Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Death Mark (Switch) ~ Alive Until Dawn

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Official website

You are walking on a street and you overhear two schoolgirls talking to each other. They tell a story about one of their teachers dying in a horrible death. Her arm was found in the library of the school, cut off from the rest of the body with a red bite mark on the hand. That’s how Death Mark opens. The game I decided to play during the Halloween season because I already finished Angels of Death by then. Since I started playing the Zero Escape series and Corpse Party, I have been hooked on the horror genre. I wanted to play more horror games or games with a strong focus on horror. It doesn’t need to be survival horror like Resident Evil 4 or Silent Hill but a game that fits the mood of the holiday perfectly. Now, I know I’m terribly late with my review of this game. But, it was part of my top 10 games of 2018 list and I want to give my honest opinion on it. So, let’s talk about the PS Vita game that got ported to the Switch called Death Mark. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion of the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Alive until dawn

nswitch_deathmark_05So, the story of this game centers around the mystery of the mysterious Death Mark people have been receiving. This red bit mark appears on people’s bodies when they interact with spirits. The protagonist of this game suffers from your typical case of memory loss and doesn’t remember his past. After you heard the two girl’s their story, your own mark starts to burn and you get teleported to a mansion. When you enter the mansion, you find it to be abandoned. When you visit one of the bedrooms, a thunder crack reveals the dead body of a girl on the floor with flowers blooming from her stomach and chest. Startled, you run down starts where you meet up with a doll that explains to you that the Death Mark is quite real.

If you are unable to remove your mark, you will die by the time dawn comes. One theory that you quickly form is that you can possibly remove the mark by killing or defeating a spirit. But, how do you kill a spirit? How do you kill something that is already dead? Well, by trying to solve the grudge that is keeping them in the living realm.

After you got the explanation of the living wooden doll that lives on the sofa in the entrance of the mansion, you heard a knock on the door. You open the door and find two teenagers. They are looking for the previous inhabitant of the mansion. She is a spirit healer and they are looking for her help to get rid of the same mark you possess. It’s revealed that she was the dead body you discovered earlier. So, you try and take her place. So, now you start in trying to help the other people with a Death Mark while trying to discover who you are and which spirit gave you your Death Mark.

All of this is explained in a quite lengthy introduction. The writing of this game is amazing. If this story sounds interesting to you, I have to give you a fair warning. This game is a visual novel adventure game. There is quite a lot of text in this game. If you aren’t interested in playing a game that has more dialogue then gameplay, this isn’t your game.

I do have to say that the writing is amazing in this game. The story has it a weird charm. At one hand, the game has amazing characters and great development. It didn’t take long before I got attached to certain characters and I got quite invested in them. Yet, this game is also a horror game. So, a lot of creepy stuff happens on your journey. From finding death bodies to combating spirits, this game has it all. This game has just the perfect mix between the two worlds and I have no complaints about them. The pacing of the game is just perfect as well.

The only minor disappointment is that the characters are voice acted in Japanese. Now, I don’t mind Japanese voice acting that much, but I personally prefer English voice acting. The whole game isn’t voice acted, but quite a lot is. The voice acted that is present in the game is really great. But, I’m not going to critique it too much since I don’t know enough about Japanese to say it’s good or bad. But, from my personal experience, I feel that the voice actors always used the right emotion to what appears on screen.

This game has 6 chapters. The original PS Vita game had 5 chapters and one DLC chapter. The DLC chapter is included for free in this Switch port. There is something in terms of the chapters I’m quite on the fence about. The chapters themselves are not too long nor too short. But, if you combine all playtime to get through the game and fully beat it, this game takes around 8 to 10 hours to complete. This game is quite short, too short even.

Near the end, I was so invested in the game, I was extremely bummed when I finished the final chapter. I wanted to play more, explore the world and setting of the game a bit more. But alas. Thankfully, this game doesn’t have a lot of filler content. The story in some chapters can go at a breakneck pace and that was a refreshing experience.

Explore and read

nswitch_deathmark_04One of my favorite genres in video games is the visual novel. There are two types of visual novels; the ones with gameplay and the kinetic ones. The kinetic ones almost have no gameplay and I honestly dislike playing. This game isn’t a kinetic novel. In this game, you have to explore various areas where a spirit is roaming. During your exploration, you have to find a reason of the grudge of the spirit.

While you are exploring the area, you can come across live or death situations. You get presented with different options and if you choose the wrong option, you get a game over. In some cases, you lose soul power. What is this soul power? It’s the power of your soul, when this drops to 0, the spirit of the chapter catches you right away.

When you are in a live or death situation, you are timed. The remaining time you have, is the remaining soul power you have. During your exploration, you can find talismans that restore your soul power if it gets low. Now that I have beaten the game, I can say that there is no additional reward when you answer all the questions correctly without losing soul power. This is a missed opportunity. It would be great if this unlocked the additional 6th chapter or some character art.

Anyways, your soul power fully restores in-between chapters. So, you aren’t punished for mistakes in an earlier chapter. Personally, my favorite chapter is the 6th chapter. The moral of that chapter speaks to me on a personal level.

Now, there are two different endings to this game. The ending that you get depends if you are able to fully solve the grudge of the spirit of that chapter. So, when it comes to the climax of each chapter, think long and hard before you make your next move. Since one mistake during those battles can change the ending dramatically.

Speaking about the climax of each chapter, think carefully who you take as a partner on your journey. Sometimes you will be unable to defeat a spirit if you don’t have the right character in your party. I loved trying to work out who would be the best character to use against the spirit. Reading their character profile is even more important now than before. My advice is, save often. You are only able to save outside of dialogue sections. So, don’t be a hero and save after you made some progress. Also, pay attention that this game doesn’t automatically save. And when you are dead, you have to restart from your last save point. You can save using the “Y” button. There are a limited amount of save slots, so use them wisely.

Saving is this game is quite easy. After the introduction, you can save when you are in the mansion in a limited amount of save slots. Now, if you want to be able to restart a chapter, I highly advise you to save right after the introduction of the chapter. Since, there is no other way to start from a certain chapter. The only option in the main menu are new game, continue or a gallery. In this gallery, you can see the animation of the spirits and the images you saw during the chapter.

In terms of the UI, this game is good. I have no real complaints. I do have some minor suggestions. Especially with the inventory screen. This would feel so much better if the inventory screen had a static image of the item you have selected. Now, it’s just a boring looking list of items, like you would see in a spreadsheet.

Anyways, sometimes the story of one spirit links to the story of another spirit. In that case, you can always read a small summary in the pause menu. During that, you can watch the amazing full screen pictures that were used during the chapter.

During each chapter, you have to explore a location. You can only explore with one partner. The other partner or partners will stay at the mansion to look for clues in solving the mystery of the Death Mark. You can go at any moment to the entrance of the location to take the car back to the mansion to change partners. Like I said earlier, the choice of partner matters. If you are unable to solve a puzzle or pass through a location, try having another partner.

The locations themselves aren’t that large. It doesn’t take too long before you are able to fully explore the location. Now, there is something to do in each and every screen of the game. From small jump scares to big puzzles. Oh yes, this game has small jump scares. Most of the jump scares are rather subtle and aren’t too distracting from the exploration. To be honest, I found them used quite well. Also, it’s possible that you don’t even see all the jump scares since they are location specific.

During your journey for the truth in the Death Mark mystery, you explore a forest, a school and various other locations. Each location is extremely memorable. The detail in the artwork of each location is impressive. The atmosphere building with the visual presentation in this game is a strong point of this game. I really felt on edge while exploring certain locations. I really felt that the location I was exploring had a certain presence and a morbid history to it. In some occasions, the game managed to get underneath my skin.

Now, in terms of the animations, this game has a lot of missed potential. Apart from the spirit battles, this game doesn’t have a lot of animations. I think it would have been better if the game had a bit more animations and scene transitions. For example, a walking animation from going between rooms would aid a lot with the world building and immersion. And if you give the option to the players to turn this animation on or off, it would be perfect. Now, there is a small dialogue box that appears when you move between rooms with a sound effect, but could be so much more.

On the edge of my seat

nswitch_deathmark_03Exploration in this game is really well done. During the game, you are able to use your flashlight to investigate each and every room. I highly advise that you look around carefully in each and every room. Since every little detail can aid you in your quest to solve the grudge of the spirit. The game helps you out a bit in the investigation. When you can interact with something, you see a little sparkle animation when you hover over it with your flash light.

When you have to use an item in your quest, the item will be automatically used. Expect during the spirit battles. In those battles you have to use every item in your inventory to try and defend yourself. You and the spirit take turns in making a move. If the spirit comes too close, it’s game over.

Apart from one puzzle, the puzzles in this game are well crafted. They really test your skills in exploring the area you are in and your investigation skills. Exploring the location gets even better with the fluid controls. The flashlight is mapped to one of the joysticks of the joycon and reacts very responsively.

Now, there is one thing that could turn some people off and that is the map system. During the exploration, you have a mini-map of the location at the top right. This mini-map is nothing more than a few squares and lines how the squares connect. So, you will have to build a mental map of the location during your exploration. This is highly essential when you don’t want to get lost. A more detailed map would have been welcome, but I felt it added to the world building of the game. Remember the story? You only have the few short hours of the night to try and get rid of the grudge of the spirit before you die. So, creating an actual map might lose too much time.

The controls in this game are quite decent. Sometimes I got a bit disoriented, but that’s because my mediocre navigational skills in games. It doesn’t take long before you get used to the control scheme of this game and learn to use it to your advantage.

The exploration is added with some great sound and music design. The soundtrack sounds like a combination of the Zero Escape series, Ace Attorney and Corpse Party. The music gives of eerie vibes and fits the visual presentation like a glove. I’m actually hunting down the soundtrack of this game to add it to my music library.

Together with the amazing sound effects, the visual and audiovisual presentation of this game is a real treat. I can’t make any complaints about that aspect of the game. Before I keep repeating myself, I think it’s time that we talk about another aspect of the game.

The difficulty of this game is just right. The game is even more difficult when you don’t pay attention during the investigation. In the later chapters, I even took some physical notes to aid myself during the investigation.

Now, if you forgot to save, there is a button that you can use to fast forward the cut scenes. I rarely used this button since I was too invested in the story. I used this button only once when I forgot to save before a LIVE OR DEATH situation and I got a game over… Now, I could have used the “decide again” option to restart from the beginning of the LIVE OR DEATH situation but I lost too much soul power. So, restarting from an earlier point actually benefited me.

Also, there is a message log you can access. A minor complaint is that the button to fast forward is quite hidden in the UI. It’s the L-button.

The replay value of his game isn’t too high. Not counting replays for fun, you can play twice through the game before you have seen it all. Now, this isn’t a big issue but more endings would extend the already short overall game time.

With that said, I said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time to go to the summary and closing statement of this review.

Summary

The good:

+ Amazing atmosphere in the visual and audio department.

+ Great writing.

+ The game has a lot of text.

+ …

The bad:

  • The game is too short.
  • The game has a lot of text.
  • A bit more animations would enhance the game a lot.
  • You can’t restart a chapter without a save.

Final thoughts:

This game is not for everybody. If you don’t like a game that has a lot of text, I think that it’s best for you to skip this game. If you enjoy games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Walking Dead, Corpse Party, Trace Memory… I highly recommend this game.

This game is the perfect game to play through on Halloween night or whenever you are in the mood to play more horror focused games. The writing, pacing, audio and visual presentation of this game is very well done. The biggest flaw of this game is that it’s too short. I got so invested and the ride was over before I knew it.

Now, a spiritual successor is going to be released in Japan really soon called NG. I really hope and wish that they are going to bring this game to the west as well. Since the trailer looks amazing and I really would love to play it.

I can totally see why some people would be turned off by this game. But personally I loved my playthrough. When you play this game, don’t use a walkthrough. This game gets even more fun when you aren’t using a walkthrough to guide you in every step of the way.

If you ask me, I think that this game is totally worth it’s price. This developer really convinced me of the quality games they can put out. While this game has flaws, in my eyes they don’t ruin the experience at all. But, I’m really going to hammer this home… This game would be perfect if there were a bit more chapters. A bit more content.

And with that said, I have really said everything I could say about this game. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 90/100

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Gamer’s Thoughts: NekoJonez’s Top 10 Played Games of 2018

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2018 was an extremely strange year for me personally. A lot has happened in the past 12 months both good and bad. I have graduated this year. I’m now a bachelor in Computer Science – Networking. But on the other hand, I have gone through a lot of personal rough patches that did quite a number on my mental health. I’m slowly recovering and the support I’m getting is motivating me even more to go forward and get better. That said, I also played quite a lot of games this year. I got a Switch this year and I enjoyed it quite a lot. I also finished and completed a lot of games I started in the past few years so I had a bit of trouble putting this list together. So, for those who are new here, this list contains my 10 favorite games I have STARTED playing in 2018. The release date of the game itself doesn’t matter, what matters is that I started playing it in 2018. Before we get into the actual list, reminder, this list is my personal opinion. So, feel free to discuss it in the comments and also feel free to post your own list into the comments. I’m rather curious. Anyways, this introduction is getting quite long, it’s time to get into the actual list.

Place 10: Angels of Death (Nintendo Switch)

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My review

At first, this game would have a higher place on this list. The story and theming of this game grabbed my attention so much, I felt the black hole after finishing this game quite hard. I wanted to spend more time in the world of this game and spend more time with the characters.

I think that my love for the Corpse Party series and the Zero Escape series made me enjoy this game so much more. If you are a fan of either series, I highly recommend that you check out this game.

In addition to that, this game might have one of the best soundtracks I have heard this year. How many times I have listened to it this year, I lost count already. And mind you, I found this game in late October.

Now, why is this game not higher on the list? I praised it quite a lot in my review and I might have given the impression that this game would be my game of the year… Well, it’s because I played another horror game this year that just did that bit more. Outside of that, the short length and gameplay; the game felt like a game I play in between big releases. So yeah. That’s why.

Place 9: Shining Resonance – Refrain (Switch)

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So, back in 2016 I played Stella Glow.I got quite into the story of music playing a big role in an RPG by giving buffs or debuffs. When I found Shining Resonance: Refrain on the Nintendo eShop on the Switch and read that music played an important role as well, I was sold.

When I started to play this game, I got flashbacks to Stella Glow. Even when this game plays quite a lot differently than Stella Glow. This game is more action focused and in real time while Stella Glow’s gameplay is more a big puzzle and turn-based.

While I haven’t even come close to finishing this game, I’m quite curious what else I’ll encounter in this game. I’m at the midway mark of this game but I have been rushing through it. I think that the next couple of playing sessions will be to catch up with various side quests and improving my characters and their equipment since I quite a lot of trouble while battling the last boss.

Now, this game is a port of a PS3 game released in 2014. It’s also a part of the Shining series. If the other games in the series are as enjoyable as this game, I think I might explore this series in the future. Too bad that a lot of games in this series hasn’t left Japan.

Place 8: Atelier Rorona – The Alchemist of Arland (Nintendo Switch)

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Wikipedia

So, not too long ago, a bundle of three Atelier games got released on the Nintendo Switch. These games are the Arland trilogy. After I figured out what was the first game in the series, I started playing Atelier Rorona.

I was very surprised with the game actually. The game is quite enjoyable to play but it can be repetitive. The game is about an alchemy workshop with a very lazy owner. You play as her pupil named Rorona. When the kingdom orders the closure of the workshop, you get three years to prove the worth of the shop and finish various assignments of the kingdom. If you fail one of these, the workshop closes right away.

Now, what I didn’t know is how replayable this game is. These are so many mechanics I discovered during my first time playing this game, I also found out that there are a lot of various endings to the game. Now that I have beaten the game once, I think I’ll first beat the other two games before I do another playthrough to get an even better ending.

I personally really liked this game but I have to say that this game isn’t for everyone. I recommend this game to everybody who enjoys a more laid back RPG game. This game does have a lot of depth, but overall I found this game a more relaxing experience. That statement might change if I try to go for the other endings, who knows.

In any case, I’m rather curious what the other two games have on offer for me. Since, I’m going to beat those next. And who knows, these games might convince me to further check out the Atelier series, of which there are many… many games.

Place 7: Resident Evil 4 (PlayStation 2)

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Wikipedia

When I started playing games like Corpse Party, Fatal Frame and Zero Escape; I knew that one day I’ll have to look into the horror genre. A long time ago, in one of my local toy stores, there was a PS2 booth where a demo of Resident Evil 4 was playable. I think I was 14 years old and while I enjoyed playing the game, I didn’t even know the title nor the impact that game was going to have in the gaming scene. I think I only played the game for like 10-15 minutes in total since the next time I went, the booth was replaced with a demo Gamecube with Donkey Kong Jungle Beat.

I actually forgot about the game until some of my favorite YouTubers started to talk about it on their channels. Back then, I was more into adventure and puzzle games, so I took note of the name and moved on.

Fast forward to this year. I was browsing the second hand games in my local game store and I saw a copy of Resident Evil 4 for the PS2 for only 10€. I didn’t hesitate twice. I bought this game and after I came home I started to play it right away. While I was afraid that I would suck at survival horror, I was able to finish chapter after chapter.

I also got quickly used to aiming and firing a gun with a controller. Since that was one of my biggest fears. I tried playing various shooters with a controller in the past and I always had a lot of trouble.

So, because I was highly surprised at how much fun I was having, I felt that this game rightfully deserved a spot on this year’s list.

Place 6: Project Zero II (Fatal Frame II) – The Crimson Butterfly (PlayStation 2)Fatal_Frame_II_-_Crimson_Butterfly.jpg

Wikipedia

So, due to Project Zero V – Maiden of the Black Water last year, I got quite into the Project Zero / Fatal Frame series. But seeing the pricing of getting other entries in the series ranging from 30€ to 60€, I had a hard time tracking down a copy.

To my surprise, around my birthday, somebody brought Fatal Frame I, II and III in to my local game store and I was able to buy the three titles for 20€ each.

I started playing all three games to test out if the games worked or not. Yet, when I was testing Fatal Frame II, I found myself not able to stop playing the game. The concept of the story where one sister is always looking for her sibling just spoke to me on a personal level. It was quite tricky to get used to playing this game on the PS2, since I always tried to move the camera while moving the PS2 controller since I was used it that playing the other game on the Wii U.

I enjoy playing this game the most, late at night while I darken my room and turn off the lights so I have only the glow of the TV and the disc spinning in the PS2 to keep my company. This makes the game and the experience that more enjoyable. I can’t wait to boot up my PS2 again tonight and try to make some more progress in this quite enjoyable game.

Place 5: Death Mark  (Nintendo Switch)

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Official website

It looks like I was on a horror rush this year. Death Mark is the 4th game on my favorite games of 2018 list. Now, when I wrote my Halloween special on Angels of Death this year, I actually completed the game before Halloween. So, I was looking for a new horror game to play on Halloween and that’s when I found Death Mark on the Nintendo eShop.

When I was looking at the screenshots and reading the description, it felt like a mixture of Corpse Party and the Zero Escape series. A visual novel horror adventure game that throws you in front of a lot of puzzles.

And that’s what the game delivers perfectly. An enjoyable story with multiple outcomes depending on your actions and one that gripped me to the end. While I was able to see some twists coming from a mile away, the pacing and writing the story more than made up for it.

The story is about a mysterious mark that appears on your body when you go to a haunted place and that mark spells death by dawn if you are unable to clear the grudge of the spirit that gave you the mark. So, if you enjoy a visual novel style horror adventure game, I highly recommend that you check out this game.

Now, Japan is getting a sequel/follow up to this game next year.  Now here is my call to the developers, please localize the follow up game as well. Looking at the screenshots and the teaser, I’m quite interested! And here is my call to everybody who is interested in horror, please give this game a shot and share it around. This game is highly underrated and deserves more attention and love!

Place 4: Blossom Tales (Switch)

Blossom Tales

My review

I often check the Nintendo Switch store for interesting and unique games. When I came across Blossom Tales, I was sold. The game looked like a well made 2D-Zelda clone and as a big fan of the Legend of Zelda… Let’s just say it was a no-brainier.

And I didn’t regret that decision once. I enjoyed playing this game quite a lot. I felt right at home as a Zelda fan. Also, this game reminded me a bit of the Fairune games. It reminded me how fun that 2D Zelda games are and how much I miss that style of gameplay. I wonder that if we are going to ever see a 2D Zelda game again after the massive success that was Breath of the Wild.  Only time will tell, but for now, I’m happy to see that there are indie game studio’s that will create games in that style so I’ll always have a game in that style to look forward too.

What I liked the most about this game was the unique way the story was told. A grandfather telling his grandchildren a story since they are bored. That’s one of the biggest strengths of this game. It gives off so much charm and character to the game, for that alone I would recommend that you play this game. And, since we are in the holidays period, the charm is even better!

Place 3: Fire Emblem Warriors (Nintendo Switch)

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My review

Raise your hand if you saw this one coming. This game is one of the reasons I bought a Nintendo Switch. I think the praise I gave in my review on this game made it pretty clear that this was one of the best games I have played in 2018.

Honestly, at first I was afraid that I wasn’t going to like the game. Since I had put so many hours into Hyrule Warriors, I was afraid that I was burnt out on the formula and gameplay.

But Fire Emblem Warriors brings a lot of new and fresh mechanics to the table to make me enjoy the game even more. The only criticism I have about the game is that some parts are a bit too complex and not well explained enough in-game. Everything else is highly polished. Even the trick that Drakalus gave me to improve the frame rate in multiplayer aided quite a lot.

Thanks to this game, I got back into the Fire Emblem series. I think that in the upcoming months, I will start tackling my huge backlog of Fire Emblem games I have in my collection. I have at least 6 Fire Emblem games that I have started but never finished. I think it’s time to change that. This game convinced me that the series has quite a lot to offer and I can’t wait to see which adventures the world of Fire Emblem will bring me.

Place 2: Dragon Quest Builders (Nintendo Switch)

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My review

When I saw a trailer for Dragon Quest Builders for the first time, I was hooked. I was disappointed when I learned that this game was going to release for the PlayStation 3, 4 and PSVita. At first, I was considering to buy a PSVita for this game (and Corpse Party Blood Drive before that got ported over to Android)

The game got ported to the Nintendo Switch, so I was able to buy it on the system I bought this year. And I’m glad I was able to play this game. I loved every moment of this game and I’m so extremely hyped for the upcoming sequel. The Japanese version released a couple of days ago. It’s quite tempting to look up let’s plays but I want to keep my experience as spoiler free as I can.

The only new negative is that I’m unable to play the Terra Incognita mode. Since I have to pay for a Nintendo Online subscription and purchasing that for only that and a few NES games is currently not worth it for me in my opinion. But hey, that’s my opinion.

Honorable mentions

Now, I have played a lot of games and some games deserve a mention but haven’t made it on my list for various reasons. So, before I reveal my “game of the year” / number 1, it’s time for the honorable mentions.
Cleopatra – A Queen’s Destiny (PC), Knights of Pen & Paper (PC/Switch), Darkest Dungeon (Switch), Kamiko (Switch), A Magical High School Girl (Switch), Grumpy Cat (Android),
Etrain Odyssey 5 (3DS), Zack & Wiki (Wii), Steamworld Dig 2 (3DS), Silent Hill 4 (PS2), Telsagrad (Wii U), DuckTales (NES), Age of Empires – Definitive Edition (PC), Devil May Cry 4 (PS2).

Now, I know that a lot of major titles released in 2018 didn’t make it on my list or on my honorable mentions. In any case, I think it’s time to reveal the game I was most hyped for this year and I enjoyed the most. Which game is MY personal game of the year 2018? Let’s. Find. Out.

Number 1 – Game of the Year – Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PC)

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My review

So, this experience. This game, is my game of the year in 2018. Shadow of the Tomb Raider. When I was planning the Tomb Raider – Writers Raid collaboration, I claimed this game right away. I wanted to write about this game.

While some fans in the Tomb Raider series aren’t a big fan of the reboot since it’s a more action focused and linear game; I enjoy the new direction of the series. Especially this game. The improved visual style, the improved writing, the improved quality of life features… The game is just an amazing way to finish this reboot trilogy.

I seriously hope that this isn’t going to be the final game in the Tomb Raider series. Since I enjoyed myself with this game so much, I can’t wait to see where Lara goes next. Besides that, this year a new Tomb Raider movie got released. That movie I personally enjoyed quite a lot. For a movie based on a video game, I find that they did an extremely good job. I’m not really a movie review but if I have to grade the movie, it would get a 75/100.

Now, why did I enjoy this game so much? Why did I pick this game as my game of the year? For several reasons, the first reason is that this game’s story is the best story out of the three games in the reboot series. I had several moments where I felt the emotions of the characters, the voice actors did that good of a job.

A second reason is that this game is just beautiful. The visual presentation is just amazing. There are various spots where you look out over a huge forest from on top of a mountain or you get other breath taking views. Now, a few moments had some minor visual glitching or some spots where the game could have look a bit better, but that might be because of my older GPU in my desktop. That might explain various lighting glitches I have in the post launch DLC.

A third reason why this is my game of the year is that the Tomb Raider series just means a lot to me personally. I’m a huge Indiana Jones fan and I see and I have always seen Lara Croft as a sort of “sister” to Indiana Jones. But Indiana Jones doesn’t get a lot of attention in the video game scene while Lara does get that. So, being able to play games like Tomb Raider… Well, it’s my favorite genre and style of games after all. A mystery adventure game mixed with action and platforming segments.

The only disappointing thing is that I don’t have a physical copy of this game. The PC version of this game hasn’t gotten a physical release. And I feel it would be a waste of money to buy a PS4 or XBOX copy of the game just to have a physical version. But, if you want to know my actual opinion on the game, I advise that you read my review. Since, I really detailed my opinion in that article.

So, if you will excuse me now. I think it’s time to wrap up this article so I can play the newly added tombs and story segments.

Wrapping up 2018.

Like I said in the beginning of this article, 2018 was an extremely weird year for me. I even got my articles stolen various times. Outside of that, I had 25,000 views on my blog. This is more than double compared to the amount of views I got in 2017.

This inspires me to continue and write even more articles in 2019. I have a few in mind so I hope I’ll be able to welcome you on my blog next year. Blogging is my biggest hobby since I’m able to share my opinion on the games I have played with the world. I’m quite grateful of everybody who reads my articles and leaves comments or talks to me on social media or even in person about my articles and/or the games I have talked about.

I also love it when developers contact me and give me various chances to play unique and fun games. It also helps me to expand my collection and takes makes me even more happy.

If I have to pick my favorite blogging moments of this year, I have to say how the community came together for helping me and other bloggers in fighting article theft, the Tomb Raider project and the various milestones I reached like 500+ followers on my Twitter. It’s still the best way to keep up-to-date with me.

2019 is going to celebrate the 9th year I have been blogging. Before 2013, I had a Dutch blog. That means that this blog will be 7 years old next year.

That will mean that 2020 will be an extremely special year for me. But, let’s focus first on 2019. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Speaking of 2019, I think I should talk about the games I’m looking forward to! That’s going to be (one of the) next articles on my blog. So, keep an eye out for that.

With that said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Review: Fire Emblem Warriors (Switch) ~ Tactical Warplay

Fire-Emblem-Warriors-369674-Detail.jpgOfficial website

Back in 2015, I reviewed Hyrule Warriors. A game I liked quite a lot. I have finished the game and I have been playing it here and there on the Switch as well. But, another similar game has been released on the Nintendo Switch with Fire Emblem characters. That’s the game I want to take a look at today. Fire Emblem Warriors, it’s one of the games why I wanted to buy a Switch. Because I wanted to play this game. Was it worth the purchase or should I try to get a refund? At first I was a little anxious since I haven’t played a lot of Fire Emblem games so I was worried that I wouldn’t get a lot of the references in this game. Let’s quit stalling and let’s take a look at Fire Emblem Warriors and give my honest opinion on it. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below. Just one more thing to note: I played this game with all the DLC included. 

The Fire Emblem

Fireemblemwarriors

The story of Fire Emblem Warriors follows mainly Rowan and Lianna in their quest to restore the Fire Emblem after the attack on their kingdom. Like in Hyrule Warriors, the story takes you in a journey where you meet different characters from different games.

You learn how to restore the Fire Emblem pretty quickly. You have to find different heroes from other dimensions. Now, that’s a better story and explanation then how it happens in Hyrule Warriors.

Anyways, the story in this game is decent but if I may be very honest, extremely predictable. I enjoyed the story quite a lot but I was able to see the twists and turns coming from a mile away. Maybe it’s my bias for the Zelda series talking, but I felt that Hyrule Warriors had a better story.

Then again, the humor and writing in this game was quite enjoyable. I really liked the atmosphere between characters and the pacing of the game. While the story didn’t surprise me, it did entertain me. So, it was successful in it’s job. Now, something what I really loved was the voice acting.

After I finished this game, I really missed the voice acting in Hyrule Warriors when I started to play the HD remake on the Switch. The voice acting adds so much to this game. The characters came alive and I loved hearing their lines. While there is a Japanese voice pack in the eShop for free, I will stick with the English voice acting. Since I felt it added so much to the game.

Now, how does one cross the gameplay of the Fire Emblem series with the Dynasty Warrior series? Fire Emblem games are turn based and don’t mix too well with the action gameplay the Dynasty Warrior games are known for. Yet, the developers found a way to make it work. Before I talk about that, I would like to explain the gameplay of Dynasty Warriors first.

So, if you are unfamiliar with the Dynasty Warriors series or haven’t read my review on Hyrule Warriors, let me quickly explain how the game works. Know, that this are only the basics and that the mechanics go much deeper.

In this game, you take control of a warrior with specific abilities. The warrior is strong against some enemies and weak against others. Now, you control this warrior in the battlefield where you can kill multiple enemies at once with one attack. It’s a hack-and-slash game after all. On the battlefield, you have some important locations. These are called forts. If you conquer these forts, you can have a strategic advantage against your enemies. The more forts a player has, the more allies/army they can spawn and the better they can control the battlefield.

The game is lost when your main fort, your stronghold has been taken over. This happens when your general that defends the fort is killed. Of course you can also loose when all your heroes are dead or when the lose conditions are met. But that’s besides the point.

There is a second strategic point on the battlefield. Now, these are the outposts. There are little places between forts that spawn soldier for who controls it but doesn’t provide all the advantages a fort has.

So, in this game you go from one fort to the next until you are able to find the stronghold of your enemy and either take over their stronghold or defeat the main enemy general. This all happens in real time. Compare this to the slower gameplay of Fire Emblem, where you have similar mechanics of strengths and weaknesses but you take turns in attacking. You have a turn to move all your allies and attack and when everybody has moved, your enemy gets their turn.

The way that the developers combined this, is something I felt missing in Hyrule Warriors. you are able to order the other heroes to take over a fort, defend a fort, defend an ally, attack an enemy general or go to a location. And with the press of a button, you can swap between heroes. Something I felt that missed in this mechanic is that you are unable to order the AI to take over outposts. It seems that those aren’t important to conquer…¯\_(ツ)_/¯ … While conquering them actually gave me some benefits during some tense battles.

The frame rating

Fire-Emblem-Warriors-1

Oh dear lord, the frame rate. If you enjoy playing this game at a stable framerate, may I recommend that you don’t touch the multiplayer mode. I played this game several times with a friend and we both noticed the slowdowns.

Now, I don’t mind slow downs that much. After all, I enjoy playing old school retro games where some games only get 10-20FPS. If the game is still playable, I don’t mind at all. Yet, while playing this game in multiplayer, there were several moments where it felt that the game dropped in the single digits. Thankfully, this game runs quite smooth in single player and in docked mode. I rarely had slowdowns and when I had them, they fixed themselves in a matter of seconds.

Granted, I only tested the framerate on a couple of maps and one TV. It might be possible that the multiplayer frame rate is more stable for some people but beware of it when you decide to play this game in multiplayer.

That said, I love playing this game. I felt that I was playing through Hyrule Warriors all over again but this time with a Fire Emblem skin. I have put over 100 hours in this game and I haven’t completed this game at all. Now, you are able to play through the main story in a day or two. But if you want to unlock every character and get every upgrade for each character and finish all the missions and maps on every difficulty… Well, you have a game that can take over 200 hours.

During my summer holidays, I played this game quite a lot. All the different mechanics that this game has made the formula that I played over and over again in Hyrule Warriors new and fresh. I can understand that this game can get repetitive and boring for some players, but I didn’t have that issue.

Something I had an issue with is remembering all the different strengths and weaknesses of the characters. I knew that some characters where strong against dragons and other characters where strong against Pegasus characters but I wish there was a system where you could more easily see this. There are different symbols on the map giving you this information, but this can get quite confusing real fast.

For example, there is a certain sword that Chrom can equip that makes short work of Dragon enemies. In that case, those enemies appear with a red circle, white background and black “!” mark. Now, if I would check this for a character that’s weak against dragon enemies, this changes into a red circle. And to be honest, I’m not even sure it works that way.

I could look it up, but the point is that you shouldn’t have to look it up. You should be able to read it in a manual or in a tutorial somewhere in a menu. Now the tutorial that is in the game doesn’t explain everything. Changing the icon on the enemies you are weak against in a skull and crossbones would help quite a lot.

That said, a big positive of this game are the controls. I found the controls very responsive and easy to use. To a point that I even had trouble adjusting when I started to play Hyrule Warriors. Now, I played this game using the normal Joy-con combo, but the game also supports a lot of other controllers.

The controls are great. There is an overall control scheme for each fighter so you don’t have to remember special button combinations to execute a special attack of one character.

That sound

2017110623160300-3BE52CBB2C0B225168723895C1D1525Elarge

There is this mechanic I didn’t use a lot at the start but I learned in the mission mode was pretty strong, and that’s two characters pairing up. This helps to level up both characters and makes their special attack stronger. How it exactly works you will have to find out by playing the game.

Now, something I really liked in this game was the sound design and the soundtrack. I haven’t played a lot of Fire Emblem games but even I was able to recognize the various iconic sounds from the series like the level up sound.

The music also sounds like it’s a remixed version of already existing Fire Emblem music. The orchestral soundtrack has pieces that fight everything the story and setting throws at you while playing this game. From sad music when something tragic happens to melodic war music that encourages you when you are finally making great headway in the battle.

Another thing I loved in this game was a rather small thing but did quite a lot. One big annoying thing in Hyrule Warriors is that you had to wait and actually pick up special loot like weapons and materials that generals dropped. If you didn’t pick it up before the battle ended, you hadn’t collected it. In this game, you automatically collect it. This is such an amazing feature.

Speaking of the materials and special weapons, the UI to upgrade your characters in this game isn’t the best. Personally, I liked the UI of Hyrule Warriors a bit better. It gave a full overview of the whole tree so you could see more easily if there are any upgrades available. But, this is the only thing I can say that the UI does wrong.

A minor nitpick I have is that in the map screen, changing characters is a bit tricky in my opinion. It didn’t always work for me right away and I always had to search for the option. But, I quickly got used to it.

I’m glad I did, since this game is a visual masterpiece. The animations and the visual presentation of this game is really well done. The detail that went into some battlefields and animations is just jaw dropping. Personally, I love the map with the big bridge at the top. If I explain a bit more, I’m about to spoil parts of the story.

Now, there is a lot to do in this game. Outside of the story, you have the various maps where you can sort of replay famous scenes from the Fire Emblem series. I used these missions to try out all the fighters I didn’t use in the story mode and I also used it to level up certain characters. I have one negative about these and that’s the difficulty spike. On some maps, the level gap between some battles is too big. You have battles with enemies of level 30 and next to it, you have one of level 80. And when you finish the story on normal mode, you are give or take level 50. So yeah.

This isn’t representative of the difficulty. While the hardest difficulty really pushes your skills with the game to the limit, the easiest difficulty isn’t a cake walk on the later parts of the story and the later missions. This game can be challenging if you aren’t paying attention or if you don’t manage your resources right.

So, I could keep talking and talking about this game but I have said the most important things. It’s time for a conclusion, time to wrap up this article.

Conclusion

The bad:

-The framerate in multiplayer.

-Some UI elements could be a bit better.

The good:

+ Amusing story.

+ Great music.

+ Amazing visual presentation.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Now, I thought I would be burned out of the formula after Hyrule Warriors. But, that isn’t true at all. Fire Emblem Warriors brings a lot of new things to the table I kept enjoying the game until the final moments.

While I have beaten the story and a lot of the missions, I play the game from time to time to get myself closer to unlock the secret and hidden characters. Also, I enjoy hearing the music and getting myself through a lot of battles.

The biggest letdown is the frame rate when you play this game in multiplayer. The frame rate is so low, I felt it went into the single digits. Thankfully, this never happened in the single player game.

If you enjoy Dynasty Warriors or Hyrule Warriors, I can highly recommend this game. If you enjoy playing Fire Emblem games, I highly recommend that you check out this game. This game is one of the better games I have played on my Switch so far and I can’t wait to completely beat this game.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to meet you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Score: 99/100

Tomb Raider – Writer’s Raid

Tomb_Raider_raid

The logo for this project is created by The Well Red Mage

Official website

The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy, both are series that have a lot of loving fans. Now, besides the Legend of Zelda series, there is another series that had a strong presence in my childhood. As a child, I fell in love with the Indiana Jones franchise. I played the various Indiana Jones games until either the cartridge or the CD gave up. Now, I wanted more. Because of that lust for more, I discovered the Tomb Raider franchise. The first Tomb Raider game I ever played was Tomb Raider 5 – Chronicles. That was enough for me to decide to hunt down all Tomb Raider games and play them from start to finish. And I’m not the only one who enjoys Tomb Raider and let me prove that to you, I’m going to raider the various tombs this franchise throws at us together with some amazing befriended bloggers. I hope you are ready, since various treasures of articles will await you in these tombs. Let’s. Get. Raiding.

1996 – Tomb Raider

Tomb_Raider_(1996)Games With Coffee takes us through Lara’s adventure to help Natla.

Grab yourself a cup of coffee, since we are taking a journey through the good old first entry of Tomb Raider.

Together with Games With Coffee we take a nostalgic look to Tomb Raider and discover how it “holds up” today. Depending on who you ask of course.

The analysis of this game is extremely well done and made me remember various stories of the first time I played Tomb Raider. Seriously, give it a read! 

1997 – Tomb Raider II Featuring Lara Croft

Tomb_Raider_IIABXY Game Reviews is following Lara through her journey to find a Dragon’s dagger!

ABXY Game Reviews really wanted to play an old school Tomb Raider game. And I was looking for writers. A match made in heaven I think.

In heaven, that’s where the object Lara is after in her second adventure. A mythological Chinese dagger can came from the heavens that can turn mere mortals into dragons.

Did ABXY Game Reviews enjoy his journey through old school Tomb Raider or do fans of this game get blinded by nostalgia? You have to read this article to find out.

1998 – Tomb Raider III – The Adventures of Lara Croft

Tomb_Raider_IIINekoJonez helps us find four artifacts.

I love telling this story. When I first played Tomb Raider III, I thought I was playing Tomb Raider IV. The reason for that, well, I explained that in my nostalgic look-back of Tomb Raider III.

I tried to avoid writing a review for this game and give some retrospective facts. But it was great fun playing through this game again for this project.

So please, feel free to give one of my entries in this project a read.

1999 – Tomb Raider IV – The Last Revelation

Tomb_Raider_-_The_Last_RevelationSarahsGameCollection is going to take us on a journey to raid the Egyptian tombs!

I discovered Sarah’s website through this project. And I haven’t regret it at all. Her website is a joy to browse through and read.

Her unique writing style is something I love most of her website. While she writes, she adds personal comments like if she is telling a story to you and it’s great fun to read.

I think that this article came together quite well, since it made me want to replay Tomb Raider IV for myself.

2000 – Tomb Raider V – Chronicles

Tomb_Raider_-_ChroniclesTriformTrinity is taking us to Lara’s funeral…?

If you want to know if you should play Tomb Raider Chronicles, you shouldn’t look further. Triform Trinity wrote a short review on the game.

I wrote an article on this game last year, and it shows how people can differ in opinion.

Anyways, I  highly recommend you reading this article. It was a joy to work with TriformTrinity and reading his through his website is such a great and fun time. Since I can assure you that I always have a fun time when I visit his website.

 

2000 – Tomb Raider Level Editor

Tomb_Raider_Level_EditorNekoJonez took a look at Tomb Raider fan’s levels.

I have to admit that I was planning to write an article about the level editor for Tomb Raider for quite a while.

To be honest, this game is one of the reasons why I organized this collaboration in the first place. Since it’s a creative platform that brings a community together. And this project is the perfect “excuse” to talk about something unique like this.

So, if you are curious what the level editor can do, feel free to read it on my blog and I hope you it.

2003 – Tomb Raider – Angel of Darkness

Tomb_Raider_-_The_Angel_of_DarknessSarah’s Game Collection is helping to solve this murder mystery…

If there is one Tomb Raider game I haven’t fully played it, it has to be Tomb Raider – Angel of Darkness.

I heard so many things about it. From it being a bad game to being a decent game. After reading the review that Sarah wrote for this game I got even more interested in finishing this game.

Now, I invite you to read along with me this amazing analysis of the final game that Core worked on in the series.

2006 – Tomb Raider Legend

Tomb_Raider_-_LegendLiana takes us on the legendary journey for a sword.

In this retrospective collaboration project, I always give freedom to the writers. This resulted in Liana writing an amazing piece where she analysed the game very deeply.

Not only that, she talks about the history and development of this game. And she even took a deeper look at who Lara Croft actually is.

I can highly recommend that you give this article by Liana a read. And if you are interested in more of her work, you can also visit her YouTube channel, which I HIGHLY recommend as well.

And allow me to slip some personal advertisement in as well since I reviewed this game last year myself.

2007 – Tomb Raider – Anniversary

Tomb_Raider_-_AnniversaryGames with Coffee takes us, again, on Lara’s adventure to help Natla…

Now, I hope your coffee didn’t go cold since we are going to take a look at the remake of Tomb Raider I.

Games with Coffee brings you a very in-depth review and look at this game. He played it on Steam. I played this game on my PC as well and I have to agree with a lot he said in the article.

This game was one of the games that really drew me into the whole Tomb Raider franchise and it hasn’t let go since.

2008 – Tomb Raider Underworld

Tomb_Raider_-_UnderworldLiana takes us on a journey through the underworld.

Now, Liana takes a look at Tomb Raider Underworld in a very interesting way. You won’t find a review of the game in this article but a very interesting in depth analysis of the game’s story.

Reading the article was extremely interesting. It helped me to connect some dots I didn’t even realize that there were before.

She also analyses Lara’s character and how it all fits in the lore of the series. Seriously, what are you waiting for? Go read Liana’s article!

2010 – Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Lara_Croft_and_the_Guardian_of_LightLaterLevels is going to battle for the light.

After I finished Tomb Raider Underworld, I was waiting on the next entry in the Tomb Raider series. To my surprise, we had to wait 5 years on a new entry in the main series.

Yet, during this wait, we got Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. A game that’s on my endless backlog list.

When I talked to Kim from LaterLevels and asked her if she wanted to be part of the Tomb Raider project, she suggested to play this game on stream together with her other half. She didn’t stream this game but the other spin-off. More on that later.

Now, what did she think of this game? You can read it in Kim’s article. Enjoy!

2013 – Tomb Raider

TombRaider2013OverThinkerY takes us to a Japanese island…

“A famous explorer once said, that the extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are. I’d finally set out to make my mark; to find adventure. But instead adventure found me. In our darkest moments, when life flashes before us, we find something; Something that keeps us going. Something that pushes us.”

That was one of the best quotes out the reboot of Tomb Raider in 2013. In this article, my good friend OverThinkerY took a look at the game. His analysis is great and I loved reading his article. I think you will enjoy it as well.

Also, this game has a special place for me on my blog since it’s the first game I reviewed since I started my English blog in 2013. You can read it here.

2014 – Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

Lara_croft_and_the_temple_of_osiris_artLaterLevels takes us on a journey through the Temple of Osiris.

So, Kim didn’t know that there were two spin-off games. When I told that to Kim, she didn’t hestitate for a second and decided that she wanted to also write about the 2nd spin off game.

Kim did a stream of this game together with her other half. You can watch the Twitch.TV archive in case you missed it: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/310930370

But I also highly recommend to check out her review of this game. Since I loved reading it.

2015 – Lara Croft: GO! & Lara Croft Relic Run

TriformTrinity puzzles his way through various tombs…

…and runs for relics.

Now, in this Writer’s Raid, we also took a look at two Lara Croft mobile games. These are Lara Croft Go and Lara Croft Relic Run. Honestly, I have played a bit of Lara Croft GO myself, but I haven’t played a lot of Lara Croft Relic Run.

So, if you are curious if these games are something for you and worth buying on your Android or iOS device, I think you will enjoy these two articles that TriformTrinity wrote. Have a great read!

2015 – Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise_of_the_Tomb_RaiderOverThinkerY looks at Lara’s rise of Lara Croft.

Of course had Tomb Raider (2013) to end with a cliff hanger. So, the story could continue in Rise of the Tomb Raider.

OverThinkerY takes a great look at the game and gives his own honest opinion on it. (And I gave mine a few years ago)

Something I really liked in OverThinkerY’s article is that he compared this game to what he likes in other games. And he played this game with the DLC included. So, give it a read, I can highly recommend it.

2018 – Shadow Of The Tomb Raider

SotTR_HERO-1-heroNekoJonez is going to take us on Lara’s latest journey.

While we were planning this project, the newest Tomb Raider game got released. To be honest, I claimed this game right away. I wanted to play this game anyways and I felt that it was a perfect way to close this collaboration.

So, what did I think of Lara’s latest adventure? If you want to know that, you’ll have to read my article on Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

And the this was the loot

I knew in advance that the group of writers for this project was going to be very different compared to my previous projects. I want to thank all the writers who helped me in this project, some even replayed games which didn’t age too well.

I hope you enjoyed reading this collaboration between me and these lovely bloggers: Games With Coffee, ABXY Game Reviews, Sarah’s Game Collection, Liana Kerzner, TriformTrinity, LaterLevels and OverThinkerY.

Do check these people out! They are all amazing people and I have to thank all of them to make this become a reality. Besides The Legend of Zelda, Tomb Raider is one of the biggest series from my childhood and reading all these different pieces made me remember why I love the series.

I have to admit that the games didn’t age all too well so it was quite interesting to see what everybody thought about the games they played.

I hope you enjoyed reading through these articles and enjoyed exploring the websites that made this unique project come to life. Feel free to be a Tomb Raider and explore these websites since they are all great sites that I can highly recommend.

If you want to read more articles like these, last year I did a similar project like this on the Zelda series. Also, my friend the Well Red Mage did something similar with the Final Fantasy series. So, thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Writer’s Raid: Tomb Raider III – The Adventures of Lara Croft

Tomb_Raider_IIIWikipedia entry

I remember quite well buying a copy of Tomb Raider IV & V in one bundle. When I came home and placed the install disc for Tomb Raider IV in my PC, I was surprised that Tomb Raider III started installing. I didn’t mind so much, I found the files for Tomb Raider IV on the disc labeled Tomb Raider V. I already owned Tomb Raider V, so I got extremely lucky there. Since I took a look to Tomb Raider IV in the past, I think it would be more interesting for this project to take a look at Tomb Raider III. Now, what do I mean with “this project”? Well, a group of writers and myself took a look at the whole Tomb Raider series and like the Zelda project last year, there is a hub article you can find here if you want to read the other amazing articles.

The Adventures of Lara Croft

TR3-1In this game, Lara is searching for the Infada Stone. When she finds the artifact, she gets approached by a researcher from RX Tech, who informs her about a meteorite that landed in Antarctica millions of years ago. This meteorite was used by the Polynesians to create various powerful stones, one of which is the Infada Stone. So, Lara starts a quest to find all the stones before they fall in the wrong hands.

The story is quite interesting. The main arc of the story, I explained above. But the story takes Lara on several different journeys with their own story. It’s a bit like Tomb Raider V, but the big difference is that they aren’t remembering Lara’s adventures after her death.

So, compared to Tomb Raider II, what is new in this game? Quite a lot actually. The game was primary made for the PlayStation and was meant as a sort of next-gen Tomb Raider. Core Design created a totally new engine for the game and a lot more. If you want to read up on the development, the Wikipedia page I linked above has a lot more to talk about.

The game did rather well. The game scored an average of 7/10 from different publications. If you look on GameRankings.com, the PS1 version even got a bigger score than the PC counterpart. It’s a 5% difference.

Now, the version I have in my collection is “Tomb Raider III – The Lost Artefact”. This is a version with some additional levels included. With these 5 additional levels, the game takes a nice 25 hours to beat the game, making this the longest Tomb Raider game in the series.

The story of the expansion pack takes place in between of the story of Tomb Raider III. So, it’s no epilogue or prologue. Also, this expansion pack was only released for people who owned the PC or MAC version. Sadly enough, this game was sold as a standalone game. The previous two games also had an expansion pack which was either part of a re-release or free to download from the official website.

The game also provided quite a lot of new things and moves to play around with. Lara got some new abilities like using the monkey bars. The new things in this game include new swimming and water mechanics, quicksand and various other things.

I’m glad that I played this game on the PC, since on the PS1, the save feature is restricted. The save feature works sort-of like the save feature in the early Resident Evil games. Where you have to find Ink Ribbons for the typewriters to save. In Tomb Raider III, you have to find save crystals to use the save feature in the main menu.  Since I love to save often in the older Tomb Raider games, I would have been so frustrated if that was also the case on the PC.

During the game, you go to India, UK, USA and Antarctica. You can also visit Lara’s home in this game. If you are a first time player, I highly recommend that you explore Lara’s home first. This way you can get used to the controls and the mechanics of Lara’s jump in the gym. Also, yes, I have fond memories of locking Winston up in the freezer.

How does it hold up?

TR3-2For me personally, this game was fun to play through. The game tested my retro gaming skills quite a lot and I enjoyed walking around the levels. While I had my share of frustrations when missing a jump or not directly knowing where to go, I still had a lot of fun exploring this game.

Now, this game hasn’t aged like fine wine. This game isn’t for everybody. While I don’t mind the dated visuals, I can understand that some people would hate the visuals. The visuals are early PS1 visuals. Yet, I feel they still have some charm and still look better than Tomb Raider I or II.

This game has decent controls. The big issue I have with them is that you can’t rebind the keys easily. There is some trickery you can do, but it shouldn’t be this annoying. Also, since I use an AZERTY keyboard lay-out, some keys were in different places. Thankfully, I got used to the controls after a few levels and I was able to pull of great moves.

Something that did age quite well in my opinion is the music and sound effects. While the soundtrack is extremely short, it’s still a joy to listen too. The soundtrack really fits the mood of the game. It’s relaxing when you are climbing and tense when you are fighting a boss. The sound effects pulled me into the atmosphere of this game.

TR3-3I really enjoyed the puzzles in this game. The only thing I had issues with were the vehicle sections. But, that was mostly because I didn’t know you could speed them up. After I learned how to do that, I had less issues with them. While it’s quite possible to play this game without a walkthrough, I used BadAssGamez’s walkthrough when I was stuck. He finished this game without using any medkits and got all the secrets as well.

In his video’s he also shows tricks on how to skip certain fights or how to easily defeat enemies. If you aren’t used to old-school Tomb Raider games, I highly recommend that you watch his walkthroughs if you need some help in beating this game. If you are used to old-school Tomb Raider games, this game will provide you with various challenges. My favorite level was the 8th level, the Temple of Puna. Mainly because it had various moments that reminded me of Indiana Jones.

I think that this game is still worth a playthrough. If you enjoy playing retro adventure games, I can’t recommend this game enough. I do understand that this game isn’t for everyone. There are moments where the game clearly shows its age. Don’t expect a game with a more modern polish, expect a game that challenges you in various area’s that takes you back to when you were young and played games after homework on your parent’s computer.

If you want to give this game a try, it’s still being sold on Steam for 7€ and on GOG, you find Tomb Raider 1+2+3 together for 9€. So seriously, what are you waiting for?

That’s everything I wanted to say about this game. If you are interested in a full review of this game, please tell me in the comments. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Game Review: Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PC) ~ Trinity Awaits You.

Tomb_Raider_raid

The logo for this project is created by The Well Red Mage

This post is a part of the Tomb Raider – Writers Raid collabarative project. In this project various bloggers came together to take a critical look on the Tomb Raider series. Mixing nostalgia and a critical look on every game in the main series. You can read more in the hub article here.

SotTR_HERO-1-heroWikipedia entrySteam Store page

I remember the day that the picture leaked of the guy working on a powerpoint presentation of Shadow of the Tomb Raider on the metro. I was so hyped for the 3rd Tomb Raider game. I quite enjoyed the reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise and I wanted to see how the trilogy ends. I pre-ordered the game as soon as I could. Of course I pre-ordered the collector’s edition and I was able to play this game 48 hours before the official release. Now that I finished the game, it’s time to give my honest opinion on it. Is the game any good or should you skip it? Let’s find out. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Trinity awaits you

20180912191126_1If you are planning to play this game, I highly recommend that you play Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider before this game. The story in this game continues on the story of those two games. While you will be able to understand and follow the story in the game without much problems in this game, the impact of the story will be stronger if you played the first two games.

To avoid spoilers, I’ll keep some parts a bit vague in my plot description. So, in this game, Lara and Jonah are exploring Cozumel in Mexico for a piece of the artifact that Lara’s rival gang Trinity is after. It doesn’t take long before the duo finds Trinity and they discover something huge about Trinity. This leads Lara to a nearby temple where she finds a dagger that sets off a chain of events that might spell the end of the world but this might help Trinity to succeed with their plans. Now, will Lara be able to stop Trinity and save the world? Since Trinity awaits you in this game…

The story of this game is your typical adventure movie story. Personally, I enjoyed the story in this game quite a lot. The writing is pretty well done. I grew attached to the characters in this arc and it kept me engaged. While I was able to predict some plot points and twists from a mile away, I was entertained by it. The pacing of the plot is so good, I was less distracted by side quests than in the previous two titles.

The story takes you on various locations in Mexico and Peru. There is one section of the game that will put a huge smile on veteran Tomb Raider players, but I won’t spoil that one. While a lot of the game takes place in the jungle, the scenery never gets boring. I totally loved exploring the world after I had beaten the main story and I can’t wait for the additional content that they are going to release in the upcoming months.

Something I would love to talk about is that this game had two different epilogues. In this article, I want to focus on reviewing the game in its current form but if you want to know more, Kotaku has a great write-up with developer commentary.

The writing and pacing of this game is excellent, but something I really liked in this game was the voice acting. I really felt that the actors where giving it their all while creating this game. When Lara gets mad, she really sounds mad. Something I think is amazing is that the NPC’s can either speak English or speak in their native language. This setting in the option menu is such an amazing immersion feature. It really adds to the charm of the voice acting.

Now with the reboot plot wrapped up, I’m quite curious to where they are going to take Lara next. Which adventures will Lara have next? Will they create a new game when Lara is older or will they create a story that takes place right after this game? Only time will tell.

Take a jaw dropping picture

sotr.jpgWhen I saw the minimum requirements of this game, I became worried. In order to play this game, you need to have an i3-3220 Intel processor or something similar of AMD. You also need 8GB RAM and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 660/GTX 1050 or AMD Radeon HD 7770 at the minimum. My computer has a i7-4820K, 16GB of RAM and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 660. So, my computer fits the requirements of the recommend system requirements besides my graphics card. I was so afraid that I would be bottlenecked due to my graphics card. I was afraid that I had to put everything at the lowest settings to even get a playable framerate out of the game.

Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case.  I was able to play the game at medium visual settings at somewhere between 25FPS to 66FPS. The framerate was quite stable as well. While I was playing, I ran MSI Afterburner on my 2nd monitor to keep track of the temperatures of my GPU and the usage. Since that caused issues in Rise of the Tomb Raider for me. In this game, I only experienced three game crashes in that 48 hour pre-launch period but a quick restart of the game fixed the issue. And since the patch released on launch, I never had those crashes again.

25FPS might be too low in some people their opinion but I don’t mind it that much. 30FPS is still an acceptable frame rate for me and I don’t mind it that much, I understand that a lot of people prefer 60FPS, but I’m just glad that I have the game at a playable and stable frame rate.

I’m happy that my computer can run this game since this game takes you on an amazing journey. You come across gorgeous landscapes that are begging you to use the photography feature built in this game. This is even a small basic editor included. I only used the photography mode once, to test it out. If I ever replay this game, I have some spots that I totally want to use this feature on and create some amazing wallpapers.

While the visual presentation is amazing, I did experience some tearing issues and I saw some clipping. But, this happened so rarely and fixed themselves so fast, they weren’t a big issue. Most of the tearing issues were just for a few seconds here and there in a cutscene. I have to admit that updating my graphics card to the latest driver made me have even less tearing issues. So, if you are experiencing them too, check if your graphics card is up-to-date.

Visually, this game is jaw-dropping. While exploring the packed jungle, hidden cities and various tombs; you get even more eye candy with the animations in this game. From Lara jumping down to make a stealth kill to two characters speaking to each other in a cutscene, the animations are extremely well done. One minor complaint I have is that some death scenes felt a bit reused from the previous two games, but some look even better than before.

Yet, there are a few things about the visuals I thought weren’t the best they could be. The first problem with the visuals is that sometimes when the game reloaded after I died, the visuals went to a lower setting. This happened to me 5 times out of nowhere. Yet, after a patch, I didn’t experience this issue so I guess that might be fixed.

A 2nd complaint I have with the visuals is that the liquids in the death scenes became see through. It might be a nitpicky complaint, but I felt that it was rather awkward. It didn’t feel quite right. It would have looked a lot better if the camera zoomed out with Lara’s scream fading away as if she drowned.

Now, let’s talk gameplay. Since the reboot, the gameplay of the Tomb Raider series changed quite a lot. There are more action sequences in between puzzle segments and the exploration of tombs. Lara has a few new abilities compared to the previous two games. Outside of the expanded moves with the grapple axe and the stealth mechanics, all these mechanics are underused.

For example, some enemies have heat goggles. These enemies appear so frequent, it’s a gimmick. Another example are the underwater creatures, like eels and phirans. These can provide for some unique swimming puzzles but they are rarely used or are quite easy to avoid. Also, there are some tripwires that can activate traps. But, these traps are always the same trap and the same way of disabling them. It’s sad to see these mechanics under used so much.

Something that really annoyed me is that when you used the explorer sense, Lara almost always gave the solution of the puzzle away immediately. She spells out what you have to move to where. Even this sense sometimes provided the solution to the puzzle. This made some puzzles in this game too easy. I preferred it when Lara didn’t gave the solution right away. It was especially frustrating when she talked over dialogue. In one tomb, Lara and Jonah were exploring. While they were talking about the room they were in, I pressed the explorer sense button. While Lara and Jonah were having their chat, Lara spoils the solution of the puzzle. That way I didn’t hear what Lara and Jonah said. It would have been much more fun to solve the puzzles when Lara didn’t give away the solution away so quickly. It should work like those special mushrooms in the latest Mario games, that it appears when the player keeps failing to solve the puzzle or is stuck in the room for some time.

It’s a shame, since the puzzles are very fun to solve. They are well crafted and I enjoyed solving them. Thankfully, the issue of Lara spoiling the solution doesn’t happen with the platform sections. These were amazing to play through. I can’t wait to see what the new challenge tombs will bring in the upcoming months. On the 14th of November, a new tomb will release. I can’t wait to explore it.

Anyways, when I changed the puzzle difficulty to hard, Lara didn’t do this. I wish I knew this earlier, before I had beaten the game. Since, I had chosen the “Rite of passage” difficulty. It would have solved one of my major gripes with this game. I did have to set it to the hard setting, and that took away a lot of things in the explorer sense as well… So, I’ll stick to normal and just not use explorer sense only if I’m stuck.

Something I really love in this game as well is that you have more than one indicator on the map and in the explorer sense. You have the yellow marker that guides you to the next story point, the green one for the side quest you are doing and the blue one for the marker you set in the map mode. This is so handy and helped me to keep track of certain things. Great feature!

Orchestral exploration

20180912191114_1This game has an orchestral soundtrack. The soundtrack has been composed by Brian D’Oliveira and he created something amazing. The soundtrack adds so much power to the cutscenes and the game.

I also added the soundtrack to my music library. It’s a great soundtrack for when I’m writing various articles or when I’m playing other games like Minecraft or Europa Universalis IV.

It was especially tense during the stealth sections. I’m the type of player who usually goes all out and doesn’t use a lot of stealth. In this game, I highly recommend that you are careful while you have enemy encounters. They can quite easily overwhelm you if you go out of hiding too quickly. Also, in this game, the traps like flaming bottles and smoke bombs are way more useful than in the previous games. They helped me quite a lot. The music is a great help in these combat sections, since it’s your guide if there are still enemies around or if you have defeated them all.

Together with the great soundtrack, the sound effects and sound design of this game is extremely well done. I played this game with headphones. If you play this game, I highly recommend that you use a decent pair of headphones or speakers. The sound effects and the music add so much to the experience and the immersion, it’s essential in my opinion. It made my heart pound at certain moments and I felt so relieved when I was finally able to beat that section that gave me problems earlier.

The controls in the game are good. I do have one complaint and that is that I find the controls for the crafting system a bit awkward to use. I got used to it, but I preferred the crafting system in the previous game where you were able to map the crafting of (special) arrows or ammo to a single button. Now you need to use two for them. Then again, I see the benefits of the current system, so I think it’s a personal complaint.

I never had any major issues with the controls. Maybe once or twice that Lara didn’t grab a ledge, but these things happen in games all the time. The checkpoints in this game are frequent enough that you don’t lose a lot of progress. The game also has an autosave so you never have to worry that you lose progress.

Earlier, I talked about the extended mechanics or the grapple axe. The grapple axe is an essential tool in Lara’s arsenal in this game. She uses it as a sort of whip to swing across gaps, Indiana Jones style. She also uses is it for stealth killing, climbing almost vertical walls and using it as an anchor point when she needs to go down. There are certain moments when you hang on a wall right above the entrance of a tomb and Lara has to lower herself to either safe reach the ground or to swing back and forth to create enough momentum to jump to the platform that leads to the entrance of the tomb. Rappling down was always a great joy to do.

Now, there is one mechanic that actually returns from a previous Tomb Raider game. In Tomb Raider Anniversary, there are certain sections while you use your grapple you run on walls. This mechanic returns in this game. It’s used in combination with the lowering down mechanic I described in the previous paragraph.

These mechanics were fun to use. Slowing going down and seeing the big temple appear in the distance were my favorite moments in this game. It really made me feel like I was exploring the area. Paired with the amazing visuals and soundtrack, I enjoyed myself quite a lot. Speaking about those visuals, sometimes your path blended in with the environment so well, it was fun to explore. Trying to find the path you had to take to find your way back from a tomb. Also, in some platforming sections, especially when you are escaping from a crumbling building, the visuals make it even better to play through. You have rubble falling just past you or poles you bending the right way for you to continue. The adrenaline in these sections was amazing for me.

Now, this game took me 20 hours or so to beat. On Howlongtobeat.com, there are people who have beaten the story in 13 hours. I think I might complete this game, so I have a few additional hours in this game. The difficulty of this game really depends on the abilities and outfits you use. The fewer abilities you unlock and if you don’t use the benefits of your outfits, the game gets a lot harder. But, I found this game not that difficult. There were a few moments that I had to redo, sometimes more than 3 or 4 times but each time I learned the patterns of the enemies or where I needed to go. The game provides some challenge but once you get the mechanics down, you breeze through this power fantasy.

Now, about the difficulty. There are a few different options. Something I really like is that you can set the difficulty for combat, exploration and puzzle. So, if you find something too easy and you want more challenge, just change that in the gameplay section of the option menu. The only nitpick I have about the menu is that there should be a “confirm” button. Since it felt kind of strange that the changes happen right away to me. Then again, that might be just me.

Also, if you are quite nostalgic like myself, there are outfits that even remodel Lara’s character mode to look like in the earlier Tomb Raider games. I think that I’m going to use those outfits to complete the game now that I have beaten it.

Personally, I enjoyed the combat in this game quite a lot. Outsmarting your enemies and silently killing them before they can group up on you to overpower you was enjoyable. I felt my heart pounding when I was finally able to beat that one section I had to do over and over again. These sections made me consider playing other more stealth focused games in the future.

A big plus in this game is the in-game store. In the two previous titles, ammo could become a bit too rare to find in the post-game. This is solved by merchants in the villages you visit. There you can buy gear and ammo. You can also sell your materials for coins. This is a great mechanic since you really need to think on what you can sell if you want to complete this game.

The final fight in this game really took me back to the old school Tomb Raider boss fights. I only wish that it was a bit more challenging. I was able to beat the final fight with only dying twice. This time it felt like a proper final fight and not a gauntlet of enemies. It’s the best final fight in this trilogy.

So, that was everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time for the conclusion of my review.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Good story, pacing and voice acting.

+ Amazing visual presentation.

+ In game store.

+ Great soundtrack & sound design.

+ Great final boss.

+ Nostalgic outfits.

+ …

The bad:

-Some mechanics are underused.

-Sometimes some minor visual issues like tearing and clipping appear.

Final thoughts:

As a veteran Tomb Raider player, I wasn’t disappointed in this game. While I completely understand that this game isn’t for everybody, it did click with me. I enjoyed myself while playing this game and I think that this game turned out amazing. The biggest flaw of this game is that some fun mechanics go underused. Maybe these mechanics might be more used when I up the difficulty in my next playthrough.

I enjoyed playing through this game so much that I’m going to play through this game again for sure. The visuals are extremely well done, the animations, soundtrack, sound design… it all pulled me into this game. If you really enjoy playing adventure games like the 3D Indiana Jones games, Uncharted, Tomb Raider (2013), Rise of the Tomb Raider or games of that nature, you owe it to yourself to give this game a try.

In my opinion, this is one of the best Tomb Raider games I have played in recent years. It reminded me why I enjoy playing through this series so much. The adventure is just so much fun and it reminds me of watching Indiana Jones when I was younger.

I can’t recommend this game enough. If you can, buy the season pass. I know that this makes the game more expensive but the additional costumes and the additional challenge tombs that will be released in the upcoming months will be more than worth it.

Thank you Square Enix, Eidos Montreal and all the other companies who helped develop this trilogy. I hope you continue creating adventures for Lara Croft. The quality of this game is amazing and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Thank you for the journey and I hope this won’t be the last stop. You thanked your fans in the credits, allow me to thank you and your team for this amazing experience! Keep on creating those tombs and we shall keep raiding if it’s this amazing of a game.

Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care. Also, be sure to check out the hub article where you can read more articles on the Tomb Raider series. More information is at the start of this article.

Score: 90/100

Writers Raid: Tomb Raider Level Editor ~ Lara Raided Fantombs

Tomb_Raider_Level_Editor

Today I want to take you on a journey. Together with various other writers, we decided to celebrate the Tomb Raider series. While a lot of people look at the early Tomb Raider games as games that didn’t age well, I don’t mind that much. True, the games aren’t the best to play nowadays, but I still enjoy them. I knew that there was a level editor as a child but I never taken the time to learn the ins and outs of the tool. In the past, I thought that it was a cheating tool that allowed you to edit levels to give you an advantage. Anyways, the level editor, that’s the theme of this article.

History

Now, what’s the TLRE? What’s the Tomb Raider Level Editor? Well, it’s the actual tool that Core Design used to create the first 5 Tomb Raider games. This tool was released to the public in 2000. Included in the package were beta versions of various levels and a couple of completed levels. A bit later, Eidos Interactive released another few levels. You can dig deeper on the details of those levels on the Tomb Raider Wiki.

If you want to mess around with the tool itself, you can find it here. Out of personal experience, I can say that the tool works on Windows 10. There are various tutorials you can find online. On YouTube and on various forums. Here are a few links you could use:

http://www.tombraiderforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f=16

https://tombraiders.net/stella/trle.html

http://www.trle.net

https://www.aspidetr.com/en/tools/tomb-raider-level-editor/

There is also an updated fan version of the tool called Tomb Raider Level Editor Next Generation. It’s quite a mouthful, but it has more features then the original tool. It also has widescreen support and various other features. More information can be found on this website: http://www.trlevelmanager.eu/ng.htm or you can read about it in detail on this forum thread: http://www.tombraiderforums.com/showthread.php?t=216848

Before I continue with this article, I have to admit that I’m not that good in creating levels with the tools. So, if you are looking for a review of the tools, I think you are at the wrong place. In this article I want to take a look at some random levels I played. Most of these levels are created by other people and the download link will be provided. If you want to play any custom created levels yourself, the best website to find them is: http://www.trle.net

Do keep in mind that all of these custom levels run on one the engine of Tomb Raider I, II, III, IV or V. So, don’t expect HD visuals or anything that the engine can’t handle. So, if you aren’t into the original Tomb Raider games, you might not get into these levels. But, if you are a Tomb Raider fan or enjoy retro adventure games, do give them a try. And don’t worry, there are reviews on almost every level on TRLE.net so you know if a level is good or not.

To play the custom levels you don’t need to have the level editor itself installed or any of the Tomb Raider games. The way how you play these levels is quite simple. After downloading a level, you unpack them and click on the exe file. In some cases, you can hold the CTRL key down to adjust some options like the visuals and things like that. Sometimes there is a readme file included by the author to aid you when certain problems occur. Do read them, since sometimes there is useful information in there. Uninstalling a custom level/game is quite simple. Since you didn’t have to install anything, you can just remove the files.

For beginners

Now, if you decided that you want to give these custom levels a try and you haven’t played Tomb Raider in the past or it was too long ago, let me give you some advice to better enjoy these custom levels. This might look like a lot to take in, but you will get used it to when you play more levels. Start with the highest rated ones. Those are really well built and rarely have cheap traps or overly difficult jumps in them.

First of all, if you run a level that’s made in TRI, II or III, you are able to change the controls from the main menu using the option with the arrow keys. If you are playing a custom level created in TRIV or V, you are able to do so using the “P” key during gameplay. Here is the basic lay-out for the keys:

TRLE1

Feel free to use these pictures as a reference in case the game is in a different language. The sequence of this list almost NEVER changes. To my knowledge, you are unable to rebind the keys in levels created in TR I, II and III. In other cases you can select the action using the arrow keys, press enter and press the key you want to bind it too. Pay attention while you are doing this since the game won’t complain if you bind two things to the same key.

Alright, now while playing this game, know that the game never autosaves. You can save by using F5 and load by using F6. You can save at any location you want, apart from when you are in a cutscene. You can’t pause the game using esc during cutscenes either.

Remember that Lara never automatically grabs ledges. You need to hold down the action button. So, if you jump towards a ledge, hold that button or you will fill. The same button is used to flick levers, pick up items, press buttons and so on and so forth.

You can save while hanging from a ledge, but press the action button right after the game loaded or you will fall. But, the action button is useful for so much more. From pushing boxes to opening trapdoors. If you are stuck, look for a place where the action button does something. Also, when you are trying to open a trapdoor, always try the action button while standing in the middle of a side. The final useful thing to know is when you press action in front of a keyhole and you have the actual key, your inventory will automatically open.

Do experiment with Lara’s jump, since she is quite acrobatic. Something I love using is backwards roll, when I press a button and quickly need to run away. This can be done by pressing the up and down key together while you perform a jump. In one custom level I have to jump back and forth between platforms to make it to the other side.

In some cases, Lara will be able to climb up. Whenever she needs to pull herself up in a tight spot, use the duck key while pulling yourself up. That way she will squeeze herself into the tight space.

Here is another hint. If you need to jump from a ladder to something behind you, don’t jump from the top. Lara will bump her head on the ceiling and loose height. You can jump from a ladder by pressing the down arrow and jump (while letting go of the control key), and then hold the up arrow and control. This technique will proof tricky at first, but practice makes perfect.

Now, I could keep explaining the whole move set Lara has. But that’s something you will learn when you play custom levels. Whenever you are stuck, simply google the name of the custom level and add “Tomb Raider Level Editor” behind it. 9.99 out of 10 chances you will find a walkthrough on it. Unless the level just released, in that case, you can either use the TRLE.net forums or wait a day or two.

Or you can experiment by downloading the level editor and playing the first two included levels. These have very easy levels that aid you in learning how the game is played. The download link can be found earlier in the article.

Oh, and it’s maybe handy to know how to exit a game. If you don’t find the quit button easy, just “ALT+F4” always worked for me.

Now, one annoying thing I want to mention is that “ALT+TAB” doesn’t always work. Be careful if you want to look at a walkthrough or something. Since, it’s possible that you are unable to open the game again. It might either crash or black screen. If that happens, use task manager to kill the process of the game and load it up again. That’s why I use the F5 key to quickly save before “Alt+Tab”. If you use “Alt+Tab” the safest way to get back to the game is to “Alt+Tab” into the game again. It’s possible that it has two open windows, the best best is choosing the window that has a title displayed. In most cases, that’s the name of the engine that’s used.

You can quickly load your game using F6, this is very handy. Since you can save everywhere, you can also save while on ladders or while hanging from a ledge. If you press the Action button (usually the CTRL key) during loading, you won’t fall off the ladder or edge. So, be careful with that.

With that said, it’s time for me to look at a few randomly chosen levels over at TLRE.net. I’ll give my opinions on the levels and a small score. If you know of some amazing levels, please do share them in the comment section down below. Footnote, every rating is on a max score of 10. Be aware, I’m not going to give these levels an in-depth review. Just some quick thoughts.

The Wolf Pack – Part 2

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Created by: JesseG

Created in: TR4

Rating: 9.25

Released: 23/08/2018

http://www.trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=3065

This is at the moment of writing this article, the most recently released entry. This level isn’t beginner friendly since it requires some precise jumps from ladders. Especially backwards. To more experienced players, this level is a nice challenge.

In this level, the character model of Lara is replaced by a wolf model. This model is very nice to look at and the visual presentation fits the visuals of Tomb Raider 4 nicely. The custom music and sound effects are decent. It was quite unexpected to find more MIDI-sounding music in a Tomb Raider level.

At first, I found that the music didn’t fit the Tomb Raider universe at all, but the more I played the game and the more I heard the music, the more it grew on me. I’m adding the music to my game OST library since I like it that much.

This is quite a lengthy game. In a matter of fact, this game can take up to an hour to complete the three levels. In these three levels you play as two different playable characters. Yes, you have two playable characters. You can swap between them using swap points you find at certain places. Both characters have different unique abilities. This is something I rarely see in TRLE levels and was a pleasant surprise to see.

Since I have played the second part before the first, I think it would be handy if the creator included some sort of link to download the first part of these levels in the download.

The only points of criticism are as follows.  First of all, while almost all sound effects have been changed, I found it strange that the sound effect to falling to your doom hasn’t been changed.

Secondly, I found the first jump from a ladder you had to do pretty annoying. I think it would be better if the platform had a different color or a bit more identification that you are supposed to jump there.

Thirdly, I think that the levels were either too long or too short. The first level was too long and the two other levels were over before I knew it. I think it would have been better if the first level was cut into more levels and the 2nd and 3rd level were merged into one level.

Overall, very creative level pack but needs some minor polish to get perfect. This level pack does a lot of unique things in the TRLE community and is really recommended for veteran players or new players looking for a challenge.

Personal score: 9/10

Wolfpack screenie

Lost in Temple

Created by: Sal

Created in: TR5

Rating: 5.98

Released: 11/10/2015

http://trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=2873

This custom level is according to the TRLE.net walkthrough a remake of Fenician Temple 4 from Tomb Raider 3. Something that I didn’t like for this model is the outfit Lara is wearing during this level. I felt that it didn’t fit the theming of this level at all.

Lost in Temple screenie

While this level impressed me at the start with some amazing camera angles and two big rooms filled with jump puzzles, the issues with this level became clear to me quickly. This level has quite a lot of backtracking.

This level honestly got a bit boring in my opinion. For example, to solve one block puzzle I had to run from one room to another so many times.

Also, I was unable to play this game in full screen. I had to fix the broken shortcut to the setup tool, which was easy to do. Just replacing the path where the EXE of the game is located. I had to play windowed. But, from the reviews I have read, this might be an universal issue with Tomb Raider 5 and Windows 10.

This level would have been better if there was a bit more direction as well. I had to consult a walkthrough since I didn’t find were I was supposed to go. It turned out that I was able to grab a wall. The thing is, it used the same texture as the bottom part of the wall where the wall isn’t grabbable nor climbable.

Also, I found the walkthrough of the actual author of this level. And he had to speed up some parts of his video. Looking at that video, this level goes on for quite a while. I have quit playing this level when I had to fight enemies in the dark. I just felt done with the level.

Looking at the reviews on TRLE.net, I’m happy to see that there were people who enjoyed this level. Since, I have seen much worse. This level is balanced and very detailed. But, it’s unpolished and isn’t fun to play in my opinion.

Personal score: 4/10

Poseidons Sanctum

Poseidons Sanctum screenie

Created by: Sarikman

Created in: TR3

Rating: 8.94

Released: 21/11/2011

http://www.trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=2478

This level was quite a good one. This level is created in an unofficial editor called DXTRE3D created by Trubo Pascal. This level is also pretty tricky but it’s doable. You will have to think old-school Tomb Raider to find every secret and the way forward in these levels.

I had a great time playing these levels. If you decide to play these levels, I have a tip for you. At first, you might think that the camera does some weird things but pay attention when the angle changes. What is it showing you? Seriously, it shows some extremely helpful things.

Visually, this level looks amazing for using the Tomb Raider 3 engine as a base. I started Tomb Raider III right after playing this one to compare and I like the visuals a bit more in the custom level then in the original one. Sadly enough, there were some minor texturing issues here and there, but they weren’t too noticeable.

The music selection in this level pack is top notch. I really liked how the music went more silent when you were under water.

While this level pack has a few bugs, the author provided some screenshots and explanations on how to fix them or how to avoid these bugs. The author also provided a text file with some interesting advice for people who got stuck and not only that, it’s written in a way that Lara is talking to you. Very interesting and fun read.

I won’t talk too much more about this level since if you want to play an amazing example of what people can do with the level editor, just play this level. It’s one of the best I have played in a long while. I haven’t finished this level but I’m going to play this over my next break.

The only advice I could give to the author for this level is, if you create bug pictures and such, use more than an arrow to point out ledges. If possible, give them a color or make it a bit more clear which ledge you mean.

Personal score: 8/10

Final words

Thank you so much for reading my entry for the Tomb Raider Writer’s Raid series. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing this one. I play from time to time various TRLE levels. I enjoy them quite a lot. Seeing these new levels makes my retro hart happy.

While I completely understand that there is a crowd that dislikes the old Tomb Raider, I’m not part of that crowd. I enjoy playing retro games quite a lot and I’m always curious what adventures I’ll find myself in next.

I have been in various unique situations while playing Tomb Raider Level Editor. I wanted to write about this tool for quite a while now. It has been on my “to write about” list for three years now. So, the ultimate excuse was this project.

If you want to read some nostalgic articles from other writers about the Tomb Raider series, feel free to go to the hub article where various amazing writers talk about their experience of the Tomb Raider series. You can find a link here.

With that said, it’s time for my usual outro. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to meet you in another article but until then take care and have a great rest of your day.

Tomb_Raider_raid

The logo for this project is created by The Well Red Mage

 

Review: Angels Of Death (Switch) ~ Halloween Adventure

Wikipedia entry

Today I want to talk about a game that’s perfect for Halloween night. Since I played and fell in love with the Corpse Party series, I have high expectations when it comes to playing RPG horror themed games. So, what did I think of “Angels of Death”? Did it live up to the fun I had with Corpse Party or did it fall flat on it’s face? That’s what I want to talk about in this review. As usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below about the game and/or the content of this article.

“I saw a murder”

Fair warning for everybody who wants to play this game. This game is quite story based and try to avoid reading too about the story to avoid spoiling the whole game. To avoid ruining the game for those who want to play it after reading this article, I kept the spoilers to a minimum and the screenshots of the early game.

That said, in this game you take on the role of Rachael “Ray” Gartner. A 13-year old girl who claims to have seen a murder. She is taken to a hospital for counseling. However, she finds herself waking up in an unfamiliar basement. Now, she has to escape since she heard over a speaker that she is a sacrifice, what ever that might mean.

And that’s everything I’m going to say about the story. The story takes various twists and turns and it’s a wild ride. The writing and pacing is top notch. Personally, I loved the writing in this game. The characters are memorable and quirky. I loved every single one of them.

This game contains a lot of dialogues. If you aren’t into those games, I would recommend that you skip this one. Since none of the dialogues are voice acted. But, after I had finished the first chapter of the game, I watched the first episode of the anime and I have to say, that those voices just played in my head while I was playing the game.

The writing made me laugh and sit on the edge of my seat. It’s a great story to play on Halloween night. It’s a game that takes the horror route without using too much gore. The only sad thing is that this game is only 8 hours long. The game doesn’t have any replay value or multiple endings, so I felt empty after those 8 hours. Empty for more.

This game touches upon a few themes that could be a trigger for some people. From murder, a whole range of cuss words to religion. In my opinion, the game never went into offensive territory but if you are easily triggered about these subjects, keep an open mind if you are playing this game.

“Exploration of the basement”

At it’s core, Angels of Death is a puzzle game. If you have played Corpse Party or a game from the Zero Escape series, you will be right at home playing this game. The goal of each chapter is to escape the floor you are trapped on. In order to do that, you have to solve various puzzles while exploring the basement.

The game is quite linear, so there isn’t much room to explore the basement. I never got stuck in this game and I never needed a walkthrough. This game is quite easy to finish. It does provide some challenge but if you use the save system like I did, you won’t have any problems.

Don’t forget that this game doesn’t automatically save your game. You have to manually save the game. You can do that whenever you want, expect from a few special moments like chase sequences. When these moments happen, the game gives you the chance to save right before they happen. You have 99 save slots, so you won’t run out of slots. And yes, you can save over a slot.

This game has 4 chapters, so 4 puzzles for you to complete. To be honest, you don’t need to play this game for the puzzles. Some of them were too easy and I didn’t even notice that I was solving a puzzle. The flow of this game is a bit too streamlined. Yet, it didn’t pull away from the experience. Besides exploration, there are a few sections that provide some variation in the gameplay. There is even a section where you have to shoot something to clear out a room. These sections were too short.

This is the big issue I had with the game. The game is a lot of fun to play but it’s too easy. The story is amazing and has the right length and pace so more gameplay would have made the story unnecessarily longer. So, I’m a bit mixed on this.

During the various sections, the controls never failed me. I mostly played this game in handheld mode or in docked mode. The controls are easy to understand and quite quick to learn. I never had any issues with them.

In terms of the UI of this game, I think it’s quite good apart from one minor thing. In the “load” menu of the game, I wish there was a bit more info on the save slot. For example, in which room I saved. Oh well, that’s a nitpick.

“Zack’s laugh”

The visual presentation of this game is great. It’s quite clear that this game uses a version of RPG Maker for this game and it uses it quite well. Each map is quite detailed. The visual presentation really added to the atmosphere of the game. The animations as well, I really loved the animations during story segments. They made some characters come to live.

Some parts of this game are hand drawn like the character models. This adds a lot of charm to the game and they reminded me of the anime I still have to finish. My favorite character in this whole game is Ray. I can’t explain why, since that would mean I would spoil the whole game.

Something that adds quite a lot to the game is the soundtrack and the sound effects. The soundtrack of this game consists mostly of techno and orchestra tracks. I’m so glad that I also bought the Steam version so I could add the soundtrack to my library. It’s a joy to listen too.

The sound effects are amazing as well, to such a degree that a lot of people miss the sound effect of Zach’s laugh in some tracks. I have to agree since I always heard his laugh in the track while it wasn’t there. The story had such an impact on me.

My only complaint is that the music tracks are a bit too short. Some are only one minute long and I like them quite a lot. I wish they created an extended version that wasn’t looping the song three times over. Oh well, this again might be a nitpick.

This game has the perfect price in my opinion. You can buy this game for 15€ in the Nintendo EShop. So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time we wrap this article up and go for the conclusion of this review.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • Too short & easy.

The good:

  • Amazing story.
  • Amazing soundtrack.
  • Amazing art & animations.

Final thoughts:

If you enjoy RPG-maker games that give you more of an adventure like Corpse Party or the Crooked Man, this game is for you. If you want to play a short and fun game during Halloween night, I can’t recommend this game enough.

Personally, I loved the writing in this game so much that I want to replay through the whole game while I even know how the game is going to end. I understand that this game isn’t for everybody. With the large amounts of dialogue, the easy puzzles and the short nature of this game, some people can get turned off this game. But, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the game.

I was glad that I had this game on the car trip during my family weekend. It was such a blast to play. My only regret is that I didn’t keep this for Halloween night. If you don’t own a Nintendo Switch, this game is also on Steam. So, go grab it and enjoy it!

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great (spooky) rest of your day.

Score: 100/100

Gamer’s Thoughts: How to play mobile games on your PC.

CaptureOfficial website

For some people, it isn’t easy to buy the latest and greatest phone to play the newest and greatest Android games on. Thankfully, there is a solution for that. It’s a solution I often use myself actually. There is a program called “BlueStacks” that allows you to play any Android game on your PC. I use this tool when I want to take screenshots for when I want to review an Android game. To my big surprise, the folks over at Bluestacks contacted me with more information about BlueStacks 4. So, that’s what I’m writing about today. Before I begin, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the program and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

What’s new

Currently, BlueStacks got a huge update. In v4, a lot of work has been done to make BlueStacks an even better platform to play Android games on. In this infographic created by the developers, you can find an overview of the changes and improvements in this new version.

If you want to download the program for yourself, just go to the official website that’s linked higher in the article and install the program. The installation is extremely easy. Just follow the on screen steps and the installer does the rest for you. It gets even better, when you log in with the same account you use on your phone, you will be able to download all your purchased apps and install them in BlueStacks.

It’s quite impressive on how far this program has come. Back in 2011, the first version of BlueStacks was released and today it’s one of the best programs on the market to play Android games on. With this program, you can easily stream, record or create screenshots from all Android games. And you can even play them.

If you don’t like the Google Play Store, BlueStacks also has its own AppCenter. This center is a new skin for the Play Store. Each program takes you directly to the corresponding page in the App Store.

Here is the best thing of all, using BlueStacks is completely free. There are some ads in the program and you can’t customize your wallpaper. If you buy a premium account, you will be able to change your wallpaper and have no ads. You also got priority responses from the support team, if you need them. This subscription costs only 40 dollars yearly. The only annoying thing is that there aren’t too many payment options.

By doing various tasks, like loading up a game and returning daily, you earn BlueStack Points. With these points you can buy themes and various merch prizes. At the moment of writing, there isn’t a list of which actions award you points. You can also buy BlueStack Points as a sort of microtransaction. But, these points are totally optional.

Playing games in BlueStacks

Thanks to the developers over at BlueStacks, I already got the chance to play around in a development build of version 4. Since BlueStack now supports the mapping of joysticks to keyboard buttons, I decided to try it out in Corpse Party – BloodDrive. Thankfully, there are cloud saves so I can pick up from where I left off.

screen 1

When I first installed the game, for some reason, the game closed to the desktop twice. But, the 3rd launch, the game just works perfectly fine. After mapping the joystick to the ZQSD (WASD in AZERTY, since I’m from Belgium and use AZERTY.) and the other joystick to the arrow keys, I was surprised at  how accurate and fluent this works.

After that I tried to map my keyboard keys to my wireless XBOX360 controller using a program called XPadder. With this program you can map keyboard keys to one input on your controller. It’s quite a neat program actually. BlueStacks and XPadder works just fine together. While I wish that BlueStacks works with controllers like the wireless XBOX360 controller; then again, for how many games will you be able to only use the controller and not have to use the mouse to tap/click on a spot? So yeah.

If you want to set this up for yourself, you need to click on the keyboard icon in the righthand corner. This brings up a new menu where you can choose between controls for various actions. Currently the following things are supported: a tap spot, d-pad, zoom, aim/pan & shoot, Moba Skill Pad, Swipe & Tilt. You click on what you need and drag it to where the button is on screen. If you want to change the keymap, you click on the button and press the key you want. It’s as simple as that.

screen 2

After you click save, you can start playing. Now, you can hide those keys. If you click on the eye icon that’s next to the keyboard icon, have a slider to choose how transparent you want those keys to be. I have set them all as invisible for the next screenshots in this article. I usually play on BlueStacks with invisible controls actually.

The next game I tested was the port of Sword of Mana, I played this on my tablet a while ago and it’s a very great port actually.

screen 3

I quickly got used to the controls I set up for this game. While I could set up a whole lay-out for the menu system for this game, I found that the clicking through it with the mouse works just fine. Also, I found this game easier to play, since now my hand didn’t cover up parts of the screen. I think I’m going to switch to BlueStacks to finish this game since it’s a more enjoyable experience than playing this on my actual tablet.

The final game I tested was Minecraft Story Mode. At first, I was annoyed that I was unable to login to my TellTales Account. But, I quickly realized why. Since I used enter to confirm my password, I went back to the login screen. When I clicked “OK”, the login actually happened. Curious, I took my own tablet and tried the same thing on there, and I had the same problem.

Anyways, I was surprised at how quickly I was able to download and install the episodes on BlueStacks. I actually tested the download speed of episode 5 on my tablet and on BlueStacks and I found that the episode was downloaded and installed faster on BlueStacks than on my tablet.

The reason I wanted to test this game on BlueStacks is because I wanted to check if this game also has the graphical issues I experienced on my tablet or if it’s a problem with the graphics chipset of my tablet. Besides that, I wanted to test a game that didn’t have a d-pad for moving the character but relies on pressing the screen to move your character.

BlueStacks_ScreenShot

Surprisingly, this game works perfectly. I actually placed a hidden dpad and the game reacts perfectly to that. Also, I didn’t notice any graphical issues. But, the graphical issues happened so rarely on my tablet, I can’t say it’s totally fixed. Something I did experience was a small audio desync in the 5th episode. The voice acting started a second after the characters opened their mouths.

The quick time events where easily done with the mouse. It did require me to get a bit used to the new way of playing this game but it didn’t take long. It reminded me that I want to finish this game.

So, now that I tested 3 different games on BlueStacks, I invite you to test out different games. Please, tell me your experiences with BlueStacks in the comment section. What games work and where fun to play on BlueStacks and which games gave you issues?

And with that, I want to thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Review: Age of Mythology Extended Edition (PC) ~ And on the 7th day he gamed.

ageofmythologyextendededitionSteam store page

Ah, Age of Mythology. I got introduced to this game when I wasn’t able to understand English. It was at a co-worker of my mom’s house. I was playing the games on the PC I didn’t own. The first time, I played with the Egyptian culture, since I have quite a fondness for the old Egyptian culture. A few years later, I found Age of Mythology in a garage sale. It was a French version, but I didn’t mind. I was finally able to play that one game I played for myself. Back then, my French was better than it is now. It didn’t take long before I found a copy of the Gold Edition with the Titans expansion pack. I played the game quite a lot back then. I even dabbled in online play. Fast forward to 2014 and Age Of Mythology Extended Edition releases. Overjoyed, I start it up and have a nostalgic wave. But, is the game any good and does it still hold up. Let’s find out. 

Tale of the Dragon

To my surprise, in 2016, the game received new content. This new content isn’t too well received if you read the Steam reviews. But, I’m running ahead of myself here. First, let’s take a look at the story of this game. In this game you play as Arkantos, an admiral from Atlantis. Something strange I have to point out is that the Atlanteans were added with the expansion pack “Rise of the Titans”. 

Anyways, Arkantos gets a mission where he has to help Agamemnon in the Trojan War. Things go south right away and Arkantos’s fierce enemy Kamos tries to boycott him. The story of this game is quite long. It has over 30 missions and it will take you 30 hours to finish the main campaign. If you decide to play the additional campaign the DLC brings, you get an 10 hours additional playtime.

694637-age-of-mythology-extended-edition-windows-screenshot-ordering.png

During the story, you come across various allies and go on a big adventure. The writing in the game is good. Personally, I prefer the stories in this game more than the stories that were told in Age of Empires I & II. The way how they used the mythologies and stories to create one huge story is just amazing.

Something that still holds up from the original is the voice acting. During the story, you come across Greek, Egyptian & Norse missions and each character feels and sounds unique. My favorite missions were the Egyptian missions. The reason for that might be because I’m really fond of the Egyptian mythology.

But, would I say that the voice acting is actually good? Oh, no. The voice acting is cheesy and over-the-top. And to be honest, I love it. It adds to the craziness of the story and atmosphere. I get the impression that the voice actors had an amazing time in the recoding booth. The voice acting just clicked with me and actually made me laugh out loud sometimes.

The two base campaigns of the game are a blast to play through. I’m also glad that the downloadable short campaign “The Golden Gift” is also added in the Extended Edition. This was a 4-mission long campaign you were able to download from the official website as a short of update/free expansion.

So, I also played a bit through Tale of the Dragon for this review. While I can understand the negative reception of this DLC, I would still recommend it. Now, there are some balancing issues and the multiplayer with the new Chinese civilization is sometimes quite unstable. But, it provides some new and fresh challenge in the game. I have to admit that I haven’t experimented with them too much, since I love playing with the Egyptians the most, but from what I have played; the Chinese look like a lot of fun to play with. If you want a more in-depth review of the DLC, I would recommend that you read Moshfish’s review on it. It’s an amazing summary of what’s good and what’s bad with the DLC and I agree with a lot of it.

I want to add one thing to the Tale of the Dragons review. I don’t know if it’s just me or if other people experienced it as well, but in some missions I didn’t have background music. Also, I found it a missed opportunity to add additional Asian tracks to the soundtrack.

Something minor that I experienced as well is that when you use a God power, usually a name is display who uses it. In the main campaigns, that’s Arkantos. In Tale of the Dragon, it’s nobody… No name is displayed.

God powers and such

age-of-mythology-extended-edition-windows-screenshot-arkantos

This game plays like your typical RTS game. If you have played games like Age of Empires II or Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War, you will feel right at home. Your main goal is to build your civilization. You do this by assigning villagers various tasks to collect resources or create buildings. With these resources you can create more units to improve your economy or create an army to defend from enemies or attack them.

There are, including the DLC, 5 different civilizations to play with. The Norse, Greek, Atlanteans, Egyptian and Chinese. Each civilization has it’s unique units and quirks. For example, the Norse has a special cart, the Ox cart, that is a sort of movable drop off point for resources. The Greek need to have villagers praying to great favors while the Egyptians need to build statues of their gods to create favors. 

The best way to learn how to play with these civilizations is to play through the campaign. By the end, you will know the basics and some advanced mechanics with each civilization. But, if you are totally new to RTS games, there is a “Learn To Play” map where you get the basics of RTS gameplay. You learn how to play with the Greek civilization. The unique elements for each civilization are explains in a cinematic. Now, there is no Greek one and in the Chinese one, some bits take a bit too long.

If you ever want to know more about an unit or a building, you can just click on the portrait. You get a very detailed screen with a lot of information. This information contains the unit’s or building’s things like: strengths, weaknesses and uses. You can also click on “contents” to read a full in-game Wiki. Too bad it doesn’t have a search feature or a better menu system. If this was expanded upon, this would have been an even better tool.

You can play through the campaign on 4 difficulties. I mostly played through the campaign on the normal (moderate) difficulty. I would recommend that you play the game on the normal difficulty first and decide if the game is too easy to too hard for you and switch if needed. Overall, the game is quite balanced and I rarely had moments where I found the AI was quite unfair.

There are few unique mechanics in this game. First, let’s talk about a new unit class. Besides your typical triangle of sword, bow and horse; there is a 4th unit class. Myth Units. These units can be trained in temples and are effective against human units. Each civilization has unique to the mythology of that civilization. For example, centaurs for the Greeks and sphinxes for the Egyptians.

The second unique mechanic are the Titans. When you reach the last age, you can start building a Titan Gate. When this gate is completed, a titan unique to that civilization is summoned. These are huge and powerful units that can be used as tank units to attack the enemy. Now, you can only place this Titan gate once, so if it’s destroyed, though luck. Also, the Titan is quite weak to Hero Units and siege units. So, be careful if you use the Titan.

Now, if you have played Age of Empires III, this mechanic might be sort of familiar. When you advance to the next age, you can choose between various advisors who give you a certain reward when you advance. This isn’t different in this game. When you advance to the next age, you can choose between two minor gods. The god you choose decides which myth unit you can create at your temple and which god powers you can use.

Yes, the final unique mechanic are the god powers you can use. Each civilization has it’s own unique god powers which range from offensive to defensive powers. You can summon earthquakes, spy on the enemy for a limited time, summon a healing spring, have a moment where nobody can attack… There are a lot of them. Most of them can only be used once during gameplay. Some can be used more than once, but they all have a limit.

If you want to read more in-depth about how this game works, I recommend that you take a look at this website: http://aom.heavengames.com. It’s a huge website containing very detailed information and strategies on how to play this game.

Most of my time has been spend in this game playing random matches versus the AI of this game. In the past, I was quite skilled in this game. I knew most of the keys to quickly and efficiently create my base and build up my army. While I love the economic play in this game, I’m horrible when it comes to balancing my army. Since I played a lot with the Egyptian civilization, I don’t know a lot about the other civilizations.

If it’s not clear by now, I think that the gameplay in this game is excellent. The campaign has quite a lot of challenges but just playing on a random map versus the AI is quite a lot of fun as well. There are some things I would love to change about this game but there is a very active modding community providing a ton of mods in the workshop fixing bugs and fixing most of the issues I have with this game.

Let’s dance

694638-age-of-mythology-extended-edition-windows-screenshot-civilization.png

The soundtrack of this game is amazing. The soundtrack is orchestrated and uses an amazing mix of various instruments.

Each civilization has it’s own unique theme and unique tracks. Also, the developers enjoyed themselves way too much with naming these tracks. The main theme of this game is called “A Cat Named Mittens” and one of the most relaxed and chillest tracks is called: “Eat Your Potatoes”.

Together with very good sound effects, the audio of this game is a hit. To this day, when I listen to the soundtrack casually, I remember how the villagers sound and other sound effects. Something I really like is how the sound effects are played in stereo. So, if you move an unit from the left to the right, you will hear your unit in your left speaker.

Now, the rest of the presentation of this game isn’t that great. Don’t get me wrong, the game looks great and the theming is very well done but some character models look out-dated. While I personally don’t mind that much, I feel like this extended edition could have done a lot more than just a simple wide screen support. The additional visual polish isn’t much to write home about. Just look at this Imgur library created by NecessaryDerp from 2014 where the graphics from the original are compared to the Extended Edition: https://imgur.com/gallery/L8WEE

Am I saying that the game looks ugly? No, I’m not. Like I said before, the game still looks great. The improved visuals for the liquids like water and lava are quite pleasing to the eye. And to be honest, the only moment I find the graphics dated is when you are extremely zoomed into the map. Also, thanks to the magic of Steam Workshop ingratiation, you can use a lot of mods to improve the visuals to your liking.

In the past, the online community of this game was quite alive. There were a lot of people playing this game. I remember that were at least 100 different lobbies. Now-a-days, the online community of this game is dying. The day I publish this review, there were only 5 lobbies. It’s a shame, since I played some great game mods online. From King of the Hill to a sort of Dota clone.

There is one thing I really dislike in this game and that’s the save and load menu. Now, it works fine but I wish it displayed more information. For example, if you were playing a random match or if it’s a save in a mission/scenario. I haven’t found a mod that’s able to solve the issues I have with it.

A nitpick I have with this game is with the map. I love how you can rotate the map holding the CTRL-key down, but there is no identification on what position it was originally in. It’s a minor thing.

Something that frustrates me the most is that this game doesn’t receive additional patches. The updates stopped in 2016. Yet, the developers keep updating Age of Empires II HD. This game could use a lot of minor polishing updates but the focus of the developers is on their other products.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s time for a conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

-The visuals are just okay.

-The Tale of the Dragon DLC misses some polish.

-The in-game wiki could have been so much better.

-The save menu should display more information.

-Dying online multiplayer community.

The good:

+ A lot of unique mechanics like Titans and God Powers.

+ You can use mods.

+ Amazing and addictive RTS gameplay.

+ Amazing soundtrack & sound design.

+ Cheesy and over-the-top fun voice acting.

+ Good story.

+ …

Final thoughts:

I might be blinded by nostalgia and quite biased while reviewing this game. But, I think this game still holds up well. Yet, I fell in love with this game the first time I played it. I have a lot of fond memories with this game and reviewing the game just makes me want to replay the game some more.

This game isn’t perfect and could use some polish to fix those last bugs and improve some models, especially the human units. Yet, the charm of this game is something else. The over-the-top voice acting and endless replay value make this game a must play for every strategy and RTS fan.

The original reception of this game was poor, but thanks to the patches, this game has improved quite a lot already. If only Skybox Labs kept updating the game, then I would give this game a higher score.

Now, that’s everything for this review. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Score: 70/100

 

 

Review: Kirby Star Allies (Switch) ~ Let’s Be Friends

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Official website

I enjoy the Kirby games quite a lot. The atmosphere and gameplay are the biggest reasons I’m drawn to the series. So, when I learned that a new game got released on Switch, I placed it on my “To Buy” list. Earlier this month, I bought myself a copy of this game on a small sale. So, today I want to give my honest opinions on the game. Is it any good or is it not worth your time? After playing Kirby Triple Deluxe and Kirby Planet Robobot, I was quite interested to see what the new offer on the Nintendo Switch will bring. As usual, feel free to leave your opinion on this game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

It’s raining hearts

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Kirby is peacefully sleeping in his house when he gets a rude awakening. Some dark hearts are raining down on his homeland, the land of Popstar. Of course, Kirby goes on an adventure to save the day.

As usual for a Kirby story, the story isn’t the big reason you play this adventure. If you played Triple Deluxe or Planet Robobot, you have seen and experienced this story line and structure before. The writing is solid and together with the character noises, the story comes somewhat alive. But, again, the story shouldn’t be the reason you play a Kirby game.

If you do care about spoilers, don’t highlight the following part. But, I want to tell some things about the ending of the main story. So highlight the rest of this paragraph if you don’t mind spoilers or have already beaten the game. … Okay, while I was playing the final levels of this game, I got a déjà vu. And I had to look it up. This ending has actually been done quite a few times before, but the reason I got a deja vu is because this ending is so similar to the ending of the Kirby game on NES. Seriously, watch a video from the final boss of Kirby Star Allies and than Kirby on the NES. You will be surprised. But, I guess it’s a reference or easter egg? 

Alright, the spoilers end here. Before I continue any further, I want to say that this game is extremely short. You can finish this game in an afternoon since the main story will take you only 6 hours. If you want to complete the whole game, you can do this in 14 hours. This was a huge let down, since the 3DS games were longer than that to fully complete. If you wanted to fully complete those games, you have to put aside 26 hours for each game.

I honestly don’t understand why this game is so short. Since the worlds you explore are fun to go through. Yet, there are only 4 worlds, well 5 if you count the one-stage world to fight the final boss in.

Besides that, there are a few mini-games and a co-op mode and that’s it. The post-game content isn’t anything special. I’m sorry, but Nintendo, why is this game priced at 60€? Are we for real? You can get the 3DS games for less money. Also, other Switch games like Super Mario Odyssey have a lot more to do in it for the same price tag.

Anyways, I’m not going to ramble about the price & length for too long. Otherwise it will overtake this whole review. Let’s be friends and review this … short … adventure.

Let’s be friends

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Each Kirby game has an unique gimmick that sets the games apart. In this game, you can recruit 3 enemies to fight along your side. These characters can be controlled by either a pretty good AI or a friend.

I haven’t played this game with a friend so, I won’t comment on that but, you can play this game with up to 4 players. Since the game is quite short, this game would make for the ideal late night gaming session to play through with your friends.

Now, this game goes further with the gimmick and sort-of reuses a gimmick from a previous entry in the series. Remember Kirby 64 – The Crystal Shards, where you were able to combine two different powers to create one unique power? Well, that returns in this game. Sort of.

For example, when you get the sword ability, you can hold up your sword up in the air. When some elemental friend sees this, they will infuse their power with the sword. So, you can get a flame sword. This leads to some unique strategies and puzzles to get the collectibles.

I found it quite enjoyable to see which unique combinations I could make by mixing powers. While some combinations create the same outcome, I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t too many joke combinations in this game. That was part of the charm in Crystal Shards. Where a combination could turn Kirby into a fridge.

Each time you combine a power, an animation plays where Kirby shows his new weapon/ability in a short of Smash Bros style. Surprisingly, you can change this in the options menu. You can choose between “always show them” or “show them only once.”. If you pick the last one, it will play the animation for each combination one time and when you make that combination again, it won’t play that animation.

There are various new unique abilities in the game as well. For example, the spider and art ability. To be honest, the art ability is overpowered, even for a Kirby game. It can spawn in various healing items with a short cool down. So, you can heal yourself and allies very quickly.

Now, I might be a bit too harsh on this game now. While the game is too short and could have been expanded a bit more, the level design was a blast to play through. The various abilities and friend combinations you can have make for a very replayable game. Also, in the puzzle rooms, the abilities you need are usually inside the room. And if the AI kills them, just walk off screen, wait a few moments and go back and they will have respawned.

The collectibles this time around are puzzle pieces. The hunt for them reminds me of the puzzle mini-game in the Mii Plaza on the 3DS. There are two types of puzzle pieces inside the levels. The normal blue ones and the special rainbow colored ones. The special rainbow colored ones unlock the pink pieces. The blue ones unlock a random piece of a picture. These pictures are just for having something to collect. I think they unlock new characters in the Dream Palace, but I’m unsure. Since I got every character unlocked by beating the game but I haven’t got all puzzles unlocked. The message after unlocking a puzzle stats: “You will be able to meet legendary characters”. So yeah.

It’s no secret that the Kirby games are easy and have a more challenging mode for more experienced players. To fully complete the puzzles, you will have to look around in the various levels. If you would have missed an unique piece, you can see that right from the level select screen. Included on the level select screen, you can also see if there is a hidden switch in the level that opens a hidden level. Including the hidden levels, there are 40 levels in total.

Press X to revive

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These 40 levels take you through 4 different chapters. During these 4 chapters, you explore various locations presented with an amazing visual polish.

The artwork in this game is really good. Together with great animations, the game’s visual presentation is top notch. I don’t have anything to criticize on that front.

In terms of the music and sound, I do have something to say. The soundtrack of this game is pretty good. For those who love nostalgia as much as myself, you will be happy to know that there are a lot of musical references in this soundtrack. Now, there are a few tracks of this soundtrack I disliked. These play in the final moments of the game. Thankfully, it’s only for one battle.

Now, speaking about battles and combat, the controls for this game are good. I did had some minor issues here and there. With some abilities I was unable to easy switch directions, like with the bird ability. When I started attacking, I felt I was locked in that attacking animation. Giving my enemy the chance to put in some damage.

It’s a minor problem since I finished this game with 85 additional lives. You only loose a life when Kirby dies. When an ally dies, you can hold “X” for a short time to revive them with a 1/2 health bar. Speaking about those friends, like the music there are some amazing references there too. My favorite reference is the return of the animal buddies from Kirby’s Dreamland 2 on the gameboy. That game was one of the first Kirby games I ever played.

Anyways, I was talking about the minor issues I had with controls. Another minor issue is that when you have a certain ability and you want to release that ability as a friend… Well, though luck. I haven’t found a way to do that.

The gameplay in this game is like any other Kirby game. It’s a 2D platformer-adventure game where you try to get to the big door at the end of the level. Now, another unique gimmick appears in some levels. In some levels, you will need to have 3 friends before you can progress. You can come across pedestals where you can “merge” together to from a bridge for an ally with a key to cross or you can form a boulder to roll down smashing rocks. I know that it’s a kids game, but the names the developers gave for some of these things are just… “The Friendship Bridge”… Do I have to say more?

The game is still a blast to play. I enjoyed myself quite a lot and rarely got annoyed with the level design. The final level gets a bit tricky with moving blocks. I lost a handful of lives thanks to being squished by those blocks. But, I was rushing things where I needed to take it slow.

Besides the music and various returning characters, the game has other references to previous games in them. Just look at what statues Kirby can change into using the stone ability. The Kirby dance makes a return as well and is adorable as ever.

In this game, there are also various puzzle rooms where you can get bonus stars, puzzle pieces and various other things. By default, the game tells you which abilities you need to use to solve the puzzle. You can disable this in the options menu, from the main menu. Why are the options you find in the main menu not able to be changed during gameplay? I can understand that it’s tricky to code while you are in a level but I think it would serve no big problems on the world map right?

The post-game content is decent but I expected a lot more from it. The two new modes are fun to mess around with but I feel like they are more designed for multi-player than for single player.

Anyways, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s time for the conclusion of this article and my final thoughts on the game.

The conclusion

The good:

+ Fun new gimmicks.

+ Fun to play.

+ Great visual design.

+ Great soundtrack.

+ The nostalgic references.

The bad:

-Way too short & too expensive at 60€.

-Minor control issues.

-The story…

-Useless collectibles.

Final thoughts:

Is this game a bad game? No, this game is a decent game but it’s too light on content. This game has the usual Nintendo polish and there is nothing really game breaking wrong with the game.

My big problem with this game is the length and the price they ask for it. In addition to that, some parts of this game are more designed for multiplayer. I feel that this game could be more fun to play with friends or family.

I do recommend this game, but wait for a price drop or buy it on the cheap. If you pay full price for this game like myself, the shortness of the game might be disappointing. I was able to beat this game in 2 days. This game just needed a longer development time.

That’s everything for this article. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Score: 65/100

EDIT: This post got a “Nice Job” badge from NormalHappenings. Read more here: https://normalhappenings.com/2018/09/14/nice-job-badges-for-september-14-and-a-guide-to-making-the-most-boring-game-show-ever/

 

Review: Dragon Quest Builders (Switch) ~ A Building Quest

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Wikipedia entry

How would I explain Dragon Quest Builders? Should I say that it’s a Minecraft clone with quests? A more interactive version of Minecraft Story Mode? Or should I say it’s a Dragon Quest game with elements of Minecraft? In any case, I mentioned this game in my “10 games I’m looking forward to playing in 2018.” article last year. Now that I have finally beaten this game, I want to talk about it, give my honest opinion on it. I played this game on the Nintendo Switch and let’s take a look at why I looked forward to Dragon Quest Builders and if it held up my expectations. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion and/or thoughts on the game and/or the content of this article.

 A Building Quest

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The story of this game takes place after Dragon Quest I. Yes, the NES original game. The world of Alefgard. But this time, the hero of Dragon Quest I actually accepted the evil DragonLord’s suggestion of ruling beside him. So, the world falls into chaos and darkness.

You are woken up by the Goddess to help rebuild the land and only the land. The Goddess reminds you frequently that it’s not your job to defeat the evil Dragonlord. Now, will this legendary builder be able to rebuild this land and fill his role or will this builder want to do more?

The writing in this game is amazing. It’s so full of character, charm, and humor. There is a lot of text in this game and there is no voice acting. This could be a problem for some, but not to me. Something I really love is that each world you help to rebuild has a different theme and different style of writing. The story itself might be generic and you might be able to predict the ending, but the presentation and how it’s delivered excuses that negative in my eyes. I got attached to some characters and when I had to move to the next world to save, I almost didn’t want too. I didn’t want to leave the people I just got to know and build this city with.

The more you read the story, the more the world gets fleshed out. You learn a lot of details about every character you meet. Your goal is to rebuild the land, and you do this with the Banner of Hope. You place this banner at the ruins of a city destroyed by the evil Dragonlord. The light that’s produced by the Banner of Hope attracts people and they will arrive to help you out in rebuilding the city.

Now, there is one catch. You are called the Legendary Builder for a reason. One of the reasons is that you aren’t the Legendary Hero that is going to take down the evil Dragonlord. The other reason is that you are the only one who remembers to create things.

So, when you are exploring the world and find new objects, you sometimes get a recipe or remember how to build a certain object. Sometimes you get blueprints for your town residents to build a certain room for them. This is one of the building quests you have to do to progress in the story.

There is some sort of replay value in this game as well. As a test, I replayed the first chapter twice from start to finish. While I finished the world quicker the second time, my city looked completely different. So, I had a different fun experience.

Where to next?

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Now, to progress into the story, you take on quests of your villagers. There are two types of symbols. One has a quest and the other is a symbol that enemies are going to attack your city. I’ll talk more about the combat later.

So, when you take on a quest, you have to rescue somebody out from the wilderness, defeat some monsters or create a certain room or object. If you have to go outside the city, a quest marker will be placed on your map.

The map system is something I truly liked in this game. You never have an overall map of the world you are in. You can only have an overhead view of your area. There is always a white flag and an arrow showing you the direction of your town. While each area you can visit is big, I never got lost.

Yes, each area. When you beat certain waves of monsters attacking your city, you might be rewarded with a portal. This portal brings you to another area. Something I really like is that the world is interconnected. If you go to the edge of the world, you might be able to see the next area. There is an invisible barrier, a strange force, that’s stopping you to build a bridge over the ocean to sequence break. (For those who don’t know what that sequence breaking means, it means doing things out of order. Breaking the intended sequence of events.)

If you visit an area where your town isn’t located, you are able to pick up a Navi-globe. When you place this object, you get another marker on your map. So, what I did is the place this marker at portal back home or at the location of a sidequest. In total, each world has three globes you can move to whatever location you want.

So, you can explore the large worlds at your leisure. Trying to find all the side quests and collecting as many resources as you can. I loved running around in the worlds since the visual presentation of this game is amazing. My favorite world was the final 4th one. I loved the conclusion of this game.

Visually, this game looks and feels like a real Dragon Quest game. While I was playing this game I often had memories of playing Dragon Quest on my PS2, DS, and 3DS in the past. There are a lot of easter eggs in this game to the earlier games. The animations of this game added quite a lot of the visual presentation. I didn’t find anything that felt out of place. The only “creepy” thing is that when you are talking to somebody, other characters could move. And villagers almost always turn their head in your direction when they are close to you.

I felt at home while playing this game. This might have to do with my love of Minecraft, but also with it playing on my nostalgic love for gaming. The best example is the soundtrack. The soundtrack of this game has no real original tunes in it. The soundtrack of this game is completely orchestrated and it is all tunes you heard before in the Dragon Quest universe. It’s like a “best of” album. Oh, and there is a music easter egg in the game for you will enjoy if you like retro gaming or the old school Dragon Quest games.

While this game has no voice acting, the sound effects in this game are good. Most of them I have heard in previous Dragon Quest games, so nothing new there. but they work pretty well. The only voice acting I have heard in this game is the sleeping, damage, and death sounds of the main characters. Which are pretty great.

Now, exploring the worlds is pretty fun. The controls of the game are a joy to work when you get used to them. And I got used to them pretty quickly. The only annoying thing is that the camera can be annoying sometimes.

I had to struggle with the camera here and there. Especially when you are in small rooms or areas. I had such infrequent issues with it, it didn’t bother me too much. But, I heard from other reviewers that it caused problems when you wanted to create a very detailed city. Since I’m not really a builder but more of a resource gathering and explorer, I didn’t experience that much camera-issues.

Speaking about camera-issues, I think I should mention this. This game runs on a quite stable 30FPS on the Switch. While I didn’t have an issue with that, I think this might be an issue for some people. So I wanted to mention it.

Just press the button

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My biggest issue with this game is elsewhere. I had a problem with the combat. The combat in this game is pretty stale. You are only able to create short ranged weapons. The situations where you can create a long-range weapon are pretty rare. The biggest issue with the combat is just what the subtitle said, it’s just pressing the button. There aren’t a lot of enemies that require a different strategy than to run at them, hit the attack button until they are dead. Sometimes you had to back up and use a healing item, but really, there isn’t any more strategy than that.

It gets even worse when your villagers are helping you in fighting enemies. I had times where I wasn’t able to see my own character. Thankfully, you are able to create your own character and playing around with the colors to make it stand out more helps a lot.

Thankfully, combat isn’t the main focus in this game. There was a mission in the 2nd world that got pretty difficult but it really helped me to understand the flow of the combat in this game. And after trying that wave for 5 times, combat just clicked for me. I got the flow of combat and I never got any major issues with the enemies in this game.

That’s why I haven’t seen the game over screen too much. When you die during exploring the world, you lose a part of your inventory. Just like in Minecraft, your items drop at the location you died. Unlike Minecraft, items never despawn.

If you die during a combat mission where you are defending your city, you can restart the fight or go back to a save. Speaking about saves, you can only save using the Banner of Hope. You have five save slots per world. I highly recommend that you save often since this game doesn’t autosave.

Whenever I saw the symbol that enemies were going to attack my city, I saved. Sometimes after a couple of quests, I saved. Now, here is a fair warning for the gamers who like to build and decorate your city who want to play this game, use the save system to your advantage. Since some enemies can destroy buildings. I admit to restarting some battles because too much of my city was destroyed. Thankfully, you don’t have to go look for new materials, since everything dropped on the floor, but I wanted to avoid the damage. So, it’s a good idea to defeat those enemies first. When you learn the patterns of the enemies, you won’t have such a hard time.

Speaking about that, this game isn’t too difficult. If you keep an eye out on your supplies during combat and learn what makes each enemy tick, you won’t have too many problems with this game. The game does provide you with various challenges but I rarely had trouble. A great tip I can give you is, that whenever you are using a healing item; stay out of range of your enemy. Since an attack cancels out the healing or when you are using the chimaera wing: the teleporting. Oh, and these wings also teleport the people who just are traveling with you.

If you always craft the strongest armor and weapons, you won’t have any issues. The weapons I loved the most in this game are the hammers. It didn’t only help in building, but it was really strong. So, if you want to make this game more difficult on yourself, just explore with weaker gear.

In addition to that, each world has a different challenge. In one world you won’t find a lot of food and in another, the enemies provide a big threat. The learning curve of this game is perfect. You learn a different skill in each world and everything comes together in the final world. The final boss tests everything you learned until that point.

Speaking about the boss battles, they are pretty good. There wasn’t any boss battle I didn’t enjoy or that I wanted to see changed. The weakest is the 2nd boss since I felt it didn’t have enough connection with the theme of that world.

One feature I really like in this game is the Big Cossal Coffer. This chest works like an ender chest in Minecraft. Sort-of. When you place it down, your inventory space gets a lot bigger. but here is the amazing thing. You can take out and put things in where ever you are in the world. I have to admit that this mechanic helped me a lot.

Now, I have mostly been praising this game. Is there anything negative I can say about this game? The game does a lot well, each world has 5 additional side quests. These side quests are only revealed when you finish the world.

So, what is something negative I can say about this game? I could nitpick about the crafting system could use a feature where you choose how many times you want to create an item. It’s one or all. Yet, I think the crafting system has an amazing feature where you don’t need to have the items in your inventory to craft the items. If they are in a chest or your coffer in your city, you can use it to craft items. So, you don’t have to look through every chest when you want to craft something.

Another thing is that I was unable to create a certain block in the final world to finish the roof of my castle. While I was researching if there was a recipe for this block, I learned it was one of the blocks that your villagers could create. Mine didn’t, sadly enough. Yet, the fact that villagers create items for you is extremely helpful. Especially when you build them a place to create food. Something that would be lovely is that you were able to assign tasks to your villagers, so who does what… but then again, you don’t lose any items while they craft for you.

Earlier I said that this game has only 4 worlds. You might say that the game is short. And yes, the story of this game was over too quickly in my opinion. Yet, when you do all the side quests and you want to completely explore the world, you can spend a lot more time with this game. And let’s not forget the free roaming mode where you can even share your creations with other players. I haven’t finished the free-roaming world, so there is still some fun to be had with this game for me.

Something that annoyed me was that when you were building blueprints, you had to start with open space and use only the blocks that the blueprint has. So, if you use wood instead of dirt for the wall, the quest won’t register as finished. Yet, nothing stops you from changing the blocks after you have finished the quest.

Another irritation with this game is that very occasionally, I was unable to have my room recognize as a room. Especially when I dug into the walls to try and escape enemies and use the sleeping mechanic to fully heal. Yet, waiting out the night to heal wasn’t too bad when this happened. Besides, the times that this happened I can count on one hand. So, it’s not that big of an issue.

Something that I sometimes wished is that I was able to farm certain blocks. Especially flowers or ivy. And the only reason for that is that I was too lazy to explore the world if check if I have forgotten to pick it up.

The only thing that I really disliked, and didn’t have a positive thing to balance it, was that some resources are extremely limited or hard to get. But then again, I only had an issue with this in the last world just before the final battle. So, yeah.

This game really hooked me. The sequel to this game looks extremely promising. There are a lot of features added that would be amazing in the original. So, I’m quite excited about that.

The only big negative I can about this game is that it isn’t released on PC or other platforms. I think that this game can get some popular when it’s released on PC and other platforms. Then again, I’m glad that this game got ported to the Switch, since trying to find a PS Vita nowadays isn’t the easiest of tasks.

Phew, that was a lot. Truth to be told, I haven’t talked about everything but I wanted to leave some things as a surprise for you guys. But I think it’s time for a conclusion in this article.

Conclusion

Negatives:

-The camera can be pretty annoying sometimes.

-The combat can be quite bland.

Positives:

+ Great writing and story.

+ Amazing controls.

+ Great visuals.

+ Exploring various vast worlds.

+ ….

Final thoughts:

I’m so glad that I played this game. If you have a Nintendo Switch or PS Vita, you owe it yourself to pick up this game and play it. Even if you aren’t a fan of Dragon Quest/RPG’s or Minecraft, this game is a lot of fun. If you truly dislike both, then I would recommend you to skip this game.

I had high expectations and hopes when I started to play this game and this game didn’t disappoint at all. There were some things that I didn’t like, but it rarely hindered the enjoyment I had with this game.

Each time I got defeated by some monsters or a boss, I got another attempt in trying to defeat them. Not only that, I felt I was drawn into the world and enjoyed the game from the start to the end.

After finishing this game, I really want to play the sequel. Until then, I think I’ll keep playing this game since every time I boot it up, I find something new to do or to improve in one of my 5 towns. Including my Free Roaming one.

I can’t recommend this game enough. I’m currently trying to finish all the side quests I haven’t done yet and experimenting with Free Roaming. I just hope I won’t run into trouble with that when the Switch Online service launches in a month.

I’m curious to hear your stories about this game in the comment section down below. And if you pick up this game, feel free to tweet me a picture of your cities or your adventures to my Twitter: @NekoJonez.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Score: 100/100

Review: Repentant (PC) ~ Life Goes On

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Life goes on. Of course, it does. Repentant recently released and the game is a continuation from Little Kite. But, if you haven’t played the original, you can still play Repentant. Full disclosure, I got a press-code from the developer to write this article. But, the developer wanted me to give my 100% honest opinion. So, that’s what you are getting today. What is my 100% honest opinion on this point-and-click adventure game, one of my favorite genres ever! Let’s find out. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below. 

Oliver goes shopping

The sequel of Little Kite follows Oliver, the abusive boyfriend. Now, I could try to explain the game to you, but I feel like the introduction written by the developers on the store page explains the plot of the game the best:

Experienced criminal Oliver begins to suffer from strong remorse after the terrible deeds of which his family has suffered. Unsuccessful attempts to restore relations with his ex-wife further worsen his condition and alcohol dependence.
One day in a small shop, he becomes a witness of a robbery committed by a young girl. At this moment, he gets the opportunity to atone for his sins by helping another person. But who really needs help and who is the victim? It remains to be seen.

20180810152129_1The writing in this game is amazing. The story really gripped me from the moment it started. I love experiencing stories like these since they stay realistic and down to earth. Also, it shows the other side of life, that it’s not always sunshine and rainbows.

The game got translated into Russian, Ukraine and into Dutch. I can’t speak about the Russian nor the Ukrian since I don’t speak either language, but judging from the quality of the Dutch translation, I can say it’s quite good. For those who don’t know, I’m not a native English speaker. My native language is Flemish, which is “a sort of Dutch”. Something like American and British is a sort of English.

The voice-acting isn’t translated, it’s only the subtitles of the game. Now, I’ll talk more about the voice-acting in just a minute, but first I want to quickly say something about the Dutch translation. Personally, I didn’t like it. There is nothing wrong with the translation, but it uses more expressions and sayings used in the Netherlands than Flemish ones. I got a bit put off by that as a Flemish-native. But, this is more of a nitpick. Compare it to, an American gamer getting annoyed at the subtitles since they are in UK English. It won’t ruin the experience, but it’s noticeable sometimes. So, that’s why I played the game in English.

So, that ramble aside, I wanted to talk about the voice-acting. This game has decent voice acting. Especially the voice acting of the girl is extremely well done. And the type of voice really matches the characters as well. Yet, the voice acting didn’t always click with me. I can’t put my finger on why I think that, but I feel like it was a bit bland sometimes, not enough emotion. Then again, I felt that the voice acting pulled me more into the story. So, yeah.

The dialogue can go, sort of, automatically. When you don’t press a button to continue the dialogue, it continues on its own after a while.

Drawn gameplay

20180810154414_1The visuals in this game are amazing. I really like the art style. It feels like you are playing the story inside a painting or a realistic comic book. If I were to nitpick, I would say that I disliked that not every sign and such was in English. Then again, I don’t think this game takes place in an English speaking country, so that adds to the atmosphere.

The game takes place in the night store. It has basically four screens where the whole adventure takes place. There is one screen that’s an exception, but talking about that would be a spoiler. I really like how the whole story is in this night store. The full-screen artwork for some cutscenes is amazing.

The visual presentation is enhanced by decent animation. There is a minor thing I could criticize about the animations. The running animation looks so unnatural. If you double-click, Oliver uses the same walk cycle but moves twice as quick. And strangely enough, this only works outside the store.

Overall, the game runs at a consistent frame rate, apart from that one scene outside the store and the storefront. The game requires 512MB VRAM, and I have 2GB in my PC. Yet, I had some frame stuttering and some frame drops. The game was still playable but it was quite noticeable during that section.

The visual presentation is accompanied by an enjoyable soundtrack. The only thing that I would have done differently is to loop the music so the player would have been unable to know when the track started or when it ended. I think I say enough about the soundtrack with this: “If it was ever released as a sort of DLC package on Steam, it would be an instant-buy for me. I would add it to my playlist for when in the mood for more relaxing music or tense music.”

So close

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While I was playing this game, I was really enjoying solving the puzzles. The controls for this game are really good. You only need the mouse to play this game.

Now, if you ever get stuck, the game has a hint system. And this hint system isn’t one of the best in my opinion.

You can click it 20 times in the whole game. It does circle all clickable areas. It doesn’t give you any other hints on how to progress or what items you need for the current puzzle. Since it also circles items you can’t pick up or need for a later puzzle. I think that this game could have used a system like in the Broken Sword series where you could ask for a clue on what to do next and when you get stuck (read, don’t progress or solve the puzzle after a certain amount of time), you get access to a clue revealing even more.

Anyways, the rest of the UI is good. The inventory system is at the top and you have your menu button at the left bottom corner of the screen. Besides the hint button. Now, you can combine items. Near the end, I discovered that some combinations didn’t get any reaction out of Oliver. Like the bandage with the kettle.

Another minor change I would have done is, change “play” in the main menu to “new game”. Since clicking that option always starts a new game and it would avoid people thinking that it’s a way to reload the latest checkpoint.

This game isn’t too difficult for veteran point-and-click players. If you have played games like Beneath the Steel Sky, Broken Sword, Monkey Island, Deponia… This game shouldn’t be a problem for you. What I’m saying here is that experience in the genre helps you to get through this game. If you don’t have experience in the genre, always ask yourself this question, what exactly is stopping me from progressing the story and what do I have in my inventory or around me to aid in solving the issue?

This game autosaves, so that means that after you have solved some puzzles, the game autosaves. You can’t save in between. At first, I found this kind of disappointing but the autosaves are so frequent that it isn’t a problem.

For 6€, you get an adventure that lasts roughly one hour. This sounds short, but it’s a great ride. I have finished this game in 2,5 hours. Granted, I have left the game running while I was writing this review for example.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game, it’s time for the conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

-The music should fade in and out better.

-The game is too short.

-The voice acting was sometimes hit & miss.

-In one area some minor frame drops.

-The hint system could have been more fleshed out.

The good:

+ The voice acting can be a hit sometimes.

+ Amazing visuals.

+ Enjoyable puzzles.

+ Great story & writing.

+ …

Final thoughts:

I have played both games in this series and I enjoyed both of these games. Personally, I found that Repentant is the better game of the two. The addition of voice acting really adds a lot to the game.

While the game is rather short, I really enjoyed myself with this game. I would love to see a third entry into the series exploring the aftermath of the situation from Mary’s point of view.

While the game could have used some more polish, I think that this game was worth the wait. I can’t wait to see what the developers are going to put out next. Since now I’m hyped for their next adventure game!

Thank you for reading this review and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Score: 80/100

Gamer’s Thoughts: Super Mario Odyssey isn’t a perfect game.

Super_Mario_OdysseyOfficial website

I wanted to write a review about this game for quite a while. I have finished this game over a month ago and I haven’t written a first impression or a review about this game. I want to fix that today. But, instead of writing a review I wanted to do something special. While the game got praise from other bloggers left and right, I want to point out some of the flaws and issues I have with the game. Disclaimer, I don’t think this is a bad game but I want to explain my reasoning for why I wouldn’t give this game a 100/100. So, let’s get critical and look at this game again. As per usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts on the game and/or the game. 

Mini-review

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So, what do I actually think about this game? While it’s a very unique and enjoyable game, I found the game quite repetitive.

The music and sound design were amazing but I sometimes had trouble with the controls and more advanced moves.

The visuals are amazing and I loved running around in all the different kingdoms but I found the story lacking and I expected a lot more from the hype and praise it got.

If I would have to give my score for this game it would be an 80/100. Since in my eyes, the game could have done so much more and it left me disappointed in some areas of the game.

This game has a lot to love. Like I said, the visuals, the music, the concept… they are all amazing. The attention to detail is amazing. Cappy is one of the most helpful companions I have seen in a while. Yet, I felt like I enjoyed this game less then the other 3D platformers I played like A Hat In Time. So yeah, personally I felt that there was something lacking. Something that kept me from fully enjoying the game and that thought exercise resulted in this article.

Breath of the Wild did it better

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The story has one big issue and that’s the open world and the overkill of moons you can collect. Now, not too long before the release of this game, Nintendo released The Legend Of Zelda – Breath of the Wild. In this game, you were also able to run around freely and gather the things you need to finish the game.

Now, there is a big difference in how the story is handled in the Zelda games and in the Mario games. The big difference is in how the ending is handled. And if you don’t want either of these games spoiled, just start reading when the text is black again. If you don’t mind the spoilers, just highlight the next part in order for you to read it.

So, in each kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey, there is a story quest you can complete to easily get enough moons to advance to the next kingdom. But, this is an open world game so you can skip this story quest by collecting other moons. Fair enough. You can do the same thing in the Zelda game. You don’t have to defeat the divine beasts in order for you to go to the final boss. 

Now, here is the difference between the two games. If you don’t defeat the Divine Beasts in Breath of the Wild, you will have a harder time before you go and do the battle with Ganon. Since you will need to defeat them before you can fight with Ganon. The more Divine Beasts you beat, the easier you make it for yourself during the final battle. Since they bring down Ganon’s health to half if you have beaten all 4 Divine Beasts. This is not only good story writing, it’s also an amazing reward for the player. You helped free the souls from their prisons and they came back one last time to help the hero in his quest to defeat evil. 

In Super Mario Odyssey, this doesn’t matter at all. I haven’t finished the story quest in three kingdoms and it doesn’t have any difference on the ending scenes or on the final battle at all. So, why should I bother saving or helping people in a certain kingdom? When I entered a kingdom, I felt like I was dropped in a zone and if I found enough goodies I was allowed to go to the next zone. 

Another thing Breath of the Wild did better then Super Mario Odyssey are the Korok Seeds vs Moons. Now, you get both items as rewards for solving puzzles or doing small challenges in the world.  At some moments I felt like Super Mario Odyssey was the whole Korok Seed quest with a Mario skin. Now, I felt rewarded when I found a Korok Seed. Even when I had beaten the game. It gave me another chance to upgrade my bag so I was able to carry more equipment in the game and experiment more.

Now, besides needing them to continue in the main story, there are no additional rewards for collecting moons. Besides unlocking one more world/level, and maybe two small completion bonus things at the end of the game, I didn’t feel any incentive to collect these moons. I felt like I was on a fetch quest for them just because it’s a video game.

The final thing that Breath of the Wild did better is the towers and map mechanics. Yes, the towers. I loved climbing towers in Breath of the Wild and looking over the whole zone trying to find interesting areas to visit. I felt a lack of that in Super Mario Odyssey. Also, the mechanic where you could pin beams of light on the map as markers for you to visit later… man, that would have been great in Super Mario Odyssey as well.

And it would fit the visual theming of the game extremely well. The map of each kingdom is a travel brochure of the kingdom. And let’s be honest, how many times you wrote on the map of a travel brochure to mark certain areas you still want to visit.

And a final and possibly a minor thing is that Breath of the Wild felt more interconnected. The best way to explain here is, ask yourself this. You can walk over from region to region in Breath of the Wild easily. You need to fly over from kingdom to kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey. And while it’s on a planet, you are able to fall into a void if you reach the edge of a kingdom.

A Hat In Time did it better

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Now, I’m certain that people will disagree with me on this but I felt that the controls of A Hat In Time felt better than Super Mario Odyssey.

It’s no secret that I’m not the best in platforming games. So, the running up walls move in A Hat In Time was a godsend to me.

But, the issue is that nowadays, I miss various jumps because I try to rely on that mechanic. It gets better when I kept playing Super Mario Odyssey but I missed that mechanic. Not only that, I got so much used to the dive move in A Hat In Time. I was able to pull off more advanced moves than I ever could in a platforming game. With the 2nd dive/jump, you were able to stop at any time you want. So, if you noticed that you overshoot the jump, you can save yourself easily.

So, at that moment I started comparing the moves I was able to pull off in A Hat In Time to Super Mario Odyssey. And I felt like I was more in control in A Hat In Time. For example, I can’t pull off the Cappy Jump at all in Super Mario Odyssey but I’m able to defeat the hardest jumping challenges in A Hat In Time. I don’t know what’s going on exactly, but I think it has to do with the two things I said above.

Or it might have to do with me being more used to the XBOX360 controller I play A Hat In Time with compared to the first game I had beaten on Nintendo Switch. Maybe when I’m more used to the Switch controller, I might be able to do these more difficult moves.

Other things

Now, remember, I still enjoyed myself with Super Mario Odyssey and it’s still a great game. But, I have seen other games do certain aspects better. Besides that, are there other things I don’t like about Super Mario Odyssey?

The motion controls were also a big issue for me. I played a lot of this game on the go. On the train from and to work. And I think that I’m unable to get a few moons easily without those motion control moves. But, that’s mentioned in almost every review I have seen. And as pointed out by some, why weren’t they able to remap those moves to certain buttons that went barely used in the game like ZL/ZR?

Besides that, I think I have said my main issues with the game. I could go on and extremely nitpick, but that would make this article boring to read. Like I felt each world should have its own Rabbit mini-boss and not repeat them over several worlds with barely any differences…

In the end and I have mentioned this multiple times, I think that this game is wonderful, one of the best games Nintendo has put out in 2017. While it isn’t their best game from 2017, it’s in the top 5. While I feel that this game deserves a lot of praise, it could have done things a lot better and I hope I was able to point that out in this article.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in the next article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

First Impression: Suicide Guy – Sleepin’ Deeply (PC) ~ Moar Beer

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Official website

Today I want to talk about a sequel, another chapter in a game I review last year. That game goes by the name of Suicide Guy. A game that got ported to the Nintendo Switch and the PlayStation 4 too. Now, the developer gave me a review key for this game and asked me to give my opinion. So, this article will be that, my unfiltered opinion on this game. Also, real talk for a moment. While this might be a game about killing yourself in various ways, if you are really struggling with mental health issues or thoughts about suicide, please look for proper medical help. That said, let’s take a look at this game. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.

(Note, the version that’s used for this review is v1.35. Some comments might be changed with an update.)

Moar beer

In this game, your goal is to wake up. Again. But this time, you feel asleep drinking some stronger beer than usual. He wanted to drink some stronger beer since he saw a (voice acted) commercial on the TV.

Suicide Guy Sleeping Deeply Screenshot.jpgThe first level is a battle with a giant octopus. This battle introduces the mechanics of the game to new players. But, players who have played the original game will feel right at home with this one. It even has the same controls, the same issues with not recognizing AZERTY keyboards as well. If you could rebind your controls, this wouldn’t be an issue.

Because I haven’t gotten too far into the game, I can’t comment too much on the story. I’m looking forward to the promised twist in the end. The only thing, story-wise, I felt was a missed opportunity is the hub area. It would have been amazing if you were on some sort of a sinking ship, where the incoming water represented the beer falling to the ground. Maybe this is a lucky guess towards the twist ending, who knows?

The hub area of this game is the exact same as the first game. Now, I feel that there is something missing. The motivation of our main character to wake up.  You don’t have anything on the screens of the beer falling. There is, therefore, less urgency to finish the game. That’s why, to me, it feels like a level pack DLC. Then again, there is nothing wrong with that, but some of these small touches really added to the atmosphere of the original.

Earlier, I said that this game has voice acting. While it isn’t the best voice acting I have heard, it’s good. The price tag of this game is 3,29€ and you that, you would expect some cheap voice acting, but no, that’s not present in this game.

Frustration

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Now, let’s look at the actual gameplay. Like I said in earlier in the article, the goal of this game is to find a way to commit suicide and wake up from the dream. The first two levels, I really enjoyed. But the 3rd level, the Rube Goldberg machine… I have to be honest, I dislike these kinds of levels.

A level where you need to finish a whole obstacle course without failing once. Those cups near the end where the bain of my existence. I have to admit that I have quitted the game several times. This level is a bit too long, I would have liked checkpoints. One fix can help this level to feel less frustrating. If you are able to finish the jumps of a section, you could knock over a ladder that lets the player pass that section so they can try to finish that part again. And, to make it more challenging, make it that the statue can’t be obtained if shortcuts are used.

Now, it might look that I’m giving this game a bad rap because I’m unable to pass one level. Then again, I might be spoiled by games like Super Mario Odyssey and A Hat In Time, where you didn’t have to finish all the levels to continue in the game. This game has so much potential and it would be a shame if somebody would quit because they are unable to finish one level.

Besides that, I feel like this game needs some polishing work in different area’s as well. The animations in this game aren’t the best. They aren’t bad but, I felt like they could be smoother. For example, water splashes staying too long on screen at the introduction level or no climbing animation. If the developer added a climbing animation, that would make this game a lot better.

Visually, this game looks extremely good. The texture work here gets a thumbs up from me. The references and the humor of this game really shine due to the visual design of this game. While there are some area’s that look unfinished as well. For example, I found a spot where the poles of the wooden bridge didn’t connect to the ground, making the bridge floating in the air. Now, a quick email to the developer fixed this. He is also very responsive on the Steam forums so if you find a bug, don’t hesitate to report it.

The UI needs some minor polishing up to do as well. These might seem like nitpicks; one thing is that when you enter a level, you are unable to go back to the hub area. You need to go to the main menu and then to the hub area. The list of languages in the options should be alphabetically organized and there are some major issues with windowed mode.

Good but not great

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Now, the music and audio design of this game are great. It helps to build the charm of this game tenfold. I’m really interested to hear what the rest of the game will offer when I finally beat that 3rd level.

In terms of controls, while it’s a shame I can’t rebind them, I feel like they are better in this game. It’s also possible that I got more used to them in the sequel but I felt fewer times that the game wasn’t doing what I asked it to do.

The game is good, but not great. It still needs some polishing up work to be done. Since there are still a few bugs in this game. Thankfully, the developer is quite active in polishing up the game. So, report every bug to make this game better. I might have been harsh on this game on several moments but that’s because I believe in this game. If the developer polishes up that 3rd level and adds some quality of life updates, like a climbing animation or rebindable controls, this game will be better for it. Things like that would make the game great.

If you were a fan of the original, I think it would be a shame if you skipped over this one. If you enjoy puzzle/action/adventure games, this is a great time waster. While it isn’t the most polished game, it’s enjoyable and unique. The references and gameplay is something I really enjoy. I have finished the original game, but I hope I’ll be able to finish this sequel one day. And who knows, I might even write a full review then.

That’s everything I wanted to say about the game for now. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.