Tag Archives: ps4

First Impressions: The Hive (Steam) ~ War With And Of Bugs

thehiveSteam Store page

One of my favorite game genres is RTS games. The satisfaction that you get from building up your empire, setting up an economy, and preparing yourself to defeat the enemy. It can be such a rewarding feeling. Games like Age of Empires II, Rise of Nations, or Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War are just three of the amazing games I have played to death when I was a kid. Now, when I got a mail from the fine folks over at Skydome Entertainment with a press code for The Hive and full freedom with my article, I was extremely excited. This game has been under development for several years now. The first development blog posts on the Steam Store page date all the way back to December 2014 and the latest patch has been released on March 9th, 2020, which is version 1.203. This is the version I’ll talk about in this article, so if this game got an update, it’s possible that some things in this article or no longer relevant. So, without further ado, I think it’s high time that we take a look at this game and it’s worth your time or if you should skip this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.

War With Bugs

TheHive2Something happened to the world. The story of this game starts off in 2175, where our planet Earth got attacked and destroyed. Humanity was able to build a ship and leave Earth before it was completely destroyed and went off a journey to look for a new planet to life. After a human lifetime of searching, a new planet in a new solar system was found. The humans were taken out of their cryogenic sleep to start-up life anew in the harsh climate. But, something is alive underneath the crust of that planet. Something awakens in the City Of Ancients that might prove a big issue for the humans and the catch is, it’s you that takes control of the new species and try and help to find it’s old glory.

You play as The Hive and you are the leader of bugs living in The City Of Ancients. The story gets more interesting in the further chapters but I’m not going to spoil it. To be honest, I got some Overlord vibes from the story. Maybe because both games are about minions you control and have their own unique abilities. The atmosphere is similar to a certain degree. The plot of this game is quite enjoyable and it didn’t disappoint at all.

One thing I should mention is that this game has no skirmish mode as far as I know. So, that means if you finish the 12-ish hour-long campaign, you basically have beaten the game. You could try to beat it on a higher difficulty to challenge yourself but outside that, the game has no real replay value after defeating the campaign.

Now, this game also has voice acting. The voice acting in this game is quite impressive. The production value is impressive for being an indie title. It feels that the voice actors put their heart and soul into the characters and gave them a nice personality. I especially liked the effects they put on the voice for the Insect Advisor.

While this game takes place in a magical universe, there isn’t a lot of technobabble. For those who don’t know that term, it means that everything has its own name and there are a million exposition dumps. If you have played an RTS game in the past, you will know right what to do and the war of the bugs can begin.

War of Bugs

TheHive1So, the gameplay loop in this game is that you have to explore the caves underneath the planet to find a way up. You learn a lot about the War and the fight against the other species that took place. While most levels use the usual RTS gameplay loop of build city, build the economy, build an army, find enemy, attack the enemy army, destroy enemy base; a few puzzles and unique twists are thrown into the mix.

In terms of gameplay and mechanics, I have a mixed feeling. There are things that I enjoyed quite a lot and there are things that baffled me. Let’s do a round of good thing – bad thing to sum a few things up.

So, while building your empire, you can not only rotate around the camera but the buildings as well. Man, I love features like these. It makes it less awkward when I placed a barracks in a corner and my units spawn out of a wall from the building. Alas, the building of buildings has one thing that I found frustrating. I have gotten so used to the fact that you can cue up buildings to build, but that doesn’t work in this game.

The gathering of resources works in a unique way. Food doesn’t rot away and workers don’t have to walk back and forth to the hive. A special cart rides out from the nearest gathering point to collect the resources. So, your workers put all the gather resources on a pile and these carts come and pick it up. The resources don’t even rot away and you don’t have to do anything for it to collect it. The only “downside” is that you can only use one worker per resource gathering point. Now, what’s the bad thing here?

Well, there is a soft-lock potential. The resources aren’t infinite. Now, imagine this scenario in the Age of Empires II. There is no more wood on the map but you need wood for your archers. What can you do? Well, you can build up a ton of farms and trade that food over for gold to buy wood at the market. This avoids the issue that if everything of one resource is gathered, it’s impossible to get. Now, in The Hive, there is no such thing as a market or a farm. Meaning that every decision counts. Thankfully, you really have to make bad decision after bad decision in order for you to soft-lock yourself but the fact that the potential is there always worried me.

The UI of this game is pretty impressive. The options menu is something that I can only praise. An explanation of what key does what? It’s a feature I’ll miss in other games. If only, a similar explanation appeared for the graphic options, but hey, that would clutter the UI of the graphics options a bit too much. Yet, I have two things that I disliked about the UI. First of all, if I may nitpick, I found the text on the buttons on the pause menu a bit hard to read since the text color and the color of the buttons are somewhat close to each other. And second, the visual design of the menu’s that you open using the pause menu are so different in design… I mean, the pause menu has a sort of cave theming like the UI in-game, and suddenly, a more space / modern UI appears for the options menu.

The fact that your vision cone appears on the mini-map is a great feature and it even rotates with you when you rotate the camera. Yet, I do have a complaint. It doesn’t change size when you zoom and/or out and especially, it always appears a bit underneath the place where you click on the mini-map. I can understand why this happens since the location of the camera isn’t where you click but a bit underneath that spot. But, it gave me a feeling I wasn’t able to click where I wanted on the mini-map.

It’s great that you can skip cutscenes and even have subtitles. But why aren’t both possible in the opening cutscene? A minor nitpick is that there are some minor grammar errors in the game (“Click of the paintings” instead “Click on the paintings” in the second level)

There is this unique mechanic where you can find treasures to upgrade your units to dissolve them for DNA points to unlock special upgrades for your units. It’s a perfect balancing act since you need to decide if you are going to dissolve the treasures and get an upgrade or use them to improve your unit(s). If only that would be explained in some sort of tutorial, which the game somewhat lacks.

Just a bit more

giphyIf you read the previous section, it might look that I’m ripping this game a new one. That there are so many things missing or wrong with this game, that it’s not a great game to play. Well, then I think you got the wrong idea. I loved my time with the game and I found it a bit disappointing that some features I expect weren’t there.

Also, the price for this game is only 15€. So, it would be wrong of me to compare this game to big titles with way bigger budgets behind it. The thing is that I enjoy this game so much, that it frustrated me that the potential that this game has is unused.

Take for example the visual presentation. The artwork, unit design, level design… they all look amazing. You really feel like being in an abandoned cave where an old civilization used to live. The animations really make the world come alive. It’s so adorable that your workers dig into the ground to create a building and that it rises up like a sort of mole hole.

The audiovisual design is outstanding as well. This game has an orchestral soundtrack that reminds me of the reboot Tomb Raider games, Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War, and other similar games. It sounds familiar on one hand but new and fresh on the other hand. It’s a blast to listen too. The sound effects only add to the great atmosphere. The audiovisual design is so well done that I can excuse that some things don’t have sound effects or voice lines like when you click on an option where you don’t have enough DNA points for or certain interactions in your inventory are silent.

This game is a blast to play but you have to take into account that there are some things that don’t really work or work in the way you expect them to work. I have given several examples in the previous section, but here is another one. Why does your cursor not change when you hover over a resource or why don’t your worker acknowledge that interaction is going to happen?

This is why I said earlier in the article that I feel quite mixed about the gameplay. I enjoy playing this game but the final touches are just not there in certain cases. Now, I’m not saying that this game is unpolished or anything since there is a lot of attention to detail in most mechanics but not in all of them.

I think that this game could use another major content update or update that just focusses on making the game a bit more accessible. I think if a tutorial is added, something to avoid the soft lock potential and the functions that miss sound effects or voice lines are added; that this game gets even better.

So, I can’t wait to finish the final 5 levels I still have left to play. Since I really enjoyed my time with the game. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys sci-fi games, RTS games, and even to people who enjoy adventure games. This game is quite enjoyable to play and experience. It’s an enjoyable RTS experience that I won’t soon forget. Congrats to the small Finnish team of 6 people who put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this game since I have to say, the end result is something to be proud of and it shows a ton of potential for future games and/or more adventures in the world of The Hive.

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

First Impressions: Wrath – Aeon Of Ruin (Steam) ~ Shall We Shoot Some Demons?

Wrath

Steam Store pageWikipedia EntryOfficial website

Well, well, well. Look at what we have here. A new 3D shooter published by 3D Realms of all companies. Last year, I took a look at Ion Fury, a game that emulates the atmosphere of a Duke Nukem game. Today, I’m taking a look at a game from KillingPixel called Wrath – Aeon of Ruin, a game that reminds me of Quake. Now, is this game worth your time or should you skip this game? Let’s take a look together at this tense old school looking 3D shooter and let’s try to answer that question together. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below. 

Editorial note: This game is still under development and early access. I’m basing myself on the game before and after the major update of February 25th, 2020 and the minor hotfix of February 27th, 2020 got released.

Shall We Shoot Some Demons?

20200308191332_1When I started this game for this first time, I felt like I started a sort of a cross between DreamKiller and Quake. Now, in this game, you play as an Outlander. You were adrift upon the Ageless Sea but you arrive on the shores of a dying world. This world is under attack from darkness. A strange figure cloaked in white robes called the Shepherd of Wayward Souls tasks you with finding the remaining Guardians of the Old World and save the world.

Now, from where did I get this story? Well, from the store page of course. Currently, the story isn’t really that present in the game.  I’m always a bit mixed with stories of shooter games. Sometimes they are really interesting and a joy to follow like DreamKiller and then you have games where the story doesn’t matter at all like Ion Fury.

But, the atmosphere of the game tells you the story of this game perfectly. The atmosphere of the game is quite dark and scary. A similar story is told through gameplay, but my only wish is the world gets a bit more fleshed out when the game fully releases and goes outside of “Early Access”.

Anyways, let’s focus more on the gameplay than on the story in this article. Since that’s what I was most excited about when I decided to purchase this game. I want to play a shooter game that took you on a sort of H.P. Lovecraft adventure and that’s what this game delivers in spades. You encounter various nasty demons that each have their own attack patterns.

This game isn’t the easiest of them all. This game can be quite challenging. If you don’t pay attention, you can be quickly overwhelmed and you will see the game over menu really quickly.

Forgotten Mechanics

20200308192511_1

So, I was quite bumped out when I was unable to use my save file when the major content update happened. But, I completely understand why. The reason for that is that a new enemy has been added that changes up the gameplay quite drastically.

Now, there isn’t an autosave feature in this game. In order for you to save, you have to find and use Soul Tethers or find Shrines. These Soul Tethers are scattered around the game and with the press of a button, you save your game and create a respawn point. But, be careful when you use them since it sort of makes a save state. So, that means that every enemy and every projectile is also saved.

But, when you use them, a problem appears. The game hangs for a few seconds. At first, I thought I crashed the game. But, I haven’t had any crash with the game apart from one major annoying issue. During the loading screens when you go between locations, for example between a level and the hub area, the game can somewhat freeze. Do not click during the loading phase or your game can completely crash. And on top of that, don’t alt/tab out of the game during the loading phase since when you go back into the game, it freezes up and crashes.

Now, there is one very unique mechanic that I often forget that is in the game. And that’s the mechanic that you can extend your jump with your blade. When you charge your blade with the right mouse button and let it go, you fly forward for a bit at the height you let go. That means, when you let go during a jump, you can go over bigger gaps than usual. This mechanic is quite helpful to find secret areas.

But, how does this gameplay? What do you need to do in this game? Well, if you have played games like Ion Fury, Shadow Warrior, Wolfenstein 3D, DooM or Heretic, you know what to expect. The minor difference is that you have to find ruins instead of keys to open doors.

So, you start in a hub world where you can choose which level you start with. While that freedom is quite tempting, please be careful. Choose the first portal as the first level, since that gives you easy access to weapons. I first got stuck in the game since the later levels have a rough enemy placement.

Horror

20200308173113_1

This game is still under development so sometimes you experience some glitches like the floating enemy in this screenshot. But, I feel like the visual presentation is finished.

The weapons are extremely fun to use and pack a great punch. I especially love the spike gun that shoots fangs as if it were a machine gun.  The animation that accompanies it is also lovely.

The visual theme of this game is quite gothic, H.P. Lovecraft. I even dare to say that some monsters give off a sort of Silent Hill vibe. Some monsters are especially creepy. I really get freaked out when those fang enemies are chasing me, those buggers are extremely fast and can throw you off your game. Especially when you are doing some crowd control and those buggers spawn.

Yes, spawn. When you step into an empty room it’s always possible that enemies spawn all around you. My advice is that you get used to the controls and mechanics as soon as you can since they will be put to the test. Thankfully, the controls are quite responsive so you can walk around quickly in these spooky areas.

So, it’s possible that when you enter an area or pick up a certain item that enemies spawn. You see the portals appear and the enemies drop. Sometimes they even spring from behind fake walls or from coffins. Those moments get on the edge of being a jump scare but for some reason, I don’t get as spooked. Most likely because I expect there to be enemies all around me.

The music and sound effects are amazing. I really like them all. Not surprisingly, it’s from the same guy who created the soundtrack from DUSK. His name is Andrew Hulshult and my dude, thank you for making this amazing soundtrack. It really adds to the tense atmosphere and makes the game even scarier.

I have already talked about the fact that this game is in early access. So, what are my wishes for the future? Which things would I love to see improved?

First of all, a sort of map screen would be lovely. Since I got lost a few times because I was running in circles.

Secondly, I think it would be a great help if you were able to see which weapon was next when you were scrolling for the next weapon. I love the system that Ion Fury used.

Thirdly, please polish the water mechanics. It’s quite unclear how low the ledges need to be in order for me to jump on them. I had situations where I was unable to get out of the lava and I had to wait until I was fully dead to restart my game. But in the level, the Mire, I had major frame drops when a ton of enemies spawned and later when I was swimming around in the underwater maze.

And lastly, have a better options menu layout. Don’t be afraid to use submenus. Since it feels like everything is crammed onto one screen because screens are bigger nowadays, but it feels a bit chaotic. On top of that, hide the resolutions that the computer and monitor can’t handle.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I’m quite excited to see what the future is going to bring with this game since I have been playing this game for a while now and it looks extremely promising.

I highly recommend this game to people who are interested in games like the old school 3D shooters or even modern shooters. Or modern old school shooters like Dusk and Ion Fury. It’s an amazing action 3D shooter that is only going to get better from here on out.

So, 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!

NekoJonez’s Top 10 Games of 2019

my personal top 10 games of 20192019 has been a very special year for me. A lot of things happened in my personal life like job changes and meeting the love of my life NotThatAlice94. Now, I might have written fewer articles compared to 2018, I still have a top 10 games ready for you! If you haven’t read my top 10 games of the year lists before, let me explain something to you. I’m not that big of a fan on top 10 lists where all the games came out that year because you nearly always get the same games on that list. Besides that, I’m a retro gamer and I play a lot of retro games and I find that those also can be my pick for game of the year. So, that’s why I can pick ANY game for my game of the year. The only rule I had to start playing the game in 2019. Games that I started in 2018 or earlier don’t count. So, I can’t pick games like the Zero Escape since I replayed them with my girlfriend this year because I played those games in the past. So, what games did make my top 10 list and which games didn’t make the list? Let’s find out together! Also, remember that I haven’t played every game that came out and that this list is my opinion. So, if you disagree, feel free to leave a respectful comment. But, in all other cases, also feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the games, the list, the content of this article and/or your own list.

Editoral note: Some of the games I have already reviewed, if that’s the case, the link will go to my review or article. If that isn’t the case, the link will take you to a store page.

Number 10: Degree of Separation (Switch) (2019)

degreeofseperationI have only started to play this game at the start of December. But, the mechanics and gameplay made such a big impression on me that I decided to place it on my top 10 games list I played this year. While I know you can play this game as a single-player game, I’m going through the adventure together with my girlfriend. We started to play this game right after we finished Tick Tock: A Tale For Two. We wanted to play another co-op game.

This game is a co-op game where you have to help each other to reach the end of the section. Meanwhile, you have to solve various puzzles to collect scarfs. One player plays as an ice prince and the other player plays as a fire Princess. Both characters have very different abilities that you have to use together to solve the challenges of the game.

The mechanics that there is a separation and a bond between the characters are just amazing. I’m tempted to finish this game in single-player but I’m holding myself back from doing that since it’s such a great game to play with my girlfriend that I want to fully complete the adventure with her. It helps me to create amazing memories with her and I can’t wait to create even more. Speaking of which… one of the other co-op games is one of the honorable mentions.

Number 9: Etrain Odyssey Nexus (3DS) (2019)

etrainodysseynexus

The most likely final entry in the Etrain Odyssey series has been released around my birthday. I’m a huge fan of the series and whenever I have the time, I’m trying to make progress in one of the Etrain Odyssey games I own.

I haven’t gotten around to writing a review or an article about this game just yet, but I’ll make sure that next year will see an article about this game.

Since it’s bittersweet knowing that no new games will come in this amazing franchise. The reason is that the gameplay was created with the DS and the 3DS in mind. On the top screen, you were exploring the brutal dungeons and on the bottom screen, you were creating your very own map.

This game is an amazing finale to the series. It combines all the amazing aspects of all the previous games and it’s a great way to finish the series. Personally, I don’t recommend this game to a newcomer to the series since it might be a bit overwhelming.

On top of that, it’s one of the final big new games on the 3DS. While I’m totally not done with playing games on the 3DS just yet, this swansong feels even more strange because of that. So, thank you Nintendo for the amazing memories with the DS and 3DS. I’m so grateful that you developed this hardware and made it possible that this amazing series got created.

Number 8: My Big Sister (Switch) (2019)

H2x1_NSwitchDS_MyBigSister_image1600w

So, this game is an RPG Maker adventure game created by Stranga. While the gameplay isn’t anything too special since the game isn’t too difficult nor it is it quite long… The game’s story is quite well written.

The charm of this game reminded me a lot of Angels of Death, which was one of my favorite games last year.

The story tells a tale about a special bond that two sisters have while going through some troubling times. It has quite a lot of symbolism and after it was finished, I needed some time to let it all sink in. Recently, I have started one of the other games from this developer and I’m quite enjoying my time with that game as well. So, thank you for this game for introducing me to an amazing indie developer that I’ll be following from now on.

Number 7: Uncharted – The Lost Legacy (PS4) (2017)

6169Kt7cmYL._SX522_

So, I can’t hide the fact that I’m a huge fan of the Tomb Raider series. So, I knew that the Uncharted franchise existed but I have never played any of the games.

Now, my girlfriend owns almost all of the games and one of the first times I came over her place, we played Uncharted – The Lost Legacy together. She was stuck at a puzzle and I wanted to help her out.

It didn’t take long before I was hooked at this game and I finished the remainder of the game. Not long after that, we went on holiday together and after that, I lent her PS4 for a short while. During that time, I finished the campaign I hadn’t played yet and I knew one thing for certain. That this game will be on my top 10 games of 2019 list.

While I enjoyed the modern Tomb Raider games a little bit more, I still think that the Uncharted games deserve recognition. Now, I can’t wait to start playing the other Uncharted games. So, maybe next year you might see a review or two from other games in the series…

Number 6: Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4) (2017)

horizonzerodawn

Ever since I heard about this game, I wanted to give this game a try. This game looked extremely interesting to me. Now, I don’t own a PS4 but my girlfriend does.

So, when we saw the base game on sale in our local game store, we bought it right away and started playing it. And I fell in love with the game right away.

The story and atmosphere reminded me to the amazing time I had in games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Breath of the Wild.

While I haven’t played a lot of this game, I can’t wait to play more and actually finish this game. It’s one of the best games I have been playing on the PS4 and it made me want to buy my own PS4. If only I had the budget to do that…

So, thank you Horizon Zero Dawn for taking me on a journey that reminds me of two of the best games I have played in the last two years. I can’t wait to see where the adventure is going to take me next since the world is calling me back in.

Number 5: Ion Fury (PC) (2019)

Ion_Fury_logo

If you look through my blog, I’m quite a big fan of retro titles. When one of my favorite YouTubers introduced me to this game, I was quite interested.

Yes, I bought the game right after watching that review and I was unable to put the game down for a few weeks. It was almost the only game that I played during that time. The old school shooter games were back in business!

Now, the game gets frequent updates that add improvements and even new content. So, that’s why I’m currently putting this game a bit on hold. I’m going to give this game another shot really soon to see what has been changed and try to beat this game again and find even more secrets. And I’m also thinking to dip my feet into the mods that the community is creating for this game since I have seen some interesting things that might make this game even more enjoyable.

Number 4: Bloodstained – Ritual of the Night (Switch) (2019)

H2x1_NSwitch_BloodstainedRitualOfTheNight_image1600wYes, yes,  I haven’t played the best version of this game. I know that the other versions have a better performance. But, honestly, I still think that this game is a blast to play.

I really missed playing a great Metroidvania game ever since I had beaten Monster Tale on the DS.

And this game just exceeded my expectations. I was really worried that this game would crash and burn like Mighty Number 9. But thankfully, this Kickstarter game delivered on its promises and turned out great.

I have talked more in-depth about this game in my review, so when you want to know more, I advise you to read that article. Currently, I’m considering if I should start over or not since a big patch is coming soon to the Nintendo Switch version. Now, that’s up to me to decide when the patch comes out in a few weeks.

Number 3: Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch) (2019)

dragonquestbuilders2cover

Well, well, well. Here is a surprise. One of my most anticipated games of 2019 is only number 3 in my Top 10 games of 2019 list.

After I had beaten the original game last year, I was really hyped for the sequel. I was waiting to see a release date appear on various outlets and when it got announced, I pre-ordered it right away through my favorite local game store.

The game didn’t disappoint at all. It was an extremely enjoyable ride from start to finish. While I still have a ton of postgame content left to do, I’m currently on a break from this game. I have spent over 100 hours in this game, so yeah…

Now, I have been playing this game with my girlfriend as well and while the multiplayer is somewhat limited, it’s quite a lot of fun. Maybe one of these days I might return to this game with her and start playing the post-game content and improving my Ilse of Awakening even more to have a better-looking island. Since now it’s a huge construction zone…

Number 2: AI – The Somnium Files (Switch) (2019)

ai-the-somnium-files-588803.10

This game came out of nowhere for me. After the amazing Zero Escape series, I didn’t expect that Kotaro Uchikoshi was writing a new horror-themed visual novel game with its own unique twist.

So, I was counting down until the release date hit and I even patiently waited until I could start this game with my girlfriend since she is a big fan of Kotaro’s work as well since we had beaten the Zero Escape series together this summer. Well, she finished the games since I was replaying them with her.

When the game started, we noticed all the little nods to his previous work. The subtle references in the story and the sound effects being reused. It was an amazing feeling.

At first, the story was a bit mediocre. But, then a sudden plot twist changed everything. My girlfriend wasn’t interested in the game after a few play sessions but when I told her the twists the game took, she wanted to see them.

I remember the time we finished the game during my week off in November. A few times, I had to put the controller down because the story just blew my mind. It’s an amazingly written story if you let yourself get drawn into it. Now, a ton of people argues that it’s not his best work. I see where they are coming from, but that doesn’t mean that the story in this game is bad at all.

The issue is that when you know Kotaro’s style of revealing plot details and that even small details mean quite a lot, you can see some twists coming from a mile away. But, it didn’t bother me that much. The suspense then is, how are the characters going to find out the truth you knew all along. And that’s where this game shines in the story department. If only this game didn’t wrap up the story so nicely, then we might have some sequel potential. The whole dream concept of this game and the gameplay is just amazing. But, I’m equally as hyped for the next games of Kotaro. Keep on creating my dude! I fell in love with your games since the Zero Escape series and now I want to play even more games from you and your team.

Honorable mentions

Before I reveal my number 1 of this year, my game of the year if you will… I think it’s time we talk about honorable mentions. Games that I loved playing this year but didn’t make the top 10 for some reason. Also, keep in mind that this isn’t a complete list of games that I played this year that fit the rules of this top 10 but it’s more a list of games that I want to mention that fit the rules but didn’t make the top 10.

Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes (Switch), Fire Emblem – Three Houses (Switch), Resident Evil 7 (PC), Silence (PS4), Peggle 2 (XBOX360), Halo 3 (XBOX360), Call of Duty – World At War (XBOX360), Resident Evil 1 (PS1), Life is Strange (PS4), Adera (PC), Chrono Trigger (Android), Forager (Switch), The Legend of Zelda – Links Awakening (Switch), Wii Sports Resorts (Wii), Mario + Rabbits: Kingdom Battles (Switch), Atlantis (PC), Pokémon Sword & Shield (Switch), 2048 – Read Only Memories (Switch), WarioWare Gold (3DS) and Asterix and Obelix – XXL 2 (PS2).

Man, I do have to say that choosing my top 5 this year was extremely difficult. Usually, I start putting this list together by either late October or early November. I have a text file with the games and I change the order around in November and December and add games I really enjoyed during those two months if that is needed. I start writing the article in middle December and I finalize the article in the last week of the year. So, this article went through a ton of revisions.

Last year, it was an extremely easy decision which game should be number 1. This year, I had to choose between 5 games I enjoyed it quite a lot. It’s quite possible that I want to change the order around the top 5 in 2020. But, I’m not going to change the order around in this article, after a lot of careful consideration, I decided which game should be my number 1. And I’ll explain why right now:

Number 1: NG – Spirit Hunter (Switch) (2019)

81EBL2k3XTL._AC_SL1500_So, why is this game my game of the year? Out of all the games I could have chosen, why did I choose a rather niche Japanese horror visual novel adventure game. Well, let me explain. One of the big reasons is the story. The story is about a guy taking care of his sister. Well, technically, she isn’t his sister but his niece. But, she addresses him as “big brother” so I think it counts. I care a lot about my younger sister. So, the story spoke to me emotionally.

Both my numbers 2 and 1 have amazing stories in my opinion. But, the story is one of the reasons that made my decision. My 2nd reason for picking this game as my game of the year is simple. The different endings are just amazing. There is a chance that there is going to be a sequel to this game and I’m really curious which ending the 3rd game will take to build upon. The good or the bad ending, since both have amazing story potential to continue the franchise.

I’m crossing my fingers that the crowdfunding campaign is going to be successful for the next entry in the series. At the time of writing, it’s extremely close to its goal. More information about the sequel can be read in this Siliconera’s writeup.

So yeah, this game didn’t only improve on the mechanics of the previous game Death Mark, it blew that game out of the water. Sadly enough, the performance issues on some platforms kept the game a bit back, but those were quickly fixed by the developer. Thank you Experience for this amazing game, the amazing experience. If only I could understand Japanese so I could play your other games. Then again, most of your games got localized, so I know which studio I’m going to keep an eye on next year.

Conclusion

Like I said before, this article was extremely difficult to write. It was extremely difficult to choose between NG, AI, Dragon Quest Builders 2, Ion Fury and Bloodstained. These 5 games were the most memorable games for me this year.

Now, this list underwent a ton of changes. I have looked to the number of revisions in my Dropbox of the draft document of this article and I have around 20 revisions where either the order of the games changed or I swapped out a game from the top 10 for another one.

So, most of the games I played in 2019 took me on an amazing story journey. Almost half of the games on this list, I fell in love with the story and/or the world of the game. And some games even pulled some emotional strings.

I can’t wait to see what 2020 is going to bring and what games I’m going to play. I have seen a lot of games that I’m looking forward to playing next year but lately, I’m finishing a lot of games that I started. Mostly because I’m enjoying my collection quite a lot.

Anyways, thank you for taking the time out of your day to take a look back at 2019 with me. I’m quite curious about what you people think about the games I have chosen for this year’s list. Do you agree or disagree with my list? I would love to hear it in the comments.

Thank you for all the support for my blog in 2019. Due to a lot of personal things going on, I haven’t written a lot of articles but I feel that the quality of my writing improved quite a lot. I can’t wait to keep on writing and improve my skills and entertain you guys and girls with new content.

Before I write my usual ending phrases, I have a question for you, the reader. What games or series did you discover through my blog this year or in the past? I’m really curious about that. Anyways, here is the usual ending of my articles:

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 but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Review: Uncharted – The Lost Legacy (PS4) ~ Where is Lara, Fraizer?

Wikipedia entry

After I have finished most of the Tomb Raider games, I wanted to play more adventure games like it. The only adventure games I knew that were on the market was the Uncharted series. One problem, I don’t own a PS4. But, my girlfriend NotThatAlice has a PS4 and kindly lend me her PS4 to play one of the Uncharted games. Now, how do these games play for a big Tomb Raider fan? Did I compare these games to Tomb Raider or did it manage to stand out as it’s own thing? Let’s take a look at the final game in the series, Uncharted – The Lost Legacy. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of the article and/or the game in the comment section down below. 

Where is Lara, Fraizer?

In this game, you play as Chloe Fraizer. You are hired for a job finding something that your father was after. You meet up with Nadine, where you find a disc that is in Asav’s possession, the bad guy of this game. After you are able to steal it, you go on a wild adventure finding a special artifact.

Storywise, this game reminded me a lot of the first Tomb Raider game. the one were Lara’s bonds with her friends just get formed. But, the interaction of Chloe and Nadine reminded me a lot of Bioshock Infinite as well. Especially between Elisabeth and Booker. But explaining that would get me into spoiler territory.

Maybe it’s my bias talking here, but I enjoyed the story in the Tomb Raider games a bit more than the story in this game. It’s also possible that I watched a bit too many Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider-style movies to easily pick up on the various tropes used in these kinds of stories. The story of this game does nothing really new, nothing to stand out in the competition.

With that said, I don’t mean that the story of this game is bad or mediocre. Far from that. The story, the pacing, and the writing are quite well done. I especially liked the quite human interaction between the main characters. Personally, I felt that the main bad guy Asav was underwritten. With that, I mean that most of his personality is explained through dialogue from other people. This is a big missed opportunity since the voice actor really nails his role.

Now, speaking about the voice acting, I have both heard the Dutch and English voice acting. Why Dutch? Because that’s my native language and modern gaming consoles always set language and voice acting to Dutch automatically when it’s available because I live in Belgium. The voice work in both languages is amazing. I enjoyed the Asav in the English version more than in the Dutch version but I enjoyed Chloe a bit more in the Dutch version.

Shoot those enemies

In the gameplay department, I felt that this game was a mixture between Tomb Raider and Bioshock. The puzzle and platforming felt like a real Tomb Raider game, but the combat felt like a mix between Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider.

Let’s talk about the combat first. You can obtain weapons and ammo from defeated enemies or by hacking crates. The way you hack into crates is extremely simple. You have to turn the left joystick until you feel the controller vibrate. At that point, you need to find the correct spot, where the lock icon turns green and hold it there. This is one of the easiest lock picking mini games I have ever played.

During most of the combat, you get the aid of Nadine who takes out enemies on her own. She also gives remarks on your shooting, especially when you helped her or not. So, compare her to Elisabeth but then without searching for supplies.

At first, I was quite afraid of the combat. Personally, I thought that shooters wouldn’t work on consoles that well. I’m so used to aiming with the mouse, I thought that controllers wouldn’t be able to live up to that experience. But, this game pleasantly surprised me. While the shooting is assisted with some automatic lock-on system, the combat is still enjoyable. It didn’t take long before I got used to aiming with the controller and I was breezing through the combat. My girlfriend started this game on the easiest difficulty level. I increased the difficulty level to have some more challenges.

Something that did disappoint me was the puzzles in this game. Sometimes when I played a Tomb Raider game, I really needed to think where to jump next and look around in the room. Perhaps, I’m getting quite efficient in playing these games but I felt that the puzzles were extremely lacking in this game. There were some creative puzzles and really good puzzles but I didn’t feel challenged enough by the puzzles. I felt that there could be so many more opportunities in this game for better puzzles.

I had the same feeling with big parts of the platforming. I was playing most of this game on auto-pilot. I still enjoyed myself but I didn’t feel the adrenaline rush I feel when I play a Tomb Raider game. So, yes, I’m stating that the recent Tomb Raider games have better gameplay than Uncharted The Lost Legacy. But, does that make this game bad? Well, no. Not in the slightest.

This game was quite enjoyable from start to finish. The pacing was fantastic. There wasn’t too much combat nor was there too much downtime. Something I really loved in this game was the bonus features you could unlock with the treasures. In the Tomb Raider games, the treasures give you a bit more backstory of the location Lara is at. In this game, you get points that you can spend on costumes for the characters, good ol’ cheats, filters, gameplay modifiers, and special weapons. Now, this adds a ton of replay value to the game. Now that I have finished the game, I want to replay the whole game with filters and gameplay modifiers.

And snap!

Now, you have most likely already noticed it from the screenshots that this game looks amazing. The visual presentation of this game is outstanding. I really felt home as a Tomb Raider player in this game.

Something I also really liked in this game was the little touches on the characters. For example, whenever you fell into the mud, you get mud on your clothes, but that gets washed away as soon as you walk through some water. Or the characters shaking their hands dry whenever they exit the water. These are amazing touches.

Together with amazing music and sound design, the audiovisual presentation is one of the strongest points of this game. And on top of that, the filters you can use can make this game even more fun to play through.

Just like in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, you also have a photo mode where you can easily snap screenshots to share online or use in an article. Now, this is a fun bonus feature and one that I might use a bit more with the unlocked special filters.

So, during this game, you visit various locations. From deserts to jungles, this game has it all. I already raved about the outstanding visual presentation with rich detail, great lighting and amazing set pieces. But, if the game has control issues or has an unstable frame rate, then you are unable to enjoy that.

During my playthrough, I noticed some minor slowdowns. Only once or twice during heavy combat. But, in most cases, the game ran perfectly and stable.

The controls reacted perfectly. It didn’t take long for me to adjust to the PS4 controller, after playing so many games with the XBOX 360 controller on my PC. It didn’t take long before the controller became second nature to me. Now, one thing I didn’t like was the mechanic to switch weapons. For that, you have to use the arrow keys. I felt that the touchpad on the PS4 controller could have been a better choice for this.

Now, there was one thing I really disliked and that was something at the final level. That final level kept dragging on and on. I thought it would never end. Something I didn’t like either was the fist-to-fist combat sections with Asav. I felt that the game was a bit unresponsive at times and I barely knew what I should do.

The biggest let down for me is the fact that this game was only 8 hours long. I was able to finish this game in one weekend. Now, I haven’t unlocked all the bonus items nor have I collected all the trophies. These also help with the replay value of this game. That’s something that somewhat makes up for the short game length.

And with that said, I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article. What did I think in summary of this game? Let’s find out! Now, I did leave some things out about the gameplay and story on purpose. I wanted to leave those things like a nice surprise if you are interested in playing this game.

Summary

The bad:

-The fistfights.

-The puzzles should have been more challenging.

-The length.

The good:

+ Amazing audiovisual presentation.

+ A ton of replay value.

+ Great controls.

+ …

Final thoughts:

You might have noticed it while reading this review, I have compared this game quite a lot to the Tomb Raider series. While I was playing this game, I did get a lot of Tomb Raider vibes. So, when you enjoy the latest Tomb Raider games, I would highly recommend this game. You will enjoy it quite a lot.

While I think that the Tomb Raider games are the better games, I wouldn’t say that this Uncharted game is a bad game. Maybe I’m a bit biased… Now, if you love adventure games and exploring huge areas to try and solve puzzles, you really should give this game a go.

I’m also quite thankful to my girlfriend for lending me her PS4 and a copy of this game. I’m so happy that I was able to enjoy this game. Because I enjoyed this game so much, I’m going to give the other Uncharted games a chance in the near future.

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

Score: 80/100

Meet notthatalice, answering questions…

NekoJonez asked me to write a post to answer some basic questions about myself. For people that didn’t know it yet, I’m Jonez’s girlfriend. I’m not a professional blogger myself, yet, so I’m sorry in advance if this post seems a little weird…

(Editor Jonez note: This post is a reply to a previous article written by NekoJonez about a blogging award)

Why did you start your blog?

I used to write stories when I was really young, most of them were fantasy or love stories. I still remember I kept rewriting a story about a family of unicorns. Or also the one story where the enemy troops were Greek sauces…

I told NekoJonez that I wanted to pick up writing again and he was so kind as to offer me to write a post on his site. I guess this is my first official blog post now.

What are your favorite topics to write about?

I make up a lot of stories in my head. Most of those are love stories with a hint of bad-boy vs. good girl.

If I can go a little bit further, I like making ‘posts’ (more like English oral exercises) about my favorite books, English history, movies, strange places.

I’ve been taking evening courses in English for adults. This year my speaking exercise was about the Parisian catacombs. You could say this was one of my favorite topics.

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

I would probably be the yellow Kirby. So basically, the supporting player.

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

I admit I have to say I’d also choose Zero, but all Zero’s…

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

The title would be an upside-down wonderland. The genre would probably be an adventure, platform and something with healing items…

Also, since a lot of people helped me through harder times, I would probably have allies and items to make me stronger.

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

Probably the cheats from Unreal Tournament that’ll give me infinite health and ammo, Indiana Jones’ whip to grab food and other necessary items and Kirby for the companionship and the cuteness :p

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

I guess I’d take Lara Croft or Junpei from the Zero Escape series. They both seem like honest, admirable people with a sense of extraordinary strength in several zones…

Jonez’ Questions

If your life has a soundtrack, which genre would it be?

My life has had its ups and downs. I like to imagine my soundtrack as symphonic metal, with snippets of ballads in it.

On happy days, my life would be accompanied by musical songs from the phantom of the opera, grease,…

You are a parent of a video game character, who would you pick as your child and why?

Probably Clover or Quark from the Nonary Games. They seem like happy-go-lucky children who are also very smart.

Which video game character you don’t want to meet in a mental asylum?

Zero, Mathias from Tomb Raider (2013) and technically everyone from unreal tournament cause they look creepy.

I’d like to meet Kirby to find out what makes him have his magic powers.

Would you rather go to Silent Hill or Raccoon City?

To be honest, I haven’t played a lot of horror games, because I like action games more. I chose Silent Hill because Raccoon City looks like you wouldn’t possibly leave the city unharmed while in Silent Hill you still have a chance of survival.

If real life had video game cheats, which ONE cheat would you like to have and why?

I would like to cheat on life by being able to fly. I would get everywhere without getting hurt (I’m kinda clumsy). I also wouldn’t have to learn how to drive a car and would be able to get everywhere without having to wait in line.

Meet me

I decided to write a small introduction. I’m Jonez’s girlfriend of like 3 months.

Before meeting him, I only played Life is Strange and Unreal Tournament. After being introduced to several games, my favorites are now: Lara Croft Tomb Raider and Fire Emblem Warriors.

I spent my free time reading, listening to music, gaming (duh) and watching series.

Nice to meet y’all and feel free to leave a comment

Notthatalice

Publishing: Suicide Guy – Sleeping Deeply is now out on PS4!

“Suicide Guy: Sleepin’ Deeply” is a new Chapter from the original Suicide Guy game series.

suicide guy sleeping deeply logo

The game is a first-person action-puzzle game set in a world of dreams. You’ll assume the role of a nice big guy unable to wake up from his dreams. Your task is to help him to step out of them.

Features:

  • 3 to 4 hours of pure gameplay set inside Suicide Guy’s subconscious
  • A whole new story with an unexpected plot twist
  • Physics-based levels
  • Ultimate moves: able to pick up items, throw them, activate mechanisms and even burp.
  • Funny creatures to annoy
  • Vehicles to drive
  • New Collectible items to find

Gamers will have to use different items in every kind of situation by solving original brain teasers. Despite the title, the game is NOT at all about suicide or depression.

Link to the game on the PS4: https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP2659-CUSA14842_00-0000000000000000

More information can be found in the presskit: https://www.igdb.com/games/suicide-guy-sleepin-deeply/presskit

Link to my first impression of the PC version.

Publishing: Suicide Guy now out for PS4 & Nintendo Switch

I’m writing to you to let you know that our new game “Suicide Guy” is out today on the Nintendo eShop and PlayStation 4!

Editor note: This is a press kit from the developer. I, NekoJonez, have nothing to do with the development of this game. I’m only here sharing information about it to promote it. 🙂

CoverVideo6

“Suicide Guy” is a first-person action-puzzle game set in a world of dreams.

You’ll assume the role of a nice big guy unable to wake up from his dreams. Your task is to help him to step out of them.

Features:

  • 25 levels set inside Suicide Guy’s mind
  • Story-driven game
  • Physics-based levels
  • Ultimate moves: be able to pick up items, throw them, activate mechanisms and even burp.
  • Funny creatures to annoy
  • Vehicles to drive
  • An important mission to accomplish
  • Collectible items to find

Gamers will have to use different items in every kind of situation by solving original brain teasers.


Despite the title, the game is NOT at all about suicide or depression.

eShop page: https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/suicide-guy-switch

PlayStation Store: https://store.playstation.com/en-us/product/UP2796-CUSA11124_00-0000000000000000

The trailer of the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUCki6EwCFw&t=4s

Official website: https://chubbypixel.com/games/suicide-guy/

SquareBanner2

Review from my friend: https://overthinkeryblog.com/2017/11/06/roughly-an-hour-with-suicide-guy/

Publishing: Astounding Gaming Stats Revealed

If you’re a gamer yourself, or a gaming widow/orphan/parent, you’ll already be acutely aware of the amount of time and money games can sap from life. But, as recent research has shown, it’s not necessarily all bad.

According to statistics, laparoscopic surgeons who played video games for more than three hours per week made 32 percent fewer errors than those who didn’t. Gaming has also been linked to a reduction in dementia risk, pain relief, overcoming dyslexia and even making us more motivated in real life too. If you’re an anti-gamer, this probably isn’t what you wanted to hear, but the fact remains that love it or hates it, gaming is here to stay.

Things sure have come a long way since the 8-bit entertainment of the ’80s, and today video games are a multibillion-dollar industry. In fact, the largest gaming company today is tipped to become the world’s biggest company by 2025. That’s right, even bigger than Apple!

Here we’ll reveal some of the most astounding statistics about gaming in the 21st century, from who’s playing to how old they are and even how much they pay (or earn) through their gaming lifestyle. Shake off your preconceptions about gaming and let’s see what the truth is about this much-loved pastime worldwide.

Check this Infographic made by Filmora team and share your opinions with us!

video-game-trends-and-stats.png

 

Game Review: Mad Max

Some of you may be familiar with Mad Max, but some of you won’t. So what is Mad Max? In one word: glorious.Image result for mad max

I mean that in the truest sense of the word. It feels out of this world. At first glance, one might think it’s they are over-the-top movies, but they’re much, much more than that.

Everything in this world feels painfully real. The suffering, the tragedies, the characters, the wasteland, … The films have a very distinct style that has influenced pop culture more than you might think: it launched Mel Gibson’s career, the raiders in Fallout are heavily inspired by those in Mad Max and it spawned countless rip-offs by Italian and Turkish directors, as well as American ones. I feel like I need to discuss the films briefly before getting to the game. After all, that is what inspired its creators to make the game.

The great thing about the Mad Max films – and the game – is that they all feel different. The first film was very grounded in reality and quite slow-paced, though that is not a bad thing. The second film, The Road Warrior, was generally considered to be the best one. It established the character as he is still known and loved. He’s deeply flawed and haunted by his past, but that makes him feel very real. The third film, Beyond Thunderdome, has its problems; most of them caused by Hollywood mingling. And then there’re last year’s Fury Road, now regarded as the best of all four films. Tom Hardy plays Mad Max, not Mel Gibson, and his performance is excellent.

Now Max is a bit of a difficult character to talk about, because he is both simple and complex at the same time. He’s simple, because most of his actions throughout the films and game are selfish. Even helping people is often because it makes things more convenient for him, but at the same time he won’t harm the innocent. He doesn’t really care about who lives or dies, as this is a harsh world and survival is key, but he won’t just kill anyone for the sake of killing or just for fun. It is a very hard thing to explain. It’s almost instinctive. You just understand him on an emotional level, not an intellectual one. You just know if something is in-character for him to do or not, but you can’t really explain why. I say this, because there’s something I want to discuss at the end of this article after the SPOILERS warning.

Now onto the game! I’m not exactly sure when the game is set in the timeline, but it feels like it takes place right before the events of the fourth film: Fury Road. But, like with the entire Mad Max saga, the exact time has never been important. You start off the game losing the famous Interceptor, the car Max drives, and battling Lord Scrotus. You put a chainsaw through his skull, but he survives and throws you off a fast moving truck. You then set out on a very simple quest: get your car back and kill Lord Scrotus. This is very much in theme with the films, where the story is often quite simple and just a structure for strong characters.

And strong characters is what this game has. The portrayal of Max is pretty much spot-on (except for a little thing that bugs me in the ending). You find a hunchback named Chumbucket who is a car nut and believes you are some sort of Saint sent by the Angel to clear the wasteland. He offers you a car that you can upgrade and change the appearance of during the game. He is a fantastic character, obsessed with cars and fixing cars and thinking you’re some sort of deity. And of course, Max goes along with it, because it helps him. Where in other games having a companion around can be frustrating, Chumbucket is nothing but helpful. He brings you the car when you signal him with a flare gun, fixes the car when it’s damaged and most of his dialogue is really entertaining.

Visually, the game encapsulates the look and feel of the films very well. It’s a gorgeous game with a wonderful art style. The graphics won’t blow you away, but it’s not trying to either. It’s aiming for aesthetics rather the latest and greatest in graphical settings.

The story is very simple, as I mentioned before. There isn’t that much to talk about here, other than that it’s very much in theme with the films. The end goal is to get your car back and kill Lord Scrotus, but it can take you a while to get there. You can choose to just follow the main quests and do the bare minimum to unlock new upgrades for your car, so you can continue with the missions, but that will make the game a lot more difficult. Still, you’ll probably have to put in twelve to fifteen hours to beat this game in a hurry.

As a sort of side story, you can try to loosen the grip that Lord Scrotus has on the different regions by doing certain mini missions. You can clear out camps, destroy their totems and sniping towers, clear minefields, et cetera. Lowering the threat levels in regions unlocks more upgrades for Max and his car. This is where the game really shines in my eyes, as it makes the gameplay more varied. Clearing the camps requires more combat, destroying the totems and sniping towers is mostly done from inside the car and you need a special buggy that can carry the mine-sniffing dog to clear out minefields. Some camps have difficult bosses or certain things you have to destroy. Having done almost everything there is to do in this game, I racked up a very respectable 54 hours in this game. Not bad at all for having paid less than €15 for it in a Steam sale.

There aren’t a whole lot of negative to this game, I feel. The driving controls could’ve been tighter, but most of the time they’re just fine. Two locations in the game are locked off after the mission is over, which means that if you didn’t pick up the collectables or scrap, they’ll be lost forever. This is odd, since none of the other locations become inaccessible. Lastly (and I’ll get into more detail in a bit) there’s one thing that happens right at the end that I feel is out of character for Max, which makes the ending a bit less enjoyable for me.

So overall I highly recommend it if you like the Mad Max films, but even as a general gamer, it’s a very fun game. The combat is fun, modding the car gives you lots of options and the characters are very enjoyable. The highest praise I could possibly give it is that if  I were to rank this game alongside the films, the order would be (from best to “worst”): Fury Road – THIS GAME – Road Warrior – Original Mad Max – Beyond Thunderdome. So yeah, very close second 🙂

 

 

–SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THE GAME BELOW–

 

 

This is what happens at the end of the game that bothers me a bit. After the final boss battle, we see the truck that Lord Scrotus is driving close to the edge of a cliff. Max decides to ram it with his car and Chumbucket, still believing the car is the sacred tool, sent by the Angel to be used by you, doesn’t want you to destroy it. While charging at the truck, he climbs on the bonnet of the car, trying to convince you to stop. Max tells him to jump of and Chumbucket says he’s willing to die with the car. Max then proceeds to jump out of the car, right before it hits the truck and both vehicles fall off the cliff. I know Max is a character who will do pretty much anything to achieve his goal, but I feel like killing Chumbucket was very much out of character. Max doesn’t hurt people, unless he feels it’s absolutely necessary and I feel like killing Chumbucket was not. You may disagree with that, but it’s how I feel about it.

First Impressions: Metal Gear Solid V – The Phantom Pain

Due to delivery issues in my country, I had to wait until the ninth of September before I could get my hands on the PC version of MGS V. I’m someone who prefers physical media, so even though I could’ve bought it earlier on Steam, I wanted the actual disc. The wait was worth it. Something really great happened in the first fifteen minutes of the game that just got me hooked. It may be the greatest thing I have ever seen in a game. Beware: SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST THREE HOURS OR SO AHEAD.

As some of you may know, I am a big fan of the series. I’ve been waiting for this game for a long time. Years even. It’s almost as if the setting of this game has been perfectly altered to my preferences. It’s set in 1984, my favourite year in history, also in my favourite decade. The year that in my eyes epitomises the ’80s. You also play with my favourite character of the series: Big Boss.

After the events of the previous prologue game (that was only about 90 minutes long), MGS V: Ground Zeroes, Big Boss wakes up in a hospital from a coma he’d been in for nine years. This is where something great happens. I don’t know if people have been picking up on this and I haven’t been looking around on the Internet, since I am trying to avoid any and all spoilers. Any content whatsoever.

MIRROR

About fifteen minutes into the game, the doctor tells you people are still looking for you, wanting to kill you. For your own safety, you should change your appearance. This is when we get a very well done character creation screen where we get to change our face. There are a hell of a lot of options, almost as if you are creating your own Sim in the Sims.

Now here’s what makes this great. I was worried about this. I wanted to play with Big Boss as I knew him, so I tried to create a character that kind of looked like the older, grey haired Big Boss. After I was done, though, I was pleasantly surprised. The doctor gets killed before he can carry out the operations. You are still Big Boss.

I really hope this never gets brought up, ever again in the game. Not because I don’t want to change Big Boss’s appearance (which is also true), but because this would make it the single greatest joke I have ever seen in a game. If this is never mentioned again, the creators of the game spent a great deal of time coding a character creation screen that works really well, and all of that for a joke. Possibly it’s a tool they created in-engine to make their own characters to make development easier, but still. I’m a little afraid it’s going to be brought up again, but I remain hopeful.

I feel it’s maybe a nod to MGS 2, where you start the game playing as Solid Snake, but the second part (and majority) is played with Raiden, an all-new character. This displeased many gamers, so it would be funny if that is part of why this was put into the game. For a second, it looked like they were pulling a similar kind of trick; making us think we’re going to play with Big Boss, but forcing us to change his appearance. Then they pull the rug out from under us. “Nah, we’d never do that to you again.” It feels like they’re saying with a smile.

But what about the game itself? I played through the entire prologue, the hospital section, in about an hour. Truth be told, it is not the best gameplay ever, and it uses a trope I don’t very much care for. I’d describe it as a playable cutscene, where you take a few dozen steps or perform a few little actions and the game takes over for a few minutes, showing us more of what’s going on with the story.

I remember people complaining that MGS 4 had too many and too lengthy cutscenes. This was something that never bothered me, since I love the story, but I can understand the complaints. The ending cutscene was a little shy of an hour, so I feel like in MGS V, they have made a compromise. Instead of having the first hour be an hour long cutscene, it has some sort of gameplay. All in all, despite not liking this trope in general, I was deeply engrossed in what was going on, making this still very enjoyable.

After that, the game really starts and we are dropped in a very expansive, open world. You wander around Afghanistan looking for a captured friend. How you tackle this mission is all up to you. Will you visit a few outposts first, gathering intel, or will you go to where he’s captured right away? It’s all up to you. This is where the game really comes to life. The amount of player choice and agency is incredible, and perhaps a stark contrast when compared with the first hour, but I understand why that had to be done. It’s like the first act of a movie: you need to establish the world and the situation, so I’m not upset at all.

So gameplay is great and the visuals? They’re stunning. Digital Foundry did an article about the PC version, which is incredibly well optimised. (This is also pretty much the only content on the Internet about MGS V I looked at.) Even low-end CPU’s like an i3 can run this game, no problem, provided you have a decent GPU. The standard graphical settings come very close to the PS4 and XBone settings, but when you bear in mind that most of those are set at “HIGH” or “MEDIUM”, you can imagine how gorgeous this game looks at “ULTRA” settings.

Fortunately, my GPU’s are beefy enough to handle the highest possible settings. A high draw distance, loads of post-processing effects, high quality lighting and textures, and even volumetric clouds. The first three hours seem very promising. I love the visuals, the gameplay is great and the story already has me hooked, so guess what I’ll be doing today?

Review: Papo & Yo – Artsy Fartsy?

A while back, this game I had never heard of came with the monthly games you receive as a PlayStation Plus member. I played it for half an hour then, but I put down the controller and removed it at that time. I decided to give it another try and I just felt like I had to discuss it.

Because it’s good? No. Maybe. Hard to say. It was fun enough that I played through it, but it didn’t need to be much longer. The game wrapped up in just under four hours for me, but then again, I’m a slow gamer. In wanting to write a review about this, I decided to do a second play-through to gather all 25 collectibles and got halfway in just an hour. Knowing how to solve the puzzles makes it incredibly easy.

So what is the game about? You’re a little kid being transported to a slightly peculiar world, where you meet a little girl who taunts you and runs away. You decide to follow her. Later, you encounter a monster that follows you along the way.

It’s a little hard to explain what his part in all this is, but he’s a part of puzzles. You need to use fruit to lure him somewhere in order to progress, or have him fall asleep so you can jump on his belly. It sounds a little ridiculous, and it almost feels that way at times.

The puzzles themselves are okay. They’re not great or even good, but at least they’re not infuriating. The most difficult – and perhaps aggravating – puzzles are those where the monster is angry, because he ate a frog. Then, it will chase you and throw you around. You need rotten fruit to calm him down again. Yes, really. I’m not making this up.

Graphically, what can I say? It’s an Unreal Engine 3 game. It doesn’t look impressive, and is bugged by frame rate dips and tearing, but overall it’s fine. Just that. Fine. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons uses the same engine and, while plagued by tearing as well at times, looks far more impressive than Papo & Yo does. Especially the worldbuilding and environments.

The controls are good, though. I rarely missed a jump and that’s not always a given in 3D-platforming games, so kudos for that.

My main problem lies with the story. Mind you, I will go into spoilers here, but if you have half a brain, the intro of the game basically tells you everything you need to know. Now if it were a much simpler story, I’d be fine with it. Perhaps a story of a boy trapped in a fantasy world, trying to escape. Think The Unfinished Swan. It wouldn’t need much rewriting either. Or perhaps the girl took something from you and you need to get it back.

The problem is that, to me, it felt like the creators wanted to make a game with storytelling similar to Shadow of the Colossus, but failed. It’s easy to criticise, I know, but it feels like the kind of story a first year student of film school would come up with.

There’s not much dialogue in the game, and what’s being said does not sound like any language I ever heard. Speech bubbles do appear next to the characters when they say something.

Now brace yourselves, because you will not see this one coming. Especially not after the intro, and the first flashback about an hour into the game where you see yourself sitting in the back of a car being driven by an adult male. Oh, and there’s a quote, from the game director himself, saying: “To my mother, brothers and sisters with whom I survived the monster in my father”, right when you start the game. The monster is your father, the frogs represent his alcohol abuse and the girl was the person you father hit with his car.

I had a suspicion this game was fairly personal, from the director’s own experience. Looking up some information about the game confirms this. I don’t mine a personal story done well, but I just feel like this game is laying it on thick. It feels like they’re trying to be subtle and use metaphors, but it’s so blatant.

I feel like I’m being really harsh on the game, but in all honesty, it’s not terrible. I’m just very sensitive when it comes to metaphors and artsy fartsy storytelling. Would I recommend it?Perhaps. I know of people who have very much enjoyed this game, so who am I to take that away from them?

What does strike me as odd is that most outlets give this a positive review. The only major outlet that gave it a bad one, was IGN. “The on-paper premise of a traumatic childhood brought to life as a playable short story is brilliant, but the wounded execution can’t quite sell the emotional expression.”, is what they had to say and I tend to agree a little.

I guess it’s a decent game if you like that kind of story, but if you’re looking for interesting puzzles, you’d better look elsewhere. It’s also an easy game for completionists and trophy/achievement hunters, as my two playthroughs gave me a lot of trophies in a total playtime of around six hours.

Eighth Gen Talk – Continued Thoughts and MGS2

A while ago I wrote a 1600 word behemoth talking about my thoughts on the current generation of games consoles and the state of gaming. I recently played a game that made me feel even more strongly about this. Basically, it concerns the second-to-last paragraph talking about innovation in games. I’d like to talk just a little more about that. I promise: this article will be a little shorter.

Image result for firewatchThis all started last week when I was talking to my cousin about the seventeen minute gameplay video of Firewatch. That game looks incredible. Even if it’s not open world and more linear than it appears, I cannot wait for it to come out. If you don’t know what Firewatch is, I’ll briefly explain. It’s a game about you, some guy, starting a job as a forest overseer in the eighties, and things happen in the woods which you have to deal with. The gameplay video looks like I could absolutely loose myself in that world.

After our discussion about the video, I talked about my favourite game series of all time: Metal Gear. It had been a while since I played through all games, but I picked it up a few weeks ago and I’m up to Metal Gear Solid 2 as of now. Even though I have played this game several times, I was really intrigued by it this time. It has never been one of my favourites in the series, but in light of recent developments in the gaming industry, I now look at it with a whole fresh perspective.

The first section of the game takes place on a large tanker ship. It is here that I started to pay more attention to the game’s mechanics, looks and details than before. The first thing was the lighting. This game uses dynamic lights and shadows in many places. When the enemy is close to you and the flash light on their weapons shine on you, it appears like there are light shafts and your body interacts with it. I am sure this isn’t a true volumetric light source, since that technology was not in place in the early 2000’s and is very computationally intensive, but it still looks impressive. Especially considering this game was released in 2001. Let that sink in for a second. That’s fourteen years ago.

Sure, this game doesn’t have the most incredible graphics by today’s standards, but at the time (and especially for an early PS2 game), this game looked incredible. Frankly, I still think it does. It has an aesthetic, which is more important than graphics, and it’s what a lot of modern AAA-games seem to miss.

Truly impressive, though, are the details. On this tanker is a crew lounge filled with lovely little details that make the worlds feel so much richer. There’s a plasma TV playing and when you shoot it, it breaks. The screen doesn’t just go blank; it starts to go black in a circle around where the bullet hit and goes outwards until the whole screen is black. A magazine rack is also present. If you shoot the individual magazines, they fall on the floor. They might be upside down, open or lying on the front page, and when shot again, they change position.

There’s a pane of bullet proof glass (seen above), but when shot about twenty times, it breaks into a million pieces. Again, like the TV, it starts to break where you last shot and it goes outwards from there. In the corner of the room is a bar (also seen above), stocked with glasses and bottles that all break and fall differently. Shoot at the plants, and leaves fall off and they wiggle.

Later on there is a boss battle with a female character named Fortune. The explosions in that fight cause the lights on the ceiling to swing, making the shadows on the ground change and again adding to the believability of this world.

These things are not new in modern games, but they were then. This game tried to push a new system further than any other game of its time. Mind you that this game did not compromise on its resolution and played at 60 frames per second. Knowing this, makes it look even more impressive.

The current generation seems to rely too heavily on things that have been established in the generation before (PS3/360), and to some extent even the one before that (PS2/Xbox). Aside from looking prettier, there seems to be little new. Little that is pushing better hardware, and that’s sad.

Eighth Gen Talk – Thoughts So Far

A year and a half ago, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were released, and with E3 on our doorstep, it is perhaps a good idea to look at what the eighth console generation has brought to the table thus far. Has it succeeded or did my reservations prove to be true?

From an economic standpoint, it is an obvious success. This generation of consoles is the fastest growing of all. Demand for both consoles was high from day one and sales have vastly surpassed both manufacturers’ expectations. As of this writing, and the most current data available, Sony announced having sold 20.2 million units early March, but Microsoft’s figures aren’t as comprehensive. Sources vary, but it’s somewhere between 10 and 12 million. Sony’s platform is in a clear lead and it makes some sense. From the beginning, the PlayStation was the cheapest console, as back then the Xbox shipped with Kinect. Microsoft also had many policies people did not agree with; always having to be connected to the internet, not being able to lend games to friends, and so on. Sony happily attacked these policies and it worked. For a while at least, because luckily, Microsoft has been smart enough to make significant changes, including selling the Xbox without the Kinect as mandatory. Sony’s platform also appears to be the most powerful, at least on paper.

But is it enough? Two years ago both consoles were announced, in great detail, and their architecture is remarkably similar. This is where things get a bit technical. Both SKU’s use AMD hardware, for both CPU’s and GPU’s, and feature an eight-core CPU clocked at 1.6GHz, similar GPU’s clocked at 800MHz and 8GB of RAM. There were some differences, though, with Sony’s platform seemingly standing out. First and foremost, the 8GB of memory in the Xbox is DDR3, significantly slower to the PS4’s 8GB of GDDR5 memory. The Xbox does have 32MB of ultra-fast ES-RAM working in tandem with the other 8GB, hoping to close the performance gap. The PS4, though, has an additional 256MB of DDR3 memory and a second small, low-power CPU for background tasks. Later, Microsoft announced it would increase the performance of their consoles by increasing the clock speed of the CPU from 1.6GHz to 1.75GHZ, while also increasing the GPU speed from 800MHz to 853MHz. This closed the gap even further, but Sony’s platform still stands out. The GPU is inherently faster, with 18 compute units compared to the Xbox’s 12, and is coupled to faster memory. As it stands now, Sony’s GPU outperforms Microsoft’s at 1.84 TFLOPS to 1.31.

That brings me to my reservations. These figures are impressive when compared to the seventh generation, but don’t wow me. These consoles felt outdated before they were even launched. It is certainly true that the architecture of a console should not directly be compared to a PC. Developers can code games for a closed system, therefore using the components to their fullest potential, while also being able to optimise the code for that one specific system. To get a similar graphical fidelity and performance on a PC, we should compare it to a computer with a third to half the performance increase. At first I thought the relatively low performance figures wouldn’t be such an issue, since – as I said – this is dedicated hardware. It’s also very close to PC hardware, making coding even easier and thus allowing developers to optimise their games even more. But eighteen months after launch, I am worried this generation will not turn out as great as the one we just left behind us.

Launch games never really impress us, that much is true, but we have passed the launch window a while ago and there’s not much out there that makes me hungry for this generation. There’s Microsoft’s Sunset Overdrive, a game that knows it’s a game and runs with it. It’s silly, bright, colourful and fun. Very much unlike the gritty, brown and gray “realistic” games we mostly get. There’s also Sony’s Bloodborne. True, it’s Dark Souls/Demon’s Souls in a new skin, but it’s a good game nonetheless. Both games are not really my personal taste, but I can acknowledge them as good games. This console generation has already seen a multitude of games being re-released. It made more sense in the previous generation, where we saw a plethora of HD-remakes. There at least, the games came from the SD-era. There’s GTA V, Borderlands, The Last of Us, Diablo 3, DmC, Tomb Raider, the horrendously plagued Master Chief Collection and many more. It’s also not stopping, with games like Devil May Cry 4, God of War 3 and Final Fantasy X/X-2 remakes coming along shortly. And let’s not forget that the majority of games that have been released until now, have been sequels, prequels or some form of re-imagining of previously existing material. Are you enjoying your “new” games so far?

When the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were released, both consoles were claimed to be capable of playing 1080p games. In actuality, those platforms were more like 720p consoles. There are some games that run at 1080p, but most of them are smaller titles. A lot of games – even console exclusives – ran at an even lower resolution than 720p. Halo 3 is one, at 1152×640. The very popular Call of Duty series often ran at an even lower 1024×600. Again, with this generation, 1080p gaming is promised and already not being delivered. Lots of games run at lower resolution settings, often 1600×900. This is also where we see the disadvantages of Microsoft’s platform, with games running at a lower resolution than their Sony counterpart. Battlefield 4 runs at 900p as compared to Sony’s 1080p and Call of Duty: Ghosts produced a meagre 720p, though this was later changed in a patch. Even the Xbox exclusive Titanfall runs at the odd resolution of 1408×792, on an engine that is essentially a modified version of Valve’s Source engine; a very stable, scalable and reliable engine. Still, the console struggles at maintaining its targeted 60 frames per second.

0Let’s take Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel as another example. This game is yet another title that was first released on previous generation consoles and is now released again on the current one. Looking at the PC system requirements of this game shows us this is not a very intensive game. Minimum requirements are a low-powered Dual Core CPU, with recommended settings asking for a low-powered Quad Core CPU and medium-range graphics cards that were released four(!) years ago. It makes sense that this game doesn’t require a €1000 gaming rig, since it’s built on a modified Unreal Engine. This is – like the Source Engine – a well established, stable engine. And yet, these brand new consoles that are supposedly so powerful struggle with this game. Performance dwindles around 45 FPS in areas where you need it most: during combat. This also brings with it a great deal of screen tearing. While not a bad result per se, not a result we should expect from these consoles.

Obviously, I am also aware many people can’t afford high-end PC’s or prefer to play on consoles. It is especially for them that I am worried, since they can’t find a better experience of multi-platform games elsewhere. They have to play them on closed systems. They can’t lower graphical settings, or enable or disable V-sync, to change the look or performance of the game. I can choose to go for the PC version. Of course developers get more comfortable with consoles and manage to squeeze out more as time goes on. Look back at Naughty Dog’s games and look at the difference in quality between the first Uncharted and The Last of Us, running on the same, but tweaked engine. Or even Uncharted and its sequel, the release of which was only two years in between. It’s a world of difference, but if consoles already seem to struggle with games across the board, whether it’s performance wise, visually, or – in case of games Assassin’s Creed: Unity – both, what’s next?

All of this doesn’t seem to bode well for these consoles. Initially, I had reservations on the technology being used, but I imagined with this being dedicated, and from PC originating hardware, the theoretical shortcomings would be proven wrong in reality. However, after eighteen months, I’m not convinced (yet). Graphics are good, but not impressive. Especially when compared to the jump in quality from previous consoles to their next generation. Think back to the difference from PS1 to PS2, or PS2 to PS3.

Shiny graphics are nice, but what we need, Image result for no man's skyand really need, is innovation in gameplay. Not yet another cover-based, gritty, third person shooter. Not innovation in quality of visuals, but innovation in mechanics. One game I do keep my eye on, is No Man’s Sky; ambitious and innovative. I surely hope it lives up to its claims, as that might – at last – convince me to buy a current generation console. We need innovation in things like physics and AI; larger, more varied worlds full of life and little details that make it all feel rich in atmosphere. Frankly, I am bored with the triple-a games as of late. I sorely hope I am mistaken and things turn around for the better, but looking at the release schedule for the coming months (or even years), I’m afraid I may be right.

To close this article, I’d like to add a little something. I am a big fan of RedLetterMedia and their gaming part: Previously Recorded. Rather than stealing what they have to say about games, I want to link to their YouTube channel. Particularly to their reviews. The ones that I think lie closest to what I agree with are the reviews on The Order 1886, Alien: Isolation, Bloodborne and their video called “Why Mario is more Immersive than Call of Duty“.

EDIT: I wrote a follow-up article here.