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First Impression: Project Zero 2 – The Crimson Butterfly (PS2) ~ A Sisterly Bond

Fatal_Frame_II_-_Crimson_Butterfly

Wikipedia entry

Ah Fatal Frame, a series I found quite interesting when I was a little child but fell in love with a few years ago when I was able to get my hands on a collector’s edition of the Wii U entry in the series. It was the 5th entry in the series and I loved it so much, I started to hunt down all the other entries in the series. Last year, I was able to get myself all the European released games on PS2, in a physical copy! While testing them out,  enjoyed myself quite a lot with Fatal Frame 2. So, I kept playing that game. It’s no secret that I enjoyed myself with this game since I gave a spot on my top 10 games I played in 2018. So what are my actual opinions on this game? Well, let’s find out! And as usual, feel free to leave a comment down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

PS: The article was originally going to be publish on this Sunday, but because today is my 26th birthday, I decided to publish it today as a birthday special.

A sisterly bond

fatal frame II screenshot 2The story starts out with two sisters running around in the forest playing. Suddenly, the pass a stone and it looks like the duo entered another dimension. The two get terrified that there is no easy way out and even worse, the two split up. Not willing, mind you. One of the two sisters get mesmerized with a crimson butterfly that she keeps following.

So, you need to go look for your sister in a creepy and haunted town while you need to escape ghosts and try to find an exit of the city. The setting for this horror game is excellent. The voice acting in this game is really well done, the voices of the two sisters is excellent. I also loved the performances of the ghosts since they kept me on the edge of my seat in certain battles.

The story is mostly told through notes, cutscenes and the environment.  There are moments you are together with your sister and there are moments she sees that damned butterfly again.  She really likes these red butterflies. Now, the story so far has been quite enjoyable. While sometimes I feel that the story is mostly used to string levels and area’s together, it’s executed extremely well. I really felt that something strange was happening and that there were higher powers at play.

Now, I am quite curious where the story of this game will go. The mysteries are getting unrevealed slowly but I still don’t have any answers. Now, do you need to play the first game before you can understand the story of the 2nd game? Well, not at all. The story is totally independent from the first game, while a lot of story mechanics return in the second game, all the characters are new.

Also, I haven’t beaten the original game myself. Now, you might wonder why I have chosen to play this game on the PS2 and not go for the director cut on the XBOX or Wii. That has two reasons. One, I don’t own an XBOX and two, the physical copy of the Wii game is extremely expensive. Now, when I was finishing up this review, I discovered that the game got released on the Nintendo eShop, so I bought myself a digital copy.

Anyways, we are getting off track here. The story itself is interesting. It’s two fold actually. In one part, it’s about how to escape the village and in another part, it’s about saving your sister. So, I have the impression that this game has multiple endings. But, I have to beat the game to know that for sure!

Spooky Camera

project_zero_2-6Because this is a Fatal Frame game, the Camera Obscura shows itself again. If you have played any other games in the series, you know how this game plays. In this game, you have to explore an area that’s filled with ghosts. Some ghosts aren’t hostile but the most of them are hostile. In order to defeat the ghosts, you have to take pictures of the ghosts. The better they are in frame, the more damage they receive. The damage also depends on the film you use. There is an aspect of survival horror to this game since the amount of film isn’t infinite. The stronger films are really hard to find and quite rare.

Combat in this game is an awkward dance with the ghosts. You have to come close to snap a good picture. But, if they are too close, they can grab you and you get damage. So, you have to move backwards. Now, the camera you use is quite old. So, it needs to recharge after each use. You have audio and visual cues to see when the camera is recharging.

To be honest, I found the combat controls better in the Wii U game I played. In my review of Resident Evil 4, I mentioned that I had difficulty with aiming my gun on the PlayStation 2. The same thing applies here. So, each play session, I have to get used to the controls. It doesn’t take too long, but it makes me miss the Wii U controls. Maybe when I play the Wii version, I won’t have this issue too much.

Now, this game doesn’t have an autosave. Much like Resident Evil 4, you can save at certain locations. In this game, it’s a red lantern on a pedestal. You have a limited amount of save slots, but that doesn’t bother me too much since it helps me to get more points. Side note, there is an improvement over the save system of Resident Evil since there is a small picture accompanying the save file.

Yes, the better the image, the higher the points you get. These points can be used to upgrade your camera. Upgrades like shutter speed or damage output. You can also find upgrades in various, sometimes hidden, locations to get certain things up to a higher level. There is a safer way in earning points as well. If you are able to make a picture of the scripted harmless ghosts, you get some bonus points. So, it’s highly advised to explore around and not go to solve the puzzles straight away.

Oh yes, this game has puzzles. Some of the puzzles require you to analyze a photograph and try to work out where it came from. Other puzzles require you to find a certain key item to open a door or to lift a curse on a door in order to progress.

Like a lot of other survival horror games, this game also suffers from some jump scares. Now, I find the build up to the jump scares pretty good. Most of the jump scares happen a bit off screen when you haven’t encountered a ghost for a while. In the Wii U game, the jump scares were way worse. Also, it’s quite possible to miss some jump scares if you didn’t explore certain areas of the room.

Exploring the city and the buildings is made much easier with a great map system. The map draws itself while you are exploring. The area only adds itself when the area is discovered. Also, when a door is locked, the door isn’t shown in blue but in red. Now, if you unlock a door when solving a puzzle that is somewhere else on the map, I don’t know for sure if the door also changes to blue. Since, to be honest, I haven’t paid attention to that.

There are a few additional things to the combat and gameplay I’m going to keep a secret for this article. The only thing I’ll say about it is that there is a combo system and a few other features. The camera is used in so many different unique and creative ways, it keeps the mechanic from being repetitive.

 Atmosphere in the dark

fatal frame II screenshotThis game is totally worth to wear the title of horror game. The atmosphere of the game is done extremely well. While this game first released on the PS, this game still looks amazing to this day. Some models and textures do show their age, but the lighting and visual design gives an extremely creepy atmosphere. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat during most of my play sessions. I even went as far as closing the curtains of my room or to play this game at night with a good pair of headphones and in the dark. Only the dim glow of my darkened LCD television to keep me company.

I have played this game without and with my headset on. I found the game better when I played with a headset or with a good sound system. I wouldn’t listen to most of the soundtrack outside of the game but in the game, it helps to build the scary atmosphere so well. Some tracks sound like wind blowing through the room or that something is chasing and/or following you. Together with the amazing sound design of the ghosts, this game is just creepy.

The ghosts don’t sound either human nor other worldly. This is especially creepy because the ghosts moan and speak in Japanese. Well, most of them speak Japanese. Some ghosts also speak English and hearing that suddenly makes it even more creepy. They even managed to make picking up items scary with playing an animation and a creepy sound effect each time when you reach down to pick up an item. You also never know what the item will be since it’s a glowing white orb on the ground. It’s also possible to find some items in various drawers and house hold items. So, explore away!

Now, the bulk of the story is told through the locations you visit. There are some cut scenes where somethings are explained, but the visuals help to tell the story. There are also some moments where you find a stone that tells some additional story to flesh out the story even more. Earlier in this first impression, I talked about how the two sisters entered a cursed village and they are trying to find their way out. In this game you explore various locations. From a graveyard to a scary forest. You also explore various typical Japanese homes to a big shrine. While I was exploring, I really felt I was exploring an abandoned haunted village. The realism and attention for detail in the visual presentation is amazing.

Something I really want to praise this game for is that lighting. The lighting in this game is one of the strongest points. Of course, the game takes place during the night. It’s never light outside. At least, so far. I haven’t finished the game after all. The various candles littered around the village help to sell the atmosphere even more. The flashlight that you can control with one of the joysticks of the PS controller works flawlessly.

So, I think it’s quite clear that the atmosphere of this game is solid. When you want to play a good horror game, I highly recommend this game. The game also provides you with some good challenges. From tricky ghost encounters to clever puzzles. Now, you can run away from the ghosts, but you’ll lose points. And if you don’t get enough points, you might not be able to defeat certain bosses easily. Since, points = upgrades.

The controls is something that some people don’t like about this game. Personally, I got used to them after a while. I already talked about the struggle I had with the aiming of the camera. But, that also helps in the immersion department in a way. Remember, you are playing as a young Japanese girl trapped in a cursed village looking for your sister and a way to escape. Of course, you are scared and you are looking frantically for a way to defend yourself.

I’m almost forgetting to talk about the animation of this game. The animation in this game gets extremely close to the uncanny valley. I’m convinced that it’s in the uncanny valley for some. Especially how certain characters react and express their emotions. For example, how the two sisters like arms when they are witnessing something scary for the first time. They are looking for comfort with each other. It still blows my mind that there was such life like animation on the PlayStation 2.

I could continue to talk about this game for a while longer but most of it will be praising the game. If you are a horror fan, you really owe it to yourself to check out this game. The quality of the Fatal Frame series is up there with the Silent Hill and the original Resident Evil games. I’ll talk a bit more in depth about the game when I write my review. Consider the things I haven’t talked about in this first impression review as nice surprises when you decide to play this game.

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

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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.

Review: Death Mark (Switch) ~ Alive Until Dawn

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Official website

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

Alive until dawn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explore and read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the edge of my seat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

The good:

+ Amazing atmosphere in the visual and audio department.

+ Great writing.

+ The game has a lot of text.

+ …

The bad:

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

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 90/100

NekoJonez’s looking forward to these 10 games in 2019

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The year of 2018 is almost history. The final moments are happening when this article was in the process of being written. Like each year, I want to take the time to look to the upcoming year. Since I’m writing a gaming blog, I especially want to take a look at 10 games I’m quite excited about that currently have a release date in 2019. If you want to know what the 10 best games of 2018 for me where, I have already written an article on that subject. Before I start talking about my list, remember that this list is my personal opinion. It’s quite possible that the games you are looking forward too aren’t on my list. In any case, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the article, my list and/or with your list. And now, it’s time for the actual list in no particular order. 

#10 – Minecraft Dungeons (PC)

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Announcement blogpost

To be honest, Minecon Earth passed me by this year. When I heard about “Minecraft Dungeons” I honestly thought that it was another skin pack for the console edition. I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that it’s actually a new game in the Minecraft universe.

From what I have read on the Minecraft website, the game looks like a dungeon crawler game like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon or The Binding of Isaac in concept. Now, it looks like it’s a multiplayer game, but I hope there will be a single player component to the game as well.

I have started playing Minecraft in late 2011 and I play the game here and there today. While I play less Minecraft today then I did in the past, I still hold Minecraft very near and dear to my heart. Now, I’m quite interested and hyped to see what the Mojang team has in store with this new game and how they are going to use the actual Minecraft mechanics in this new game or if they are going to introduce new mechanics. Maybe, the new game might link to the original game in a way… maybe. We shall see. Currently, there is no release date announced, apart from somewhere in 2019. The only thing we know for sure is that this game is going to release for PC.

 #9 – Desperados III (PC)

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Official Steam page

I remember the day I got introduced to the Desperados games when I visited a coworker of my mom. He introduced me to the game and actually made a copy of his disc for me to play at home.

Yes, I started to play this series illegally. Year later, I actually bought myself a legit copy on Steam and I bought all the other entries in the series. I really love the gameplay of these games. The game is extremely challenging and I haven’t beaten the games until this day. I have come quite far. I was in the final three levels of the original game.

When I was installing Desperados on my laptop, I suddenly noticed that the game got a new post in the news section. To my surprise, a new reboot/sequel got announced and to blow my mind even further, the game was coming in the summer of 2019!

So, I know what I’m going to do this upcoming summer. I’m going to play the first two Desperados games to refresh the story and lore of the series so I can get right into the new game. I’m quite excited to relive my childhood and finally beat the games I wasn’t able to beat as a child.

#8 – Fire Emblem – The Three Houses (Switch)

Nintendo.com Mini-site

H2x1_NSwitch_FireEmblemThreeHouses_image1600wI was playing Fire Emblem Warriors at the time this game got announced. When I saw this game during Nintendo’s E3 presentation, my mind was blown.

When I was watching the trailer, I got the impression that some elements of the Fire Emblem Warriors game actually made it into the actual main series, while staying true to their roots. It also looked like the game got a lot of new mechanics compared to the games I have played on the 3DS.

Now, apart from the Fire Emblem Warriors spin-off I haven’t finished any Fire Emblem game. And all the Fire Emblem games I have started playing were the handheld games. I have never tried a console Fire Emblem. Then again, the Switch is a hybrid; both console and handheld.

Nevertheless, when Spring 2019 rolls around, the game will finally hit the shelves. You can count on it that I’ll have some budget to spare to get myself a copy of this game and give it a try. I want to give this Fire Emblem game a try. Maybe this is the game that convinces me even more that I should finish all the other Fire Emblem games in my collection.

 #7 – Final Fantasy remakes (Switch)

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IGN article

I know for a fact that there are going to be people that are not going to like the following confession from me. I have never finished a Final Fantasy game in my life. I have started a few of them but I haven’t gotten into them at all.

I have Final Fantasy 7 on Steam and I have Final Fantasy X and X-2 on the PS2. I also played a few Final Fantasy remakes on my DS but I haven’t gotten further than the introduction chapters.

They are all extremely interesting and I loved my time playing them but I always got distracted with other games. So, I’m going to grab my chance to change that in 2019. A few of the biggest titles of the Final Fantasy series are getting a HD facelift and are coming to the Nintendo Switch. So, I can take these games on the go and finally finish them. Now, let’s hope I don’t get distracted by other games on my backlog or coming out in 2019.

#6 – Etrain Odyssey Nexus (3DS)

Etrain Odyssey NexusOfficial site

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Etrain Odyssey series on the Nintendo DS and 3DS. When I learned that Etrain Odyssey 5 was going to be last game in the series on the 3DS, I was disappointed yet I was very understanding. There isn’t a good way to actually re-create the gameplay on another system then on the DS or 3DS. Well, you could argue that tablets could work, but still…

Now, the gameplay isn’t unique at all. It’s a challenging dungeon crawler RPG like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon or The Binding of Isaac. What sets this game apart is the fact that you don’t have random dungeons AND you have to draw your very own map. This makes the exploration so unique and personal. It’s highly possible that you miss a pathway because you drew a wall in that place.

But, Atlus gave me two big surprises this year. The first one was that the series is going to get a new life on another platform. Possibly the Nintendo Switch. Only a teaser has been published but I haven’t found to much more information.

The second big news was that Etrain Odyssey X, a game which I honestly thought would stay in Japan for ever, is coming to the west. And sooner than I thought. The game is going to release a bit short of my birthday. On the 5th of February. Man, I can’t wait to play this new entry into the series. Now, I still have to finish all the other games in the series but I’m just so happy that I will have more Etrain Odyssey content coming my way pretty soon. And yes, I pre-ordered myself a copy for my birthday already, which is the 7th of February.

#5 – Animal Crossing (Switch)

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Nintendo.co.uk microsite

Often when I was video’s of Nintendo YouTubers, they all have a story about playing a version of Animal Crossing on either the Gamecube, DS or Wii. I haven’t spent a lot of time with the Animal Crossing series until Animal Crossing New Leaf got released in 2012.

When I started playing the game, I started to understand how people love this series so much. To be honest, I started to fall into love with the series myself. I have spent countless hours on my 3DS manging my town, running errands and doing favors for my towns folk.

This year, I was able to add Animal Crossing: City Folk to my collection. Well, here in Belgium it’s called “Animal Crossing – Let’s Go To Town”. While I didn’t have a lot of time this year to play a game like Animal Crossing, I’ll have more time in 2019 to give the new Animal Crossing title a go and explore the new town I’m going to build.

The reason I love the series so much is that it provides a more relaxing experience. It’s a game I can play to wind down after all the more action packed games or the events in my day. So, I’m looking forward to the version on the Nintendo Switch. And I’m convinced that I’ll see even more people playing their Nintendo Switch on the train once it’s released.

#4 – BloodStained – Ritual of the Night (Multiplatform)

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Yes, I know. This game was also on my list last year. But the game hasn’t been released this year. It’s going to be released in 2019.

We got a spin-off mini-game under the title of BloodStained: Curse of the Moon this year, which I haven’t finished nor played yet.

I have explained in the article from 2017 why I’m so excited to play this game. I’m really looking forward to a new game in the Metroidvania style, since it’s one of my favorite genres and I really feel that not enough games are released in that style.

Now, here is hoping that the game doesn’t get another delay and that I’m able to play this game in 2019.

#3 – Town (Switch)

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Teaser from E3 (Thanks GameExplain)

A new game from the developers who brought us Pokémon? Where do I sign up? While an exact release date hasn’t been announced, I’m sure we going to see more of this game in the upcoming year.

There isn’t too much known about this game. The only things we know are from the teaser that we got in the E3 presentation of Nintendo this year.

Now, I’m getting the impression that this is going to be a sort of tower defense style game. A game where you need to develop a village so you can get the right skills and equipment to fend of the monsters that are going to attack your village. To a certain degree, the game reminds me a bit of Ever Oasis. Now, we will have to wait and see how this game is going to play and more details of the actual gameplay. But, I’m already quite interested after seeing the 40 second teaser.

#2 – Pokemon (Switch)

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So, GameFreak released Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee this year. Personally, I’m a bit mixed on the games. I feel that they made it too accessible and a bit too stripped down for my liking. Now, I’ll save that for my actual review of the game.

But, we were warned that Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee were going to be stripped down versions of the games. In 2019, we are going to get the next generation of Pokémon. My biggest hope is the new game will be more like the Pokémon games of the past like Sun & Moon and less like Pokémon Let’s Go.

Anyways, I think we will have to “wait and see” on this one. While I’m still quite excited for the new Pokémon generation, I have a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth because of Pokémon Let’s GO! But, I have faith in GameFreak. Let’s hope they don’t shame it.

#1 – Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch)

Dragon Quest Builders II

Dragon Quest Wiki entry

This game is already released in Japan, but the western version is going to be released in the future. According to Forbes, the release date of this game will be somewhere in 2019.

If you have read my review of Dragon Quest Builders 1, I think it shouldn’t be a surprise to see this game on this list. I enjoyed the original game so much, I wanted to play more. And, next year I’ll get more.

While not everybody agrees with me on this, but I find that Dragon Quest Builders mixes the Dragon Quest formula perfectly with open world building games like Terreria and Minecraft.

In the sequel, I’ll be able to play with even more features and mechanics then the original. From swimming and waterfalls to gliding through the air. While I’m extremely tempted to watch let’s plays of the Japanese version, I have decided that I’m not going to watch nor read anymore on this game until it’s released. I want to be as spoiler free as possible. But, you can be sure that whenever this game releases here in the west, I’ll be playing it as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Closing words

So, 2019 is almost here. To my surprise, there aren’t a lot of games announced for 2019. I’m rather curious to see what next year is going to bring. I have a gut feeling that 2019 will be a slow year for gaming that’s going to build up for a special 2020. There are a few games in 2020 I’m also really hyped for like Age of Empires IV and Beyond Good and Evil 2.

Then again, 2019 hasn’t started yet. It’s quite possible that a lot of games are going to be announced and that 2019 will still be an amazing year for gaming after all. Only time will tell.

In any case, I’m not going to ramble too much here. 2018 was an interesting year for me, but 2019 shows a lot of promise and I’m looking forward to the challenges that’s life going to throw my way in the upcoming year. Of course, I’ll still be playing games and you will still be able to read about my adventures on my blog. So, thank you for taking your time into reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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

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

Place 10: Angels of Death (Nintendo Switch)

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My review

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

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

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

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

Place 9: Shining Resonance – Refrain (Switch)

Shining_Metal_SwitchLarge.jpgWikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

Atelier Rorona

Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

Place 7: Resident Evil 4 (PlayStation 2)

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Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

Place 5: Death Mark  (Nintendo Switch)

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Official website

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

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

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

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

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

Place 4: Blossom Tales (Switch)

Blossom Tales

My review

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

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

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

Place 3: Fire Emblem Warriors (Nintendo Switch)

Fire-Emblem-Warriors-369674-Detail

My review

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

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

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

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

Place 2: Dragon Quest Builders (Nintendo Switch)

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My review

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

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

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

Honorable mentions

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

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

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

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My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrapping up 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publishing: Heralds of the Order – A New Handdrawn Turnbased Adventure!

Heralds of the Order is a turn-based strategy game boiled down to the genre’s core principles. Utilize positioning and abilities with elaborate patterns to achieve victory! Featuring hand drawn art and over 20 story chapters.

Story

Maala, the realm without gods, finds itself on the verge of catastrophe.  Objects of ancient power resurface, triggering a race to claim them, one that promises to engulf the world in war. It is your duty as a Patronus of the Order to go forth and restore balance. Along the way you will find new allies and face countless foes, as the line between myth and reality shatters.

Key Features

  • Turn-based tactical combat boiled down to its core priciples.
  • A sprawling story that will take you on a gripping journey across Maala.
  • 8 party members each with their unique motivations and abilities.
  • Hand-drawn art and traditional rotoscoped
  • Over 20 handcrafted missions taking place in 6 unique environments.
  • Adapt your strategy! Customize your party‘s stats and choose from the numerous God Powers to overcome the challenges ahead of you.
  • Unique boss fights with devastating attacks.

Combat Features

  • Abilities with elaborate patterns.
  • Positioning, flanking and countering the enemy’s defences are the key to victory.
  • Elaborate battlefields with various boons and hazzards.
  • Unique energy management system that determines the ebb and flow of combat.
  • Devastating God Powers which can alter the course of combat.

Media

Videos

A video of me playing trough our free demoHere’s an interview we did with Eddie from Playing Indies

Character Art

Articles

“Let’s save the world of Maala in this new turn-based strategy game inspired by The Banner Saga. ” – TURN-BASED LOVER

“”Heralds of The Order” by @ArcheanGames promises richly detailed turn-based strategy. ” – CaptainD, Indie Game News

Downloads

GameJolt Archean Games Download

https://gamejolt.com/games/herald-of-the-order/366356

About the team

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We’re a three man team, consisting of two programmers and one artist, based in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. We spent our high school years dreaming of a career in the games industry, learning the basics of game-making. When we began university we decided that it was the perfect time to try our luck in the indie scene. And so we began developing Heralds of the Order – our first major project.

Twitter – FacebookItch.io

 

 

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

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Created by: JesseG

Created in: TR4

Rating: 9.25

Released: 23/08/2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal score: 9/10

Wolfpack screenie

Lost in Temple

Created by: Sal

Created in: TR5

Rating: 5.98

Released: 11/10/2015

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

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

Lost in Temple screenie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal score: 4/10

Poseidons Sanctum

Poseidons Sanctum screenie

Created by: Sarikman

Created in: TR3

Rating: 8.94

Released: 21/11/2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal score: 8/10

Final words

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

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

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

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

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

Tomb_Raider_raid

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

 

Publishing: The Fur in Me

Logo

In “The Fur in Me”, you play with a young member of the Fur race in his quest to save his own world from the mad Fearflies. To do so, you’ll have to smash your enemies while matching your color with theirs.What makes this game challenging is the fact that, not only you have to avoid the traps, but also make sure you change your color fast enough or you lose.

Game Features

  • Genre: 2D platform match color ;
  • Gameplay: run, jump, smash and change colors (at the moment there are 3 colors but there will be 6 ) ;
  • Story: find out how the Fearflies invasion started by collecting the missing images spread throughout the world ;
  • Aesthetics: 7 different and colorful worlds ;
  • Audio: joyful sounds and music ;

Modes

  • Main Story ;
  • Challenges
    • 6 different levels of difficulties :
    • Normal mode : Match same colors ;
    • Hardcore mode : Match different colors ;
  • Achievements : In game achievements (medals) :
  • Timer ;
  • Number of deaths ;
  • Number of images collected ;
  • Assist Option : Tweak attributes to adjust the gameplay to your play style :
    • Number of Jumps ;
    • Invincibility ;
    • (You can turn Assist Option ON or OFF whenever you want but if you turn it ON, you won’t receive achievements for the current level) ;

Other Features 

  • Target Audience : Fans of games like Super Meat Boy and Rayman ;
  • Localization :
    • English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish.
  • Control options :
    • Gamepad : Xbox 360, Xbox one ;
    • Keyboard ;
  • Platform : Initially, the game will be developed for PC. After launch, it will be ported to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ;
  • Stores : Steam at the moment but considering others like itch.io, gog, humble store…

For more information

Website – Youtube/Trailer – Facebook – Twitter – Instagram –  Steam

A bit about the developer

Hey! My name is João Ladeira, I’m 26 years old , Portuguese and have a degree in electronics and computers.

Despite having played games all my life, I never had an interest in creating them. That changed 2 or 3 years after I entered university and started learning Unity at home. Then I got a job as an AR developer and worked in AR and VR for about 1.5 years (with Unity too) . During that time, aside from the job, I made several game prototypes and published 2 basic android games in the store.

Although AR and VR are very interesting technologies, my passion for games became bigger and I decided it was time to create a game whose goal wasn’t just to learn about the engine (Unity). So I decided to create a JRPG with a slightly different combat. My idea was to have a really good looking demo and use Kickstarter in order to gather funds to finish the game. At the time I had a 2D artist friend with me but he ended up not having time and I ended up realizing that the scope of my project was too big to be accomplished alone.

After reality hit me in the face, I stayed 2 days wondering what I was going to do. I decided to gather all the assets I had from the store and when I looked at what I had, I realized that I could create a platform game.

I am no illustrator nor musician. The only tangible skill I have is programming . But I really wanted to create a gorgeous looking game with great sound and story. So, I turned myself to the asset store and free images/sounds I could find on the internet.
The real challenge here was : how am I going to make a great game with beautiful and coherent visuals and cool mechanics with assets that have “nothing” to do with each other?

I took this challenge and, one year later (filled with lots of testing and experimentation) I think I’m on the right track to tackle it and to show that you can create a great game using only assets already made. It’s all about how you use them and the little changes you introduce in them.

The curious thing is that, in the process of creating the best game I could with what I had, I ended up creating the game I wanted to but didn’t know.

Now that I have everything aligned, I decided to start marketing it to make sure I build a community around the game and get good visibility.
João Ladeira (John Ladder)

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Publishing: The Evolution of AI in movies Infographic

AIinfographic.jpg

If you want to read more and know more about the authors of this infographic, you can visit their site at: https://enlightened-digital.com/ai-goes-to-the-movies-a-history-of-artificial-intelligence-in-film/

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

ageofmythologyextendededitionSteam store page

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

Tale of the Dragon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God powers and such

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s dance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

The bad:

-The visuals are just okay.

-The Tale of the Dragon DLC misses some polish.

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

-The save menu should display more information.

-Dying online multiplayer community.

The good:

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

+ You can use mods.

+ Amazing and addictive RTS gameplay.

+ Amazing soundtrack & sound design.

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

+ Good story.

+ …

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

Score: 70/100

 

 

The Sunshine Blogger Award #2 of 2018 for NekoJonez

sunshine.jpg

It took me quite some time to reply to this. I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger award for the second time this year. Now, I want thank Why We Play Games for this award. The recognition means a lot to me. I just love writing and sharing my experiences with people who want to read my stories. And, people do enjoy it. As shown by the various community awards my blog keeps getting. I also love these community awards, since it not only helps the readers to discover new people, it’s also a motivational boost for the person who receives it. And another reason is, it’s a nice oppertunity to get to know the actual person behind the blog. So, it’s time to do my duty here and talk about this award. As usual, feel free to give your opinion on the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

The rules

Ah, copy-paste is a useful thing in these kind of situations.

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

So, we can already check that first one from the introduction. Now, let’s take a look at the questions that Why We Play Games asked us.

Questions and answer

1. What is the game that you play the most?

Well, I have some games I have clocked more than 200 hours in. Since not every console tracks your play time, I can’t say with which game I spent the most time. So, here are a few.

Minecraft: it’s a game I play on and off. There are times I don’t play anything else besides Minecraft and there are times I don’t want to play it. I just love exploring the worlds the generator throws at me. I create a base, where the main focus is a storage system of all the different things I hoard during my explorations. Also, I have very fond memories of playing on various servers with my friends. Ah, good times.

Europa Universalis IV: I have to thank one of my best friends MiseryLC for this. From the over 350 hours I have clocked in this game, I think more than half is spent with him. It’s really surprising how addictive this game is while it’s nothing more than staring at a map.

To avoid that this article gets too long, here are a few games that I adore and I have spent ages on playing.

Rollercoaster Tycoon, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, The Legend of Zelda Oracle of Ages / Oracle of Seasons, Age of Mythology and The Legend of Zelda – Breath Of The Wild to name a few

2. What is your favorite gaming memory?

Well, it are the memories that stick with me. Like various stories I can tell from my times playing together with friends. Besides that, there are various other games of which the story really hit some emotional strings.

Games like A Hat in TimeThe Legend of Zelda – Breath Of The Wild, Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, Zero Time Dilemma (and the whole Zero Escape series actually)Bioshock 2, and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon are just a few games that come to mind.

There are other games were the story or the concept really interests me. Games like Alan Wake, Evoland, Remember Me and Mirror’s Edge are a few that come to mind. I could list these games for hours.

I just love how the give inspiration for other stories. When I was a young lad (I’m 25 now) I used to write fantasy stories. And playing these games and them giving me new inspiration for writing stories is just amazing. So, I’m sorry that I can’t pinpoint my favorite memory since I have too many.

3. What is your favorite gaming series?

This is an evil question. But if I have to name one series that’s almost always an insta-buy for me than it’s… The Legend of Zelda. Those games introduced me at my favorite genre in gaming and that’s the adventure genre. Which are adventure games.

While I love playing a lot of genres, adventure games are my absolute favorite. There aren’t too many genres that I love playing more. I just love exploring worlds and going on quests. Sometimes I enjoy some additional RPG elements like in Pokémon and sometimes I want to explore tombs like in Tomb Raider.

4. What is your favorite part about gaming?

The answer to this question has two parts for me. The first part is simple. Gaming is my hobby. It helps to get my stress levels down and help me relax. In addition to this, it transports me to different worlds and have amazing experiences. And these experiences feel more immersive than movies or books.

The second answer is this blog. I love sharing my experiences with you all. Thanks to this blog, various developers contacted me and gave amazing and very interesting experiences to play.

So, thanks to this blog I can combine the two biggest things I love about this hobby. I can relax and enjoy playing games while I’m able to share my opinion about it.

Actually, thinking about this question, I have another answer as well. I enjoy having interesting experiences. And thanks to modern and retro games I have that experience. That’s why I perhaps go after the more unique and less known games.

5. What is your favorite genre of music?

If I have to choose an absolute favorite style of music, I have to say that I love Euphoric Hardstyle. Here is an example of this style of music, it’s an almost 3 hour long mix created by Euphoric Hardstylez.

I can’t say when I discovered hardstyle. Back when I was younger, I had a friend who introduced me to Angerfist and various other techno hardcore artists. I think that thanks to YouTube I discovered artists like Coone, Zatox, Code Black, Frontliner, Wasted Penguins and various others.

Yet, I don’t like every hardstyle track. It has to be melodic. I really dislike music where it sounds like some broken machines. While I’m sure there is an audience for those styles of music, it’s not really in my library.

Besides that, I have a few other genres that I really like. Obviously, I really like game OST’s. Otherwise I wouldn’t have written a lot of articles about my favorite tracks I heard while playing games. I also like vocaloid, chiptune, orchestral, techno, dance, trance, eurobeat, pop rock, symphonic metal, power metal, drum & bass…

6. What is your favorite book or book series?

Well shoot, I’m not really a book reader. I used to enjoy reading books but the last time I actually read a book was a couple of years ago when I read the novelization of Alan Wake.

It’s really awkward. I enjoy writing stories and novels, but I don’t like reading them. I think my main issue is that I always think at how things could be written differently. How would I have written the story?

And now, allow me to make it even more awkward. I love visual novels*. The asterisk means that there is an exception. I don’t like kinetic novels, those games where there is barely any gameplay.

I love reading stories in games. Games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Another Code, Time Hollow and Corpse Party are just a few examples of games I really like to play. These games are very rare and I rarely come across them. But, when I find them, these games I always finish.

So, yeah. I think I read a maximum of one book per year. And in most cases these are books related to my eduction or a game series I really like. Yet, I adore story heavy games and I love writing stories myself.

7. What things do you do to relax?

Besides playing games, I really love writing. For some reason, it helps me to zone out. When I was younger, I always wanted to create content or improve already existing content. After experimenting with creating videos, music, art and various other things… I finally settled on writing.

So, other things I really like doing are watching anime. I really like anime since it feels nostalgic but always new and fresh. Also, in the story lines in anime just appeal more to me than western series.

Another thing I do to relax is experiment with virtual machines or computers. Just trying to find little tricks and tips to fix computers really interests me. I find that I learn the most when I was able to experiment or find it out myself.

Let’s not forget about my theater group. I really enjoy being up on stage and playing a role to entertain an audience. It’s quite a lot of work in studying lines and during rehearsals but it’s oh so gratifying when you get the applause when everything comes together.

On rare occasions, I really like exploring cities. It’s really fun to do. Just take a train to a city and explore. Don’t prepare yourself. Besides the opening hours of some places you want to visit. But, just explore the city. I have discovered so many places that way.

8. What inspired you to start blogging?

I have told this story various times before. I don’t have a large family, but we have a lot of family friends. So, I got tired of telling each story five or six times each family party. Or answering the same questions again and again: “How is school?” or “How is it going with such and such?”. So, that’s why I decided to make a website and share these stories on a personal site. I wrote my articles in my native language back then, which is Dutch. Well… it’s Flemish. But Flemish and Dutch are like American and British English. Quite similar but not the same.

At first, I shared it with Facebook but not too long after, I got visitors that found my blog over Google. One summer week when nothing special was happening I decided to write a game review. And I got hooked.

I decided to remove the Dutch blog, but I still missed writing. So, back in 2013 I decided to start writing in English after I played the reboot of Tomb Raider.

Besides that, I have been writing since my childhood. I just love writing and creating stories. As I said earlier, I’m not that good at creating art or music; so I settled on writing.

9. What is one of your favorite articles that you have written?

I have been writing for 8 years on my blog so picking one of my favorites is quite difficult to do. I enjoy writing each and every article a lot. It’s fun thinking and reflecting on the gaming industry.

But, if I have to choose it’s my Zelda project I did last year. Just the fact that I was able to work along all these other bloggers and that two of those bloggers started the Final Fantasy project in the style I did my Zelda project… well, it’s humbling.

This year I’m following it up with the Tomb Raider project, which I’m quite excited about. We are trying to aim the release in October.

10. What is your favorite part about blogging?

The moment when it all comes together. When I’m able to write and don’t need to interrupt myself with looking something up or thinking on how I such formulate a certain sentence.

But, something I love doing more is the interaction with readers and developers. Yeah, the PR stuff. I write this gaming blog for two reasons. The first reason is to have some sort of log/diary of my gaming life.

My 2nd reason is to talk about games that I want to talk about. Certain games I play don’t get a lot of attention and I want to change that. Thanks to that, I got the chance to play various games that have unique experiences.

It surprises me every time that developers actually want to know my opinion or what I would change in a game. It’s quite an honor and I enjoy playing the beta versions of these games and giving them feedback to improve their game. And I enjoy playing these games months or years later to see what the finished product is.

11. What is one piece of advice you would give to other bloggers?

Well, I have been blogging for 8 years so I could give various points of advice. But something I think is very important is, get yourself a place to write down notes that’s handy to take along and is easy to manage.

I use a built in note app on my tablet. It’s easy to sort and when I’m looking for certain notes about a game, I can easily find them. It’s a godsend. Since you never know when inspiration will strike.

My 11 nominations

Drakulus – I really like the style of content he puts out. He is a great reviewer and always gives his honest opinion. Check him out.

SheikahPlate – A very tasty gaming blog run by an outstanding woman!

TriformTrinity – This guy creates amazing content. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

LaterLevels – Always a joy to read and maybe level up… 😉

I Played The Game! – Thanks again for helping me defeat those theft bots earlier this year. You are a great guy and write pretty nice stuff.

LividLightning – I’m so glad that you are back. I really love your stuff.

KillerRobotics – The support this guy gives to bloggers like us is heartwarming. He also creates very interesting content for tech people so give it a read!

FalconGameReviews – Reading his blog want me to spend a whole afternoon browsing his website. Good stuff man.

OverThinkerY – I don’t need to overthink this to nominate this blog!

AdventureRules – The charm and art on your blog is lovely as is the writing and blogging collabs you organise!

The Well Red Mage – Hey my magey friend! Keep rocking on!

AmbiGamingCorner – What are you doing? Go and read AmbiGamingCorner, this is a must read site!

And there are many others I would love to nominate but I already cheated with 12 bloggers here… Sorry to everybody else.

My 11 questions

  1. At what point do you decide a certain game is good enough to write an article about?
  2. How would you describe your own writing style?
  3. About what would you want to write if you weren’t allow to write about games for a year?
  4. Would you wait on the DLC release of a game before you review the game or do you review the DLC later?
  5. What inspires you to come up with ideas for articles and/or events?
  6. How do you write? Do you create a draft first or just start writing? Do you write while listening to music?
  7. Do you have hobbies and/or activities you do outside writing/gaming?
  8. What game(s) are underrated or not well known enough in your opinion?
  9. Are there genres you don’t like reviewing and why?
  10. Would you considering writing/blogging as a job?
  11. What you dislike doing the most when writing or publishing an article?

Closing words

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this, since I really enjoy writing Q&A’s like this. If you ever have a question for me, feel free to contact me on Twitter or my contact page. I love answering them.

Receiving community awards like these are quite a lot of fun. The fact that your peers recognize you is such a humbling feeling. But, I’m also quite surprised with the amount of traffic my blog is getting the past few months. It’s a big motivation to me to continue in what I’m doing and I hope you keep enjoying the content I’m writing. So, with that, I hope I’ll be able to welcome you in another article but until then have a great rest of your day and take care.