can't possibly catch. With my lines broken the barbarian hordes surround us, it was all over.

The card system helps keep all the unit info in one place, but for those who aren't familiar with Total War, it will still constantly feel like there's too much going on at once -- especially for the first 10 hours or so.

On the opposite side of that, the complexity means there's a ton to do and new elements to always master, and for the achievement whores out there, there's a staggering 106 separate achievements to unlock.

Despite all of those overly complex elements and the constantly desperate, surviving-by-the-seat-of-your pants feeling as you are overwhelmed and outmaneuvered, there's an undeniable sense fun tethered to figuring out how to prevail against all odds.

 Concealing forest lines are the kiss of death

Factions And Gameplay

Total War: Warhammer II has shifted focus on the factions from the previous game, and I personally really like that we aren't starting with humans from the Empire or Bretonia, since it seems odd to make a fantasy version of Total War and then just have human units. This time around the starting factions are High Elves, Dark Elves, Lizardmen, and The Skaven.

I've always been a fan of the lore of the mysterious Old Slann who started life before the gates exploded, releasing Chaos onto the Old World, so of course, I jumped on the lizardmen faction immediately.

Even if you haven't followed the series lore over the last 25 or so years, there's still something undeniably awesome about dinosaurs battling it out with rat people to stop demonic hordes from covering the land (or taking control of the portal and using the demons for your own vile purposes).

 Yup, that's me!

There's a strong balance between turn-based strategy and city management on the overland map to real-time combat in the battles themselves, which can become insanely massive as the campaign moves onward, with tons of neutral factions interacting between the four main playable races. It's also very much worth noting that in a major change, there are now two very different ways to approach the main campaign.

The split between total conquer and ritual enactment cuts out a lot of the typical Total War late game dread -- that part where it's just a slog to pick up the rest of the territory.

A Broken Hammer?

Besides the complexity, there are a few things potential players should be aware of ahead of launching Total War: Warhammer 2. First off, the load times are crazy. I'm hoping that gets resolved in a patch, because they are immense.

While Warhammer, of course, fits the Total War franchise like a glove, there are areas where the two franchises don't quite mesh as well as they could. Probably most notable is the camera, which just can't ever hit a satisfying sweet spot.

You are either too high up for the tactical view to survey your surroundings -- at which point the armies might as well be stationary painted figures on a table -- or you are too close to get a good look at the battle and you lose tactical advantage. 

There's no perfect middle ground to find, no matter how much you fiddle with the camera. I fully realize the point of the Total War series is to focus on the strategy of large-scale combat, but it comes at the expense of some of the RTS fun of actually seeing what's going on in this battle or that skirmish.

 Do you know what you're looking at? Because I have
no idea what I'm even looking at here.

The Bottom Line

Here's the thing -- for all my griping about the difficulty level and constantly tinkering with the camera angle, this is pretty much the purest form of Warhammer the PC crowd is ever going to get -- and it is a very satisfying experience for fans of the franchise.

Couple that with stellar cut scenes and a story rooted in old lore that's worthy of the Warhammer name, and you have yourself a game that's very much worth the asking price if you love the series and don't mind getting trounced for awhile as you figure everything out.

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Four Horsemen Review: New Life Blooms From Chaos https://www.gameskinny.com/e1qrs/four-horsemen-review-new-life-blooms-from-chaos https://www.gameskinny.com/e1qrs/four-horsemen-review-new-life-blooms-from-chaos 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/reviewheader-a0321.png e1qrs/four-horsemen-review-new-life-blooms-from-chaos Wed, 27 Sep 2017 10:52:28 -0400 ThatGamersAsylum

Contrary to the title, the Four Horsemen really isn’t about the harbingers of the apocalypse. Rather, it is a visual novel/SLG (simulated life game) about a group of four immigrants/refugees growing up in a country that hates them and wishes they'd go back to where they came from. Since your country of origin is chosen at the start of the game, the game is more about the refugee experience and less about a particular people’s experience.

From Left to Right: War, Death, Famine, and Pestilence

The game starts with the four horsemen finding, claiming, and naming an abandoned WWII machine gun bunker, which, during the game, you slowly build up by having each character contribute to it in their own way. This is largely done by employing Death, a budding engineer, to craft new, ragtag inventions from items that characters find.

Everyone else feeds into this loop with the tasks they're able to perform during the day. Pestilence can pillage a junk heap, Famine can work at a local store, War purchases items from the store at which Famine works. It doesn’t really make sense, sure, but nevertheless, it makes the base your own personal living space, adding to the overall experience reinforced by the overarching narrative.

The characters also populate the scene, displaying their
own interactions. Sadly this is usually obstructed by UI. 

Four Horsemen's story largely plays out in this bunker. Centering on the refugee and immigrant experience, Four Horsemen tells a story that's compelling and empathetic without preaching or pandering. Placing you into situations that are inspired by real-life immigrant experiences makes it feel alive.

I felt the hatred of my classmates and teacher when they referred to me as "the enemy". I felt the implicit distrust that exuded from my boss and patrons at my after-school job. And any and every interaction with law enforcement became instantly tenuous.

Perhaps the greatest strength of the game is that it never makes you feel like you are being spoonfed simple answers. Every immigrant, whether it be one of the horsemen or one of their relatives, has their own ideas about how to handle their specific situation. When interacting with parents, you are usually offered solutions like,”Be quiet, don’t rock the boat,” or,”You say what you need to in order to survive.” These characters were jaded by what they'd experienced, both during wartime in their native land and now in their new "home". Their words and ideologies speak volumes about who they are (were) as people and that, in turn, speaks volumes about the quality of writing in Four Horsemen.

On the other hand, the four main characters are young and have more fight left in them. War wants to stand up and fight for their rights. Death feels pressured to make something of herself because she’s a talented engineer and her people need a beacon of hope. Famine feels conflicted about his position in society. (He is mixed race and can sort of fit in with the natives, but he also feels a strong bond with his immigrant roots.) And Pestilence feels somewhat indebted while also feeling abused -- he loves the country he has grown up in even though it hates him. The way these different perspectives work together and play off of one another is easily my favorite part of the game.

In turn, the believable characters lend credence to the situations in which they are placed; they even moor some of the more fantastical story beats. This creates a narrative loop where the characters are built up by the situations they endure and the situations are given life because you get to see the interactions of these characters -- which feel much more real than you might at first think.

The story is also adequately supported by the game's art and music. While there's nothing particularly fancy going on here, the anime-inspired character designs get the job done (Although I could do without Famine constantly staring into my soul with his dead eyes!) and the backgrounds adequately accommodate the limitations of the character sprites. I do wish I had a better feel for the layout of the bunker and its surroundings, however, as I would hear the characters mentioning digging a latrine or the bunker's isolated position and I'd never have a frame of reference.

The music can be off-putting at times, but it always felt like it supported the intended emotions of the scene. Whether it was a hard rock or acoustic song that played while you tried to talk your way out of being mugged while waiting for the bus or a somber piano piece as you reflected back on the moments leading to your escape from a war torn home, it always felt like it packed a punch. 

As mentioned earler, you choose which country you want your characters to originate from. Personally, this is a decision I am split on. The strength of this approach is that you can see the same situation play out no matter which country is in power. You realize this could happen anywhere; that at any given time you are just a war away from becoming a refugee yourself.

That being said, the whole thing could come off as coldly systematic. Changing your country only changes a few lines of dialogue, your skin tone and hair color, your particular curse words (vernacular) and pronouns for things like mom and dad, and culturally relevant items, like drugs and food. But I never noticed deeply held cultural beliefs, religions, holidays, etc. truly embraced as a part of each culture's unique heritage. This made it hard to feel grounded in any one particular culture.

Encountering versions of yourself from rival countries makes you realize that you might not be the good guy if you had power. 

However, sometimes the game contradicts itself. Behind closed doors, the horsemen lament that Famine can pass as one of the natives, but when you are actually playing as Famine -- particularly at his day job -- you are constantly treated like a dog. Moreover, the game alludes to certain things that never actually build up.

In the picture of the clubhouse from above, you can see War and Pestilence close together, obviously flirting. But I never saw any real mention of this within the core dialogue (maybe I missed something?). Moreover, Famine is accused of just trying to get into girls' pants -- including Death's -- on numerous occasions. While he never denies this, there wasn't any time that I saw him even so much as mention that a girl was hot. 

These sorts of moments could cause some dissonance in what was otherwise exceptional characterization and dialogue. 

The horsemen talk like real teenagers. I found this
very endearing, but some people won't.

Perhaps my biggest problem with this game, though, was its multiple endings. There are nine endings with four main storylines. However, the stories often run concurrent to one another and as such, you can be forced to restart the game once you have completed one storyline. Concurrent storylines also often mean that character growth is limited to the storyline in which it happened.

This also lends itself to a lot of other problems. The game’s core loop of finding/buying supplies and crafting things is intentionally slow because it represents how hard it is to actually get things when you are a teenager -- particularly a refugee teenager -- that no one wants to hire, much more pay well. But this means that subsequent playthroughs, where you have to repeat certain steps can become monotonous.

A great piece of music from the game. 

Oh! And you can get banned from the junkyard thanks to a random event, which can literally ruin a playthrough since some storylines are dependent upon you crafting items whose components can only be obtained at the junkyard! Or that you can only do one thing per day despite there being four independent characters.

Lastly, eight of the nine endings are really just binary choices. Get to the end of one storyline and you basically are forced to choose between a good and bad ending (sometimes it's a bad or worse ending). Once I realized this, I was severely disappointed to see that my decisions along a particular story path impacted things so little. 

Reading through the bullet points on Steam and the intended goals on the Kickstarter, I couldn’t exactly say that I agreed that the developers met all of their goals. The crafting system that they boast about isn’t exactly compelling. The multiple endings and starting countries were as much a pain in the ass as they were an actual rewarding aspect of the gameplay loop. And I can't say I was left with the impression that my decisions mattered. (It does, however, probably have the most advanced profanity system of any video game!)

On its surface, that sounds horrible. But bullet points on your storefront and design goals aren't the same. The devs, above all else, truly want you to empathize with the plight of refugees and immigrants. And after playing Four Horsemen, I can unequivocally say that the quality writing made that a reality for me; and I don't think I am the only person that will find this game emotionally resonant.

---

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

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SteamWorld Dig 2 Review: Just Keep Digging https://www.gameskinny.com/t7jmi/steamworld-dig-2-review-just-keep-digging https://www.gameskinny.com/t7jmi/steamworld-dig-2-review-just-keep-digging https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/04f931deb5f190ce482a15b82bb30f9b.jpg t7jmi/steamworld-dig-2-review-just-keep-digging Sat, 23 Sep 2017 17:03:28 -0400 Steven Oz

If you are familiar with the anime Gurren Lagann then you know this quote: “If you're gonna dig, dig to the heavens. No matter what's in my way, I won't stop! Once I've dug through - it means that I've won!

This inspiring call to courage tells you to forge ahead for unknown depths just like SteamWorld Dig 2. The direct sequel to Image & Form Games' SteamWorld Dig, Steamworld Dig 2 follows in its predecessor's footsteps to create a Metroidvania-style game with outstanding visuals and an intriguing world.

You Don't Have to Dig Far for the Story

SteamWorld Dig 2 begins a few years after the events of the first game when our new main protagonist, Dorothy, a steambot with a heart of gold, takes up the quest to uncover the meaning behind the strange earthquakes plaguing the old mining town of El Machino as well as search for Rusty, the protagonist of SteamWorld Dig who mysteriously vanished after the previous game's final boss fight.

While the story is on par with other games in the SteamWorld universe, there is not much to it. The main thing you need to know is that there are earthquakes in the area and that the search for Rusty is still ongoing by your character. Though the game features two main antagonists to combat, only one has even some depth to their character. The other, Ronald, who leads a doom worshiping cult, felt like a simple throwaway character. Players only face his forces a handful of times, which felt a bit sparse and unnecessary. The ending similarly felt lackluster. Again, this is typical for the SteamWorld universe, but lackluster is still lackluster.

The world that this story takes place in, however, is brimming with character. Reminiscent of old western-style lore, El Machino and its population of humans, cult members, and steambots embody the legends of cowboys and cowgirls. Even the environment itself feels like a character, with each new mine you explore possessing a unique feel. One might be dusty, while another is fairy-like. The Temple of the Guardian in particular features traps reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie. Enemies even behave differently in these different biomes, adding an additional layer of freshness to each area. 

Gameplay Is Dusty But Fresh.

An interesting take on the Metroidvania genre, SteamWorld Dig 2 takes that formula and flips it vertically. Simply put, you have to dig to get where you are going. Starting out with just a pickaxe, you dig your way through the ground to find gems needed to buy upgrades for your tools. Also within these deep mines are enhancement sites that grant you access to new tools, like the hookshot. 

The game manages to improve upon its predecessor to enhance the already-fun gameplay experience. In the previous game, for example, double-jumping and wall clinging were abilities that had to be bought and then upgraded. While the new game lacks a double-jump, players are now able to wall cling immediately, which is a great tool when trying to climb up long mine wells.

Likewise, you can now obtain a much-needed jetpack for those times where you end up in a deep open pit with no feasible way of escape. Even some simpler items like transport tubes, which act as a fast-travel system, make it much easier to frequently replenish you health and sell your wares. These simple additions help take out a lot of unnecessary hassle and allow players to spend more time just having fun.

What SteamWorld Dig 2 does retain, however, is the addicting resource gathering and exploration of the first game. Even as someone who does not 100% games, I could not put it down. The depth of the semi-open world is simply immense and I wanted to complete it all. The map is handcrafted to show off the depth of the game and enable full exploration, giving the player the option to systematically mine everything on the map. This makes the loop of digging, selling, and upgrading much more efficient. 

Digging further and further uncovers more secrets. Caves open up to different challenges that test your abilities, often with puzzles that require the use of one of your many tools. One such cave was a puzzle involving a finite number of mining carts. Completing these caves earn the player cogs, which are used for upgrading blueprints, and each cave also contains secret areas that hide artifacts which can be traded for more blueprints.

As you sell your various finds, you can use your hard-earned cash to buy upgrades to your core abilities. Each upgrade can be then be modified with the aforementioned blueprints. These blueprints can then be further enhanced with cogs for different purposes that fit your need. A fascinating part of this upgrade system is that cogs are not locked in, allowing you to mod and re-mod your abilities to better suit different activities. For instance, when facing the final boss, I changed my cogs to focus on health and attack to better tackle the challenge. By mixing and matching these enhancements, players are able to take better control of their own game experience.

All in all SteamWorld Dig 2 is a fantastic game that you don't want to miss. The story is sparse but fair for a world that seems to be alive. The gameplay improves on the last game to enhance players' experience, but still retains the addicting cycle of looting, selling, and upgrading. I hope Image & Form Games can keep on creating such fun games for years to come.

SteamWorld Dig 2 is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC and will be available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita on September 26.

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

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Factotum 90 Review: A Solid Idea Lacking Flair and Polish https://www.gameskinny.com/dz8ju/factotum-90-review-a-solid-idea-lacking-flair-and-polish https://www.gameskinny.com/dz8ju/factotum-90-review-a-solid-idea-lacking-flair-and-polish 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/a/c/factotum-banner-27ecf.jpg dz8ju/factotum-90-review-a-solid-idea-lacking-flair-and-polish Fri, 22 Sep 2017 15:13:58 -0400 Greyson Ditzler (PurplePocketPirate)

Factotum 90 is a 3D puzzle game from one-man developer TACS Games, headed by Thomas Hopper, and published by Poppy Works. It began life as a Wii U exclusive, but has migrated to other consoles over time -- most recently the PS4 and PlayStation Vita.

The game involves swapping between two identical box-like maintenance robots in order to navigate through a series decks on a spaceship by solving puzzles. You are guided by a man on a screen who wants you to navigate your way through the ship in order to restore the main power after a massive collision.  

A basic premise for a basic concept, but more importantly, does Factotum 90 deliver an enjoyable game? The answer is both yes and no. 

Whip out your admin password and login to find out.

The Good, the Bad, & the User-Friendly

While the setup and core concept are pretty basic, Factotum 90 does have some pretty nice little design ideas. Quite a few steps have been taken in order to make this game as user-friendly as possible. For example, whenever you press a switch to raise a platform, the game very kindly connects the switch and platform(s) with a translucent white line so that you know what in the room has changed. You can even re-read any dialogue that has already happened in the level from the pause screen.

The game also provides both a respawn button on top of the level reset option in the pause menu. This causes the robot you are currently controlling to respawn at the start of the level without undoing any actions that you've already done. This can be useful when you've made a mistake and find yourself stuck, or when you aren't quite sure you're doing things right but still don't want to start over completely.

These lenient features make solving the puzzles feel very relaxed -- and it was helped a bit by the game's simple synth soundtrack, which is more atmospheric than anything else, but still gets the job done just fine. There is definitely a sense of satisfaction to be gleaned from completing the game's puzzles -- though they are similar to each other at times -- and the difficulty curves at a steady pace the whole way through, with only the occasional head-scratcher that takes you longer than average to figure out.  

The white line in action in a simple scenario.

However, while these are all nice features, they can only help so much to fight against the conflicting elements of the game's core design.

You Always Want What You Don't Have

The biggest problems that Factotum 90 has are all things that it doesn't have. For example, while the white line connecting the button you press to the thing it operates is a nice feature, it doesn't solve the problem completely. Several times I saw where the line went -- but due to other obstacles being in the way, I couldn't actually see where it ended. This is especially tricky when the switch affects several things in different locations or something far away.

On several occasions, this led me to attempt to move the other robot into close range to the first bot, then have them press the button, and essentially screen-peek using the other robot to try and verify where the line ended.

And that brings me to the camera.

While you have plenty of open space to move around in, and the camera functions perfectly fine and never really gets stuck on anything, the scope of what you can see is still fairly limited. It's difficult to get a bearing on your surroundings at times because there's just too much keeping you from seeing very far out, such as with my screen-peeking example above.

The game could have benefited from a simple map screen, or maybe an alternative overhead camera angle of some sort which allowed you to asses your surroundings more easily, similar to something like Pikmin 3

Additionally, most of the concepts for puzzles in the game, especially early on, are ones that you've more than likely seen before -- and I have definitely seen some of them before. Levels constantly have you weighing down switches with boxes, redirecting laser beams, opening doors from one side to let the other droid through, and so on. This is not to say that the puzzles are badly designed, because they aren't. The layout of each stage is completely different, but you can't help but shake the feeling that you've seen it all before.

An early level where the laser directing mechanic is introduced.

It would also have been nice to have a co-op mode. Considering the fact that you've always got the two robots to control and you always need to switch between them, this game would have benefited greatly from a co-op mode for two players. It's really well-suited for co-op, and having two people on hand would have helped a bit with the game's occasionally slow pace and sometimes confusing level design.

Lastly, I have a minor thing to note regarding the game's visuals that only seems to apply to the PlayStation Vita version. The graphics are perfectly fine for what they are on all versions, but it seems that the console versions have a slight advantage over the Vita in this regard. The PC and console versions of Factorum 90 feature a security-camera-style film filter over the screen, which I personally feel adds a bit of immersion and charm to the game's aesthetic.

For some reason, this filter is completely absent in the Vita version, and there's no option anywhere in game to turn it on if desired. If this omission was made because it just couldn't be done on the Vita, that's perfectly fine -- but if it can be there, I see little reason to not include it. Maybe Thomas Hopper thought that the filter would make visibility on the already small Vita screen more difficult, but the option at least would have been nice.

A Game About Robots That Could Use More Soul

I don't want to say that Factotum 90 is a bad game, because I did have some fun with it. But I will say that it could have been much better. The slower pace and repetition drag it down, as well as its general lack of new ideas -- though it does still have a few good ideas thrown in the mix. As a game designed and developed by just one person, it's still pretty impressive considering its budget price.

But when judging it by it's own merits, and comparing it to other budget titles and puzzle games on the market, it's just not that great. I do want to emphasize, though, that while I spent more time discussing the lesser aspects of Factotum 90, but there's still a lot of good stuff to be found here.

Maybe the budgeted charm, the low price point, and the respectable amount of content will be enough to grab you -- but for me it just wasn't quite enough. If you're looking for a cheap puzzle game it's not a bad time, you may find the baton-pass style gameplay more interesting than I did. So Factotum may still be worth checking out if you're a budget gamer or die-hard puzzle enthusiast. 

Factotum 90 is available now for $6.00 for PC, Wii U, Xbox One, PS4, and PlayStation Vita. You can watch a trailer for the console version of the game below:

[Note: Poppy Works provided the copy of Factorum 90 used for this review.]

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SteelSeries Rival 310 and Sensei 310 Review: True 1:1 Tracking Delivered https://www.gameskinny.com/z982l/steelseries-rival-310-and-sensei-310-review-true-11-tracking-delivered https://www.gameskinny.com/z982l/steelseries-rival-310-and-sensei-310-review-true-11-tracking-delivered 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/e/steelseriesrivalsenseireviewhero-16976.png z982l/steelseries-rival-310-and-sensei-310-review-true-11-tracking-delivered Fri, 22 Sep 2017 15:02:37 -0400 Jonathan Moore

SteelSeries has been here before. With the release of the Rival 700, the peripherals company said that its flagship mouse had achieved true 1:1 tracking. And if you were to go to their website right now, you’d see that every one of their mice offers 1:1 tracking -- from the newest to the oldest, the least expensive to the most expensive. But this time around, they say they’ve truly nailed it.

And I tend to agree.

SteelSeries’ latest mice, the Rival 310 and the Sensei 310, both offer what the company calls “true 1:1 tracking”, meaning that they’ve taken 1:1 tracking and accuracy to an entirely new level with their new Truemove 3 sensor. We’ll get more into the gritty details a little later on, but suffice it to say that these mice are accurate and reliable at the highest DPIs -- no matter how fast or slow you move them across your mousepad.

Specifically designed with eSports and competitive players around the world in mind, the Rival 310 and Sensei 310 offer players high-end quality at affordable price points. Neither mouse is perfect by any means, and there are other mice on the market that provide similar functionality (outside of true 1:1 tracking) at commensurate prices. But each of these mice is well worth a look if you're in the market for a mouse that's crazy precise and won't break the bank.

Overall Design

Both the Rival 310 and the Sensei 310 are nearly identical on the outside, combining their self-same feature sets with inauspicious designs that belie their functionalities. 

Each mouse sports an understated black matte finish that offers a two-for-one combo: it looks stylish and helps reduce slippage when your palms and fingers get sweaty. To complement these finishes, each mouse has what SteelSeries calls "next-gen, upgraded" silicone grips that do a wonderful job of keeping your thumb and ring fingers adhered to the sides of the mice whether you're playing in an eSports tournament or doing menial office work. And where I often found my palms and fingers slipping on the slick surface of the Rival 700, I never once experienced any sliding or unintended palm movement in all my hours with the Rival 310 or the Sensei 310.

However, these mice aren't made for palm-grippers. Instead, the right-handed Rival 310 is made for a claw or hybrid grip style, while the ambidextrous Sensei is optimized for a pinch grip. As a palm player, I did notice a considerable variance in my preferred gripping style and the Sensei's egalitarian design, where the right side of my palm sat uncomfortably on the Sensei's right half. 

This led me to pay more attention to how my hand was positioned in my early hours with the mouse -- and I missed quite a few Paladins and Battlefield 1 headshots in the process. I eventually got used to the design, but keep that in mind if you're considering the Sensei. 

However, the Rival 310's sloped, traditionally contoured design was easily accessible and much more comfortable out of the box. It better lent itself to a palm grip style -- but in my time with it, I almost exclusively used hybrid grip style, which better helped me maneuver the mouse's build, even though it was slightly uncomfortable for my specific liking.

Because of their inauspicious designs, neither the Rival or the Sensei are weighed down with copious buttons or toggles, with the Rival sporting six buttons to the Sensei’s eight. The primary left and right buttons on each mouse provide strong feedback, while the DPI switches are snugly positioned just above the illuminated mouse wheels and are easy to access.  

For the Rival, the two side buttons are fat and positioned well within thumb’s reach, giving off solid, satisfying clicks with each press. On the other hand, since the Sensei is ambidextrous and features a less contoured design than the 310, its left- and right-side buttons are smaller and skinnier, giving your thumb and ring fingers less real estate to play with. And while the left-side buttons are fairly easy to press, the right-side buttons are stubborn little cusses -- especially if you’re a right-handed player.

For office work, I always found myself inadvertently (and frustratingly) pressing them when I moved the mouse across my QCK Prism mousepad. But when I needed them most -- during play -- I couldn’t seem to get a bead on them without contorting my hand into an infinitely uncomfortable Cronenberg. It’s a strange problem to have on a mouse so meticulously engineered, and I'm sure it was a purposeful design choice considering it's an ambidextrous mouse. However, the bright side is that SteelSeries had the engineering foresight to let users disable the buttons through SteelSeries’ Engine 3 software, never to be worried about again if they get in the way.

Overall Performance

The split trigger design on both the Rival 310 and the Sensei 310 means that the OMRON switches (rated at 50 million clicks) are going to be both durable and deadly. The left and right mouse buttons on these mice are lightning fast, responsive, and a pleasure to press. But none of that matters if you can’t get a bead on your target. And if you’re an eSports player, accuracy and precision are two of the biggest factors in moving through the bracket or going home.

When speaking with SteelSeries about the mice, it was clear that four key factors guided the design and engineering of both the Rival 310 and the Sensei 310: they both had to have ultra-low latency, true 1:1 tracking, advanced jitter reduction, and the fastest response times of any mouse on the planet. All difficult things to accomplish given the relative parity in the space.

But I’d like to think they’ve achieved at least some of that with both of these mice.

The star of the show is unequivocally the TrueMove Sensor 3 with advanced jitter reduction technology, which helps both mice achieve true 1:1 tracking. Developed and manufactured in concert with Pixart, the Truemove 3 is a proprietary iteration on the popular Pixart 3369 optical sensor. And as of this writing, these proprietary sensors can only be found in the Rival 310 and Sensei 310.

I found the sensors to be adequate and precise at lower DPIs, and wasn't able to notice a monumental difference between some of my Logitech mice. But that considerably changed when cranking the DPIs above 3,500. Here, the amalgamated power of these allied forces truly showcased itself.

Even at the highest DPI settings, the Sensei didn’t jitter or vibrate in the slightest. The mouse cursor moved precisely where I wanted it to go, and abruptly stopped when I needed it to. And although the Rival 310 didn’t perform as well as the Sensei 310 -- slightly jittering and moving somewhat sporadically at the highest settings -- it still performed leagues better than the sensor found in the Rival 700 when dialed into the same settings.

When testing it on the battlefield, I noticed a considerable difference in performance against mice such as the Scimitar RGB in terms of lagless aiming. Once I got a handle on the design of the Sensei 310, there was nary a difference in overall performance when playing shooters like Paladins and strategy games like Cities: Skylines. In the former, I was able to easily pull off critical shots and switch between DPIs on the fly with both mice. And in the latter, I was able to deftly navigate the game’s myriad menus and easily scroll from one side of my cities to the other no matter if I used the Rival or the Sensei.

So although I had to tune the in-game settings to get the truest, most accurate sensitivity I was looking for, my success all started with the Truemove 3 sensor.

The Verdict

Whether you’re a serious eSports gamer or a casual that’s looking for a solid mouse at a solid price, you could do much worse than the Rival 310 and Sensei 310. In essence, SteelSeries has taken a lot of what makes the Rival 700 tick, tweaked it, improved it, and stuck it into packages that retail for $59.99. That’s a damn hard deal to pass up for such a fantastic value.

My only real gripes are with the Sensei 310 -- and those gripes are more personal preference than objective reporting. And I’m happy to see that SteelSeries had the foresight to allow players to disable buttons -- specifically the shoulder buttons -- on that particular mouse. (I was a little disappointed that the Rival 310 jittered more at maximum DPI than the Sensei, but unless you plan on cranking up the volume, you won't particularly notice.) 

With nearly zero input lag, low latency, anti-jitter technology, and (from what I can tell) true 1:1 tracking up to 12,000 DPI, both the Rival 310 and Sensei 310 are dealy mice that rival my favorite head-lopper: the Logitech G302 Daedalus. And while that mouse does some of what these two do at a lower price point, I’d venture to say that you’d be better off paying the extra $20 and trying one of these out instead. (And as a Logitech guy, that’s saying something.)

You can pick up both the Rival 310 and Sensei 310 from the SteelSeries website

[Note: SteelSeries provided the Rival 310 and Sensei 310 mice that were used in this review.]

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Tooth and Tail Review: An Enjoyable Game with Mild Distemper https://www.gameskinny.com/tkgbe/tooth-and-tail-review-an-enjoyable-game-with-mild-distemper https://www.gameskinny.com/tkgbe/tooth-and-tail-review-an-enjoyable-game-with-mild-distemper 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-ec776.jpg tkgbe/tooth-and-tail-review-an-enjoyable-game-with-mild-distemper Thu, 21 Sep 2017 11:19:43 -0400 Skrain

Pocketwatch Games -- the studio behind the cult hit Monaco -- recently launched its second game. Dubbed Tooth and Tail, it's a casual RTS with simplified features. 

In Tooth and Tail, four animal factions are fighting for control over an important decision that will determine who gets eaten. With a cute art style and a story that's simultaneously grim yet lighthearted, there's a lot to love about this fresh take on the strategy genre. But unfortunately, the game falls back on itself hard in terms of RTS management. 

Wheat is for Swine, Meat is for Animals

Tooth and Tail takes place in a world where civilized animals (excluding pigs) have decided that they would rather eat meat, and that all other foods are for Swine. These Swine are depicted mostly as unintelligent sources of meat -- and their only purpose is to survive until "harvest" and feed the other animals. 

However, Swine isn't the only meat that this animal society eats. During hard times, religious Civilized faction, lead by Archimedes, controls a lottery that determines who gets eaten when the Swine aren't enough to sustain everyone. Recently, this lottery claimed the life of Bellafide's son -- which sparked a revolutionary fire that leads him to found the Longcoats faction with the intent to fight back against the Civilized. 

Fighting alongside the Longcoats are the Commoners, lead by the beloved Hopper -- a hero to the everyanimal, who gave up her own arm so her people could eat. And fighting for the sake of ending the war are the KSR, led by a quartermaster who was pressed into the conflict. 

An Interesting "Lite" RTS

Tooth and Tail is described as a "popcorn" RTS where you control your commander directly, and indirectly give orders to your units as you play. In the single-player campaign, you often have anywhere between 2-6 units to build or utilize depending on the mission itself and the faction. You'll also need to control Gristmills, the primary source of meat. In these Gristmills, your swine will fatten themselves up for the harvest. As the single-player campaign progresses, you'll play through each faction in the continuing war for meat and dominance. 

An interesting feature in Tooth and Tail is that all maps, including the single-player story missions, are randomly generated. So playing through the campaign multiple times yields different maps with the same objectives.

Matches generally last 5-15 minutes, and your general strategy revolves around managing a single resource for meat while defending your own production buildings and attacking your opponents. You'll do this with a variety of units -- including drunken squirrels, self-exploding toads, medical pigeons, flamethrowing boars, and much more. 

Multiplayer matches are relatively straightforward, with standard 1v1, 2v1, and 2v2 matches. Each player picks a limited number of units that they can use throughout the match, and then it sets off and plays out accordingly. Like the single-player campaign, these maps are randomized for maximum replayability.

 

Fluffy Mechanics

One of Tooth and Tail's best qualities is undeniably its art style, from the vaguely retro in-game graphics to the charming artwork for the characters. The game was visually engaging, and the variety of environments because of the randomized maps went a long way in making sure things felt fresh most of the time. 

Being a "popcorn" RTS also has its benefits, because you don't have to worry as much about time constraints if you want to sit down and play for a while. With most strategy games, you have to take a moment and decide whether or not you can dump two hours into an online match. But with the average Tooth and Tail match time being between 5-15 minutes of non-stop action, it's a great game to pick up and play for short intervals. 

The meat of Tooth and Tail, however, is its simple control scheme and easy-to-learn mechanics. RTS games have a reputation for being hard to learn, and even harder to master (and rightfully so). But T&T doesn't suffer from this mechanical learning curve, so it allows newcomers to the genre to enjoy themselves just as much as veterans. 

Multiple people can also play from the same computer at the same time. That's right -- Tooth and Tail is one of the few PC games that supports split screen. So cute animals murdering each other can be made even better with up to four friends in split screen couch co-op. 

The Wrench in the Machine

Unfortunately Tooth and Tails' greatest feature is also its greatest drawback. Simplicity can be beneficial to a certain point, but has adverse effects when it's taken too far. And those familiar with the RTS genre might find that to be true for this game. 

The game removes many of the unit control features that make RTS games enjoyable -- like complex unit pathing, patrols, direct unit control for precise orders, inability to split units of a single type into multiple groups, and many others. So there's no way to handle your Tooth and Tail unit in a granular, strategic way. You're forced to group all units of all types together, or every unit of a single type together. There is no middle ground. And the only orders you can give to these overreaching groups are "attack," "follow," or "stay". 

 

The randomized maps are also a huge drawback when it comes to strategic development, in spite of the replay value they add. In the Steam description for Tooth and Tail, Pocketwatch Games describes these maps as follows:

"With procedurally generated maps and customizable factions, no two conflicts will be the same, forcing players to strategize rather than memorize."

While adaptability is definitely part of good strategizing, I believe that Tooth and Tail has taken it too far, while claiming it's something that it's not. In most cases, strategy has been outright replaced with adaptability in both single-player and multiplayer modes.

Eventually, you reach a point in the game where the difficulty of your encounters is not determined by your skill level or the AI's skill level, but by your randomly generated start position and your foes. There were multiple matches I played where the AI would get the high-ground advantage with hills that blocked my unit vision and gave them an angle to fire down on my units -- with no possibility of going around. In this case, "strategy" would have been using ranged units to overcome the obstacle, or simply moving to a new vantage point. However, the random maps don't lend themselves well to these actions in the single-player campaign. So instead, I had to slam dozens of units at an immovable wall.

This sort of gameplay doesn't encourage strategy or really even adaptability -- it just demands that you play into the few options that you have for approaching a situation, whether or not doing so makes any strategic sense. And of course, restarting a single-player match in hopes of getting a better randomized map isn't very strategic, either.

The procedural generation isn't as bad in multiplayer mode, since for the most part things seemed at least semi-symmetrical. However, I have had times where I've run into multiple choke points against enemy players with simply no way to overcome them due to how hills, bunkers, and line of sight works. These types of issues were further aggravated by my inability to issue complex orders to my units in order to compensate.

Verdict: A Little Flat, But Enjoyable

Despite it lacking in the strategic depth I'm used to (and fond of) in RTS games, I enjoyed my time with Tooth and Tail. The story was engaging, and the frantic pace the game sets right out of the game kept me immersed in its world. It's a solid game overall, in spite of a few minor misrepresentations in its marketing. 

In spite of a few hangups, Tooth and Tail is a good casual RTS game for those who want some strategy but don't want learning a game to be a second job. If you're interested in Tooth and Tail, you can head over to Steam and pick it up for $19.99.

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

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Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash: Wetter and Better Than Ever https://www.gameskinny.com/3etcw/senran-kagura-peach-beach-splash-wetter-and-better-than-ever https://www.gameskinny.com/3etcw/senran-kagura-peach-beach-splash-wetter-and-better-than-ever 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-4a48f.jpg 3etcw/senran-kagura-peach-beach-splash-wetter-and-better-than-ever Thu, 21 Sep 2017 05:00:01 -0400 Joseph Rowe

After a long wait, Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is making its way to the West. The newest addition to the SK series, this game changes the formula by being a water gun based shooter instead of a beat 'em up. However, this change in gameplay is welcome, as Marvelous lives up to its name by doing a marvelous job with this concept.

Long-time fans of the series will be delighted to see more of their favorite characters, and new fans will enjoy this game either for the copious amounts of fanservice or for its surprisingly enjoyable gameplay.

This Game is Not For Everyone

As you can tell by the screenshots, this game is full of over-the-top fan service, and it definitely deserves its M-rating. The shooter mechanics are incredibly fun -- but if you're not cool with being bombarded with scantily clad anime characters nonstop, you won't be able to enjoy it at all. It's completely understandable why a lot of people would object to this game.

That being said, if that sounds like more of a positive than a negative for you (or at least something you can look past), you'll have a blast with this game as it's one of the most original shooters I've played in a while.

Graphics

The first thing anyone notices about the Senran Kagura series is its lack of restraint when it comes to delivering breast and buttock aplenty. Series creator Kenichiro Takaki has a pretty infamous quote that describes his philosophy behind his creations: "Tits are life, ass is hometown." While he's remained cryptic as to whether or not elbows are the bus depot of the body, the team behind SK lives by this, and they put a lot of effort into ensuring you get the most life and hometown possible in your game.

The characters themselves look great as usual. They're stylized and full of that "life" Takaki is so fond of. Each character has their own aesthetic with something about them that makes them visually unique from the rest of the cast. They even changed up some of the classic designs by redoing their hair.

Although the characters all start off in one of the two initial bikini types, you can, from the very start of the game, go into the dressing room and customize their outfits to your liking. You can keep them scantily clad or cover them from head-to-toe if you'd like your Senran Kagura experience to be a bit more wholesome.

There are a ton of cards with different pictures of the characters to collect. You can even collect pet cards that aid you in combat. The pets are pretty dang cute in an anime mascot kind of way. My favorite is a little bear that turns you invisible. Aw. Almost makes you forget how ludicrously lewd the rest of the game is.

Sound

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash continues the tradition of having great voice acting, a fun soundtrack, and overall solid sound design. The voice actresses (some big names and some lesser known ones) in the game do a fantastic job of giving each girl her own unique personality. Ikaruga, the upper crust, ojousama type, is voiced by the same actress as Kurisu from Steins;Gate -- and Hikage, the emotionless snake girl, is done by Asuka from Tekken.

Peach Beach Splash has a great soundtrack. While I'm not a fan of the idol singing style opening, I love the rest of the OST. It's filled with lots of quirky, upbeat tunes. Some of them sound like they'd be right at home in Snowboard Kids for the Nintendo 64. It's the perfect background music for sliding around and shooting water in your friends' faces.

The rest of Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash's sound design is nice as well. The water guns splish and sploosh, the menu navigation sounds have satisfying beeps and boops, and overall it sounds like a video game should.

Gameplay

Most anime tiddy games are just that: all gams and no game. This series, however, stands out in this department as it's not just meaningless fan service; it's meaningless fan service and good gameplay wrapped up in one package. Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is no exception. While it's neither the 2D-ish beat 'em up style of the 3DS titles or the Dynasty Warriors-esque 3D combat style of the other PlayStation titles, the water gun gameplay is incredibly solid -- especially as it's the first time this series has ventured into this genre.

This game is all about player choice. You get to choose your girl, your gun, your pets, and your special abilities. The cast in this game is huge with all four of the main schools represented -- the Mikagura sisters from Estival Versus, Naraku and Kagura from SK2 and EV, and some new additions from the New Wave mobile card game. Whether your type is the spunky, fight-to-improve squad leader, the MMO playing shut-in, the female Jotaro Kujo, or the mildly sadistic mad scientist, you'll find a favorite character in no time.

Unlike the main titles in the series, your character choice isn't the biggest determining factor of your gameplay style in the game. Instead, your playstyle is dictated by your gun choice. There are ten guns to choose from, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. You can choose 1-2 pistols, an assault rifle, a grenade launcher, a sniper rifle, a mini-gun, and a few others.

All guns give you the ability to slide around in exchange for some of your water tank. Some allow you to spend water to fly for a short while, whereas others just allow you to hop long distances. If you get hit enough, your Soaking Wet mode can be activated which allows your character to have an unlimited supply of water. This grants you incredible mobility as you can slide, fly, and jump all you want while spamming your attacks. Certain guns increase the rate at which this fills up and benefit from this mode more than others.

The pets and skill cards add another layer of strategy to the game. Pet cards offer you a choice of different pets, most pre-existing from established pets belonging to characters in the series (like Jasmine's elephant and Murasaki's Bebeby) that attack your enemies in a style similar to one of the water guns, heal you, provide you with a shield, turn you invisible, etc. The skill cards are similar -- they can buff your character or team, debuff the enemy team, heal you, provide you with a shield, or give you a special ninja attack to kill your enemies with.

The game plays incredibly well. The slides and jumps work really well, the guns give you lots of variety in playstyle, and the cards enhance that variety. You can play as a tanky, mini-gunner that uses a giant robot occasionally or a pistol-wielding, Soaking Wet mode fiend that is impossibly agile and never runs out of ammo.

Fan Service in Every Sense of the Word

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is full of fan service. Just like any other game in the SK series, the fan service is two-fold: lots and lots of skin as well as lots and lots of unlockables and customization.

The creators of Senran Kagura do their best to please their fans. They give you tons of different costumes, characters, voice packs, stickers, etc. to collect. There are more than 800 skill cards alone! It'll be a long time before you run out of things to collect.

One of my favorite aspects of this is that you can customize the shop keeper and your voice menu to the character of your choosing. It's a really minor detail, but it's something that very few games give you the choice of and I think more should. 

The only downside to this game is that they reuse a lot of the same assets from Senran Kagura: Estival Versus. Furthermore, the images on the cards are largely taken from the New Wave card game so if you play that, you'll see a lot of other recycled assets.

Verdict

If the concept of this game doesn't bother you and you're looking for a fun shooter that's a bit reminiscent of Splatoon, this game is for you. If you're looking for something you and your weeaboo friends can laugh at and play a drinking game to, this game is for you. If you're a Senran Kagura series fan and are cool with it deviating from the beat 'em up style, this is perfect for you. If the fan service bothers you or you're looking for a game that's more like the 3DS titles, this game probably isn't for you.

Peach Beach Splash is an awesome game covered in about five tons of anime bosoms. It's filled with tons of single and multiplayer content, lots of customization and unlockables, and surprisingly solid gameplay. It's definitely not for everyone, but you'll have fun with it if you're into life and/or hometown. The only real drawbacks for me were the recycled assets. I give it a 9/10.

[Note: XSEED Games provided a copy of Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash for the purpose of this review.]

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Planetoid Pioneers Preview https://www.gameskinny.com/ur1m0/planetoid-pioneers-preview https://www.gameskinny.com/ur1m0/planetoid-pioneers-preview 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/l/a/planetoidpioneers2-12fff.jpg ur1m0/planetoid-pioneers-preview Wed, 20 Sep 2017 21:37:10 -0400 Wizard of Warsaw

Planetoid Pioneers is a new physics-based game by developer Data Realms. Built in its own engine, the game has a lot of potential for a Steam Early Access title. It's a fun game even this early, but I hesitate to suggest purchasing it at this stage of development. There are some good things going on, but there are a few problems as well.  

The Positives

One of the biggest draws of the early access for Planetoid Pioneers is the Contributor Edition. So far, the game includes a few levels that feature a diverse collection of objects to help explore the various planetoids, but by purchasing the Contributor Version, you also get access to the Crush 2D engine. Contributors can use the Crush 2D engine to create their own content and share it with other players, and even the developers. 

The Game Only Edition still has some fun content on its own, with the primary planetoid having a large playable section. On top of the developer-made planetoids, there is a ton of Contributor content floating around the Steam Workshop that players can access. 

 

The Negatives

For the most part, there isn't anything too horrible about Planetoid Pioneers. Most of the negative stuff is pretty small and generally not game breaking. There are people who have run into bugs involving lost save data and game crashes, but I never experienced it myself. I'm not sure how bad the crashing actually is, but it's best to be prepared for it. 

The controls can sometimes feel unpolished, making it difficult to travel from place to place, but as frustrating as that was, it was never so terrible that it made me want to quit. The controls are primarily an issue in regards to vehicles or special gadgets, which seem to interact with the physics in an odd way by making them not move at all or just move incredibly slowly.

The most important thing to remember is that Planetoid Pioneers is still in early access. Anything and everything mentioned here is subject to change, and since Data Realms has been very responsive to player complaints I am optimistic that things this will turn into an excellent game.

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Pokken Tournament DX Review: An Excellent Intro to Fighting Games https://www.gameskinny.com/1sxff/pokken-tournament-dx-review-an-excellent-intro-to-fighting-games https://www.gameskinny.com/1sxff/pokken-tournament-dx-review-an-excellent-intro-to-fighting-games 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/k/pokken-tournament-splash-55d24.jpg 1sxff/pokken-tournament-dx-review-an-excellent-intro-to-fighting-games Mon, 18 Sep 2017 14:15:50 -0400 Autumn Fish

Product provided by Nintendo.

Pokken Tournament DX is a Pokemon fighting game developed by Bandai Namco, the creators of Tekken. Originally released as an Arcade Cabinet in Japan, a port eventually landed on the Wii U early last year. And now, after watching the Arcade Cabinet receive frequent updates while its console port collected dust, an updated version is finally coming to the Nintendo Switch.

I loved the original version on the Wii U, but I gotta say it: I'm enjoying every minute of my Switch copy even more. Decidueye, one of the new Battle Pokemon, has quickly become a favorite of mine over the course of a few matches. The new features are fantastic and there are a lot of solid quality-of-life touch-ups that simply make the game that much better.

Let's dive in. 

Pokken Tournament DX Review

Have you every just wanted to take full control of your Pokemon to battle it out in real-time combat in a true test of skill? Well, Pokken is your chance to do just that. It features a roster of 21 Pokemon to choose from, alongside straightforward fighting controls, easy-to-grasp fundamentals, and a unique, perspective-altering feature called Phase Shift.

When a hit connects with an opponent, there's a chance that it will initiate a phase shift (a chance based on so many factors that I'm not even going to begin to get into it here). This shifts the perspective between a 3D Field Phase and a 2D Duel Phase.

Phase Shifting will slightly change up your move pool, but overall the controls stay fairly straightforward. Field Phase tends to focus more on Zoning and Homing attacks while Duel Phase switches it up to a more familiar Light and Heavy Attack combo.

Much like other fighting games out there, Pokken offers a far more apparent Rock, Paper, Scissors battle system dubbed the Attack Triangle. Essentially, Counter-Attacks beat Attacks, Attacks beat Grabs, and Grabs beat Counter-Attacks. Most of your available moves are attacks, though you can press a button combination for a stock Counter-Attack or Grab.

The best part is, this system isn't foolproof; it requires finesse to pull off accurately. Some early attack animations will only be tech grabs, for example, and there is a small window during Counters that you can actually punch through with an attack. The further you dive into the game, the more intricate it all becomes.

Pokken Tournament Review Offline Features

Whether you're a new or returning Pokken player, there's plenty to keep you occupied here. New players are looking forward to a thrilling fighter with robust Offline and Online modes, while returning players have a bunch of mouth-watering New Features to be hyped about.

Offline Features

There are a number of ways to play Pokken Tournament DX offline, including facing off against CPUs, sharpening your skills, and battling locally with your friends, which really helps keep bouts fresh and exciting. 

Single-Player Content

This isn't exactly a game you pick up for the story, but there is a pseudo "story mode" called the Ferrum League where you fight your way to the top in tournament-style matches. Each league you complete winds up unlocking a plethora of new Trainer Customization options, so it's worth it for the fashion-conscious.

The Ferrum League now has new Mission Panels that hide a bunch of cool rewards. Completing the objective on a Mission Panel uncovers it and often nets you new Titles or exclusive Trainer Customization options. Completing the entire board reveals the picture underneath and sometimes unlocks an entirely new Mission Panel to complete. I'm totally addicted to completing these as I make my way through the Ferrum League.

New to the Switch version is a Daily Challenge that you can attempt for the chance at free levels for your Battle Pokemon. The fighters and Support Sets are both pre-set, and you only get the free levels if you win, but it's a great way to steadily raise the level of everyone on the roster if you play a lot.

Finally, if you just wanna kick back and chill, you can duke it out against CPUs in custom Single Battle matches. You can choose between Basic Battles, rogue-like Extra Battles, and 3v3 elimination-like Team Battles. Considering most battle's you'll find yourself in are basic, it's actually nice to spice things up every now and again.

Local Multiplayer and Single Player Team Battles Pokken Tournament DX

Local Multiplayer

If you get the chance, duking it out in special battle modes in local multiplayer is great fun. Both the Local and Wireless modes feature the same battle options as Single-Player, so you can get up to all kinds of crazy fights with your friends.

Play against your friend on the same screen in Local Battle mode by connecting a second controller. There's a split-screen mode that lets you battle from both player's perspective, though there's also a full-screen mode positioned on Player 1, which leaves Player 2 to play from the other side of the screen. Neither solution is exactly elegant, but I'm just happy they found a way to bring it back without the Wii U Gamepad for DX.

If your friend has their own Switch and copy of Pokken, you can face off in Wireless Battle mode. If you use this mode, your matches are recorded and can be replayed and saved in My Town's Battle Records.

Finally, if you press L + R + Down + B simultaneously on the title screen, you'll enter Event Mode for LAN Battles. Here, you can choose whether or not to use your Pokken save data, and then you get to select the stage and number of rounds for the match. It's a pretty barebones battle mode, but it's wonderful for setting up tournaments.

Practice Mode

Of course, you'll need to sharpen your skills if you hope to do well in these tournaments. To this end, there's a Practice mode in the game complete with tutorials, action walkthroughs, example combos, and a free training lab.

The Tutorials found here are excellent and should all be completed immediately if you're a new player. They do a fantastic job of explaining the mechanics to you in a way that's approachable and easy to understand.

The Action Dojo runs through every move in a Pokemon's arsenal. Going through the Action Dojo every now and again is a perfect way to refresh yourself on the attacks at your disposal, which helps with your creativity and mix-ups in battle.

The Combo Dojo walks you through a series of six unique combos for every Pokemon. These combos aren't generally ideal by any means, but they're a great place to start while you work on developing your own.

Free Training is where you go when you need to practice specific scenarios against an opponent or lab your own combos and mix-ups. There are plenty of options that make the CPU opponent here dance the dance you need them to for training. Alternatively, you could plug in a second controller and train against another player in this mode, too.

Practice Mode Online Features Pokken Tournament DX Review

All of these Practice modes combine to make Pokken Tournament DX a rather accessible fighting game. The tutorials make it easy to learn the fundamentals while the Action and Combo Dojos are a great help while trying to learn how to play your main fighter.

Online Features

Once you have a feel for your chosen Battle Pokemon, you can pit your skills against other players by participating in Online Battles. There are a couple things you can do online, such as duking it out in a variety of match modes, checking out the Ranked Leaderboards, and viewing replays of other players' matches.

In Rank Match, you fight to earn your rank on the leaderboards. It's a fairly straightforward point-based ranking system with promotion requirements every rank-up. People who disconnect too many times in this mode even receive a warning symbol next to their name.

Friendly Match allows for more casual fights, either against random players or those who use the same VS Code. Group Match, on the other hand, allows you to create or join a group for more private battles. These groups have many interesting features, including the ability to turn on Ranking and set event start and end times.

While online, you can also view the Leaderboard and see Rankings filtered by Points, Wins, Trainers, and Pokemon. From here, you can select trainers and view their recent replays if they upload them. Alternatively, you could search for the replays you're looking for via the Replay Theater. These replays not only let you view the match from either perspective but they also let you pull up the button inputs and watch them unfold in real time.

Unfortunately, all Online Battles are the basic type of Pokken match. There's currently no way to play Extra or Team Battles online, and that's a crying shame. I really hope they update the game with this feature, at least for Groups. I was really looking forward to facing off against my friends in 3v3 Team Battles.

Online Mode Replay Theater Pokken Tournament DX Review

So while yes, the Online mode is a little lacking, it's still a far cry better than the one we had in the Wii U version. Group Match makes organizing online tournaments loads easier while the Replay Theater makes learning from the pros a far simpler affair. Speaking of new features, let's go over all of them real quick.

New Features in Pokken Tournament DX

  • Five New Battle Pokemon -- Decidueye, Croagunk, Empoleon, Scizor, and Darkrai join the fray, expanding the roster of playable Battle Pokemon to 21.
  • New Support Set -- Litten and Popplio make an appearance as their own Support Set.
  • New Stage -- There's a new tropical-themed Stage called Thalia Beach.
  • Team Battle -- 3v3 single battle elimination match.
  • Replays -- Study up on plays by watching replays of old matches.
  • Daily Challenge -- Face off against CPUs with a preset team for the chance to win free level-ups.
  • Wireless Battle -- Battle against nearby friends using the Switch's wireless connection.
  • Group Match -- Battle and rank against other players in the same Group.
  • Mission Panels -- Side objectives to complete for exclusive Titles and Trainer Customization options.
  • New Trainer Customization Options -- There are all new facial expressions, clothes, accessories, hairstyles, backgrounds, and titles to personalize your Trainer.
  • 2-Player Free Training -- Hook up a second controller and dive into Free Training with a friend.
  • No need to unlock Battle Pokemon, Support Sets, Stages, or Cheer Skills anymore.
  • No need to register your three favorite Support Sets anymore.

Pokken Tournament DX is an Excellent Intro to Fighting Games

Yes, Pokken Tournament DX is still a Pokemon fan's dream come true. After all, what fan wouldn't dream of a game where you could battle with Pokémon in real time combat? However, brushing it off as merely fan service is hugely underestimating what this game has to offer.

If you like fighting games but never felt like you could break into the competitive scene, this is honestly, a great place to start. The game presents itself in a way that makes it easy to pick up and learn the fundamentals, making it accessible to players of all skill levels -- and it does this without sacrificing any depth in the combat system.

New Features Pokken Tournament DX is an Excellent Intro to Fighting Games Review

This is by no means a dumbed-down fighting game. It may seem simple at a glance, but the longer you invest yourself in it, the more you'll get out of it. You may be surprised by what you discover.

All in all, fans of both Pokemon and fighting games alike will love Pokken on the Switch. Whether you're looking for a new competitive scene or just want a new multiplayer game to impress your friends, you really can't go wrong with this one.

Pick up Pokken Tournament DX on the Nintendo Switch this Friday, September 22, for $59.99.

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NHL 18 Review: This Ice Feels So Nice https://www.gameskinny.com/70obl/nhl-18-review-this-ice-feels-so-nice https://www.gameskinny.com/70obl/nhl-18-review-this-ice-feels-so-nice 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-9852f.jpg 70obl/nhl-18-review-this-ice-feels-so-nice Mon, 18 Sep 2017 10:53:26 -0400 Joseph Rowe

It's that time of year again: a new EA hockey game is hitting the ice. NHL 18 enters the rink with all the stuff you love from previous versions of the game while adding a new Threes mode, more in-depth deking, a training camp for mastering aforementioned dekes, a new NHL team, and more.

Casual fans of NHL games will enjoy the new Threes mode and veterans will have a successful run in franchise mode with all the new ways to keep the puck in their possession. And while many fans hold off on buying new additions of sports games because they don't feel like those games change enough from year to year, they may want to take another look at NHL 18 before passing on it so early in the season.

Although it's not perfect, NHL 18 is a fantastic addition to the series and really shows off what hockey games have to offer all sports fans. From solid gameplay to awesome modes, here's why NHL 18 shines. 

And the sloppiest pass of the game award goes to...

NHL 18's Graphics

NHL 18's graphics are as fantastic as they are most years. Whether it's the realistic details behind player faces or environmental effects like stadium lighting, the graphics are solid all around. 

While there could be more customization in terms of faces, skin tones, and more via a slider system or something similar in NHL 18, the rest of the player customization is graphically satisfying. You can pick from a wide variety of sticks, pads, helmets, and more, as well as customize their colors. You can even finally live out your childhood hockey fantasies with your favorite gear on your Be a Pro character.

There's also something simultaneously goofy and charming about seeing mascots skate around on the ice with actual players. If you ever feel like releasing some frustration, you can always body check your least favorite team's mascot.

NHL 18's Sound

The sound effects and announcer voices are fantastic. The hits are tough and the fights are rough. It feels like you're really in the stadium with how pumped you'll get when you hear sticks slap the puck or the crowd roar after you've scored a goal.

The only minor complaint I have in this department is the soundtrack, but that's not nearly as important as the rest of the sound design. Most of the songs weren't to my personal liking, though your mileage may vary in this regard. Even if I loved the soundtrack, most fans of sports games know how sick you can get of hearing the same 15 songs over and over again, so really, this is just par for the course.

Some tracks were actually enjoyable, like the Orwells' "They Put a Body in the Bayou", but after the 10th time, it can really grow old. Luckily, you learn to tune it out after a while and can focus on the beautiful sounds of body checking.

The greatest Faceoff since Cage vs. Travolta

NHL 18's Gameplay

The most important part of any game is the way it plays and luckily, NHL 18 knocks this out of the park (or rink, in this case). Whether you're going for a realistic simulation or wanting to play a more arcade style hockey game, there's something here to satisfy all player types.

If you're new or haven't played an EA NHL game in a while, there's an in-depth training mode to get you caught up on all the basics of the newly designed control scheme. Depending on your settings, this can be a simple two-button, old-school NHL 94 layout or an in-depth, stick-play heavy layout. There are numerous ways to deke with the full control scheme, allowing you to keep your opponent on their toes.

I'd like to take a moment to talk about Threes. I haven't had this much fun in any sports game in years. This is my absolute favorite mode. It's a 3 v 3 (not including goalies) mode that leads to some fast and exciting matches. If you play with Money Puck enabled, you can gain multiple points off one goal or take points away from your opponent with differing values depending on which money puck is active.

Not only is the mode itself fun, but NHL 18's new Threes Circuit mode has plenty of unlockables. If you're like me and are a sucker for meaningless unlocks, this will be enough to motivate you to get out on the virtual ice.

Of course, if you're looking for a more traditional hockey experience, fans of core game modes will be pleased as well. Exhibition play, Be a Pro mode, season and franchise modes, etc. are all present. These haven't changed much from previous iterations of the game, so if you had fun with them in the past, you'll have fun with them now -- especially with the newest NHL team: the Vegas Golden Knights. They're definitely better than the Reno Silver Knights.

Gotta love in-game transactions. Or not.

NHL 18's Hockey Ultimate Team

My only real beef with this NHL 18 is its HUT game mode. The Hockey Ultimate Team mode is incredibly interesting on the surface: earn players, coaches, bonuses, etc. by playing and spending in-game currency to open item packs and level your team. It sounds like a fun way to extend NHL 18's playability after players get bored of playing season modes, Be a Pro, and Threes.

The problem? You can also use real money to purchase packs in Hockey Ultimate Team. I am not a fan whatsoever of real currency transactions in most games, let alone in a game like this. Electronic Arts already has more than enough ways to earn money and this just seems a bit over the top -- especially since this is a full-priced game. 

However, you can still have fun without spending real world currency, so if you're okay with grinding for in-game money, this mode might still interest you.

Should You Buy NHL 18?

If you're a hockey fanatic, you already know the answer to this question: yes. However, if you're on the fence because you don't know whether it's different enough from previous versions of the game, I have one thing to say to you: NHL Threes. This is the kind of mode that you can get your non-hockey friends into.

If Threes doesn't sound interesting to you, I'd maybe hold off just a bit. If it does, though? Go for it. You'll enjoy the puck out of it. 

---

In closing, NHL 18 adds enough to keep the series fresh while retaining the core mechanics and game modes that fans of the series have come to love over the years. This is definitely a game I'll be playing for a while. Even though I have my (sometimes nitpicky) qualms about the game, overall, NHL 18 is nearly the perfect hockey game. 

Looking for more NHL 18 content? Check out our other NHL 18 guides by starting with our Tips and Tricks and Trophy Guide.

[NoteEA Sports provided a copy of NHL 18 for the purpose of this review.]

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Dishonored: Death Of The Outsider Wraps the Series in Spectacular Fashion https://www.gameskinny.com/yoi4f/dishonored-death-of-the-outsider-wraps-the-series-in-spectacular-fashion https://www.gameskinny.com/yoi4f/dishonored-death-of-the-outsider-wraps-the-series-in-spectacular-fashion https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/2/0/1/20170915124121-72aad.jpg yoi4f/dishonored-death-of-the-outsider-wraps-the-series-in-spectacular-fashion Sat, 16 Sep 2017 19:14:57 -0400 Ty Arthur

Horizon: Zero Dawn, Prey, Destiny 2, Nier: Automata, Resident Evil 7, Persona 5, Breath Of The Wild -- the year has been chock full of AAA successes already, and now Arkane Studios is pulling out its second major win of the year with its ending to the Dishonored storyline in Dishonored: Death of the Outsider

For this standalone entry that's more than an expansion but less than a full game, we're playing as dishonored assassin Billie, voiced by Rosario Dawson, who absolutely nails the tired-but-still-feisty vibe of the character. As the series comes to its conclusion, Billie is searching for her larcenous mentor and looking for redemption from her role in the previous Empress' assassination -- which of course, was pinned on Corvo in the first game.

From your barely-floating ship hideout, stashed in a quarantined area no one bothers to patrol anymore, there are five epic missions to stealth, slash, or magic your way through depending on your preferred play style.

This is why Death of the Outsider is a perfect bookend to the series. 

Home sweet... derelict hidden ship?

Exploring Karnaca

While seeking out her former tutor, Billie will square off against (or rob blind) new (and weird) groups of varying supernatural, religious, or larcenous tendencies, like the Eyeless or the Sisters of the Oracular Order.

After finding Daud, the duo decide on a new mark, and while its given away by the title, it may be a surprising choice for long-time fans of the series. Going one step past the unforgettable magical menace Granny Rags, this time, we're going to kill The Outsider himself, source of all arcane might, so he can't meddle in the world's empires and cause random chaos any longer.

This involves multiple heists and murders across the city, where, of course, rats play a significant role (yet again), although they aren't the plague bearers from Dunwall but rather providers of whispers that tell you about the surrounding areas. If you want to get creeped out by a little girl whispering awful things rats might think about, there's hours of voiceovers to listen through that will more than accomplish that goal.

 Your rat friends are indispensable sources of information about the level

Choose Your Own Adventure

As usual, there's the option to go through any area as a whirlwind of flying bullets and slashing blades or a clandestine and thoughtful rogue that doesn't kill a single soul (which is frequently harder).

Billie could bribe a guard to open a door and look the other way if she has enough coin on hand, listen to her rat friends to find out about a secret entrance up high on the roofs, sneak through the main route without being detected, or just kill anyone who might be a witness and rush straight ahead. All of this choice really helps Death of the Outsider feel like a choose your own adventure epic. 

The levels themselves are varied and satisfied, ranging from a steampunk bank heist to a rescue mission in an underground black magic fight club. During those missions Bilie can undertake Contracts, which are a slight tweak on the discoverable side missions from the previous games, offering extra coins for completing tasks. This system makes more sense for the down-on-her-luck main character, since she's a thief/assassin for hire willing to commit low-end deeds to make ends meet.

 Finding multiple routes to complete the mission

Refining The Dishonored Formula

Billie is less focused on the series' arcane powers, but she does have some Void abilities to employ that are heavily tweaked from the previous two games. You might end up teleporting inside someone and causing them to messily explode messily, or instead steal someone's face and pretend to be them in various situations, such as attending an auction.

If you prefer the supernatural powers from the first two main entries, then there's the Original Game+ mode, which sort of turns the New Game+ idea on its head and gives you abilities from earlier Dishonored titles to play with during the campaign.

Either way you play, there's blessedly no more mana potions, and instead supernatural powers recover naturally over time, putting some more strategy into how and when you employ powers.

Finally, there are no more runes to find and upgrade, and instead there are bone charms to equip. While all give bonuses, some are corrupted and include serious penalties as an offset.

 Equipping a nifty new bonecharm

The Bottom Line

On the technical specs front, I've got a semi-beefy rig (it's not bleeding edge, but it can run most anything on High to Ultra) and I didn't have any stutters, framerate drops, or crashes when running the game with all settings up to max. Exploring the game world with the highest visual settings is a pleasure.

Every last back alley, bedroom, or bar you sneak across in Karnaca is packed full of lore or little atmospheric details that make it clear the developers always have the specifics of the game world in mind. It all comes together to make for a very cohesive, compelling game.

Unfortunately, the experience is significantly shorter than the other games, and it has lots of overall similarities if you devoured the previous two titles. That shorter time does result in a more focused, tighter experience, though. Whether you're returning after not having played since the first game or are an uber fan who has devoured all things Dishonored over the years, Death Of The Outsider is well worth playing.

 The black humor and dark tone are on full display

Between this and Prey, its clear that Arkane is really refining the multiple-route, stealth or combat style to its best form.

Supposedly, this is the "final" Dishonored entry, which seems unlikely, and hopefully, isn't true because the developers have definitely nailed the gameplay.

Whether the style lives on in some other series or we get a sequel or prequel some years from now, the world needs more of this polished stealth assassin wonder and its unforgettable tech-meets-magic setting.

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Last Day of June Review-- Sad For All The Wrong Reasons https://www.gameskinny.com/7lgyh/last-day-of-june-review-sad-for-all-the-wrong-reasons https://www.gameskinny.com/7lgyh/last-day-of-june-review-sad-for-all-the-wrong-reasons 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/a/s/last-day-june-20170912183232-99a2e.jpg 7lgyh/last-day-of-june-review-sad-for-all-the-wrong-reasons Sat, 16 Sep 2017 12:00:20 -0400 ThatGamersAsylum

Last Day of June is a story driven indie adventure game based on the works of Steven Wilson, of Porcupine Tree fame. In particular, it uses Drive Home and its accompanying music video as its influence. However, I don’t want to divulge more about the game’s premise up front since I feel it’s best to go into the experience blind. As such, I suggest not watching the music video until you've played the game.

A Cohesive Art Direction

This game shines artistically. The character designs feel like they could have been pulled out of a Tim Burton stop motion film. Characters also communicate without using spoken language, instead, using body language and small grunts, cheers, and other assorted noises. While at first, it might seem limiting, I quickly realized that their inflection revealed more than enough detail in most situations. The animations for all of the characters also felt appropriate. The Hunter cartoonishly gallivanted around, while the old man hobbled around with his cane in tow.

Some screenshots literally look like paintings. 

The overall aesthetic is strongly influenced by Vincent Van Gogh and the post-impressionist art movement; I even noticed a portrait of him hanging in their hallway. Interestingly, this makes sense in-game because June is a young artist. The further an object is away from you, the less detailed it is, seemingly using fewer strokes of the brush, while closer objects seem to be painted with greater detail. This takes advantage of the way games naturally work since far off objects usually have separate models with fewer polygons which are replaced with hi-polygon models as you get close. I have wanted to see something like this in a game for a long time and I cannot say I am disappointed; I hope other devs pay attention.

Much like the game itself, the soundtrack directly utilizes sections from various Steven Wilson songs. Personally, I was familiar with most of the songs used, but I never felt like this broke the immersion. In fact, I feel that a lot of Wilson's music is actually suitable for a video game soundtrack because of the emotional elements natively present in them.

All of this combined together into one of the most cohesive and satisfying artistic experiences I have seen in a game to date. The minimalistic communication combined with the use of various environmental storytelling techniques and post-impressionist art style made the game feel like all the artists were on the same page; they had a vision and they knew how to make it happen. Steven Wilson’s soundtrack only helped to make the game come to life.

I hope you didn't doubt that there was a chibi, eyeball-less Van Gogh portrait.

To some people, I feel like this extraordinary artistic execution alone will warrant a purchase. While I don’t have any spoilers in the following section, per se, I do discuss the game’s premise. With that warning out of the way, I continue with...

Gameplay & Story

The story centers around Carl trying to prevent the untimely crash that led to the death of his wife, June, and his disability, which limits him to a wheelchair. You accomplish this by playing as your various neighbors leading up to the events that caused the crash. For instance, originally the kid next door ran into the street for his ball causing you to swerve. By taking control of him, you were able to find another activity for him to get involved in which didn’t involve him running into the street. Eventually, this proves to not be enough so you must control more and more characters until you are manipulating the actions of all 4 neighbors leading up to the crash.

The music video for Drive Home, the source material for this game. 

This concept is interesting at first but falls flat on its face thanks to the fact that many of the pieces don’t fit together. The game is more strongly based on trial and error than any actual thought process, and this becomes destructive both to the story and towards its ability to be an interesting puzzle/adventure game. For instance, the solution to the second cause of death makes little sense based off of the rules set forth by the game while solving the first cause of death. 

This trial-and-error and lack of an established logic for the game world is exacerbated by long load times and the fact that replaying segments forces you to rewatch “end of day” cutscenes as well as the way that Carl and June end up crashing.

This fuels a cycle of confused frustration where it takes several minutes to try a different solution to a puzzle that doesn’t always have any logical rules in place to begin with. This also had another unintended effect: forcing me to see Carl and June’s crash desensitized me to it. While the first couple of times I was emotionally invested and felt Carl’s frustration as he sought to save his wife from a cacophony of unfortunate events that caused them to crash on that fateful evening, by about the dozenth time I literally found myself laughing as they careened off the road due to another morbidly comedic mishap.

Looking over his unmade, unused bed sunk my heart. 

But to me, this ignores the biggest problem: that playing the game as the 4 neighbors doesn’t feel tied to June. I mean, their actions very literally, although inadvertently, cause her death so you can see a correlation, but their motivations aren’t ever connected to June’s death. You never see them grieve for her and you don’t see significant interactions between most of these characters and June to understand the nature of their relationship and how her death would affect them.

I was left asking myself: how would the game fundamentally change if you removed these 4 neighbors? The answer is: it wouldn’t. Despite them feeding into the events, they emotionally and thematically contributed little to nothing in a story driven game. Saving June feels abstracted because of this.

Carl may be the motivator to all of this, but he is 2 steps removed from the process. And unlike the 4 neighbors, you don’t learn much about Carl outside of his relationship and subsequent descent. This may have been an intentional way to get you to feel like you are inhabiting him by leaving him a blank slate who is easy to project onto, but it felt empty to me. In a story where I don’t get to bond with June much and I play as characters that are abstracted from her by 2 degrees of separation, everything felt a little hollow.

Carl's relationship was built up early on, but that's asked to carry the game.

Allowing these characters to help flesh June out would have made me like her a lot more. As is, it felt like I was expected to care about her death because she was the protagonist’s love interest and that’s pretty weak.

Conclusion

This game’s art direction deserves to be noticed; I hope it wins awards for that aspect. But I really don’t want to people to conflate a great art direction with a great and memorable story. When I first accepted this game for review I looked up some previews and I quickly saw headlines and descriptions demanding that you prepare yourself with a box of tissues. Sadly, thanks to poor storytelling and frustratingly repetitive game design I was just left feeling angry at the end of the game; not sad.

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Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the Complete Roleplaying Package https://www.gameskinny.com/pjeat/divinity-original-sin-2-is-the-complete-roleplaying-package https://www.gameskinny.com/pjeat/divinity-original-sin-2-is-the-complete-roleplaying-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/2/0/1/20170914181848-8514a.jpg pjeat/divinity-original-sin-2-is-the-complete-roleplaying-package Fri, 15 Sep 2017 20:43:50 -0400 Ty Arthur

The resurgence of classic cRPGs continues with Larian Studio's Divinity: Original Sin 2, one of our most-anticipated RPGs of the year. And I'm pleased to report the game lives up to the hype, and matches or surpasses its predecessor in every way.

This turn-based, tactical high-fantasy RPG kicks off from an excellent starting point, as Sourcerers of potentially world-shattering power are shackled, their abilities suppressed through collars akin to the Rada'Han from The Sword Of Truth series.  

You, of course, are one such unlucky Sourcerer, being shipped off to the erroneously named Fort Joy to live out your days as a prisoner until the taint of Sourcery can be exorcised from the world. Turns out the previous Sourcerer King wasn't exactly a great guy, and now the rest of the world isn't having any of it.

As you progress, a huge number of options will be presented to you along your journey from ship to shore, and that's really what this game is all about.

Will you chafe against your slavery and treat your captors with disdain, seeking escape at the first opportunity? Will you respond to your guards with goodwill -- they are just doing their jobs after all -- and recognize maybe this is all for the greater good? Will you steal everything you come across and just be a mass murderer?

All are valid options in Larian's triumph of an RPG.

 Devastatingly powerful spellcasters tend to not stay shackled for long...

Choices, Choices, Choices

The heart of Original Sin 2 revolves around an array of options letting you play how you want to play, and not being forced down any particular build or path. The options available are even more varied than in the first game, although there was plenty of rumbling discontent among the forums prior to launch regarding the core pre-generated characters.

There was a lot of speculation among fans that there wouldn't be any customization among companions, since the main origin stories you can pick at character creation all end up being companion characters that can join the party.

Turns out that was an unfounded speculation, as you can ignore (or even kill) those origin characters, but if they do join your party, you have total control over their starting classes and how they level up. So, a player can really make any kind of party they desire over time.

Beyond party customization, there are just an absurd number of ways to tackle any given situation (in or out of combat) and tons of viable builds. Damage reflecting sadomasochist necromancer? Check. High-ground taking fireball arrow-flinging ranger? Check. Tactician in total command of the battlefield through magic and sword? Check. That one cheesy guy who teleports, sneaks, and uses furniture to always be out of harm's way? Oh, double check indeed.

The sprawling game world is incredibly reactive and easily corrects course based on any ludicrous thing you decide to do at any given moment. Unlike most RPGs, your party can literally kill anyone. Doesn't matter who. The game will soldier onward even after you've massacred every child, quest giver, and skill-book vendor in the area. Sure, you might end up a little underpowered without all those extra skills, but you'll be laden with loot and experience, and other NPCs down the line will react differently to your band of butchers.

All the elements that were loved (or for some poor souls, loathed) from the first game return, like combat that revolves around a flaming, electrified, poisonous, slippery battlefield. But that's not it. That whole battle scheme has somehow been extended even further, and even refined a bit, so the battlefield effects are even more dynamic.

This takes a little trial and error to master -- I've lost track of how many times I accidentally set my own party on fire because I wasn't paying attention to the flammable liquid on the ground while deploying the Pyromancer -- but when you get it down, this is a very satisfying way to engage in battle.

 Plus, you can play as a face-stealing skeleton, and that's just awesome

Dialog, Characters, and Roleplaying

Conversation, whether just random chats with NPCs or quest-critical dialog, are expanded by Tags, some of which you choose at character creation and some of which are added based on how you play the game. These Tags bring up new dialog options depending on whether you were incredibly helpful, a mass murderer, a total asshat to everyone you met on your journey so far, and so on.

Honestly, I'm really impressed by how often the Tag system comes into play, especially compared to other classic RPG revivals like the Shadowrun Returns trilogy of games. The special dialog Etiquettes you could choose from in that series were utilized only sparingly, and some really weren't helpful at all. That is not the case with Divinity: Original Sin 2, where nearly every single conversation with any NPC will have multiple Tag options.

The constant Tag mechanics make it feel more like you are actually roleplaying and can develop a personality for your characters -- rather than just choosing the option you think will lead to the biggest reward or the best quest line.

Although the subject matter is grimmer this time around, there's still a whole lot of the Original Sin humor, too, which is actually one of the few negatives for me, as I'm not a fan of comic relief in fantasy. A character still turns into a shrub or hides under a barrel while sneaking, for instance, and there's plenty of fourth wall breaking quips. I rolled my eyes when Fane mentioned how he knew he could trust me because I didn't have a red outline like everyone else he'd fought in the past.

 Buckets also double as excellent starter helmets

However, the overall writing and cahracters are a step above the previous game. Each of the origin characters feels more interesting and unique, and if you like the oddity of the Pillars Of Eternity / Tyranny / Torment type characters, there's much more of that on display than in the previous game.

Elves, for instance, consume the flesh of dead people to gain their memories (making them rather disdainful of fleshless undead). As you can imagine, this makes some people uneasy, but also leads to awesome dialog and even free skills if you eat everyone you come across. Undead, on the other hand, can steal the faces of other people and pretend to be them, drastically complicating many scenarios. Lizard characters, meanwhile, think of themselves as superior beings and look down on the lesser races.

Normally, in any given classic RPG of this style, I'd put all my points in the dialog stats, but I wanted to cheese my way through combat with teleportation and sneaking on the first playthrough instead. To make up for my lack of charm, I had The Red Prince companion take the role of frontman, since he gets a bonus to Persusasion.

This was a hilariously bad idea that led to some of the best dialog I've seen in some time, as our lizard prince's conversation options usually revolve around treating people like less than dirt or assuming anyone he meets would love to volunteer to be his lifelong slave. 

But on top of great dialog choices and creative scenarios, each origin character has their own quest line, as they were all obviously in the process of doing things important to them before being captured and collared. I honestly can't wait to replay Original Sin 2 several times as each of the main origin characters to get more of their stories.

 There's a big, beautiful world with lots to discover

The Bottom Line

I've been trying to think of things I legitimately don't like about the game and can only come up with minor quibbles, like the fact that some of the standard key bindings don't quite make sense to me. Why does the G button bring up the crafting screen instead of the C button? Why does tab switch to combat instead of highlighting the stuff on the ground? 

Other than that, and my distaste for comic relief, there's really nothing about Divinity: Original Sin 2 that doesn't scream "RPG of the year!" It's got everything an RPG fanatic could want: crafting, 10 types of skill categories to choose from, different build foci, robust combat, interesting characters and quests, and plenty more. Basically, if you love anything cRPG related from the Infinity Engine forward, you need to buy this game.

Ready to dive in? Head over to our character creation guide here and get started!

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Metroid: Samus Returns Review https://www.gameskinny.com/mjozc/metroid-samus-returns-review https://www.gameskinny.com/mjozc/metroid-samus-returns-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/b/c/sbcy1q7tbi3z-c7f08.png mjozc/metroid-samus-returns-review Fri, 15 Sep 2017 15:11:44 -0400 David Fisher

Metroid, much like Nintendo's other space series Star Fox, doesn't get much time in the sun. While it still gets a new release more frequently than other more forgotten IPs like Kid Icarus, Custom Robo, and Golden Sun, fans of Nintendo's space action-adventure series have been treated rather roughly with the last two titles. Many fans have claimed that -- despite Other M and Federation Force being released in 2010 and 2016 -- the series hasn't had a true new release in nearly a decade. As such, it comes to no surprise that fans of the series were more than excited to see Nintendo's announcement of not one, but two Metroid titles at E3 2017.

Metroid: Samus Returns is the first of these two games to be released. A remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus, the game aims to revitalize the title for newer audiences. But does Samus' return warrant celebration, or has this space heroine seen her glory days in decades long gone?

The Plot

Back in 1986, Nintendo released Metroid II: Return of Samus for the original Game Boy. In that title, a team of Galactic Federation scientists were sent to planet SR388 in an attempt to exterminate the metroid threat posed by Space Pirate experimentation on the creatures. The extermination motion proving unsuccessful due to lost contact with the initial team, the Galactic Federation instead sent Samus Aran -- a bounty hunter -- to finish their mission.

Samus Returns -- being the remake that it is -- has left this plotline virtually untouched. While the ending has been tweaked, an opening animation has been added, and multiple bosses thrown in, the game shares the same basic premise as its predecessor.

Nevertheless, Samus Returns manages to further flesh out exactly what I liked about the original title -- namely, the storytelling through environments and gameplay rather than dialogue or cutscenes. Samus is more in line with fan expectations thanks to her never-look-back attitude, while environmental storytelling such as the Chozo Ruins that were so deeply unexplained in Metroid II are still just as mysterious, but more clearly represented thanks to updated graphics. Meanwhile, the fluffless "just kill all the metroids" plotline still remains intact.

The Gameplay

The Good

While my initial impressions of Samus Returns made me think that this would just be a reskin of the original title with a few updated mechanics, the remake has been anything but. All complaints that I made in my Metroid II review have been addressed -- namely the lack of a map, lack of landscape diversity, and reliance on instruction booklets -- while new mechanics allow for a brand new experience.

One of these mechanic updates is the 360 degree aim. This is oddly enough the first game to feature 360 degree aiming in the 2D series of Metroid titles, primarily due to the fact that there hasn't been a true 2D Metroid since Zero Mission in 2004. Since that game still used pixel-sprites and the Game Boy Advance's D-Pad, it's not really that surprising.

While this feature sounds like it wouldn't add much to the game on paper, it does allow for the player to pick and choose their footing when in battle. Now, instead of madly leaping around the stage and getting uncomfortably close to enemies (particularly bosses), players can aim from afar if they want to avoid taking damage.

For those who like to take a more hands-on approach to fighting enemies, there is another means of taking out foes: the melee counter.

The melee counter is a feature possibly borrowed over from Other M, and is one of the gameplay features that I personally wanted to see return in a mainline Metroid title. With the simple press of the button and the right timing, Samus will knock enemies away before blasting them with a handful of arm cannon shots of your choosing.

This may seem overpowered from a viewer's perspective, but in reality it has been carefully balanced with enemy placement, very selective opportunities for activation, and the lack of invulnerability frames during use. As a result, melee countering an enemy that is sitting a little too close to another is more likely to bring about more harm than good.

Other neat additions include the new Aeion abilities (such as the lightning armor above), the ability to switch between Ice, Grapple, and standard beams, as well as a trove of new bosses.

While the latter additions are unarguably great, the Aeion abilities are questionable depending on the type of player you are. Aeion abilities such as the Scan Pulse can seemingly break the game, but no more so than the X-Ray Visor from Super Metroid thanks to the limitations of the Aeion gauge -- and as a result, the Aeion abilities feel more like tools akin to the missiles than the game-breaking abilities that they appeared to be in trailers.

That said, once the player unlocks more Aeion energy, the abilities can feel a bit unfair. Thankfully, none of the abilities need to be activated except in rare instances, so classic Metroid fans can avoid using them almost entirely depending on the goal at hand. There's also still plenty to explore this time around, so fans shouldn't be worried about any of these abilities getting in the way of their experience since very few locations are even remotely similar to that of the source material.

The Bad

Unfortunately, no game is without its flaws -- and Samus Returns is no exception. While a few new bosses have been added to the game, the majority of the game still centers around hunting the various metroids. As a result, these boss-like encounters can become extremely repetitive after the first few experiences of these grotesque enemies.

If the number of metroids had been reduced, maybe given a few extra forms, or even diversity in battle-room layouts, the experience could have been vastly different. Instead, most of these battles will consist of finding out what the weakness is, taking a few hits while trying to figure out what to do, and then repeating this every four to ten or so times. While I would love to say that this doesn't hurt the game that much, it did enough damage to harm my overall experience of the title.

Another personal gripe is that while some tutorials are necessary for learning new mechanics -- namely melee countering -- it feels as though it should have been added in the flavor text of a collectable powerup. Instead, the game provides a very basic tutorial during the first moments of gameplay to teach you everything from wall climbing to the melee counter. Thankfully, this gets out of the way rather quickly, but it honestly shouldn't have been there in the first place since the game isn't that much more complex than Super Metroid in terms of controls.

The Presentation

The presentation of Samus Returns is somewhat remarkable considering the hardware it was designed for. While the game could have undoubtedly benefited from releasing on the Nintendo Switch, the 3DS manages to bring the game to life with a wide range of dark, but colorful, visuals.

The game also sports a few remixed background themes from various titles across the series mixed among those from the source game. I can say with certainty that the remixes of Return of Samus's soundtrack settles my gripes with the original game's music since they are much more in line with the series as a whole, even if the Surface of SR388 does still have a bit of upbeatness to it. Thankfully, more guilty themes such as the Game Boy's awful Chozo Ruins theme have been overhauled with something much more fitting (below).

The Verdict

Without a doubt, Metroid: Samus Returns is a step in the right direction. With some consideration of the fact that this is a remake and not a stand alone game, I would even go so far as to say it is an amazing title. However, the drawback of this title being a remake is that it suffers from some flaws left over from its source material -- namely the repetitive nature of the pseudo-boss encounters.

Had the metroid encounters been a little more diverse -- or even a little less plentiful -- I could easily have given the game a 9 or even a 10. While Metroid: Samus Returns will be remembered possibly as the game that brought the series back to life, as well as the definitive edition of Metroid II: Return of Samus, Nintendo had better have much bigger plans for Metroid Prime 4 if they hope to have the same effect on fans as they did with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Only time will tell if Prime 4 will bring about a second coming for the series. But if you want to check out this remaster for yourself, you can pick it up for $39.99 over at Nintendo.

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Planet of the Eyes (PS4) Review -- I Have One Eye But I Must Dance https://www.gameskinny.com/7w9em/planet-of-the-eyes-ps4-review-i-have-one-eye-but-i-must-dance https://www.gameskinny.com/7w9em/planet-of-the-eyes-ps4-review-i-have-one-eye-but-i-must-dance 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-9cdaa.jpg 7w9em/planet-of-the-eyes-ps4-review-i-have-one-eye-but-i-must-dance Thu, 14 Sep 2017 16:00:41 -0400 Erroll Maas

Planet of the Eyes by Cococucumber is an indie puzzle platformer created in the vein of Limbo.  It's still able to standout among the competition due to its science fiction premise and more vibrant world in contrast to games like Limbo and Inside, though it still isn't as well made or polished as those two games, and doesn't quite reach the same level of quality as its competition.

In Planet of the Eyes, you take the role of an unnamed service robot who has been stranded on the mysterious titular Planet of Eyes. Unlike Playdead's platformers mentioned above, there is some fully voiced dialogue which takes the form of audio logs you collect throughout your journey. These audio logs are all recordings of the late scientist who sent you to the planet, and explain your origins and reason for being there throughout your journey.

The first thing players may notice about the game is its vivid graphical style. The graphics of this game are gorgeous and really lend themselves to the strange world the developers have created. 

While they may not be the most impressive -- especially when compared to this year's other console releases -- it's easy to see that the developers made sure to put a lot of care and attention into the visuals. While the puzzles may not do much for some players, the visuals and intriguing story add an extra layer to appreciate.  For many the graphical style alone may be a good enough reason to give the game a try. 

The puzzles featured in this game are clever and can provide satisfaction for some, but others may find them to be too easy.  For example,  the puzzle shown above -- one of the last few -- is rather straightforward and involves matching pieces, although the solution might not be clear without playing or watching someone play the game. This is a prime example of the games lack of difficulty as it doesn't require much thought and doesn't leave room for more creative solutions. Being able to use the environment around you to your advantage when dealing with enemies is still an interesting way to create puzzles, even if we've already seen it in other games before. Each puzzle is just the right length and none of them seem overly long just to stretch the game out.

Perhaps one of the most unique features of the game is the dedicated dance button. It has no function other than making the robot boogie down, which is a fun and silly -- but also somewhat unnecessary -- touch. Music only plays at certain parts of the game. It's a pleasant surprise when you've been progressing through the game and it also provides a charming atmosphere with certain scenes--creating a sense of awe and wonder. It may have been neat for the game to have special occurrences if the player hit the dance button during sections where music played, but this seems to have been glossed over.

While the game is simple enough and easy to comprehend, it has a few flaws. Although the only important buttons besides moving left or right are for jumping and grabbing, the controls don't always feel accurate. The jump in particular goes further than it feels like it would, which can cause small yet repetitive and annoying errors in sections of the game that focus on quickly jumping from one platform to another.

While games in this genre are known to be rather short experiences,  Planet of the Eyes only clocks in at about 1.5 to 2 hours, which is only half the length of its more popular competitors. After completing the game once, there isn't any bonus content to unlock and there's no real incentive to replay the game other than to earn the other trophies/achievements.

What some may also find irritating is that in order to get the trophies or achievements they may have missed during their first playthrough, they have to restart the game from the beginning. This is a step beyond just simple backtracking. Some more bonus content like a concept art gallery or a music player to listen to the game's tacks would have been decent features to add.

If the Planet of the Eyes gets a sequel or spiritual successor in the future which doubled the length, raised the difficulty level a bit, and was an overall meatier experience, then maybe it would be on the same level as Playdead and worthy of their critical successes. For now, Planet of the Eyes remains a well made and enjoyable experience which falls short due to a basic few flaws.

Planet of the Eyes is currently available on Steam, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

A review copy of the game was provided by Cococucumber.

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Blood Bowl 2 Legendary Edition Review: A Bone Headed Attempt https://www.gameskinny.com/tysou/blood-bowl-2-legendary-edition-review-a-bone-headed-attempt https://www.gameskinny.com/tysou/blood-bowl-2-legendary-edition-review-a-bone-headed-attempt https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/b/l/o/blood-bowl-eac85.jpg tysou/blood-bowl-2-legendary-edition-review-a-bone-headed-attempt Wed, 13 Sep 2017 12:18:29 -0400 Skrain

Recently, Cyanide Studios released the Official Expansion for its Warhammer Fantasy game, Blood Bowl 2. This expansion is available as a standalone add-on, or as part of the Blood Bowl 2 Legendary Edition that launched earlier this month. 

This game is a brutal mock parody of American football, where various teams made up of different races such as Humans, Orks, Goblins, and Dwarves collide in head-to-head matches and smash each other into bloody pulps. And after putting quite a few hours into this brutal game, I've found it to be an enjoyable experience that's undermined by a few glaring flaws and a disproportionate price tag. 

Note: This review is focused on the single player experience in Blood Bowl 2, and is not entirely reflective of the multiplayer aspect. Once I've spent more time in that mode, I'll update this article accordingly.  

New Blood for the Blood Bowl

The Official Expansion adds eight new races that can compete in the Blood Bowl -- the Elven Union, Ogres, Goblins, Vampires, Amazon, Underworld Denizens, and the Kislev Circus (plus their Tame Bears). Each of these new races has a solid set of strengths and weaknesses that differentiate them from each other and allow you to engage in a variety of match-ups. 

Bloody Balance Issues

In spite of the fresh experience they offer to players, the addition of these new races highlights a long-standing issue with Blood Bowl 2: its balance. Blood Bowl isn't really a balanced game -- but then again, it never claims to be. Some teams are simply better than others, and can beat other teams even when those teams are at their best. Halflings are a prime example -- they generally suck, but their one saving grace is that they're packed with cheap fodder you can send out to die. 

This might be a major turn-off for players who are expecting a "fair" challenge, but players who can look past that and take the imbalances in stride should still have a fun time playing around with these new teams. 

That said, some of these teams feel like an outright chore to play. The Halflings are once again a good example here, but so are the Ogres and the Kislev. The Ogres and their boneheads are a pain, and the Kislev have a constant need for re-rolls -- so these additions don't feel quite as fun to play as some of the previously released teams. 

Brand New Features on the Field

The Eternal League

The Eternal League is probably my favorite addition that the Official Expansion/Legendary Edition adds to Blood Bowl 2. It offers a dynamic single-player league that simulates seasons as they go by. Tournaments in the League generate rewards for the winning teams. 

I think many Blood Bowl fans have been waiting quite a while for a single-player experience like this, and it's been executed well. I particularly enjoy the fact that the AI develops as the League progresses, and will even suffer from the same effects of injury and death as the player team.  

This simulated, semi-dynamic, single-player League is certainly a welcomed addition, but it could use a little more polish. Cyanide could have added more to team management in this mode, which feels a little lackluster in some areas. 

Challenge Mode

Another new feature is the Challenge Mode, which offers a variety of challenging situations and predetermined scenarios that task you with finding the best way to solve them. The dice rolls are predetermined and visible to the player, forcing them to find the optimal way to use their dice rolls and complete the objective. So if you want a Blood Bowl experience that will make you think, this is where you'll find it. 

Currently, there are only ten challenges to choose from. This number is smaller than I would have liked and simply doesn't feel like enough content for players to really sink their teeth into. But I'm hoping that more will be added in the future.

Bugs Are Still a Big Problem

The bugs that have infested Blood Bowl 2 since its release are still rearing their ugly heads in this edition. Several times while playing, I ran into a bug where the AI would freeze and sometimes take up to three minutes to begin its turn. Additionally, turn timers would run down to zero without shifting the turn to the other team. These were just a few of the strange hiccups I ran into -- but they were present in nearly every match I played. 

The game also crashed on me twice in the most curious way possible. The AI froze and refused to finish its turn and the timer ran down to zero, but I could still select players, read pop-up tool tips, open the menu, and move the camera. I simply couldn't end the turn, and I couldn't concede or return to the menu. So I was forced to close Blood Bowl 2 through the Task Manager.

I've never had a game allow me to use in-game functionalities like that while stopping all other functions. And I actually laughed at it -- until I realize I'd just lost two hours in a match I was winning.

Verdict

To put it bluntly: if you didn't like Blood Bowl 2 before this, you won't like it anymore. There are some nice additions for those who did enjoy it that will probably make it worthwhile if you pick it up. But you should do so with the understanding that many of the problems in the base game persist in this expansion rather than being fixed.

What this expansion adds is some pretty fun content, but I'm not exactly sure that it's worth the $24.99 price tag (or $44.99 for the Legendary Edition). Players might find some amusement in this perverse parody of football -- and I'll be the first to admit that it's a hell of a lot of fun to slaughter a field full of Halflings with a team of Orcs. But eventually the single-player experience and its rampant bugs do get tedious, just like the base Blood Bowl game did before the expansion. 

Overall, I'd say the Official Expansion and the Legendary Edition of Blood Bowl 2 is a pretty average addition to the base game. Long-standing fans will likely have a good time, but it's not going to entice new players to keep bloodying the field. 

If you want to pick it up for yourself, you can do so over on Steam

[Note: A copy of Blood Bowl 2 was provided by the developer for this review.]

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Monster Hunter Stories Review: To Steal a Monster Egg https://www.gameskinny.com/0hmo0/monster-hunter-stories-review-to-steal-a-monster-egg https://www.gameskinny.com/0hmo0/monster-hunter-stories-review-to-steal-a-monster-egg 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/h/s/mhs4-small-a0fac.jpg 0hmo0/monster-hunter-stories-review-to-steal-a-monster-egg Tue, 12 Sep 2017 11:10:42 -0400 Autumn Fish

When Monster Hunter Stories was announced in Japan, my regular hunting partner excitedly messaged me on Discord to share the trailer and their hopes for its localization. Watching the trailer, though, I was skeptical. "A turn-based Monster Hunter spin-off?" I thought. "There's no way that will work."

Only now, after getting the chance to play the Western release over a year later, do I realize just how wrong I was. MH Stories is a fun, monster-collecting RPG with a charmingly witty plot and a battle system that you can really sink your teeth into.

Rob a Nest, Befriend a Monster

If you've ever played a Pokemon game, then you'll likely feel right at home in Monster Hunter Stories. As a Rider, it's your duty to befriend monsters with the power of Kinship and fight alongside them to defend the world against an ancient Blight that taints the hearts of wild beasts.

Unlike Pokemon, however, a Rider cannot befriend a monster that's already grown into adulthood. Instead, they must sneak into one of many Monster Dens that crop up randomly across the overworld and steal eggs to hatch, since only newborns can form the bond of Kinship.

 Monster Hunter Stories Review Snatching Eggs

Befriended monsters -- otherwise called Monsties -- provide the party with certain benefits from the outset, such as field skills that let you find gathering spots, locate and scare away enemies, jump chasms, climb vines, and even fly. To this end, I found it pertinent to collect as many monsters as I could.

True to traditional Monster Hunter fashion, each species is unique and certainly not created equal. As you progress through the game and level up your Kinship Stone, you gain access to higher rarity monsters that are often straight stat upgrades to lower tier ones. While there's an argument to be had against throw-away monsters, as a fan of the series, I forgive it.

Of course, there are more familiar Monster Hunter flares littered throughout Stories. You gather and combine your own supplies, you collect and complete quests from the Quest Board and various NPCs, and you still have to contend with hazards such as swelteringly hot and frigidly cold environments. Even regular items have been repurposed to be more useful for this game -- such as Paintballs that can now be used to find fixed Monster Dens. You're certain to find plenty of parallels here.

Quite unlike the main series, however, the normally whimsical and charming cast of characters is actually accompanied by a thoughtful and compelling plot, for once. I never found myself mashing A to get through particularly long cutscenes, and I even agonized over my own foolishness when I did accidentally skip a bit. It's not especially deep, (from what I can tell at my point in the story) but it's interesting, which is more than a lot of Monster Hunter games can claim.

Monster Hunter Stories Review Story and Plot 

Battling Alongside Monsters

After arriving at my first battle against an Aptonoth, I instantly realized that Monster Hunter Stories is ultimately nothing like Pokemon. Instead of sending your Monstie out to battle at your behest, you fight alongside it and attempt to synergize with it as it fights of its own accord.

Together you'll synergize through an Attack Triangle that acts sort of like Rock, Paper, Scissors. Power attacks beat technical, technical beats speed, and speed beats power. You can't command a Monstie to use any of these attacks, though you can influence the tendency by swapping out to a different monster.

After winning enough Attack Triangle head-to-heads, your Kinship gauge will fill up and let your ride your monster. While atop your steed, you can command its regular attacks and build up more Kinship for a satisfying finisher move that does a lot of damage at the cost of knocking you off your Monstie.

The Attack Triangle always kept me on my toes while the Kinship gauge did an excellent job at keeping the longer battles engaging. On top of the unique turn-based system, enemies start to get really challenging later on in the game, which is rather refreshing for those burnt out by the ease of modern Pokemon games.

Monster Hunter Stories Review Battle System

All in all, Monster Hunter Stories is a brilliant spin-off that big fans of Monster Hunter will adore -- especially if they can befriend their favorite monster. At a glance, it's definitely rough around the edges, but underneath the cliches and corny first impressions, it is a wonderful and engaging RPG. I was always excited to see what was around the next corner and what the latest egg I snatched would hatch into.

If you like monster-collecting games like Pokemon, this title should definitely intrigue you. There's something about stealing eggs to raise the babies for fighting other monsters that's just strangely satisfying. It reminds me of the joy I feel skinning monsters and wearing their armor in the main series.

Monster Hunter Stories is available now on the Nintendo eShop for $39.99.

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Reaching for Petals Review: A Lovely Walking Sim with a Few Thorns https://www.gameskinny.com/x6kmd/reaching-for-petals-review-a-lovely-walking-sim-with-a-few-thorns https://www.gameskinny.com/x6kmd/reaching-for-petals-review-a-lovely-walking-sim-with-a-few-thorns 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/f/p/rfp4-c5c2a.jpg x6kmd/reaching-for-petals-review-a-lovely-walking-sim-with-a-few-thorns Mon, 11 Sep 2017 12:51:21 -0400 Wizard of Warsaw

Reaching for Petals is a graphically stunning, story-driven experience that focuses on the key events in the life of a man and a woman in love. Developed by Blue Entropy Studios, this game has you unravel the memories of your own life in semi-interactable environments. 

For the most part, this is a good game that does a marvelous job of conveying its methods. There are a few hang-ups, though, that keep it from being one of those great games that will be etched into the indie hall of fame. 

The Beautiful Petals: Story and Aesthetic

As you might have discerned from the description above, Reaching for Petals' story is primarily told through memories. As you play through each memory, you face choices revolving around the most important events of your life. These memories offer small choices throughout, giving you the chance to react to the story as it unfolds.

This is an interesting mechanic that helps keep the story immersive, but there was one aspect of it that didn't sit well. Though a lot of the choices you can make are drastically different from one another, they seem to have no major impact on the overarching plot -- so there could have been some better execution there. 

Outside of your memories, you must slowly explore a mysterious forest as well. While the trip through this forest, from one memory to the next, is often quite long, Reaching for Petals does an excellent job of filling the time. Beautiful landscapes, an engaging soundtrack, and the philosophical wonderings of the narrator use that interim time to impress upon you the importance of life and love. 

The story is well written, but the narration is what really stands out. Each walk through the forest is largely dominated by the soothing voice of Dave Pettitt, and his excellent narration did a lot to make the game as enjoyable as it was. 

The Wilting Petals: Length and Immersion

Unfortunately, Reaching for Petals did have a few problems -- the biggest of which is that it's far too short. After finishing the game in just under an hour, I found myself frustrated with the lack of content. I had fun seeing the story unfold, but it ended long before it should have. Adding an extra hour or two would have vastly improved the game by giving me more time to connect with everything. 

Apart from that, there were only a few minor issues that ruined my immersion in the game and its beautifully constructed world. Sometimes, the music would finish, making the walk between memories eerily quiet. Other times, I would be walking through the forest and listening intently to the narrator, only to run into some problem with movement such as getting caught on the terrain or missing a small jump. 

All in all, Reaching for Petals is an enjoyable experience, but there's nothing particularly groundbreaking about it. It fits solidly into the genre of "walking simulator" -- and if you're looking for a short game with a focus on poetic musings, then I would recommend it.  

You can pick up Reaching for Petals for $9.49 on Steam.

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

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Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana Review - Living Up to The Legacy https://www.gameskinny.com/6higz/ys-viii-lacrimosa-of-dana-review-living-up-to-the-legacy https://www.gameskinny.com/6higz/ys-viii-lacrimosa-of-dana-review-living-up-to-the-legacy https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/v/i/i/viii-lacrimosa-dana-header-ee349.jpg 6higz/ys-viii-lacrimosa-of-dana-review-living-up-to-the-legacy Fri, 08 Sep 2017 16:42:16 -0400 ThatGamersAsylum

I stood still, calm yet anxious, in the face of a pack of velociraptor-esque enemies. As one lunged forward, swinging both of its clawed arms with the intention to bleed me dry, I guarded. Blocking this attack gave me the opening I needed to lash out at my foes with a flurry of devastating moves. As swiftly as the opening came, it closed again as a tail swung toward my head. Deftly dodging it at the last minute seemed to cause everything to slow down, letting me finish off my foes with one final blow. My allies were wounded, but we’d survived. It was time to press on.

This sort of encounter is the standard fare in Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana -- the newest entry in a decades-old series that's finally back after an 8-year hiatus. This fast-paced, reflex-driven hack-n-slash game features a combat system that rewards aggressive assaults tempered by defensive reprieves, and follows what is ultimately an oddly paced, disjointed narrative.

Setting It Up...

You begin the game on a ship working as a temporary deckhand. But no sooner than the captain tells you of the cursed island you are about to pass by, you come under a Kraken siege that eventually leaves you stranded. From here you begin to piece together a rag-tag group of castaways in an effort to get off the island. In the process, you discover living dinosaurs -- and Adol, your avatar, begins to have dreams about a maiden named Dana who seemingly inhabited this island long ago.

Visions of Dana's past are accompanied by beautiful hand drawn pictures. 

Whose Story Is It Anyway?

As you might be able to tell from this description, Ys VIII's plot struggles to decide what it wants to be about. Is it a survival game about escaping an island? Or is it an odd time travel story centered around figuring out the past of Dana and the island? Had the game more closely followed the structure of something like the TV series Lost, then perhaps the narrative would have intertwined these plot points in a fascinating arc. But it doesn't, and instead it places all these forces at odds with one another.

The Stakes Couldn't Be Lower

The writers also failed to establish the stakes of your adventure, so the game really lacks a sense of gravity or urgency. While you start out trying to survive, it never falls on you to actually hunt or find a source of water. This isn’t supposed to be a survival game by any means -- but without any mechanics or story moments to back up the threat of having crashed on an island, it feels like there is no threat at all.

And this is only exacerbated by the fact that nothing bad really ever happens to you because of the island.

Okay, maybe SOME bad stuff happens... 

Characters complain about not having modern conventions like booze -- but aside from that, they always seem to conveniently have whatever they need whenever they need it. You find castaways all over the island in dead ends that are filled with powerful foes, without any clear food and water sources or refuge from enemies and the elements. And no one ever seems to actually perish because of this whole ordeal. Whether they're getting attacked by roving groups of dinosaurs, seeing the destruction of their ship, or getting separated from others for extended periods of time without survival skills, everyone seems to be okay. And that’s not okay.

What do you do in all of this? You explore the island until something happens to you.

From a storytelling perspective, it's rare that you're actively doing anything. Instead of taking action to make stuff happen that would give those actions meaning, you generally just wander into plot-relevant situations. You're a passive participant rather than an active player in this tale -- and that's a direct detriment to how satisfying the story is. 

Characters Save the Day

While the story is rather lackluster, I enjoyed most of the characters. Laxia, your first teammate, struggles with her rank and her adjustment to the less cultured life that comes with being stranded on an island. She's also got some daddy issues to work through. Her personal arc was fulfilling, and I was interested to see where this restless 19 year-old went with her life.

My favorite character, Ricotta, was a young feral tween who was masterfully characterized in even the smallest interactions. Whether it be the unique sense of fashion she created from clothes that had washed ashore over the years or her interest in learning to read to get a glimpse at the outside world, she was always a fascinating character to learn about.

Don't let his diminutive size fool you; Little Paro is a god of war. 

This concentration on characters also extended to the minor castaways -- who each felt like they had distinct personalities despite never getting much time in the limelight.

One of my favorite aspects of the game was how castaways became productive members of your village in ways that felt relevant to you. One is a doctor who  mixes medicine for you, another is a boy who becomes a farmer-in-training, and there's a trio of women that become your blacksmith, tailor, and merchant.

As a final touch, your captain rewards your exploration for every 10% increment of the map you uncover. This really helped encourage further excursions and developed a theme of interdependency in the group that the larger story usually failed to deliver.

I don't really mean to make the characters sound great -- the lack of stakes really stunts the potential for character growth -- but I found them enjoyable nonetheless.

Gameplay

This Island; My Island

Like I mentioned above, a significant amount of your time is spent exploring. While this didn't not always translate to good storytelling, the Metroidvania-inspired level design does provide interesting gameplay. Many places are inaccessible until you have obtained certain items that let you do things like climbing vines, walking on swamps, or move obstacles.

Moreover, verticality and some complex, intertwining level design make for many interesting areas to explore. It never approaches the same bar of excellence set by the Arkham games or the Metroid series, but it still does a good job keeping things interesting around every corner.

Despite underwhelming graphics, the vistas were still breathtaking. 

Quantity Isn't Always Bad

Another strength of the game is its varied gameplay. Interception missions see you defending Castaway Village, while Suppression missions see you attacking enemy hives to stop their proliferation. Night search missions let you explore certain areas a second time with harder enemies and new loot.

Crafting mechanics also add some variety to the mix as you create equipment, potions, and meals for your party. You can also stop and go fishing in any body of water. So when you get tired of the action, you can take a break to do some more mundane tasks instead.

There are also sections where you play as Dana in the past, wherein she has access to her own extended dungeon and unique abilities that involve some light puzzle-solving mechanics. While none of this is incredibly deep, it all helps keep things interesting for the majority of this 50-hour adventure.

I surprisingly enjoyed my time fishing a good deal, but not a great deal. 

Combat

Hacking And Whacking and Slashing

Putting all of that aside, the real meat of this game comes in the form of its action combat. On its surface, the game is rather simple. Offensively, you have an attack button that performs a basic combo when repeated, an assortment of special skills you can hotkey, and a super move. Defensively, you can jump, dodge roll, and block. All of this is rather straightforward, but it’s when you look at the nuances of these mechanics and how they fit together that combat becomes demanding and rewarding.

Skills use Skill Points (SP). There are two main ways to regain SP. First, if a skill finishes off an enemy, you get half of the SP it cost to cast it. Killing multiple enemies with one skill can even net you surplus SP. Second, not attacking for a couple seconds will charge your next primary attack. Landing this charged attack will deal double damage -- but more importantly, it restores a significant amount of SP. Thanks to you being able to easily restore SP through offensive maneuvers, you constantly have skills at your disposal.

There are also some wrinkles in the defensive half of this formula. Dodging an attack at the last minute results in time slowing down for a brief instance, similar to Bayonetta’s Witch Time. Moreover, blocking an attack allows you to have a period of invincibility, during which all of your attacks deal critical damage. You can even have both active simultaneously, which is incredibly powerful.

On harder difficulties, utilizing these becomes an essential part of any strategy. If you are not performing one or the other, then you will not be able to work at peak efficiency on offense, which will significantly slow down the pace of the game (because you’d keep dying).

Bosses were also a consistent highlight throughout the game. 

All of these elements combine to create a combat system that rewards both aggressively taking out enemies with decisive attacks and having the patience it takes to properly dodge and block your enemy’s advances. The fluidity of combat only serves to further punctuate this game’s finely tuned mechanics.

Perhaps most importantly, being skilled at combat felt like it was of paramount importance, even though the game is technically an RPG. While levels and stats matter, you can't merely raise those values in an effort to clumsily tank through battles. If you want to survive, you’ll need to be skilled -- and I respect that out of an ARPG.

There are some small problems I had with combat, however. While I enjoyed the challenge, it was annoying to fight nothing but large foes that take a ton of hits to defeat, can kill you in only a couple hits, and can’t be juggled -- thus nullifying half of the skills in the game. Enemy hitboxes could be wonky at times as well.

Additionally, the ultimate move is executed with R1 + L1 -- your blocking/hotkeys and dodging respectively -- so I accidentally activated my ultimate move way more often than I would have liked. And lastly, blocking doesn’t have an actual animation; it just causes an aura to appear around you for a second. This was hard to get used to and never felt 100% normal.

Conclusion

Small touches like knocking fruits out of trees really made the game shine. 

Ys VIII might never be considered pretty, but that doesn’t matter. The expansive island is varied and full of fleshed-out locales, offers fluid and challenging combat, has a plethora of gameplay hooks, and boasts fun characterizations that kept me invested in the adventure when the story didn’t.

It is thanks to these strengths that I can happily say that Ys VIII not only stands up to its contemporary competitors, but also beats many of them. I’d rather play this than Final Fantasy XV’s gorgeous, dragging combat and half-hearted open world design any day of the week. And in my book, that is no small feat.

[Note: A copy of this game was provided for this review by publisher Nihon Falcom.]

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Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 1 Review -- A Thrilling Prologue https://www.gameskinny.com/33z86/life-is-strange-before-the-storm-episode-1-review-a-thrilling-prologue https://www.gameskinny.com/33z86/life-is-strange-before-the-storm-episode-1-review-a-thrilling-prologue https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/2/3/6/2360fd38fa9c070092c2873c917939f3103788de-small-63199.jpg 33z86/life-is-strange-before-the-storm-episode-1-review-a-thrilling-prologue Thu, 07 Sep 2017 11:36:15 -0400 Autumn Fish

Normally, I'm just as objective with writing game reviews as I am with piecing together guides. This is the game, this is what you can do in the game, and this is how impressed (or unimpressed) I am by it. However, Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a special kind of episodic game -- and it deserves something just a bit more personal.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is what you remember from the previous game -- and it's not. Some things have changed and some things haven't. But like the BAFTA-winning original, it will pull on your heartstrings. Spoiler: I cried.

Spoiler: I cried.

What is Life is Strange: Before the Storm?

In this prologue to the original Life is Strange, you play as Chloe Price about five months after her best friend, Max, has moved away to Seattle. You're not socially awkward, you don't take photos, and you definitely don't have temporal powers.

Instead -- in a rather fitting twist for a badass punk like Chloe -- you can intimidate people, graffiti the heck out of everything, and finally meet the mysterious Rachel Amber. And just like the original, your choices impact the story here, too.

What is Life is Strange Before the Storm Review

There's a new dialogue interaction unique to Chloe in Life is Strange: Before the Storm called 'Backtalk Challenge'. When you initiate one of these challenges -- you'll know it from the '#!@' symbol on the screen -- your goal is to use what your opponent said and twist it in your favor. Succeed enough times, and you'll be able to shut them down and get what you want. This feature immediately makes Chloe stand apart from the socially anxious Max Caulfield -- and it was always hella' satisfying to pull off.

Then, rather than collecting photos like Max did, Chloe has a collectibles page for her graffiti. There are graffiti spots just waiting to be scribbled on all over Arcadia Bay, and some of them are even kind of tricky to find. They all give you a choice of what to draw or write, too, which really gives each playthrough a sense of personal flair, complete with Collector's Mode for those who want to grab the graffiti spots they may miss the first time around.

And of course, this wouldn't be a proper Life is Strange game without the good old-fashioned power of choice. The only difference between the original and this prologue is that you can't rewind time to rethink your decisions. What you decide is ultimately the choice you're stuck with -- and you bet your cat there'll be consequences.

The Player Experience of Life is Strange Before the Storm Review

The Player Experience of Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Note: Some spoilers for both Life is Strange and Before the Storm follow. 

I wasn't sure if I would be able to relate to Chloe at all going into Before the Storm. With Max, I in some ways felt as if I were watching her portray social insecurities and mores that largely mirror my own. It made the entire experience of Life is Strange very personal.

And yet, shortly after the opening sequence of Life is Strange: Before the Storm, I quickly found myself relating to Chloe far more closely than I had imagined. On the outside, she's a punk that does a lot of juvenile crap that, I admit, I had a hard time seeing through. However, past her hard, defensive shell, she's really just lonely in the aftermath of her father's death and her best friend moving away. And as if that wasn't bad enough, she's dealing with an abrasive new father-figure with whom she doesn't get along.

Being in Chloe's head for the first time hit close to home and influenced my decisions and feelings about the game. It got to the point where I felt as if I were the one experiencing Chloe's thoughts and feelings -- Deck Nine did an amazing job making her relatable despite her rigid outward personality.

Now, if you're wondering why we're playing the role of Chloe Price more than three years before the events of Life is Strange take place. That's because she's the connection between the two games. In Before the Storm, Chloe meets the mysterious Rachel Amber, an important, missing girl referenced all throughout the first game. This gripping prologue expands upon how they met and why Rachel is so important to Chloe.

And after meeting Rachel in Episode 1, I'm left with more questions about her than I had coming into this. The end of the episode gave me chills and left me begging to see more. I only hope that Episodes 2 and 3 live up to the high bar that Episode 1 has set for them.

Life is Strange Before the Storm Review

Overall, Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a masterfully executed episodic adventure game that retains all the emotional impact of the first game, even if it scrapped a few of the more novel ideas -- I'm looking at you, rewind powers. Whether you're a fan of the first game or just looking for a great new episodic title to sink your teeth into, you'll find great value here.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is now available on Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 for $16.99.

[Note: A copy of Life is Strange: Before the Storm was provided by the publisher for review.]

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Cherry MX Board 6.0 Review: Heavy on Quality, Light on Features https://www.gameskinny.com/lqi6v/cherry-mx-board-60-review-heavy-on-quality-light-on-features https://www.gameskinny.com/lqi6v/cherry-mx-board-60-review-heavy-on-quality-light-on-features 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/h/e/cherry-board-30821.jpg lqi6v/cherry-mx-board-60-review-heavy-on-quality-light-on-features Tue, 05 Sep 2017 15:52:56 -0400 Jonathan Moore

For more than 40 years, Cherry has been designing and manufacturing some of the best keyboard switches in the world. It's a safe bet that almost every gaming or enthusiast keyboard you've ever owned has most likely been comprised of Cherry's keys, whether they be blue, brown, or red. Historically, these keys can take a veritable beating year after year, match after match -- and still absolutely blow other switches out of the water. 

But even though I've had the privilege of testing Cherry's switches for some time now, I haven't had the opportunity to test out one of their proprietary keyboards. Until now. 

Like the mechanical keys that have served us gamers well over the years, the Cherry MX Board 6.0 doesn't disappoint. It's a strong keyboard and a solid mechanical choice for office or design work. It's impeccably made and showcases some of the best that German keyboard engineering has to offer. Though this board does have its drawbacks and may not be the perfect choice if you're a gamer, it eschews bells and whistles for practical functionality -- at which it excels. 

Unboxing the Cherry MX Board 6.0 

After unboxing and reviewing so many keyboards, it's refreshing to see a company go a little above and not simply wrap their board in plastic inside a flimsy box. Instead, Cherry goes another route, wrapping the MX Board 6.0 in an urbane felt sleeve and sturdy thick-carboard box. It's definitely not a selling point by any means, but it does speak to the care and effort put into the rest of the board.

And that's about it -- you won't be overloaded with fluff. You get the keyboard and a generous 6.5-foot braided cord. Unlike other boards, such as the SteelSeries Apex, you won't get extra detachable parts that'll you'll just end up losing -- or have to dutifully keep up with if you want to change them out. 

The downside is that the Cherry MX Board 6.0 doesn't come with any extra keycaps or a keycap puller, which can make customization a bit more painful. But you can easily buy these via almost any third-party vendor for relatively cheap, so it's not a huge deal.  

Cherry MX Board 6.0 Design 

Remember what I said about no bells and whistles? The Cherry MX Board 6.0 doesn't bother itself with pomp and circumstance -- catering moreso to the serious typist and enthusiast than the hardcore gamer. 

You've got the standard number of keys here at 104, as well as the typical numpad. Above that are your extra keys: three of these are your standard playback buttons (rewind, play/pause, and fast-forward), while the fourth is the Cherry key that locks the board's Windows button, and other macros such as ctrl+alt+delete and alt+tab. Outside of that, you have several alternate modes mapped to the F, print screen, and pause keys -- such as volume and brightness, SysRQ, and Break, respectively. 

Since the Board 6.0 doesn't have any software to speak of, you won't be able to customize its lighting like you would with other backlit, RGB gaming keyboards. But that's okay, because each key is backlit by vibrant, red LEDs -- with the exception of five. The caps lock, scroll lock, Windows, num, and function keys have a switchable blue/red mode, where blue indicates that the button is active, red inactive. But regardless of the button's color, each key is luminous enough to see in a brightly lit room -- and the brightness function keys, which can adjust the board's overall brilliance up or down by 1% or 10% intervals, keep these LEDs from burning your eyes out in a dim room. 

Finally, all of that is housed in a brawny aluminum chassis. Where some other keyboard chassis feel a bit flimsy (even Corsair's flagship K95 RGB Platinum is guilty), the MX Board 6.0 most certainly doesn't. Coming in at a minimum thickness of 2.3 millimeters across the board -- and thicker in some places -- the chassis doesn't bend in the slightest. I even tried to bend and twist it, and not only did it resolutely hold its form, it didn't once creak. Although you (definitely) shouldn't try this, it feels like you could swing this board against a brick wall and it would come away without a single scratch. 

Cherry MX Board 6.0 Functionality

It's safe to say that a Cherry keyboard is going to use Cherry switches. That's a no-brainer -- and this board features the company's Cherry MX Reds. These keys are insanely accurate and register with the slightest pressure (45 centinewtons, to be exact). 

With complete N-Key rollover and 100% anti-ghosting, the gold crosspoint switches featured on this board are highly accurate and highly responsive. Registered for more than 50 million presses, these Reds feel crazy good to press. Each key is sturdy underneath your finger, lending a sense of power to each keystroke. 

And unlike some other boards that don't use precision keycaps, the switches on the Cherry MX Board 6.0 never once felt flimsy or cheap. Since I'm a rough player and tend to press keys pretty hard, I appreciate a weighty keycap that won't fly off the handle and a switch that doesn't creak after mild usage. 

Another thing I really appreciate about this board is it's great for twitch-firing in SMITE or Paladins matches, where you have to get an ult or ability off in a nanosecond. You won't have to worry about initiating full key presses on the Board 6.0, which better helps you keep your eyes and attention on-screen. And that's because the Cherry MX Board 6.0 uses an analog signal path, meaning that there's no digital scanning between switch points. Essentially, your keystroke is going to register faster -- in a millisecond instead of 20 milliseconds. 

Rounding it all out is the board's wrist rest. Using a magnet instead of the notch and groove design found in many other similar keyboards, the MX Board's wrist rest is made of hard plastic with a comfortable rubber padding gracing its surface. 

It would have been nice if the rest had been made of the same sturdy aluminum as the board's chassis -- the plastic is resilient, but does bend slightly under pressure. However, what I do like about the Board's wrist rest is that it's easily attachable/detachable. The magnet simply slides into an easy-to-find recess in the middle-front of the board and it's attached. This made carrying the board/rest combo to and from work a breeze. 

Verdict 

It is a bit of a bummer that the Cherry MX Board 6.0 doesn't have more customization options, macro functionality, or any dedicated programmable keys like some of Corsair's and Logitech's gaming keyboards. So if you're a MOBA, MMO, or competitive player that needs that functionality to survive, unfortunately you won't find it here. 

On the other hand, if you're a keyboard enthusiast, serious typist, or a casual gamer that's looking for a reliable keyboard that boasts some of the best switches on the market, N-key rollover, and fast response times, the Cherry MX Board 6.0 is a great choice.

At the end of the day, it's hard to justify the over $200 price tag for this keyboard when its competitors offer so much more -- such as RGB lighting, macro adjustments, and dedicated keys. And the Cherry MX Board 6.0 most likely won't find a large audience outside its niche because of that, which is truly a shame because it is one of the most comfortable and responsive keyboards I've used in a long time. 

[Note: Cherry provided the keyboard used for this review.]

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Egglia: Legend Of The Redcap Review -- Great Mobile Experience with Old-School Charm https://www.gameskinny.com/350nd/egglia-legend-of-the-redcap-review-great-mobile-experience-with-old-school-charm https://www.gameskinny.com/350nd/egglia-legend-of-the-redcap-review-great-mobile-experience-with-old-school-charm https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/8c90695c26411269d493741c7e2e32a6.jpg 350nd/egglia-legend-of-the-redcap-review-great-mobile-experience-with-old-school-charm Tue, 05 Sep 2017 13:49:00 -0400 Jeffrey Rousseau

If I could describe Egglia: Legend of the Redcap in one sentence, it would read as follows. This is a JRPG that was plucked from the 1990s and placed in our phones. That might sound like a bad thing, but trust me -- it speaks highly to what this game is and what it offers players.

Egglia looks and feels as though it was made during the Super Nintendo Era. But this isn't just a coincidence. In fact, the game as a whole bears a strong resemblance to the Secret of Mana series -- from its visuals right down to its music.

It's no surprise that this is the case, given that some of the minds behind the Mana games created this title as well -- including director & character designer Shinichi Kameoka, background artist Koji Tsuda, and composers Yoko Shimomura and Yoshitaka Hirota. These gaming industry veterans have collaborated before on the Mana series, and they've brought a lot of that inspiration to Egglia as well. 

Story Time

Egglia's story is charming fairy tale. A young girl tasked with saving the world and a redcap free of violence cross paths. Their destinies intertwine and their story plays out in much the same way that you'd expect from any RPG. Along the way, you'll meet a very colorful cast of characters -- and you'll also see a lot of different races from fantasy lore. It's kinda like Lord of The Rings, if you dipped it in sugar and rainbows.

I won't reveal any story details to ruin the experience -- but I will say that though the narrative isn't Oscar-worthy, it is entertaining. You'll explore new lands, meet wondrous characters, and smite evil here and there. But that said, the plot often feels stuck in a lighthearted tone, because nothing ever seems too serious. The game's dialogue is permeated with humor, and it seems to gloss over the whole fate of the world deal. This might be a deal-breaker if you need a high-stakes tale, but I didn't mind so much. Games tend to be too serious at times, anyway.

The Playground

Despite being a mobile game, the gameplay in Egglia is rather robust. You'll mostly be an explorer of new areas as they appear. Stage traversal also features some games of chance, as your number of movements/actions depends on dice roll.

During your exploration, you're expected to gather materials and battle foes. And you're expected to level up like any RPG -- but if you squeeze in a few minutes here and there to focus on doing so, this doesn't really get in the way of enjoying the game. 

As you progress in the story, you'll also be joined by companions to aid you. (Can't save the world without an entourage, right?) With each new area will come new NPCs that can add their services, resources, or talents to the town as it grows into a bustling hub. And the more you refine this town with new folks, the more it'll help you out as the game progresses in difficulty. 

With this being a mobile game, you'll also be encouraged to play everyday as well. Doing so will net you bonuses such as funds, building materials, and so forth. But that doesn't mean it's a grind to get through at all. 

If there's any particular portion of the game that is boring you, you can just focus on its other aspects. Tired of being a brawler? Stay busy building up your town or harvesting materials. You'll be hard-pressed to find this kind of choice in most games -- much less in a mobile title. So that's really nice to see. 

The Stage

Simply put, this game is very pretty. The scenery is so lovely and sweet that my teeth start to rot while I enjoy it. The bright color palette makes for some lovely vistas, and the characters stand out both in scenes and in battle. Because of this vibrancy, even the most mundane aspects of the game are easy to appreciate on an aesthetic level. 

The many fantasy races and strange monsters are animated very fluidly, and their special effects play well on screen. When you see the game in motion, a low budget app is the last thing you'll think of. It's a full fledged game -- right down the smallest of details.

The Acoustics

Given Egglia's candy-like design, the uplifting tone of its music is no surprise. Its songs range from adventurous to comical to happy. Yoko Shimomura and Yoshitaka Hirota are no rookies when it comes to the tunes, so very rarely will you find a song out of place. Even when you level up, the music is magical -- perfectly suited to the Disney-esque feel of the game.

Verdict

Egglia is a really special game and an even more special mobile experience. Even if you've never been privy to the games that inspired it, playing it for just a few minutes will prove that it's not just another mobile game. This is one of those rare, full-fledged titles that just happens to be on a mobile device. 

And the beauty of it being a mobile game lies not only in its excellent execution, but in the fact that the game's progression is built with the mobile platform in mind. So you can make the smallest amount of progress whenever you have a few minutes, then pop out and save the rest for later. 

Fans of JPRGs will definitely be doing themselves a favor by picking this one up. Egglia: Legend of the Redcap is currently available on both Google Play and the App Store for $9.99.

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

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Knack 2 Review: A Fun, Platforming Romp With Lots of Replayability https://www.gameskinny.com/8jjaq/knack-2-review-a-fun-platforming-romp-with-lots-of-replayability https://www.gameskinny.com/8jjaq/knack-2-review-a-fun-platforming-romp-with-lots-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/k/n/a/knack2-24773.jpg 8jjaq/knack-2-review-a-fun-platforming-romp-with-lots-of-replayability Tue, 05 Sep 2017 13:18:14 -0400 Wizard of Warsaw

Developed for the PS4 by Sony Interactive Entertainment's Japan Studio and Mark Cerny, Knack 2 is a fun platforming game that follows the continuing adventures of Lucas and Knack of the original Knack game released in 2013. 

Not having played (or even heard of) the previous game, I approached Knack 2 cautiously. Despite my reservations, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the game from start to finish. It was a welcome break from the far more serious games that I usually play -- but that didn't make it any less engaging to experience.

Story 

Knack 2's story relies heavily on simplicity. The hero's motivations are laid out plainly throughout the game, the villains have simple reasons for their evil deeds, and the action progresses logically through each chapter of the game. Because of that simplicity, there weren't a ton of surprises -- but it still managed to be a fun ride. 

Most of the storyline was predictable, with the only real surprises coming towards the end as each new chapter seemed to impossibly lead into another. More than once, I told myself "this is definitely the ending, there's no way to top this," only to be proven wrong in the very next cutscene.  

Overall, the story was good. Simplicity isn't a bad thing, and Knack 2 makes it work for them by making the game feel familiar. 

Gameplay

Knack 2 utilizes a ton of interesting concepts that keep the game feeling fresh the whole way through. The biggest and most prevalent aspect of gameplay is Knack's ability to change his size. From the moment a level starts, the player can search for extra parts to add to Knack's body, making him bigger and bigger. In addition to gathering these extra pieces and becoming larger, Knack can swap to a small version of himself to access hard-to-reach areas and navigate areas that require a more dexterous approach. 

Knack himself is a versatile character with the ability to incorporate types of blocks from his surroundings. These special blocks grant him access to different forms with added abilities, some of which include being able to breathe streams of ice and avoid security lasers. These different forms give rise to plenty of interesting puzzles, as each set of abilities alters how Knack can approach a problem. So the gameplay never really started to feel stale, no matter how many levels I encountered.

On top of Knack's ability to transform his body, he is a competent fighter. While his combos start off with rather basic punches and kicks, he quickly develops more impressive abilities. By progressing through the story or purchasing upgrades, you'll learn a ton of new moves that expand your combat abilities -- and this keeps every encounter engaging rather than relying on the same old tricks.

Last but not least, Knack 2 features a cooperative mode. Using an extra controller, a second player can take control of another robot (essentially Knack with a different color scheme) to help fight baddies and solve puzzles.  

Miscellaneous 

While the story mode for Knack 2 is fun, there is much more to do than just run through to the end of the game. While going through the game, there are plenty of secrets to find that will unlock special gadgets. These gadgets aren't necessary by any means, but they can provide a little bit of help both in and out of combat. 

Even after completing the game, there is more to do. New Game+ gives you the chance to play through the game again, with all of your upgrades from your previous playthrough. NG+ is almost necessary if you want to get all of the upgrades, since you would be hard-pressed to purchase them all in one playthrough.  

In addition to New Game+, completion of the game grants access to Timed and Coliseum Challenges, which offer even more to do if you're not in the mood to play through the story again.  

Verdict

All in all, Knack 2 gets an 8 from me. It was a fun game that's filled with a lot of really good ideas. The only potential downside would be the more childlike side of it, which might turn off people who enjoy more serious titles. 

If you want to check out this lively romp for yourself, you can pick up Knack 2 from the PlayStation store for $39.99.

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

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Pixel Gladiator Review https://www.gameskinny.com/30drt/pixel-gladiator-review https://www.gameskinny.com/30drt/pixel-gladiator-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-bd37c.jpg 30drt/pixel-gladiator-review Tue, 05 Sep 2017 13:09:03 -0400 Erroll Maas

Pixel Gladiator, an indie tower defense game by Deadly Pixels, is set in a distant future where brutal gladiatorial battles are the highest rated TV program in the entire universe. The player has been sent to an abandoned planet as one of the show's participants, with the goal of surviving as long as possible, while defending themselves and their base from dangerous alien creatures as billions of viewers watch for their entertainment.

Survival is Pixel Gladiator's main game mode, where the goal is to earn as much money as possible by defeating endless waves of enemies while also defending and upgrading the base until defeat, which happens when enemies destroy the reactor at the center.  

In addition to survival mode, there are three different arenas to participate in: Desert, Air,  and Underground. All three of these arenas consist of 10 waves of enemies and one boss, and each arena is different. In Arena I (Desert), there doesn't seem to be anything special -- but it's a useful stage to practice on if survival mode feels too overwhelming. Rocket Boots are recommended for Arena II (Air), with a base of three separate platforms that have to be jumped across and the introduction of flying enemies, while Arena III (Underground) features stronger enemies.

Between waves, the base can be upgraded with walls, turrets, and other weapons, which are necessary for the continued survival of the player. The player's held weapon can also be changed once enough money to purchase a new one has been obtained, although it takes a while to get the best weapons since players will find themselves focused on fixing and upgrading the bases defenses between the earlier waves.

Once the player gets past a number of waves, stronger enemies will start to appear. When the stronger enemies show up, players likely won't have enough money for better weapons yet -- so certain situations can be a real struggle if base defenses haven't been fixed or upgraded accordingly. The amount of money gained from killing enemies is increased on camera areas, so it's more beneficial to stay close to the center of the base even though you run a higher risk of bringing the enemies close to the reactor.

At first the gameplay can feel slow, but gets a bit faster after a few waves once the difficulty increases.

Survival isn't the best mode to start out on for new players -- and although the game is rather basic, it lacks any kind of tutorial. It's more beneficial for players to start with Arena I (Desert) first to familiarize themselves with weapons and upgrades and master thembefore trying their hand at Survival Mode. From there, after participating in a number if rounds of Survival Mode, players can try their luck at the more advanced Arena II (Air) and Arena III (Underground) stages. Once players have been able to complete all three arenas, Survival mode should be a breeze by comparison.

Although the gameplay is decent, Pixel Gladiator's other elements are rather weak. The art style and music don't stand out -- and although they aren't terrible, they don't do much to enhance the experience. The game also has no controller support at the moment, which isn't a glaring flaw due to the basic controls, but it would be nice if the game at least had the option.

Pixel Gladiator is currently in Early Access, so it's more than likely the game will improve over time -- but as of right now, the game hasn't reached its full potential. Players could get the same amount of satisfaction (or perhaps more) from a tower defense flash game they can play on their internet browser or phone for free.

If you do want to check it out, though, Pixel Gladiator is available on Steam for $4.99.

[Note: A copy of Deadly Pixels was provided by the developer for the purpose of this preview.]

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War Wings Review https://www.gameskinny.com/xrqkm/war-wings-review https://www.gameskinny.com/xrqkm/war-wings-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/q/d/hqdefault-caa26.jpg xrqkm/war-wings-review Mon, 04 Sep 2017 11:15:50 -0400 Zantallion

Remember World of Tanks? What if you had it in your pocket? And it was about airplanes instead? And had touchscreen controls? Ok, so War Wings doesn't really play much like World of Tanks, but the main concept is pretty similar -- collect a bunch of World War-era vehicles, and use them to blast apart other players.

First things first, War Wings looks fantastic. I don't have a lot of experience with iOS titles, but the graphics here really look shockingly nice for being on a handheld phone.

The game impressed a lot performance-wise as well. Even with it's shiny impressive graphics, I didn't experience a single slowdown during my time playing. Some scenes are less impressive than others, like, for example, the hangar background, but the actual dogfights are very impressive.

Unfortunately for the game though, the graphics are the most exciting part of it, and the rest is decidedly less compelling.

Gameplay works well enough. The game's main mode is a PvP battle mode, where two sets of four players dogfight it out in the sky. The game is touchscreen controlled, with a faux joystick controlling your plane's movement. Two buttons control speeding up and slowing down, and buttons for firing weapons and reloading round out the control scheme.

The actual buttons work fine, doing all they're intended to, but the joystick you have to be a bit more careful with. A few times while I was playing, I'd stray a bit too far outside it's set circle, which would lead to the joystick snapping back to the center and making my plane fly straight ahead. Unfortunately, this often happened when I was trying to steer away from crashing, which made this behavior a bit more than an annoyance.

Firing works more consistently, but you actually have to pay attention to your ammo count when firing, as there's not a lot of notice as to when you're running low. When your thumb is covering that corner of the screen, a lot of times you'll scope in on an enemy to blast away, and end up just lightly dusting them because you actually only had 3 bullets left. 

In terms of content types, there's not a lot to be had. There's the main PvP dogfight mode, daily missions, and the occasional special events. Each provides you with rewards and in-game currency, which goes towards upgrading your plane, buying supplies, getting lootboxes, and eventually, buying new planes.

The available modes have very little variety to them and, for the most part, you'll be playing the base dogfight mode over and over again. This isn't bad on paper, as many games get by with a basic mode being it's main focus, but when your game is based on completely open air and freeflight, there's not going to be a lot of variety to your maps outside of backdrop.  This means most every match ends up feeling the same, with no change to strategy or layout to be found.

The greatest variety in this game comes from the tons of different planes you can collect, with four different categories and tons of planes under each category. You can use earned currency to buy upgrades for each, and each category has a list of planes you upgrade through, but considering there's only stat differences and little else to differentiate them, there's not a lot of gameplay variety found amongst them either.

There are also no personality differences amongst your options. Something like different pilots per each type of plane might have helped this, but all that's there to entice you into wanting other planes is just their design and the fact that they're locked.

She may look nice on this splash screen, but the pilot is nowhere to be found in the actual game.

As is increasingly common in games nowadays, there's a loot system, which gives you incentive to keep playing matches and earning more. From these you can earn supplies, plane parts, and currency, which help you progress along your upgrade path and let you buy new stuff for your plane. However, there's plenty of content in the game that's simply not available at all through these boxes, or by any means other than paying real money.

There is an in-game premium currency obtained by paying actual money, and a decent handful of planes are only obtainable with this premium currency. These planes tend to have better stats than the average ones as well, meaning that pay-to-win is a legitimate strategy in War Wings

Overall, War Wings doesn't offer much exciting content to players who aren't warplane aficionados or dogfight lovers. If the idea of making your plane fly in circles to shoot down the same four enemies over and over again gets you all excited, or if you love World War-era planes above all else, then this is the game for you. Otherwise, War Wings's paltry mode options, unsatisfying gameplay diversity, and lack of personality mean that most won't get a lot out of it.

For all of it's nice looks, War Wings just ends up being plane boring.

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Augmented Empire: A Treat for VR Fans Looking for A Damn Good Story https://www.gameskinny.com/m7l1h/augmented-empire-a-treat-for-vr-fans-looking-for-a-damn-good-story https://www.gameskinny.com/m7l1h/augmented-empire-a-treat-for-vr-fans-looking-for-a-damn-good-story https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/9f0a9c45cf9bd330014a315dea28e98e.jpg m7l1h/augmented-empire-a-treat-for-vr-fans-looking-for-a-damn-good-story Fri, 01 Sep 2017 17:56:48 -0400 Kat De Shields

Coatsink is a studio known for leading the way in developing immersive VR titles. Their latest game, Augmented Empire, is a strategy RPG that takes place in the class-divided city of New Savannah. It's a solid tactical RPG with a sexy neo-noir wrapper -- and If you're looking for a VR title that you can play for hours, look no further

 


Gameplay: A Cyberpunk Tabletop Delight

Residents of the city are divided into tiers by the "Citizen Grade System" (CGS). Citizens with a higher grade get to enjoy the splendor of high-society living, while dissenters and criminals live in the dregs at the island's base. The heart of the story follows Willa Thorne, a young woman on the cusp of achieving CGS 10. Mere moments before her ascension to 10, a series of actions cast her out of the world she knew.

Now, she's on the run in the underbelly of New Savannah -- where she finds help. Craven, the silent mastermind, and his robotic assistant Hartman are two detectives who become Willa's guardians. You play as Craven, the silent leader of a team of misfits you must guide through New Savannah. 

Anyone who has played XCOM or XCOM 2 will feel right at home with the way missions in Augmented Empire are setup. Once you select a mission, the game goes from a 360-degree experience (inside Craven's office) to a set, overhead point of view. The grid-based movements take place on a tilted tabletop. As such, you only ever need to look in one direction. This is the only gripe I have with the game -- it seems like a bit of a waste to utilize so little of the immersive VR experience. I can only imagine what New Savannah would look like in 360 degrees.

You can get a crick in your neck from looking at one angle the whole time, but you also don't have to stand to play this game. 

The turn-based combat system is your standard fare of move, attack, and dodge, with different team members having their own skill sets and augments. Your agents level up as you use them, and you can upgrade equipment and abilities throughout the game. To control character selection and movement, it's a combination of looking at them and using either the wireless controller (recommended) that comes with the Samsung Gear VR headset or the headset's touchpad to select and execute actions. 

From the main hub in Craven's office, you have a holographic display of the city where you can select places to start new missions and manage such things as team members, buffs, and purchasing items. Missions allow you to pick up new team members and explore the city of New Savannah. In addition to combat, team management becomes another component of the game as you build your team and upgrade individuals.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that dialogue selection is a feature in the game -- particularly what you say to Willa. The game stands strongly on its own already, but this added mechanic adds an additional depth to the gameplay that I appreciated. 

A Narrative You Don't Want to Miss

What the game may be lacking in 360-degree experience, it makes up for in narrative. The story surrounding New Savannah and its residents is a compelling one with a diverse cast of characters. Each character has their own story, and every single one of them is well-developed. The setting of the game is a fascinating character in its own right. 

There is definitely a message in this story that discusses class systems, poverty, and the pros and cons of societal hierarchy. The dialogue is gritty, funny, and earnest in all of the right places, and nothing feels forced or phony. There are more than a few laugh out loud moments -- especially at the way characters interact with each other and the world around them. 

If you're a wanderer who likes to read and explore all the things, there's a plethora of things to look at and people to speak with to satisfy your curiosity. All of it helps you understand the world around you; New Savannah is a fascinating place, and you'll find yourself eager to learn all its secrets. 

With more than 10 hours of gameplay across 26 missions in 60 different environments, there's plenty to do in this game and it's compelling enough to come back to once your phone cools down from overheating. 

The Augments that Make the Game

It is certainly worth noting that Augmented Empire's soundtrack is the perfect pairing for the missions and environments you will encounter throughout the game. It even has a dash of the classic, moody jazz and piano you'd expect from a noir game.

The game is also supported by the talent of several well-known actors, including: Doug Cockle (The Witcher series), Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), Garrick Hagon (Star Wars: Episode IV - a New Hope, Horizon Zero Dawn), and Kate Mulgrew (Orange is the New Black, Star Trek Voyager). Because of this, there is quite a great deal of voice acting in the game. It wasn't a problem for me, but it may bother some gamers who aren't into a ton of exposition. 

Overall, Augmented Empire is a wonderfully executed visual and audio treat for any gamer -- a worthy addition to your Gear VR library and well worth the cost. 

The Skinny on Augmented Empire 

You'll like this game if:

  • You enjoy tactical battle and decision making,
  • Narrative and character development are important to you in a game,
  • You're a sucker for Cyberpunk environments.

You may not like this game if:

  • You prefer pick-up-and-go action games over games with a fair deal of exposition. 
  • You're looking for an immersive, 360-degree gaming experience,
  • Extended VR use makes you nauseous or gives you headaches.

TL;DR: Augmented Empire delivers a compelling gaming experience and is a must have addition to you Samsung Gear VR library. 

Augmented Empire is available for $9.99 on the Oculus store.

[Note: The developer provided a copy of Augmented Empire for this review.] 

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Absolver Review: Fighting More Bugs Than Enemies https://www.gameskinny.com/5i14m/absolver-review-fighting-more-bugs-than-enemies https://www.gameskinny.com/5i14m/absolver-review-fighting-more-bugs-than-enemies 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/b/s/absolverreview-d1523.png 5i14m/absolver-review-fighting-more-bugs-than-enemies Thu, 31 Aug 2017 14:45:03 -0400 Joseph Rowe

Absolver is a game that sounds amazing on paper and sometimes plays amazingly in action. When it works.

However, my time with the game has been filled with disconnects, game crashes, camera bugs, body duplicates, and all sorts of other issues that prevent me from enjoying the amazing work Sloclap has done in terms of gameplay, graphics, and worldbuilding.

Graphics

I have a confession to make -- I'm a sucker for stylish graphics. When games like Jet Set Radio or Katamari Damacy go out of their way to establish their own bold aesthetic and pull it off, it adds something special that makes the game stand out from similar titles with run-of-the-mill graphics.

The graphics team at Sloclap has made Absolver a beautiful game. The character designs are just as striking as the impact from a fast elbow. The graphical style, in tandem with the vague, thin monk bodies and expressionless masks, are pretty iconic. I imagine we'll be seeing a lot of cosplays from this game over the next few years.

The environments in Absolver are absolutely gorgeous. The ruins, the water, the trees, and everything else create an atmosphere that's a mix between whimsical and bleak. Adal feels like an old empire. I haven't finished collecting all the armor sets, but those I have seen so far look great and can be mixed-and-matched to make sure that, despite having the same build as other characters, your character will still look pretty unique.

The animations are very fluid as well. Each attack has its own wonderfully executed animation. The fast attacks are quick, yet they pack a punch (or kick). And the heavier ones make a big impact. The emotes in this game are great, too. You can tell a lot of effort and love was put into designing this aspect of Absolver.

Sound

The music in this game is good -- but compared to the graphics and gameplay, it doesn't stand out quite as much.

There is also very little spoken dialogue in this game, but when there is, it grabs your attention. The developers have made their own language for Absolver and it adds another interesting layer of lore to the world. The combat sounds are fantastic, and there's nothing quite like landing and hearing a big blow on your opponent before defeating them.

Gameplay

Other than the graphics, the gameplay is where Absolver really shines. While I haven't been able to play enough so far to say whether or not the game and its different styles are balanced, what I have played has been fun and simple to learn in terms of basics, but almost too deep in its advanced form.

The combat is mostly bare fist/gloved melee, though you can get gauntlets and a sword to fight with as well. There are four different stances that you can switch between and combo into. Your character's stance changes visually, and this is one of the most important parts for knowing when to attack, when to block, etc., as your and your opponents' attacks depend on the stance. Learning to read stances and knowing which attacks start from where is key to succeeding in fights.

When creating a character, you'll choose one of the three styles to start with. I picked Windfall for the character above, as I'm a fan of fast fighting game characters. This style lets me dodge with my R-stick, whereas one of the other ones will let you absorb attacks, and another one lets you parry. Windfall doesn't have to be played fast, however, as you can equip heavy armor but still dodge with your style's special feature. It's hard to say how viable this is, but it is an interesting premise.

The aspect of the combat system that stands out the most in Absolver, though, is its combat deck editor. You start off with a few base moves you can do, but the further your character levels and fights opponents from different styles, the more moves you learn. Eventually, you can even switch between styles. You can string together these moves you learn in the combat deck editor (see screenshot). There are lots of moves to unlock -- each with its own speed, placement (high, low, etc.), and power. 

The multiplayer/single-player functionality in this game is quite similar to the Souls series. However, instead of needing to summon allies or enemies to drop into your world, you will just run into each other in the game world. Whether another player is your friend, foe, or just a passerby is part of the fun, as you never know until one of you makes a move.

Miscellaneous

While I haven't had a chance to engage with Absolver's lore as much as I want to yet because the game has been constantly disconnecting or crashing, what I have seen has been quite interesting. The game has its own language which is really, really cool. The history of the world is revealed through NPCs and items in-game, quite like Dark Souls. Each new armor piece not only gives you the possibility of improving your character, but also a better understanding of the game's world.

The PvE story in Absolver is less than 10 hours long by most players' accounts -- and most of that is navigating the world, as the only way to view a map is to go to an altar (a safe spot sort of similar to bonfires in the Souls series). You can complete it offline or online, though online is definitely recommended. When the servers were down for a while, I played the game offline and it kind of feels like you're cheating. It also feels super lonely without other players joining you and/or sabotaging you. Some players have also reported their characters disappearing if they play offline only for too long.

As previously mentioned, the map is only accessible in certain locations. This makes the world quite difficult to navigate. For some players, this added difficulty will interest them -- but for me, it was a bit of a turn-off and felt like an artificial way to extend the PvE aspects of the game. That being said, it is fun to find loot that seems inaccessible at first until you explore every nook and cranny to eventually reach it.

Server Issues and Bugs

If you can't tell by the multitude of complaints above, this game is loaded with problems in spite of its good design. Before getting into the complaints, it is worth noting that Sloclap is a small, independent studio. This game is ambitious for any studio, let alone one the size of Sloclap, and they have been doing their best to address the issues that have been happening since Absolver launched a few days ago, like adding an Oceania server for Aussie and NZ players.

I have yet to play this game for more than an hour without it disconnecting, crashing, or some sort of bug happening that forces me to restart the game. When entering new areas, sometimes your character's model will duplicate and you will be unable to move. One time I managed to get unstuck from this position, but I have yet to replicate it in the multiple times it's happened since. In fact, my most recent encounter with this bug created a second duplicate of my character model (see screenshot). Even the bugs have bugs.

The game server was down for most of the time I played last night. I ended up playing in offline mode, but Absolver isn't quite as interesting without other players running around as previously mentioned. After completing the PvE, it's not worth touching without access to other players.

Those aren't the only problems I've experienced with Absolver. Multiple times, I've had the camera get stuck in one place and have been unable to get it back. It felt like I was playing Resident Evil. There's also been a bit of lag in the fights, which steals the joy from any fighting game.

The most frustrating aspect of the game the game can be running smoothly for a while, then it will randomly freeze on a specific frame and crash. I had this happen in my second, lag-free 1v1 match. I was 2-0 and about to win, then it froze on my character performing a kick before kicking me out of the program. 

Absolver's gameplay and graphics are so wonderful that it makes these issues all the more frustrating. If these problems only happened once every few hours, it'd be one thing -- but sometimes you'll encounter error after error or just be plain unable to connect for hours at a time.

Should You Buy It?

This is a tough question for me. Aside from my scrubby butt having a hard time navigating the map and properly building a deck, I really like this game at its core. If the bugs get fixed, it could possibly become one of my favorite games.

If For Honor interested you and you're cool with playing a game that will be mostly PvP, Absolver is for you if you can wait out or handle the bugs. If you only want PvE, I would hold off even if the issues get fixed. Sloclap has discussed their plans for upcoming free updates to the game so there might be more PvE in the future, but as of right now, there's not enough to keep single player fans engaged.

 All things considered, this has been a disappointing experience for me. I have been excited for Absolver for quite some time because of how much of a mess For Honor was. It's such an amazing game at its core -- but when you can't run through the map without risking losing control of your character or camera, it is hard to have fun.

I'm giving this game a 6 because it's a small studio, yet the devs are taking actions to address these issues. Had this been an Ubisoft game, I would have given it a 4 or a 5. If all the bugs are fixed, this game becomes an 8. If there is a more in-depth tutorial and a better map system added, this game becomes a 9 for me. However, things currently stand, I already feel like a 6 is pretty generous.

If you want to check it out for yourself, Absolver is available on GOG for $29.99.

[Note: GOG provided a free code for Absolver to the writer for the purpose of this review.]

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Rule with an Iron Fish Review: A Lazy Fishing Afternoon https://www.gameskinny.com/jc6wu/rule-with-an-iron-fish-review-a-lazy-fishing-afternoon https://www.gameskinny.com/jc6wu/rule-with-an-iron-fish-review-a-lazy-fishing-afternoon 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/c/t/actual-iron-fish-banner-db059.jpg jc6wu/rule-with-an-iron-fish-review-a-lazy-fishing-afternoon Wed, 30 Aug 2017 16:01:25 -0400 Greyson Ditzler (PurplePocketPirate)

Rule with an Iron Fish is a casual comedy-fishing game from developer Kestrel Games that was recently ported to PC from it's original fishing hole on iOS and Android devices. Making the jump from mobile devices to PC can be a treacherous one, and not every game manages to make it out of this process unschathed -- with a lot of them seeming like nothing more than games with mobile depth asking for PC prices.

Does Rule with an Iron Fish escape this pothole and deliver a positive experience worth the new $10 price tag? Well, for the most part, yes.

Let's bait our hooks and cast our line out for an explanation.

Sit right back and you'll hear a tale...

Rule with an Iron Fish is the story of the eponymous pirate captain Ironfish (whose first name in my case was "Rulewithanne"), who loses his sister and ship to a massive storm and even more massive kraken. You must then build up a fortune through fishing and assisting a small growing community of pirates to eventually find and rescue her. It's a simple plot that really only exists to establish the setting and gameplay, but it does so fine enough. 

The bulk of the gameplay in Rule with an Iron Fish -- as one might reasonably guess -- is fishing. Using a variety of seafaring tools you must visit a collection of different fishing spots and catch a variety of fish, all of which you catch by waiting for a colored circle to shrink until it's inside of a white ring and turns green, which varies in size and timing from fish to fish. As you fish more and more you gradually gain money that you can use to buy upgrades to your fishing equipment, such as better bait, hooks, bobs, and fisherman-enhancing cooking supplements in order to make your work easier and more profitable.

This is what most gameplay in Iron Fish looks like. There is more to it than that, but for the most part, this is what you're signing on for.

Fish and chips -- But mostly chips.

The presentation in Rule with an Iron Fish is, while not very grand in scale, very pleasant. The hand-drawn characters and backgrounds all feel cohesive and consistent with one another, and culminate into an overall cutesy-yet-grounded aesthetic, making the world feel the slightest bit fantastical while also being pretty real. The added detail of all the fishing spots being cubic like looking into a tank from the outside is a nice touch too, and looks pretty fitting on mobile.

This is also helped along by the admittedly small but nonetheless catchy soundtrack, which is heavy with acoustic guitar and manages to capture both the moods of high-seas piracy and lazy fishing trips rather well.  

The game also has a consistently comedic tone all throughout. Characters you meet have silly pirate names, nearly every fish is a fictional creature whose mere existence is a joke, and there's a general air of jaded sarcasm in the dialogue laid on just thick enough to be funny without becoming obnoxious. Even if you don't find the general tone to be all that funny, with so many jokes on display in it's run-time, the game is still bound to make you chuckle a few times, and make you smile plenty more.

Existentialist laughs...

 Pop-culture references...

 And literary inside jokes await you within.

The whole game is tied together by a mission hub where you can keep track of everything you've done and what there is left to be done. All of your quests -- both story and side -- are handled back at your headquarters in Buccaneer Bay, where you can talk to the cast of characters you gradually build up along the way, receive and turn in quests, admire your aquarium of random fish, proudly gaze upon your trophies and so on. All of these details in the hub alongside the other presentation elements come together to give Iron Fish a strong sense of personality without being too overbearing.

However, while all of these additions to the game are a lovely thing to have, they also point to the game's biggest fault, and that's the fact that most of these things don't actually change up the core gameplay. Sure, they add a sense of immersion and investment to the experience -- both of which are positive elements you often don't get to compliment a mobile game for -- but they don't change the actual fishing.

Somebody's poisoned the water hole.

The biggest problems that Rule with an Iron Fish suffers from are simplicity and repetition. While the gameplay can often be fun, and there's plenty of little things to keep track of and tweak your play-style as you go along, the core gameplay almost never changes. Aside from the odd quick-time event of pushing arrows in a certain direction, or a simple fishing duel against some sort of enemy, the gameplay never really goes far beyond clicking at the right time to win. 

There are better hooks to buy and upgrade yourself with, and swapping between different bait based on the fish you're looking for and how much money you have adds something, as do the handful of recipes that temporarily boost certain stats while you're fishing. But the fishing gameplay itself never seriously evolves.

The only noteworthy change in gameplay takes the shape of the aforementioned fishing duels. From time to time you will engage in brief one-on-one skirmishes with another captain, where you must through objects at their fishing line to stop them from landing a big one, catch fish out of the air before they can, and occasionally stop smaller forces from attacking your ship.

These duels can be very fun, and do make you prioritize something other than a shrinking green circle in a ring, but there's still not much more depth to them than the normal fishing. Maybe something a little more action-oriented could have shaken up the relaxed attitude of the constant fishing and talking to people.

An average duel in Iron Fish. These little scraps are a nice change of pace to be sure, but a more varied change of pace would have been even more appreciated.

On top of this I'm dead certain that these sections are bugged. On more than one occasion I very clearly won a duel and filled up my bar before my opponent did -- but the game still told me I had lost, even when I was more than half a bar ahead of my opponent. Sometimes it would happen twice in a row when I would retry, which is extra fishy. It wasn't that irritating, seeing how the duels go by so fast and don't penalize you for failing, but it's still an issue I shouldn't have had to deal with. Hopefully this can be patched in the future.

Should we throw this one back? Nah, it's meaty enough.

Rule with an Iron Fish isn't a perfect game by any means, and I wouldn't really call it a great game either, but I would still say it's enjoyable enough to check out if you enjoy comedy games or are looking for something casual but still engaging. The purely basic gameplay may turn some people off, and you could be easily forgiven for wanting to play something more complex or deep, but that doesn't mean that Rule with an Iron Fish isn't worth playing.

There's plenty to find fault in but there's a lot to like too. The gameplay is simple, but still stimulating and rewarding enough to be fun most of the time, and the general charm of the writing and pleasant presentation do a good job at making you want to continue playing.

Even when I found myself reeling in the same fish for minutes at a time, more-or-less grinding for better items, there was something almost therapeutic about the whole thing. It's a good time, if somewhat grindy and repetitive, and best suited for when you just want something relaxing to mess around with for a while. 

Rule with an Iron Fish is available now for PC on Steam as well as mobile devices. The price on mobile is lower than on PC, so whether or not you think the PC port is worth the extra cash depends on how much you enjoy this sort of casual simulation experience, and whether or not you want it at home or on the go, and both versions are perfectly acceptable.

If a sale happens any time soon and you're looking for a lazy afternoon, then bait your hook, cast you line out, and reel in Rule with an Iron Fish. 

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Battlestar Galactica Deadlock Review: Fraking Toasters https://www.gameskinny.com/zy5xp/battlestar-galactica-deadlock-review-fraking-toasters https://www.gameskinny.com/zy5xp/battlestar-galactica-deadlock-review-fraking-toasters 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-cf005.jpg zy5xp/battlestar-galactica-deadlock-review-fraking-toasters Wed, 30 Aug 2017 12:48:13 -0400 Skrain

Lords of Kobol be praised! I have been waiting for a good Battlestar Galactica game for literal years now. Diaspora was a step in the right direction --everything else, however, I've found wanting.

Developed by Black Lab Games, and published by Slitherine Ltd, Battlestar Galactica Deadlock, I admit it snuck up on me. Until recently I didn't even hear whispers of a BSG video game in production, let alone this close to release. I haven't played Black Lab's previous title, so Deadlock was my first experience with them -- and I must say, I am greatly impressed with their adaptation of my all-time favorite series. 

The Twelve Colonies

Two thousand years ago, the human tribes left their ancestral home world of Kobol and from there founded the Twelve Colonies -- Aerilon, Aquaria, Canceron, Caprica, Gemenon, Leonis, Libran, Picon, Sagittaron, Scorpia, Tauron,and Virgon. Each of the The Twelve Colonies has its own culture, dialects, climate, and even bias.

Not all of the colonies are equal, though. Caprica is considered to be the center of the Colonial Government, Picon is the seat of Colonial Fleet High Command, and Sagittaron is easily considered the poorest and least socially stable of the Colonies.

Cylons

Humanity had created the Cylons to serve them as workers and emotionless cybernetic soldiers. However, the Cylons were gifted far more intelligence than the Colonials had intended. They began to see their servitude to humanity as slavery, then rebelled against their former masters and the First Cylon war began. Four years later, the events of Battlestar Galactica Deadlock take place.

The Broken Deadlock

After four years of war, the Colonials have managed to counter every Cylon offensive to date -- but it has been costly, and the death toll rises daily. This Deadlock was shattered when the Cylons launched a surprise attack on Colonial high command stationed above Picon. As the second-in-command to Admiral Lucinda Cain, the now acting commander for Colonial Fleet, you assume the role of XO aboard the Diadalos -- the Colonial Fleets' mobile shipyard.

Your primary mission is to defend the sovereignty of the Twelve Colonies, and prevent their destruction by hostile Cylon forces. Victory will not be achieved easily, or merely through the barrel of a gun.

Before the Articles of Colonization were signed, the Twelve Colonies were their own independent nations -- and it was not uncommon for open fighting to occur. These are old, deeply nested feelings, and not all of the Colonies will agree to work together or admit that it's even necessary. You'll have to maintain unity between the Quorum of Twelve. If the Cylons manage to exert too much pressure on the Colonies, they may break from the Quorum and declare independence. Failure to keep at least six of the Colonies in the Quorum means utter defeat for humanity and an unsuccessful mission for you.

To complete you mission successfully, you will have to manage your resources, fleets and officers carefully. The Cylons do not sleep, they do not relent, and they will not be defeated without sacrifice. You will have to build up the Colonial Fleet, protect civilian lives, uphold the Articles, and prevent the destruction of humanity.

It is a burden, certainly, but one you will bear. You are a Colonial Officer, and you will lead your people through these trying times.

Layers Upon Layers of Gameplay Mechanics and Features

Strategic 3D Space Warfare

The majority of the gameplay in BSG Deadlock has you commanding your fleet in a 3D plane, where you then queue your fleet actions. Each individual ship and fighter squadron can be given a large series of orders. While you are decided what actions your fleet will take, time is at a stand-still -- only resuming when you have ended your turn.

All ships take their actions simultaneously, which is where the strategy comes into place. All movement, all fire commands, everything -- including the all of the actions of the Cylons -- take place at the same time. Predicting the enemy, countering their movements, and placing your fleet in a superior firing position will be your key to victory. Learning the optimal firing angles, distances and agility of colonial fleet will also serve you well, and learning those same parameters with regard to your enemy will also allow you to face them on your terms.

The Daidalos is your command center and the primary means of expanding your fleet. Destruction of the Daidalos results in an instant mission/campaign failure, which will force you to reload your progress from a previous save. While not defenseless, the Daidalos is by no means capable of withstanding a determined assault -- so you will have to make sure you protect it at all costs.

Early on in your campaign against the Cylons, the backbone of your fleet will largely consist of Manticore Corvettes and Adamant Frigates. Colonial Corvettes are excellent at recon, and pursuing damaged enemies while poking at them in their blind spots where they can not retaliate. Adamant Frigates however will form the early backbone of your line -- brandishing plenty of mass drivers, they can deal an impressive amount of damage despite having a rather compact design. Additionally, Adamants carry a squadron of Vipers or Raptors.

The first "heavy" colonial vessel you are likely to acquire is the Artemis class Battlestar. It's the lightest version of a Battlestar, but still quite durable. With booster missiles and two ranged squadrons, it provides a large sum of medium-range damage. There are certainly more colonial ships that you get to use, but I say self-discovery is often the most satisfying -- so I won't go into full detail on every ship. 

The Basics of Space Warfare

Every vessel has a basic armor value for multiple angles, and a base hull value. Once the armor on a section of a ship has been reduced to zero, it will begin taking hull damage from incoming fire in the direction where armor is destroyed. At zero hull, a ship can no longer maintain its structure and integrity and thus is destroyed.

It's a simple enough mechanic that's easy to understand, but also further reinforced by every form of ship (excluding fighters) having subsystems. These subsystems can be damaged through physical damage, electronic warfare, or even through hostile Cylon boarding parties. Each subsystem helps maintain primary systems aboard the ship -- such as Navigation and Engineering controlling the agility of a ship, or Fire Control determining the factors in your vessels primary weapons.

When subsystems are damaged, the functionality of your vessel begins to fail. Without Navigation you simply cannot control where your vessel is going until you repair the subsystem. If a Cylon boarding party overcomes your marine compliment aboard the vessel and takes control of the CIC (Combat Information Center), the vessel is lost. 

Fleet Construction and Political Management

You won't survive long against the Cylons if you don't construct new ships. But don't worry -- Daidalos is a mobile shipyard, after all. Tylium is the primary currency used in BSG Deadlock, and you need it to force jump your fleets if you haven't passed enough turns on the campaign map, simulating their FTL drive spooling up. You also need it to transport officers to new fleets, and you need it to construct warships.

Tylium is obtained through primary story missions and optional secondary missions that are entirely worth going out of you way to accomplish. It's also gained per-turn from the colonies.

The second currency you will be handling is requisition points. Gained in the same fashion as Tylium, Req Points are used to buy new ship and armament blueprints, and to recruit and upgrade officers. Req points are just as important as Tylium, if not moreso. Even with infinite Tylium, without req points you couldn't invent bigger, and better ships for Colonial Fleet. Balancing your budget can also be difficult, but rewarding when you do it right.

Managing the Colonies is also a task you'll have to work at. Certain planets start concerned, or not fully convinced that combining arms with the other colonies is necessary. If the Cylons manage to shake up a Colony too much, they'll break from the Quorum. This will lower your Tylium income and eventually you will lose the campaign if too many Colonies declare Independence.

If you have the Diadalos stationed above a colony, that colony will provide a variety of bonuses depending on the colony itself. These can be extremely useful, and are important to utilize. 

What It Does Well

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock doesn't have many features or mechanics that will revolutionize the gaming industry forever. However, this isn't a bad thing at all -- in fact, I see it as a good thing. Most features are well done, fleshed out, and pop in a way that makes other strategy games seem a little flat. Fleet combat is easier to learn than it looks, but has a large amount of depth to it. There's a low enough skill floor that most can get into it and do well, but high enough of a ceiling so hardcore players can immerse themselves. 

Fleet battles feel very good, and the graphical design of both Colonial and Cylon vessels is top notch. Weapons feel powerful, ships seem to have weight, and fleet tactics are handled well, with a certain uniqueness depending on the class of vessels you're commanding. The ability to fine-tune your ship's exact position, and even their focus on defense or offense allows for quite a lot of tactical depth.

Additionally, the effort Black Labs put into the lore is fantastic -- from their own additions to previously entrenched topics. They truly worked hard on making Deadlock feel like it was in the Battlestar Galactica universe. I won't spoil all of the fun, but I will say there were some enjoyable cameos made by certain characters, -- such as everyone's favorite smoking doctor (albeit a much younger one). In the homages of Helena Agathon and Lucinda Cain's characters, you can really feel a lot of love for the source material. 

Even a smaller, simpler part of the game is done well. The options for zoom speed, camera panning speed, rotational speed can all be modified, which makes a big difference in ease of use. Why this feature is still absent from so many games with huge scale, I have no idea.

The ambient music in Deadlock also captures the feeling of the series very well. Some pieces seem like they could have been composed by Bear McCreary himself. It's a shame they couldn't used the actual licensed music for the game, but I understand.

What Could Be Improved

Despite being quite enjoyable, every game has its flaws -- and regardless of being a huge BSG fan, I can't ignore what I disliked about the game. 

In larger battles, the UI clutter can be quite intense. Seeing the ghost images of your future ship movements overlapping with each other can make things look a little ugly in close-ranged engagements.

Additionally, the default options for selecting a target to focus fire in larger battles are an issue as well. Generally it seems as if the closest target for the ship you've selected is the default zoom to focus when you go to give a focus target order. This doesn't sound too bad -- but when you need to give seven primary ships, and fourteen fighter squadrons their orders it gets a little obnoxious. They could easily fix this by having the default enemy zoom based on ship type, with fighters defaulting to other fighters, and capital ships defaulting to other capital ships. As it currently is, scrolling through or finding and clicking the target can become quite tedious. 

Character art looks really well drawn, it fits with the art style, the uniforms look very detailed. However, generic default officers have a little issue:

What the Frak is that? Everything in BSG Deadlock looks good, generally speaking. Main characters are represented with drawn art, so why do generic officers look like basic models I made in Blender back in high school? There could've been a better compromise.

Politics could also have been done a little differently. Currently there isn't a true diplomatic way to communicate with the Colonies. The way you improve their standing with the Quorum is to sit fleets above them or knock toasters out of their skies. Granted this makes sense, seeing as how you're a military man, but I think additional mechanics could have worked out very well. Politics in Deadlock are by no means handled poorly, but more could have been done on that front -- which was slightly disappointing. 

My final and perhaps largest issue with BSG Deadlock is the slow build up and start to a new campaign. Always choosing to play on the standard difficulty for reviews, I selected Commander, which is the game's equivalent of normal mode. The description is that Cylons will go toe-to-toe with Colonial ships, giving you an even challenge. This is 100% true, but that didn't stop me from making a couple mistakes on my end -- and being in a position I didn't think I could recover from, I began a new campaign with the same difficulty.

I was back to using Manticores and Adamants again for the first seven or eight missions as I attempting to build back up. I then realized that after having already been well past this portion of the game, going back to the beginning didn't feel as fun as before. So that definitely impacts replayability a little bit. However, that doesn't mean it would be a bad game to replay -- in fact, I think I'll enjoy several runs of the game. It's just that the early game might drag on a little longer than it should. 

Verdict

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock does almost everything well. It's hard to pinpoint every exact thing it accomplishes -- it's a very well-rounded game with its own minor issues. Fans of space strategy games will find themselves enjoying Deadlock, but fans of both strategy and Battlestar Galactica will find themselves immersed in a universe crafted for true fans of the series. 

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock releases later this week on August 31. So man your stations, set condition one throughout the fleet, and slag those frakking chrome domes. Humanity will prevail. So Say We All!

[Note: Slither Ltd provided a copy of the game for the purposes of this review.]

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Quake Champions Reboots The High Speed Shooter https://www.gameskinny.com/hs7qy/quake-champions-reboots-the-high-speed-shooter https://www.gameskinny.com/hs7qy/quake-champions-reboots-the-high-speed-shooter 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/cov2-2551e.jpg hs7qy/quake-champions-reboots-the-high-speed-shooter Mon, 28 Aug 2017 17:37:01 -0400 Ty Arthur

Much like classic cRPGs had just a few years ago, we're in the midst of a full-blown resurgence of old school FPS games from the '90s era of PC gaming. First there was the resurrected Shadow Warrior, and then against all odds we finally saw the return of Doom when it seemed like that would never happen.

With a new iteration of Unreal and even Duke Nukem on the horizon, of course Quake also had to be in the mix, with the Early Access Quake Champions offering up that oh-so-satisfying "You Fragged So-And-So" feel (which will undoubtedly be preceded and followed by "So-And-So Fragged You" a whole bunch of times).

Retooling A Classic

Quake's odd but entertaining mashup of character and location types returns here, with a dash of Lovecraft and horror thrown into the sci-fi action shooter genre. While frantically killing all your friends, you might notice a few squamous statues, ominous carvings, or even see a tentacle pop out of a wall that very much reacts to being shot.

The arena-style format remains, returning this time with 11 different Champions of varying stats and abilities. There's a wide range of options, like an unholy paladin raised in an evil order as a child, the one lone assassin a species of pacifists had on hand, an interdimensional warlord, a reptilian soothsayer, and an anarchist obsessed with transhumanism who upgrades his own body for the ultimate highs. Oh yeah... did I mention you can play as the Doom guy? That's always a good time.

It's a fun time figuring out the different ways the Champions play, with various tactical options available depending on whether you want to go invisible and pop up behind someone, lay traps, go full force melee, or see through walls to snipe an enemy. I've personally been favoring the hulking Scalebearer, who can suddenly rush forward with a deadly melee strike against anyone not smart enough to stay far away.

There's an interesting mechanic in the spawning cooldowns that hearkens back to the golden shooter days of yore -- before series like CoD and Battlefield existed -- where you are basically opposed to everyone even in a "team" death match. You are always competing for resources against your own team mates, whether that's a weapon, the quad damage upgrade, extra armor, ability timer speed ups, or even the storyline lore scrolls that spawn randomly once per map.

 Plus, giant chained eyeballs

Early Access Kinks

Quake Champions isn't a finished product yet, and that shows in a lot of ways. There are times where it seems like my bullet/rocket/laser has clearly hit someone, but no damage goes up, and isn't clear what's causing that problem.

You will also be in for a fairly long wait on the matchmaking front, and for some reason when I have the options set to search all possible match types to get into a round in a reasonable time (usually around a minute or so), I always get team death match 100% of the time. 

For someone not used to the style on display here, Quake Champions will seem so random and fast-paced that that the newbies will probably be turned off immediately. Currently there's only a single tutorial -- which doesn't even have you fight anyone -- and there's no single player campaign. So there's a huge learning curve and no way to go into a multiplayer match with anything resembling a chance to survive in your first few rounds.

Between the high speeds, longer fire fights, and strafing mechanics, Quake really is skill based. Choosing that "perfect" Champion isn't a guaranteed way to dominate, or even have a respectable kill count. Someone who has mastered the fundamentals is still going to splatter you even if they pick the squishiest Champ from the list.

You need to know when to disengage from a fight, memorize spawn cooldowns, learn when to trigger your Champion ability, and master strafe jumping like nobody's business if you want a kill/death ratio that isn't actively embarrassing (if you don't feel like dying a hundred times to get there, be sure to check out our Quake beginner's guide to start off right).

 Being the biggest doesn't always mean being the baddest

An Odd Business Model

Much like its mashing of various action and horror genre tropes, Champions is trying to be all things to all people. In particular, its going for two groups at once: the casual F2P crowd, and the hardcore fans who want to buy a full Quake game.

As it stands, you can only buy the "Champions pass" (meaning the full game with all the available characters) in Early Access, but on full release there will be a F2P option... with a catch. The notion of renting your preferred Champion for 24 hours through in-game currency is going over like a lead balloon with a big portion of the fanbase. Sure, it's free -- if you only want two characters to choose from at any given time.

While the maligned loot box is just par for the course in modern gaming now, here it feels a little lackluster. The problem isn't loot boxes by themselves, rather its what you get from them in exchange for your in-game or real currency.

While there are runes for challenges that can be randomly drawn, the vast majority of loot is cosmetic only, which doesn't really create a sense of progression. Compare that to something like Gears Of War 4, which frankly doesn't even need loot boxes, but at least those boxes give you new abilities and options in multiplayer.

 There are some awesome outfits in those loot boxes, though

The Bottom Line

There are going to be two camps considering a game like Quake Champions -- the people who just want to pop in and frag, and the people who want to have a strong progression and a reason to keep playing over time. With the lack of a single player campaign and the rent-a-Champion structure, I'm not sure either crowd is going to be perfectly pleased without just buying the full game. 

While there's unquestionably fun to be had in death matches with all the top-speed, rocket-launching shenanigans, in its current state the game feels more like a weekend diversion where you occasionally pop back in for a quick match -- not something that's going to overtake your Steam library as the most-played game.

That being said, if you've longed for the twitchtastic arena shooters where you can dominate with superior skill and map knowledge, there's no reason not to check out this iteration of Quake.

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Masquerada: Songs and Shadows Review https://www.gameskinny.com/63qpy/masquerada-songs-and-shadows-review https://www.gameskinny.com/63qpy/masquerada-songs-and-shadows-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/c/r/screen-shot-2017-51543-af012.png 63qpy/masquerada-songs-and-shadows-review Sun, 27 Aug 2017 13:34:57 -0400 Kellan Pine

In Masquerada: Songs and Shadows, developer Witching Hour Studios takes known concepts from tactical RPGs and executes them beautifully. From memorable characters and extensive lore to impactful skills and a well-designed combo system, this game has a lot to offer its players.

Let's take a look at what makes this new indie adventure a must-play game for RPG fans who want a competent tactical experience. 

Masquerada vs. Contadani: Story and Setting

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is set in a fantasy city inspired by Renaissance-era Venice. Its society is divided by access to powerful magic artifacts called Mascherines -- objects that look like Venetian masks and allow their wearers to access elemental magic based on their personal affinities. No one knows how to create Mascherines, so they are limited in number -- creating a division between those who can access them and those who cannot.

The noble Masquerada rule the city, organizing into guilds that are all loosely affiliated with the central government. In recent years, a force of rebels called the Maskrunners have been fighting to bring the magic of Mascherines to the commoners -- the Contadani. This war has further reduced the number of Mascherines, because the masks vanish forever if worn at the time of death.

In the middle of this mess of political intrigue and outright rebellion, a government official has gone missing. Players step into the shoes of an expert investigator who has been recalled from exile to solve the case -- and who has a very personal connection to the missing official and the ongoing war. Along the way, numerous other characters with distinct motivations and unique personalities join the party to help you solve the case and explore the mysteries you'll uncover along the way.

While the story starts out a little heavy-handed with political commentary on the nature of power and the role of government (especially in the tutorial), it quickly mixes in a good balance of ancient mysteries and more personal stories about your party members. The story is presented using fully voiced dialogue between party members and NPCs, with graphic novel panels taking the place of cutscenes.

Masquerada strikes a delicate balance as it unfolds, and the mix of the elements works so well that it made me prone to longer play sessions -- the kind were "just twenty more minutes" became four hours before I knew it.

Background lore is optional. The game won't hammer you over the head with it, but you can delve deeper into it if you want to. Tidbits of lore are placed around the game world as collectibles, taking the form of reflective journal entries from the perspective of the main character.

The lore that I collected while playing the game was interesting, but players should be aware that the journal entries are not voiced. There is a lot of text to read if you want to, but it is also not necessary to complete the game -- an effective middle ground that should satisfy most players.

Combat and Combos

Masquerada uses tactical real-time combat, but it does allow players to pause in order to issue commands. So if you need some time to think and strategize, the game will happily let you do that.

Each character in the party has up to four active skills and one passive. Skills have a wide range of effects -- examples include healing orbs of water, knocking back enemies with gusts of wind, throwing bolts of flame, and even sinking into the ground to recover and reposition invisibly. These skills are complemented by ultimate abilities that are tied to currently equipped Mascherines. These abilities are often enough to turn around a losing battle -- with effects such as stunning all enemies in a wide radius for several seconds, or giving all party members 50% damage resistance.

Characters that join the party tend to start with masks that will help fill a specific role -- tank, DPS, or healing.

The skills in Masquerada are accompanied by a class system that partially determines the upgrades available for the skills of a given character. The classes largely define how a character will regenerate focus -- a sort of second health bar that protects against damage from the front. Focus makes positioning extremely important to combat. So characters with a tank class will often regenerate focus using AoE skills that generate a high threat, while DPS classes will often get focus from single-target skills or auto-attacks.

Combos add an extra layer of complexity to battles in Masquerada with elemental tags. Certain skills, often AoE, apply a tag of their given element to enemies that are hit by the skill. Players can improve their party by upgrading skills to either have greater synergy with elemental tags of their own type, or by upgrading them to have greater effects when hitting an enemy tagged by a different element. This opens up a lot of options -- particularly because the skills on any character can be reset from the party's base of operations at a tavern in the city.

Combat does reveal one of the game's few rough edges -- the party AI. Although players can customize or turn off the actions AI party members will take during combat, it is common to find the AI attacking enemies from the front. The AI does not make effective use of movement skills to flank enemies, and seems to miss most opportunities to take advantage of elemental tags. This means that the party is often dealing much less damage than it could be.

These problems are easily worked around by pausing the game to issue commands, but doing so makes fights take much longer. This AI problem is far from a deal-breaker, though, as combat is still very enjoyable. It simply makes battles a little more tedious than they need to be.

Graphics and Music

The environments in Masquerada are hand drawn in a style the developers say was inspired by French comic book artists. The stylized character models blend with these environments fairly well. Visually, the game is impressive and will look great on anything from basic laptops to the most powerful gaming PCs. The UI also scales well for larger screens, allowing console players to enjoy the game from the comfort of the couch.

The music is somewhat less memorable than the art, though. Masquerada features an original soundtrack of classical songs that sound great in-game. The problem is that soundtrack appears to contain too few songs. They repeat often enough that it can become frustrating -- especially in sequences where the party is in and out of combat. The combat song is the same throughout the game, and these sequences force the player to hear only the beginning section of the track multiple times in a row. The title screen also has a song that does not fit at all with the rest of the music in the game.

That being said, I found the music to generally fit well with the story and the setting.

Conclusion

If you like RPGs, you should definitely play Masquerada: Songs and Shadows. It is not a new type of game, but a tactical RPG that blends modern art and ideas with classic gameplay elements which date back to the earliest cRPGs.

There is a lot of text to read, the AI is pretty bad at times, and every once in awhile the music repeats itself a bit too much. But even with these bumps, Masquerada does an excellent job at being a great entry in the genre -- thanks to its beautiful art, memorable characters, and engaging story.

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Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel Review- Going Off The Rails https://www.gameskinny.com/56dmq/legend-of-heroes-trails-of-cold-steel-review-going-off-the-rails https://www.gameskinny.com/56dmq/legend-of-heroes-trails-of-cold-steel-review-going-off-the-rails 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-52567.jpg 56dmq/legend-of-heroes-trails-of-cold-steel-review-going-off-the-rails Sat, 26 Aug 2017 19:00:02 -0400 ThatGamersAsylum

Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is the first game in the Cold Steel trilogy. Originally released on the PS3 and Vita in Japan during late 2013, it wasn't until 2015 that it would be imported to the US for those same consoles. Only now, in 2017, is it being released worldwide on PC.

In this traditional turn based JRPG, you play as Rean Schwarzer, a new enrollee at the Thors military academy. At Thors, Rean is placed in Class VII, a new class that breaks tradition by placing nobles and commoners who scored high on the ARCUS aptitude portion of the entry exams together. This aptitude is used to test out a new technology called Combat Links, which is said to allow people to act in unison with one another (more on this later).

Over the course of the anime-influenced game, you play through a set routine about 6 or 7 times. You start at school. Here, there's class time, bonding events with classmates, and mandatory fetch quests for the locals. Then, you explore the mysterious, ever expanding old school house. Finally, you have your practical exam; after which you get split into groups for your field studies. During field studies, you go to various locales to help out their inhabitants and see their unique ways of life. After a few days of various fetch quests, a couple dungeons, and some large event that caps off your trip, you return to school, rinse and repeat.

During field studies, you go to various locales to help out their inhabitants and see their unique ways of life. After a few days of various fetch quests, a couple dungeons, and a large event that caps off your trip, you return to school, rinse and repeat.

I wouldn't call it a hobby so much as a chore, but I am glad my work is noticed.

The biggest problem with this structure is that so much of it is boring or superfluous. I never felt engaged by being a student. Moreover, the extremely slow plot wasn’t assisted by the fact that nearly half of your time-- the time spent at the academy-- didn’t serve to move the plot forward at all. The academy could've served as a nice breather between the more stressful field studies, but since it's so drawn out it felt like a slice of life in the worst way possible.

At this point, I feel it’s necessary to stop and mention that this game suffers from severe technical limitations; this is a B budget game through and through.

This is not to say it’s glitchy; rather, the graphics, animations, and game feel are off. Its graphics are nowhere near on par with titles from the time or even Final Fantasy 13, which is almost 4 years older; and that is after the title received graphical upgrades for PC. In fact, ToCS looks more like something that could have been a late PS2 title than anything from the last couple generations.

All of the cut corners are clearly visible. There aren’t really any cutscenes, and the game doesn’t have full voice acting -- which is a damned shame considering the amount of dialogue. This is made even worse by the fact that the voice acting is prone to starting halfway through conversations and isn't present in some pivotal scenes. The game has a nice anime intro, as well as character portraits for the pause menu, but the low-poly models are used in the dialogue bubbles instead. Most of the game world also lacks adequate objects to make it feel lived in.

In short, it feels like the game did not evolve to actually compensate for its technical or budgetary deficiencies.

My largest problem with the game, however, is the lack of a good editor. There was a propensity to over explain things that didn’t matter. For instance, during a scene where I’m entering a sewer, they go out of their way to discuss the floor being wet, which was obvious. It wasn't important mechanically and wasn’t used as foreshadowing,  so why mention it all when I could clearly see it myself?

The game also repeats things excessively. For example, one time they open the day talking about an upcoming trade conference. Then, they end the day giving you an expositional newspaper talking about the trade conference. No sooner than I got finished reading the mandatory newspaper I was hit in the face with an unskippable cutscene where Rean listened to a radio show that continued to talk about the trade conference. Going into the coming days, the trade conference was mentioned probably another half dozen times. None of these instances explained any new facts; they merely continued to bring it up for no reason.

Elliot, the wise, addressing the struggles of choosing a waifu from Class VII.

There were myriad other problems with the writing too.  Everything is always extremely accommodating and laced with positivity to the point that it drained believability from situations. There were ridiculous things that broke the tension of the story. They never use their ARCUS to call one another despite that being one of its main functionalities. The other team of students almost never seem to have meaningful things happen to them on their adventures. In short, the writing style was closer to a Pokemon game than Full Metal Alchemist.

All of this was extremely pervasive, and that's sad because the writing wasn’t mediocre across the board. In fact, these issues ruined a lot of the better character building moments in the game and clouded some tensions that could have been amazing.

Many of the initially cliched characters developed over time, especially Rean. In most media, protagonists are leaders merely because it is convenient for the plot to revolve around them, but Rean actually shows leadership traits by stepping in and helping his peers solve their problems when others were too self-absorbed or scared to do so. He was also a relatable character thanks to the fact that he doubted his abilities and didn’t know what the hell he was doing with his life. As a young 20 something, I can relate to that.

I freaking love Instructor Sara. She deserved to be present more often. 

The gameplay also fails at backing up one of the game’s largest themes: that your work is supposed to challenge you to empathize with the people you are helping because they are what being a soldier is all about. I love this theme because it fits the idea of being a military academy student well while also fostering a great, logical reason to partake in the average man’s many burdens -- unlike many RPGs where it doesn’t make sense. However, the tedious quest design, boring NPCs, and overly verbose delivery meant that by the time I’d reached the halfway point, I knew I could start skipping through all the dialogue for the side quests.

On a more positive note, I loved how easy the game was to navigate. Saving is fast and a speedy fast travel lets you zip around in a location like I’ve never seen. It also has a Turbo Mode, which speeds up the game while you are holding the designated button. Getting into, through, and out of combat is also swift since you can skip the intro, combat, and outro animations, which allows you to boil combat down to the basics when you’re in a rush.

Rean would be great at reviewing this game. 

Last but not least, my favorite part of this game is the turn based battle system. Combat starts once you make contact with enemies on the field. Units take their actions in order based upon speed, which is shown off to the left. This all takes place in a 3D arena where you move around to attack, meaning proximity matters. If enemies or allies are too close to one another, then they can get hit by AoE’s or certain splash attacks; however, group heals and buffs are also AoE’s. This means being aware of your positioning in relation to others is vital… in boss fights. In normal encounters you just sorta blast away, which made it really disappointing that you can’t change the difficulty mid-game, a trait I thought we got rid of last gen.

There is also the link system (cookie for you if you remembered it from the beginning), which allows characters to team up with one another on the battlefield. For the majority of the game, all it does is allow the teamed up ally to make a follow-up attack on the opponent you hit if you unbalanced them.

Sadly the system is flawed. Unbalancing foes was hard to strategically utilize and most battles just really didn’t even need the extra manpower. Later in the game, you unlock additions to the system, Rush and Burst, the latter of these being completely overpowered since it lets all of your units attack all enemy units. In turn, this dismantled some of the battles where overwhelming enemy numbers were supposed to be a challenge. While it was one of the worst turn-based gimmicks I have seen because of how uninteresting it was mechanically, it didn’t really make the game worse.

The "Rich person I thought would be mean because they are rich is actually nice?!" cliche is in full force throughout the experience.

In short, the game is really held back by subpar storytelling. Removing superfluous exposition and concentrating on the interesting characters and debates surrounding mounting tensions would have made this story amazing. While the combat was fun, I’m hard pressed to say that this makes up for hours spent wading through crappy side quests and uninspired dungeons. As is, I have trouble imagining non-Japanophiles enjoying this game because of the steep curve imposed by its sloth-like progression. There's stuff to love here, but most of it is buried under tedium.

Note: A review copy was provided by developer Nihon Falcon.

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Yakuza Kiwami Review: 2005 Kamurocho Never Looked So Good https://www.gameskinny.com/zmqgd/yakuza-kiwami-review-2005-kamurocho-never-looked-so-good https://www.gameskinny.com/zmqgd/yakuza-kiwami-review-2005-kamurocho-never-looked-so-good 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/a/k/yakuza-head-2fb95.png zmqgd/yakuza-kiwami-review-2005-kamurocho-never-looked-so-good Tue, 22 Aug 2017 18:03:58 -0400 Ashley Gill

It should come as no surprise that the Yakuza series has come full circle. With the mainline story running strong through 7 games (including a prequel in Yakuza 0), it was time for the series to return to its roots with a total remake of the original game for the modern market. No matter how you feel about this console generation's penchant for remakes and remasters, Yakuza Kiwami is a shining example of how to do it right.

The original Yakuza made its way to North American PlayStation 2 consoles in 2006 and the series has sporadically made its way stateside time and time again ever since. Kiwami, being a remake of the original game, revisits the beginning of Kazuma Kiryu's trials and tribulations outside of the reigns of the Dojima clan.

A good remake should improve upon the original in almost every aspect, and Yakuza Kiwami does just that.

Adding to an already great game

The Yakuza series has been strong in Japan ever since the original game, which had a staggering budget of approximately $21 million and stood out as a very adult-oriented yakuza drama with a huge helping of side content to dump countless hours into.

The plot of the original game not only remains intact, but has been improved upon with links to this year's Yakuza 0 and a more impressive localization. All of the side stories that were present in the 2006 game are still here in Kiwami as well, with only minor changes that are ultimately for the better.

Some mini-games that were present in the original (such as pachislots) were removed for the remake, and the amount of hostesses Kiryu can woo has been reduced to two. As a trade-off, two additional mini-games have been added. Those who played 0 will find Pocket Circuit here in Kiwami, as well as an altered version of the prequel's catfight mini-game -- which is now a card-based arcade game you play against children.

Welcome to MesuKing! Unfortunately not a particularly gripping nor difficult minigame.

As for the game's graphical and audio improvements, they are fantastic.

All of the dialogue has been rerecorded by the series's signature voice actors. The Japanese voice acting is spot-on, as it has always been. Those looking for an English dub will be out of luck, as there is no English audio option. (And why would there be?)

There are absolutely no complaints in the graphical department. As with other modern entries to the series, storyline characters and the streets of Kamurocho are detailed and realistic. But also as with the other modern games in the Yakuza series, non-story characters are as lackluster as ever. This isn't so much a complaint as something to comment on -- I personally don't care that unimportant characters don't have much detail. Do you? Probably not, considering how much detail there is to the streets of the city.

Anyone who played the original shouldn't have much to complain about with Kiwami, as it is a direct and full upgrade from the clunky combat of the PlayStation 2 exclusive. But those who expected a big upgrade from Yakuza 0 will be disappointed as both have a number of similarities.

Yakuza 0 +1

If you played Yakuza 0 earlier this year, you may not find Kiwami to be super fresh. Kamurocho hasn't changed much between the events of the two games, both in aesthetics and overall side content.

Some longtime fans may call the recycling of content from the prequel in this remake "lazy", but it's not too surprising considering the costs and effort required to build the city anew each time. That said, it is a little disappointing considering there is a 17-year gap between the events of the two games -- though some side content, such as certain Pocket Circuit-related sub stories, addresses the gap appropriately (and humorously).

Kamurocho isn't the only thing that hasn't changed in the 17 years between the two games. The game's two combat systems are one in the same, both featuring the ability to swap between combat styles on the fly to adapt to the situation.

The continuation of Yakuza 0's combat system in Kiwami isn't necessarily a bad thing. The former's combat was the best in the series and it's been further tweaked in Kiwami to include the Dragon of Dojima style, which features signature moves from fan-favorite character Goro Majima -- and you've got to beat him senseless dozens of times via the Majima Everywhere system to unlock all the features of the style.

The Majima Everywhere system itself is GREAT (in all caps). Yakuza's signature madman will ambush Kiryu not only on the street, but also at some of the most inopportune moments. Having Majima pop out of a manhole in costume, pop out of nowhere in the middle of plot sections, or chase you down the street for your next fight isn't just a way to progress the Dragon of Dojima style -- it's also a much-welcome feature for fans who just want more more MORE Majima. There's a reason for that, but newcomers may find it grating.

I didn't go into Yakuza Kiwami thinking it'd be as huge and packed with content as 2015's Yakuza 5, but I did go in expecting it to be a total remake of the game that started it all -- and I got that and more. Though there are certainly some reused assets and a stark absence of some of my personal favorite minigames in the series, its plot is more solid than ever and it still has plenty of side content to chomp down on as you push your way through the politics of Kamurocho's organized crime.

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Corsair Void Pro RGB Review: A Solid and Affordable Wireless Experience https://www.gameskinny.com/46ulq/corsair-void-pro-rgb-review-a-solid-and-affordable-wireless-experience https://www.gameskinny.com/46ulq/corsair-void-pro-rgb-review-a-solid-and-affordable-wireless-experience https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/v/o/i/voidheaderfinal-f176f.jpg 46ulq/corsair-void-pro-rgb-review-a-solid-and-affordable-wireless-experience Tue, 22 Aug 2017 15:56:51 -0400 Auverin Morrow

Corsair is one of the behemoths of gaming peripherals. From the ultra-accurate Glaive mouse to the water-resistant K68 keyboard, their lineup has a ton of quality gaming hardware at a number of different price points. And the recently released Void Pro RGB wireless headset is no different. This headset is a worthy entry in Corsair's product lineup -- one that offers a great wireless experience at a price that won't break your bank. 

I have to admit -- I've never been a huge fan of Corsair's peripherals. Though they're high-quality products that do exactly what they're designed to do, something about them has just never been right for my play style, desk space, or general needs as a gamer. But the Void Pro headset is a different story. It offers a painless wireless experience that packs in just the right amount of functionality and a fairly immersive sound profile that puts it leagues above other wireless offerings in its price bracket.

Solid Specs and a Striking Design

The Corsair Void Pro boasts a full range of specs for the discerning gamer -- including Dolby 7.1 surround sound, a 16-hour battery life, and a noise-cancelling microphone. Its box comes with the bare essentials of the headset, a wireless transmitter, charging cable, and a foam windscreen that you can put on the mic if you so choose. 

The headset itself is a sleek-looking number that mimics the sturdy build and angled aesthetic of Corsair's other peripherals. Its body is mostly durable plastic, with metal joints at the ear cups that let you swivel them 90 degrees. The polygonal ear cups feature RGB lighting in the Corsair logo, and three buttons on the side for power, mic mute, and volume/EQ adjustment. Both the headband and the ear cups are padded with memory foam covered in breathable mesh for maximum comfort. And to bring it all together, a unidirectional microphone sits at the end of a sturdy swivel arm with LED indicators that illuminate when it's muted. 

You can choose to install the Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) software to fully customize your experience with this headset, but it's also fine for plug-and-play use if that's what you want to do. Of all the Corsair products I've tried, the Void Pro is the first one that hasn't really forced me to use the software at some point or another, which is a big plus since I rarely have the time or patience to fiddle around with a myriad of settings that ultimately have minimal impact on my everyday use. And while Corsair has made some improvements on its user experience in CUE, the changes still aren't enough to make me want to use it frequently. 

All-Day Comfort

In spite of the fact that it's heavier than a number of other headsets in its class at 390 grams (13 ounces, or 0.8 pounds), the Void Pro is incredibly comfortable. The fit is nice -- though probably a bit too snug initially for gamers who aren't hobbit-sized -- and the band doesn't slip or move unless I'm moving around a lot.

The padding on the headset is soft and breathable, and the ear cups are large enough that I can easily sport these all day long, even with glasses and piercings demanding extra room. Whether I was tackling an 8-hour workday, doing a weekend-long SMITE grind, or marathoning episodes of Black MirrorI never had to stop to adjust the headset or let my ears cool off. 

Wearability is the name of the game with this wireless headset. The Void Pro lets you swivel its ear cups so it can rest around your neck when it's not in use, and its design is just slim enough that it doesn't get in the way of normal head movements when you do so. This made it a perfect set of cans for my normal work day, or for quickly moving about my house between dungeon queues in ESO

Ultra-Functional Features

Corsair's Void Pro strikes and excellent balance between a minimalist design and tons of functionality. While some of its detailed features are more helpful than others, it's hard to argue with this headset's ease of use. 

The Void Pro has a number of different LED indicators that can reflect a number of different statuses for the headset. On one of the earcups is a small light that indicates whether your headset is connected or disconnected, and whether it has a lot or a little battery life left. Similarly, the mic boasts an LED strip that turns red when you mute it.

Both of these indicators, while helpful in theory, aren't really visible enough to be as useful as they could be. In practice, I found that the audio cues associated with power up/down, charge level, and mic mute were far more useful than the little lights. 

The same could be said for the headset's RGB lighting. Though it was as vibrant and customizable as you'd expect from a peripheral that offers this feature, the placement of the illuminated area on the side of the earcups obviously made it impossible to appreciate while in use. 

It might be hard to enjoy the earcups for their lighting, but it isn't hard to credit them for having near-perfect button placement. The power/mute buttons and volume/EQ switch are well-placed on the side of the left ear cup, and are distinct enough in their design and feel that you can easily differentiate them and press the right button on the first try.

Wireless Functionality

Having mechanical functionality is great, but what about the wireless aspect of this headset? Does the Void Pro have wireless capabilities that stand up to its durable, ergonomic design? 

Yes, it does! This headset checks two boxes that are essential to having a good wireless experience -- a decent range and a long-lasting battery. The range allowed me to wander almost all over my house or office without any interruption, unless I went outside or tried to venture through any interdimensional portals. So if I needed to make a quick snack between Paladins matches or ask a coworker a quick question, I could keep listening to my Twitch stream while I was on the move. 

But I was more impressed by the battery life than the range of this headset. The Void Pro advertises a 16-hour battery life -- but in actual use, I think it might actually run a little bit longer than that. Usually, I'm able to get through about two 8-10 hour workdays without having to charge it. This amount of time will decrease if you choose to leave the RGB lighting on all the time, but even then, the battery life is still impressive. And even when you do finally have to charge it, the power cable is long and sturdy enough that you can still comfortably use the Void while it's charging. 

Sound Too Good to Be True?

It almost is. The Void Pro has a lot to offer gamers who want a hassle-free wireless experience. But on the front that matters most -- its actual sound production -- it unfortunately falls a little bit flat. 

This headset has a good range of sound for a wireless rig. It's clear, it's impactful at the right moments, and it's an overall solid aural experience for both games and television. However, it's quite lacking on the musical front, even after using CUE to tweak the audio levels. So while PUBG shots and Game of Thrones dialogue comes through clearly for the most part, listening to Made in Heights or the Morrowind soundtrack is much less pleasing than on other surround sound headsets like the HyperX Cloud Revolver S

Additionally, the bass in this headset is fairly light. While it's not as tinny as what you'll get with something like the Arctis 7, it still leaves a lot to be desired. Even after turning up the lower end in the CUE software, I wasn't quite getting the skull-vibrating impact that I really wanted.

Add this to the fact that the Void Pro feels rather lacking in terms of directional sound, and ultimately the surround sound experience is simply not as immersive as it could have been. And while this is somewhat understandable given its more affordable price range, it can't quite match some of its direct competitors -- namely the Logitech G533, which offers an incredible wireless sound experience at exactly the same price point.

Testing...1...2...

Though the Void Pro doesn't quite hit all its bases on the sound front, its swivel microphone is still of good quality and usually provides a crisp, clean communication experience. Though sometimes you might sound a little distance if the fairly stiff mic arm doesn't quite bend the way you need it to, it's easily as functional as you need it to be for in-game chat and meetings. 

Whether I was throwing salt at some poor casuals who were unlucky enough to end up in my SMITE game or trying to run an editorial meeting through Skype, my voice was clear as day for anyone who cared to listen. 

Verdict 

All in all, Corsair has done a lot right with the Void Pro. It feels great to wear for long periods of time, has an appealing-yet-ergonomic design, and offers a lot of functionality without much fuss. And its wireless capabilities are on par with most of the competitors you'll find on the market -- especially when it comes to long battery life. And its sub-$100 price tag will make this set of cans look pretty lucrative to any gamer who doesn't want to break the bank.

If you want a well-rounded headset that does everything it needs to do and delivers a generally satisfying experience both in-game and out, you'll definitely want to consider Corsair's newest wireless offering. But unfortunately, the Void Pro just doesn't offer the best sound experience that it could have. With a spotty low end and directional immersion that leaves a lot to be desired, true audiophiles will want to look elsewhere. 

You can purchase the Void Pro on Amazon for $99.99. 

[Note: Corsair provided the Void Pro Headset used for this review.]

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Fictorum Review -- Join the Dark Side https://www.gameskinny.com/67v4m/fictorum-review-join-the-dark-side https://www.gameskinny.com/67v4m/fictorum-review-join-the-dark-side https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/bb96d5ae712b2960cefd5fbfe32db11f.jpg 67v4m/fictorum-review-join-the-dark-side Tue, 22 Aug 2017 15:52:18 -0400 Steven Oz

Gaming has a proven formula. Often, you play as a hero, rescue the damsel, and destroy the villain's evil plan. Storytelling such as this helped define gaming. But there are also games that turn that plot structure on its head. Fictorum is one of those games.

Created by Scraping Bottom Games, this script-flipping action RPG provides a different way to experience story... through the eyes of a villain.

When you begin, you are the most powerful wizard in the world -- quite literally a god. Legendary powers are handed to you for whatever purpose you see fit. Launch fireballs out of nowhere to destroy towers. Use the environment to launch a preemptive attack on your enemies by toppling gigantic bridges. That is the power of Fictorum.

Story

The story is one of the best elements of the game. Simply put, you are the last mage of your order. The Grand Inquisitor has eradicated all the elders and casts you into the corrupted Miasma. There you are reborn and on a quest to destroy every part of the Inquisition.

In a way, this is a kind of Choose Your Own Adventure story because it involves you, and there are choices that you make that affect the story. For instance, traveling from one island to another, you can run into a side quest asking for assistance. Your choices are simple: Keep going or help destroy a base. Both reasons are for your own goals, but each affects the story differently. If you help, the Inquisition marches closer, but what you did could cripple their army.

Choosing your own story puts you in an empowering role. Sure, you might be all-powerful, but there are consequences to your actions. There were times where I had to back away from the game and think about each action I with which I was faced, making me appreciate the character that I created. 

Character Creation is a Standard Affair

For me, character creation is a small but important part of the game. I add this because it is important to my own personal story. This is where I literally name my character, but more importantly, it's also where I mentally create a backstory. Naming my character Victor Von Doom after the Fantastic Four villain was too good not to do -- especially with all the powers at my disposal.

Your standard options are included here, such as clothing, colors, and most importantly, your main power class: Fire, Lightning, and Ice. For me, I wanted the true power of the dark side with Lightning. Sadly, not having a female or creature body types does hinder this process.

Fictorum's Gameplay Starts Fresh, But Grows Repetitive 

In Fictorum, wielding power has never felt so good, especially when you absolutely obliterate an enemy. Being overpowered is fun. But in contrast, the enemies are underpowered and could be tossed with a single mouse click. I’m not sure if this was because of your power or the low-level enemies, but it seems to be the rule rather than the exception.  After that, well...that is it. In most cases, you can speed run an area with little to no combat. In rare exceptions, the enemies come towards you right at the beginning of the stage. I remember at the end of the first stage, I stood there plotting what I would do and here comes all the enemies towards me from the end of the stage.

After that, well... that is it. In most cases, enemies aren't all that intimidating and you can speed run an area with little to no combat. In rare exceptions, the enemies come toward you right at the beginning of the stage, full of fury and bloodlust. I remember at the end of the first stage, I stood there plotting what I would do and here come all the enemies, running toward me from the end of the stage, which made combat sometimes feel a bit lopsided. 

The level of freedom in this world is a tease, too. Being an all-powerful mage, one would think that you could go anywhere -- but no. Each level is present like a tabletop game with story decisions. These decisions place you into the world with certain objectives to complete -- and most of them are fairly simple (destroy this person or destroy this town).

Within the tabletop-game atmosphere, these levels are held on small, encapsulated islands with one main path. This is where I have some problem with Fictorum. While these are randomly generated, it feels stagnant... like something is missing. I keep doing the same objectives. Island hop to the next, and I do it again with a slight difference. After a while, it becomes a bit repetitive, even when you wield such power to destroy at will. 

And yes, almost everything in the world is destroyable. And sure, it is fun to destroy houses, fortresses, and massive bridges, but the physics alone are not enough to redeem this system. Some of the structures are important to the quest, like the portal protectors, but destroying them with one hit takes the fun out of it. 

---

Fictorum is a fun but often repetitive game. While the character creation and story are the best parts of this, just being a villain in a game is refreshing. I would suggest that you turn off your brain and enjoy the mindless fun of being an overpowered villain. If and when a second Fictorum game comes out, some simple fixes would be implemented to create a fantastic game for all to enjoy.

Fictorum is available on GOG.com for $19.99. 

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

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The Escapists 2 Review: Good to be Bad https://www.gameskinny.com/kclhj/the-escapists-2-review-good-to-be-bad https://www.gameskinny.com/kclhj/the-escapists-2-review-good-to-be-bad https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/89d397530fe2d588e89bda8887044de5.jpg kclhj/the-escapists-2-review-good-to-be-bad Tue, 22 Aug 2017 10:02:50 -0400 Synzer

The Escapists 2 is an intriguing sandbox game that allows you to live out the fantasy of escaping from prison. Even if you've never had that fantasy, you will after playing this game. Coming up with inventive ways to escape is a huge part of what makes this game fun -- and frustrating at the same time.

While The Escapists 2 offers a unique sandbox prison escape experience, it may be a little overwhelming for some players. Though it has its flaws and may not appeal to everyone, it's an interesting experience overall that will be a fun ride for sandbox fans.

What I Loved

The amount of freedom you have in this game allows you to do just about anything you want in order to escape your prison. Want to dig your way out? Go ahead! Want to cut through the fence at night? You got it! Want to disguise yourself as a guard? That's also possible.

Setting Up Your Escape

Planning your prison break is the best part. There are so many things you can do and craft to help you on your way out. If you want to dig your way to freedom, for example, you're going to need to acquire a shovel.

That's not all though. In addition to figuring out an escape plan, you will also need to hide your escape attempt. If you don't, the prison will go on alert. The guards will also fix any damage they find, which renders your work useless unless you're careful. 

Covering a hole with a table, placing a poster over a broken wall, or replacing a vent cover with a fake one are just some of the inventive things you can do to hide your progress until you are ready to escape.

the escapists 2 setting up an escape

Trial and Error

Since there are so many ways to escape, you might do a little trial and error to find out what works and what doesn't. Even though this can be frustrating, it is ultimately very satisfying when you figure out something that works.

For example, I chose to escape by cutting through the fence. I had to find a good escape route out of  my cell, then a way to disguise myself so I wouldn't alert attention. I couldn't do this all in one night, so I had to get posters to cover up the walls I broke through.

There are so many ways to escape if you take the time to plan properly and hide your tracks -- which is probably my favorite thing about the game.

Multiplayer

The biggest addition to The Escapists 2 is multiplayer. There are 2 different types -- versus and co-op.

Co-op is like the solo game, but you can work with other real players to plan your escape. There are places that actually require at least 2 players (completely optional of course).

Not only is co-op a fun experience to try out, but it can also be very useful in terms of splitting the work of escaping for a better chance at success. You could have one person raise intelligence, for example, to craft the needed tools, while another raises strength and/or fitness to use those tools more efficiently.

This presents even more ways to think about your escape, and allows you to do so much faster than normal.

the escapists 2 versus multiplayer

On the other hand, Versus mode has different rules from the main game. It only lasts a day, and you compete against other players to see who can escape the fastest.

You also have almost complete freedom in how you make a break for it, because you can cut, dig, or chip away outside without getting caught. Vendors give items away for free, and there are no quests, routines, or snipers.

This is a great mode if you want to take a more casual approach, or even scope out prisons for the main game.

What I Didn't Like

The freedom of The Escapists 2 is a blessing and a curse. I love that you can do whatever you want, but I can also imagine many players getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of items they can craft, quests they can undertake, and options they can consider for escape. 

Speaking of quests, another gripe I had with the game was that some quests required a lot more effort than I thought necessary. And when I say that, I'm not referring to the fact that some quests are simple delivery quests, while others require lots of resource collection and crafting. That's totally fine and is to be expected.

I'm talking about a handful of quests that seemed intentionally convoluted just to fudge a certain level of difficulty. For example, you might be tasked with getting an item from inside a desk that's behind a locked door. While you can get into that room at some point, of course, the game won't give you much incentive to do so -- especially with so many other options for escape. It's often easier just to pick a different quest and not even bother with the more effort-intensive ones.  

Verdict

Overall, I can't complain about much in The Escapists 2. It may not be for everyone, but it is a great change of pace. Anyone who played the first one, or who is interested in a unique sandbox game, will definitely want to check this one out.

[Note: A copy of The Escapists 2 was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.]

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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.

---

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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