First Impression: Amid Evil (PC – Steam) ~ Champion!

Steam pageWikipedia entry

In the near future, Amid Evil will have new content named The Black Labyrinth. Now, this is quite extincting, since this gives me an amazing opportunity to talk about the base game. Since, this game comes from the same studio that brought us the amazing retro-style shooter Dusk and does it live up to that name, or should we totally look elsewhere? Should we leave this game amid evil, or should we save it from evil? Well, that’s what I want to figure out with while writing this article with my first impressions about the game. So, let’s dive right into the game and talk about it, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or this game. So, Amid Evil… What do you get for us?

Champion !

Amid Evil is being called the spiritual successor to games like Hexen and Heretic. That’s quite a high bar to set since I really enjoy Heretic. I love the concept, and I was quite impressed with it. I remember discovering Heretic through a website that shared old DOS shareware versions of games. Now, before I get side tracked and this article turns into a half Heretic review, let’s focus on the game.

In Amid Evil, you play as one of the last standing heroes that is tasked with saving various worlds. In this game, the evil forces already took over and it’s to you, the Champion to save them. And in terms of story, that’s mostly it. This shooter pulls you right into the action. That’s not to say, that this game doesn’t have any story. Each episode has a lot of world building and builds up the various evil forces that took over those worlds in a unique theme, but if you are looking for a shooter with a strong overarching story, I’m afraid that you might be disappointed with this game.

To avoid spoilers, I’m going to talk about the next bit somewhat vague. But there are 7 episodes in this game, with each episode having 3 levels each and then a boss fight. In each level, there are various moments of lore and world building that if you really spend time with it, it tells an amazing story. The game tells just enough for you to let your imagination run wild and fill in the “story gaps”.

Due to the story taking quite the backseat in this game, there isn’t a lot of voice acting in this game. Apart from the Champion’s pain grunts, jump sounds and alike… There is only one character that really says lines. That’s the voice of the ancients, who is played by Tamara Ryan. She did an amazing job in voicing that character. I really enjoyed her comments when I returned to the level hub. And also, I wasn’t able to find out who voiced the main character, but the voice work there is amazing as well.

Now, if you have read earlier articles from me, you might expect that I’m going to say that it’s a shame that the story take such a backseat, but you would be wrong. I think the execution and the pacing of the story in this game is excellent. The story is told through the world building and because of this, each episode feels like a sort of anime arch/season with a start, middle and end. Especially, because each episode tells a different story with different enemies and ways you have to defeat the levels. The only thing that remains the same are the weapons and their abilities.

Something that remains the same are the controls. Those smooth and amazing controls. I really like how in control I feel of the Champion I play as. I also like things like the fact you can even choose how your crosshair looks in the options menu. That’s so lovely and allows you to add that personal touch to the game that I really love.

It’s shooting time

At it’s core, this game is an old-school linear shooter. The best way to somewhat explain the gameplay of this game is take games like Dusk or Blood, and put them in a dark fantasy setting. So, in this game, you through long levels, shooting your way through various enemies with various weapons. While going through the levels, you also have to hit switches, flip levers, make jumps, hunt for keys to open doors and maybe find secrets along the way. With a handy press of the tab button, you can easily see how many enemies and secrets there are left, but also your time in the level. So, there is an in-game time mode for speedrunners. Lovely.

So, let’s talk about the weapons you can use in this game. The “infinite ammo” weapon in this game is the Axe of the Black Labyrinth. It’s a rather strong weapon, but it’s extremely slow. I’m quite sure that this weapon was my least used weapon because of that slow speed. You also had to get up close and personal with the enemies for it to have effect, and the hectic and fun combat of this game doesn’t always allow that. Since, health in this game is rather precious. I’m not saying that this game is brutal, but if you don’t understand how the enemies work, the can become a lot of trouble.

Maybe the first shooting weapon in this game might be of help. It’s what I call “an upgraded version of Heretic’s staff” and it’s called the Staff of the Azure Orb in this game. While it’s far from the strongest weapon in the game, it was one of my favorite weapons to use. This is a water based weapon, so if you hit flame enemies with it, you deal some extra damage. But then again, water based enemies are immune to this weapon. So remember that well when you are fighting to use another weapon in case of water spirits.

Another weapon like the Whisper’s Edge. It might give you an edge in combat since it’s a sort of “shooting sword”. And not like you shoot energy beams from the top of the blade, oh no. You shoot “slashes”. This is a slow weapon, but it’s a very strong weapon. I see it as the shotgun of the weapons in this game. If you use it well, you can deal a lot of damage, quite fast. And that’s handy since this game likes to put you into tight rooms with a lot of enemies with their unique quirks. It’s essential to understand the weapons and the enemies in each episode, since that knowledge will help you survive the episode.

Like in the original DooM, each enemy has their own unique cry and sound effect. Learning these sound effects and playing this game with a good headset or surround system is a must. It helps you quite a lot to avoid dying over and over again in the chaotic and addictive battles. Something that also helped quite a lot is the Voltride. This is Poseidon’s trident combined with Zeus’ thunder in weapon form. Oh, do I love this weapon since it’s such a strong weapon, but it eats through your mana so quickly.

Speaking of mana, there are three types of mana in this game. Blue, Green and Orange mana. I really like the attention to detail that this game has with giving the ammo count the same color as the mana you need to pick up to power it. The first weapon in the roster with orange mana is the Celestial Claw. This bazooka of a claw shoots actual planets, and sometimes even our own Earth! Man, I love to use this weapon to try to hit a lot of enemies at once while circle strafing around the room.

The next weapon on the list if the Star of Torment. This weapon has its use cases. This is a weapon you need to learn how to use, since it’s not your typical “gun weapon”. The Star of Torment is a weapon that can cause not only splash damage to nearby enemies, but it can also nail enemies to the floor and/or walls if used correctly. I like to use it in crowded rooms to quickly damage the biggest enemies, they are easy pickings when I’m focusing myself on the weaker enemies.

My last case scenario is the Aethurnum. This weapon is quite close to a small screen nuke. It will rip out the souls of the enemies quite easily. And with these souls, you can charge up your soul meter. At a certain point, your soul meter is full and you can activate a sort of “rage mode”. In this mode, your weapons are stronger and do a lot more damage, but they also eat you a LOT more of your mana. I’m not going to spoil the alternate attacks of each and every weapon but let’s just say that the slow weapons aren’t slow anymore.

There is no armor in this game, so that means that you really need to be careful while playing this game, so you don’t die. In the levels, there are also red orbs you can collect that heal you. But be careful, sometimes it’s more recommend to either safe the orb and pick it up later, since it might not be the only time you pass through the section. But, if you learn the enemy attack patterns and really dive into how this game works, you might be able to even pass up some of those health pickups since, full is full.

Worship or not?

Visually, this game does a lot right. This game is the best cross between old school 3D shooters on the PS1, while it looks quite modern as well. The artstyle and theming in this game is superb, and if only I had a stronger gaming PC to see how the new DLSS visuals look like. Since, from what I have seen in the promotional material, the game looks even better.

As I said earlier in this article, the story in this game really takes a backseat, and the game tells you just enough to fill in the details with your imagination. Well, a lot of that has to do with the amazing work the developers did in theming each episode. For example, one episode is quite industrial themed. So, you go through old machines, use giant cog wheels to go around while you avoid robots with lasers. Another episode is more medieval themed, so you will see knights and soldiers hunting you down.

In terms of the UI, I don’t have anything I would change. I really like how you quickly get all the information you need from it. It shows you on the left, your health and your soul power and on the right, your mana and the acquired weapons. Combine that with the beautiful animations as this game has, and the package is complete.

For real, the way how enemies go into a stun animation or die, it told me all the right information I needed to know to try and survive the rather hectic fights. The same counts for the bosses. While they are quite challenging, they telegraph their attacks quite well to give you a chance to dodge and/or get to a safe spot. It makes the game even more fun to play.

A guilty pleasure of mine is that if there are cheats in the game, I like to experiment with them. The cheats in this game give this game such a nostalgic feel to me. But, then you have amazing things like you can play the episodes somewhat out of order. Like, how you can choose which level to play like in the 2nd episode of Nightmare Reaper. It’s really great stuff.

So, earlier I talked about that you need to learn the sound effects of each enemy. I said that for a reason, since the sound design in this game is really, really good. I’m so glad that I play PC games with a noise-cancelling headset, since I’m quite sure it saved me several times from dying. Combine that with an amazing soundtrack by the legendary Andrew Hulshult and the music and sound design gets a chef’s kiss… A ten out of ten. The soundtrack has been part of my work playlist for quite a long time, I love it. It fits the theming of the game like a glove.

There is a lot of attention to detail in this game, like how you have different death screens in this game tell you how you died and giving you quick and easy access to either reload the level, reload a save… The polish in this game makes it quite tricky to find negatives in this game. Yet, there are a few things I really didn’t like.

First of all, this is something I think can be fixed with a patch, but the alt+tab out of the game is extremely glitchy. I had to start and quit the game several times since it had quite a hard time remembering my screen size. It also wasn’t always active, and it switched between focus and not focused mode quite often.

The second thing, could also be fixed with a patch, but the counter in the codex isn’t always correct. Especially with the episodes. For some reason, it’s stuck at 8 for me, while it has double the pages.

But the 3rd thing is something I really disliked. The lack of a map screen. There isn’t an in-game map in this game. And if there is one, I haven’t been able to find it. While this game has great level design, and it flows quite nice, I sometimes missed in-game map to find secrets more easily. Since, some secret locations are so silly as underneath a stair.

Something I feel honestly somewhat mixed about are the power ups. There are so rare and far between, I honestly didn’t remember that this game had power-ups before I clicked open the codex for this article. While it came flooding back then, I think that there could have been much more use of these. Maybe if there is ever a multiplayer or death match or even a sort of zombie style mini-game, I think they can shine.

As you can see, this game is an excellent retro throwback shooter with a lot of polish. The fact that even after 3 years, this game gets frequent updates to polish up bugs and the game, I can’t really fault it for a lot besides not having a sort of in-game map. I really enjoyed myself with this game and I highly recommend it to everybody who enjoys playing shooters like Dusk, Nightmare Reaper, Blood, Bioshock, DooM… It’s really good. Be aware, it isn’t the easiest game you will play, but it’s a fair game, and it has that: “just one more try” attitude written all over it.

I’m really curious to see what the new DLC will bring since it will have new levels, new music and new weapons. Then, I shall wake up the champion once more to fight amid the evil and conquer it. But until then, I think I’ll end of the article here. I want to 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, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: Etrian Odyssey Untold Stories 2 – The Fafnir Knight (3DS) ~ A Coocking Guild?

EO2U.jpg

Wiki entry

This year I went on various trips. One day, I went to Brugge. When I was walking in the shopping streets, I went into a game store and saw this game there for like 10€ second hand. Because I enjoyed Etrian Odyssey Untold Stories, I wanted to know how the sequel was like. I know that I haven’t finished the original, but I have gotten quite far. More Etrian Odyssey in my collection. In any case, I think it’s time that I talk about this game since I have put in quite some hours into it. If I may believe the activity log of my 3DS, I have put in 40 hours into this game. That’s a lot for me. So, why did I put in so many hours? Let me explain. As usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Side note: This game is a remake of Etrian Odyssey II for the Nintendo DS.

A Cooking Guild? 

EO2UScreen02.jpgSo, this game is a prequel to the first Untold game. You play as the Fafnir Knight, who is nameless since you decide the name for the character. On your journey, you meet up with 4 other adventurers by the name of Flavio, Arianna, Bertrand, and Chloe.

Your main objective is guiding Arianna through Ginnungagap to complete a ritual. You aren’t exactly told what the ritual is and what it means, but the further you get in the story, the more you uncover.

Each character has his or her motives to join you and be in the group. While they all fit a stereotype; the player character is the overpowered character, Arianna is the scatterbrained klutz, Bertrand is the warrior with a past he doesn’t want to reveal… The mixture of all these stereotypes makes for a great party. The writing and personality of the story are really good.

The voice acting is also pretty good. Something that surprised me is that shopkeepers start to have a small conversation with your characters if you want long enough. I actually discovered that while the game was open and I was writing this article. The conversations can be really funny and fit the personalities of the characters as a glove.

The story is keeping me on the edge of my seat. Yet, I do wish there was some log of the things that happened or what you are supposed to do next. Since there were a few times I didn’t play this game for a while and just started exploring randomly.

While you can get a vague idea by looking at the active missions and quests, I feel there should have been a location where you could ask what to do next. Even when you have downtime and you are free to do whatever you want since the next story quest requires your party to be a bit stronger.

In any case, in this game, your Guild Hall is something quite special. You operate from a restaurant. A game mechanic I really adore in this game is that the different items you find in while exploring the labyrinth all contribute to the restaurant.

And this restaurant is extremely important in your game. Regina, the cook of this restaurant, found an old recipe book from an old chef, who passed away. This chef was one of the greatest in the kingdom and Regina wants to recreate as many dishes as she can. Now, the recipe book is written in a cryptic way, so you have to read item descriptions to figure out which ingredient you need to develop the dish.

Besides that, you can let Regina cook a dish to give your party a certain buff before you go inside the labyrinth. This can be extremely helpful to when you are gearing up for an extremely tricky boss fight or when you need a certain boost to defeat some tricky enemies.

But wait, the importance of the restaurant doesn’t stop there. You can also develop the town, which will make the shops sell better items. So, you need to make sure that your restaurant is stocked up so you can create the right dish for the right area. Also, you can invest money in the town…

I think you get the idea. There is a lot of depth when it comes to the restaurant. It’s a very addictive balancing act to know which items you should sell to the stores to be able to buy certain items and which items you need to keep to have the ingredients for the restaurant.

The Fafnir Knight

EO2U-Euro-AnnBesides the great depth you have in the restaurant, the general town provides you with stores and various important locations. You can spend hours managing your party and upgrade it. Looking for the right items and the right builds for your party is extremely important. Be sure that you make your builds carefully and that you stock up on enough items before you go exploring the labyrinth.

Since this game can be quite unforgiving in the labyrinth. Expect when you play on the picnic difficulty. When you play on Picnic difficulty, you don’t get a game over when your party is wiped out. You just get kicked out of the labyrinth. Also, some items won’t deplete so you have a come casual experience with the game.

On standard, you get a pretty challenging game that is more fit for gamers who are into RPG and Dungeon Crawlers. You do get once chance to restart when your party is wiped out.

On expert mode, well, the game gets even more difficult and the game describes this mode as “for the real masters of Etrian Odyssey, or masochists”.

The difficult has barely any influence on the game, apart from you being unable to earn in the picnic difficulty. Also, you can change the difficulty at any time while you are in the town. You can’t change the difficulty while you are exploring in the labyrinth.

etrain fafnir map

The goal of exploring the labyrinth is to get as far into the labyrinth as you can. The further you get into the labyrinth, the more difficult the monsters get. Every 5 floors have a certain theme and on the 5th floor, there is a final boss that tests your abilities. This boss also fits the theme of the area extremely well. So, try to learn from the behavior of the enemies and their weaknesses.

So, this isn’t just your typical dungeon crawler. There is a reason why this game is on the DS. That is because it has two screens and a touchscreen. You see the dungeon itself on the upper screen and you have a map screen at the bottom. The catch is, with the Etrian Odyssey series, that you have to draw the whole map yourself.

You can do this in a lot of ways, but I have my own style. For example, I draw walls where I’m unable to pass. So, if there is a column in the middle of the room, well, I draw walls on that square on the map. I have seen others use another color for those spots.

Anyways, before I go on a whole ramble about how I make the maps in the Etrian Odyssey series, I do have to say that this is the mechanic I love the most in this game. A good map is important to your survival since some strong monsters are running around in the labyrinth and if you draw everything, you can also find escape routes and shortcuts more easily.

These things can help a lot with finishing quests and missions pretty easily. The side quests are a lot of fun to do and you can find them in various buildings in the town. I highly recommend that you do them since they can help you sharpen your skills and find out something you didn’t know about the labyrinth.

Exploring to explore

etrian2fafnir_03I have to admit that sometimes I just started walking around in the labyrinth because I just had so much fun. My goal was just to wander around, fight enemies and check if I found everything on my map.

When you fully explored a floor, you are able to quick travel to that floor if you place a stairway on the map. But, these things get explained while you are playing the game.

The game doesn’t work with random encounters. You are on the “clock” so to say. I’m not talking about the day and night system present in the game, but after a certain amount of steps, you encounter an enemy. But be careful! There are big boss monsters running around in the labyrinth too. When you have an enemy encounter close to such a boss monster and it notices your party, it can enter the fight as an additional enemy to make your current fight became a bit more difficult.

Speaking of fighting, each character has his or her own strengths and weaknesses. So, make sure that you use that to your advantage. Also, use the points you get from leveling up your character to your advantage. Since you don’t learn new skills by leveling up, you have to distribute points. Be careful how you distribute them since they matter and you can’t undo them easily.

I can talk for a while longer about the gameplay of this game, but I will say this to wrap it up. This game has a lot of depth and has so much to manage that it can become overbearing. Knowing which enemies are weak against what is a challenge and a half to remember. That’s why I’m so thankful that the characters actually give hints before a battle starts.

Because this is such an expansive game, you expect the controls to be flawless. Well, there is something I think could be improved in the drawing controls. It’s something I had a lot of trouble with in previous Etrian Odyssey games as well. That is the fact that removing placed icons is a hassle. It’s very tricky to move icons once they are placed.

Overall, the controls of this game are pretty good. Every button is used to its fullest. The UI is also great to use. There is something I think they can improve when it comes to the UI and that is a search option in the Monstrous Codex and the Item Compendium and make those list sortable. That would have been such a great help.

The visual presentation is a feast for the eyes. When I’m playing this game I sometimes just stop and look around with the circle pad to take in the gorgeous artwork and the detailed environments. The theming of this game is pretty well done. On the jungle floors, you get various patches of patches of grass filled with thorns. On the winter floors, you have a lot of the area that there are icy spots you have to slide and you can’t suddenly take a turn then.

The animations in this game are pretty decent. You can compare the style of animations in this game with a Pokémon game. It’s a similar concept. Most of the animations are present during the battles. I wish that the characters inside the towns were a bit more animated while they speak since now they are extremely pretty 2D characters.

All of this is topped off with an amazing soundtrack, a soundtrack I’m actually interested in buying it. I really enjoy listing to the soundtrack of this game that much. Together with the sound design of this game, I think you have a feast for the ears too. One of my favorite tracks in the game is “Bloody Fight – Betting it All”. It’s such a great track when you are fighting those bosses.

This game is a blast to play. If you are into RPG’s and/or Dungeon Crawlers, it would be a shame if you don’t play any of the Etrian Odyssey games. If you want to enjoy this game and don’t want to be afraid that this game is too difficult, play on the picnic difficulty.

This game can be extremely challenging if you don’t build up your party the right way. If you don’t use your upgrade points wisely, if you give bad items to characters, don’t use boosts or grimoire stones… If you want a challenge, don’t use a guide for this game. Otherwise, I think it’s perfectly fine to use a guide to help in on your quest.

I love the Etrian Odyssey series and I can’t wait to finish this game. I can recommend it to everyone who is looking for a game they can sink hours upon hours into and a game that challenges your skills as a gamer and an RPG/Dungeon Crawler fan.

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