First Impression: Desperados III (PC – Steam) ~ Pimping Nostalgia

Official websiteSteam store page

I still remember when I first played the original Desperados back at a friend’s place. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked. To be very honest, I never really beat the original game. That’s mainly due to my playstyle. In action games, I love being more aggressive and “in your face” instead of being stealthy what that game more required. When the 3rd game got announced and released in 2020, I was beyond hyped to play it. But, a lot of different games just distracted me. I was also afraid that I wasn’t going to enjoy the game too much since… yeah my playstyle. But then, this month’s Humble Bundle got a key for Desperados III and I bought it. I started playing this game and yeah. I wasn’t wrong putting this game on my top 10 games I’m looking forward to in 2020 list. But, what exactly do I think about it? Well, I’ll explain in this article while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on this article.

Pimping nostalgia

While this is the 3rd main entry in the series, you don’t need to have played the first two games to enjoy the story in this game. Since, this game is a prequel to the first game. Basically, the backstories of the main characters are set up in this game. While we see a few familiar faces to the originals two games, we also see two brand-new characters.

The pacing of the story is a little weird. Because, the main setup of the story is explained over the whole first chapter. You don’t want to know how many times I have rewritten this section to avoid spoiling something. Let’s just say that the story of this game is quite interesting and doesn’t disappoint for your typical Western story.

The story doesn’t overpower the game, since the star of the show is the gameplay. But, the story doesn’t disappoint at all. I love the voice acting of all the characters. The performances are amazing and fit their characters as a glove. I was surprised to learn that this game got a completely new cast to play the characters. If I hadn’t looked that up, for some characters I wouldn’t have been able to tell.

So, let’s move on from the story and characters and start talking about the gameplay. In this game, you have to complete several missions with a small group of characters. Each mission is different and not only in terms of the map you play on. For example, in one mission, you are trying to fight your way to the dock without any of your weapons and in another mission, your group is separated into two groups that start at the other side of the map.

Survival is awareness

If you want to survive in these missions, you have to be very aware of the characters in your crew. The main cast exists out of 5 characters. And all five of them have different weakness and strengths.

One character can throw a knife whilst the other is a sniper. Understanding their abilities and when you use them, is key. Something that this game does extremely well is that there are various ways of tackling each mission. So, you can play this game however you want.

The additional missions you can do in each chapter, give a clue on how different you can beat each mission. There are even missions where you can beat it without having to kill one guard. Whilst you are playing through a mission for the first time, the optional missions aren’t revealed to you. When you are playing through it again, then you can see the optional missions. You can earn badges for a more “perfect” score as well. On top of that, after beaten several missions, you can unlock new challenges where you can replay a mission with additional challenges and/restrictions.

The difficulty curve of this game is just polished extremely well. When a new character gets introduced, the mission is a sort of tutorial on how to use that character. I still remember that in the original game, after you rescue a character, you get a mission with barely any enemies where you learn how that character works. Not in this game. You get various “papers” you can pick up that show a short movie on how the mechanic works. This is such a breath of fresh air.

Something I adore in this game as well is the quick save and the quick load system. You might think that this mechanic is quite aggressive. Since, when you haven’t saved in a hot minute, you get a pop-up almost in the middle of your screen. But believe you me, it’s a great reminder. It makes this game way less frustrating when you make a tiny mistake or want to try something. Also, when you accidentally quick save in a situation that leaves you in a sort of soft lock, in the pause menu you always have your three last saves. So, you can roll back further when needed.

A big improvement compared to the first game as well is the speed up & the pause feature. With a simple press of a button, you can slightly speed up the gameplay. Which can be handy to speed up the patrol of a guard you are trying to sneak past. Now, the pause feature is something quite special. With this feature, you can pause the game and plan out a choreography to take down various enemies at once. You can cue up one character double shot while another character sneaks in to give a deadly shot to the third enemy. Once I was able to take out a patrol of five enemies with one pause and let me tell you how amazing it fells when it all goes to plan.

Apart from understanding how your characters work, it’s also quite important to understand your enemies. There are several groups of enemies that each have their unique traits. For example, you have Poncho enemies who don’t react to traps and distractions. And you have long coat enemies who are difficult to take out and need three hits to be taken out. And if you don’t take them out in one time, and they spot you, and they hit you… Well, instead game over.

With a simple right click on an enemy, you can make their view cone appear. As soon as you walk in their view cone, you can get spotted. When moving a character, you need to get out of the view cone before it goes red. Since, as soon as it turns red, an alarm is raised and nearby enemies come to help and track you down. But, you can also “view cone surf” where you sneak from one view cone to the next. Confusing the surrounding enemies can possibly be sneaking away.

Let’s do this again.

In the previous section, I mostly explained how the gameplay works. I only explained some of the more basic mechanics. The whole puzzle aspect of this game and the quick thinking you have to do in this game is quite addictive. While I’m playing through this game on the easiest difficulty setting, I still feel that this game is quite challenging.

I tried to play this game on higher difficulty settings, and it’s too brutal for my tastes. Thankfully, you aren’t punished with too many fewer mechanics or other penalties because you aren’t playing on the highest difficulty setting. The gameplay is still addicting. It’s a prefect example of “easy to play but hard to master”. Just like I said in the previous section, awareness of everything is key in this game. Awareness of where you hide your characters, how many enemies are around, who has which abilities, which opportunities you have to kill or knock out an enemy, blind spots …

Now, in order for this style of game to work, you’ll need a good set of controls. And this game controls amazingly. The controls are fast and responsive and apart from some minor moments I don’t have any problems with them. Something I struggle with sometimes is remembering that certain actions like throwing a torch required me to press an additional button. Or that when I want to retrieve the knife, I don’t have to pick up the dead body.

I rarely use the keyboard shortcuts for my characters to preform actions. But did you also know that you can totally remap them to however you want? It’s mind blowing that this game allows you to do that. It’s a great tool to customize and personalize the game to your liking.

So, the gameplay in this game is a blast. I rarely felt that the game cheated me out. And the quick save and quick load system makes this game a ton more fun. Something I can appreciate as well is how detailed this game is. Visually, this game looks stunning. For the low system specs that this game requires, this game is turning out mighty fine visuals. Also, I haven’t noticed any moments where the frame rate stuttered or went down to unplayable numbers.

Maybe it’s because of my playstyle, but I sometimes wish I took more time to enjoy the visual presentation of this game. The environments, the animations of this game… they look amazing. The run that the citizens do to get away from danger is just beyond funny. It’s a sort of Naruto run and I often have a hard time focusing on the mission when I see them running.

In addition to that, the music of this game is just pure ear candy. It’s very memorable but also a blast to listen outside the game. When I’m writing an article about a game, I usually listen to the soundtrack in the background. This article is no different and whilst listening to the soundtrack I was able to play the missions inside my head.

Add to that, the great sound effects that add to the atmosphere of this game, and you have a top-notch audiovisual design. I don’t have any complaints about them. They help me quite a lot during the game. Especially, they can be great to know if you are spotted or not.

So far, I have mostly been raving about this game. Are there actually things I didn’t like about this game? Well, to be honest, I don’t have a lot of negative things to say. There is one mission I disliked beyond belief, and I was stuck at for quite a long time. But, when I was passed it, I was able to play through this game and continue enjoying it. Later, I returned to that mission, and I was able to beat it more easily because I got more used to some characters.

The only thing I could criticize in this game is that the hint system isn’t flawless. Often times, I had it bug out on me and giving me hints to parts of the mission I had already completed. But, it’s a mechanic you can just let aside.

In conclusion, I personally think that if you enjoyed the original games, find the concepts I have explained in this article interesting, enjoy stealth/tactical gameplay and/or enjoy action-puzzle games… I seriously think that this game is worth checking out. I’d highly recommend this game on PC, since I don’t think you can translate the complex controls on a controller too well.

I have barely any negative things to say about this game, so I think it won’t be a surprise that I boot up this game again after publishing this article. It’s a thrilling ride from start to finish and really tests your skills that you learn through playing this game. The witty banter between the characters or the enemies you can listen in are such a blast or can even give you a hint on how to beat the mission.

And with that said, I think I have said everything that I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed playing 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 Impressions: Bloodstained – Ritual Of The Night (Switch) ~ Middle Ages Magic.

Official websiteNintendo Microsite

So, a new Metroidvania game has been released. The Metroidvania genre is one of my favorite style of games. When I heard that Koji Igarashi of Castlevania fame was the director of this game, I was beyond hyped. I even mentioned this game in my top 10 games I wanted to play in 2019. And, yes, the game was even twice on that sort of list. Anyways, this game was a Kickstarter game were major flops like Mighty Number 9 and major hits like A Hat In Time. Where does this game fall? On the major flops or on the amazing titles part of the spectrum? Let’s find out in this first impressions article. Also, feel free to give your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below. A small editor note I have to make is that I have played this game before and after the visual improvement patches applied, and I will keep this in mind for this review.

Middle Ages Magic

During the Industrial Revolution, the Alchemy Guild got scared of losing their followers and patrons. So, they decided to create Shardbinders. These are humans who are forcibly fused with demonically charged crystals. Thanks to these crystals, the Shardbinders obtained magical powers. Everything was peaceful until the Fire Nation attacked, well sorta. Kinda. The Shardbinders were sacrificed and abused to summon demons from Hell (let’s be honest, this is a sort of Fire Nation. 😉 ). Now, this whole plan backfired and brought mass destruction over the whole of England. Thankfully, the Church was able to intervene and save some areas of destruction.

Two shardbinders survived the whole massacre, Gebel and Miriam. Ten years after the incidents, Miriam wakes up from her unnatural slumber and finds out that Gebel has summoned another demon to continue the revenge of the Shardbinders on what the alchemists did to him. Miriam starts her journey accompanied by Johannes, who is a former member of the Alchemy Guild. Miriam wants to stop Gebel before the whole world is destroyed.

The story itself is nothing that special. To be quite frank, the story didn’t really grab my attention. Now, I have reviewed two Castlevania games in the past: Castlevania – Portrait of Ruin and Castlevania – Lords Of Shadow – Mirror Of Shadow and of both these games, I don’t remember a lot about the story. It’s a shame since the story has quite a lot of potential to go quite in-depth and in different directions. The story takes a backseat in this game, to a point that sometimes the story is used as a sort of in-game guide. Like, when you have defeated a boss and you talk to one of the members of the Church, she straight up tells you (this isn’t an exact quote but it’s quite similar): “I have heard rumors that one of the high ranking officers can jump again in the air. (…) You need to look for a tower where…”

Now, the cast of the voice actors of this game is just mindblowing. Miriam is voiced by Erica Lindbeck who voiced Barbie herself in a few movies and also voiced one of the leading characters in Fire Emblem Echoes. Gebel is voiced by Ray Chase who’s a voice you can also hear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as Roy and in Final Fantasy 15 as Noctis. Zangetsu is voiced by a voice acting legend by the name of David Hayter who is famous for his voice work on Solid Snake. You can dig deeper into the voice cast using this page from Behind the Voice Actors. With so much talent on board and pretty good direction, you can be sure that the dub of this game is pretty well done.

Now, what could have improved the story? Well, first of all, a bit more character development. Some characters are quite two dimensional. I barely notice any progress in these characters. Secondly, I feel that too many stereotypical characters were used. A more diverse cast of characters or characters that broke their stereotype would be a great twist in the story. And finally, be a bit less hand-holding. If you want to guide the players to a certain location to gain a new power-up, you can do that by other means. I loved the system the developers used in Monster Tale on the DS. In that game, you also have a guide to where you need to go, but it’s up to you to fight through the enemies and find your way there.

Metroidvania at its finest

In the previous section, I have already mentioned three games I have reviewed that were in the same style as this game. The two Castlevania games and Monster Tale.

If you have played games like Castlevania, Metroid, Monster Tale or Axiom Verge then you’ll know what to expect in this game. In this game, you explore a huge map, defeat different bosses, learn new techniques to make exploring easier and access unknown areas. Meanwhile, you have to fight through a lot of enemies and try to balance your items right in order for you to stay alive.

Most Metroidvania’s are anything but easy. This game is no exception. This game can be quite difficult. But, the difficulty is fun difficulty. Sometimes you aren’t strong enough or don’t have the right gear to survive the encounters. Now, some people would enjoy the challenge of this game and try to defeat this game with the weakest gear possible. Now, this means that this game has some minor forms of grinding to improve your stats and defeat some bosses easier.

Now, the map of this game is quite huge. Thankfully, there are several warp points that allow you to fast travel to other areas in the castle. These warp points are in special rooms marked in green on your map. A minor nitpick I have is that the warp point to the central base of the game is outside right after some enemy encounters. I think that it would be better inside so I can go with full health to the boss. Yeah, I’m that kind of a player. So, that’s why I mentioned it as a nitpick.

Anyways, the warp rooms aren’t the only special things on your journey. You also have to save rooms. This game doesn’t have an autosave feature, but you can save (and heal your HP/MP) at the various save rooms that are shattered around the castle.

I really love the freedom of exploration in this game. While the story is a minor disappointment to me, the gameplay more than makes up for it. Exploring the castle and the areas around it is a ton of fun. Trying out the different mechanics and abilities of Miriam is just a great experience to have.

Together with the decent controls, this game is a blast to play. Now, I have read in different reviews that the controls of this game have a bit of input lag or are a bit floaty. Thankfully, I find that they improved them a lot in the patches that the game received and I think that the future patches in November 2019 will improve the game even more.

Visually underpowered

Allow me to address the elephant in the room. Look, there it is. His name is Dumbo and he has a movie made about him. Now, let’s be a bit more serious. Visually, this game doesn’t look that great when you compare it to the other versions on PlayStation or PC. The publishers even posted a statement on the rather spotty technical performance. Now, I think that’s a great move to improve technical performance through patches. On the other hand, delaying the Switch port to work on the technical performance would have been an even better move in the first place.

While the Switch is quite powerful, compared to the other consoles on the market today… Well, it’s underpowered. So, I can understand that the Switch version has some fewer animations or visual effects. Something I think that I don’t understand is the inconsistent performance of the game and the input lag in certain areas. Now, these things will be addressed in the patched that is scheduled for November. This is a shame since this game would be an amazing title to play on Halloween night, but they will miss the mark on that completely.

With all that talk about the Switch version having a spotty performance, I do have to say… I don’t find it that bad. The issues are the worst when you play the game in undocked mode. When you play this game in docked mode, this game plays just … decent. In very rare spots, the game has a bit of frame or input lag but nothing game-breaking.

In its current state, the game still looks quite good. I think the visual presentation is great and the animations are quite good as well. Together with the amazing music and enjoyable sound effects, the audiovisual presentation still gets a pass from me. So, I’m a bit mixed on this whole thing.

The game is a blast to play and has some extremely helpful features like the ability to leave markers on your map so you can remind yourself to visit these areas later. The game even has a lot of depth with its own crafting system, various shops, various unlockable skills and builds you can make… Even when you change your outfit in the menu’s, Miriam wears the armor and outfits in the game, during gameplay, and during cutscenes.

But, the whole game is held back by the lack of polish that is now coming in the form of patches. It gives the game a wrong first impression to a lot of players. Not everybody knows that this game’s performance and visuals are going to improve. Also, I have stopped playing this game because I want to replay this game when all the patches have been released so I can experience this game in it’s the best form. And that’s what’s so disappointing to me. I’m already halfway the game and now I have to restart the whole game. Well, then again, it’s my own choice…

So yeah, this article is going to be continued. I think it would be a bit unfair to fully judge the game right now when I know that there are patches to improve the visuals, the controls and the gameplay in the near future. But, I still wanted to talk about this game so here we are. So, for a full review, you will have to come back a few weeks after the patches have been released. If I don’t forget, I’ll also link the updated article here: [TO BE ANNOUNCED.] And maybe I should go more in-depth about the gameplay in that updated article as well.

And that’s everything I currently wanted to 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!

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 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 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 work 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 to 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 that 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 were 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.