Adventure Games  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Adventure Games  RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network Like a Dragon: Ishin! Doles Out Justice in New Combat Trailer https://www.gameskinny.com/1iv54/like-a-dragon-ishin-doles-out-justice-in-new-combat-trailer https://www.gameskinny.com/1iv54/like-a-dragon-ishin-doles-out-justice-in-new-combat-trailer Thu, 01 Dec 2022 11:08:59 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Like a Dragon: Ishin has received a new combat trailer showcasing the many ways in which protagonist Sakamoto Ryoma will be able to dole out justice early next year. Focusing on four different combat styles — Swordsman, Gunman, Brawler, and Wild Dancer — Ryo will have plenty of vicious options "to change the course of Japan's history forever."

The trailer also reveals that you'll be able to change between each style during combat, adding strategic layers to each encounter. Particularly impressive is the Wild Dancer style, which appears to incorporate attacks from the other styles in a roiling tornado of blades and bullets. Check out the trailer above to see it in all its glory. 

Developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios and published by SEGA, Like a Dragon: Ishin is set in 1860s Japan and is a full remake of the 2014 title of the same name, which was originally released on the PlayStation 3 and PS4. This marks the first time the spin-off has made its way West. 

You can pre-order Like a Dragon: Ishin now. Those who opt for the Digital Deluxe Edition will be able to play the game four days early and receive nine DLC items: 

  • Shinsengumi Captain’s Set.
  • Ryoma Growth Support Kit.
  • Sword Upgrade Materials Kit.
  • Gun Upgrade Materials Kit.
  • Third Division Armament Expansion Kit.
  • The Dragon of Dojima Skin.
  • Kijinmaru Kunishige, a dark sword with a white hilt.
  • Bloody Sheen, a sword soaked in blood.
  • Black Ship Cannon, a cannon taken from Western ships.

Like a Dragon: Ishin will release on February 21, 2023, for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Series X|S. 

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The Chant Review: Welcome to Nightmare Island https://www.gameskinny.com/c159l/the-chant-review-welcome-to-nightmare-island https://www.gameskinny.com/c159l/the-chant-review-welcome-to-nightmare-island Wed, 30 Nov 2022 13:22:06 -0500 Jason D'Aprile

The Chant is an odd B-horror-movie of a game that takes inspiration from the usual sources like Silent Hill and Resident Evil but in a much more isolated environment. Delving into supernatural horror, The Chant invites you into a spiritualist cult with a secret and violent past, thematically mixing Lost with the Lovecraftian mythos.

Taking the role of Jess, you quickly find yourself at an island retreat for some much-needed spiritual me time. She has good reason to seek inner peace, still reeling from the accidental death of her younger sister years before. Of course, that's not what happens, with the barefoot, spiked-tea-addled oasis quickly descending into angst-filled emotional horror.

The island locale is easily the best thing about The Chant. You'll explore sandy beaches, forest and mountain paths, beautiful vistas, underground caverns, and mines, as well as various buildings and murky places. The scenery is gorgeous. There are lots of bright colors and detailed flora, and there's a stark visual contrast between the normal world areas and the oppressive, supernaturally-infected areas called the gloom. 

The overall ambient soundtrack is surprisingly good, too, with powerful sound effects and generally high-quality voice acting. The character models themselves don't fare quite as well, with often janky and stilted animations and expressions. Combat animations are especially uneven, with clumsy dodging and attack moves.

The Chant tries to focus on the psychological impacts of horror with its main character, which is reflected in its core gameplay mechanics. Jess has three stats to maintain: mind, body, and spirit. Her mind is usually the stat on which you have to spend the most attention; anything stressful lowers it, putting Jess at risk of debilitating panic attacks. She's terrified of the dark, for instance, so you must find ways to light passages, and going into the gloom also eats away at her mind, so lingering in those spaces is never a good idea.

Combat, of course, also causes Jess to freak out, which makes a lot of sense. Her body stat correlates to hit points, and the spirit stat governs the use of certain special magics and items (in addition to refilling her mind energy through meditation). Combat itself, though, is a real mixed bag. Jess has no natural or default weapons of her own. She can literally just slap and push at bad things, which doesn’t help much. Weapons can be found or crafted, but they tend to be relatively innocuous — burning sage clumps and other herbal mixes plus fire.

It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, honestly; for a game where you play as a traumatized young woman, The Chant loves to throw Jess into the fray against mutant cultists, giant acid-spewing bug things, toads, killer flowers, and other vaguely Lovecraftian nightmares with next to nothing to protect herself. Combat ultimately amounts to clumsily bashing at a monster until either it dies, your weapon breaks, or you die. Much like ammunition in Resident Evil, The Chant is incredibly stingy about handing out needed herbal ingredients, too.

This might not be as big a source of frustration as it is if The Chant had a semblance of stealth gameplay. Trying to avoid violent combat with monsters would make sense, after all, but that's not an option here. The game seldom gives you any choice but to plow forward, swinging and dodging to get through to the next area. Melee mechanics are either short or long shoulder button presses and are not at all complex. You hit a monster, dodge when it’s about to strike, hit it again, etc.

Jess will find salt and other items that she can throw or even place on the ground as traps to slow or hurt enemies, and she'll gain new spiritual abilities as she collects the colored crystals everyone on the island wears. These can harm enemies, slow them down, freeze them, and do other useful things, but they use energy which, generally, can only be replenished by finding specific ingredients scattered around the island.

When not mindlessly hitting and shoving monsters, you'll usually wander around looking for ingredients, key pieces, letters, film reels, and other things that either fill in the story or let you open new areas. Other times, you'll be running away from a particularly annoying bad thing that follows Jess across the map while yelling accusingly at her. It's an interesting element that adds to the tension while trying to enunciate the themes of grief and loss. 

The Chant Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Island location is generally lovely and detailed
  • Solid voice acting, great atmospheric sound
  • Decent story with traumatic themes

Cons

  • Combat is very clumsy and simplistic
  • No stealth at all
  • Some janky animation and character work
  • Annoyingly stingy about supplies

The Chant is by no means a great game, and there are plenty of sketchy aspects. Combat is iffy and clumsy, and there are a lot of fetch quests. Just the same, The Chant is mostly enjoyable thanks to a solid story and lush environments. 

[Note: Prime Matter provided the copy of The Chant used for this review.]

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Pokemon Scarlet and Violet: How to Breed Pokemon and Get Eggs https://www.gameskinny.com/zgoit/pokemon-scarlet-and-violet-how-to-breed-pokemon-and-get-eggs https://www.gameskinny.com/zgoit/pokemon-scarlet-and-violet-how-to-breed-pokemon-and-get-eggs Wed, 30 Nov 2022 09:53:41 -0500 Hayes Madsen

Breeding has been a major part of the Pokemon series since generation two with Gold and Silver, and that's more true than ever with Pokemon Scarlet and Violet.

Breeding in Scarlet and Violet works a bit differently from previous generations, with it taking place over picnics. In this guide, we'll go over how to breed Pokemon, how the egg system works, and how to increase Egg Power in the latest Pokemon releases.

How to Breed Pokemon in Scarlet and Violet

Pokemon breeding is now done entirely through picnics, not daycares like in previous games. The only thing you need to breed is two Pokemon, one male and one female, that belong in the same Egg Group.

If you're unfamiliar with Egg Groups they essentially correspond to the look of a Pokemon. There are fourteen main Egg Groups, and just like with type Pokemon can belong to multiple groups.

Here's a list of Egg Groups, and sites like Bulbapedia have more detailed information on which Pokemon belong to which groups. 

  • Monster 
  • Human 1
  • Water 1
  • Water 2
  • Water 3
  • Bug
  • Mineral
  • Flying
  • Amorphous
  • Field
  • Fairy
  • Undiscovered
  • Grass
  • Dragon

As long as you have Pokemon that can breed together, eggs will slowly start appearing in your picnic basket. You can check how many eggs are in the basket by walking up and interacting with it. Your basket can hold roughly ten eggs at a time, and any Pokemon that are able to breed will do so. Because of that, you might be better off only having two Pokemon in your party. 

There are a couple extra things you'll want to keep in mind with breeding. If two Pokemon are different species, the Pokemon that hatches from the egg will be the species of the mother. The same applies to inheriting moves, as moves from the mother are more likely to be inherited than moves from the father. Additionally, Ditto can breed with any Pokemon of any gender or species. 

Finally, some Pokemon have Egg Moves that can only be learned through breeding with a Pokemon that has the move. While breeding is usually involved, you can actually teach Pokemon Egg Moves by having them hold a Mirror Herb and having an empty move slot. Mirror Herbs can be purchased from Delibird Presents for 3,000 money. 

There is actually a way to increase the frequency of eggs during picnics, which is by increasing your Egg Power.

How Egg Power Works in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet

Egg Power is a new mechanic in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, which is gained by having picnics and eating food. To get Egg Power you'll need to make a sandwich with ingredients that grant you the status, which typically includes apples, bananas, pineapples, strawberries, kiwi, marmalade, olive, oil, cream cheese, whipped cream, and more.

Of course, if you'd rather not make your own sandwiches you can head to any city and find a plethora of restaurants.

Much like other meal benefits, Egg Power has different levels, and the higher the level the more likely you'll be to get eggs while picnicking. Just keep in mind that benefits from sandwiches only last for 30 minutes.

How to Hatch Eggs in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet

Hatching an egg is just as simple as it's always been, as all you need to do is keep it in your party for a requisite amount of time. The egg will take up your party slots, but simply walk around with it and eventually, you'll have a brand new Pokemon.

Luckily, there are certain Pokemon that have moves that can speed up the process of egg-hatching. These moves are:

  • Flame Body
  • Magma Armor
  • Steam Engine

 

Now you should have a better idea of how to breed Pokemon and hatch eggs. For even more tips and help, make sure to take a look at our Pokemon Scarlet and Violet guides hub

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The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me Review — Dark Hallways https://www.gameskinny.com/l45ao/the-dark-pictures-anthology-the-devil-in-me-review-dark-hallways https://www.gameskinny.com/l45ao/the-dark-pictures-anthology-the-devil-in-me-review-dark-hallways Mon, 28 Nov 2022 12:53:31 -0500 Peter Hunt Szpytek

I have always rooted for The Dark Pictures Anthology series. Until Dawn, Supermassive Games' first foray into the choose-your-own-adventure horror genre, is one of my favorites in the entire PS4 library, so when the studio announced it would try its hand at a horror anthology franchise that covers drastically different themes, I couldn't have been more excited. Then I played the games.

Aside from the second entry in the series, The Dark Pictures Anthology has been nothing but a letdown over its various installments. The final entry in the anthology's self-espoused “first season," The Devil in Me, is perhaps the weakest of the four titles. It seems as if it hasn't learned anything from the past, with the series actively regressing in many departments, from encounter design and character development to narrative writing and options for player choice.

The story of The Devil in Me follows a true-crime documentary crew as they take a mysterious overnight trip to a replica of serial killer H. H. Holmes' "Murder Castle.” Things start to go awry when the owner of the replica hotel disappears, and the cast inevitably gets separated and chased by a murderous copycat killer.

The premise is solid enough, but the game is packed full of boring stock characters that don't move the story beyond that initial premise. It’s true that archetypes can drive a horror story; in fact, Until Dawn utilizes similar genre tropes to great effect, subverting expectations while also delivering a nail-biting horror story. However, everyone here — with the exception of Erin — is so profoundly unlikable and shallow that their deaths border on small victories for the plot, and their collective and individual choices are so poorly realized and unrealistic that they fail to resonate in the way they're intended. 

Critiquing any character's decision-making process in horror is hardly the way to enjoy the genre, but here, the cast fails to garner any sympathy as they bumble around the Murder House, coming in and out of the same handful of locations and situations none-the-wiser, like caricatures of Scooby Doo characters.

The Devil in Me's scene-to-scene writing doesn't do the cast any favors, with pervasive inconsistency and thoughtlessness for cohesive scripting. An early scene in the game's roughly seven-hour playtime features two characters talking poorly about another cast member. Overhearing them, that character reveals themself, telling the other two off for speaking so unkindly. In the very next scene, the two gossipers debate whether or not they think that person heard them, as if nothing happened in the scene before.

I imagine these inconsistencies are, in part, a result of the game's choose-your-own-adventure mechanics, where branching paths can sometimes conflict with the intended story. Supermassive, however, has had years to work on the formula but hasn't improved it to make the scenes flow more cohesively. The patchwork nature of the narrative was a criticism many had with Until Dawn back in 2015, and seven years later, it's still a problem for The Dark Pictures series.

The actual choices The Devil in Me allows you to make are weak as well. Most of the major decisions are either made for you in cutscenes or reliant on you finding a random item in one of the hotel’s many identical rooms and hallways. Some player-chosen possibilities don’t seem to have much, if any, bearing on the story either, making the overall system clunky and ineffectual, especially in comparison to other genre titles. 

At its core, this is a slasher story, and the narrative boils down to being chased by an omnipotent killer who is everywhere in the hotel at once. Eventually, the frequency at which the killer appears becomes comical; you can quite literally expect to see them in every scene, emerging from the darkness to a swell of music before chasing the cast — which usually escapes — and it all beginning again. 

Initially, the killer provides a few scares, but their clocklike consistency simply makes them part of the set as the plot plods on, not an actual character. The Devil in Me is so unwilling to let three minutes go by without a (feeble) jumpscare that it's entirely unable to build any sort of real tension. Jumpscares might make you shout, but The Dark Pictures seems to have forgotten that being scared and being startled are two entirely different feelings.

To be fair, there's a single good horror scene The Devil in Me, where the crew’s soundperson uses their microphone while wandering the halls of the Murder House listening for distant screams. The lights go out, the sound gets louder and stranger, and you’re on the edge of your seat, listening intently as the tension ramps up. It's a great, if fleeting scene.

The Devil in Me makes a handful of changes to the traditional gameplay of the Dark Pictures Anthology outside of cutscene quick-time events. Now, characters have much more mobility, allowing you to climb ledges to reach doors, for example, but it ultimately doesn't change much about the core of the game. Similarly, each character has a small inventory of items that allows them to "solve puzzles," which boils down to unlocking cabinets that contain random documents. There’s even a promising camera mechanic that goes completely unused. 

I wrote about the potential some of these systems could have on the branching story in my preview of The Devil in Me, but as I suspected then, they do nothing to push the series forward. 

The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Performs well on performance mode.
  • Solid premise.

Cons

  • Flat characters.
  • Overly reliant on jumpscares.
  • Shallow plot with no real resolution.
  • Uninteresting puzzles.
  • Overall lack of player choice.

The Devil in Me is a little baffling, especially considering that Supermassive released The Quarry earlier this year, which seemed to take the lessons from previous Dark Pictures entries to heart. As a sendoff for the first season of the anthology, The Devil in Me isn't the triumphant victory lap that it could have been. Instead, it's the death rattle of a series that's already run out of ideas.

If you're looking for a pop-corn horror game that isn't interested in doing anything other than making loud noises at you, then give The Devil in Me a shot. After all, there's something to be said for that sort of entertainment, but there's just nothing to The Devil in Me that would make me recommend it over the numerous other titles in the genre.

The game feels like a regression from Supermassive's previous work. The Quarry was a refreshing return to form for Supermassive, but The Devil in Me and the overall lackluster quality of the rest of The Dark Pictures Anthology make me think that this IP may be out of ideas.

[Note: Bandai Namco provided the copy of The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me used for this review.]

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Pokemon Scarlet and Violet: How to Buy and Change Clothes https://www.gameskinny.com/vyiso/pokemon-scarlet-and-violet-how-to-buy-and-change-clothes https://www.gameskinny.com/vyiso/pokemon-scarlet-and-violet-how-to-buy-and-change-clothes Fri, 25 Nov 2022 10:24:57 -0500 Hayes Madsen

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet bring players yet another monster-catching adventure, this time in the lush Paldea region inspired by Spain. Ever since Pokemon X and Y, the series has put more and more emphasis on character customization, and one of those options is buying and changing clothes.

As you might expect, Scarlet and Violet continue that trend, even though clothing options feel a bit more limited than in the past few entries. If you really want to find your own style, however, you'll need to know how to find stores to purchase new threads. Here's everything you need to know about clothing in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet

How to Get Clothes

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet tell you pretty early on that you can get new clothes, but they don't exactly signpost where you need to go. Follow the tutorial until you reach the city of Mesagoza and the academy.

In the town square, you'll find the game's first clothing stores and a barbershop to change your hairstyle. If you open your map and zoom in, you can see T-shirt icons for clothing and a scissors icon for a barbershop, which is what you'll want to look for in later towns.

Here's a list of the shops that provide customization options in Mesagoza. You won't ever be able to buy new options for your shirt and pants unless Nintendo releases an update in the future. There are currently four options for "uniforms" in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, and you'll have those unlocked from the beginning. 

  • Bagin's — Bags
  • Zapaldea Footwear — Shoes
  • Sock Quarter — Socks
  • Spec Shack — Glasses 
  • Capbourg — Hats
  • Rough and Tough — Gloves

As you progress through the game, you'll reach two other cities that have clothes shops: Cascarrafa and Levincia. These towns have the same clothing options but also add two new stores: Veracidad (Bags) and Seguro Style (Gloves), which provide even more options. 

Keep in mind that like everything else in the game, you can purchase clothes using either money or League Points. Once you've picked out your threads, you'll need to know how to put them on. 

How to Change Your Outfit

Changing your clothes is incredibly easy and can be done at any time by simply pressing left on the D-pad. This will bring up the clothing menu, where you can choose different options for every category, including uniforms, socks, shoes, gloves, backpack, hats, glasses, and phone cases. 

On this screen, you can also change the (+) button to change your look and re-edit things like eyes, facial features, and more. Make sure to save your changes when you exit the menu. 

That's everything you need to know about buying and changing clothes in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. Check out our growing list of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet guides here on GameSkinny.

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Sonic Frontiers Review — Fast as the Rest https://www.gameskinny.com/0xkem/sonic-frontiers-review-fast-as-the-rest https://www.gameskinny.com/0xkem/sonic-frontiers-review-fast-as-the-rest Fri, 18 Nov 2022 10:07:48 -0500 Ashley Shankle

Like most Sonic fans, I awaited Sonic Frontiers with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. The trailers for Sonic Team's latest didn't exactly get me hyped with their bland environments and seemingly moderate speed. You gotta go fast in a Sonic game, right? And where were the slick tunes?

Sonic Frontiers is an instance where you shouldn't judge a game by its trailer. It's not the sort of open-world Sonic title that fans have theorized about over the years, but it is a far more worthwhile game than it appears.

There is no such thing as a perfect 3D Sonic game — not now and probably not ever — but Frontiers does an amazing job of stirring the Pot of "What Ifs." What if it had more fantastical environments and a more lively open world? What if instead of seeking out Kocos for stat increases, you sought out Chaos or Chaos boosters? What if the enemies were brighter and more akin to the rest of the series?

The Pot of "What Ifs" is hard to stop stirring as you blaze through the obstacles and challenge stages found in Sonic Frontiers. Despite its considerable length compared to many games in the series, you'll find yourself at the end of what's been an amazing blue blur and simply crave more.

You're allowed to progress through the game's five islands at your own pace — that pace being fast, of course, but also open enough that you can speed around getting each collectible in an order with which you're comfortable. And it's very likely you'll find yourself exploring every nook and cranny to seek out additional Kocos or Red and Blue Seeds. It's hard to resist the temptation of rails and ring trails.

In a series rarity, Sonic is able to both increase his stats and learn new abilities to aid in exploration and combat. You'll increase them via collectibles, a system that ultimately provides a smooth sense of progression; you instinctively seek them out over the next obstacle.

That said, it did take some time to warm to the stat system, and the same can be said of the erratic placement of environmental obstacles. Neither seems to belong in concept, but they work wonderfully to make you feel more effective and powerful.

Speaking of power, Sonic Frontiers is the most combat-heavy mainline Sonic game. That does not mean the combat slows it down, though. It's as fast as the rest, just with more button-mashing. Phantom Rush and the other skills you learn along the way are fun, fast, easy to pull off, and don't detract from the overall speed of the game.

It also helps that bosses are intense and memorable, despite not being the most colorful bunch in the series. I'd say more, but I truly believe that the boss fights are something every Sonic fan should experience for themselves. You will not be disappointed.

The Cyber Space stages will be the most familiar territory for fans of the series, with many taking after fan-favorite locations in previous titles. Green Hill Zone, Radical Highway, Dragon Road, and many more make appearances, and each should tickle most fans and give some much-needed scenery changes from the islands.

My largest complaint is just how unremarkable the open world is at large. Though there are some portions that stand out, not even the day-night or weather cycles can make the islands feel more alive. They just don't feel right for the franchise, and neither do the pop-ins they bring with them.

If the open world at was more vibrant, Sonic Frontiers would be lauded as the second coming of the series more than it already is. To be very fair, it is the best game in the series since Sonic Generations very easily. Is it better than Generations? No. But it could be, and the next very well could be, too. There is far more to love about Sonic Frontiers than it initially lets on.

Sonic Frontiers Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Fast enough once you upgrade Sonic.
  • Memorable boss battles.
  • Well-paced despite the open world, thanks to the slew of collectibles, stages, enemies, and obstacles.
  • Considerable length for a Sonic game (15~ hours).

Cons

  • The open world needs more pizzazz.
  • Obstacle pop-ins can be troublesome when you're boosting around.

I suppose I've been waiting for a Sonic game to usurp Generations for a long time. Though Sonic Adventure 2 is my personal favorite, Sonic Generations stands as my gold standard for the 3D portion of the series. Sonic Frontiers doesn't outdo Generations, but it doesn't have to. Sonic Team has tried something new with this entry to Sega's long-running series, and it's one heck of a ride.

Always fast and sometimes furious, Sonic Frontiers gives me a sense of wonder I haven't had with the 3D portion of the franchise in a decade, and it does so with the sort of flair I want from Sonic Team. It's not perfect, but it is a huge spin dash in the right direction for the Blue Blur. The next game needs to build on what Sonic Team has put together here because this is a formula with long legs.

[Note: Sega provided the copy of Sonic Frontiers used for this review.]

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Somerville Review: A Man and His Dog at the End of the World https://www.gameskinny.com/rqwqv/somerville-review-a-man-and-his-dog-at-the-end-of-the-world https://www.gameskinny.com/rqwqv/somerville-review-a-man-and-his-dog-at-the-end-of-the-world Thu, 17 Nov 2022 12:10:41 -0500 Daniel Solomon

'Tis the season for horror games beginning with the letter S. And five years on from its announcement, Somerville has finally emerged over the twilight horizon. The debut title from Jumpship — helmed by veteran film animator Chris Olsen and PLAYDEAD co-founder Dino Patti — puts the lineage of its leaders front and center.

This is recognizably a marriage of top-tier visual production quality and the darkness and narrative ambiguity of those games. Somerville is not, however, greater than the sum of its parts.

Sommerville opens with a long shot of a family driving home to their remote cottage in the countryside and settles on the mum, dad, child, and dog all cozied up asleep on the sofa in front of TV static. This uncanny moment is the last true instance of peace across Somerville’s roughly four-hour runtime, and it’s a disquieting one at that.

Strange lights and sounds come from outside the family's home, rousing them each in turn. A few moments and a few crashed things later, and you’re in control of the father, who, along with the trusty mutt, now must see what’s left of the world and what’s become of the rest of his family. 

Following a close encounter with something, our protagonist finds himself in possession of Somerville’s sole gameplay mechanic: an ability to manipulate the state of the jagged, all-angles alien matter now strewn about the place. The caveat is that the ability must be paired with a light source, and lacking the foresight to pack a torch for the end of the world, this search for light becomes the anchor for much of the game’s puzzles. How do I move this lamp there? Can I untangle these wired bulbs and carry them further here?

These puzzles aren’t particularly difficult, but that’s not exactly a criticism in and of itself. I imagine they’re meant to be fairly swift affairs as you push through the ruins of what looks to be southern England — the big hint being the Glastonbury festival-inspired area you’ll encounter pretty early on, replete with a Pyramid Stage and continue fleeing the monoliths seen littering the horizon, casting their ominous purple light in the direction of sentience. 

The headliner here is the environmental storytelling. It’s clearly the heart and soul of Somerville, and while there is a lot of praise due for the world that Jumpship has created, along with the striking visuals and sound design, it does come at the expense of the game itself.

Somerville is a cinematic experience to a fault, all widescreen bordered display and slow panning camera that’s forever out of your control. It’s refreshing playing through an entire experience directed in a cinematic sense, and the long cuts of our long-suffering dad strolling desolate farmlands as the purple lights scan for life in the distance bring to mind the style of Alejandro Iñárritu or even Béla Tarr.

It gives the impression that you're being watched and adds to the unsettling feeling in the opening hour while everything is still a mystery. And while it’s aesthetically one of the game’s greatest strengths, it’s often a blocker to progress. 

The disconnect that arises is that while watching a movie, the audience doesn’t need to know where the cast is going; we’ll know that when they arrive. This opens up the potential for creative camerawork and unusual framing. But as a player playing a video game, these types of shots can prove a hindrance, as smaller obstacles in your path can be either obscured or off-camera entirely. Often the chosen angles can leave ambiguity in the level design, as the route forward isn’t always clear. The depth of field, too, can make parsing a path through debris cumbersome and confusing. 

In an interview with Edge earlier this year, Olsen said that Somerville “used to be 2D; now we’ve changed it into a 3D game.” I’m inclined to say that you can feel that shift tangibly. The world often feels like it’s operating on a 2.5D plane, with the camera issues exposing the lack of revision to these pivots.

Our protagonist is no fun to control. He’s unwieldy even when the camera behaves itself, despite the fact that there’s very limited interaction – just movement and an interact button beyond the ability to manipulate matter. The worst gripe is that his pace is entirely dictated by the game – and I've never known a character more reticent to run in the face of danger. 

There's a handful of particularly egregious scenes in which the level design, camera work, and present threat lead the player to think you'd run for the nearest obvious cover, only to have our nameless hero stroll nonchalantly to his doom. It’s baffling to see and robs the game of some of its grounded sensibility. So, too, do a number of plot points I won’t spoil, as I often found myself asking “why?” without coming up with a good answer. 

Across my four hours with the game, I encountered myriad performance issues, as well. Sound both disappeared entirely or persisted across scenes, and the vibration function once needed a hard reset to cease rumbling. Character models would get stuck in loops, gesticulating to no one. A key item in the back half of the game flailed wildly about when in the protagonist's hands, regardless of how many times I reset the game.

Somerville Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Spectacular visuals and cinematic feel.
  • Sound design and soundtrack.

Cons

  • Ill-considered as a video game, and feels like it would be a better film.
  • Performance issues and bugs.
  • Unsatisfying to play, both in terms of mechanics and puzzles.

Much like previous works in which Dino Pattti has been involved, nothing is ever entirely concrete in Somerville. There's no voice acting, no text, and minimal interaction with anything beyond the components of puzzles blocking your progress. The story is shown, not told, as that old creative writing aphorism goes, leaving much to the player's imagination. 

The ambiguity throughout and up to the end is likely a deliberate means of incentivising repeat playthroughs and encouraging deeper dives into the story. And I would have liked more time in this world to decipher some of it myself, despite my issues with some of the bigger moments in the back half of the game. But it was an entirely too frustrating experience, and by the time I’d got to the end, I’d entirely run out of patience with it.

[Note: Jumpship provided the copy of Somerville used for this review.]

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Blacktail Preview: Into the Forest https://www.gameskinny.com/x9o43/blacktail-preview-into-the-forest https://www.gameskinny.com/x9o43/blacktail-preview-into-the-forest Wed, 09 Nov 2022 09:29:01 -0500 Will Borger

Blacktail is the story of two sisters: Zora and Yaga. They aren't ordinary sisters. Yaga is described as a girl without a face; she hides behind a mask. Her left hand is covered with a black goo she calls the gauntlet. The other villagers have always distrusted her, and she has always relied on her sister.

But like many children in the village, Zora has gone missing. And the village, never fond of Yaga, blames her for the disappearances. She's exiled herself to the forest in the hopes of finding out what has happened to Zora and the other children and regaining her memories, which have slipped away for reasons not revealed in a recent preview build we were able to play.

After a brief dream sequence that serves as the tutorial, Yaga is guided by a dark, mysterious voice who tells her to visit The Hut. Yaga is frightened of The Hut, and it obviously contains a sinister power. It also contains a Cauldron where Yaga can mix potions and acquire stat upgrades  and the most adorable fast travel function ever in terms of an inky black cat with piercing blue eyes.

Blacktail starts as a dream, and it continues to feel that way once you leave The Hut. Yaga soon sees spirits guiding her on, and she feels compelled to follow them. The forest Yaga navigates feels like something from a fairy tale, and like a fairy tale, it can be bright and beautiful one moment and dark and foreboding the next. It's full of creatures, too. There are regular old animals, like birds and foxes and deer, but there are other animals, as well: giant talking insects, friendly and not-so-friendly talking mushrooms, and monsters like gnolls.

Yaga isn't defenseless, though. She's armed with a bow and arrows, a dash, and a couple of basic spells that push enemies away from her and allow her to fire multiple arrows at a time. The only downside is that Yaga doesn't have much in terms of melee attacks. If she can't push an enemy anyway with magic or a dash, she has a hard time keeping enemies away from her — at least until she gets her broom, which draws enemies to it.

When she's not in combat, Yaga spends a lot of time exploring, finding characters to interact with, or gathering crafting materials. This is where the game's morality system comes into play. Everything Yaga does affects her morality and determines how the story plays out. Most of these decisions are pretty simple: Do you tell the Ant Queen the location of the human village so her ants can attack it? Do you help lost Mr. Larvae find his way home? Despite their simplicity, they do impact what quests she gets throughout the story.

Early on, I allied with a pair of mushrooms to help them get rid of a honey-hungry firedrake that had been terrorizing the area. Each one wanted me to complete the quest in a specific way. The good mushroom, Borvy Borko, wants you to seek out the Knight. The evil Mushroom, Slippery Jack, wants you to find a mushroom named Rebel.

I couldn't choose which path I wanted to follow; I was following the Good morality track (your morality is judged on a scale of six ranks from Rotten to Noble, each of which offers its own particular bonuses), so I was sent after the Knight and ended up fighting Rebel because he had something the Knight wanted.

It doesn't matter all that much; you end up fighting Rebel either way, but the reasons you're doing so change. The way you interact with the environment also changes your meter. Freeing a bird from a trap, for instance, means you're a good person. Shooting a bird in a trap is bad. If you're evil enough, you can kill a walking stick insect for wood, and so on. Your choices matter because they change your skills and how you interact with the world, but they don't seem to affect the story just yet.

Given that the story is about the origin of Baba Yaga, and your choices determine whether she will be a good witch or the stuff of nightmares, hopefully, that will change later on. The game hints that it will; after defeating Rebel, another mushroom named Spy informed me that the Knight wasn't being entirely truthful, and the firedrake threat was not what it appeared. But how that will play out remains to be seen.

Either way, the world itself is a delight. Exploring hidden nooks and crannies for items that you can use to craft items or spend at the Cauldron to upgrade Yaga's skill is fun, and the art design is gorgeous. The voice acting, particularly for Yaga herself and the mysterious Voice guiding her, is also great, as is the game's soundtrack, which veers from spooky and atmospheric to bright and fun depending on where you are and what's going on. It's appropriate and already memorable.

I only spent a few hours with Blacktail, but I enjoyed what I saw. If The Parasight can deliver on the game's premise when it releases on December 15 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S, Blacktail will be a fairy tale worth hearing.

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New Tales from the Borderlands Review: A Most Disappointing Sequel https://www.gameskinny.com/nzo3t/new-tales-from-the-borderlands-review-a-most-disappointing-sequel https://www.gameskinny.com/nzo3t/new-tales-from-the-borderlands-review-a-most-disappointing-sequel Tue, 01 Nov 2022 16:19:16 -0400 George Yang

Telltale Games released the first Tales from the Borderlands game in 2014, and it received critical acclaim for plenty of good reasons. Its fantastic narrative, charming characters, and amazing pacing made for one of the best games of that year.

So when Gearbox announced there would be a follow-up, I was ecstatic. As a long-time Borderlands fan, I hoped that New Tales from the Borderlands would be as magical as its predecessor. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Instead, New Tales from the Borderlands is a disappointing game filled with insufferable characters with cringe-inducing dialog.

New Tales from the Borderlands follows three new characters: siblings Octavio and Anu, and Fran. Octavio is a street-smart kid who desires fame and fortune, while Anu is a scientist dedicated to saving the planet. Fran owns a frozen yogurt shop and is Octavio’s boss.

Events start spiraling out of control when Anu gets fired and Octavio gets into trouble with the Tediore weapons manufacturing company, which just so happens to be invading the planet. Along the way, the trio finds a magical shard that can heal any wound and even resurrect the recently deceased. Of course, when Tediore discovers its existence, the mega-corporation focuses its efforts on capturing the protagonists. And things spiral further. 

While the story here is fine on its own, it quickly devolves into an unbearable mess with the most annoying characters in the medium. It doesn't help that the irksome dialogue often drags on and on, continually overstaying its welcome. 

In one chapter, Anu contemplates taking an object that could help get her out of a sticky situation. She repeats the same joke over and over and over and over again: “Should I take you? Oh, I shouldn’t take you…but I need to take you! I’m going to take you! Ok, I just took you.” 

Jokes like these are littered across the script in New Tales from the Borderlands and after a chapter or two of a five-chapter run, the lack of self awareness from both the story and its characters grows tiresome. Octavio comes off as a Gen-Z Tiktok kid completely unaware of how dumb he sounds. Anu is socially awkward, but the writers completely overwrite her anxiety to the point of mockery. And Fran's sexual and perverted jokes simply come off as creepy.

It’s a shame because the trio is composed of underrepresented characters in gaming. Both Octavio and Anu are South Asian Indians, a group rarely given the spotlight. The same goes for Fran, who is disabled and requires a hoverchair to get around. I appreciate their identities aren’t integral to their overall personalities, but they're woefully mishandled at best. 

The first Tales from the Borderlands is filled with action-packed scenes but finds room for slower, character-focused moments, too, leading to an impeccable sense of pacing from beginning to end. Even in the most intense scenes, New Tales from the Borderlands doesn't feel exciting outside of the final boss battle, which itself is undermined by the game's vexing penchant for getting in its own way. 

New Tales from the Borderlands does have a few bright spots, specifically its art style and voice acting. The cel-shaded lines and vibrant colors look clean and amazing on pretty much every asset. Despite my qualms with the dialog, the voice actors deliver their lines well, conveying genuine emotions throughout the game. I'm glad that actors like Michelle Rambharose are at least given the proper opportunities to portray ethnically authentic characters.

While New Tales from the Borderlands tries too hard and is generally unfunny, there are some comedic moments worth calling attention to, specifically those involving L0U13, the crew’s assassination robot. In one scene, I chose to let Octavio tell the truth about a near-death experience the characters had with escaping a monster instead of embellishing the story. L0U13 berated him, telling him that the truth didn’t make Octavio sound cool, and that he should just lie next time instead. L0U13's serious and stoic nature contrasts well with the over exaggerated characteristics of the trio.

New Tales from the Borderlands Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Beautiful art style.
  • Great voice acting,
  • Features an underrepresented cast of characters.

Cons

  • Cringe-inducing dialogue and writing.
  • Annoying cast. 
  • Almost joke lands on its face.

New Tales from the Borderlands doesn’t have an ounce of the charisma or nuance found in the first game. Its script is obnoxious, and its characters ultimately unlikable, making for a groan worthy 10-hour run time. It looks pretty and dialog is delivered well, but that’s about all it has going for it. As a huge fan of the original, I can’t help but feel completely let down by New Tales From the Borderlands

[Note: 2K Games provided the copy of New Tales from the Borderlands used for this review.]

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The Dark Pictures Anthology — The Devil in Me Preview: Like, Zoinks! https://www.gameskinny.com/1ose5/the-dark-pictures-anthology-the-devil-in-me-preview-like-zoinks https://www.gameskinny.com/1ose5/the-dark-pictures-anthology-the-devil-in-me-preview-like-zoinks Tue, 25 Oct 2022 15:32:02 -0400 Peter Hunt Szpytek

Supermassive Games has been building out something of a rollercoaster with The Dark Pictures Anthology; the quality of the franchise has been up and down without ever reaching the heights of the studio’s breakout hit, Until Dawn. As a result, my expectations were relatively low going into a preview for the anthology's final entry, The Devil in Me. Turns out, they were at least met in most areas — if not exceeded — by the promise of possibility brought about by a handful of new mechanical elements.

The Devil In Me follows the typical Supermassive formula: you play as a group of regular people put in over-the-top horror situations, which play out differently depending on the choices you make. In that regard, if you’re looking for more of the tried and true formula, it seems you won’t be disappointed with The Devil in Me. The branching paths of previous entries make an expected return.

However, unlike other entries, The Devil in Me also seems to be leaning more into puzzles than previous installments with the addition of character-specific items. One character has a business card that can be used to unlock desk drawers, while another has a camera tripod that can be used to knock items off high ledges and are out of reach of other characters. It’s unclear just how integrated those mechanics will be in the long run, however, making my faith in them a little uneasy. 

During roughly an hour and a half with the game, I was able to use character-specific items to find new evidence and further the story, but the main draw of including such abilities specific to each character seems as if it would be to recontextualize explorable spaces each time you visit them as someone new. I didn’t experience anything like that with The Devil In Me, though it’s possible that something of the sort could come into play in the full version. 

Giving characters individualized abilities isn’t breaking new ground, but it’s a step in the right direction in updating the Supermassive formula that’s been growing staler with each new release. That, however, remains to be seen.

The Devil in Me also introduces locked doors and key hunts to the mix, but, similar to the new items and abilities, they feel a little shallow so far. There were two times I encountered a locked door, stopping my progression in its tracks; I looked around the environment for a key and, after finding it, continued on my way. That's it, which means it isn't much of a mechanical addition, even if it does break up the typical room-to-room exploration since you'll be keeping your eyes peeled for specific items instead of the usual plethora of collectible documents and mystery clues.

I’m hoping that these keys become something more substantial in the finalized game, since I think leaving certain doors locked or open could result in interesting choices and narrative outcomes when things start getting lethal.

The unfortunate thing about the interactive film genre The Dark Pictures Anthology falls into is that it lives and dies by the quality of the writing, and it's an area in which Supermassive has been historically inconsistent. The preview of The Devil in Me didn’t exactly instill confidence that the final entry would be the best written out of the bunch.

Previous Supermassive games often have cringeworthy dialogue that usually makes sense coming from teenagers, and it can feel like intentional homages to the campy horror classics of the 1970s and '80s. Here, though, it feels a little more out of place coming from fully grown adults, especially when paired with some stiff acting and performances. 

I’m interested to see what The Devil in Me brings to the table as the final entry in Supermassive’s Dark Pictures Anthology. My takeaway right now is that if you’ve been a fan of previous entries regardless of their overall quality, you’ll probably want to keep The Devil in Me’s November 18 release date circled. But I’m not sure if this will be one to win those over who have been disappointed with the studio’s mixed efforts to recapture the magic of Until Dawn.

The setting of a mansion full of traps run by a serial killer is certainly intriguing, but the game needs to make good on its new mechanical promises and have better writing than I was able to see in order to really stand out from the blander entries in the series — and end things with a bang.

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Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed Review – Bustin' Makes Me Feel Fine https://www.gameskinny.com/bd2zk/ghostbusters-spirits-unleashed-review-bustin-makes-me-feel-fine https://www.gameskinny.com/bd2zk/ghostbusters-spirits-unleashed-review-bustin-makes-me-feel-fine Tue, 25 Oct 2022 11:52:50 -0400 Will Borger

Few movies have ever seemed more primed for video games than Ghostbusters. You don’t need much: a few friends, some proton packs, a trap or two, and a ghost to bust. While there have been plenty of Ghostbusters games since the original 1984 film that let you wear the slime-covered shoes of Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddemore, Illfonic’s latest title, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, takes things a little further by letting you play as a Ghostbuster or one of the ghosts they’re assigned to take down, all in asymmetrical multiplayer.

If you’ve played Illfonic’s other titles, like Friday the 13th or Predator: Hunting Grounds, or genre bigwigs like Dead by Daylight, you’ll already understand the basics of Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. It’s a 4v1 title, with both sides trying to accomplish different objectives. The Ghostbusters are trying to capture a ghost and destroy the rifts that allow it to come back once captured, and the ghost is trying to avoid capture long enough to finish haunting a building and then survive a short timer and escape.

The Ghostbusters are kitted out exactly like you’d expect: they’ve got a PKE meter for tracking ghosts and rifts, a Particle Thrower for tethering ghosts and destroying rifts and haunted objects, a Proton Pack for managing the heat and power of said Particle Thrower, and a Ghost Trap, which... well, you get the idea.

On the other side, there’s the ghost. There are several different ghosts to play as, all of which are a little different, but the core idea is the same. They come equipped with a basic attack, two special abilities regulated by cooldowns, the ability to haunt and possess objects, and an extremely powerful ultimate skill with a substantially large cooldown.

The ghost’s job is to control the map by haunting individual objects and using its powers to scare the bejesus out of the poor civilians unlucky enough to be in the area. Haunting items and scaring civvies badly enough makes them leave the map, increasing the haunt meter the ghost needs to fill to win. It also makes it easier for Ghostbusters to find the ghost – just follow the screams.

At best, it’s an interesting game of cat and mouse; the Ghostbusters have to coordinate to win, while the ghost has to play smart. To get there, though, you’ll have to suffer through the game’s story.

There are good things there, most notably Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson returning to reprise their roles as Ray and Winston, respectively. The former runs a bookstore across the street from the iconic firehouse that specializes in the supernatural, while the latter is the boss of the Ghostbusters. There are other new characters, too, and all of them are fine enough. The real issue is your character.

You create your own Ghostbuster in Spirits Unleashed. It’s a robust character creator, but everyone you make looks like they’ve stepped out of Fortnite. They look fine, just kind of... bland. What’s worse is that your created character doesn’t have much to say beyond the odd combat line, so when you’re in a cutscene, characters just talk at you rather than to you.

And these conversations could have desperately used trimming. They all go on too long, and while they’re occasionally funny, it’s not enough to make up for all of the monologues, and it’s hard to care about a story where your character seems to be little more than a personality-free gig worker.

Still, questionable art style aside, the game does a good job of capturing the look and feel of Ghostbusters. Between missions, you’ll spend time in the firehouse and Ray’s bookstore adding to Egon’s spores, molds, and fungus collection, chatting with the cast, customizing your buster, and just generally enjoying the look and feel of the Ghostbusters universe.

This is also where the tutorial takes place. Spirits Unleashed does a decent job of teaching you the ropes, though does often throw a lot of dialogue and text boxes at you at the same time, especially in the ghost tutorial, which can make it hard to figure out what to pay attention to. You can skip it, of course, but it’s a good thing to play, as the game has a lot of mechanics to learn.

Once it’s done, you get to the real meat of things, and that’s where Spirits Unleashed starts to falter. It’s fun when it works and you have a full squad. You can play alone if you want; bots will fill in the gaps. It’s a nice touch, but the Ghostbuster AI is remarkably stupid – it’s not typical to see all three of your AI companions go down in a pile of slime at once – and the ghost AI, while better, is still very easy to beat.

It’s better with a full squad, but even then, the general gameplay experience in Spirits Unleashed is honestly pretty dull. Almost everything is measured by some sort of meter – the Particle Thrower’s heat, the ghost’s abilities, how haunted the area is, how scared civilians are, and so on – and you’ll spend most of your time managing them as a result.

There’s lots of strategy and teamwork. Ghostbusters must work together to find rifts, trap ghosts, and calm down civilians, and the ghost has to be smart about when they use their abilities and how they manage their powers, but there’s not a lot of room for individual skill, and things become repetitive very quickly. It doesn’t help that there are only six maps.

The five different spooks and the ability to customize your Ghostbuster’s gear to more specialize your playstyle helps – you can sacrifice recoil control for a better tether, for instance – as does the fact you and your abilities level up as you play. But in the end, you just do a lot of the same thing over and over and over again. And as with any multiplayer game, enjoyability largely depends on the people you’re matched with, especially since you’ll probably have to talk to them (unless you’re the ghost).

It’s better with friends, of course, but even then, the game never captures the tension, urgency, or moment-to-moment decision-making of something like Dead by Daylight, and your individual choices, whether as a ghost or a Ghostbuster, don’t impact the outcome in a way that makes long-term play sustainable. The lack of content – only one mode, only a few maps, only a few ghosts – doesn't help. Realistically, you can see most of what the game has to offer in a few hours, and once you do, there doesn’t feel like much reason to play.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed Review The Bottom Line

Pros
  • Nails the look and feel of Ghostbusters.
  • Bots enable solo play.
  • Fun with a group.
Cons
  • Limited maps.
  • Low individual skill ceiling.
  • Your character doesn't really interact with the story.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed isn’t a bad game; every cast member, sound effect, and visual reference communicates its love for the source material, but it’s ultimately not that engaging to play solo, and the novelty wears off quickly even with a group.

Hardcore Ghostbusters fans and dedicated groups who love these kinds of games will no doubt find something to love here, but right now, there’s just not that much to interest anyone else. Bustin’ is supposed to make me feel good, but I spent most of my time with Spirits Unleashed the way the civvies do during haunts – waiting for it to end.

[Note: IllFonic provided the copy of Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed used for this review.]

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The Invincible Preview: A Classic Sci-fi Adventure on an Alien World https://www.gameskinny.com/7hfog/the-invincible-preview-a-classic-sci-fi-adventure-on-an-alien-world https://www.gameskinny.com/7hfog/the-invincible-preview-a-classic-sci-fi-adventure-on-an-alien-world Thu, 06 Oct 2022 12:00:09 -0400 Justin Koreis

Few things can elicit the mixed feelings of wonder, danger, and isolation like space. Its scope, beauty, and risk are often taken for granted in video games, reduced to a playspace for outrageous technology, incredible powers, and soaring space operas. 

The Invincible seems to buck that trend, embracing the adventure and trepidation of visiting an alien world. We went hands-on with an early build of this narrative-based, first-person sci-fi adventure from Starward Industries and came away with more questions than answers about what's going on in the universe — all in the best possible way.

I begin my demo cruising an interstellar rover toward the last known point of another crew. It's bright, and the sun is high in the air over a desolate canyon. Strange columns of brown and red stone rise around me, and a deep, unnatural gouge in the canyon wall creates an unsettling "otherness" to the space. 

The Invincible is based on the 1964 book of the same title by Polish science fiction author Stanislaw Lem. It's a work of hard sci-fi, leaning heavily into a firm set of scientific rules and principles rather than relying on Star-Wars-esque space magic. Expect this game to challenge you philosophically rather than take you on a light-hearted romp through outer space. 

Disembarking my vehicle, I climb through an abandoned research station and crawl through a narrow tunnel. At the bottom is a clearing and a large robot, almost similar to a miniature automaton from War of the Worlds. The missing crew is nowhere to be seen until I stumble across a body partially buried in the sand. 

In these early moments, one thing already sticks out. There's a powerful feeling of the unknown running through The Invincible. It at once pulls at my natural curiosity and fills me with a dread I can't quite shake. Finding that first body doesn't help; my character reports her findings over the radio to her colleague, and I choose the option to express the grim resignation that I am not surprised to find members of this crew dead.

I turn my attention to collecting information. The lifeless robot is an Antimat, a mobile platform for an anti-matter cannon. I pull the log from its board camera, and I'm treated to a series of semi-transparent slides detailing what happened. The crew had used the Antimat to bore a hole into the canyon wall, but it turned on its human controllers and slaughtered them with its cannon for unknown reasons. 

The retrofuturist technology in The Invincible is on overt display throughout. Everything is clearly inspired by the '50s and '60s ideas of what advanced technology would look like "in the future," similar to the ideas and themes running through the Fallout series, just without the apocalypse (as far as we know so far).

Beyond the slides and the Antimat are handheld meters, a map, and low-tech optical binoculars. It's an interesting aesthetic and could be a nice change of pace from the usual high-functioning sci-fi typical in most games. But we'll have to wait and see in the final release.

Seeking answers, I press forward into a cylindrical hole in the wall. At the other end is a humanoid robot walking in a circle and bizarre metallic plants with deep, inorganic roots running in the ground. It starts a philosophical debate between my character and her handler about what constitutes life. They clearly have a long history together, and the rapport makes for a lively conversation. 

Eventually, the man-shaped robot wanders off. I follow it, only to see it vaporized by the now-awakened Antimat. The anti-matter cannon now trained on me, I prepare to meet the same fate before the automaton inexplicably stops and returns to rest. There's a new tunnel formed by the powerful shot that obliterated the humanoid robot. I enter it and continue pursuing the mystery of the missing crew and this strange planet.

As my demo ends, I'm starting to get a clearer picture of what The Invincible could be: Firewatch in space. The natural banter and walking-exploration gameplay already have their teeth in me, and this small slice of the universe is just enough of a taste to make me want more.

The atompunk technology aesthetic is extremely compelling, and if Starward Industries can nail the story adaptation, this could be one of the most interesting games on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC when it releases sometime in 2023. Stay tuned for more. 

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Disney Dreamlight Valley: How to Get Dream Shards https://www.gameskinny.com/565sh/disney-dreamlight-valley-how-to-get-dream-shards https://www.gameskinny.com/565sh/disney-dreamlight-valley-how-to-get-dream-shards Wed, 21 Sep 2022 11:05:20 -0400 Hayes Madsen

Like with any life-sim, Disney Dreamlight Valley has plenty of grinding in store to collect resources and items. One of the more elusive items since the game's release has been Dream Shards, which aren't just valuable but are also required for a few different quests.

Here's everything you need to know about getting Dream Shards in Disney Dreamlight Valley.  

Where to Find Dream Shards

Dream Shards are glowing pink crystals that will pop up from time to time, and there are currently three different ways of getting them. Keep in mind they are simply an item in your inventory once you collect them, so be careful not to sell them off.

Clear Night Thorns

The first and easiest way of getting Dream Shards is simply by clearing Night Thorns, the purple vines that infest the various biomes of Dreamlight Valley. Each time you remove a thorn there's a small chance it'll drop a Dream Shard, but eventually, that option will run dry.

When you first begin the game, the main areas will be infested with these vines, so you'll naturally get Dream Shards as you clear them out. Once you've removed them, they will slowly respawn. The same can be said for each new biome you open up, such as Dazzle Beach and the Sunlit Plateau. Clear out all of the Night Thorns for easy items. 

Feed Animals Their Favorite Food

All of the little critters that run around Dreamlight Valley, like Squirrels and Sea Turtles, can be fed, and each one has a specific type of food it likes.

You can only feed an animal once a day but every time you feed one its favorite food, there's a chance it'll drop a Dream Shard. We have a guide going over each animal's favorite food

Dig Up Sparkling Ground

The third and final way of getting Dream Shards is by digging up sparkling sections of ground scattered throughout the world. This method of getting Dream Shards has been added post-launch.

Each day these sparkling spots will spawn across Dreamlight Valley, and as with the two other methods, there's a chance (not a guarantee) you'll get a Dream Shard each time you dig one up.

How to Use Dream Shards

Dream Shards are required for certain quests, including "The Curse," so it's not a bad idea to store some away in one of your chests. That being said, they can be used in crafting to make two other useful items.

  • Ten Dream Shards can be crafted into 250 Dreamlight, which is used to open up new biomes and areas.
  • Five Night Shards and two Dream Shards make a Purified Night Shard, which can be gifted to a friend for a sizable boost in friendship.

Night Shards are more common than Dream Shards and can be found by removing thorns and digging. You should be able to find at least a few Dream Shards every day, so don't be afraid to use them for crafting if you need a little boost to Dreamlight or Friendship. 

Now that you now how to get plenty of Dream Shards, head to our Disney Dreamlight Valley guides hub for even more tips and help. 

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Soulstice Review: The Guts to Survive https://www.gameskinny.com/369nu/soulstice-review-the-guts-to-survive https://www.gameskinny.com/369nu/soulstice-review-the-guts-to-survive Tue, 20 Sep 2022 10:05:52 -0400 Hayes Madsen

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but that's not always true. Soulstice wears its inspirations on its sleeve but sometimes struggles to use those inspirations to create something truly new or unique. There's a robust combat system at its center, but the overall experience suffers from padding and repetitive design.

Meanwhile, the lore-heavy story is filled with good ideas that aren't always executed well. That's not to say Soulstice can't be fun or compelling. When combat really clicks, it can be an absolute blast, and boss battles really crank the challenging combat up to 11. What results is a strong character action title that should appease fans of the genre but doesn't really break any boundaries. 

Soulstice Review: The Guts to Survive

A single glance at Soulstice is all you need to understand it's heavily inspired by the seminal manga Berserk, created by the late Kentaro Miura, as well as the aesthetics of Dark Souls, which was, well, also inspired by Berserk. It was something that got us excited for the game in the first place.

The narrative revolves around a pair of sisters named Briar and Lute, who together make a sort of supernatural being named a Chimera. Chimeras serve the Holy Kingdom of Keidas and combat horrific creatures known as Wraiths, which cross over something called the Veil and consume humans. Soulstice opens as the sisters arrive in the city of Ilden, where a massive tear in the sky has unleashed hell on the inhabitants. 

The game's narrative is a mostly solitary experience that pits Briar and Lute against a city filled with horrors, revealing their backstories in a series of flashbacks. There are a few other interesting characters you'll meet along the way, and Soulstice is filled to the brim with lore on locations, enemies, and organizations, all of which can be read about in your journal. Despite how focused the story is on Briar and Lute, there is a sense of the larger world outside, and that the sisters are simply a cog in a massive machine. 

The actual storytelling, however, is a bit of a mixed bag, as Soulstice draws heavily from anime tropes. There's the scarred old warrior with a heart of gold, the evil religious organization that has ulterior motives, and the wild transformations. The siblings' tragic past also feels far too reminiscent of anime like Demon Slayer or Fullmetal Alchemist, especially in how it's all presented. While the core arc is enjoyable, it all feels fairly predictable and some of the big "twists" can be seen a mile away. 

Like most character action games, Soulstice is split between combat segments, platforming, and puzzle solving, although combat takes up the biggest chunk. You directly control Briar, who wields a massive blade that can transform into other weapons. Lute, on the other hand, attacks on her own, can use counter abilities and can put up two different aura fields needed to fight enemies and solve puzzles. 

Briar has light and heavy attacks that can be comboed, while Lute's counter can be used whenever you see the icon with the button appear over an enemy. Lute can also use blue and red fields to fight Wraiths and Corrupted; Wraiths glow blue and can only be damaged when the blue field is up, and Corrupted glow red, only receiving damage when the red field is activated. Corrupted can also be possessed by wraiths, forcing you to mix and match fields quickly. 

The system is surprisingly deep and complex, rewarding you with new weapons and moves at a steady clip. By and large, it's fun and can easily be compared to something like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, encouraging you to stay mobile and dodge attacks, while finding the time to unleash your own combos. It consistently introduces new weapons, enemies, and mechanics, and there's a good difficulty curve that slowly increases as you progress.

Soulstice has over a dozen different enemy types, and part of the challenge is making sure you have the right field up to deal with these various types. You can't leave a field up indefinitely, however; if Lute has it up for too long, she'll overcharge and be out of commission for a few seconds. 

Successfully landing combos without getting hit also gives the sisters "Unity" and when unity is high, you can unleash stronger attacks and enter a beast-like Rapture mode that lets Briar unleash devastating attacks. 

There's a ton of variety in terms of different playstyles in Soulstice, and Briar and Lute's abilities level up independently, using two types of experience. Defeating enemies, breaking objects, and finding glowing crystals can yield red and blue shards. Leveling up Briar grants new combos and attacks, or increases the proficiency of specific weapons. Leveling up Lute will open up new counter options, make her fields more effective, or give you new defensive options.

Finding experience is the main reason for exploring, and there are massive crystals scattered throughout each level that can yield extra, on top of secret challenge missions you can find. The biggest issue with Soulstice, however, lies in the actual level design outside of battles. 

Ilden is a gorgeous gothic city, but it all runs together after a while. You spend literal hours running through and past the same gray hallways, sewers, and houses. By the same token, you'll solve a lot of similar puzzles over the 18 or so hours it takes to beat the game. I consistently found myself growing tired of the drab visuals of the city. 

There were also a few small technical issues I ran into on PC. I had virtually no problems during gameplay, but I consistently had issues with things suddenly getting very choppy during cutscenes, especially ones with more visual effects. 

During exploration sections, the camera is set at static angles, but you're able to control the camera freely in some battles. These camera options make Soulstice feel like an Xbox 360-era action game, but not always in a good way. The fixed camera can make it hard to find secret pathways and hidden objects, and the free camera simply isn't as responsive as it should be.

These hiccups don't ruin the experience by any regard, but there are lots of instances where the view will be obstructed by an enemy during combat, or the camera might get stuck for a second on a corner, adding a bit of frustration to the mix. 

Soulstice Review  The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Deep combat system that provides a ton of playstyle options.
  • Great presentation and sense of style that draws heavily on Berserk.
  • Good difficulty curve that consistently introduces new enemies and elements.

Cons

  • Lack of variety in terms of environment and puzzles.
  • Small technical issues during cutscenes
  • Story relies too heavily on tropes and predictable twists.

Soulstice is a completely serviceable action title that contains plenty of thrills and some stellar combat, even if its story and presentation fail to rise above its inspirations. Nothing about Soulstice will redefine the character-action genre, but if you're hungry for a deep and challenging experience, it should fit that need nicely. 

[Note: Modus Games provided the copy of Soulstice used for this review.]

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Disney Dreamlight Valley: How to Get Emeralds https://www.gameskinny.com/pfh2t/disney-dreamlight-valley-how-to-get-emeralds https://www.gameskinny.com/pfh2t/disney-dreamlight-valley-how-to-get-emeralds Tue, 13 Sep 2022 19:51:35 -0400 Hayes Madsen

Mining is one of the many activities you can undertake in Disney Dreamlight Valley, letting you uncover precious gems that can be used in quests and sold for a pretty penny. While you don't have to collect every gem you mine, some are well-worth keeping  like Emeralds.

Emeralds are used for the quests "Memory Magnification" and "Lost in the Dark Grove." To help cut down on the time you'll need to spend searching for them, here's how to get Emeralds in Disney Dreamlight Valley

Where to Mine for Emeralds

Focus your Emerald search on the Forest of Valor and the Glade of Trust biomes. If you haven't unlocked those areas yet, both cost 3,000 Dreamlight to unlock. If you need more Dreamlight, just go about your daily tasks or open up the menu and pick a few Dreamlight objectives to complete. 

Once you've opened these areas, mine the black rocks found in the area  but keep in mind that there's no guarantee you'll find Emeralds. As usual, it's a good idea to bring along a friend with the mining skill while breaking rocks. You'll get more resources, and level up their friendship. 

Also keep in mind that it takes mining nodes roughly 4-5 minutes to respawn, so you might want to loop back and forth between the areas until you find the Emeralds you need. For reference we've highlighted the mining spots in both areas with red arrows, so you know exactly where to go. 

Forest of Valor Mining Nodes

Glade of Trust Mining Nodes

Where to Sell Emeralds

Like with other gems, Emeralds can be sold at any of Goofy's stalls, with the easiest one to find in Peaceful Meadow. A basic Emerald sells for 325 Star Coins, but if you get your hands on a Shiny Emerald, you can sell it for 1,300 Star Coins. Shiny versions of gems occasionally pop up as you're mining, and you don't need to do anything different to find them. 

With that, you should have everything you need to find a few Emeralds, whether it's for quests or simply to sell. For even more tips and walkthroughs, make sure to check out our Disney Dreamlight Valley guides hub

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Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed Review: Extraterrestrial Mischief https://www.gameskinny.com/7khz4/destroy-all-humans-2-reprobed-review-extraterrestrial-mischief https://www.gameskinny.com/7khz4/destroy-all-humans-2-reprobed-review-extraterrestrial-mischief Fri, 26 Aug 2022 11:05:40 -0400 Michael Feghali

In 2020, developer Black Forest Games tried its hand at a remake of the first Destroy All Humans!, and succeeded for the most part. Now, the same team has resurrected the second game in the series as Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed, a remake rebuilt from the ground up in Unreal Engine 4. 

While the story remains mostly unchanged and follows Crypto's shenanigans as he blows up and ridicules everything in his path, the remake attempts to give the 2006 title a modern look and feel. 

Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed Review: Extraterrestrial Mischief

 

It is instantly clear that Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed has improved on the original in many aspects, with the most obvious being the graphics. The remake boasts vibrant colors and details that give its characters and open world a contemporary look.

While this remake certainly can’t compete with the latest big-budget titles in terms of graphic fidelity, it looks pretty good for a game that was released nearly 16 years ago. When comparing the visuals here with those of the 2006 original, the difference is night and day. Each of the five playable locations has a unique look and landscape that makes it similar in feel to its real-life counterpart.

As expected, most of the game is about wreaking havoc on humans. Crypto is equipped with a large arsenal of weapons that helps him terrorize the citizens of Earth in any way you see fit. Whether you opt for the devastating Disintegrator Ray or the hilarious Anal Probe, every weapon is satisfying in its own way, making the moment-to-moment gameplay a blast. It's further elevated by the open worlds that act as playgrounds of destruction filled with plenty of opportunities to stir up chaos. 

Most combat encounters are easy enough, letting you use any weapon without worrying about running out of ammo. However, the developers do a good job of encouraging you to switch things up as the story progresses. Some boss fights, especially towards the end of the campaign, can give you a hard time if you don’t use the most effective weapons.

The difficulty also increases quickly as you move from one location to another. This makes upgrading your weapons from the Pox Mart essential when preparing for combat-heavy missions. Luckily, DAH!2 is generous with upgrade points for completing missions, which really speeds up the process of making Crypto a force to be reckoned with.

All that said, the main gameplay loop can get repetitive since missions often have the same structure and outdated level design. Although the content itself isn’t necessarily boring, Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed’s story missions tend to follow an archaic, formulaic approach. Aside from the odd mission here and there, most of Crypto’s assignments involve going to heavily guarded areas, blowing things up, and reporting back to an NPC. Combined with the turn-your-brain-off goofy nature of the game, the whole experience is a bit mind-numbing after a couple of hours.

Even when DAH!2 attempts to make things more challenging, it ends up falling flat. In one particular story mission, you will be tasked to find a secret base that ends up being outside of the indicated mission area. Here, giving no hint would be better than giving misleading information that leaves you searching in the wrong area for longer than necessary — at least you would think to look somewhere else. Still, it is worth pushing past the frustrating portions since things really pick up speed past the halfway point.

Thankfully, certain combat sections do well to break the receptiveness of the core gameplay loop. These action sequences involve using your flying saucer to rain destruction from above or transport vehicles using an abduction ray. While the saucer controls take some getting used to, the developers have worked to alleviate some of the issues from the first game remake and previous builds of this remake. Funny enough, the saucer sequences have gone from being my main complaint in our preview of Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed to one of the most enjoyable parts of the game.

Destroy All Humans! 2’s humor is centered around crude jokes and racial stereotypes that are borderline offensive. Whether it’s the San Francisco hippies from the 60s or the ninjas from Takoshima, the game does not hesitate to poke fun at the inhabitants of its open worlds.

As a result, its faithfulness to the source material and use of the original dialogue is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is a perfect reflection of how such an alien might view humans. However, the humor often comes off as cheesy, dated, and distasteful. Ironically, the funniest moments are when Crypto breaks the fourth wall and pokes fun at the silliness of the game itself.

Telling a compelling story has never been the primary focus of these types of games, and Destroy All Humans! 2 is no exception. Characters come and go without leaving much of an impact, and the story is all over the place. However, its absurdity and sheer silliness make the narrative a memorable one. It clearly doesn't take its story seriously, and you shouldn't either.

Destroy All Humans! 2 seems to be in a pretty good state in terms of performance in our review build. There are occasional frame dips and stuttering, but nothing game-breaking. Throughout the eight-hour main story, the game never crashed or forced me to reload from a previous checkpoint. There was one occasion when a boss started walking through the geometry, but that simply added to the ridiculousness of the game.

Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Fun moment-to-moment combat.
  • Wide variety of weapons. 
  • Diverse locations and unique open worlds.

Cons

  • Humor is mostly a miss.
  • Repetitive mission design.
  • Unengaging story.

The team at Black Forest Games has unquestionably done an excellent job giving the original game a modern look while also improving its gameplay. However, its shortcomings in terms of storytelling and mission design have carried over in an attempt to remain faithful to the original. Your enjoyment of Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed is largely dependent on your sense of humor. 

Those not particularly looking for a strong narrative experience can certainly have a blast playing Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed purely thanks to its great combat and destructive gameplay. If you were a fan of the 2006 version of the game, odds are you will find plenty to enjoy from Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed. 

[Note: THQ Nordic provided the copy of Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed used for this review.]

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Retreat to Enen Review: Paradise Lost https://www.gameskinny.com/o47gw/retreat-to-enen-review-paradise-lost https://www.gameskinny.com/o47gw/retreat-to-enen-review-paradise-lost Thu, 04 Aug 2022 12:44:38 -0400 Jonathan Moore

The effects of human-caused and human-exacerbated climate change are now impossible to ignore. Radical changes beyond natural fluctuations have begun to wreak havoc across the globe, putting humanity's future at grave risk. Even with dutiful, proactive effort, the best outlook may be avoiding the worst possible outcome: a global ecosystem brought to or beyond the brink of extinction.

Potentially, we're already on the trajectory portrayed in the opening moments of Head West's Retreat to Enen, which explores a timeline where humanity's overconsumption and lack of prescience doomed society to an ignominious collapse. But this isn't your typical post-cataclysm shrouded in the dense cloak of war and famine (though that happened long ago). The world has seemingly bounced back, with the vestiges of humankind learning from its mistakes, focused on rediscovering the necessary symbiosis between it and nature.

With such a goal, some introspection is undoubtedly needed, leading to a pivotal mindset shift one that rejects untenable consumption and embraces mindful sustainability. One avenue is self-reflective meditation, a core pillar in Retreat to Enen's gameplay loop, which at regular intervals charges you to pause and consider the world around you. It's a unique mechanic not found in any other survival game, allowing Enen to accent the typical beats of the genre while calling attention to how we interact with our natural world and the digital ones we frequent. 

The issue is that outside of those bounds, Retreat to Enen struggles to be a mechanically compelling experience, stirring up unnecessary frustrations that act in direct opposition to its contemplative core. 

Retreat to Enen Review: Paradise Lost

Set more than 2,500 years in the future, Retreat to Enen portrays an Earth well on the path to healing. Humans have learned to live in lockstep with the world, theoretically taking only what they must to endure while becoming custodians instead of parasites. To prove yourself as one of these caretakers, you're tasked with venturing into the wilds to survive and reflect upon your purpose before bringing your knowledge back to share with future generations. 

An obviously Biblical play on words, the land of Enen is one of striking landscapes spread across three distinct biomes: the sand-strewn subtropical island of Enen itself; the dense, sylvan acreage of The Valley of the Giants; and the snow-swept crags of the frigid Great North. While these places may be visually lush, they're oddly devoid of life on the scale expected from the lite narrative setup, adding an inescapable weight of emptiness to Retreat to Enen

The odd turkey gobbles as it runs through the brush or snow, a lone deer meanders through the trees and undergrowth, a solitary fish swims in the waves above undulating kelp forests and poisonous anemones. Not filling the world with creatures is perhaps an attempt to build a firm sense of place through the most environmental of environmental storytelling. Maybe the Earth isn't as far along the path of healing as suspected. But there's a palpable disconnect between the life these environments could reasonably support at this point in Earth's rejuvenation and what they actually do support.

To kill and harvest these animals is a chore, too, and in ways, further decouples the idea of survival from the ideal of custodianship that battle at the game's core. To conceivably dissuade you from hunting entirely, rabbits and boars are master escape artists, with some capable of disappearing through the trees as soon as you see them, not when they see you; deer and iguanas are likewise highly attuned to your presence at every turn. Wolves, bears, and snakes will attack you without provocation, though they are strangely less aware of your existence despite being apex predators and often get stuck on the environment. 

Hunting, in short, is a laborious process that can be literally hit or miss  the spear animation makes thrusts wobbly and inaccurate, and the lack of any hit indicators, visual or auditory, for arrows makes ranged attacks hollow and hard to trace. Traps and nets are utterly useless, incapable of catching anything no matter how long they're left out or where they're placed (at least over 12 hours of play, in my experience). 

What makes things more existentially complicated is that some animals provide only meat while others provide only pelts, and in a game with deeply rooted themes of sustainability, the more realistic and better option would have been that each animal drops multiple materials when brought down if a hunting system must be included. At the very least, every part of the animal should be used in some crafting component as a sign of respect that aligns with the game's motifs. When you can't chop down trees or dig holes, but you can kill an animal and leave most of it behind, there's contradiction between the message and mechanics. 

Alongside hunting, there's gathering, of which you'll do a great deal in Retreat to Enen. You'll pick up all kinds of materials from the ground, ranging from sticks, rocks, and clay blocks to potatoes, mushrooms, and medicinal herbs. Mining is also an option, but not in the traditional survival-game sense. Instead of existing as veins running through the ground or across escarpments, ores and gems are attached to rocks and cliffs in clusters, which you'll break apart with your futuristic Quantum Control ability, the same one used for harvesting animals.

These mats are, of course, used to craft items, build structures, cook meals, and brew medicinal tonics, all subs-systems that sound more in-depth and less tedious than they actually are.

The in-game UIs are painfully opaque and difficult to read, with far too transparent backgrounds and text far too small. While there are options to add or remove predators or to nix the HUD altogether, there aren't any options to increase menu transparency or text size, two things that would be nice quality of life additions for everyone, not just those with impaired eyesight.

Building outlines jitter and flip around wildly as you try to place them, making it difficult to construct even single structures, let alone expansive, intricately designed camps, as shown in several pre-release marketing materials. Most components used to build houses and other more intricate items are locked until the end of the second biome, well after the entire process of meticulously gathering materials or doing most anything else has likely slipped into tedium. 

Cooking gives you access to a wide variety of dishes, though there's no way to cook single items like meat on the campfire, a strange deviation from the typical survival formula. Frustratingly, none of the meals can be added to your inventory after they've been made either. It's an odd choice to rely on fruits, vegetables, and smoked meats while away from your campfire cooking pot when you can brew and subsequently carry antiseptic and anti-venom with you anywhere, healing parasite infections or snake bites while exploring. 

But exploration, too, is fraught with frustration. There is no map or compass in Retreat to Enen, forcing you to flex your navigational and memorization skills to the extreme. The absence of these foundational wayfinding tools makes little sense considering the technologically advanced features of your suit, which can manifest buildings from holograms or disappear animal carcasses in a film of blue light. 

To be fair, it's possible to place navigational flags leading to and from points of interest, but crafting them requires a flower found only in the first biome. You'll spend a copious amount of time searching for them or growing them in planters (Retreat to Enen's barebones farming system that barely counts as a farming system) that it's more time efficient to make note of landmarks and move forward to the next objective. 

Indeed as a way to remind us our actions have consequences, Spirit plays a pivotal role in Retreat to Enen. Managed alongside your hunger, thirst, health, and temperature meters, Spirit dwindles over time and when performing actions tied to Quantum Control, such as mining and harvesting animals. It's a neat concept in theory and one of the elements that ties directly into the grander principles running through Retreat to Enen. But it's easily subverted (at release) by quickly switching Quantum Control on, initiating an action, and switching it off. If you let that realization influence you, there's very little weight to it. 

As Spirit dwindles, you must seek out meditation points across each of the biomes to replenish it. In these cerulean geodesic domes, you'll take a breath to relax and contemplate the world around you, following on-screen prompts to inhale and exhale, providing real-life calming benefits not often found in video games. To take things further, each biome has three well-hidden Arcadian ruins that must be discovered to unlock more crafting and building recipes and to reach subsequent biomes to finish the game. 

They're also where you'll find gold meditation domes with guided mindfulness exercises led by a gentle, balmy voice. These lessons are similar to those found in mental wellness apps like Calm and Headspace, grounding you both in-game and in real life. Using a good set of headphones and closing your eyes, the serene sounds of Enen's biomes tangibly lower anxiety and stress, helping you walk away refreshed, grounded, and aware of your effects on the world around you. 

It's too bad, then, that these gold domes disappear once they've been used, only accessible through subsequent playthroughs, and that the monotony of doing essentially everything else wipes that calmness away. 

Retreat to Enen Review The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Majestic, varied landscapes.
  • Effective meditation exercises.
  • Thought-provoking. 

Cons

  • Tedious gameplay loop. 
  • Unbalanced systems and mechanics. 
  • Frustrating lack of navigational tools. 
  • Contradictory themes and messaging.
  • No way to revisit meditation exercises.
  • Little replay value. 

Retreat to Enen says a lot about our role on this planet. We are caretakers that should do what we can to preserve our only home in this vast, near-limitless universe, lest we doom ourselves entirely. It's our duty to find sustainable ways to coexist with the ecosystems around us, passing that knowledge to future generations so that they might learn from our mistakes. In that way, Enen represents not a physical or digital space but moreso a spiritual one within us.

That's a big message to tackle in such a small package  and Retreat to Enen is an admirable attempt at doing that. It reminds us to be patient, take a breath, and calm ourselves, think clearly, and make more meaningful decisions about our environment. But with apps like Calm already providing easily-accessible spaces for meditation and reflection, a central message that's unfortunately muddled by contradictory and subjective views on sustainability, and lackluster survival mechanics and systems that get in the way, it's hard to recommend a retreat to Enen. 

[Note: Freedom Games provided the copy of Retreat to Enen used for this review.]

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As Dusk Falls Review: You Can Run On for a Long Time https://www.gameskinny.com/nj3uz/as-dusk-falls-review-you-can-run-on-for-a-long-time https://www.gameskinny.com/nj3uz/as-dusk-falls-review-you-can-run-on-for-a-long-time Mon, 18 Jul 2022 16:54:37 -0400 Peter Hunt Szpytek

While video games are the perfect medium for "choose your own adventure" storytelling, the genre is still largely unexplored when compared to others. Studios like Supermassive, Telltale (RIP,) and Quantic Dream release genre titles every few years, but those looking for more after playing through their greatest hits are often left wanting. 

As Dusk Falls is the next big interactive narrative that will be the talk of Twitter and gaming forums long after everyone reaches its conclusion for the first time. It's gripping, it's heartfelt, and it's a game that holds up well when replayed, something few others in the genre do well.

Where other games of its kind have striven to render realistic character models to convey emotion and fidelity, Dusk Falls opts for a more artistic style, showcasing its story through still images resembling paintings more than anything else. At the same time, the presentation seems to be hit or miss for some, As Dusk Falls is an unforgettable American crime drama that had me on edge from open to close.

As Dusk Falls Review: You Can Run On for a Long Time

The elephant in the room is the art style. Though it screenshots well, I wasn't convinced pre-release that it would be a style capable of carrying the game. Within the first hour or so, I found that to be mostly true: its painterly stills are composed nicely, but they initially create a disconnect between the script and what's happening on-screen. Because characters quick-fade into new positions instead of moving in full motion, the action has a slower pace than the script. 

However, that feeling doesn't linger for long because of the performances and writing. By the end of the game, I had grown to appreciate how As Dusk Falls puts its talent and stellar writing center stage, unencumbered by any attempts to achieve artistic realism over style. As Dusk Falls delivers an experience that feels like it's learned from other genre giants, and does so while also achieving something completely original that won't become easily outdated. 

It's lucky that As Dusk Falls has such top-of-the-line writing, too. Perhaps in the hands of a lesser dev team, it could have been a total snooze-fest of an actual game. There's really not much to in terms of game mechanics; 90% of what you do is simply choosing what dialog to say almost every time your character is queued to speak. The other 10% consists of quick time events and scanning a room with a cursor to find objects and examine them closer, all done entirely through cutscenes.

Moving the cursor with a controller feels as good as it ever has  which is to say it's pretty awful. But that's not a dealbreaker since you can highlight conversation options and interactable items with the directional pad. There's also a real-world smartphone companion app that can be used to make decisions and control the game, but it wasn't available to me while reviewing. Considering how barebones the gameplay systems are, the app seems like a decent way to play as long as it's responsive.

Because As Dusk Falls is so mechanically light, its story must do the heavy lifting. There, it delivers a genuinely gripping narrative that tackles complicated themes, such as what drives people into crime and how the police contribute to that cycle, how relationships push people to help each other or push them apart, and what it means to be a family. 

On the surface, it might seem like As Dusk Falls bites off far more than it can chew, but despite its serious subject matter, it handles its themes tastefully and never feels like a total bummer to play. It can be absolutely stressful, but I never felt that turning it on would be a chore. Instead, I was excited to see where the story went next.

As Dusk Falls is broken into six chapters, and the first three have you switching between two perspectives during a hostage situation: one as a hostage and the other as the youngest brother in a band of outlaws. It's tense and tightly written, and the flashback scenes add additional context to why the events have shaken out the way they have. 

The second half, unfortunately, is a little more haphazard. Perspective shifts more as the characters deal with the fallout of the situation at hand, so much so that the character I thought was the main character for the first four hours left the story pretty unceremoniously in favor of others in the cast.

With that in mind, there are plenty of twists in the latter half. While some feel earned, others feel superfluous, as if the writers needed to invent reasons for some characters to stick around instead of letting the cast diminish organically. 

The pacing slows, and the tension essentially evaporates as the game shifts from navigating an impossible situation as a captive and captor to being on the run. That said, by the time I reached that point, I was heavily invested in the outcome of my journey.

And I say "my" journey because As Dusk Falls features an impressive branching narrative that forms itself around choice. Many games in the interactive narrative genre say that your choices really matter but only give the illusion of that. As Dusk Falls, however, keeps you following a set story before drastically changing scenes based on what you choose.

At the end of each chapter, you're shown a map highlighting your path through the story. It's relatively big initially, but as the game's six to eight hours move along, the paths branch off more and more, to the point where recreating the same run twice seems nearly impossible.

(Because of my limited time with the game, I've only completed a full playthrough and a half, stopping just after the end of Chapter 3 a second time. But I can already count numerous story beats and outcomes that are completely different this time around based on my choices.) 

The magic of As Dusk Fades is that it makes each playthrough feel like the proper way that the story was meant to play out. Both of my playthroughs have felt like curated stories that were the "intended" routes through the narrative, which is much more than I can say about my feelings after completing Until Dawn or The Quarry.

On top of that, if you're looking to replay specific moments to see the outcomes of different choices, you can easily do that through the story tree, which has several different places from which you can start in each completed chapter. From there, you can "explore" the different options given to you without making a new save file, or you can copy the events leading up to that point to a new file to pave a new path.

It's the type of mechanic that's essential to enjoying a replay of a game like this that I now won't be able to live without in other narrative-based titles.

As Dusk Falls Review — The Bottom Line

Pros
  • Gripping narrative paired with excellent performances.
  • Intuitive U.I. that makes replaying previous sections a joy.
  • Unique art style that gives it a timeless feel.
  • Branching paths that make each playthrough truly personal.
Cons
  • Pacing issues in the latter half.
  • Sluggish cursor interface when using a controller.

As Dusk Falls tells a story about desperation, familial pain, and cops who think they're John Wayne. It's an easy recommendation for anyone who likes prestige drama TV shows from the likes of HBO and AMC, and it's an even easier recommendation for anyone with Xbox Game Pass, where it launches on Day One. 

There are so many layers that I'll be unpacking for the next several weeks as I wrap on my second playthrough. I likely won't be the only one exploring everything that As Dusk Falls has to offer. It's a stellar entry in the interactive narrative genre that will only be exceeded by what its dev team has planned next.

[Note: Xbox Game Studios provided the copy of As Dusk Falls used for this review.]

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Stray Review: Being a Cat is as Smooth as Ever https://www.gameskinny.com/tvgxp/stray-review-being-a-cat-is-as-smooth-as-ever https://www.gameskinny.com/tvgxp/stray-review-being-a-cat-is-as-smooth-as-ever Mon, 18 Jul 2022 12:01:21 -0400 George Yang

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Stray from Blue Twelve Studio and Annapurna Interactive. I figured it would at least be a walking simulator where you control a cat. However, Stray is much more than that. It has a touching narrative about hope, wrapped in themes of capitalistic greed.

Stray follows a cat who literally falls its into a city filled with robots. As the cat tries to find its way home, it learns about the robots’ desires to go to the Outside, a mysterious area past the domed city that has been closed off for tens, if not hundreds, of years. Along the way, the cat meets a drone named B12 that helps it translate the robots' language and defend it against enemies. 

Stray Review: Being a Cat is as Smooth as Ever

Throughout the game, they’ll learn more about themselves and the previous civilization that inhabited the city. Stray’s narrative is incredibly heartfelt and through the trials and tribulations they both face, they grow closer as a pair.

The enemies in Stray are called Zurks, and they’ve evolved to eat metal but will still devour the cat if they manage to get a hold. The way Stray implements combat encounters is impressive, as well. While the cat can’t fight, B12 can protect it by shining a purple light that eviscerates the Zurks. Not only is this mechanic creative, but it also shows the bond between B12 and the cat that adds another layer of depth to their companionship.

Stray also feels very smooth to play. The platforming sections and controls for the cat are precise and impactful. Every time the cat jumps, you feel the proper weight of the jump and subsequent landing. Whenever the cat runs, you feel the rush, whether it’s to escape enemies pursuing you or to just casually stroll through the city.

The puzzles in Stray are intuitive and fun to solve; they're not particularly challenging but not insultingly easy either. The game does a great job of teaching you how to use different objects in the environment. For example, whenever you see an empty horizontal barrel, that’s usually a cue that you need to roll it somewhere, get on top, and reach higher ground. 

Many locations in Stray are filled with life, despite having no humans around. The different robots have developed anthropomorphic qualities as they try to imitate the previous civilization by learning through the items left behind. The graphics look great as well, and the art direction is colorful.

What’s also appreciated is that the game uses custom typography and language instead of generic Asian letters and symbols for the neon signs scattered throughout the cities. By doing so, Stray manages to nail the cyberpunk aesthetic while also avoiding orientalism and racial stereotypes.

I played Stray on both a laptop and Steam Deck. It runs great on Steam Deck  -- most of the time. However, the framerate occasionally chugs and comes to a crawl for seemingly no reason. Stray drains the Steam Deck’s battery pretty quickly, too.

Stray only features an autosave function (no manual saves here), and there were instances where I'd have to start over from the most recent checkpoint after stepping away from the game. It was annoying to lose about 5 minutes of game time when a manual save option could have been implemented to avoid such situations.

Stray Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Touching story between the cat and B12.
  • Controls feel great.
  • Beautiful to look at.

Cons

  • Performance issues on Steam Deck.
  • No manual save option.

Stray takes about five to six hours to finish, but it makes use of that short run time to tell a touching story between a cat and a robot drone. Its controls feel great and impactful, whether you're jumping or running. There’s so much personality to the cat, too: being able to meow on command and do cat things like knocking over items and scratching on walls is a nice touch.

Stray is a tightly focused journey that is worth experiencing at least once.

[Note: Annapurna Interactive provided the copy of Stray used for this review.]

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A Plague Tale: Requiem Launches This October https://www.gameskinny.com/9axcw/a-plague-tale-requiem-launches-this-october https://www.gameskinny.com/9axcw/a-plague-tale-requiem-launches-this-october Thu, 23 Jun 2022 16:22:31 -0400 Jonathan Moore

A Plague Tale: Requiem will release later this year on October 18, 2022, for PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S. There will also be a Nintendo Switch Cloud version, and the game will release on Game Pass on day one. 

The news comes by way of a recent showcase streamed by developer Focus Entertainment, which, well, focused on the sequel to 2019's A Plague Tale: Innocence. Roughly 10 mins of new gameplay was shown. You can watch that right here

Focus also confirmed that the game would feature NVIDIA RTX and DLSS, and that two songs from the game's soundtrack are available to purchase on composer Olivier Derivière's Bandcamp page. 

As we mentioned previously, it looks like innocence has truly been lost for Amicia and her brother, Hugo. The sequel is taking a more violent turn than the original, with Amicia having far more deadly combat options at her disposal. Though there's still plenty of vibrance to balance it all out, it seems. Story details are still rather scant, though the newest gameplay video does provide a little more context to the game's overall narrative. 

A Plague Tale: Requiem was revealed during E3 2021 with a stark cinematic trailer, evoking the darkness the two siblings still face on their journey. A teaser of sorts for the sequel appeared in its predecessor, though only click through to see what it was if you've completed the original. Pre-orders are available now. Stay tuned for more as we approach October. 

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