Category Archives: 8.0

For Honor Review

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In the week since Ubisoft’s For Honor released, I’ve been either playing the game or reading and watching anything related to it. I’ve read and viewed other people’s reviews, talked to them about their thoughts, and tried to talk myself out of writing my own review as well. That last point is not for lack of positive reinforcement, nor is it for negative reasons in regard to the game itself. However, I feel like everything I am about to say is going to in some ways sound pretty redundant, and that irks me above all else. It’s a good thing in a way- if everyone who plays and reviews a game is largely in agreement, then you’re bound to be getting the best possible feedback on your product or as a gamer.

I played through the beta period with a friend not long before the game became openly available, and some things have changed since that time while others have remained the same for better or worse. For Honor is at its best when you completely ignore the story and focus on the combat itself. I am not saying to ignore story mode in its entirety, as it will definitely help you out where multiplayer is concerned and as far as gaining experience overall goes. However, do not get sucked into the narrative itself as you will only emerge confused as to what the ruckus is really all about and why samurai are fighting knights who are fighting vikings. It’s as bonkers as you’d think and as bonkers as it sounds and even more impressively, it’s probably less believable than the events of Resident Evil 7 and their impact (or lack thereof) on its protagonist.

Like pretty much every other reviewer has said to this point in time, For Honor knows what it does and it does it well. If it were a merchant it would be selling death sticks- yes, that’s a Star Wars reference and joke. To take it one step further, the combat is such a priority and so well played out and played up that if this were Star Wars, For Honor would be the severed arm laying on a cantina floor roundabouts Mos Eisley. Now, reeling our thoughts back in and not straying too far from the source material here… In case you didn’t get the memo, combat is an important and impressive thing within For Honor and it is implemented in a way somewhat similar to that of Nioh’s complex yet fluid mechanics. What I mean by this is combat can be boiled down to simple mechanics and yet the ways these mechanics mingle and interlock become complex to understand on a grander level.

Whether you choose to play as a samurai, knight, or viking- heck, even regardless of what heroic class or caste you choose within those three factions, the combat can be boiled down to virtually the same controls and mechanics. Now, one class and one faction may of course handle differently than another, but mechanically they are both stable and familiar once you’ve got the basics under control. You choose between one of three positions- essentially left, right, and high/up. These positions correspond with greater reactionary time given to defense, offense, and overall speed and agility as a result. Similar to Nioh in some respects and simpler/different in others, all three directional positions can be changed on the fly and at a whim by players, lending to breaking combos, counter attacks, parrying and ripostes, dodging, switching targets, and so much more. Simplicity is sound and beauty and even simple mechanics fluidly combine to form a complex melee mesh.

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In case that wasn’t enough for you, don’t forget that battle-ready warriors must also be strategists who account for stamina expended, area of effect items and attacks, enemy ballistics, the ebb and flow of massive skirmishes, and other visceral and intangible factors. Hopefully you’ve all played enough of the Souls series by now to recognize the importance of stamina and why button mashing doesn’t quite work as well in melee brawlers as it does in traditional fighting games. In terms of overall realism, I hope you aren’t considering that as a factor for purchase because you’ll be sorely disappointed- however, as it stands, For Honor offers a semi-realistic and authentic melee experience that more than competently gauges the experience and challenge as a whole. It’s a very psychological experience and should definitely be different player to player when you consider the immense skill and understanding curve from class to class, person to person, faction to faction.

No matter what modes you take part in the mechanics and game remain largely unchanged- even between single and cooperative play, 1v1, 2v2, and so forth. The gameplay is almost always tense in skirmishes whether it be at the start or the thrilling and blood-soaked conclusion. Rarely will you so incredibly outmatch or outpace an opponent or opposing team unless you managed to exploit mistakes or openings and double or triple team their only remaining player. The whole 1v1v1 kind of setup is truly entertaining and interesting to see played out and it helps that it works remarkably well in execution as well as conceptually. Don’t worry about getting left out to dry by incompetent teammates however, as most modes also account for leveling the odds against multiple attackers by gifting you the power of revenge (mode) and devastating combos.

Like most traditional fighters and even other online hack and slash brawlers, For Honor offers more than a handful of playable characters between its three factions. Unlike most other games however, it is not as simple as you would expect to switch between them. Although every character is virtually the same on a fundamental basis, each faction boasts several classes that are far from the same old class in the other factions’ offerings save for a cosmetic upgrade or change. Each class offers varied range, capabilities, combos, chains, and more. On top of that, you can actually customize this even further to a certain degree whereas finishers and coup de grace are concerned, among other items of interest. While story mode will act as somewhat of a tutorial for certain classes and help you to warm up to gameplay and the variance between factions and methodology whilst fighting, it’s still quite a jarring difference in reality and really forces you to learn not just your own character but your opposition’s as well.

As with many fighting titles, each character is very much a give and take sort of proposition- meaning while one class may offer plenty of strength and attack power, another may have them beat on light attacks and plenty of stamina. You must be tactical and strategic even in your choice of class within your faction, and that’s perhaps the most interesting thing to note about a game that otherwise looks like a simple and repetitive hack and slash multiplayer experience. In many ways, even if the story does not, For Honor digs very, very deep and maintains its focus without sacrificing vision or fluidity of design. Each character has their own potential for earning gear and upgrades to cosmetics, statistics, and prowess as a whole. It’s a pain to slog through match after match in search of hard to come by earnings, so I’d recommend playing through the story mode as well for some slightly easier currency pickups, as well as finding collectibles and performing side tasks. If you’re careful and pay attention to how you pursue certain upgrade paths and characters, you won’t have to suffer through the plethora of microtransactions that plague typical Ubisoft and online-heavy games.

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And now we come to the relatively minimal negative aspects of the game, save for the aforementioned microtransactions which are of course deplorable but thankfully (relatively) avoidable as well. For Honor is a visceral and gripping experience- certainly one of if not the best fighting/hack and slash/brawling game I’ve yet to play. And yet for a game that focuses so much of its real estate on the online infrastructure it is afforded, that online aspect can be such a bear to deal with. I know it has only been a week thus far, and yet I still had higher hopes for the servers and the matchmaking- especially seeing as that’s obviously the main focus of the entire project. Disconnects and network bumps or errors must be addressed in the future, and sooner rather than later. If they are remedied then I have no doubt it’ll improve the experience as a whole.

Concept: Vikings, knights, and samurai fight for a thousand years in a conflict that nobody really cares too much about because we’re all too busy watching this one guy get his head lopped off and his body lifelessly tumble off a bridge and into some beautifully rendered water.

Graphics: The environments are varied and textured to an amazing degree. Characters looks great even though they are all strikingly similar up until you’ve leveled enough of your gear to truly make a name for yourself and stand out from the pack. Every environment also features accompanying dynamic weather changes and patterns which look and feel believable and fantastic.

Sound: Although you’ll mostly hear cries of pain and anguish, metal on metal, and other sounds typically associated with combat or films, the soundtrack is a great, resonant accompaniment as well.

Playability: Like any good fighting game, For Honor is easy to grasp and difficult to truly master. The mechanics are simple and straight forward, the means to defeating all of your enemies are laid out in front of you, and yet the path towards your objective is sometimes blocked by an incredibly agile samurai warrior who claims your life time and time again.

Entertainment: For Honor is a semi-flawed experience in that its fun and atmosphere hinge upon a networking system which boasts many prevalent issues at the current time. However, the experience as a visceral fighting game and realistic depiction of combat and battlefield tactics is unparalleled and often well-realized. It is a fun experience if you can handle connectivity issues for the time being.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 8.0

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Resident Evil 7 Review

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I just want to say that, first of all I will do my best to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. I know that the latest chapter in Capcom’s zombie-fueled saga has only been out for not quite a month, and yet I feel like everywhere I’ve turned I’ve run afoul of spoilers and videos and all kinds of crazy stuff. So I’m going to discuss a lot of things in general terms when it comes to the story and the overall plot and setting, but I’ll be sure to dial it in and hone in on the important factors that should be touched upon in any respectable review as well. It’s been a short few weeks and yet we’ve already been treated to some arcade-style downloadable deals and add-ons, which is far from a bad thing either in this case.

In many ways, Resident Evil 7 is the reinvention that fans longed for and that the series needed, although once the outer layers are peeled away and the gentle facade of the beginning acts fades away you’ll soon come to see that it may be different, but the fundamentals are largely unchanged for better or worse. Resident Evil, for better or worse, has always had its viruses and its villains, and that aspect has not changed at all. You may be tempted to think there’s a lot going on in the Louisiana swamps that cannot be explained away as easily as the delights of Umbrella Corps have been in the past, but even with the twisted logic of the series’ past, these events can be explained in the present as well. Resident Evil 6 was a game that I thought was okay as it stood on its own and for what it offered, but when taken for the sum total of its plot and where it should stand in the larger RE universe it was just plain bonkers and had plenty of holes and lazy writing.

Resident Evil has always fallen victim to plot holes and whether or not players can get rid of their disbelief and just enjoy the games for what they are, so even with this reinvention, few things have changed there. Resident Evil started as a simple concept and its only become more and more convoluted from there on out. The first two main games are probably the most straight forward, but from then on with the successive third, fourth, fifth, and sixth entries things have only gotten grander and worse as far as plot can be concerned. I respect Capcom for largely toning it down with Biohazard and keeping things on a smaller scale, although still hinting that the title is a perfect fit in the semi-reimagined universe all the same. But that doesn’t change the fact that even some simple things such as procedural character damage magically healed and limbs magically reattached and VHS tapes still being used in 2017 and a seemingly omnipresent camera that is never shown onscreen or on characters just don’t ad up.

Like I’ve said- Resident Evil has always been about the experience first, the tense boss fights and survival-horror elements still present in the more action-oriented titles of the series in recent years. Once you’ve dispensed with pleasantries and mostly ignored the wild plots that are typically a mess anyway, you can settle into solid gameplay and fluid mechanics with relative ease. Capcom has done a wonderful job of crafting something seemingly new and yet deceptively archaic in its design and interpretation, making Resident Evil 7 a perfect fit for the series in that it expands into new directions in some ways with the plot and graphics and characters, and yet still retains the same brand name and doesn’t so drastically change the formula as Resident Evil 4 did once upon a time. If your main worry was that a first-person perspective could never work with a series such as Resident Evil, then worry no more because that is perhaps one of the brilliant strokes the game pulls off and never has much of an issue with outside of expected clippings and occasional environmental travesties.

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While I’ve got to give Resident Evil 7 points for originality in some cases, I’d also have to ding it for taking some credit where credit is not due- at least not to Resident Evil 7. Many of the plot elements may be new to Resident Evil, and yet they’ve already been done by other horror titles such as Silent Hill and F.E.A.R as well. In fact, the bulk of the story itself stems from essentially some mix of Silent Hill 2 and F.E.A.R 1 and 2’s own plot mechanics. And while this is totally acceptable even if it is not so original, it’s just a weird thing to notice if you’ve played those other titles and sense a mildly disappointing amount of deja-vu throughout Biohazard’s campaign. Resident Evil 7 treads new ground for the series in many ways and yet it follows the same cliched tropes of horror as a genre in general, and I suppose you have to take what victories you can, but that really rung hollow to me. An every-man searching a supposedly abandoned setting for his wife in what turns out to be a cunning trap and descent into veritable madness- it’s not quite the first time we’ve heard that line.

The largest criticism I have for this game, if you couldn’t tell from the paragraphs I’ve written on it already, is the plot. So now that I’ve pointed out that it’s bonkers and doesn’t ever quite add up, even mechanically in-game, let’s move on to some other critiques and praises. One last tidbit that’s semi-related though is that Ethan Winters as a playable character, while promising in exposition, is perhaps more boring and predictable than even Chris Redfield has become lately. He barely reacts to anything- bashing his missing wife’s face in with an axe, getting limbs severed, seeing a man whose entire body has been lit on fire and subsequently blown apart with a shotgun coming at him with pulsating brain matter showing through his destroyed skull, or even picking up the telephone every fifteen minutes when the omniscient NPC enemies and allies manage to pinpoint his exact location in the house and contact him. Getting over disbelief in a far-fetched plot is one thing, but things just not registering for the main character like they should is another annoyance altogether.

Thankfully, while Ethan is largely forgettable and the small array of side characters who aren’t trying to kill you are actively just as memorable, the antagonists- both actual and perceived, are the larger attraction where characterization is concerned. The Baker family- those crazies you’ve probably seen in the trailers over and over or played with in the few demos released, are the main draw in the beginning of the game especially (although they’re still memorable in the latter portions as well). Each has their own distinct personality, own distinct powers and abilities, and also their own distinct domain on their family lands. In many ways, they are there to herd players towards eventual endgame objectives, and yet the more you encounter them the more you come to wonder about their origins before you finally understand them later in the game. Resident Evil 7 is a lot of smoke and mirrors, but the crazy stuff and tragic details surrounding the Bakers is definitely not just a bunch of smoke blown needlessly your way.

Probably my largest bone to pick with Resident Evil 6 in retrospect is the fact that it so often and so boringly broke up combat and the tenseness of situations by presenting players over and over again with locked doors. To be fair, in many ways that is sort of an age-old Resident Evil thing, and yet Biohazard somehow avoided this mundane searching and backtracking by actually making it bearable. I think it may be largely due to the fact that the game features a much more organic and intriguing environment rather than the linear and forgettable monstrosities of the previous title. It’s not less confined or expansive, and yet suddenly backtracking to collect a key or disarm a booby trap or uncover some new evidence doesn’t seem altogether lackluster or painful. Naturally, expect your fair share of needless jump scares over and over again and expect them to be old after an hour or two- but such is the Capcom way sometimes.

In some ways Resident Evil 7 brings the series back down to earth and back to its roots, and yet in others it is even more fantastical than the last entry. Thankfully, one thing it does well is craft more believable and entertaining boss fights and encounters. Every enemy seems thought out rather than hastily thrown at you like Resident Evil 6 was wont to do. The Bakers and the other more powerful adversaries each come with their own specific methodology to battle, although a much more prepared player can potentially blitz their way through earlier encounters with sheer firepower and determination. Action is still a large part of the game, but it has taken a step towards being more cinematic so that the bulk of the experience can be returned to its horror roots. It makes for a better and overall more enjoyable and tenser experience to be sure. The gunplay and most melee moments are handled quite well although there are some unexpected hiccups here and there specifically where reactionary movement is concerned with special weapons. On the whole however, the first person perspective increases the enjoyability of the well-oiled combat both aesthetically and physically.

All things considered, Resident Evil 7 is the return to form that the series needed even if it ultimately doesn’t change things up quite as much as it probably could or should’ve. It is by no means Resident Evil 4, but then that isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. It stands largely on its own although there are still obvious and subtle connections to the rest of the series, making it a tad clearer than expected as to just how it fits in with the other titles. The expansion of the universe and video game lore is welcome and for a series that constantly retcons its own ideas and even who’s alive and who’s dead, it largely adds onto the Resident Evil fiction without taking anything else away in turn. Given the chance, whether you’re a newcomer to the series or a longstanding fan, you should give the game a chance- it’s as good a jumping on point as any, especially given the lack of need to know information considering past titles.

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Concept: Reinvent the Resident Evil series as we know it, adding a breath of freshness to a series that has otherwise begun to grow stale over the years. Introduce new characters, a new plot, and new gimmicks along the way.

Graphics: Particularly great animation and environmental work adds ambiance and aesthetic thrills to the tense adventure. Add in the fact that limbs are lopped off and gore is always present and you have a graphically sound and impressive piece of work.

Sound: There is often little to no sound and yet that works in a genre such as this. When there is something to be said or done, the voice acting is about on par with most triple-A titles and doesn’t disappoint. The minimalist soundtrack ratchets the tension at all the right times as well.

Playability: Exploration and tense combat are given their equal due and are the largest elements in play throughout the game. It handles well for the entirety of the campaign and is an incredibly well-played experience to boot.

Entertainment: Most of the entertainment can be derived from the expansion of the lore and in-game details strewn about the world. Making subtle and not-so subtle connections to the other games in the series is what Capcom often does best and it works here better than it probably ever has before. In an experience that could’ve been largely standalone, Capcom unites Resident Evil 7 with previous titles in thrilling and interesting ways.

Replay Value: Moderately High.

Overall Score: 8.0

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Final Fantasy XV Review

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At first I ignorantly told myself that I would not do a review for Final Fantasy XV because it was simply too big of a game and by the time I’d probably seen enough, my review would be all but obsolete and unnecessary. Well, it turns out I’m a fool for a multitude of reasons and I am in fact here to deliver my verdict concerning the game. This is the first of two long-term projects that has reached completion in this November-December time this year, the second of which would be the eleven year journey that has been The Last Guardian. For a ten year old game, Final Fantasy XV certainly took note of the things Duke Nukem Forever utterly failed to do and sidestepped those issues swiftly. That’s not to say it doesn’t sport its own brand of incompetence at times.

In many ways, Final Fantasy XV playfully reminded me of other open world gems such as the first Xenoblade Chronicles title and Red Dead Redemption. Now, I know these are two entirely different games that share little save for an open format and plenty of side objectives, but it’ll maybe become a tad more apparent as to why I draw these comparisons later on. The trio of Final Fantasy XIII games (XIII, XIII-2, and Lightning Returns) each sought to change the malleable Final Fantasy formula in their own ways, however XV does so in an entirely new way and takes things from a different perspective as well. For such a large and expansive world, it truly is the little things that tend to set Final Fantasy XV apart, save for some of the more dynamic changes such as combat.

The narrative itself is as convoluted as the rest of the series can sometimes get as it stretches across multiple mediums and carries on after literal decades of real-life time. That’s not to say its themes fall flat or that it is terrible, merely that without consulting a fanpage or wiki, you are likely best going into the game as a blank slate and not thinking too much about that good old one-winged Sephiroth guy or anyone named after white fluffy sky pillows wielding larger than realistic swords. Like most of the other Final Fantasy titles, XV carries with it its own lore and themes and for the most part it can essentially be boiled down to a kingdom at the brink of war and friendship, brotherhood, and camaraderie.

Perhaps one of the realest sensations the game has to offer is the thoroughly tangible result of your interactions with your three brothers in arms and party members. Whereas you may encounter guest characters that fight by your side or otherwise advance the story along certain paths, the bulk of your adventure is spent within the confines of four named characters- Noctis, Ignis, Gladiolis, and Prompto. You’re essentially tasked with embarking upon the roadtrip of a lifetime, for lack of a better explanation and due to the fact you start off with a car. Yes, the car you’ve probably seen on all that promotional stuff. By the end of your journey though, let’s just say it gets a heavy duty upgrade and love letter from the auto shop. The brotherhood and camaraderie doesn’t start and stop with combat and side quests though- it extends to every aspect of your adventure as it permeates even the dullest of campfires and areas explored and camped in. No detour is too small, no task too much.

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The most important thing you should before anything else, if you’ve not already discovered it for yourself, is that Final Fantasy XV should not be constrained or defined by series traditions. It may unmistakably be a Final Fantasy title, but by the same token it is a new breed of beast. In many ways its faults and strengths play off of the same notes because travel and atmosphere are definite strengths whereas familiarity to borderline boredom and cheap sameness, lengthy ‘garbage time’ and unavoidable detours, and characteristic similarities detract from the overall experience.

For my mention of the impressively expansive world as well as its equally expansive lore, the one highlight of the complex story is that it keeps things simple and allows players to choose how much they would like to read into it. You’re perfect able and welcome to traipse through with the barest of details and to ignore or glean as much lore as you’d like. It’s there for you to find and the world is brimming with alternatives to main questlines if you’d like to go out and explore it, but by the same token this can sometimes seem a weighty task and nigh impossible due to travel time that is severely frustrating in the opening hours as you’re constantly hindered by an on-rails driving experience. Don’t try to travel from one edge of the world to the other unless you’d like to sit still for entirely too long and arrive somewhere between the doldrums and REM sleep.

I was immensely pleased that, although the narrative has other focuses that are definitely there, this is a story particularly focused on its main protagonists and not so much on the battles or politics of the land. While there are plenty of important moments and events, the time spent with your comrades and friends is balanced as equally if not more important and definitely has a positive impact throughout. For the most part, this is what the entirety of the Final Fantasy XIII timeline lacked- a sense of unity and camaraderie that felt earnest and believable as well as downright enviable. Character development is key in any role-playing adventure and it takes center stage as one of the most brilliant moves in gameplay/narrative design for Final Fantasy XV.

Without ruining their own redeemable and often laudable qualities for those of you who have yet to play the game, each of the four main party members definitely establishes their own distinctive attitude despite them all resembling some anime meets boyband crew. Don’t let their familiar garb and gear fool you- each of the four is their own individual character and story, and it’s entirely up to you to pursue that to your own ends and cultivate whatever relationships you can between the band for the duration of your adventures. Perhaps one of the most interesting elements of all is the natural melding of gameplay and narrative characteristics as each character has their own special “hobby” of sorts that ties into side content such as photography, cooking, and other small yet aesthetically pleasing values and attributive qualities.

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For all the expansiveness of the world, there is sometimes the feeling that it is almost TOO big, which seems a bit ridiculous as far as complaints go, but is made true do to the lack of objectives or opportunities in the most barren of regions. Arguably, these regions are veritable deserts, so who would expect much in the way of enemy encounters or loot there anyway right? Still, it is made all the more frustrating by the fact that these regions often take the most time to traverse, even by vehicle. Trekking around on foot for any extreme length of time is all but completely out of the question as the world is truly gigantic. There are meaningful and interesting side missions to be found quite literally everywhere, loot and goodies in pretty much every nook and cranny, plenty of upgrades and unlockables, and side adventures that culminate in dungeon diving that is entirely missable if you hardly dare to adventure outside of the main quest series.

Combat is one of the biggest and most innovative changes for the series and in my mind one that has been made for the better, streamlining encounters into a rapid response of buttons and role-playing elements that in some ways remind me of Lost Odyssey’s (Mist Walker) ring combat and flourishes. Speed is valued over brute strength and strategy wins the day. You are able to cue up some teamwork-imbued linked attacks almost akin to Marvel Ultimate Alliance’s combo attacks that utilize the powers of two heroes as well. Stringing together successful hits is as much about countering and evasive maneuvers in the vein of the Batman Arkham titles as it is to outright attacking your foes. To make matters even better, each encounter is fairly balanced to your level and style of play with the exception of some of the more difficult boss fights of course.

Some other miscellaneous notes about the game are going to follow. Square very much took the size of the world into mind when crafting some of the enemy encounters and even when creating the special “summons” that each character can utilize here and there during combat once meeting the standard requirements and defending themselves well enough in combat. The world is expansive and as such is populated by particularly nasty and hulking behemoths in certain regions, so powerful and so large that it often takes literal hours of game time during events to defeat them, meaning you may have to come back later for encounters. Surprisingly, this isn’t as horrible an idea as it sounds because you’re not necessarily forced to fight that single battle for the entire time in one sitting anyway. Summons allow you to essentially square off with these larger than life foes in your own monstrous showdown as well, many of which can be seen in action in the gameplay videos available online.

While combat works well, stealth oriented elements fall completely flat in the game and this is put woefully on display towards the end when you are tasked with infiltrating particular areas of the world in the final few chapters of your adventure. The main story and gameplay meld at this point and your experience will be limited until after its completion which allows you back out into the world in its entirety- a strange decision but one that does not terribly affect or impact the game or gameplay otherwise. Enhancements and upgrades will stem from both the main and side paths, meaning there is a healthy balance to be found on and off the beaten path throughout. All in all, the experience is an interesting and worthwhile one even with its mistakes and few artistic missteps along the way.

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Concept: Create a hybridization of Final Fantasy elements both old and new without it feeling like a cheap adventure title with the name plastered on but not really holding onto elements dear to the series.

Graphics: The graphics are for the most part spectacular and the animations are impressive and detailed. Camera angles are odd at times especially when paused mid-combat, however the gameplay never suffers as a result.

Sound: The voice acting is superb and there is an available collection of classic melodies from Final Fantasies both old and new. Some of the Final Fantasy XV pieces themselves are less stellar than others, however the soundtrack is passable.

Playability: The locomotion in terms of vehicles is one of the worst elements of the game as it is such an integral part of gameplay at times. However, combat and overall control of the game handles well once you overcome a slight skill gap.

Entertainment: The world and players won’t lack for activities both main and side content related to dive into. While the experience takes a hit in its later narrative exploits and also in its ability to traverse the expansive world, the overall experience is an enjoyable and worthwhile one.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 8.0

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A Rising Tide: Destiny and the Rise of Iron

[As Read on GIO.]

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Destiny’s latest expansion released nearly a month ago and now I’ve finally had a good enough taste of what it offers in order to give some of my own thoughts. This is a review of sorts but more importantly it is a discussion. Destiny has been and will undoubtedly continue to be a good game. The first two expansions were welcome if smaller additions, The Taken King was a very welcome and game-changing and much larger addition, and Rise of Iron falls in a happy medium between those two.

Rise of Iron changes a few things up, adds a few others, but for the most part tweaks the core experience you’ve come to recognize and enjoy. The fundamentals are unchanged however they have been given a facelift in terms of menu layout and inventory for example. You now have the ability to explore a whole new section of the Cosmodrone labeled as the ominous Plaguelands. While for the most part it is a nuclear winter reskin of the original areas, it offers some interesting new places to explore and missions delving into a cult-like mechanized and bioengineered Fallen guild.

Another much anticipated new addition to the gameplay is Felwinter Peak, Destiny’s newest social space and the second on Earth proper. Like any good update, Rise of Iron has its fair share of secrets, only a few of which I’m sure have actually even been discovered yet. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones’ House Stark, then you’ll enjoy Felwinter Peak’s plethora of scenic snowy vistas, wolves, and twisty trees a la a weirwood forest.

There is a main questline but also a pretty good number of side quests including exotic hunts and strike missions (as well as a game changing raid that I won’t spoil at all here with details). However the updates aren’t limited to the solo and fireteam aspect of things, as multiplayer has also been changed both in terms of being updated and in terms of adding accessibility and functionality. There is a new dedicated offline/online sort of private match building potential, several new game modes including (for comparison) a sort of Kill Confirmed (for CoD fans) crest stealing mode. Maps have been updated, added to, rotated about, and even new additions have been added.

This is only a small description of what the complete package has to offer but rest assured it is worth shelling out the extra money for if you are a Destiny fan. If you have yet to play the game but are interested, I encourage you to seek out Bungie’s complete edition as it includes every single expansion and is the same price as a normal retail game. Between The Taken King and Rise of Iron alone there is plenty of new content to explore as you seek to rid the galaxy of the Darkness and raise your light level to the new cap of 385. My one grievance of sorts is that they don’t seem to want to increase the actual level capacity to say 50, probably due to balancing purposes.

All in all, you really should heed the call. It may not be the call to duty, but it’s a call to go on a galaxy-spanning adventure of a lifetime and to combat ancient and evil threats along the way.

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“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Pt 1 & 2” Review

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First of all, allow me to say as a fellow ’80s child (alongside Harry who is of course a little under two years older than me by this point) that I appreciate this play/writing being created just as much as any ’90s child would. I read through the first seven novels and always had a blast exploring the mystical world that J.K Rowling crafted. I watched all eight films and was mildly surprised that each found its way to the silver screen in such an amusing and enjoyable way. Sure, things always differ between film and book and although I would’ve loved them to be exact replicas, I do understand why they could not be at all times.

Therefore, upon hearing that not only would there be a two-part theatrical production but a released text to accompany it in semi-book form, I was as enthused as anyone would be. And then of course there is the matter of the film adaptation of ‘Fantastic Beasts’ coming shortly as well. Suffice it to say, the world cannot have enough of Harry Potter- whether you condemn the producers for selling their souls and continuing to milk the brand or not is beyond the point.

To be clear, this particular review is for the text of ‘Cursed Child Part 1 and 2’ not the theatrical release. As much as I applaud them for taking leaps and bounds theatrically to shake things up and make them interesting, I’ve always preferred text and I like to envision the characters the same as I always have in my mind as well. I’ll do my best to hit the highlights of the three-hundred odd pages or so without spoiling anything, as if you all probably haven’t had things spoiled enough for you by this point.

‘Cursed Child’ should be considered the eighth base text in the Potter saga although it is as much Harry’s story as it is that of his youngest son Albus Severus Potter’s (alongside Scorpius Malfoy, perhaps the most darling character Rowling has written yet). Picking up roughly where the epilogue of book seven (Deathly Hallows) leaves us, nineteen or so years after the Battle of Hogwarts and all that was thenceforth ended in the wizarding world (see: Moldy Voldy and several lovable characters), ‘Cursed Child’ quickly proves that it isn’t going to stay quietly in the Potter mold. Within about fifty pages, three or four years pass at Hogwarts and an entirely different story begins to take shape. Things have never been perfect in Harry’s world and Rowling (alongside of course Jack Thorne and John Tiffany) makes sure to inject just the right, believable amount of familial drama and flawed characters into the mix as well.

I enjoyed the believable evolution and portrayal of familiar characters as well as the addition of new ones to make the story have its own, new sense of purpose and direction and life. The world may or may not be a better place and characters see their flaws and notice how things in the past may come back to haunt them and this is very much a large and intricately portrayed part of the story. I’ll not spoil any key plot-specific elements but I will most definitely say that time plays a large role in the story- not just in terms of establishing the future but reconciling with past actions as well. Rowling definitely goes the classic route and tugs on the heartstrings by making callbacks to previous notable moments in Harry’s life, exceptionally so in roughly the last fifty pages or so of the text.

I enjoyed seeing the overall arching storylines that traced characters’ paths from book seven until ‘Cursed Child’ and I also enjoyed how things ended. I say ended merely because the two-part theatrical production definitely serves as a fitting end for Harry’s story, although it could very well turn into the beginning of his son’s generation of characters’ story. I was satisfied with the end of Harry’s seven years at Hogwarts for better or worse and I’m just as satisfied by the end of ‘Cursed Child’ overall. It both trod old and familiar territory and spiced things up a little bit with some changes to the nostalgic formula and teases of darker things to come hither and thither. I’m excited to see where the world continues to go- whether in terms of films or other productions, and that will never change. The groundwork has been laid for delving into other realms of production and Rowling has proved that she can craft intricate and thought-provoking stories both with eight-hundred page tomes and three-hundred page manuscripts.

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Superhot Review

[As Read on GIO.]

First of all, long time no see. I apologize profusely for my egregious inactivity online in terms of writing, blogging, reviewing, and pretty much any and everything else. I’ve been quite busy these past few months and although I really have no excuse for not blogging or writing anything here for almost a year or more actively, I have been lurking in the shadows and watching some of the goings on I swear. No, not in that weird of a way. So this isn’t my “I’m back” kind of thing either, but it’s a welcome start right? I’ve missed the opportunity to review a plethora of games that I’d like to but for now I’m going to aim small in case I miss small. So I’ll start with this particular game and see where it goes from there, eh? Without further ado, let’s skip the pleasantries and get to the meat of why we’re here today: the review itself.

Superhot is at its core a shooter in its entirety. But it is also something altogether different than titles we would generally associate with the term “shooter” in today’s game industry. This particular title is also a puzzle game in many ways and a strategic shooter in many others. Some would even say it’s more of a strategy game than anything else and I guess they would also be correct. The game is all of these elements and maybe a little bit more than that at times. It is certainly an interesting approach to the question often asked by shooters today: “how can we continue to make things new and exciting for players?” Superhot has found its answer to that particular question, but I don’t think it’ll be exactly what everyone was expecting.

Speed is the answer of course. No, not the drug and no not the use of incredibly speedy moments or incredibly lackadaisical ones. Superhot takes slow motion along for a ride- throughout the entirety of its gameplay, not just select scenes or moments as has become quite the common practice in fighting and shooting games lately. This is no Max Payne bullet-time, this is no slow motion quick time event in Call of Duty of some other shooter. This is still frame after still frame of strategically enacted shooting battles that would make some great generals proud, if they played or enjoyed games. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and for every action there is also an equal and opposite consequence it seems. And Superhot capitalizes on this, making every moment of every battle matter. There’s definitely a strategy to overcome each encounter, but just because things have been slowed down doesn’t mean they are any easier to overcome.

Think of the game as one slightly less brutal runthrough of a game such as the newest iteration of Devil May Cry or Batman Arkham. I make this comparison for the sole reason that both games have specific modes that task you with defeating your foes without taking a single hit, for fear of the Iron Man-like repercussions resulting in your death from said hit. Superhot is best compared to those respective modes because you are constantly tasked with defeating enemies without taking a single hit. It only takes one hit to destroy them and consequently you die upon being hit as well. Call yourself a one hit wonder if you will, both for dealing them and being punished by one. That’s not to say bullets are entirely your only concern however, simply one of the more deadly things to be aware of in this world. You’ll also encounter melee enemies and even folks with no weapon besides their fists, yet each and every one of these enemies is deadly for one reason or another so every situation should be approached cautiously.

It’s not so much that the game is played in slow motion or that time has stopped moving along altogether, but rather when there is an absence of movement there is an absence of time moving. If you’re able to grasp that concept then you’ll be able to grasp most of what the game throws at you as well. Whether you are moving forward, dodging an attack or perhaps a bullet or ten, or attacking in your own stead, each action and reaction takes a “turn” so to speak and you must remain constantly vigilant of your surroundings so as to make sure you’re constantly dancing between attacking, dodging, and moving forward without being hit. Strategy comes in many different forms and it also moves beyond merely calculating when to move and when not to move. You’ll find yourself lining up trajectories and predicting paths enemies are most likely to follow if you want to master this game in a short time and best the challenges that come your way.

It may take a little bit of time to get used to some of the mechanics behind all of this slow motion skulduggery but it is more than worth some of the initial trial and error and hassles you may face. As you progress through the somewhat short “campaign” the challenges are amped up again and again, so by the end you’ve undoubtedly become much more experienced and able in terms of continuing the fight. Otherwise you’ll find yourself facing death over and over again. What might help even more is the addition of instant replays upon completion of an objective, which show your course and the methods through which each enemy was dispatched- significantly sped up for pleasure of course. While the gameplay can become frustrating only in longer situations, seeing as save points are virtually nonexistent and you’re expected to complete most levels in one sitting, I never found Superhot to be terribly unrealistic or unfair in terms of difficulty. Often it was more the fact I had overlooked something than the fact that I was just unlucky.

Whereas many strategy or puzzle games last much longer than they should or wrap up much sooner than anticipated, I think Superhot nails just about the right amount of time to place an emphasis on standard gameplay. Before things can get too overused or stale the main content is over and it’s onto the seemingly neverending variations of levels available to test yourself with. To add to replay value there are also differing “modes” that prevent the use of certain items or make the main objective be that you complete the level in a specific fashion, furthering adding elements of strategy and puzzle to the gameplay. Simple in concept and only relatively more complicated in execution, Superhot is super and it is hot.

Concept: Take the core of gameplay from any shooter and that gameplay will revolve around shooting, plain and simple. It’s in the title just like it’s in gaming DNA. Now add a twist where the entire thing moves in slow motion and you’re prone to insta-kill enemies just as they can do so to you. Messes with your mind a little bit at first doesn’t it?

Graphics: I personally loved the art style that permeates this world. Your enemies are brightly colored but not so detailed as to be fleshed out beyond mere polygonal shapes. The same can be said for the surrounding world, which lacks color but remains sharp and clear in its definite shapes and settings.

Sound: The sound work is nothing special or remotely spectacular but what it does is excellent pace the game along so that you never feel like you’re chugging along slowly, rather playing through in a blur of speed alongside the constantly crescendoing and galloping soundtrack.

Playability: There should be no confusion here once the controls have been established, as your one and only goal is to move forward at all costs, eliminating those who dare to stand in your way and doing your best to survive their counterattacks.

Entertainment: For a title that revolves around slowing combat down, I never once felt bored or tired of the matters at hand and instead felt that much more tense and anxious as I made my way slowly but surely through the levels and the world.

Replay Value: Moderately High.

Overall Score: 8.0

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Until Dawn Review

[As Read on GIO.]

Nothing Beats the Thrill of Running from a Serial Killer while Risking your Life Nudity

Everybody dies eventually. It sounds somber but there’s only so much we can do to delay the inevitable. However, venturing to a remote and far from hospitable countryside during horrible weather conditions, intending to celebrate the anniversary of a friend’s disappearance and probable death, alongside several other compadres, is probably a good way to speed up the inevitable. And as luck, as well as any good horror flick writer’s intentions, would have it- that’s pretty much the exact premise for Supermassive Games’ ‘Until Dawn.’

Until Dawn is at its best in its earliest moments for sure, but that’s not to say the entire package isn’t pleasing. Somewhere along the way some details get tossed aside with a little more abandon, but the end result is still an enjoyable and even sometimes funny experience. Yes, I said funny- despite the fact this is essentially a teen slasher horror flick of a game. It retains the aspects of horror, drama and general suspense of any good jump-scare, slasher-ridden, morbidly-cliched 80’s movie but it also embraces the cheesiness and makes it work well. Whether or not the majority of this is intentional, the world may never know. But it works, and the ends often justify the means where the gaming and entertainment worlds are concerned.One thing remains undeniable: Until Dawn definitely has its moments.

In my mind, Until Dawn finds its own spot somewhere along the line between Heavy Rain’s interactivity and atmosphere and an episodic Telltale play and pray foray. Choice isn’t a figment of your imagination- you CAN and will impact the direction the story takes characters in, regarding their survival and much, much more. There’s definitely room for error where choice-driven gameplay and storylines are concerned in gaming, however Until Dawn performs remarkably well and manages to produce truly meaningful changes to the way the story progresses. Every little decision really could matter, when all things are said and done. The atmosphere is appropriately reflective of the consequences of your actions as well as the brooding musical score and the gloomy, dangerous environment see to that.

Don’t for a second be fooled into thinking this is just your everyday, average teen horror flick in game form. Until Dawn also boasts a fairly intriguing mystery and plot. Sure, all our sad little teens care about is survival when all is said and done, however there’s more to be discovered concerning plenty of juicy plot details the further through the runtime you go. Though a survival horror-adventure story at heart, the only thing you need worry about is exploration, choices, and dynamic encounters. No precious fallback such as a massive inventory or combat system exists. It’s just you (the teens, rotating throughout their escapades) and the story.

The experience is scarily realistic, or as life-like as such a cliched adventure can be. The choices and their resulting consequences play out over the course of the entire game and actually do impact your experience and the story. The visuals and the performances of actors and actresses within the core cast add further life and grit as well. The environments themselves serve as a conduit of the game’s very mood and the score inlaid complements that. All in all, the experience is a polished one even with hiccups to be found here and there. Choices, while not at all spoiled where their outcomes are concerned, are continually tracked in the menu- leading you further and further down the path towards completion and letting you take note of side impacts and repercussions along the way. Just don’t think you’re going to be able to keep trying for a desired outcome, as you’re better off playing through continually one way and making alternate decisions another time in order to compare outcomes.

There’s certainly an air of permadeath constant throughout the game, as you get no retries, no redos, no concessions for your mistakes. You pay with your life, just as somebody would in a horror flick of the same type, often gruesomely so in gratifying if disheartening fashion. However, despite the constant threat of death and disembowelment looming over your head(s), it’s always heartening to see characters evolve alongside your choices too- acting as you cast them, although still retaining some of their true character.

However, the game is no simple point and click survival horror adventure- it also has its fair share of side content in the form of mysterious clues, signs, and collectible items. The more you explore the surrounding area, the higher your risk of being decapitated, impaled, or eviscerated but also the more rewarding the story becomes as new details and hints are discovered, revealing more about just about everything. Foreshadowing plays a large role in gameplay as well. There is the usual amount of “nothing could possibly go wrong, so everything will go wrong” laughably cliched tone throughout the story, but then there are also brief bursts of visions foretelling doom and delight equally for your characters, depending on what encounters you steer them towards and away from. Which brings us to the points where you actually physically steer your characters…in life or death situations. Yes folks, QTEs make an appearance, and yes they’re as generally annoying as usual, but remarkably well handled (as well as can be) and used more conservatively. Failure is not an option, unless you have a death wish, but sometimes by happenstance you survive even if you are a second too late.

Nothing sucks more than your favorite character dying in your favorite television show, and the feeling is the same through Until Dawn. The character archetypes are all easily recognizable- you’ve always got to have the jock, love interest, etc. however they aren’t all as memorable as others. By the end of the game, if you’ve managed to keep the more redeemable characters alive then you’ve done something right, as the expendables and general asses might make the experience more entertaining, but they also don’t seem as easy to be genuinely invested in. Your experience will likely clock out somewhere around twelve hours but don’t let that stop you from replaying the game differently- Supermassive is not lying when they say it will be an entirely different experience. This isn’t a case of “red light, green light, blue light” a la Mass Effect- it’s far more than a few diverse choices and then an aesthetic ending cutscene. When it’s at its best, Until Dawn is being ridiculous, scary, and interesting all at the same time.

So let’s talk about the less than stellar details, the ones keeping an otherwise entirely praiseworthy experience from its well-deserved glory. The world is atmospheric for sure and it doesn’t need to be large, but at times even when it wasn’t supposed to, the cramped setting gave off a more claustrophobic vibe than intended. I can’t find too much fault in that choice as there’s plenty of content and story to explore in the variety of settings offered, but perhaps a little fluff around the edges would’ve gone a little ways as well. Until Dawn has plenty of adequately scary moments and shocking turn of events, however sometimes its cheesiness and jokes get the upper hand and really soften the intended pang of consequences and horror. A little finer tuned balancing of that could’ve done wonders. What’s more, even the light humor sprinkled throughout falls flat and gives way to a much more convoluted and conflicted storyline somewhere around the eight hour mark, and from then on out the experience in the second act is much less than that of the stellar expository scenes.

So, despite the small flaws and cracks in its casing, Until Dawn is an entirely competent and enjoyable horror adventure and certainly a commendable effort on the part of the developers. It is well-worth the anticipation and wait, as well as all the trouble it went through in production. It’s discordant and lacks true focus in certain instances, but it never loses track of what it is or where it’s going, making it a creepily tantalizing game and story.

Concept: Revel in the atmospheric horrors of a classic slasher film from the comfort of your couch, and better yet make the decisions leading to gruesome and sometimes hilarious and well-deserved deaths all the while progressing through an interesting and malleable plot.

Graphics: The visuals, the animations, and the overall content showcase a fine level of quality and add believability to the resume as well. Yes, I probably made that word up.

Sound: Both the melodies and the voice work add to the already well designed experience and add a higher sense of tension appropriately where needed.

Playability: While the majority of gameplay focuses on simplicity, that’s not to say it isn’t still a highly enjoyable and interactive experience.

Entertainment: I hope you like tripping and being cleaved in half by a tottering psychopath, because that and even more is in store for you if you choose to play this game.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 8.0

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