Rpg Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Rpg RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes Review — Once More Unto the Breach https://www.gameskinny.com/83pd5/fire-emblem-warriors-three-hopes-review-once-more-unto-the-breach https://www.gameskinny.com/83pd5/fire-emblem-warriors-three-hopes-review-once-more-unto-the-breach Fri, 01 Jul 2022 17:48:31 -0400 Josh Broadwell

Everyone has those moments where they wonder how their life might be different if something else had happened – if they never met a certain friend or if they didn’t take that risk. Intelligent Systems and Omega Force took that feeling and made Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes out of it. Not quite a sequel or prequel, but more of an alternate universe “equal” that builds on Three Houses by asking one simple question: what if the house leaders from Three Houses never met Byleth?

The results are unexpectedly complex and splendidly realized, building on everything that makes Three Houses so absorbing and weaving a tale that’s superior to the original in many ways, even though it couldn’t exist without it. While the real-time battles accentuate some of Three Houses’ weaker points, and not every system gets the same fully developed treatment it should, Fire Emblem Three Hopes is easily one of the best Warriors spinoffs and a cracking good Fire Emblem game.

Fire Emblem Three Hopes Review: Once More Unto the Breach

Three Hopes starts with a scene familiar to anyone who played Three Houses. Edelgard, Dimitri, and Claude flee a group of bandits, but it’s Shez, a new mercenary, who steps in to save the day. Shez doesn't have Byleth's soul-searching qualities. They aren't there to help anyone grow and learn. They just want money to survive on and are willing to help out a good cause if it fills their pockets.

This simple shift starts a dramatic change in the story and leads to some surprising changes in the way major events unfold. Warriors spinoffs proved they could tell meaningful, engaging stories with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, but I didn’t expect Three Hopes to build as strong a narrative as it does. I certainly wasn’t thinking it would resolve some of Three Houses’ biggest plot issues or take the direction it does. 

The shift in Three Hopes’ main characters relying on Shez, a sword-for-hire they can control with cash and “get rid of” if need be, leads to some superb character-building moments, scenes where the likes of Edelgard and Claude finally come into their own independent of any outside forces. There’s a scene early in the Black Eagles where Edelgard and Hubert finalize a new plan that completely circumvents the original Black Eagles plot and provides closure to one of the most frustrating loose threads.

Reader, I cheered.

That’s a major example, but it builds on and subverts Three Houses in dozens of other smaller ways. It’s a constant stream of the Leonardo DiCaprio pointing meme, but it always feels earned, carried off in ways that make the entire package feel rich and thoughtfully considered.

If you were at all invested in Three Houses, then Three Hopes is basically a must-play, but the caveat is there’s not as much here for newcomers. Three Hopes is brilliant because Three Houses already established a foundation to build on. Some characters – Bernadetta and Dorothea, for example – get significantly less development compared to the original game. That’s okay if you already know them. The bits they do get add a new facet to their personality without rehashing points, but anyone else would probably feel like they’re missing something.

The same goes for the broader narrative. Three Hopes’ pacing helps create a sense of urgency, that Big Things are Happening, by streamlining the fluffiest bits of Three Houses, but it also moves incredibly fast. It’s mostly a good thing, though it does leave a few plot points feeling slightly rushed or underdeveloped.

I’ll take that over an experience that sags in the middle, though. Much as I love Three Houses, I’m also not blind to the fact that it slows to an unnecessary crawl after the timeskip. Three Hopes keeps the core of the experience and improves it with additional layers of strategy that feel much more rewarding for the most part.

You have a war camp in place of the Monastery, with a range of facilities you can upgrade over time for better results. Much of it is familiar – the kitchen where you can prep and eat meals with allies, the marketplace, and your personal quarters, for instance. Some are new but serve similar functions, such as the Training Grounds, which takes the place of your classroom instruction, and the Chore Room, the distressingly-named area where you can complete tasks with friends to raise support levels.

You have limited training and facility points to use in each chapter, and instead of following a weekly calendar, you progress by completing optional battles leading up to the chapter’s main event. It goes so much more quickly and helps contribute to a sense of Big Things Happening that Three Houses often lacked.

It’s hard to feel too invested when mysterious mages are kidnapping children and you wait an entire month to do anything about it (sorry Flayn, we had classes and stuff). Speeding to the rescue of a beleaguered battalion betrayed by your former military and capturing enemy territory along the way? That’s much more like it.

It feels so much more natural that I’m almost inclined to say Fire Emblem lends itself to being an action RPG almost more than it does a turn-based one. Blitzing 300 soldiers with fantastical special attacks, issuing orders on the fly, and maneuvering to capture enemy strongholds just feels right for Fire Emblem, even more so when a selection of remarkably good remixes from the Three Houses soundtrack accompanies your actions. 

Battle itself will seem familiar if you played the first Fire Emblem Warriors, with the added bonus that the characters and their actions actually have coherent context around them. It’s flashy, substantial-feeling musou combat at its finest, and it does an impressive job at making it feel strategic, more like a focused real-time strategy game than the stereotypical button masher.

There is a minor drawback with character movesets, though. Since you have a comparatively small selection of moves and classes to work with in the first half of the game, you feel the limitations of the class system much more keenly. Changing Petra from a mercenary to a thief feels less significant than it does in Three Houses, since her combos, while fun, are broadly similar to the mercenary’s. The same is true for magic classes, where attacks and attack patterns seem a bit too familiar for the first several chapters.

That’s a complaint I have about Three Houses as well, though, where, for all the customization available to you, there’s a disappointingly limited number of paths you have to take.

To make up for that, each character has a unique ability, such as Bernadetta's skill that stops time around her and Dorothea's stat-buffing song bubbles. What's most impressive is how the Switch handles it all, though. Age of Calamity framerates drop to slideshow speeds at times, and the resolution suffers as well. Even in handheld mode for Three Hopes, though, I had practically no slowdown and stable resolution almost the entire time.

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes Review  The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Superb story that builds on Three Houses in clever ways.
  • Strong performance even in handheld mode.
  • Excellent strategic combat.
  • Streamlined pacing.

Cons

  • A bit too fast-paced at times.
  • Some characters get left out.

I secretly wanted a "golden route" scenario with Fire Emblem: Three Hopes, a resolution to Three Houses' dangling plot threads where maybe everyone could be happy at the end. What Three Hopes actually delivers is so much better; it's a finely crafted expansion that's fresh and familiar at the same time, all with smartly designed tactical combat that stays entertaining in spite of class similarity.

I'm looking forward to the next mainline Fire Emblem, but after Three Hopes, I'm almost looking forward to the next Warriors spinoff even more.

[Note: Nintendo provided the copy of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes 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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Starfield Gameplay Showcase Reveals Bustling Worlds, Combat, and More https://www.gameskinny.com/z34mi/starfield-gameplay-showcase-reveals-bustling-worlds-combat-and-more https://www.gameskinny.com/z34mi/starfield-gameplay-showcase-reveals-bustling-worlds-combat-and-more Mon, 13 Jun 2022 15:45:09 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Starfield, Bethesda's upcoming open-world sci-fi RPG, will release for PC and Xbox Series X|S in 2023. After a year of teases and slow-drip info, the game received an in-depth gameplay reveal during the Xbox and Bethesda showcase during Summer Games Fest 2022. 

The trailer begins with a mission early in the game on the moon of Kreet, set in 2330. A ship lands in the grey, alien landscape near an abandoned research facility, and the view quickly shifts inside the cargo hold to a first-person perspective. There's a mech named VASCO that exits and gives some cursory information about the location. The player character (who we've since learned will be a silent protagonist) makes their way toward it, encountering critters perfectly fit to something like Enemy Mine.

You'll be able to switch between first-person and third-person perspectives and scan objects in the environment for additional information. You'll gather data on the planet itself, including how much of the planet or moon you've surveyed and the number of resources and flora and fauna species left to discover.

Your compass indicates not only direction but also CO2 and oxygen levels, as well as temperature and gravity measurements. Like another game Starfield has been immediately compared to since the showcase, you'll also be able to mine resources, like iron, from the environment. 

The gameplay then ramps up the action near the research facility, as the mech informs that pirates have overtaken the area. After making their way through the dim-lit installation, the protagonist engages the pirates in a series of firefights inside and outside, showing a submachine gun, shotgun, assault rifle, and grenades in action, along with the game's weapon wheel. There's a jetpack that provides quick movement and verticality, too. 

From what's shown, there will also be various crates (and presumably other locked things) that can be unlocked through a lockpicking minigame, a staple in many Bethesda IPs. There will also be factions to join, some of which play outside the rules of established law. 

To highlight the diversity of locations found in Starfield  which Todd Howard says boasts 100 different star systems with 1,000 planets to explore — the demo heads to the bustling city of New Atlantis. There we meet Constellation, "the last group of space explorers," and learn about one of Starfield's main plot threads: discovering artifacts across space to find out what "they're" building.

The footage later details a reasonably extensive character creation suite that Howard calls Bethesda's "most flexible yet." A biometric ID system can be seen and is likely another word for presets or saved creations, but it can be changed at a genetics facility.

The expected things like body type, build, skin tone, hairstyle, hair color, head shape, eyes, and more can be tweaked. An extensive list of backgrounds, numbering at least 16, sets your character up with three skills, ranging from Robotics, which allows you to deal 10% more damage to robots and turrets, to Gastronomy, where you can craft special food with special buffs and effects.

Alongside skills, more than a dozen traits can be chosen to provide other passive modifiers to your character. Introverts are better at exploring alone and receive increased endurance while doing so. On the other hand, something like Serpent's Embrace gives characters "a temporary boost to health and endurance" when Grav-jumping at regular intervals. 

The skill tree system is broken into five categories at the moment: Physical, Social, Combat, Science, and Tech. Howard says that skills are "unlocked as you level up, and then you rank those skills up by using them and completing challenges." It's a system that sounds very similar to the one implemented in Skyrim

Then there's the crafting system, which implements research (a la' something like Jurassic World Evolution 2) to construct things like weapon mods. On top of that are outpost and shipbuilding systems. Bases can be constructed in a semi-modular system, generate resources to be used elsewhere, and be staffed by various NPCs; it's still a bit unclear, but they may serve a similar purpose to those in No Man's Sky.

Shipbuilding allows you to "fully customize the look and layout" of each vessel, adding different cockpits, engines, weapons systems, and more, each with its own stats. Like bases, these can also be manned with a crew. And yes, there are space battles, so ship builds will be important. 

There's still much to learn about Starfield and much more revealed in the showcase. Give it a watch at the top of this article. For more, stay tuned. 

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Gotham Knights Pre-Orders: What's In Each Edition? https://www.gameskinny.com/7nus4/gotham-knights-pre-orders-whats-in-each-edition https://www.gameskinny.com/7nus4/gotham-knights-pre-orders-whats-in-each-edition Mon, 13 Jun 2022 13:12:12 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Gotham Knights is set to release on October 25, 2022, for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S. The action RPG set in a universe without Batman and Jim Gordon follows Nightwing, Robin, Redhood, and Batgirl as they keep the streets of Gotham safe from the mysterious Court of Owls. With release just around the corner, pre-orders for the game are now live, and you may be wondering what's in each edition. 

It's worth noting that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game were canceled in May 2022 so that developers Warner Bros. Games Montreal could "provide players with the best possible gameplay experience."

Those who pre-order any edition of Gotham Knights will receive the 233 Kustom Batcycle skin

Gotham Knights Standard Edition

As with every Standard Edition, this includes the base game, the Batcycle skin, and that's it — unless you purchase from a specific retailer that provides its own pre-order bonuses. 

Deluxe Edition

The Deluxe Edition of Gotham Knights includes the base game and the 233 Kustom Batcycle skin, as well as the Visionary Pack. According to WB, that includes:

  • Knightwatch by Jim Lee transmog.
  • Beyond suitstyle. 
  • Salvage (for crafting gear).
  • Boosted gear. 
  • Exclusive emote. 
  • 3 exclusive suit colorways.

Collector's Edition

The Collector's Edition includes everything from the Deluxe Edition and a few more tidbits in a nice, shiny box. Note: it appears this edition is mostly sold-out on every storefront at the time of this writing (June 13, 2022). 

  • Gotham Knights exclusive New Guard statue. 
  • Promethium New Guard transmogs.
  • Jim Lee certificate of authenticity. 
  • Augmented reality Talon Key.
  • Gotham City: City of Bridges collectible map.

That's what's in each edition of Gotham Knights, as well as the pre-order bonus you'll receive if you pick it up early. It's possible that stock for the Collector's Edition will return ahead of the game's launch in October, so keep checking back or add it to your wishlist to be notified. Stay tuned for more on Gotham Knights

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The Fires of Hell Burn When Diablo 4 Releases in 2023 https://www.gameskinny.com/ut0qc/the-fires-of-hell-burn-when-diablo-4-releases-in-2023 https://www.gameskinny.com/ut0qc/the-fires-of-hell-burn-when-diablo-4-releases-in-2023 Sun, 12 Jun 2022 16:55:01 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Blizzard has confirmed that Diablo 4 will release sometime in 2023 for PC, PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, and Series X|S. The news comes from the Xbox and Bethesda showcase as part of Summer Games Fest 2022. It will also feature online and local couch co-op, cross-play, and cross-progression "for all platforms," according to an accompanying press release from the developer.  

The showcase provided fans their first look at the Necromancer class, who can wage war against its foes with an army of skeletons, skirmishers, defenders, reapers, and mages. The class can also bring bone, blood, and iron golems to fight when the need arises. The Necromancer is Diablo 4's latest character class, joined by the Barbarian, Sorceress, Rogue, and Druid. 

Blizzard also showed the first-ever Xbox Series X gameplay for Diablo 4, giving a glimpse at the game's character creation tools, its open world, and enemy strongholds. When cleansed, these strongholds can give way to new areas like towns or one of the game's 150 dungeons.

Players can come together across the world to take work on local events or take on massive world bosses. Of course, there will be ways to fight other players in PvP, with Blizzard saying that there are "specific zones where players can engage ..." And the best players are highlighted for other players, making them what the developer calls a "loot pinata." 

There's still no firm release date for Diablo 4 outside of its 2023 release window. We'll have to wait for more news in the coming months. In the meantime, fans can pre-register for the upcoming Diablo 4 beta (there's no exact date for that, either, just yet). All you have to do is log in with your Battle.net information, and you're automatically registered. Stay tuned for more.  

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Three Persona Games Are Making Their Way to PC, Xbox, and PlayStation https://www.gameskinny.com/bz0xz/three-persona-games-are-making-their-way-to-pc-xbox-and-playstation https://www.gameskinny.com/bz0xz/three-persona-games-are-making-their-way-to-pc-xbox-and-playstation Sun, 12 Jun 2022 15:05:23 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Atlus has revealed that Persona 5 Royal, Persona 4 Golden, and Persona 3 Portable will be coming to PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, and Game Pass. The announcement was made during the Xbox and Bethesda Showcase as part of Summer Games Fest 2022. An update following the announcement confirms that the games will also come to Playstation. 

Persona 5 Royal will arrive on the platforms on October 21, 2022, with all previously-released DLC. However, Atlus is keeping mum on platform release dates for Persona 4 Golden and Persona 3 Portable with "enhanced graphics" at this time, with more news to come in the future.

Persona 5 Royal was released for the PlayStation 4 in October 2019, and we gave it high marks for its story, characters, quality-of-life improvements, localization, and visuals. It regularly makes appearances on many a "best RPG" list. Royal adds new characters to the mix, along with a number of other notable bits and bobs over the base Persona 5. It has previously only been available on PlayStation.

Like Royal to Persona 5, Persona 4 Golden is a souped-up version of Persona 4, which originally launched for the PlayStation 2 in 2008 before making its way to PlayStation Vita in 2012, PS3 in 2014. Interestingly, Golden isn't on modern PlayStation platforms, having only been released on PC in 2020.  

Persona 3 Portable is also currently missing from the modern PlayStation console lineup, having been released for the PlayStation Portable in North America in 2010. It, too, is an enhanced port of 2006's PS2 JRPG, Persona 3.

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Marvel's Midnight Suns Pre-Orders: What's In Each Edition? https://www.gameskinny.com/5eumb/marvels-midnight-suns-pre-orders-whats-in-each-edition https://www.gameskinny.com/5eumb/marvels-midnight-suns-pre-orders-whats-in-each-edition Sun, 12 Jun 2022 11:52:04 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Marvel's Midnight Suns received a new trailer as part of 2022's Summer Games Fest, showcasing Spider-Man as a playable character and the corrupted heroes at Lilith's command. The Hunter will go up against the likes of Sabretooth, Venom, Hulk, and Scarlet Witch. Alongside the new trailer, publisher 2K confirmed that the game is now available for pre-order and detailed what's in each edition. 

All pre-orders will get the Doctor Strange Defenders skin. The official Midnight Suns pre-order page notes that those who pre-order the Legendary Edition will get 30 days early access to the skin, though it's unclear what that means exactly. We've reached out to clarify and will update this article accordingly.

Marvel's Midnight Suns Standard Edition

The Standard Edition of Marvel's Midnight Suns includes the base game for PC (Steam and EGS), PS4, and Xbox One. 

Enhanced Edition

The Enhanced Edition is the next-gen/new-gen version of Marvel's Midnight Suns for PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. Alongside the base game and pre-order Doctor Strange Skin, you'll get five other "premium skins:"

  • Captain America  Future Soldier.
  • Captain Marvel  Mar-Vell.
  • Magik  Phoenix 5. 
  • Nico Minoru  Sister Grimm. 
  • Wolverine  X-Force.

Digital+ Edition

The Digital+ Edition includes the base game for PC (Steam and EGS), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Series X|S. It consists of the base game and the five premium skins from the Enhanced Edition, as well as six more skins:

  • Blade — Demon Hunter.
  • Captain America — Captain of the Guard.
  • Iron Man — Iron Knight.
  • Nico Minoru — Shadow Witch.
  • Ghost Rider — Spirit of Vengeance. 
  • Magik — New Mutant. 

Legendary Edition

The Legendary Edition includes the base game for all platforms, all skins from the Enhanced and Digital+ Editions, access to the game's Season Pass, and 12 more premium skins:

  • Captain Marvel — Medieval Marvel.
  • Wolverine — Cowboy Logan.
  • Blade — 1602.
  • Iron Man — Bleeding Edge. 
  • Ghost Rider — Death Knight.
  • Doctor Strange — Strange Future Supreme. 
  • Scarlet Witch — Boss Witch.
  • Scarlet Witch — Fallen Scarlet Witch.
  • Spider-Man — Symbiote. 
  • Spider-Man — Demon. 
  • Two skins for unannounced heroes. 

Marvel's Midnight Suns releases on October 7, 2022, for PC, PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, and Series X|S. 

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V Rising Early Access Review: A Bloody Good Time https://www.gameskinny.com/dxs66/v-rising-early-access-review-a-bloody-good-time https://www.gameskinny.com/dxs66/v-rising-early-access-review-a-bloody-good-time Wed, 01 Jun 2022 13:19:12 -0400 Michael Feghali

We've gotten our fair share of vampire games over the last few years, and it's been a mixed bag, to say the least. Now, Stunlock Studios have released V Risingan open-world vampire survival game in Steam Early Access.

V Rising lets you take on the role of a vampire that has awakened and been stripped of its powers after hibernating for centuries. You'll rebuild your vampire empire and reclaim power while quenching your thirst for blood. While the basic premise should be familiar to anyone who has played games in this genre, V Rising has a uniqueness to it that makes it stand out from the crowd.

V Rising Early Access Review: A Bloody Good Time

V Rising features several game modes. In PvE, you can play solo or cooperate with other vampires on a server to take down enemies and revive each other. By joining a PvP server, you can attack each other and raid castles, and it is recommended to play alongside some friends to help each other out.

As a vampire that was recently stripped of abilities, your character is still powerful but also vulnerable. You can get swarmed by groups of enemies easily if you aren’t constantly moving around. So you'll have to pick your fights and avoid unnecessary combat when you're low on health.

Initially, melee attacks with your sword are the go-to approach for taking down foes. But you don't put your vampire powers to good use this way. Casting flashy ranged abilities allows you to defeat enemies from a safe distance without exposing yourself to their attacks. There is no mana or stamina bar, but there is a cooldown for each ability, and you’ll need to use every tool in your arsenal to survive. Learning how and when to use each ability at your disposal is key.

Sword combat is fun, but things become extremely satisfying once you learn to cycle different abilities so that you're constantly casting spells without worrying about the cooldown timer.

When enemies are weakened, you can feed on their blood to refill your blood pool, essential for keeping you alive. In addition, feeding on blood grants you bonus effects depending on the type of enemy (warrior, rogue, creature, etc.). Also, depending on the quality of the blood, your character can unlock temporary buffs based on a tier system. For example, feeding on creatures will initially grant you increased movement speed at the first tier. Once you gain enough blood quality to reach the second tier, you’ll also get increased sun resistance.

In true vampiric fashion, you’ll have to sniff out bosses by following the scent of their blood across the map. The game does a great job of giving each of the 37 bosses a unique look and set of abilities to ensure that each encounter feels different than the previous.

Unlike most RPGs, there is no experience system for leveling up your character. Instead, your power is determined by the gear that you have equipped. While bosses do put up a good fight, none of them feel particularly unfair or overpowered as long as your gear is sufficiently powerful. Tracking and defeating bosses rewards not only resources but also new abilities and spells. For instance, defeating the first boss and feeding on its blood grants you the ability to transform into a wolf for faster traversal.

If there are two things that vampires hate it is silver and the daylight. While the former deals continuous DPS, it isn't as persistent as the latter, which proves to be your most dangerous foe in V Rising. The day and night cycle means that you'll need to be very careful when moving around when it's sunny. 

You can be in the sun for a few seconds at a time before your health starts to deplete rapidly. The direction of the sun will also vary as the day passes so you won't be able to stay in the same spot for too long.

Of course, you could always wait things out by sleeping in your coffin, but those brave enough to venture out during the day must hop between spots of shade and stay in the shadows. This can be done by taking cover behind trees and structures as you move around.

Within my first few hours playing, though, it became apparent that this is primarily a survival game with few vampire elements added to the mix. V Rising takes a step back from the typical vampire activities and puts most of the focus on crafting and building.

You’ll start off by crafting makeshift weapons and equipment just to get yourself going, though you’ll have a fully-fledged castle with a sawmill, furnace, and blood press to conduct all your typical vampire activities soon enough.

Here, managing resources and being efficient is key for quick progression. Grinding for resources can be a slogfest, so you’ll need to optimize the process as much as possible by taking note of the exact number of resources needed and having multiple refinement stations working in tandem.

There is no worse feeling than making a long journey from your castle and back only to realize that you are just short of the requirements and must make another trip across the map. While you can fast-travel to certain locations, you cannot take materials with you; you'll often need to make the long journey back to your base on foot.

The world of Vardoran is expansive and diverse, consisting of dense forests, vast farmlands, and snowy mountains.  Traversing this hostile world is no easy task. Almost every NPC you come across will instantly attack you. In this hostile environment, NPCs will even battle it out with each other, which can prove to be helpful.

While the core gameplay loop and mechanics aren’t entirely original, V Rising has a certain uniqueness to it that kept me hooked for hours on end. The highly addictive objective system helps guide you without holding your hand. For instance, you will need leather to perform certain upgrades, but the game does not tell you where to get it. Instead, you’ll need to figure that out for yourself or refer to a guide on how to get leather. Completing these quests will help familiarize you with the different refinement stations and raw materials without overwhelming new players.

Customizing the look of your vampire, however not that important given the top-down perspective, is a nice touch. Being able to tweak your character’s hairstyle, skin tone, and physical features lends a sense of ownership to your vampire kingdom. 

One feature that V Rising desperately needs, though, is a photo mode. It's an oversight that you can't fully appreciate the grandiosity of your castles from the top-down perspective after spending so much time building them. Even disabling the HUD isn't an option, which makes taking screenshots even trickier

Of course, the game could benefit from some quality-of-life improvements and finishing touches, as well, but V Rising is very close to being a finished product. Throughout my time with the game, I never encountered any game-breaking bugs or performance issues that cannot be ironed out in upcoming updates.

V Rising Early Access Review — The Bottom Line

 

Pros

  • Fluid and engaging combat.
  • Deep crafting system.
  • Large world with plenty to explore.

Cons

  • Top-down perspective can be limiting.
  • Minor technical hiccups.

 

Early Access games tend to be hit or miss, but V Rising has shown great promise with its deep crafting system, engaging gameplay, and addictive objective system. V Rising has quickly built a large fanbase and is already charting among the Steam games with the most concurrent players.

The overall state of the game is impressive given that it is still in Early Access; only time will tell if it can compete with the likes of Valheim. V Rising has plenty to offer at a competitive price of $19.99, making it a no-brainer for fans of action role-playing and survival games.

[Note: Stunlock Studios provided the copy of V Rising used for this Early Access review.] 

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Vampire The Masquerade: Swansong — Let's Be Monsters https://www.gameskinny.com/tcklc/vampire-the-masquerade-swansong-lets-be-monsters https://www.gameskinny.com/tcklc/vampire-the-masquerade-swansong-lets-be-monsters Wed, 18 May 2022 13:09:43 -0400 Thomas Wilde

This turned out better than I expected. Vampire: The Masquerade: Swansong gets off to a slow start, has some real pacing issues, and is mostly about navigating dialogue trees. If you can forgive that, and if you get past its slow introduction, Swansong broadens into an interesting combination of investigation, puzzle-solving, and outright survival horror.

Mileage may vary, especially since you're unquestionably playing as the villains of the story, but it's a solid pick if you're looking for a modern, choice-based adventure game.

Vampire The Masquerade – Swansong: Let's Be Monsters

If you aren't already familiar with the Vampire tabletop game, Swansong probably isn't the place to start. It's got a decent in-game Codex that adds a new entry when you encounter a new word or name, but the setting-specific terminology piles up fast.

The world is a version of Earth where vampires (or "Kindred") have controlled human society almost from the start. In Vampire, the Illuminati is real, its members are literal bloodsuckers, and they amuse themselves by constantly screwing one another over for power and influence.

Swansong is set in 2019 Boston, where Hazel Iverson has just become the vampiric ruler of the city. She puts together a party to cement and celebrate a new diplomatic alliance, but that party is promptly attacked by unidentified assailants. The result is the death or disappearance of nearly three-quarters of the vampires in Boston.

You play Swansong as three of the remaining Kindred, who Hazel employs in a desperate attempt to get to the bottom of things. You rotate between Galeb Bazory, a world-weary former merchant and the oldest surviving vampire in the city; Marie-Marguerite "Emem" Louis, who owns a chain of jazz clubs and wants little to do with other Kindred; and Leysha, who compensates for being mildly insane with her ability to occasionally see the future.

Each character seeks to uncover a different piece of the overall puzzle, and eventually, decide whether or not they want to put it together.

Swansong does not put its best foot forward. It opens with a short sequence set in Hazel's building, introducing the main characters and many of their personal dramas, well before you're given any particular reason to care about any of them. It's like being stuck at a cocktail party where everyone's quietly panicking.

Worse, you can't skip dialogue at all on your first playthrough, and there's a lot of dialogue. This is probably Swansong's biggest flaw, especially if you opt to replay any section of the game; it adds a lot of frustrating dead time, especially if you're someone like me who reads quickly.

Once you move on to the exploration stage, though, Swansong gets more interesting. In the field, each character is set loose in a particular environment, with a list of objectives that you can generally accomplish, or fail, in any particular order.

That can include social challenges, weird puzzles, context clues, and if necessary, drinking a bunch of helpless humans like juice boxes. Generally, you explore an area in search of whatever interactive objects you can find, then try to figure out what if any relevance they have to your current business. It's a pixel hunt, but a reasonably fair one, although this is the one game I've played lately where I'd actually want something like detective vision.

The first time you play as a character, you're given the option to customize their mundane skill sets to set them up for fast-talking, manipulation, interrogation, or detective work. Each character also has a unique assortment of vampiric abilities, called Disciplines, which gives you some extra supernatural options.

Along the way, you balance two consumable statistics, Willpower and Hunger, which fuel your social abilities and Disciplines, respectively. Willpower's difficult to regain on the go, while Hunger's actually surprisingly easy to regain, as long as you can find an isolated human or rat to snack on. If you let your Hunger build up too far, though, you'll end up being forced to feed.

On an initial run, you have to carefully balance what you can do against what you can afford to do constantly, which sets up an ongoing tension. It's a bit like conserving every bullet you can in a survival horror game, but here, it's going for as long as you can before you bite out a cop's throat.

The interesting thing about how Swansong handles these systems is that it's not afraid to set you up for failure. On an initial blind playthrough, you're almost guaranteed to run into a few scenarios that you cannot avoid and aren't prepared for.

This primarily involves social events, called Confrontations: high-stakes arguments where part of the overall mystery is usually at stake. There's at least one Confrontation that I don't think is even possible to win without preparing for it right from the start of the game, although it's technically optional.

It's an interesting take on choice-based systems. I don't think I quite have a handle on what options do and don't matter in Swansong, and won't until I take more extensive notes on a second run, but it's not a game that's afraid to make you feel like a complete idiot.

It reminds me of last year's Gamedec, which has a similarly relaxed attitude towards failing; it lets you reach the end regardless, but there's a big difference between crossing the finish line and staggering across it. By the same token, the fact you can screw up does make succeeding sweeter.

The interesting, subtle horror at work in Swansong is one of my favorite parts of the game. Generally, when a video game advertises itself as a choice-based experience involving morality, you're offered the chance to be either a pillar of virtue or a petty dick. There might be a little gray area, but it's usually binary.

Swansong, no matter how you play it, is very good at reinforcing a simple idea: existing in vampire society makes you, at bare minimum, an accessory to mass murder. Characters casually admit to atrocities, and your character reacts with the equivalent of a shrug. That's the cost of doing business as a Kindred. We eat people here, son. Ghoul at the door should've told ya.

It adds a lot overall, especially as you reach Swansong's halfway point. It's a more subtle depiction of evil than you usually get in a video game, where you mostly see the banality that surrounds it: the logistics, the paperwork, the immediate aftermath.

It's chilling without ever resorting to full-on splatterpunk. You can do some pretty horrible things to people on purpose if you're of a mind to, but your personal violence isn't a patch on what vampires inflict simply through the systems they've established.

Vampire The Masquerade: Swansong Review — The Bottom Line

Pros:

  • Open-ended puzzle solutions that reward exploration and clever thinking.
  • A dark story that (mostly) doesn't revel in gore for gore's sake.
  • Some solid implementation of detective/investigation mechanics.
  • Balancing two limited stats keeps the tension level high.

Cons:

  • Can't skip dialogue you've already seen.
  • Previous knowledge of Vampire: The Masquerade is almost required.
  • It sets you up for repeated failure on an initial run.
  • The voice acting goes from adequate to horrible at random.
  • A high number of audio bugs.

Swansong was developed by Big Bad Wolf, which is an arm of Cyanide Studios. As such, I wasn't really looking forward to this one; Cyanide's games usually aren't boring, but their last project based on a tabletop game was Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood. Mini-review: I did not care for it. Neither did others.

While Swansong shares one of Earthblood's big flaws — both games throw you straight into the deep end of an established and complex setting, which makes them thoroughly inaccessible to newcomers — it's a much more solid project. Its horror is subtle, its puzzles are mostly difficult but fair, and it's got a surprising amount of replayability.

If you don't mind playing an outright monster, and you can put up with the slow pace, Swansong is a much better adventure game than I expected. I'd play another one of these.

[Note: Nacon provided the copy of Vampire: The Masquerade — Swansong used for this review.]

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Citizen Sleeper Review: The Good Life is Just a Dice Roll Away https://www.gameskinny.com/bwabq/citizen-sleeper-review-the-good-life-is-just-a-dice-roll-away https://www.gameskinny.com/bwabq/citizen-sleeper-review-the-good-life-is-just-a-dice-roll-away Thu, 12 May 2022 11:57:36 -0400 Bryn Gelbart

In the dark reaches of space, among the likes of corpos and bounty hunters, there is a ring called Erlin’s Eye. It is fractured and broken, but it supports life. Your life. In Citizen Sleeper, you are a refugee from another planet starting life anew on the Eye. This is the spark that ignites the cyberpunk RPG from Jump Over the Age, the moniker of solo developer Gareth Damien Martin, who made the game with some help from artist Guillaume Singelin and musician Amos Roddy.

This innovative role-playing experience takes direct inspiration from modern tabletop RPGs. Citizen Sleeper is dense with systems, but once you are past the learning curve, you will find a rich sci-fi world full of scrappy, endearing characters. 

Citizen Sleeper Review: The Good Life is Just a Dice Roll Away

Citizen Sleeper is fundamentally about rolling dice and watching meters fill. That description does little, though, to evoke the tension and on-the-fly decision-making that turn Citizen Sleeper into a sci-fi RPG that weaves many genres of cyberpunk together inside a cohesive space. Especially impressive since you don’t see much of that space; a large portion of Citizen Sleeper’s world is described through text.  

In this world, you are an emulation of a person that embodies a machine called a Sleeper. Someone sold their consciousness to a corporation, and you are the workhorse they have created using a copy of that human’s intelligence inside a robotic body. Escaped from your life of servitude, you still suffer detrimental side effects from when a company owned your body.  

Each morning you wake to a new cycle featuring a dice roll and two decreasing meters. One of these you must keep up with food and other energy recovering activities and one that requires a special (and expensive) antidote, called Stabilizer.

For the first two-thirds of Citizen Sleeper, it is the precious resource you must juggle all your other resources to obtain. To do so, you must spend dice to complete odd jobs around the city, making enough money to survive. It's a balancing act that drives the moment-to-moment gameplay. In fact, Drives are exactly what Citizen Sleeper calls its quests, a stylistic flair emblematic of the engrossing writing that appears all over. 

By moving from node to node on the map, you find various ways to spend your dice, either by doing jobs or hacking. An action can have three possible outcomes: positive, neutral, or negative. The likelihood of each outcome is determined by which dice you spend. Roll a 5 and that's a 50/50 shot at neutral or positive. Roll a 3 and your odds are 25/50/25. Bonuses on actions are determined by stat points.

Hacking works differently. Once unlocked, viewing the Eye in hacking mode allows you to see modules that take specific dice numbers. It's a smart way to spend your low-value dice, giving even traditionally "bad" roles some value. 

Positive and neutral outcomes fill up Citizen Sleeper's various clocks. Another cue taken from TTRPGs, the clock system is one of many unique and fascinating systems. Occasionally, you will need to complete an action numerous times to advance a clock, but other clocks tick down. You don't always know what is coming when a clock reaches its end, lending a constant sense of dread and anxiety to the proceedings.

Like all other mechanics in Citizen Sleeper, clocks are thematic and mechanical choices. The Working Class dread and fear that you can't afford the next medical mishap. These are passed on to you when you cross your fingers that a dice roll goes your way, or when that final red tick fills in on clock counting down to "something" ominous. 

Citizen Sleeper is best on PC and the only major quibble I have is in navigating the map and menus with a controller. Playing on Xbox (where many will likely check out Citizen Sleeper via Game Pass), moving to the node you want is occasionally imprecise, making for a good deal of fiddling around between actions. This hits the Drives and Skills menus the hardest, both of which feel most built for a mouse interface. I frequently encountered bugs in these menus that had me strangely navigating both the menu and the map at the same time. 

Citizen Sleeper is a dialogue-heavy RPG about managing your resources and making choices, all for the sake of pushing forward the many compelling plot threads. Comparisons to Disco Elysium already feel a little too easy — and frankly, Citizen Sleeper is a more inventive use of dice — but it is not a bad point of reference. Both have excellent writing that focuses on telling a story while building mechanics through player choices instead of using traditional fail states. 

The stunning character art goes a long way to convey the cyberpunk imagery the prose so often evokes. The portraits of the various people — ahem, sentient entities — are detailed and stylish. Everyone is effortlessly cool yet lets their character through in their design. I felt compelled to see pretty much every storyline for more of the characters, even the ones I discovered far too late.

The killer synthwave soundtrack by Amos Roddy is the cherry on top of the clean minimalist aesthetic. Music, too, is used to communicate themes and emotions during dialogue-heavy sequences.  

Many of the character-driven narratives expand and intertwine, leading you to various endings. Some are simply bittersweet moments, but Citizen Sleeper is the sum total of all its parts. There is no main storyline. Instead, what you decide to focus on and how you spend your resources dictate the threads you see through and which ending you see first. 

On the Eye, you may meet the slum doctor Sabine, who is in deep trouble with one of the local gangs. You may run into Lem and his daughter Mina as they struggle to make ends meet in poverty on the ring. There is a sentient vending machine, too, and while that sounds silly, it slowly builds to being one of the most profound storylines in the game. 

Each plotline fleshes out its characters while exploring the political issues of the world. The power struggle for Erlin’s Eye between local organizations and galactic corporations leaves the working class out to dry. There is an impressive breadth to the sub-genres Citizen Sleeper’s dozen or so narrative threads cover. From a William-Gibson-inspired hacking odyssey to the more subdued personal narratives with sci-fi twists, each plot thread is memorable and meaningful. 

On the whole, the writing needs to do the heavy lifting in terms of both characterization and world-building for Citizen Sleeper’s minimalist style to work. Thankfully, it does and is confident in its choices. 

It took me about 40 or so cycles to see an ending, and regardless of which one you choose or stumble into first, you will be able to return back to the world. I played for almost 60 cycles by the time I tied off all my loose ends. You'll be glad you did, too, since every plotline has an emotional or intellectually interesting ending. 

Citizen Sleeper Review — The Bottom Line 

Pros 

  • Builds a compelling cyberpunk world despite most of the game being text.
  • An inspired use of dice results in a one-of-a-kind gameplay experience.
  • Deep well-drawn characters with rich storylines.
  • A soundtrack you can vibe to in and out of the game.

Cons

  • Buggy UI on consoles.

Citizen Sleeper is an innovative cyberpunk RPG that understands the core tenants of the genre better than most AAA attempts. With deeply sympathetic (and extremely cool) characters, it builds its punishing post-capitalist society on the back of some of the best descriptive prose I've seen in a video game. The only caveat is to play with a mouse and keyboard if you can. 

With mechanics inspired by contemporary tabletop RPGs, Citizen Sleeper feels fresh, tense, and engaging throughout its 6- to 8-hour run time. Balancing your actions, resources, and story progress is a tight-rope act that's engrossing the further you get into this stellar sci-fi world. 

[Note: The Game Pass version of Citizen Sleeper was used for this review.]

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Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Gets New Trailer Alongside July Release Date https://www.gameskinny.com/3nhjr/xenoblade-chronicles-3-gets-new-trailer-alongside-july-release-date https://www.gameskinny.com/3nhjr/xenoblade-chronicles-3-gets-new-trailer-alongside-july-release-date Thu, 21 Apr 2022 18:30:27 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will release two months earlier than originally expected. Nintendo announced recently that the anticipated JRPG will launch on the Switch on July 29. 

The announcement comes alongside a new, nearly 3-minute trailer (seen above) that sheds more light on the game's story, characters, and combat systems. It expands on the announcement trailer released in early February, which primarily focused on story and exploration. 

As one might expect, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 follows the events of the previous two games. It sees two nations, Keves and Agnus, at conflict with "six soldiers hailing from these nations [joining] forces to learn the truth behind their conflict, setting their sights for Sowrdmarch, a land pierced by giant swords."

While exploration and combat are mostly the same when compared to the previous two games in the trilogy, the main gimmick here is the Interlink Ouroboros system, which allows two team members to "combine into a giant form ... [that] has its own powerful moveset."

Through progression, you'll also be able to change character classes this time around, with Nintendo pointing out "each character has their own class with their own strengths," but "a customized party" is possible. 

There's still a lot we don't know about Xenoblade Chronicles 3, though the official Nintendo Europe page for the game contains a bevy of new screenshots for the six main characters — Noah, Lanz, Eunie, Mio, Taion, and Sena. It also includes information on their personalities (and hints at their fighting styles), as well as more info about the game's battle system. 

On top of that, the official Nintendo social accounts have been sharing new details about character/team Ouroboros combinations since the new release date announcement. 

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is currently available for pre-order for $59.99 on the Nintendo e-Shop. For those looking for more than just the game this summer, there will also be a special bundle that includes a 250-page artbook and steel case. A price for that package hasn't been provided just yet. 

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Digimon Survive Release Date "Fixed" for July https://www.gameskinny.com/1qvae/digimon-survive-release-date-fixed-for-july https://www.gameskinny.com/1qvae/digimon-survive-release-date-fixed-for-july Thu, 21 Apr 2022 16:55:31 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Digimon Survive was announced almost four years ago. The game has received multiple delays in that time, some for development woes and others because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But fans of the popular digital monsters popularized in the late 1990s finally have something to celebrate. Digimon Survive will release on July 29, 2022. 

The release date was shared by producer Kazumasa Habu in a short update video shared on YouTube, as well as Twitter. Habu says the date is "fixed," so hopefully there won't be any more delays. 

Hello everyone, my name is Kazumasa Habu, and I am the producer of Digimon Survive. Sorry to keep you waiting for updates on Digimon Survive. But today I would like to provide you with this exciting news: the release date for Digimon Survive has finally been fixed for July 29, 2022!

The Digimon Survive team is planning to deliver more exciting news to you in all forms. Please look forward to it and stay tuned. We are almost there!

To coincide with the release date news, new screenshots of Digimon Survive were shared to the Digimon Games Twitter account. They include screens of Agumon, Greymon, and Dokugumon, as well as Aoi, Saki, and Takuma.

Digimon Survive is part adventure game, part visual novel, and part tactical RPG. Habu and the development have long stressed that the game will include plenty of drama (the story is about high schoolers after all) and tactical combat featuring the series' most recognizable gimmick: digivolution. 

In a 2019 developer diary, assistant producer Katsuaki Tsuzuki described the different gameplay philosophies and how they come together in Digimon Survive

The drama part is also fairly orthodox in execution, with gameplay proceeding in a text adventure format. As the player advances in this mode, they come across something we call free actions. These free actions allow the player to select where in the other world they want to go to, choose what kind of characters they want to talk to, and what kinds of events they want to see take place, creating a classic adventure game with many branching paths.  

The battle part involves tactical battles in its gameplay, and one of the most important elements here is that the choices the player made during the drama part affect the conditions of the battle or change its circumstances ... 

Another key feature of the battle part is that the monsters evolve during the battles themselves ... as the player controls their Digimon in a fight, they can expend energy to evolve their Digimon.

A recent teaser trailer shows these Digimon Survive systems in action. Several spotlights over the years have provided fans more information on the game's key characters and Digimon, including Miu Shinonome and Syakomon, Kaito Shinonome and Dracmon, Shuuji Kayama and Lopmon, and Saki Kimijuma and Floramon

Digimon Survive will launch on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, alongside another prominent RPG by the name of Xenoblade Chronicles 3

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Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin Review — Nearly Unrestrained Chaos https://www.gameskinny.com/0bx81/stranger-of-paradise-final-fantasy-origin-review-nearly-unrestrained-chaos https://www.gameskinny.com/0bx81/stranger-of-paradise-final-fantasy-origin-review-nearly-unrestrained-chaos Fri, 25 Mar 2022 11:50:59 -0400 David Restrepo

Team Ninja has built a name for itself over the years. From Ninja Gaiden to Nioh, the studio is known for capitalizing on fast-paced, technical combat with a level of fluidity that few games can match. From the moment you pick up the controller with any of these, you know you’re playing a Team Ninja game.

It’s this DNA that runs through Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. It’s not as accomplished as the aforementioned efforts, but it’s still a strong action RPG that sets a new standard for real-time combat within the overarching Final Fantasy franchise.

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin Review — Nearly Unrestrained Chaos

If you’ve paid attention to its pre-release marketing, Stranger of Paradise has garnered a reputation for its cheese. From Jack Garland busting out emo music after a JRPG monologue to interrupting a boss’ introduction with an expletive and fist to the face, it oozes confidence.

If these moments captured your attention, you’ll be disappointed to find that the final product hardly reflects the cherry picked scenes circulating online. The vast majority of the story takes itself too seriously with a straightforward plot about ridding the world of Chaos. To its credit, the plot does become more complex as it progresses.

Unfortunately, that escalating plot is hamstrung by poor pacing. Most cinematics rarely justify their existence, and you’ll often begin a level with the squad saying something to the effect of, “let’s move on,” with that being the extent of many cutscenes. When the infrequent plot beats do occur, the script makes it difficult to grow attached to anything or anyone. Most of the truly intriguing narrative bits are locked behind optional lore entries found in the final hours.

Stranger of Paradise showed signs of being a truly admirable B-movie game. More often than not, however, it languishes in plain mediocrity rather than enjoyable cheese.

Time to Meet Chaos

Luckily, Stranger of Paradise nails its core combat and role playing systems. True to Team Ninja’s legacy, it is filled with layers upon layers of mechanics. If you’re in the market for something chunky that requires dedication and mastery, Stranger of Paradise is right up your alley.

To begin with, there’s a fascinating interpretation of the Final Fantasy magic system. By default, you begin each mission with two bars of MP, which all abilities hinge upon. You can gradually increase your maximum MP gauge for a mission by performing Soul Burst finishing moves, which requires depleting enemy break gauges.

So many factors influence this, with different jobs, weapons, and enemies varying their associations with the break gauge. For example, knuckles have their own system whereby the more you wail on foes, the more damage you’ll do to both their health and break gauges. The Duelist job, on the other hand, has an ability that deals guaranteed critical damage, which targets the break gauge more than the health bar.

It isn’t just AI that is beholden to such a system. Your break gauge also plays a crucial role in Stranger of Paradise’s skill ceiling. While standard blocks are always an option, expending magic allows you to use the Soul Shield. Properly timing the Soul Shield without depleting the break gauge opens enemies for a follow-up attack, increasing your max MP just as with the Soul Bursts.

Adding an extra layer of depth, many enemies have specific abilities that can be stolen through the use of a Soul Shield and banked for later use. This is all without touching upon the concept that each death reduces your max MP, forcing you to become hyperaware of these systems. 

Commendations are also in order for Team Ninja’s ability to translate so many classic Final Fantasy jobs into such a fast-paced setting in a way that complements its vision while remaining true to their spirit.

The Thief, for example, is often associated with stealing items or gold. It’s a JRPG staple. Due to Stranger of Paradise’s design and structure, there is no gold, and the only items that exist are either potions or shards used to level up classes. How does the Thief work in Stranger of Paradise, then? Its job ability snatches foes’ instant abilities instead, letting you bypass the waiting game. 

This attention to detail extends throughout the experience. It runs deeper than a malleable job system that empowers you through distinct options that honor the series' legacy. Many levels also play some sort of homage to a prior mainline Final Fantasy title.

Even when Stranger of Paradise is riffing off an older entry, it isn’t obvious unless you’re intimately familiar with the installment in question. Levels are often based on old locations, using gimmicks inspired by those entries without feeling like retreads.

There’s one level that draws from Final Fantasy 13’s Sunleth Waterscape, replete with a forest containing orbs that influence the weather. In turn, these alter the available routes. Despite the weather altering orbs, it doesn’t feel like you’re running through an asset flip of one of the Final Fantasy 13 trilogy’s forest sections. This applies in equal measure to the remixed versions of classic Final Fantasy tracks.

Rather than a friend with a photographic memory recounting a past event beat for beat, it’s analogous to being asked what you remember from five years ago. The large strokes remain intact, with your mind filling in the blanks as you go. It’s familiar, but not overly so. 

This Isn't the Good Kind of Chaos

For all of its mechanical density, Stranger of Paradise fumbles balancing. With so many jobs to juggle and job affinities, which grant bonuses depending on the equipped gear, it needed a carefully considered loot system to succeed.

It fails on this front, however. You’re constantly acquiring more gear than you know what to do with, which you’ll want to dismantle between missions. Unfortunately, you also will want to save some gear for specific jobs because of their job affinities, but the rate at which gear drops demotivates this approach. This isn’t helped by an arbitrarily low carry capacity that doesn’t appear tuned to the frequency of loot drops and number of jobs.

As you move up the ladder from basic to advanced to expert jobs, further malleability is introduced. Most advanced and expert jobs can use more than one weapon type, for example. As this complexity piles on, the drive to keep up with loot and jobs diminishes.

By around the halfway point, you’ll probably settle on one pairing that works for you, rarely switching no matter how fun or useful it might be to do so occasionally. You won’t want to switch battle presets for a specific boss or area 25 hours in when your gear isn’t up to snuff, forcing you to either make do or farm the existing level until you get quality drops. This demotivation is only further exacerbated by the need to keep up with AI gear and jobs. The loot system doesn’t encourage experimentation in the way it should.

Feeling the Heat

There’s also one major elephant in the room that needs to be addressed: performance. The PC version has come under specific criticism, but in actuality, no iteration of Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin runs as well as it should. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X performance modes both seem to run at 1080p with visual fidelity and art direction that’s a step below Nioh. Despite this technical makeup, it fails to hold a consistent 60 frames per second on either console.

The experience of playing Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin on a next-gen console should have been comparable to the PlayStation 5 versions of Nioh and Nioh 2. Instead, it feels like you’re playing those games on a PS4 Pro, but with even worse performance.

It could come down to a lower budget. Maybe it’s due to Team Ninja abandoning its proprietary Nioh engine in favor of technology with which they’re less familiar. Perhaps both factors are to blame. Regardless, the end result is what matters most. By that account, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is one of the most underwhelming cross-gen releases since the PS5 and Xbox Series X launched. A product bearing the Final Fantasy name, with such clear appreciation for the franchise, deserves a more lavish treatment than this.

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin Review  The Bottom Line

Pros
  • Faithful reinterpretation of classic Final Fantasy jobs, mechanics, and levels
  • Expansive job system with tons of distinction to suit any kind of player
  • Well designed encounters and boss battles
  • Fluid combat with plenty of depth
Cons
  • Loot system fails to mesh with everything else
  • Outdated visuals mixed with equally poor performance 

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is an endearing action RPG that takes careful steps with its reappropriation of traditional Final Fantasy systems. The translation to Team Ninja’s brand of fast-paced combat feels amazing when it’s firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, it’s let down by technical issues and a loot system that actively pushes you away from messing around with its jobs in the way that it so desperately wants.

[Note: The reviewer purchased the copy of Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin used for this review.]

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Rune Factory 5 Review: Early Harvest https://www.gameskinny.com/fqr3a/rune-factory-5-review-early-harvest https://www.gameskinny.com/fqr3a/rune-factory-5-review-early-harvest Tue, 22 Mar 2022 10:33:14 -0400 Josh Broadwell

The rain pours down with no signs of stopping as I slip into the furniture store. The intolerable weather wouldn’t stop me from buying that new cooking table I saved up for. I greet Palmo, the proprietor, and eagerly get ready to hand over my hard-earned gold. There’s just one problem.

“OH NOES!” Palmo exclaims. My pick-up inventory is full. The chemistry table I bought last time and forgot to take home sits in the corner waiting for its new life to begin, and Palmo can’t  or won’t  just give me the cooking table. That means I have to trudge back home with the chemistry one, come all the way back to Palmo’s, and then take the cooking table home. I don’t mind; it’s a slog, but the excitement of finally doing something with those ingredients at home outweighs the drudgery.

It’s been almost 10 years since the last new Rune Factory was released, and you might have expected the developers to do something a bit different for Rune Factory 5  shake up inventory management, for example, or change how it works. Instead, the most significant change (aside from finally including same-sex marriage, though XSEED championed that) is the visuals.

Rune Factory 5 makes the jump to 3D, though the result is a downgraded experience and has a surprisingly negative effect on the sense of place. What makes Rune Factory 5 so endearing and worthwhile is its characters and the enduring appeal of its familiar, almost comforting, farm loop.

Rune Factory 5 Review: Early Harvest

After a stylish opening segment, Rune Factory 5 begins like any Rune Factory must, with a protagonist suffering from amnesia. Alice or Ares — the gender binary is still intact — may not remember who they are, but they know how to fight monsters. That’s good since your first task is defending a small child from a wild Wooly.

The girl wandered away from Rigbarth searching for her mother, but the monsters reached her before S.E.E.D. could. S.E.E.D. is the country’s self-appointed guardian group dedicated to defending the populace, and the Rigbarth branch is perpetually understaffed, or they were until you show up. Back to Rigbarth you go as the organization’s newest recruit, joining a close-knit village on the frontier.

As always with the series, Rune Factory 5’s broader story unfolds rather slowly, with several intriguing mysteries popping up along the way. People and were-folk turn into monsters, Rune energy runs wild in ancient ruins, and an enigmatic evil pulls the strings from behind the scenes. It hits some of the broader plot points from Rune Factory 4, even down to having a marriage candidate who’s a runaway royal of the Norad Kingdom. But it never quite reaches the same emotional heights as its predecessor.

What it does have is a warm and instantly likable cast of characters that positively sparkle thanks in no small part to a genuinely outstanding English script. Rune Factory 4’s characters fit into clear types from the start. Rune Factory 5’s cast still slots into distinct roles — the shy bookworm, for example, and the dad joke machine that is Heinz, the crystal shop owner — they feel and act much more human. Getting to know them is a pleasure, and it’s easily one of the strongest casts in a farm-sim game.

That said, the art falls into the stereotypical "anime woman" design for a few characters, which is a shame since Rune Factory mostly avoided that trite design choice in the past.

The bigger problem is that Rune Factory 5 often feels like it’s fighting itself. The cast and setting should feel more close-knit than ever. It’s a rugged outpost town where everyone looks out for each other and strives to make the world a better place, after all.

The town’s odd layout means everything and everyone feels too distant, though, like Rigbarth itself is a sea of isolation, and each building is an outpost of companionship. This is mostly okay, since the companionship makes it worthwhile, but it certainly lacks the strong sense of place found in Rune Factory 4.

Palmo’s shop, for example, is far on the edge of town with only the crystal shop nearby, and even they have a not-insignificant distance between them. That might be fine if the space was interesting, but it’s just dead space. There’s no decoration, nothing of visual interest. It's only blurry grass. Rigbarth feels like a beta version of itself, a sense worsened by the janky character movements. It’s difficult to feel attached to the place or its growth as a result.

The Nintendo Switch might struggle with more demanding games, but there’s no reason Rune Factory 5 should lack textures and have pop-in issues as it does, let alone the same framerate problems that plagued the original Japanese release in 2021. Those performance issues are disappointing, especially after Pioneers of Olive Town also released in a rough state last year, but one of the biggest issues is how it affects boss battles.

Rune Factory 4’s bosses have clearly telegraphed moves, but the battles are still tense and require careful timing and a good grasp of the weapon system. Rune Factory 5’s 3D models move so sluggishly and the animations take so long that you have ample time to escape and even start attacking the boss before they finish their own move. Boss fights are more of a tedious hindrance than an actual challenge or anything to look forward to.

There are a number of other minor issues too, including floaty and imprecise movement and big but empty and simplistic dungeons.

It’s a bit of a letdown, especially since Rune Factory is a combat farm-sim hybrid, but the farm-sim side is strong enough to carry the rest of the game — despite being nearly identical to Rune Factory 4’s.

You still have an overwhelming number of skills with their bewildering level-up requirements — “love magic” levels up when you throw enemies with the fist weapons, for example — villagers grow to love you if you spend time with them, and you’ll raise monsters instead of normal livestock.

Most of your farming takes place on the new Farm Dragons, essentially elemental-themed farms in the sky where you enjoy larger fields or more crop planting. It’s a bit annoying not having all your farm goods right outside your home, but you can feed the dragons special crystals to augment the weather and save time, create ideal growing conditions, or both.

This is all very much a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it." Maybe Rune Factory’s special blend of social simulation, farm work, crafting, and home decoration could be improved or even revolutionized after a decade, but perhaps Marvelous opted to introduce the series to a brand new audience before doing anything daring.

Longtime fans may find it disappointing, especially considering the lack of endgame content, though there’s such a sense of coziness and warmth to the formula, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in it anyway. 

Rune Factory 5 Review: The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Superb cast of excellently written characters.
  • Still the same cozy Rune Factory farm loop. 
  • Finally adds same-sex marriage.
  • Fun and worthwhile festivals.
  • It gives us Palmo.

Cons

  • Story follows RF4's beats a bit too closely.
  • Poor performance.
  • Still the same Rune Factory loop.
  • No endgame content.
  • Tedious dungeons and slightly pointless boss fights.

It's been 10 years, but I wish Rune Factory 5 had been delayed for a bit longer. The jump to 3D was inevitable, though more time and polish could have made a significant difference. The cast and daily life are still superb, beyond Rune Factory 4 in some instances, but there's a distinct sense that Rune Factory 5 wasn't finished growing before it was harvested. 

[Note: XSEED provided the copy of Rune Factory 5 used for this review.]

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TUNIC Review: Feelin' Foxy https://www.gameskinny.com/nkx2k/tunic-review-feelin-foxy https://www.gameskinny.com/nkx2k/tunic-review-feelin-foxy Wed, 16 Mar 2022 13:00:01 -0400 Samuel Adams

The world of indie games has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, with developers around the world producing some of the most creative and enjoyable experiences to date. Bastion, Axiom Verge, Stardew Valley, Hades — they’re all standout examples from independent developers that have pushed gaming in an incredible direction to create generation-defining experiences. Now, TUNIC is about to take its place among the greats. 

Developed by a single developer, Andrew Shouldice, TUNIC puts you in the role of a heroic little fox who wakes in a foreign land and is launched into a new adventure immediately. Within a few minutes of starting TUNIC, it’s clear it takes plenty of inspiration from old-school titles like The Legend of Zelda.

TUNIC Review: Feelin' Foxy

Unlike many of today’s top releases, TUNIC doesn't give you objective markers or quest lists that guide their way. You start with absolutely nothing before finding items like a stick to fight off blob-like enemies and health potions to regain life.

There are no information popups during gameplay. Instead, pages of an instruction booklet are scattered throughout the world that share tidbits of information to help guide your way. The trick here is that these pages are filled with information in an unknown language mixed with basic details for weapons and items that you’ll find throughout your journey. You’ll also find a stylized world map with key locations to help point you in the right direction throughout your adventure. 

The lack of deliberate direction can take some time to get used to, especially after coming off of others games that use HUDs and markers to guide you along. It’s this notebook system that helps TUNIC succeed in capturing that old-school approach, with the first page kickstarting your adventure, sharing information about a locked golden door that holds a treasure that some say holds the key to eternal life. Who wouldn’t want to chase after that? 

Each new area grants key items and abilities that you’ll need to access and make your way through future regions or even loop back to earlier locations and find hidden areas that you may have missed on your first visit. A golden pathway on the map outlines your route for the main game objectives, but TUNIC’s world hides a new discovery around every corner.

On top of bringing back the classic “check behind the waterfall” game design, TUNIC also hides everything from treasure chests to hidden shortcuts across every corner of the map. Checking behind buildings and peeking into cracks in walls can at the very least add some consumables to your inventory or at most cut the time that it takes you to travel from one area to another.

Just like its minimalist world filled with hidden secrets, TUNIC is packed with much more than what first meets the eye. While you start out with nothing more than a stick, a sword, shield, plenty of special items and abilities are thrown into the mix that add a nice level of depth to combat. Shrines are also scattered around, giving you the chance to rest and regain your health along with the option to perform sacrifices that upgrade your health, stamina, and magic bars, your attack, and your defense abilities.

From basic blobs and spinning “slorms” to sword-wielding “rudelings”, each enemy brings a unique set of attacks that are easily handled with the right rhythm of blocking and attacking. Boss fights are where things get interesting. The combat is something like what you’d get in a Dark Souls or Death's Door; you’ll learn the enemy’s behaviors and time attacks to whittle down their health bars bit by bit.

Enemies are positioned deliberately throughout the game world, sometimes putting up such a strong fight that progression is blocked until character upgrades give you the power that you need to take them on. 

TUNIC delivers top-tier game design, but it would be a crime to gloss over how well it looks and plays. The game takes up just over 1GB (yes, one gigabyte) and has a high level of polish and optimization that keeps it locked at 144hz at 1440p on a mid-range PC. Even with modest spec requirements, fantastic water and lighting effects add beauty and elegance to every part of the world. The occasional wave lapping up against a rock, a fish swimming by, or dust floating in a shaft of light are just several examples of the elements that come together to make the world feel vibrant and alive. 

TUNIC Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Gorgeous art style
  • Strong focus on old school discovery
  • Satisfying, varied combat

Cons

  • Heavily relying on the map for direction can feel tedious at times.

In some ways, TUNIC is a lot like Elden Ring in that it breaks from the guided experiences that have been popularized by games like Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed. It’s been a long time since a game has successfully delivered this style of adventure. Referring to a map, discovering new enemies, and unlocking new paths to progress cultivates a sense of accomplishment.

TUNIC brings together a gorgeous art style, phenomenal gameplay, and old-school game design baked directly into the way you discover the world, delivering one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in years.

[Note: Finji provided the copy of TUNIC used for this review.]

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Elden Ring Review: Simply Wondrous https://www.gameskinny.com/fci30/elden-ring-review-simply-wondrous https://www.gameskinny.com/fci30/elden-ring-review-simply-wondrous Thu, 03 Mar 2022 13:09:31 -0500 John Schutt

Elden Ring is one of the most fully realized games to release in the past 25 years, so completely filled with new and interesting places, characters, and enemies. Everywhere you turn in FromSoftware's open-world magnum opus, something new awaits to be discovered just beyond the fog.

It is the culmination of everything Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team ever learned making Souls games. It not only grasps what made its forebears great while discarding what didn't but expands and evolves their qualities in countless ways.

Elden Ring is a Souls game at its core, but saying so is exceedingly reductive and does a great disservice to the vastness and quality found here. The issues I have with it, mostly technical, fail to detract from its joy and wonder.

Elden Ring Review: Simply Wondrous

The star of any open-world game is the world itself. The Lands Between don't just set the bar for the genre; they throw the bar high into the air and ask other games to go higher. 

The last game to approach this depth of exploration and detail was Breath of the Wild, but comparisons between it and Elden Ring are gross simplifications. Where Hyrule is primarily open fields of varying climates, the Lands Between are an interconnected web of worlds smashed together by an angry god.

Hyrule lacks the sheer density of activities, rewards, and secrets to uncover found in the Lands Between. Traveling through an open area in BotW is about getting from Point A to Point B. There's not much to discover beyond beautiful vistas and the occasional Moblin camp. Content is isolated to specific zones. And no, the Korok puzzles don't count.

The Lands Between brim with content. You cannot sneeze without seeing a bit of treasure here, a patrolling group of enemies there, churches and ruins looming in the distance, or towering cliffs and desolate depths hiding things unknown.

Even the bandit camps offer real incentives to overcome. You won't find just crafting materials here but also experience items, tomes for spell trainers, and even mini-boss enemies to fight. Almost every humanoid enemy drops a weapon and armor set, so resetting camps and clearing them again offers both the chance at new gear and additional experience.

Hidden away in the corners of the Lands Between are also small dungeon complexes of varying complexity, some of them marked on your map, others hidden in the dark corners. The simplest of these might only take a few minutes to explore, but all of them have one of several bosses at the end to test the things you've learned.

Beyond Limgrave, with its small, introductory dungeons, you'll find areas become significantly more labyrinthine, their enemies and other challenges more inscrutable, and their rewards commensurate with their difficulty. Bosses become tougher, as well; some add additional units, others change how they function, and others still are simply harder to fight overall.

It is constantly surprising to find one of these areas; even when they aren't hidden, there is usually nothing significant marking their location. Occasionally, statues give vague directions, but they're few and far between. Reaping the rewards of a hidden complex isn't just material. It is direct compensation for exploring.

After 80 hours and a single roll of the credits, I've seen maybe 65% to 70% of Elden Ring. I'm probably overestimating my completion rate, as well. Watching post-release coverage shows at least five new dungeons, an equal amount of weapons and spells, and so many other things I either found and failed to follow up on or simply walked by without a thought.

There is no overstating the immense depth of Elden Ring. Moving from one end of the map to the other takes forever, even on horseback and despite the numerous fast travel Sites of Grace. The difference between this open world and almost any other is its verticality.

The map you see on the surface tells only a piece of the story. Beneath it is an expansive underground, and there are additional hidden areas only revealed when you arrive there. Many of these locations are literally deep, with their map icons telling only their diameter. All of the major story dungeons, called Legacy Dungeons, are multilayered, with you descending and ascending hundreds of feet at a stretch.

Take on the Gods

Your goal as Tarnished is to hunt and kill six demigod shardbearers, which hold fragments of the Elden Ring itself. Finding them takes time and effort, while defeating them takes equal measures of preparedness and skill.

Much ado has been made of Elden Ring being the "most accessible" Souls game. In some ways, that's partially true. If you come to an impasse, go somewhere else, get more levels, find more gear, and hone your skill on lesser foes. However, some encounters, late-game especially, will stand in your way no matter how much grinding you've done. 

The options to ease this burden are many. You can summon AI spirits to draw attention and do damage. You can upgrade and out-level your weapons and character. You can even summon other players to help take on a roadblock. None of that ultimately matters if you can't avoid at least some of a boss' attacks. You will need to learn these fights unless your friends and cooperators are skilled and geared enough to carry you through. 

Worse for newcomers, some bosses could care less about that. Many are incredibly mobile and attack with lightning speed; their health pools are larger than you'd ever expect, too. Every major boss also has two phases. You must learn the first to even have a chance at the second.

But new players are also some of the luckiest because Elden Ring's best fights are the best in From's whole library. The cinematic elements, lore implications, and huge adrenaline rush you get from beating them are unparalleled, not only in Souls games but in games as a medium.

It's a shame, then, that there are a few stinkers buried amongst the gold. Three or four obligatory encounters are annoying, poorly structured, or downright tedious. These unfortunate few do little to sour the whole, but Elden Ring can become an unenjoyable exercise in frustration if you get stuck.

FromSoftware seems to understand the dynamic they've created because many roadblock bosses are immediately followed by something amazing. Combine the two experiences, and the bad whittles away. 

The variety of bosses is, after all, only one aspect of the combat. The moment-to-moment gameplay is another. Unlike the boss encounters, the weapons and abilities on offer are peerless. You'd be hard-pressed to find an action RPG with more viable weapon and build options than Elden Ring. Dark Souls 2 is the only other contender, but only after its DLCs dropped.

There are probably more than 100 weapons across more than a dozen weapon classes. Each armament has a special ability called an Ash of War, which displays a weapon's true powers. Some of these are interchangeable, offering different infusion types that force weapons to deal or source damage from different origins.

Other weapons have unique Ashes of War, which almost always offer some powerful benefit or effect. One weapon, in particular, carried me through the end of the game and one of its optional super bosses. I came upon it entirely by chance, and I don't think I would have finished without it.

My fear is that players who have never played a Souls game will hit a wall the way all veterans have, but they may not have the meta knowledge to overcome it and be left with no solution beyond turning the game off.

It's one of Elden Ring's most significant failings: it remains an unapologetic Souls game. While there are numerous ways to accommodate multiple skill levels, it remains frighteningly difficult for the uninitiated. Elden Ring is also intentionally opaque, with many mechanics, systems, abilities, and stories obscured for what might seem like no reason.

The many NPC quests are a prime example. There are no quest logs, no quest markers, no ways to know where or when you might see an NPC again. Progressing in one direction will shutter certain questlines entirely, while others will conflict, making one impossible to finish. Souls games' famous lore is well-hidden, too. The narrative must be sought, unearthed from item descriptions, the environments, and the NPCs some may never find. 

For those who love exploring and uncovering a world and have played previous From games, this is not only expected but desirable. The thrill of discovery, and the exasperating facepalm of brushing right by something, are the mana that feeds. Some are likely to want a more curated experience.

Come On; I Rolled That!

The biggest problems with Elden Ring aren't related to its story, mechanics, or setting. They are purely technical.

The PC release, whether the preview build provided for this review or the full release with the Day 1 patch, are rough experiences. Hitching, stutters, and crashes plagued my playthrough, and I know save corruption and other issues run rampant across multiple platforms.

That Elden Ring is so held back by its performance alone is a tragedy. The input delay makes it worse. The number of times I have pressed a button and watched as nothing happened is far higher than I can count. Dodging, an integral aspect of a Souls experience, takes about a quarter second to trigger between input and action.

Oddly, this delay is not present for some other inputs. The ones that happen instantly seem random, and few are usable. This delay isn't unique to Elden Ring. I've experienced it back to Demon's Souls on the PS3. But where it's manageable there, it's tougher here because of the framerate issues.

FromSoftware games are built atop each other, with old mechanics and assets reused whenever possible. Code changes, evolves, and expands, but certain things remain constant. When the framerate hitches in Elden Ring, inputs get eaten or happen at odd times. So, while I was hopeful the dodge delay would go out the window by launch, that it remains and is exacerbated by unstable software makes me extraordinarily sad.

A brighter note is composer Yuka Kitamura's score. The primary composer for the series since Dark Souls 2, Kitamura is a living legend. Responsible for some of the best tracks the series has ever had, she's outdone herself with Elden Ring. This is the first game to have ambient music, beautiful in its subtlety and melody. The score fits each area perfectly, telling stories with only a few notes, sometimes better than the lore itself.

Combat music blends seamlessly with these background tones and is of a darker, more driving bent than exploring peacefully. It's never overbearing but instead showcases the desperation in any encounter.

Yuka's world music is fantastic, of course, but her boss music has always shone. With so many bosses to score here, not all of them have a unique theme, but these are the best orchestral video game themes in the medium. Some are haunting, some rousing, some filled with remorse or rage. Some are simply hard to classify.

Elden Ring Review: The Bottom Line

Pros
  • The best combat, music, world, and lore FromSoftware has ever created.
  • An expansive world that hides hundreds of hours of gameplay.
  • Dozens, if not hundreds, of substantive secrets.
  • Bosses that put even the best encounters in other games to shame.
Cons
  • Technical issues that hamper the moment-to-moment gameplay.
  • Some less-than-ideal encounter designs.

If I can look past the frustrating technical issues, Elden Ring is close to a perfect game. I'm disappointed in only a few of the bosses, as well.

What FromSoftware has accomplished with Elden Ring is staggering. The culmination of more than a decade of trial, error, and success, Elden Ring raises not only the bar for the genre but for FromSoftware itself. It will send a ripple throughout the industry at large, acting as the new standard-bearer for open-world games. If there's more Elden Ring to come, count me in.

[Note: Bandai Namco provided the copy of Elden Ring used for this review.]

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Elden Ring: Best Ashes of War Weapon Arts https://www.gameskinny.com/1t68s/elden-ring-best-ashes-of-war-weapon-arts https://www.gameskinny.com/1t68s/elden-ring-best-ashes-of-war-weapon-arts Sun, 27 Feb 2022 14:31:29 -0500 John Schutt

Elden Ring reintroduces, evolves, and improves the Weapon Art system from Dark Souls 3, now called Ashes of War. They are the new infusion system here, allowing any compatible weapon to be Quality, Keen, Heavy, Sacred, or any other possible infusion types returning or brand new. These arts alter the way you fight and change the nature of certain weapons. But which are the best?

This Elden Ring guide will seek to answer that question. Because The Lands Between are so vast and its secrets many, we've not found all of the Ashes of War yet, but of those we've laid our hands on, these are the best. There are few bad choices regarding Ashes of War in Elden Ring. Picking one is a matter of your weapon and build. 

The Best Ashes of War Weapon Arts in Elden Ring

Ashes of War Weapon Art: Endure

Called Perseverance in Dark Souls 3, this heavy/strength infusion Ashes of War weapon art briefly increases your poise by a great deal, allowing you to stand firm through heavier attacks. Endure is good if you want to guarantee a powerful blow on an enemy or move through a crowded area more easily.

You can purchase Endure for 600 Runes from Knight Bernahl at the Warmaster's Shack in Limgrave.

Ashes of War Weapon Art: Square Off 

With Square Off, a quality/strength and dex infusion, you can either break your enemy's guard, especially if they're holding a shield, or do a long, lunging thrust to deal damage at unexpected distances. This Ashes of War weapon art drops from the Teardrop Scarab in the Siofra River area beneath Limgrave, on the west side of the area on a precipice beneath the ramparts of a city.

Ashes of War Weapon Art: Bloody Slash

If you've seen some of the trailers for Elden Ring, you've seen Blood Slash in action. This blood/arcane infusion Ashes of War weapon art extends the range of any sword attack and applies bleed to it. There's almost no reason not to use it. The knight at the top of Fort Haight drops this ability when killed.

Ashes of War Weapon Art: Glintblade Phalanx 

Useful in place of a Phalanx spell, Glintblade Phalanx is a magic infusion that lets you summon a small arch of glintblades above your head, and you can also follow up the casting with a lunge. You'll get a lot of mileage out of the glintblades themselves, and the additional attack provided from this Ashes of War weapon art deals good damage to boot.

Purchase this ability from Rogier the Sorcerer either in Stormveil Castle or when he retreats to the Roundtable Hold after defeating Godrich the Grafted.

Ashes of War Weapon Art: Thops's Barrier

There are no bad parry skills in Elden Ring, but Thops's Barrier, another magic infusion, is probably the best of them. This Ashes of War weapon art allows you to deflect magic of any kind as well, provided it comes in projectile form. As there are plenty of annoying enemies using magic in Elden Ring, it's a great option to have.

Find this at The Barrier, an island to the west of Raya Lucaria Academy in Lunaria of the Lakes. The Teardrop Scarab here likes to disappear when approached, so use stealth or plunging attacks to kill it.

Those are just five of the better choices you have regarding Ashes of War Weapon Arts in Elden Ring. There are far more than listed here or that we've found, so explore until you discover the one that works best for your build. For more, discover how to try out your Ashes of War against other players in our PvP invasion guide. Do the same with your friends against bosses in our how to cooperate guide. Our Elden Ring guides hub has even more. 

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Elden Ring Boss Guide: How to Beat Stonedigger Troll https://www.gameskinny.com/1aq9x/elden-ring-boss-guide-how-to-beat-stonedigger-troll https://www.gameskinny.com/1aq9x/elden-ring-boss-guide-how-to-beat-stonedigger-troll Fri, 25 Feb 2022 11:48:10 -0500 John Schutt

Found at the bottom of Limgrave Tunnels, the Stonedigger Troll is a bigger, badder, boss-version of the trolls you'll find out in the world of Elden Ring. They hit hard with huge area of effect attacks, and unless you're prepared for this boss fight, they will make Tarnished pancakes out of you. So how do you beat them?

This Elden Ring guide seeks to answer that question by giving you tips and strategies for beating the Stonedigger Troll boss fight. Armed with the knowledge presented here, you should have a much easier time defeating them. Hopefully.

How to Beat the Stonedigger Troll in Elden Ring

The first rule of fighting any large Souls boss is to stay underneath them. You'll need to contend with the finicky camera, of course, but the majority of the Stonedigger Troll's attacks hit in front of them, and they have few options for dealing with you beneath or behind them.

They will turn around or otherwise move about the arena, and they're surprisingly agile for something this size and bulk. With that in mind, you'll need to stay on your toes. Blocking is possible, but it's not advisable because this boss hits so hard. 

Stonedigger Troll Attack and Strategies

Here are all the Stonedigger Troll's attacks and how to deal with them.

Stonedigger Troll Attack 1: Single Slam

The Stonedigger Troll will run toward you or move around above you and smash their club down in front of themself. The AoE on this attack is large, but not the largest in this fight, so roll toward and behind the boss to avoid it.

Stonedigger Troll Attack 2: Stomp

The Stomp is the Stonedigger Troll's primary way of dealing with enemies underneath them. This set of three stomps will start with the foot nearest you, and then they'll stomp the other foot, then the original foot again. You can avoid all of it by moving to the foot that isn't stomping, then moving back when the foot you're near begins to rise.

Stonedigger Troll Attack 3: Multi-Slam

The Stonedigger Troll will begin lumbering at you quickly, even if you're underneath them, and start slamming the ground over and over. They'll redirect their aim with each slam, so you'll need to move in the direction opposite their slamming to avoid them all. Keep behind their heels, strafe against their movement, and wait for them to settle down.

Stonedigger Troll Attack 4: Megaslam

The Stonedigger Troll will stand still and raise their club high into the air for about a second, then slam it down in a massive shockwave that fills most of his arena. To avoid this attack, you can either block with a good shield or dodge just before the slam hits the ground. If you're under-leveled, even the AoE is liable to kill you, so learning this timing is essential.

Stonedigger Troll Attack 5: Arm Sweep

The Stonedigger Troll uses this attack as you approach or as an alternative to dealing with enemies underneath him. It's a wide sweeping motion that covers the whole 180 degrees in front of the boss and has a wider hitbox than you might expect. Roll toward and behind the troll to avoid it.

The Stonedigger Troll doesn't have a lot of attacks, but they're bulky and deal immense damage. Armed with the information above, hopefully, you can make quick work of this Elden Ring boss. Do so, and you'll receive a Roar Talisman for your efforts.

Two-handing a weapon could give you an advantage against the Stonedigger Troll boss and others in Elden Ring. Our two-handing guide has more on that. The right starting class can definitely help first playthroughs as well. Check out the best of them in our starting class guide. For other tips and boss strats, head over to our Elden Ring guides hub.

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Atelier Sophie 2 Review: The Best of Both Worlds https://www.gameskinny.com/dexqe/atelier-sophie-2-review-the-best-of-both-worlds https://www.gameskinny.com/dexqe/atelier-sophie-2-review-the-best-of-both-worlds Thu, 24 Feb 2022 09:00:01 -0500 George Yang

Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream is a fantastic sequel to 2016’s Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book. It utilizes many of the new mechanics found in more recent Atelier titles while also keeping its own identity within the franchise. It’s surprisingly deep and offers a bright new adventure that builds upon the first game.

It follows Sophie Neuenmuller and Plachta after the events of the previous title. They both get sucked into a mysterious wormhole and find themselves in a new dream world called Erde Wiege. However, while Sophie comes out unscathed, she gets separated from Plachta.

Along Sophie’s journey to find Plachta and return to her hometown of Kirchen Bell, she’ll come across a brand new cast of colorful characters, including another young lady who shares the same name as Plachta, as well as another who looks similar to Sophie herself.

For those who didn’t play the first game, the title screen does offer the option to watch a brief video summary to catch up on the events so far. The first game’s conclusion was rather open and shut, so it was interesting to see how Gust and Koei Tecmo would attempt a sequel. By essentially putting both Sophie and Plachta into a new brand new world and expanding on their existing relationships, the studio really pulled it off — it’s quite the emotional journey.

Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream Review — The Best of Both Worlds

Atelier Sophie 2 completely overhauls its gameplay and exploration mechanics, making them more closely resemble last year’s Atelier Ryza 2. Like more recent entries in the series, time management isn’t nearly as strict anymore, and not every action moves the clock. The day/night cycle is still here, however, though it really only affects the types of enemies that are out in the field.

Following Ryza's cues, the overworld map is now split into different main areas, with about three sections in each. Sophie also now has different tools used for gathering materials, like a pickaxe, bug net, and fishing rod. For those who played Ryza, this exploration system will feel very familiar as it’s almost exactly the same. By incorporating these mechanics, Sophie 2 is much more streamlined and accessible than previous entries.

One aspect Sophie 2's exploration that separates it from Ryza is the emphasis on weather. Sophie can use an item that changes the weather in a surrounding area. If there’s a bed of water, for example, she can make it rain so that the water level rises. Then she can change the weather to snow, thus freezing the water so she can run across the new bed of ice and reach a treasure chest or access another area. Acting as the puzzle-solving element of the game, it’s pretty satisfying once you figure out how to progress further.

Character events are much easier to find as well. In the first game, players have to go around town and talk with every major character to trigger events. There’s now an icon of the character’s face next to their area, helping save tremendous amounts of time and effort by pinpointing exactly when and where certain events will happen.

Sophie 2 also cuts down the playable character roster by about one-third from the previous game, but that means there’s more emphasis on character development for each party member.

The Apex of Turn-Based Combat

While Sophie 2 feels very similar to the Ryza titles, it manages to carve an identity of its own through its battle system. It actually sticks with the traditional and strict turn-based Atelier combat system rather than transitioning to Ryza’s real-time and turn-based hybrid, the battles in Sophie 2 have much more depth compared to its predecessor.

You split your party members into two groups: the front line, and the backline. Frontline members do the most work in battle with their offensive moves, but backline members do more than just stand around. Before an enemy attack, you have the option to swap out whoever an enemy is targeting with one of your backline members. The member that comes up will take the hit, but at reduced damage, because they join the frontline while blocking. 

But it's not all about defense. These team members also have an offensive maneuver called Twin Attacks. This allows a party member in the frontline to attack with one of their skills, with a backline member immediately following it up with their own, joining the frontline while the other falls to the backline, a tactic especially useful in boss battles. 

Both of these mechanics combine to make an incredibly intuitive battle system that’s fun and snappy, while also including the whole party in each fight.

A Familiar Alchemical Process

Surprisingly, the alchemy system in Sophie 2 doesn’t see many changes from the first game. Rather, it's more streamlined this time around. The main mechanic that separates the Sophie alchemy system from other ones like Ryza is that you can place the ingredients for a recipe in a grid. Each material you collect from the outside world occupies a certain number of blocks in the grid.

When creating items, it’s imperative to try and fit every piece of material into the grid and not have them overlap each other. Overlapping means losing out on item bonuses that the material previously offered.

What’s certainly appreciated this time around is that there’s the option to auto-place the materials onto the grid. It makes the whole alchemy process much faster, eliminating the need to manually place everything one by one. It’s not ideal when you’re trying to maximize the potential of an item, but it’s great if you’re for making items in quick succession to fill out your recipe book.

The new Plachta that Sophie meets in Erde Wiege also gets her own alchemy pot, so you can now choose to synthesize items with either of them. There are certain items that only Sophie can make, and ones that only Plachta can make. It’s an interesting concept that makes sense narratively, but it doesn’t add or detract much from the overall alchemy experience.

A Bright Future for Atelier

The graphics in Atelier Sophie 2 are also much better compared to the first game, with fluid character models and animations standing out. As said in my Blue Reflection: Second Light review, I’m a big fan of Gust’s art style. Here, it’s no different; the 2D art style for the character portraits, main menus, and CGI screenshots are as crisp and clean as ever.

While I do have some gripes, they’re relatively minor. Koei Tecmo doesn’t really provide an English dub for their games anymore, especially for a niche series like Atelier. However, the first Atelier Sophie game does have one, so I was hoping that Sophie 2 would have one as well. Unfortunately, only the Japanese voice track is available. 

Christine Marie Cabanos, who is Sophie’s English voice in the first game, does an absolutely tremendous job capturing the character’s fun, friendly, and airheaded-yet-determined demeanor. It's a huge disappointment that she wasn’t able to reprise her role again for the sequel.

Additionally, there’s no native PlayStation 5 version for Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream, which is strange considering last year’s Atelier Ryza 2 has one. As a result, I played the PlayStation 4 version via backward compatibility for this review. The loading screens were a bit longer than I would have liked, especially on the PS5, whereas Ryza 2 had almost instantaneous transitions between areas. Still, the game runs flawlessly with no crashes on PS5.

Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Exploration and progression are clearer and more streamlined.
  • The turn-based combat is fun and snappy.
  • Graphics and presentation are very much improved.

Cons

  • No English dub voice track is available.
  • Loading times are a bit longer than expected on PS5.

Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream is a vast improvement over its predecessor. Borrowing exploration elements from the Atelier entries while keeping its traditional turn-based combat system is a great way to help it stand out within its own franchise. On top of that, the battles have more depth than ever before. Sophie Neuenmuller’s new adventure is well worth it for veterans and newcomers alike.

[Note: Koei Tecmo provided the copy of Atelier Sophie 2: Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream used for this review.]

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Square Enix Details New Characters, Locations, Jobs for Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin https://www.gameskinny.com/ydbyq/square-enix-details-new-characters-locations-jobs-for-stranger-of-paradise-final-fantasy-origin https://www.gameskinny.com/ydbyq/square-enix-details-new-characters-locations-jobs-for-stranger-of-paradise-final-fantasy-origin Tue, 15 Feb 2022 18:17:31 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Leading up to next month's release of Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, Square Enix and Team Ninja have released new information regarding some of the game's characters, jobs, locations, and editions. The details come alongside new screenshots, a trailer, and a relatively lengthy write-up regarding jobs on the PlayStation Blog from Square Enix Director, Daisuke Inoue. 

Fans have already met Jack, Ash, and Jed, as well as a handful of other characters set to appear. These newly unveiled characters include Marilith, "The Fiend of Fire," and The Lufenians, "mysterious people with whom Jack exchanges words during the snatched glimpses of his fragmented memories."


Marilith


The Lufenians

Mount Gulg, The Ancients' Tower, and The Wicked Arbor are three new foreboding locations promising hazards and dangers straight out of a From Software title. I mean, the Wicked Arbor is definitely not Blighttown or Farron Keep ... 

  • Mount Gulg is "a volcano with many perils, such as molten lava which blocks the way, and gas pockets that explode due to the presence of fire magic."

  • The Ancients' Tower is "a white building with an unshakeable sense of otherness. Various eerie mechanisms await the unwary intruder, such as devices to trap those who have entered and urn-like objects that float through the air.

  • The Wicked Arbor is "a dense expanse of forest that lies at the door of the volcano. Moonlight only just manages to peek through the canopy and the area is shrouded in a thick, gaseous miasma. Walls made out of ivy and plants that spit poisonous gas stand in your way."

Jobs will be familiar to anyone who's played any previous Final Fantasy games, from FF Tactics to FFXIV. They play a similar role in Stranger of Paradise, with Daisuke Inoue explaining that "the job determines your abilities, weapons, and the actions you can take in battle, and switching to a different one will give you access to different moves."

Information released by Square Enix and shared by Daisuke Inoue on the PlayStation Blog highlighted eight of the 27 jobs that will be available in the game: 

  • Breaker
  • Void Knight
  • Tyrant
  • Sage
  • Dark Knight
  • Paladin
  • Ninja
  • Thief

We also learned about Stranger of Paradise's various editions. The standard physical and deluxe editions for PS4, PS5, and Xbox come with just the game as expected. There will also be a special Steelbook physical version at "participating retailers" with artwork "inspired by Yoshitaka Amano."

The Digital Deluxe Edition comes with the game and a number of extra goodies. It includes access to the Season Pass, a digital artbook, and a digital mini-soundtrack. The season gives players access to three extra missions: Trials of the Dragon King, Wanderer of the Rift, and Different Future.

It's unclear when these missions will release for players who opt for the other versions of Stranger of Paradise; though the Season Pass will be available separately "at a separate date," Square hasn't yet shared when that will be.

Of course, there is also pre-order content available for those who purchase the game early. Digital Standard pre-orders will receive the Rebellion Weapon, though the wording is a bit odd since it mentions that it's "available to users who purchase the game before 11:59 p.m. on April 18, 2022, local time," a full month after the game's official release. 

Those who pick up the Digital Deluxe Edition before Paradise's launch on March 18 will get 72-hour early access on console, 24-hour early access on PC, the Braveheart weapon, and the Lustrous shield. PlayStation players will get an exclusive PS4 theme.

Stay tuned for more on Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin as we approach its March 18 release on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Series X|S.

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