Tag Archives: party

Award Time – Thanks LaterLevels

achievement-unlocked-award-title.jpg

Today I got another blog award from LaterLevels. One of those awards that bloggers give each other to recognize each other for their work. If you want to read the article yourself to get more information, you should take a look at Kim’s post. This award is inspired by Michelle from A Geek Girl’s Guide. So, let’s get into answering some questions. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your answers and/or opinions on the article down below. 

Thanks time

But before I reply to the questions, I have to thank Kim from LaterLevels of course for the recognition. She is a very kind hearted blogger who I look up to very much. Her content sometimes inspires mine. She is a great person and you really should check out her work on the LaterLevels website.

So the way that this award works is that Michelle has five standard questions everybody needs to answer and 5 questions need to be made up.

Question time

Why did you start your blog?

Well, I have told this story many times before on my blog. The TL;DR is, since childhood I have been into writing. While I have a rather small family, we do have a TON of family friends. And to avoid me telling the same story a million times at family gatherings, I have decided to write them and publish them. Not too long after, I started writing game reviews and that’s how the ball got rolling.

What are your favorite topics to write about?

My favorite articles to write are articles about indie games I have played. The ones I enjoy the most are the ones where the developer asks me for feedback and improvements. I just love helping small developers who have a small budget anyways, so some help in QA is welcome for them.

What have you learned since you started your blog?

This is a tricky question. I have been blogging for close to … yes, 10 years. So, to be able to pinpoint something specific that I learned about due to blogging. I think I mostly found my niche and expanded my skills.

If I have to say something, I think I fine tuned my writing and reviewing style. If you compare my current writing and style to my earlier writing, you will see a world of difference.

What do you love about being a geeky blog?

Simple, I love geeky things… so being able to write about geeky things is just amazing.

Where would you like to see your blog go in the future?

Actually, if I could dream, I would love to have some side income with my blog in the future. But I still want it to stay a hobby. In an earlier article, I have talked about how I’m afraid that if I would be blogging as a job, I would burn out. And burning out on one of my passions… No, thank you.

And now, LaterLevels has some questions for us.

 

How would you describe yourself if you could only use gaming terms?

I’m going to be sort of cheating here but I’m an INFJ or the advocate personality. And yes, these are gaming terms. D&D terms actually.

Who would be the worst video game character to be stuck in a lift with?

Zero III, just play Virtue’s Last Reward and you will get it.

If a game based on your life was made, what would be the genre and title?

Well, an adventure/action RPG. Mostly adventure RPG. The things that happen in my life are quite special.

Currently I’m in the wordsmith and merchant class. I have a lot of points in the tech skill.

Which three video game items would you take into the zombie apocalypse?

A ton of revives, Lara Croft’s classic pistols (those with unlimited ammo) and one of those fancy luxurious airships from the game you image.

Which gaming character should we elect as our next prime minister and why?

Booker Dewitt, and telling why would spoil Bioshock Infinite. So, yeaaaaahhhhh….

Questions

So, before I list the people who I like to nominate, I have five questions of my own. So, are you ready? Here we go.

  • If your life has a soundtrack, which genre would it be?
  • You are a parent of a video game character, who would you pick as your child and why?
  • Which video game character you don’t want to meet in a mental asylum?
  • Would you rather go to Silent Hill or Raccoon City?
  • If real life had video game cheats, which ONE cheat would you like to have and why?

So now, who are my vic— fellow bloggers I nominate for an easy Q and A— I mean an award.

So, with that said, I’m looking forward to the replies. Thank you to LaterLevels for the nomination. And tomorrow, I’ll publish another article and that will be about a game. But for now, 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 and until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

 

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Review: Captain Disaster in: Death Has A Million Stomping Boots (PC) ~ In Outer space We Click

captain disaster death has a millionOfficial Itch.io page

Besides visual novels, one of my favorite genres is the adventure & point-and-click genre. Games like Broken Sword, Another Code R, Time Hollow and Adera to name just a few are amazing games. When I got invited to take a look at an indie point-and-click game, I didn’t hesitate twice. The game is a labor of love created by two developers, which makes it even more impressive. While I got a review copy of this game, but the developers wanted that I give my 100% honest opinion. And that’s this article, my 100% honest opinion. In any case, the captain needs us. Since he is going on another wacky adventure. And per usual, feel free to leave a comment about the content of this article and/or this game in the comment section down below.

 In outer space, we click.

Captian Disaster 3As I already mentioned, this game is an adventure point-and-click game. The game is similar to games like Escape From Monkey Island or Broken Sword were the focus is less on the story but more on solving the puzzles in your way to progress the story.

In this game, you take on the role of the quirky Captain Disaster. He is tasked with delivering a package from one planet to another. Now, what the Captain doesn’t know is that the package is actually quite dangerous and has the potential to bring the whole galaxy in a lot of trouble.

It’s quite obvious that this game drew a lot of inspiration from the old school LucasArts and Sierra games. The humor is very similar to a game from Monkey Island and some parts even reminded me of Revolution Software’s Broken Sword series.

The story of this game is one where you don’t need to take it too seriously. While there is a lot of sci-fi in this game, the game doesn’t go overboard with exposition dumps or trying to explain every single detail or mechanic in the world. It’s a breath of fresh air to not have to learn a ton of new terms to be able to understand the game and/or the world.

Now, I know that this game didn’t had a huge development budget. It’s even referenced in the game itself. But I feel that the voice acting could have been better. The voice acting is not bad nor is it good. There are a lot of great moments in the voice acting. For example, the alien language and sounds are consistent and sound like an actual language. But, the voice acting makes in my opinion a fatal flaw.

Besides playing games and writing articles for this blog, one of my main hobbies Is acting in stage plays in a folk theatre group. One thing I learned is how to put intonation in your voice. When I listened to the voice acting again as if I was watching a stage play, I noticed with the voice acting sounded off to me. Some parts of the voice acting is too monotone. Now, the actual voices and accents of the voice work is well done but I felt the voice actors could have put a lot more intonation in their voice work. Especially when a whole dialogue is spoken at the some tone for minutes, then a bit more intonation would have been welcome.

Compare it to a teacher that’s explaining a subject in class. A good teacher puts intonation in their voice to try and get the attention of the students. When a teacher constantly speaks in the same tone, the students will get bored or worse, fall asleep.

Also, in some area’s… some dialogues weren’t audio mixed too well. I had a few spots were some voice over was louder then all the other voice overs.

Now, if you don’t like the voice acting, you can turn that off in the options menu. You can choose between either subtitles, voice over or both. I played throughout the whole game with both. I only noticed in the introduction of the game that two lines of voice over didn’t have a subtitle. Right when the lights go out.

In this game you explore various locations like a rubbish dump, a robot bar and your own space ship. The pacing of this game is rather well done. Except, one minor thing bugged me. The lengths of the acts are a bit off. The second act was extremely short. One you knew what to do, you were able to blaze through it. While the first and third act took me a bit longer.

Now, in outer space we click. And we don’t only click, we find a lot of references. There are a lot of references to franchises like Futurama, Star Wars, Jaws and Space Odyssey to just name a few of them. To be honest, there are a bit too much references for my taste. But, it’s something personal since I’m not that familiar with all the source material it’s referencing. I have played other games with a lot of references like The Legend of Zelda – Spirit Tracks that had a lot of references to previous games in the series and I quite enjoyed that. So yeah, I wasn’t the right crowd for all the references but I’m sure that fans of sci-fi will get a kick out of them.

Look, I’m an artist!

Captian Disaster 2You might have noticed it from the screenshots but the visual presentation gives off a dated impression. And this is on purpose. The visual presentation is a throwback to the older point-and-click games like Space Quest and King’s Quest. In my opinion, the visual presentation has a certain retro charm to it. It really adds to the atmosphere and charm that the developers wanted with their game. It really fits the game as a glove. Now, the trade off for that is that this art style will turn off some players. It’s a shame really.

The animations as well are pretty basic. But, this isn’t a bad thing. It still adds to the charm. I really like it when games that have a retro inspired art style don’t use animations that wouldn’t be possible in that area. So, great job on that!

There are a few minor visual things that could have been improved. For example, the arrows to the sides don’t always change when there is more in your inventory then what’s able to be displayed. Another example is that the “BACK” button in the pause menu, the “K” looks a bit too much like an “H”. And a final example, the “L” in the title cards of the acts miss the top line of the texture which make them stand out a bit too much. Now, all in all, these are minor things. These don’t hinder the experience of the game too much in my opinion.

Yet, there is one part of the visual presentation that could have been improved. At the start of the second act, I got stuck. I didn’t realize you were able to go the left to another area. It would be quite helpful if either the arrow point changed or if there was something visual to show that there was a door. There are a few area’s that have this issue. In the Robot Bar for example, I didn’t know you had another room to the right you could go right away too. Since the area looks like it’s roped off. Yet, sometimes when I go to the edge of the screen, the game tells me that I can go to another area.

Another minor nitpick is that when you click on an item and you click on the menu, the item will still be in use. But, this only happened to me twice during the whole playthrough.

ZB, Come in! We have a puzzle here!

Captian Disaster 1In this game, you will get a lot of crazy things in your inventory. If you ever get stuck, the method of trying everything on anything always works. Some puzzles were quite annoying to solve. For example, there is a puzzle where you need to place 5 things on a motherboard, but when you click on a place where the components won’t go, you will need to reselect them.

All in all, this game isn’t too difficult and not too long. This game took me around 4 – 5 hours to complete. I was able to fully complete this game without touching my keyboard apart from giving a name to my save files. Now, this game does have an autosave but I saves on some weird locations. For example, it saves right near the end of the first chapter but it doesn’t save automatically at the start of the second chapter. So, do yourself a favor and save manually.

The controls for this game are quite simple. You click with the left mouse button to interact with the world. You can use the right mouse click to inspect an item. You will need to inspect a lot of things for clues on what you need to do in order for you to progress. Also, you will need to combine some items. Personally, I kept some notes on what I needed to do in order to progress. It helped me to get through a lot of puzzles.

Now, something I really missed was the ability to move the captain with something else then the mouse. There are a few timed puzzles and it would have been a great if I was able to move him with the arrow keys. It would have been especially helpful with the last section of the game since you needed to go off screen and it wasn’t always clear if the captain was still walking or not.

Most likely due to the engine of this game, ALT+F4 and things of those nature doesn’t work. You can ALT+TAB out of the game but if you want to close the game, you will have to go through the very easy to use menu system. You can open the menu system by clicking the gear icon in the upper right of your screen.

The music in this game is hit and miss in my opinion. There are a few tracks I really liked but there were bits of the soundtrack that I didn’t like at all. Thankfully, there were no sound effects that are bad. These were all pretty good.

Before I go to my final thoughts of this game and this review, I want to mention something funny. Some games have this quirk while others don’t have this quirk. When you need to move a character with your mouse and the animation is bound to the mouse click, that means if you spam click, the animation resets. It was quite funny to see the captain sort of floating or shuffling instead of walking when I spam clicked around.

If you think that this game is interesting, this game only costs 9 dollars. But, if you want to try it first, there is a demo of the first hour of the game up on the official website of the game. Go and check it out. But now, it’s time ZB. Time for my final thoughts.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • The automatic save system could have been better.
  • The visuals on where you can go aren’t always there.
  • The voice over work could have used a bit more work. Sound mixing and a bit too flat and monotone.

The good:

+ Charming visual design.

+ Great puzzles.

+ Goofy story.

+ The amount of references.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Now, is this game bad? No. Is this game good? Almost. If there was a bit more polish to the visual presentation and the voice over work, I would say that this game is good. Now, I found it a pretty decent point-and-click adventure game.

It’s not the worst nor is it the best I have ever played. But, I still do recommend this game to avid fans of retro games and especially of old school point-and-click adventures. It’s impressive that most of this game is created by two developers and it got this result. It clearly shows that this game has been created as a labor of love. It actually made me want to play and take a look at the other games in the series.

I want to thank the developers of this game to introduce me to this game. It was a great ride to play this game. I think you are on the right track in making amazing games but there is still a lot of room for improvement. I think you are ready to push the next games of the captain even further. To make them even better and to give him an even crazier adventure.

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

Score: 70/100

Gamer’s Thoughts: Difficulty in games

downloadToday I want to talk about something extremely objective subjective. Something not a lot of people agree on. That subject is the difficulty in games. This isn’t unique to video gaming, since other entertainment mediums can be difficult to understand, analyze or appreciate. But, difficulty is one of the most important factors in gaming. In order to write this article, I have asked in various groups what their opinions about game difficulty are. Are games today too easy? Are difficult games fun to play? Are old school games too difficult? I got some extremely interesting replies. Now, if you have your own opinion on this subject, I would love to talk about it in the comment section down below. Of course, keep it civil down there, everybody has a different opinion.

My own views on game difficulty.

Keep in mind that the following thoughts and opinions are mine. It’s quite possible that you think in a different way due to your different experiences in gaming and/or life. Like I said in the introduction of this article, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts and opinions on the content of this article and or the subject. With that out of the way, on with the show.

Now, with such a broad subject as game difficulty, it’s quite tricky to give a full opinion. In the introduction alone, I gave a few different angles I could take this article. In addition to that, this subject is extremely subjective. For example, I’m not rhythmic at all. When I talk about the DS, a lot of people talk about games like Elite Beat Agents, a rhythm game. I have to admit that I find this game too difficult.

pokemon goFirst of all, let’s talk about a sentence you often hear us older players say: “Games today are too easy.” Are they really too easy? Well, they became easier in one way but more challenging too. For example, take the Pokémon games. When Game Freak remade the 3rd generation on Nintendo 3DS, one of the biggest complaints was that the game was too easy. And yes, I finished the game without losing 3 battles during the whole playthrough and 2 of these loses were because I wasn’t paying attention during the battle and forgot to heal my Pokémon and the other loss was because I forgot that grass was weak to flying and I most had grass Pokémon in a flying gym. Whoops.

photoNow, why do I think that games can be too easy now-a-days? That’s has two reasons. The first reason is because games just got more accessible. Because the growth of the hobby, a lot more people play video games. So, there need to be ways for every style of player to play video games, even the youngest ones. Thankfully, you have difficulty options that can provide the other players with some additional challenge. Sadly enough, not all games do this. In most games, the difficulty settings have a small explanation to what each level means.

And this brings me to the second reason why games are too easy now-a-days and that’s skill. I have been playing games since I was a young lad. I started playing games give or take 21 years ago. During these years, I have played a TON of games and got a TON of different experiences. That means I have seen quite a lot and the chances of a puzzle stumping me or a fight being too difficult get slimmer with every game I play.

Is this a bad thing? Depends on what you are looking for in a game. Do you want a game that challenges your strategizing skills or the ability to solve puzzles than the lower difficulty can be a problem. If you are looking for a game to play to pass the time, in that case the drop in difficulty shouldn’t matter that much.

resident evil 4It’s always a difficult balancing act in how difficult you make your game. Since if a game is too difficult, people will stop playing. A great example for me is Resident Evil 4. There is a section in that game where during an already hectic fight, two chainsaw enemies spawn that kill you instantly when they come to close. There were three times that one of those enemies actually spawned right behind me, giving me no time nor room to turn around and defend myself. These moments I actually rage quitted the game. Another example is Atelier Rorona. The amount of depth in this game is just insane. You have to think about so many things like the freshness of ingredients, how long it takes to collect them and get them home, the amount of MP you have to fight and or craft… It was quite challenging to balance all of these things.

EuropaUniversalisIV_Packshot_editedThat brings me to the question, what makes a game difficult and how difficult should a game be? It speaks for itself that how more layers of gameplay and mechanics you add, the more difficult a game becomes. Take Europa Universalis 4 for example. In this grand strategy game, there are so many mechanics; it’s not even funny anymore. The complexity of a game can turn some people off. I would love to play Europe Universalis 4 with more people but most of my friends don’t understand how the game works or get too scared when they hear how many things they need to think about while playing the game.

In a way, the difficulty of a game can limit your audience. I would love to play a game like Cuphead, but from what I have seen and tried, the game is a bit too much for me. I don’t really like games that depend on memorization or trying over and over again. This makes the game boring and repetitive in my eyes. For me personally, I want to have a great time while I’m playing games. I want some parts to be challenging and test the skills I learned during the game and I want some sections to be easy to play through so I can relax and enjoy the game.

SI_NDS_NewSuperMarioBrosDS_image1600wA game series that nailed difficulty in my opinion are the Super Mario World games. In these games, you learn by playing the game. You might have heard this explanation in various other video’s or articles but if you haven’t heard it yet, allow me to explain. At the start of the level, you are able to experiment with a new level mechanic in a safe area. One where you can easily avoid the enemies and you don’t have death pits. And the further you go in the level, the more challenging the mechanic or level gimmick becomes. And during the later and last stages of the game, all the challenges are combined into one big final set of levels that test your skills and what you learned through the game. In a way, you can compare it to school. The early levels and sections are the classes while the later levels and finale of the game is the final test/exam.

Now, should games become “NES-hard” again? To be honest, I think we shouldn’t do that. In the current gaming climate, we get a lot of games inspired by the more challenging nature of older games and we also get easier games. That means we have options. Now, were all old school games difficult? Were games more challenging in the past? Well, that’s a tricky question to answer.

Tomb Raider LegendFor example, I grew up with the original Tomb Raider games. When I play these games today, I don’t have a lot of trouble with jumping from platform to platform. Of course, due to the limitations of the systems at the time, it wasn’t always clear to which ledge you should jump and how you should make that jump. In more recent games, the better visual presentation helps out with that problem a lot. This “issue” became clear when I did the Tomb Raider project. Some people in that collaboration had never played an old school Tomb Raider game and gave it a try for the first time. And because they were more used to the newer style of the series or the newer style of play in more modern games, they had trouble during the game.

Something I often got during me search for writers in the Tomb Raider project was: “Also the old Tomb Raider games that aged poorly?” or something similar. I completely agree that the original Tomb Raider games aged poorly. The newer Tomb Raider games, and not per se the more modern games, play better because the developers improved their craft and learned a lot from developing the previous entries in the series.

I don’t find all retro inspired games that difficult. I was able to beat some without much trouble like Blossom Tales or Retro Game Challenge. While I did had some trouble in Shovel Knight because I haven’t played a lot of games similar to that.

When I was researching and brainstorming for this article, I came to conclusion that there are 4 types of difficulty in my eyes.

The first type is intended difficulty. This is planned by the developers to challenge you during the game. Think about a Zelda dungeon where you get a new item in a dungeon and you have to learn to use it or remember the places where you were unable to progress and needed to use the item.

The second type is unintended difficulty. This was unplanned difficulty due to bugs, randomness (like RNG or random generation) or just plain bad game design. Or it can be because of things like certain mechanics. For example, a lot of people complained when Super Mario 64 DS came out. While it’s a good remake, the controls weren’t loved by various reviews because the original game was designed with a joystick in mind while the DS didn’t have a joystick.

The first two types can be mixed with the other two types.

The third type is fair difficulty. With this I mean, the game provides you with a challenging and rewarding experience. Like, you finally figured out how to beat that one puzzle or beat that one boss.

The forth type of difficulty is , you guessed it, unfair difficulty. Now, this can be because of bad and or lazy game design but this can also be a huge spike in difficulty. A great example is Suikoden Tierkreis for me. Overall, the game is somewhat easy. If you don’t skip too many battles and pay attention to what you are doing, the game isn’t all too challenging. I rarely to never saw the game over screen. Until, I came at the final boss. This annoying battle gets such a difficulty spike made me not fully finish the game and actually look up the ending online. Now, while writing this article, I actually restarted playing the game and I’m hell bent in finally beating the game this time.

The more difficulty of type 2 and 4 you have, the worse it becomes for your game. One time a developer asked me to review an Android game. In this game, you had to feed various foods to some customers. The issue was, all of the dishes were based on Asian dishes and I’m European. I barely know anything about the Asian cuisine. The unfair difficulty in this game is that almost nothing was explained in the game about the foods themselves. So, I was unable to figure out which food was what, so it became a guessing game.

Another example of unfair difficulty is more recent. A developer asked me to review a Switch game they just released. The game is a twin stick shooter and in the shooting tutorial, there were two spawners in the room that spawned so many enemies so quickly, it became overwhelming. You shouldn’t put so many enemies in the first level of your game while the player is still learning the basic mechanics of the game. That’s unfair.

headerDoes a game like Dark Souls have unfair difficulty? Well no, the game is quite balanced in my opinion. There is a lot of risk and reward gameplay, the punishment is just a bit too harsh in my opinion. But the game becomes beatable when you learn the finer details of the game and get used to the inner workings of the game.

The line and difference between the four types is really thin and makes it still personal. Speaking of personal, some people talk proudly when they were able to beat a certain game on the highest difficulty. While that is impressive, you shouldn’t look down upon people having trouble on the lower difficulties. While my gaming buddy MiseryLC can beat the AI in Europe Universalis IV on hard, I feel that the normal difficulty provides just enough challenge for me.

I think it would be a great development if all games have difficulty sliders. The more you can adjust the difficulty, the better. Something I really loved in the Etrian Odyssey series is that you can change the difficulty setting when you are in the town without any other punishments. This is great, because when I was unable to beat a certain boss and almost stopped playing, I was able to lower the difficulty a bit so I was able to beat the boss and move on. After I had beaten the boss, I set the difficulty back on normal. This is a perfect system since people can choose how easy or hard you want the game to be.

Now, I have said quite a lot about the topic now. To avoid this article becoming a bit too long or having too much rambling, I think it’s time to let some of my friends talk. I want to thank everybody for their input since they helped me quite a lot while putting my thoughts together for this article.

How others think about difficulty.

Now, I asked around on various groups on Discord and Facebook on their opinions on game difficulty. Here is what they have to say. Note, some quotes I translated from Dutch to English. Some quotes had minor edits since sometimes contained an answer to another topic in the conversation or something in those lines.

The following quotes come from a Facebook group where Belgian retro game collectors gather.

Ward: “Some games are pretty challenging due to their difficulty like Slain and Cuphead. But other games hold your hand, but that doesn’t always take away from the fun of the game. It really depends on the game and how enjoyable the story is.”

Hakim: “Sometimes a too difficult game can be really frustrating. And out of this frustration, the game can go on my shelves to be never played again.”

Kenny: “Personally, I think that the player should have a choice how difficult the game should be. Some games I play personally for the story and not for an extreme challenge.”

Mayu: “For me, a game can never be too difficult. I’ll play until the end as long as the difficulty, challenge, story and such are fun. It already happened that I was disappointed when I bought a new game and I finished it without issue. The solution for this is lately, collection or completion rewards. Some of them are really letdowns. In the past, gaming was a very niche hobby. When a game was too difficult, you just had to try and try again. But, now that gaming isn’t a niche hobby anymore, the difficult games don’t sell that well anymore. And with companies trying to make as much profit as possible…”

Koen: “Making a game extremely difficult is no issue for me. As long as all the elements of the game are fun, it doesn’t matter to me. I really enjoy the rewarding feeling of finally being able to beat a game at the highest difficult setting after trying on it for weeks and seeing the real/true ending. But, when the story is garbage and I have to replay the game on a harder difficulty setting, I won’t be spending my time on a new playthrough.”

Niels: “As long as a game stays fair, it’s worth my time. Nowadays, there are a lot of games that are too easy for everybody to play. From endless tutorial sections to special power-ups when you die a lot and sometimes even a skip button, these are just a few things that you find more and more in modern games. Now, there is nothing wrong with that, as long as they are optional or are disabled by higher difficulty settings. Something I really want to stress, a game that is too difficult thanks to bad enemy placement, terrible controls or bad decisions is a bad game.”

Xavier: “I prefer easier games. There are a lot of games that are quite enjoyable to play. It doesn’t matter to me if games are shorter, I usually buy them at a lower price after they have been released for a while. It’s better then having to play a game where you have to retry a section 20 times to finish it.”

Dennis: “I usually start a game on normal mode. Depending on my experience, I raise or lower the difficulty. So, this means that I play some games on easy, some on normal and some on the hardest difficulty. I don’t really enjoy games where you respawn a thousand times before you can continue and especially when you have the same issue 10 minutes later in the next section. If I enjoyed the game enough, I might replay it on a higher difficulty setting. Most of the games interest me for somewhere between 10 to 20 hours. But, this is absolutely not the case for me with Final Fantasy games.”

The following opinions are from fellow bloggers or friends in the blogging world.

Aiphafemaie: “A couple thoughts – I think games felt more difficult in the past because you had to rely more on yourself to figure out how to pass levels or quests. Or printing out walkthroughs from GameFaqs.com lmao.  Now when you’re stuck, you can just to YouTube and see how it’s done. I don’t think games were more difficult in the past, but “difficult” is a subjective word.  Today’s games do have varying difficulty modes, in comparison to the past. Before most games could only be played on default.”

TwoTall4uFool: “I think there was a lot of trial and error with games back in the 80’s and 90’s. Even in the 2000’s. Aiphafemaie you bring up a great point about GameFaqs but there are some games out there that I would’ve never beaten if it wasn’t for Game Genie/Gameshark. Today in games you have tutorials and of course there is YouTube. And even with plug and plays such as the SNES Classic you can rewind and try a part again if you fail. And plus suspend you point. So emulating older games have made them easier ….. sort of.”

ReaperInteractive: “I agree with @aiphafemaie . Games in the past had no clear instructions or clear, “Go here to pass to the next level.” Games nowadays are a lot more direct and I feel that developers intentianally make these instructions extremely clear as to make the game as playable and prevent people from giving up midway. A little more on the note. There have been games where the instructions were so unclear that I literally had no clue what to do and ended up giving up. Another reason I feel that games nowadays are a lot easier is because we’ve played the same basic mechanic over and over again as to games in the past, there were hundreds of different mechanics. Most games nowadays can be grouped into a couple dozen genres with the same mechanic and controls. Contrary to this, I feel that games in the past are composed of hundreds of different genres, some completely new to the people hence why I feel that why games in the past are a tad more difficult than those of our age.”

The Well Red Mage: “I think that games can still pretty hard now, some of them, but there are new varieties of games now. There are brutal platformers as a subgenre now that are built on difficulty, but then there are also walking simulators and interactive movies now that eschew difficulty almost entirely. I think some would say that the difficulty of retro games was such that it was unfair, but I think that the lives systems and the memorization of patterns (two very retro-centric ideas of difficulty) are perfectly valid; we maybe just don’t have the toleration for them that we used to. Those games were still demanding something of the player (memory or timing). So I think this is a conversation that benefits from specifics like specific games and specific features in those games that bring difficulty into the equation (memorization, level design, limited options or limited chances to complete a challenge, longer periods without save features, increasing speed, item management, enemy AI… all those things are specific features that games then and now used and use to create difficulty).”

The Badly Backlogged Mage/MrBacklog: “I think the obvious-but-unhelpful answer is “as difficult as they need to be to convey the desired experience”. Dark Souls, the Walking Dead and Mario Party are all different in terms of difficulty because they’re going for different experiences.”

OverThinkerY: “I think there are different ways of adding difficulty – Backlogged makes a good point about those games being difficult in different ways as part of the experience. There’s perhaps the most classic sort of difficulty, which is reacting and executing the right series of inputs quickly enough to proceed, and then there are things more dependent on memory, ingenuity, or sheer emotional fortitude. I think there are more examples these days of different sorts of difficulty other than simply pressing buttons accurately, which might be down to better tech or just natural progression, but it enables different kinds of experiences to be made effective in that way.”

Mail Order Ninja Mage/Daniel Flatt: “Difficulty is the hardest thing to get right in video games. If you push back too hard you lose all but your most dedicated player, if you don’t present any challenge then moderately skilled players become bored. Like everyone said above it is drastically different depending on the game and furthermore the individual playing.

That being said games aren’t necessarily easier than they were before, but they have become better at not wasting our time. Games previously were artificially hard, first because checkpoints and saves weren’t a thing, and then because many NES games are a handful of hours long without constantly starting over. They had to have that difficulty to make the game worth it, can’t have Billy coming to you after an hour and asking for a new game. I dare anyone to play B side levels of Celeste and say games are easier, but the difference is you don’t have to play through the same 30 minutes over and over to finally get through something and die 20 seconds later to start all over.

The best games have difficulty determined by the player, Nintendo excels at this, but one of the best examples is Ori. It has a function where you basically create your own checkpoints or don’t, depending on your preference. It could be brutally hard, but if I get to try again right away for a certain section it wasn’t wasting my time making me play the same section a hundred times.”

Now, as you can read, the opinions are extremely diverse when it comes to difficulty. This brainstorm was extremely interesting to do. I honestly think that I’ll return to this topic in future. Before I close this article, I want to point you to an article created by Rob “I Played The Game” Covell that he wrote in 2017 about the same subject. “A Difficult Conversation”.

Closing off

Like I said in the previous paragraph, the conversation of how difficult a game could be or if games are too easy now-a-days gets quite diverse opinions. While this topic could be discussed for hours and the opinions will go in various directions, I think I’ll close off this article here. I’m quite curious what everybody thinks. Maybe I’ll revisit this topic on a later date.

If you have written or talked about this subject in the past or know a great resource like another article or video, feel free to send me a message with the link. Maybe I’ll included it in the next article. And with that said, I think I’ll really end off this article. Thank you everybody for helping me putting this article together. It was a blast. 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: Atelier Rorona -The Alchemist of Arland- DX (Switch) ~ Crafting The Adventure With Alchemy.

atelier-rorona-featureWikipedia page

On my top 10 games list of 2018, I talked about Atelier Rorona. I talked about how this game got me interested in the Atelier series. Now, it’s time to give my full opinion on the game. Why did I place this game on my top ten list and why wasn’t it higher on the list? I think it’s time to talk about crafting and exploring. Adventuring and RPG’ing. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Get of your lazy bum

atelier rorona screen 1The story of this game has a simple premise. You play as Rorona, a young girl who is an apprentice at a local alchemy shop in the Arland Kingdom. Her master Astrid is so lazy that business isn’t going well at all. In a matter of fact, she didn’t get of her lazy bum for so long, the kingdom is considering to close down the shop. Rorona doesn’t want this to happen so she takes on the challenges provided by the kingdom. She gets a deadline of three years. During these three years she has to prove that she can run the alchemy shop and make profit. If she fails one of these challenges, the shop will be closed without any further question.

On the surface, the story of this game isn’t anything special. It’s one that has been done various times before. Yet, the story actually changes a lot on your actions. It depends on who you take with you on your journey, how good you craft your items, how you interact with the characters and how you run your alchemy shop. The one that lazy Astrid sort of gave to you because she wanted more sleep but didn’t want the shop to be closed.

This makes the story quite a lot of fun to play through. Because each and every playthrough is going to be different, you will have a different story. This game has various endings that all depend on how good you did during your missions provided by the kingdom. When I had beaten the game for the first time, I got a very generic ending that didn’t give the closure I felt that the story deserved. Because of that, I feel motivated to replay this game with so I can get an even better ending.

The writing of this game makes replaying this game even more enjoyable. While I was playing this game, I posted a short clip on my Twitter showing off the voice acting. The game has a lot of funny and charming moments. I actually fell in love with the characters of this game. Now, depending on how good you play this game, the characters you interact with get more character development.

Now, during my playthrough the story was quite enjoyable. While it didn’t have a lot of moments where I sat on the edge of my seat, it was quite relaxing. Maybe the other endings have more thrilling moments, but over all I enjoyed the story quite a lot. The writing, the pacing and the voice acting make for an enjoyable experience. I can’t wait to see how the game plays out on my next playthrough.

With that said, how do you actually go about saving the shop? For that, Rorona needs to gather ingredients from various locations and craft various items. Depending on the quality of the items, you get better items. Now, I do have one thing I felt mixed about in terms of the gameplay.

Running that shop

atelier-rorona-the-alchemist-of-arland-dx-screenshot-01-ps4-us-04dec2018

Yes, this is a screenshot from the PS3 version, but the Switch version looks the same apart from the different buttons.

While the story pacing is quite good, the pacing of the game is … let’s just say, strange. Because the game gives of a relaxing and casual vibe, the game can feel extremely slow. But this is very misleading. Because you have a strict time limit; you shouldn’t waste time at all. You have to play every move extremely carefully. The more mistakes you make, the worse your ending gets. The depth in this game is crazy. You do get an assistant in the middle point of the game. This mechanic saved me various times. You can assign this assistant to go and explore for you or craft items for you.

Be warned, the tutorials of this game only scratch the surface of the mechanics of this game. Something I recommend is that you use the save system to your advantage. I had various saves at various points. So, I can go back when I felt I was able to finish the missions with better results.

Talking about the save system, the fact that this game got ported from a PlayStation system really shows in the UI. If you have played a game on a PlayStation you will recognize the typical save and load UI easily. The only thing that annoys me is that I’m unable to name my saves. This would have helped quite a lot.

So, you have to explore, fight monster and craft items. This sounds like your typical RPG fair. You do have side quests that can help you to get a better relationship with a certain character. Some of these side quests have the potential to improve the reputation of the shop which also has a big influence on the ending of the story.

All in all, the biggest challenge of this game is time management. Use your time wisely and try to waste as few days as you can. I always tried to finish the assignment of the kingdom as fast as I could. When I finished that, I used the remaining days to explore new area’s and improve my relationship with the other characters.

The gameplay immersed me quite a lot. I really felt like a shop owner trying to find the best strategy to get my shop up and running and to try to get as many customers as I can. While the game isn’t too difficult to get the most basic ending, the challenge for this game hides in trying to get the best endings.

A normal playthrough of this game will take you somewhere around 20 hours. But, if you want to see all the endings, you will get a lot more out of this game. On howlongtobeat.com, there are reports of players taking 60 to 100 hours to fully complete this game. Now, this is for the PlayStation 3 version. On the time of writing this review, the website has no listing for the Nintendo Switch version.

Now, the meat of this game is in exploration and the crafting. First of all, let’s go a bit more in-depth about the exploration. During your exploration you can take two allies with you. Certain allies require a certain price to hire. This price needs to be paid up front. So, make sure you have enough gold in the bank to hire them.

During the exploration you can go to various locations. Each location has several area’s you can explore that provide different items. These items aren’t randomized, so if you find herbs in a certain area, you will be able to find those herbs every time there.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that you have an inventory limit. If you reach that limit, you have to throw out items. Also, you need to keep in mind that certain items can lose their freshness. For example, if you collect berries and don’t put them in your storage in the chest in the shop, the quality will drop.

During your exploration, you can see certain spots where items can be gathered. In the meantime, you see the enemies roaming around. When you interact with them, you can start a fight with them. The battles are turn-based. It’s the system you see in a million other RPG’s. But there are a few differences.

One difference is that only an alchemist can use items. So, only Rorona can use healing items during the battle. Another difference is that you can use certain characters to defend you and make combo attacks. In each battle, a meter builds up. When that meter is full, you can use the shoulder buttons to defend Rorona. A similar mechanic counts for the combo attacks.

One thing you need to keep in mind during the exploration is that moving between locations and area’s takes valuable time. So, make sure you know which items you need and where you can find them and plan accordingly. Otherwise you might get into trouble and you aren’t able to craft certain items.

In addition to that, keep in mind that you have a limited amount of MP. MP is also used to craft items. And this brings me on the second part of the gameplay I want to focus on, the crafting. This is something I didn’t always paid attention too. Each item can have certain properties that make a huge difference during crafting. Each item has also a quality level that changes the outcome quite a lot as well.

Something I found extremely tricky was looking for high quality items. For some reason, I always found mid tear or low tier quality items. I’m quite sure that this was one of the reasons that resulted in me having a mediocre ending. Now that I know that, I know what I should look for in a second playthrough.

Anyways, the crafting system itself is a bit basic. You can select various ingredients to craft an item. If you don’t have a certain sub ingredient that is craftable, you get forwarded to the craft menu of that item. One thing that I found really annoying was that it wasn’t always clear which ingredients were missing. For example, the icon of the missing ingredient was a flame. But I had a few ores that looked extremely similar. Yet that wasn’t the ingredient I needed. It turns out I needed oil.

Something I really liked was that in the crafting list, you were able to sort ingredients in terms of quality or rarity. Also, you had various symbols that gave information if you were or weren’t able to craft a certain item. For example, a triangle means that you are able to craft the item but you have to craft a sub item first.

One thing that I would like to mention is that this game can be repetitive. It’s quite easy to fall in a loop for every assignment or mission. Explore, craft, rest. Explore, craft, rest. Explore, craft, rest. And repeat. Each assignment has a different theme like preparing for a festival or helping to craft medicine.

I didn’t mind too much, but I feel that a bit more variation in the gameplay would do the game some good. For example, a bit more assignments where you needed to defeat a certain number of monsters or collect a certain amount of ingredients would do the trick.

Arland is saved

atelier-rorona-the-alchemist-of-arland-dx-screenshot-03-ps4-us-04dec2018Let’s talk about visuals. This game looks quite nice in my opinion. While the game could have benefited from a free camera, I actually didn’t mind too much since the camera allowed me to watch the nice city and fun dungeons in great detail. Some enemies suffer from the recolor syndrome, like the slime enemies. There are at least 3 variants and only the color has been changed. I wish those games added a few extra details. Oh well. At least I never had slowdowns during gameplay and I was able to play the game at a decent frame rate.

In terms of animation, this game is good. While the cut scenes would have benefited from some more character animation instead of gorgeous looking 2D artwork. Now, if the game came out in a previous generation, I would excuse this…. oh, wait… that’s right, this game is a port of a PS3 game. Then again, the PS3 is capable of so much more. Oh well.

Now something that bugged me a bit is the rather awkward jumping animation. I think it’s missing a few frames near the end where Rorona’s feet almost snap into place. It also looks strange when you adjust your jump in midair. Since Rorona sort of floats awkwardly. It’s hard to put into words but while the jump works great, it feels off and looks a bit off.

Jumping in itself is easy to do and control. You just press the jump button and voila. I don’t have any complaints about the controls. I really like how there is a dedicated button to cycle through Rorona’s animations. The game controls great and I didn’t have need to spend time getting used to them. The UI explains it so well, I got the hang of it right away. One minor nitpick is that the prompt for running is a tad confusing. When the UI shows a button for “running ON” and you press that button, Rorona actually starts walking. So, that promt in the UI actually shows the status if you are running or not.

Now, the UI has some amazing things I really liked. Like how easy it is to sort items or the great and easy to use crafting system. But I have a few complaints. First of all, I wish I was able to see which ingredients where at a certain location before I actually travelled there. I would have been able to save so many days…

Secondly, while I totally understand why the developers did this; I wish I was able to see how many days it would take to go to a newly discovered gathering area. The reason why they don’t tell you this is most likely for immersions reasons.

And my final and third complaint is when you buy armor, you can’t see if it would increase somebody’s stats or not. This was quite annoying, especially when the armor shop rarely has new items because the game really wants that you craft it yourself.

The music and sound effects for this game are good. The soundtrack really fits the mood of the story quite well. It’s relaxing and rather melodic. It helps to get immersed into the game. I even added the soundtrack to my playlist for when I want to relax. Now, the sound effects are great but I wish there were a bit more of them. For the whole crafting system, the use the same effects and I would love some different ones for food or bombs. Also, one for days passing while the clock ticked over would be the cherry on the cake.

Oh, and here is something nice, you can totally change the whole soundtrack. Yes, while interacting with the book in the atelier, you can change each and every track to another track. You can choose between a pretty long list of other games in the series. Now, this is an amazing feature but it could have used some additional features. Like a reset to default option and one where you easily see which song you have selected since in that menu there is a lot of unused screen space. And the biggest missing feature is in my opinion a preview of what song is currently playing. Oh dear, they were so close.

In that same menu, you can access the different costumes for Rorona. As far as I know these are only cosmetic. You can do save file management and decorate the atelier to a certain degree. You can also access the options menu where you can adjust the sound mix to your liking. In here, you can also change the language of the voice acting to Japanese or English. So, if you want Rorona to greet you in Japanese in the main menu, you can do that.

After you have finished the game, there is a postgame chapter. I won’t spoil what the chapter is about but it adds some additional story. But after this post game, there is no free roaming. So, you can’t experiment with the game… This is a real missed opportunity since I would have loved to try and experiment with the game to learn and have a better run next time. Yet, on the other hand, I totally understand why they did this. Because the game has so many different endings in which different characters aren’t present, it would have been a hell to program.

Interestingly, during me writing this review and posting it; the game got a small update. I have no clue what has been added, but I wanted to mention it, just in case something in my review doesn’t make sense anymore.

With that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I did leave some things out for you as a surprise if you decide to play this game. But, it’s time for the conclusion of this review and my final thoughts.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • The jump animation looks awkward.
  • The game can be repetitive.
  • There is no free play in the post content.

The good:

+ Enjoyable story, writing and voice acting.

+ Amazing charm.

+ Great UI.

+ High replay value due to the different endings.

+ Relaxing soundtrack and you can change it to your liking!

+ ….

Final thoughts:

I don’t know exactly how this game compares to other games in the Atelier series. Since this game is the first game in the series I have played. Nevertheless, I did enjoy my time with this game quite a lot. The game is on the surface a relaxing game with a lot of charm. But, don’t get fooled, this game can become quite hectic in a good way.

The game is quite enjoyable to play but difficult to master. You really need to plan every single move to make sure to you get yourself in a difficult situation.

This game is perfect for everybody who is looking for an RPG with a crafting system or somebody who is looking for a shop simulator. While I can totally understand why some people won’t enjoy this game too much, it did click with me.

But the game is far from perfect. Don’t get me wrong, this game is quite good but it has some flaws that hinder the gameplay in my opinion. Like the strict deadlines and the repetitive nature of the game.

Personally, I recommend that you give this game a try. If only there was a demo of this game you could try out and judge for yourself if this game is for you are not. I bought this game because the screenshots and descriptions looked interesting on the Nintendo eShop and I wasn’t disappointed.

Now, I can’t wait to play the other games in this trilogy to see if they improved the mechanics in the other games. Maybe they crafted an even better adventure while they kept everything that worked quite well in this game.

Do keep in mind that I’m not saying that this is a bad game. It’s a good game with some flaws. It’s up to you to decide if these flaws would hinder your enjoyment of the game or not. Since this game has a lot of depth so you will be able to have a lot of fun with this game.

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

Score: 70/100

LaterLevels’ QOTM – January 2019 – The Ultimate Game: Themes

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For a couple of years now, LaterLevels is organizing a question of the month. In 2017, you were able to send in a small section to be featured in the article. You were limited to the amount of characters you had for a tweet. In 2018, every month a writer got a challenge to write an article centered around a question asked by LaterLevels. This year, LaterLevels is going “to develop” the best and/or ultimate game. In each month, another part of the game will be created. The idea is that other bloggers write up an article with their thoughts and ideas on that section and submit it to the post of that month. At the end of the month, the best is chosen by the already existing development team and will be invited to join the secret Discord to judge the entries in the following months. If you want to read more about the rules in depth, you can read the post of LaterLevels here. Now that I have explained all that, it’s time for my entry. In January, the setting and theme will be decided without deciding the story and such. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the question in the comment section down below.

The challenge and my background

yoyo_logo_512Now, I don’t want to brag but I have various ideas to make a very interesting game. In the past, I actually created some arcade clones with YoYo Game Maker. I’m not going to republish them since I lost the source files and I want to change so much for them to get republished.

alleyway_boxartBut, here is the thing. When I was developing a game, I always started with the mechanics and gameplay. For example, when I wanted to create a Break-Out clone, I actually started out with recreating the Gameboy game Alleyway. Now, I felt myself too limited in level design, so I started to look further. Then, I found an asset pack with different blocks, a ball and various other sprites with a sea theme. So, I totally reskinned the game and I made up a story about a submarine stuck in a big magical coral reef trying to find its way out.

warioware-diy-top-625x352Another example is when I wanted to remake those simple flash and phone games that you need to tap a ball or an object to keep it from the ground. When I started to make that game, I got some small ideas for other mini-games with the sprites in that asset pack and I started to create a sort of WarioWare inspired game.

Now, you might have noticed that I always talk about an asset pack. This is a pack where various sprites, sound effects, music, backgrounds… are provided to game developers. In almost all of my games I created, I used asset packs. I can barely draw a decent stick figure let alone design various level elements. Also, when I created those games; I was 12 years old. So, I didn’t know how copyright and licensing worked. That’s another reason why I’m not going to republish the games.

Anyways, let’s end this story time about my history here and let’s get back to answer LaterLevel’s question. The reason why I’m talking about my hobbyist game development past is the fact I mentioned earlier. I mainly focused on interesting and unique gameplay. The setting and themes would come later. While that is not the best approach, but it was the approach my young teenage mind took. And because LaterLevels didn’t want too many story details, the challenge got even harder.

81i7ndliszl._sx385_I also messed around in RPG Maker. And I always had one or two chapters of the story written before I started to create the world and setting the characters lived in. I had a general idea of the world but when I write, I love to let the readers create the world for themselves instead of possibly boring them with the millionth description of how a fantasy castle town looked like. In addition to that, the fact that I don’t describe a scene gives me liberty to use the setting to my advantage. That way I can bend the world to the story and my needs. But it makes continuity much more challenging.

So, the ultimate video game. What could be a setting and/or a theme of the game? Well, I have a few suggestions without giving too much plot details. Let’s take a look at that.

Themes and settings

First of all, when you are talking about the best game, I think that the theme should be one of variety. A power fantasy in another world would be extremely easy and generic. Most RPG’s use a silent character you can name yourself or has the most generic dialogue that can be used for each RPG main character. To be honest, this is a generalization. There are exceptions of course.

91fbW6yu4TL.jpgA perfect video game needs to grab you and pull you into the story, world and setting. When I was brainstorming for ideas I noticed that most of my favorite story driven games take place in one location. For example, in Corpse Party, you explore one haunted school and the associated buildings. In Another Code: R, you explore the vacation resort where your father works. And as a final example, in the first two Bioshock games you explore Rapture.

swordartonlineSuddenly, various things started to click in my mind. I got my eureka moment. I got it when I remembered the story of Sword Art Online. In that series, people are trapped in an online VR-game. In order to escape, they have to beat the game. The catch is, when they die in the game, they die in real life. In that series, the game takes place in a huge fantasy open world with various dungeons and quests.

Now, what if we take the idea of Sword Art Online and expand it for the best game, but with a huge twist? First of all, we can decide if we create the game in VR or not later. My suggestion is that the best video game takes place in a sort of fantasy open world with castles and towns that provide a lot of quests and things to do.

no game no ligeThe twist is that everything in the world happens with games. Think of the mechanics of the No Game No Life series, where every dispute is settled with a bet who wins a game of for example chess, rock/paper/scissors, poker or even more extreme examples. Now, it would an interesting idea if this idea is implemented into a real game we can play.

Back to the story of Sword Art Online, in order for those who are trapped to escape they have to beat all bosses in a huge tower. Now, what if each floor in this tower is replaced with a challenge in another genre and that you have to beat different challenges in that genre before you can progress.

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Think about the overall story of Retro Game Challenge. In that game, you get sent back to the past and in order for you to return, you have to beat various challenges in retro games. These challenges range from beaten the first three levels of a top down shooter to performing some unique tricks in a sports game.

So, the setting would be a great fantasy open world with one central tower the players have to beat in order to climb the leader boards. On each floor, another mini game or challenge is provided. To avoid people getting frustrated at being stuck on one floor, I think it would be wise to give the player two or three options on the floor. For example, a fighting game challenge, an RPG challenge or a rhythm game challenge.

51vk2fckjhlMaybe it’s an interesting idea to also have separate dimensions where players specialize in a certain genre or style of gameplay. Compare it a bit to the main characters in Kingdom Hearts traveling between various Disney stories to solve issues there.

The theme of the game can be either competition or teamwork. Various guilds can possibly form to aid players to easily beat the certain genres. On the other hand, I totally see certain players compete with each other to be the best player in a certain genre.

Being one of the best players in a certain genre can give advantages in the game. In terms of balance, each genre should have a “contrast genre”. That way we avoid players getting overpowered because they mastered too many genres. For example, the players who master a fast paced genre like rhythm games shouldn’t be able to easily level up their stats in a more slower based genre like grand strategy.

Do you see it now? Just trying to find a setting and or a theme for a game is tricky for me. Like I said earlier, I don’t create worlds too often and I leave them as vague as I can so I can bend them to the will of the gameplay and story. As soon as I got a certain idea, I start thinking about how the world actually works and how the world is balanced. And then we get eerily close to game design and how the game plays.

When I cut out all my gameplay & story suggestions, my idea for the ultimate game’s setting and theme is this. A big open world game with various challenges like dungeons and (side)quests, possibly with different universes. In the center of it all, is a huge tower that serves as a leader board for the solo and or clans that play the game.

Closing statement

And with that, I think it’s a good idea to end this article here. Otherwise I might restart giving my ideas and suggestions on how the game will play. Now, if you want to know if my idea has won or not, you should follow OverThinkerY, since on 31st January 2019, they will reveal the winner on his blog.

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If you want to join in on this challenge, don’t wait. Check out LaterLevels blog for the February challenge.

With that said, I want to thank you so much for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed 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: Resident Evil 4 (PS2) ~ Leon, Help Me! LEEEEOOONN!

residentevil4

Wikipedia entry

Not to long ago, I revealed my 10 favorite games I have started playing in 2018. One of these games was Resident Evil 4. Now, I shorty explained why I enjoyed that game so much in that article but I think it’s time to give a more in depth opinion on the game. I haven’t finished the game yet, I’m closing in on the mid-way point of the game. I think I have seen enough of the game to give my first impressions on the game and to give my honest opinion on the game. So, will this be the game that drags me into survival horror or will this game be the one that turns me off? As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

Ashley & Leon’s “vacation”

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In this game, you take on the role of Leon S. Kennedy. A police officer that was involved with Raccoon City that has been sent to Spain to rescue the President’s kidnapped daughter. Very quickly after your arrival, you discover that things aren’t normal and that something went horribly wrong. It’s up to Leon to find and rescue Ashley as quickly as he can.

The writing in this game is excellent. Some story elements are explained in notes you can find in the world and others are explained in cutscenes. The voice acting is amazing, I especially love the voice acting during combat sections since it really helps with building the atmosphere. The only missed opportunity in my opinion is that there aren’t a lot of interactions between Ashley and Leon during your exploration. Maybe Bioshock Infinite with Booker and Elisabeth spoiled me too much there.

Most of this game is a sort of escort quest. But, Leon isn’t taking Ashley on a nice vacation to Spain, at all. Remember the start of this section? Leon came to the village to extract Ashley and get her back to the United States of the Americas.

Now, I’ll talk more about gameplay mechanics later but first I want to talk about a flaw with the story of this game. The flaw is that some parts of the story, especially some characters and events aren’t explained too well to newcomers. This game is the first Resident Evil game I’m trying to beat and I had to look up certain things. Now, at the other hand, these unexplained gaps in the story made me even more interested to play the previous Resident Evil games so that everything can fall into place.

Since I haven’t beaten the game, I won’t comment on the writing too much. To be quite honest, I feel that sometimes the story takes a bit of a backseat and is more used as a sort of tool to string different sections together. I even dare to say that you would be able to cut some sections out without it making a (big) impact on the story or the atmosphere. Yes, the notes fill in some of the gaps but since they are optional and can be skipped, the story feels incomplete to me. As if there were sections removed from the final version.

Ashley isn’t Elisabeth

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Now, I knew in advance that this game was going to be an escort mission sort of game.I have played Bioshock Infinite, so I got used to guiding a character around.

Now, there are big differences between Elisabeth and Ashley. First of all, Ashley can be kidnapped. Whenever certain enemies are close to her, she can be picked up and kidnapped. Whenever she is dragged through a door to another section, it’s game over.

There are two other big differences. The first is that Ashley isn’t helpful during your exploration. You can tell her to wait, hide and follow you. She can only hide in certain places, she doesn’t look for them herself. Now, I tested out how good her pathfinding is. Whenever I called for her when she was in hiding and I ran to a corner of the map, she was always able to find me and team up with me.

The second big difference is that Ashley isn’t invincible. If you see the screenshot I placed a bit earlier, you notice that Ashley has a health bar as well. So, you have to be careful that Ashley doesn’t take damage. Since, you need to rescue her alive. Whenever you use your healing items, you can choose to heal either yourself or Ashley.

Thankfully, both Elisabeth and Ashley rarely get in your way during combat. Elisabeth goes and looks for items while Ashley ducks so fast when you aim at an enemy behind her, it’s almost impossible to hit her. Also, whenever I threw a grenade in her direction to try and defeat an enemy close to her, she quickly gets out of the way. Thank god, I would have thrown out the disc if that wasn’t the case.

Now, I have been talking about the differences between Ashley and Elisabeth for a while now. But, how does this game play? What is the actual gameplay? This game is an adventure-exploration 3D shooter game. I even dare to say that you can compare it to the reboot Tomb Raider games to a certain extent. The big differences are Ashley and that this game focuses more on big bosses and horror than Tomb Raider.

I have to admit that I’m playing this game on easy difficulty. Because this is one of my first times I’m playing a survival horror game, I wanted to get used to the mechanics before I challenged myself and played through the genre on a harder difficulty. Surprisingly, this game keeps being challenging. I’m always thinking on how I can save the ammo of my most powerful weapons to quickly dispatch groups of enemies.

The biggest thing I dislike during the combat is that I can’t see a difference between an enemy that is close to dying and one that is full health. What is even more annoying is that it’s sometimes, and especially with the bosses, hard to read if you are hitting them or not. In one run, I was sure I hit an enemy but the enemy didn’t go down and used her chainsaw to insta-kill me. The red dot at the end of where you are aiming is too small and too little of an indication during hectic combat. Because of this, I’m sure that I have wasted so much ammo fighting bosses.

I think I can summarize it like this: the combat is a bit rough around the edges. While it’s a lot of fun, sometimes I got annoyed with the limitations of the mechanics. At one hand, I can understand where the developers were coming from. This game is a survival horror game after all and you have to fell tense and afraid, since it’s a horror game. At the other hand, it doesn’t take away that I would have loved to see a bit more polish on the combat.

Something I’m disappointed a bit by are the puzzles. I feel that most of the puzzles rely a bit too much on the “press the buttons in the right order” cliché. Almost all of the non-combat puzzles have to pressing switches in a certain sequence. Granted, I’m somewhere in the middle of the game so, it’s quite possible that the rest of the game will have a bit more unique puzzles.

It has aged

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Because I’m a retro gamer, I don’t mind it when games look dated. If you wondered why I didn’t play the HD version for this article, I can easily explain that by saying that I was able to pick up a physical copy of the original and that interests me more as a collector.

Now, the game looks fine on PS2. There is a lot of detail in the atmosphere of the game and the monster design is delicious grotesque. I especially love it when characters transform mid-battle, because then I have to think quickly and change my strategy accordingly.

But alas, the fact that this game is now almost 15 years old is starting to show. In certain sections, I feel that there isn’t enough detail. I also had the impression that in certain sections, the textures on the models were a bit too flat making certain objects like a bed in the castle look like it would belong in a PS1 Tomb Raider game. I haven’t played the HD version of the game, but from what I have seen, all the complaints I have about the visuals… well, let’s just say that the HD version looks a LOT better than the PS2 version. I even checked some comparison videos between the Gamecube, Wii and this version of the game and I have to say, that the versions on the Nintendo platforms look a lot better.

Now, I’m not saying that this game looks ugly. Remember that I said that this game looks fine? Well, I really stand by that. I love all the detail they put in the world and the animations in this game are amazing. I especially love how destructible the world is. When a huge boss throws a tree to a shack you are standing in, the tree doesn’t break on the shack because video games, the tree actually breaks the shack because realism.

The only “negative” I can say in terms on the animations are that certain death scenes are a bit too scripted. What I mean is for example, when you kill an enemy with a head shot, it doesn’t go down right away. It nearly always takes a few steps forward before collapsing. This isn’t the only example of that, but it stands out. But, after a while I got used to it and it didn’t bother me that much.

Now, besides puzzles and combat; there is one other part of the gameplay I haven’t mentioned. And that are the quick time events. In certain sections, you have to much a button as quick as you can to survive. These sections were the most annoying sections of the game in my opinion. Thankfully, they are short. So, they are over without too much hassle.

This game doesn’t have an autosave. You can save at certain save points in scattered around. You can save an infinite amount of times as long as you are at the type writer. Thankfully, when you get a game over, you don’t have to restart from your last save point. You start from the section you died at. For example, when you died during a quick time event with a boss and die, you respawn at the start of that quick time event. This is a great feature since whenever I died, I learned something new and I got a new idea on how to possibly defeat the boss.

Besides strategy, there is something else that helps with defeating bosses and that are good controls. This game has that. The only things I struggle a bit with are turning while using the knife or aiming with a weapon. Now, the turning with a knife isn’t too much of an issue. I stop pushing the knife button and press it again when I have done my turn.

The aiming of weapons is a different story. This game is one of the first games I played on a console that involves a lot of shooting. I’m quite used to being able to easily shoot using a mouse of the Wii Remote. I had to get used to aiming with a joystick. To my surprise, I quickly got used to it. When I look at the stats at the end of each level, I notice that I’m improving quite a lot in my accuracy.

To my surprise, I haven’t talked about the music and sound design of this game and it’s almost the end of the article. The soundtrack of this game is one that helps build the atmosphere quite well. Personally, I wouldn’t listen to most of the tracks outside of the game, but I enjoy the soundtrack quite a lot during gameplay.

The sound design of this game get a big thumbs up from me. The game sound just right, from the sound of the guns to enemies transforming. It all sounds like you would imagine it sounding in real life.

Well, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I know that I haven’t talked about everything but I’ll leave those things for my review, if I ever write one on this game. So, I think it’s time to wrap up this article.

Thank you so much 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, 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

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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

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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

Image00001

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

NekoJonez’s October 2018 Update

DSC_0957

Dear lord, is it already October? This year has been flying by and it was extremely nuts. So, I think it’s time to update you guys and girls on what’s going on in my life and what you can expect for the future of my blog. This is quite a lot to talk about so, here we go. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below. 

Personal life stuff

In a previous update, I talked about a few things. Let’s first start with my final project. That’s currently in full swing. Researching and writing this out takes up a lot of my time. For those who don’t know, I’m a college student and I’m doing Computer Science. I have finished all my subjects and now I have my final project to write. I’m taking the networking classes. My final project is upgrading and monitoring a school network. It’s quite a challenge and I’m learning quite a lot.

Because of that, I don’t always have the time to play new games to write about on my blog. In addition to that, I sometimes feel burned out on writing and then writing something for my blog is just a bit too much. So, if I skip a week, I’ll always announce it on my Twitter.

Besides my final project, my theater group started in the new season. Currently I’m working on some things for our open stage next week. It will be quite a lot of fun and I can’t wait to see it when it all comes together. But that has been eating my free time as well.

Troy and Dobby.jpg

On top of that, my family and I are raising two adorable little fluff balls. Since Sparta died in July of 2018, I really missed having a cat around to hold me company. In August of this year, we adopted these two little kittens. They are brother and sister. The left gray one has been named by my sister and this lady is called Dobby. The right brown one has been named by me. I named this man Troy. His name has been chosen as a reference to Sparta. Our bonds are slowly but surely forming. Currently, they have grown enough to learn to explore outside. That’s fun. It really melts my heart when Troy starting to meow when he doesn’t see me for a few minutes when we are outside. They rarely sit still, so I won’t be flooding my Twitter with pictures of them, but I’ll try.

So, it’s quite clear by now that I’m quite busy. I’m still working full time as well. In my last update I also talked about my bad mental health. Currently, the situation hasn’t improved a lot. But, huge changes are happening. Because of privacy reasons, I won’t be talking about them in public.

Before I start talking about the blog related things, I want to talk about the games I’m playing. Currently, I’m playing a lot of games I have reviewed in the past. Games like The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild, Europa Universalis IV, A Hat in Time amongst a slew of others. I mostly want to wrap up those games so I can cross a few games of my backlog list. But, I’m still playing some other games want to review or talk about.

Blog stuff

So, something strange is going on with my blog. For some reason, my views are all over the place. While I have days that my blog is doing very good, I have also days that I barely get any visitors over.

Opera Snapshot_2018-10-07_200020_wordpress.com

That said, if anyone can explain me why my views are so low, that would be welcome. Any feedback on my work is welcome. Also, if you ever have a suggestion for a review or a topic you want me to talk about, feel free to contact me on my Twitter or contact page.

A project I have currently running on my blog is the Tomb Raider project. Currently, we are extremely close in finishing it. I have to finish two articles, which I might do next week. I’m aiming to release it somewhere this year. I’ll update you guys on the release date on my Twitter.

In almost every update I talk about wanted to update my blog with new categories and updating older articles (Mostly removing typo’s, fixing broken links and images). For now, I won’t be doing that. I’ll mostly be focusing on the current running projects. The whole restructuring and updating of my blog will be for 2019.

What else can you expect from me in 2018? Besides the Tomb Raider project I don’t have any crazy plans. I have a few games I still want to talk about on my blog before the year ends. There are a few Switch, PC, PSP and PS2 games I still want to review.

I do have some plans for 2019. I have a few ideas for collaborations and other projects. But, I’ll only be able to work on them when the new year starts. Simply, because I don’t have the time for them now.

And that’s everything I wanted to talk about for now. This article has been a summary of my tweets in the past few months, so, if you want to know these things hot from the press; you should follow me on Twitter.

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.

Personal: What’s on my phone

asus zenfone 3 max.jpg Product page

About a year ago, I wanted a new phone. My first smartphone was a Samsung, which was my 2nd and 3rd smartphone as well. I always wanted to try a different brand and since I bought an Asus Zenpad 8S in 2016 for my birthday, I wanted to give the Asus Zenfone a try. I’m quite content with my Asus Zenfone 3 MAX. I have the 5.5 inch version, so it’s quite a big phone in my opinion. So, a while ago, there was a tag challenge in the tech community to tell your audience what you have on your phone. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I still want to do it. So, here we go. Also, I invite other bloggers to do the same thing. What is on your phone? If you write an article about it, feel free to tag me on Twitter or link to this article. Or feel free to leave a comment here as well. 

Mini review

So, before we go to the main event, I first want to give a mini-review on the Asus Zenfone 3 MAX. What are things that I love and dislike about the phone. I have been using this phone for a year now. If you want to read up on the specs of my phone, you can read it here on gsmarena.com.

There are a few things I dislike about this phone. If you use the screen at max brightness and either WiFi or 4G, the phone’s battery drains quite fast. Lowering the brightness helps quite a lot to save battery. Another thing has to do with the call quality. Sometimes the microphone doesn’t pick up my voice too well and the other end doesn’t hear me, but if I reposition the phone a bit, that fixes the issue. Another thing I dislike is that buttons like home or back aren’t backlit. But, that’s all I really dislike about this phone. While other reviewers would find other things wrong with it, I really like this phone and it fits my needs perfectly.

So, what are things I really like about this phone? It’s my first phone with a fingerprint reader. This makes life so much easier. More on that later. Another thing I really like is how this phone seems to get frequent updates to the latest version of Android and all the latest security patches. I prefer the ZenUI over TouchWiz any day of the week. The camera on the phone is really good for family pictures in my opinion. But, the biggest factor for this phone is that it’s priced at 250-280€ and you get an amazing phone for that price.

What’s on my phone?

Now, what’s on my phone? Quite a lot actually. I nearly always carry my phone with me since it’s a handy tool when I need to look up something quickly or snap a quick picture of something I need to remind myself of.

Since I’m rarely at my desk at work, I always have my phone with me. So, they can call me whenever there is a problem. Also, I love listing to music while walking and I use my phone as an old school music player. So, my music app is one of my most frequently used apps.

First of all, I won’t talk about every single app that’s on my phone. There are quite a few games I have installed on my phone for when I’m in a waiting room or have some time on the train and the batteries of my 3DS or Switch are out. I’ll only talk about the apps I placed on my home screen, since those are the apps I use the most.

Whenever there is an app I use often, I place it on my homescreen. If I stop using it frequently, I remove it from my home screen and replace it with something else I use frequently.

Screenshot_20180930-145935.jpg

This is my first home screen. This screen greets me when I unlock my phone. For obvious reasons, I won’t show how I unlock my phone. On the left of my main home screen is the Google Assistant/Google Now. This way I can catch up with the latest news of the subjects I’m interested in. On the right, there is a 2nd home screen with additional apps. More on that later.

At the bottom, I use the classic vanilla apps. From left to right, you have the dialer, my text messages, a button to see all apps, Chrome and my camera. On the top of my home screen is a big clock with the date displayed. Besides that clock, I have the messenger app. I talk quite often to friends over messenger and if I want to share a link, Messenger is the easiest way. Underneath that, you have the Play Store. Each morning, I update all my apps and check the store if there isn’t anything interesting that I could review on my blog.

Then, you have three rows of 4 apps each. The first row is my calender, my finder app, Discord and Dropbox. The calender app is the Google Calender. I use this app often to remind myself of things I need to do. I put more than just my appointments or birthdays in my calender. Things like: “Article day”, “Write time for final project”, “Write piece for collab” or “Release of thing X” are things that appear in my calender as well. Appointments have a red color and things I need to do have either blue or yellow. Blue if it’s something I could delay and yellow if it’s urgent or if it can’t be delayed.

The file explorer is the one that comes with Asus’ ZenUI and I love it. It gives me Windows-vibes and it’s really great to use. Whenever I download a file, I can quickly find it with this app. When you open it, you can select to view all images, video’s, music, documents… on your phone or just explore the phone. An amazing feature here is that I can setup a wireless method of accessing the files on my phone. When my phone and the device I want to access from are connected to the same network, I can wirelessly access the files on my phone. It creates a link I can visit and I see the same thing as the file explorer app. This app saved me various times.

I use Discord to talk to other bloggers and friends from over the whole world. I’m also part of some servers where game developers look for bloggers to promote their games. If you want to add me on Discord, just shoot me a message over Twitter. But, an app I use really frequently as well. I actually have Dropbox Pro, since I use this as a backup method. I have close to 500GB stored in my Dropbox. Everything from files I need for work to my final project is in there. So, I never worry too much about dying hard drives or loosing my files. I also use the Photo Sync feature of Dropbox. This feature saves all the pictures I make with my phone in my Dropbox so I can use them directly on my computer or all the other devices I connected to Dropbox.

On the second row, we find Instagram, WordPress, YouTube and WhatsApp. I do have an Instragram profile, but don’t frequently use it. I enjoy browsing Instagram to see what my friends are up to. If you can’t guess why I use the WordPress app, well, I use it for checking and fixing things on my blog on the go. So, I’m quite a big fan of YouTube. I love watching tech channels, retro gaming channels, game development channels and various other channels relating to creating things. The final app on that row is Whatsapp. I mostly use that app to keep in contact with my family or my theater group. That’s all I use Whatsapp for.

The final row on my main home screen is the row with the most used apps on my phone. Twitter, since I’m quite active on Twitter. Outlook to check my mails and “Nationaal” is the app I use to check the train schedule to get from and to work. I know that I skipped an app. That’s “Pulsar+“. In one of the firmware updates of my phone, Asus removed the quite excellent ZenUI music app. So, I searched high and low for a great music app on the Play Store. First I used Pi MP3 Player, but I started to run into issues. For some reason, no apps wanted to update on my phone after I installed that app.

Not too long after, I found Pulsar. I liked the app so much, I actually bought the premium version. It includes additional themes and some neat additional features. I can’t recommend this app enough if you enjoy listing to music on your phone. It’s one of the best apps I have used in a while.

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So, on my 2nd home screen are the apps I use less frequently but I want quick access too. Let’s start with the first row. This has the Facebook app, the UEFA soccer app, a weather app and the Nintendo Switch Online app. The weather app, AccuWeather, is an amazing weather app. It’s quite accurate in my area and I use it to check if I need to take an umbrella on my walks or not. I use the UEFA soccer app since the soccer app of my local sports channel doesn’t have the UEFA Nations League tables built in. I use the Facebook app, since I dislike the website on mobile and I find that it has quicker and easier access to certain features. And finally the Switch online app, I use that app for if I want to voice chat during online Switch play.

The next row has the Steam app, for when I want to check the Steam Store and to have an additional layer of security for my Steam account. Besides that, the Easy Banking app is the app I use to check my finances. Then, you have the Sporza Soccer app. I use this app to follow my local soccer league and to see what the Red Devils, our national soccer team is up to. And Bancontact is used for quick payments, once you set up this app, paying for the doctor goes so quickly.

Oh, before I continue, quick side note. If you are American, I mean football when I say soccer. That said, let’s continue.

The next row has my gallery. When I need to show a picture to somebody. I find the way that the gallery app sorts pictures better than how my finder app sorts them. Besides that, you have the calculator app. Strangly, this is one of the only apps that doesn’t have it’s name translated in the ZenUI to Dutch. It such say “rekenmachine”. Oh well. It doesn’t bother me that much. Then, you have the Maps app, I use as a GPS. And finally on that row, you have Imgur, for quickly uploading pictures and since I love this website.

The final row has the Telenet Mobile app. This app is from my ISP and I use this app to check on how much mobile data I have left. Besides that, you got Reddit. I have periods when I get very addicted to Reddit and go on the site a lot and there are moments I rarely visit the site. The final two icons on that row are the Patreon app and the Grumpy Cat game.

I use the Patreon app to check on posts the creators made that I support on Patreon and the Grumpy Cat game is just one of my favorite games on my phone at the moment.

You might notice that I leave one row empty. This row is my temp row. On this row I place apps I just installed and I want to test or if a developer asks me to review them. So yes, that screenshot might be a teaser for an upcoming article. Whenever I tested them or wrote the article, I usually remove them from my home screen.

A few apps that I want to mention that aren’t on my home screen are:

Ringtone Maker – MP3 Cutter – One feature I miss from Samsung is that when you select a song as a ringtone, it searches the best part of the track to start the ringtone at. This app solves that and I can even choose from where start my ringtone.

Datasize Explorer Pro – Whenever I’m running low on space on my phone, I use this app to check which apps take up a lot of space and I should remove or clean the cache of.

WiFi Analyzer – If you are a techie or a networking person, this app is a must on Android devices. It helps you to visualize WiFi to help you troubleshoot issues with WiFi.

And all the other apps, outside of games, are apps from local stores here in Belgium or the Netherlands I use to shop or to buy my retro games from. Or your typical apps that almost everybody has like Shazam. And a few apps I don’t think are worth mentioning.

So, that was quite a lot. I’m quite curious to see which phones you guys have and for what you use it and what apps are on your phones. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. It was something different from what I usually do, but next time I’ll get back into gaming stuff. 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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.