Monthly Archives: July 2015

First Impression: Venture Forth (PC) ~ Alpha Peek

logoOfficial website

First of all, this is an impressive project. This game is made by a small indie developer and has been in development for over two years. They mailed me because they wanted me to take a look at this game after I wrote about Delver. Since this game is in the same style, they thought I might be interested in it. Indeed, I am. While it took me a while to take a look at this game since I was extremely busy, I finally found the time recently. So, let’s dive right into Venture Forth. This article is written on an unfinished build of the game, this is also mostly meant to hype the game a bit and give some feedback to the developers. Ready, let’s go! Alpha build of the 4th July, here we come!  (And as usual, feel free to give me a comment with your opinion of this game and/or the content of the game.)

Warning: This game is in one of my favourite genres. Also, I wasn’t able to make time to write this article, so I had to push it back for almost two months. And also, when I’m asked to write an article, I try to give the best feedback possible. So, prepare yourself for a longer article then you are used of me.

What needs more work?

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The developer said to me that some of the visuals are place holders. So, I’m not going to talk too much about that. While I honestly think that some items and 3D textures look mighty fine already, others like a potion is just an arrow in this current build.

Most likely, the fact that we are missing a menu for options like key-bindings, starting a new game and all that is something that is still in development. If it’s not, please would it be possible to give the player the option to change how they want to control the game? I live in one of those weird keyboard countries where the lay-out of my keyboard is not qwerty, but azerty.

An annoying bug I found in the game is that when you want to switch from full screen to windowed mode, it kept running in full screen. This game uses the usual enter+alt method, which is no big deal. But they might want to look into this bug. Hopefully it’s not because of my own made pc.

This is just a feature suggestion of mine. The map is set up quite interestingly, but what if you give each area a different colour on the map. Makes it easier to see which area ends where. Just a minor thing.

Something that’s not that minor is the lack of lighting in some areas. Don’t read me wrong, I think it’s nice that they went for the realistic approach and make the areas where natural light can’t come through, it’s extremely dark. But when you use a torch, it gives off barely enough light to even properly navigate the dungeon. The area “The Nest” was a perfect example of this.

Labyrinth 2014-10-22 02-49-56-15I could complain about the lack of a tutorial yet, the game controls and plays like any other typical dungeon game. One thing I think they should really change and that is the starting area. You start out having to jump down a ravine. Not once, but if I recall correctly, about three times, you loose some health and this will set off a handful of players to not play the game. It’s not really inviting and it gives the game the first impression of using cheap tricks. At least in my opinion.

Same with some puzzles. This game uses a few puzzles where you barely get any hints. Without spoiling too much, let me tell you. When you are stuck and have nowhere to go, try a staff. It took me way too long to figure this out. I’m not saying it wasn’t rewarding to find this out, but a subtle hint when you enter the area would be nice. But really subtle. In the current version of the game, it was a nearly see-through wall. Hinting that there is something at the other side. But before you got there, it was a long hallway. Maybe put in the rocks an image that looks like the staff somewhere in that hallway? That’s what I mean with subtle, something you wouldn’t notice or easily miss.

Before I move on to the more positive parts of the game, I want to talk about something that won’t help with the first impression as well. The first enemies you encounter are a bit too strong in my taste. Actually, that’s just a nitpick, since if you know what you are doing, the enemies can be quite the pushovers.

What is already good?

Labyrinth 2015-06-04 19-04-46-54

I’m not going to give criticism on the music. Well, honestly, the ambient music that’s playing in the background. The reason is that it helps building the atmosphere quite well. That there is only one melody/track that plays, I can understand. It’s an Alpha after all. If they weren’t planning to add some more music, then a problem could arrive. Some players would get annoyed by the repetitive music and this would turn up as a negative in various reviews.

Earlier I talked about the map system. As a fan of these style of games, I could start complaining about the difficulty to see rooms and all that… Honestly, I think the map is one of the best features in this game. It’s a fully 3D view of the world you play in. It also shows some hidden things in the map, most likely put there from the developer to control the game. (read: spawning enemies or helping with the lighting of an area.) Which is a really cool touch.

That the enemies aren’t shown on the map is something I’m on the fence about. On one hand, you could say it’s annoying since you can’t plan your strategy. On the other hand, it really helps build fear into the game. You never know if an area is safe to cross or not.

The game runs quite smooth already. I got a steady 60fps, which is quite nice. The sound effects are actually perfect for this game. There weren’t many sound effects I would change. I would add a few here and there like for when an enemy switches equipment.

Yes, that’s a thing. Later in the game, the enemies will switch weapons. Long range combat, they will use a bow. Short range? Well, prepare for a sword fight. In this game, you can also prepare a few load-outs. Choose carefully though, since this game doesn’t offer an inventory system. So, that means, when you want to use your potions, you will have to use a load-out. You can also equip two items and armour. Logical, since we only have two hands. This is the reason why you need to plan out your strategy quite well.

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So, the actual controls are mighty smooth. While I think they should add a run button in the full release, the aiming and such is extremely nice for an alpha. Also, this game would benefit from a crouch move where you can’t fall off ledges, like in Minecraft.

I think I talked about everything I wanted to talk about so it’s time to wrap up this article.

Conclusion

I really love where the game is going. I understand that this game is still in alpha and needs some polishing. But truth to be told, the base game is there. The core idea is present and it puts a new spin on exploration. It’s not simply a clone or just an explorer game. It tries to do something new with the different load-outs you can easily switch between and the amazing map.

It can become a great game, if they worked on expanding the first impressions that the game gives you. If I would give it a score in it’s current state, while keeping in mind that it’s an alpha build, it would be around a 7/10.

Thanks for letting me play this game, I actually enjoyed myself. Don’t be afraid to send me a review copy when it’s fully released guys, I will for sure write a full review about it then.

Anyway, I think I will leave it at that for this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed preparing and writing it. And please, give their official site a look, they deserve it.

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eSports – What’s The Big Deal?

What I’m about to write today will differ from the content I usually write. The reason for this is that I was asked recently what my opinions were on eSports. Hence this article.

This article is inspired by the following image. Link

I usually write about things I like or dislike, which is why it has been so hard for me to write this article. My stance towards eSports is quite… indifferent. That being said, eSports are gaining more and more ground.

It’s well documented that the gaming industry brings in more revenue than the music industry, or even the film industry. Gaming extends beyond your classic triple-A titles and even indie games. It also entails mobile games and social games, like those found on Facebook and other social media.

As such, games reach a wide audience. Somewhat surprising, perhaps, is that in recent years watching people play video games has become so popular. People love watching streams on Twitch or “Let’s Plays” on YouTube, and those numbers grow each passing year.

Maybe, keeping that in mind, it’s no wonder how the world of eSports is booming. We see more and more different kinds of games used in official eSports tournaments, but it is striking that the most popular games are MOBA’s and strategy games.

League of Legends and DOTA 2 are incredibly popular, as is Smite, though perhaps to a lesser extent. Star Craft 1 & 2 are still very popular, especially in Asian markets. Other genres are also represented, but to a far lesser extent than the ones mentioned before.

We still see first person shooters and fighting games being used, but not
as much. It might be because those rely mostly on skill, whereas strategy games and MOBA’s require a blend of skill and logical thinking.

Last year, the DOTA 2 championships had a prize pool of eleven million dollars. These events, which are often sponsored by big-name brands, deal with huge amounts of money. Viewer-ship for eSports is even surpassing the “actual sports” championships. More than double the amount of people that watched the MLB world series, watched the League of Legends World Championship. Even the NBA finals don’t come close to those numbers.

Earlier this year, viewers of ESPN 2 complained about eSports being broadcast. It’s apparent that these kinds of events are gaining a lot of ground, so much so that they’re slowly, but surely becoming part of everyday society. As with all change, opposition is to be expected, but I think it’s a good thing that gaming is becoming part of mainstream culture.

I think gaming as an art form, and a form of entertainment, still has a long way to go. But we’re getting there. I firmly believe one day it’ll be as prevalent and universally accepted as film is today.

Most people watching and playing games today are young people. Approximately 80% of people involved in gaming are male and under 35, but that is slowly changing. People who started gaming in the ’80’s are getting older and having children of their own, who in turn might be interested in video games.

And perhaps the ubiquity of games available on mobile and social platforms is a new gateway for people who might not ever have touched a video game otherwise. So while I personally don’t have much interest in eSports, I cannot deny its influence in recent years. As I see it, this will only continue to grow.

Quick Thoughts – Unacceptable Remaster

This will be very quick, as all I want to do is link to a different article. As I mentioned before in my previous posts here and here, part of what I think is wrong with the current generation of consoles, is the over abundance of remastered games.

Fresh of that same line are the Prototype remasters. Frankly, this is utterly unacceptable to be released. Eurogamer explains it in full, but in short, all they did to this “remaster” for the Xbox One is up the resolution from 720p to 1080p. No other visual enhancements. No better textures, lighting or LOD, nothing. And as evident by the videos, framerate is also unacceptable.

Please give it a read.

 

Cheers

Rest In Piece, Mr Iwata.

tumblr_nresjl9Sj61snpzo8o1_500This morning when I was waiting on the train to get to work, I read the news on Twitter. At first, I couldn’t believe it. I was truly hoping it was a hoax. But it isn’t sadly enough. One of the biggest legends died past Saturday. Satoru Iwata, age 55, died because of the consequences of cancer. 

I was actually planning to write about two things that people have been requesting of me for so long. But today isn’t the day that I will write about that. I will delay it until later this week. I need some time off, to process this.

Iwata was one of my childhood icons. He still is actually. His involvement into the gaming industry was just mind blowing. I played so many of the games he was involved in. Also, seeing what he did on various E3 presentations, it’s a guy I want to have as a boss. (Note: my current boss is an amazing guy as well, truth to be told.)

I could write an endless long article to pay my respect to the family, friends and Nintendo… But there have been so many artworks and articles already, I think I will link a few that really touched me. So, the artwork I used isn’t mine. I linked it to the original creator. If I didn’t and you know (or are) the original creator… Feel free to leave a comment so I can fix it.

Thanks Iwata, for shaping this industry into the joy it is now. You will be missed. Thankfully, you will never be forgotten, since your work will live on!

– NekoJonez

http://mynintendonews.com/2015/07/13/wish-farewell-to-satoru-iwata-at-nintendo-world-store/

http://www.nintendo-insider.com/2015/07/13/earthbound-creator-shares-farewell-message-to-satoru-iwata/

http://www.theverge.com/2015/7/13/8941069/satoru-iwata-nintendo-president-video-talent

http://www.dualshockers.com/2015/07/12/from-sony-to-microsoft-and-many-more-the-gaming-industry-pays-homage-to-satoru-iwata/

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First Impressions: The Long Dark

The Long Dark has been a game was aware of for some time. When the last Steam sale came, I decided to check it out, since it seemed so interesting. My actual reaction was “holy crab cakes, this is fun”.

Before I delve into the actual game, allow me to tell you a little bit about myself as a gamer. I don’t really have a particular genre I prefer. I love games, both AAA and indie. Since adulthood, and consequent responsibilities, my actual free time to the game has decreased, so I now tend to only play the games I really want to and leave the “time-fillers”, to call them so crudely, behind.

My first rule: I don’t buy a game at launch unless it’s something I really want. This doesn’t happen very often, but MGS: V and Fallout 4 are two games coming up I will pick up at launch. Otherwise, I wait until some game-of-the-year or complete version is out and discounted on Steam or something since I already have quite the backlog of games I still need and want to play.

My second rule is NO EARLY ACCESS GAMES. I capitalize it because it’s something I have always tried to keep at heart. I don’t like the fact they’re not finished, they can still change drastically, and I always feel like there’s some risk involved. But along comes The Long Dark, which blows me away. I broke my rule and bought it.

I tried it first before I bought it. Many a gamer will gasp at this revelation, but since there was no demo available, I found a not-so-legal version on the internet and tried that. I feel like it’s important for me to admit that, because I really wanted to try this game, but there was no other way I could without paying. In honesty, I barely played the game before I turned it off again. I had to buy it, instantly. Here’s why.

I love survival games. I love just being a nomad in Minecraft, walking around, scrounging for food and resources, and hiding during the night. This game is just that. Surviving. There is a story element, to be added later, but for now it is just survival.

Players can choose between three difficulty levels, though they are not called that, and I don’t see them like that anyway. They’re just catered to what you prefer to play the game like. You can choose an option where there is no wildlife that’ll attack you, or one where it will (which would be the standard mode), or one where things are more challenging and “realistic”.

You, as the player, are stuck in a very cold place, where it’s either incredibly cold or absolutely freezing when a blizzard comes along. You get hungry, thirsty and sleepy, but you also need to keep an eye on how cold you are.

Basically, you scrounge for food and supplies. You look for fuel to burn, food and drinks, new/warmer clothing, weapons, … Anything useful. You can craft items, combine them or use snow on a fire to make water. It’s a very complex, well-thought-out system, but that doesn’t mean it’s hard to use.

Survival is a basic human instinct and this game really makes me feel like I have the survive. It’s a visceral experience I have rarely had. I got immersed in the world very quickly and that’s part of why I like it.

This game has a beautiful aesthetic, and it runs well. Especially for an early access game. Some say the game looks a bit bland and that the textures look washed out, but it feels like a real world to me and I forget I’m playing an actual game two minutes in.

So would I recommend it? Tough to say. This is all based on the roughly two hours I have played this game so, but I think I would. I’m going to keep playing it, that’s for sure.

Review: Fantasy Life (3DS) ~ Joyful RPG at it’s near finest.

Fantasy_Life_box_artLink to the Wikia – First Impression article

And the award for the most generic title goes to… Fantasy Life… Wait, what? I’m copying my buddy’s latest article title and making my own joke out of it? Oh sorry, I’m sure he won’t mind. I have been delaying this review again and again. But after nearly putting 75 hours into this game, I think it’s fair for me to review it. While I haven’t completed it 100%, I am already far beyond the point of beating the full game and the DLC story. So, without me reading the first impression article, this is the taste this game left in my month. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion of the content of this article and/or this game. 

Story time

Fantasy_life_e3_2014_screenshot3

So, one of the weakest points of this game is the story, apart from the DLC story. But don’t read me wrong: the story is solid and the characters are memorable. The huge issue is that thanks to the 12 different paths you can take, there are so many. Too much even for my young brain to remember. On the other hand, this makes each life unique with different characters and personalities.

The main story is a bit generic. It stands out in it’s writing, though. That’s extremely well done. People would easily skip over the story since it’s one you have experienced before: save the world. Yet, when you actually take the time to enjoy the story, you will be pleasantly surprised with it’s well done execution.

This is one of the first Level5 games I played where there is no voice acting. Well, apart from the few grunts from enemies, but I can’t comment on that.

So, let’s move on to the DLC. It truly expands on the main game nicely. It even adds more story and expands the game in nearly every area. The DLC is truly worth it, because the story alone has such a perfect ending, it actually touched me and made me laugh. Just the way how it’s written… Amazing.

All right, enough said about the story of this game. Let’s dive right into the other parts of this game. First of all, the sound design and music.

Just that

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The music and sound design is good. Just that. Good. It isn’t bad, nor is it great. It helps to immerse yourself into the game, but I don’t see myself listening to the soundtrack on my mobile any time soon.

While I think Level5 generally makes great scores for their games, some tracks got annoying to me. “The theme of intrigue” is an example of a track I don’t like. While the “Theme of Courage” is such an amazing track and really hyped me up.

Also, the enemies don’t have a distinct cry. Well, not all. And in my mind, this is a really big issue. Some enemies start to feel bland, generic and cut-outs. Some enemies have some nice sound effects, but not enough.

For the sound design or music, it isn’t worth it to get yourself a headset to enjoy it. As I said earlier, it’s good, but it won’t be memorable. Some tracks are catchy and I remember some battles but that mostly wasn’t because of the sound and music design. It helped, but it wasn’t the most important factor.

The design of this game is something that is actually really well done. Apart from one major issue I will talk about later.

The game world looked bright and colourful or dark and gloomy when it needs to be. They give off the right atmosphere and the area’s are pretty well crafted. The animation looks crisp and neatly done. Some could argue that due to the overload of dialogue some voice acting would benefit the game, but the animation does such a nice job that the voice acting isn’t really needed.

So, about that major issue I had with the design. Well, it is something I feel really mixed about. Visually, it looks lazy… but game design wise, it is a great move. Some enemies, like the spirits, return in various area’s, but they have just a different colour. Looks lazy right? But on the other hand, in some lives, you get the quest to kill a certain amount of some enemy. This makes finding that enemy in later area’s much easier.

Oh, and one minor design flaw is that it’s sometimes really tricky to read an enemy’s name. Because if you come too close, the target marker pops up above their head.

The other parts

112516_3ds_fl_merc_pr_ukSo, in my first impression I think I touch upon the controls. They are quite well done. Apart from the mercenaries life. They are quite flawed. It’s really unclear how you pull off certain moves in that life. Sadly enough, you need to do them in order to finish that life. “Press 4 times A”. Ehrm, I tried it and I wasn’t always able to pull off that move.

I still find it very remarkable that they made such a neat looking and easy to understand interface to display while you have some much content to offer. A nitpick I have is that the bounty clerks are sometimes too far apart.

The main story and the DLC story will take you around 15-20 hours to complete. Nice length. But the game can be a lot longer then that! You won’t be able to complete each and every life in even double the time. I have played this game for over 60 hours and I only fully completed one life.

The difficulty of this game is decent. While some area’s present some challenge, I barely died in this game. The game is also very forgiving in that regard. When you die, you can either revive (if you have a Life Cure) or go back to the nearest check point, or go home. You loose nothing. Also, when you are trying to mine a major gem later in the miner’s life… When you run out of SP, you can stop mining and drink some potions. When you then continue to mine the gem, the gem didn’t heal enough to loose that much of your progress. You aren’t able to do that in the fishing life and that’s one of my other nitpicks.

Before I wrap up this review, let’s talk about some of my other nitpicks. One is that some lives play similar to each other. While they are different and require a different play style, they can give off the same vibe. Mainly the crafting lives, they are all quick time event based. The animation is different, but the core mechanic isn’t.

Talking about crafting lives, the menu system is a bit flawed here. You aren’t able to see your quests when you start working.

The next nitpick is one that annoys the heck out of me. Certain lives have a dedicated shop. Like the carpenter and the woodcutter have a dedicated shop. But when you want to craft all the carpenter items, they won’t sell all those items in that shop. This means that you run around sometimes to get each and every item.

The next nitpick I have is that Flutter and your pets can only be accessed in one house: your starter house. Maybe I haven’t unlocked it through the bliss system, but I don’t think you will be able too.

So, the game is a nice experience but flawed. It’s really addictive and hard to put down for the people who enjoy these kind of games. But it lacks some polish. That also shows in the map. You can’t control the map at all. You can have an overview of the map, but you can’t see where all the shops are located.

Well, I think I talked about everything I wanted to talk about in this review. Time to wrap this one up.

Conclusion

The bad;

– While the writing is excellent, the story is one we have seen in different games a million times over. (Apart from the DLC one)

– The music and sound could have been done better.

– The game is overall too easy.

– The lack of bounty clerks in some area’s.

– Some small issues can hinder the experience and make it irritating.

The good:

+ Amazing visual world.

+ 12 different play styles to enjoy.

+ You can switch class when you want.

+ Very neat UI.

+ The character creation has a lot of features.

+ The animation is extremely well done.

+ Addictive.

+ …

Conclusion

So, is this game worth playing? If you enjoy games like Harvest Moon, Tomodachi Life or anything similar, odds are you feel right at home here.

The characters are memorable but they suffer from a weak(ish) story. The writing is funny and won’t get boring, but they also suffer from the weak story.

This game lacks some polish. While the game has a lot of polish in certain area’s, not every part of this game has been polished enough. This is one game that could have benefited from a bit more development time.

Be warned when you play or start playing this game, it’s difficult to put down. I haven’t played many other games for over a month because I wasn’t able to stop playing this game. It truly took me be surprise how fun it can be.

I love this game, I think it’s near perfection. But the reviewer side of my character disagrees and sees the flaws in this game. It isn’t perfect, but it’s near its finest form.

So, that wraps up my review of this game. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. (and playing the game in order to write this review.) And I hope to meet you another time here on my blog, but until then: take care and game on~

Score: 85/100