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First Impression: Cave Digger (PC – Steam) ~ Diggy Diggy Dig. (Non-VR Version)

capsule_616x353-1Steam store page

At least once every two or three months, I get an email from a developer who is asking me to review their VR-game. I always have to decline since I quite easily get migraine attacks from VR headsets and that’s one of the main reasons why I don’t play VR and don’t even own a VR headset. Now, why am I taking a look at a VR game then? Well, because the developers of “Cave Digger” made a non-VR version of this game and asked me to write an honest review about their game. So, a VR game that went “Non-VR”, is it any good, or should it remain a VR-game? Let’s dive right into the caves while I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. (A press code was provided by the developer to write this article)

Diggy Diggy Dig

Cave-Digger-PC-Edition-3dIn this game, you play as a digger for the Frontier. For the first part of the game, the story doesn’t have a big hook to pull you in. But, the further you get into the game, the bigger the actual hook gets. If you want to enjoy most of the story in this game, I highly advise you to take the second radio station on your train since it describes the mystery a lot better. More on that later.

The goal in this game is that you not only uncover the mystery in this game but you also rebuild the city with the riches you find down in the caves. The more you explore the cave, the more information you get from hidden parts of the caves where a lot of jewels and riches reside that might help you earn more money and buy more upgrades. 

So, what is the mystery about? To stay as spoiler-free as I can, it’s about a hidden ancient civilization that might still be alive or too advanced for our human race. So, in the alternative western setting, you have to make a decision about what to do. I have been playing this game for 3 to 4 hours now and I haven’t met another human character… Physically that is. Most of the story is told over the radio. And I do have a complaint about it. 

The voice acting of the characters is good. It pulls you into the story without an issue. Now, English isn’t my native language and while I’m quite good at speaking it, sometimes I enjoy it when there are subtitles when a word or an expression is used that I don’t know. Sadly enough, this game doesn’t have subtitles. That’s a big bummer. 

It would have been great if there was some sort of archive of previous broadcasts. It would be a great help to those who took a (long) break while playing this game to catch up at what’s happening or to re-listen again in case you missed some parts. 

At first, I thought that this game was going to be quite linear, but that is far from the truth. Since this game has 9 different endings. Yes, the replay value of this game is quite high. Now, I haven’t encountered one of the endings so far but I’m quite curious to see them. So, when I have beaten the game and I write a follow-up review article, I’ll talk more in-depth about the endings. One thing I’m going to say already is that there funny and interesting easter eggs in this game that add a whole lot of charm to the game.

Two Ways Exploration

There are two ways you can explore, you can go to the elevator and the train. The main game is going on an adventure with your train. But, it’s easy to earn money by exploring with the elevator. You need to do both since some items to progress in the game without going into a crazy grinding mode is by buying the items at the elevator. 

The gameplay of the “two modes” are also quite different. In the elevator, you can have secret vault doors, but I don’t know how to interact with them. Most likely, I haven’t found the correct tool. You also get three different stages where you get 30 seconds to mine out resources or collect artifacts. After 30 seconds, you move on to the next section. I find that it’s quite easy to throw a stick of dynamite to the walls and use the vacuum glove to collect all the gems before they disappear into the edges of the elevator. Oh yes, that happens during the transition of the sections as well. 

So, let’s talk about train exploration. With this train, you go into the caves where you have various places you can go to get materials and explore. At first, the train goes extremely slowly but the further you upgrade your train, the faster you will be able to travel. Thankfully, there are warp points to certain landmarks so you don’t have to restart your whole travel each and every run. 

The tutorial only explains the basic controls. But the rest is up to you to actually figure out on your own. How you safely extract fossils and oil from the caves, it’s up to you to figure out. Even what the strange golden statues are doing on several dig sites.

Now, to collect the goodies, you have to throw them in the deposit box in your train. Before I got the glove, I found it extremely annoying to pick up the items one by one and deposit them. When I discovered that the glove allows you to suck up several items at once, I found that the game opens up a lot more. Also, it doesn’t take long before you meet your chest buddy who is also a deposit point and even eats up whole piles of gems and deposits them for you. 

Now, this lack of tutorial is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it makes the game a bit more challenging and it feels more rewarding when you figure something out and solve a puzzle. On the other hand, things like the fact that the glove is a vacuum don’t get explained and might turn some people off from this game… 

Something I can forgive is the fact that this game can be a bit repetitive. If you are interested in this game, I highly recommend that you play this game in short bursts since otherwise, this game might become quite boring. 

Something is wrong, I can feel it.

To be quite honest with you, I felt quite conflicted while writing this article. Since there is a lot that this game does right but the mistakes that this game makes are quite major. 

A great example of this is the visual presentation. Visually, this game looks amazing. The environments are detailed and feel life-like. For example, there is a volcano level in the elevator and you really feel that you are mining in an extremely hot place. In terms of animations, it’s good. Nothing too groundbreaking but good. 

Yet, there are several moments where I thought: “shouldn’t there be some visual to tell the player you are breaking this rock?” or “why does my drill always get so zoomed in when I walk very close to walls?”  or “why isn’t there a fuse animation on the dynamite?” … There are several more of these questions in the visual department, sadly enough. There isn’t enough feedback from the game to the player to communicate if they are hitting or missing a rock for example and this breaks the immersion fast. 

And it pains me to say that the smooth and stable visual presentation isn’t the only victim to this problem. The controls are as well. In most cases, the controls of this game work amazingly. I rarely felt like I was cheated out of something or that the game was unresponsive. Yet, I felt that the vacuum didn’t always work as I was expecting, and carrying around items to other places felt a bit … janky. Sometimes I dropped an item with me being unable to explain why my character dropped the item. 

But there also problems with the audiovisual presentation. The soundtrack of this game is just amazing. The variety of tracks in this game is just perfect. I really enjoy the fact there are different genres present in this game apart from all old-western-style music. The sound effects are pretty neat as well but don’t always play consistently. Sometimes they don’t play and sometimes they play for too long. Sounds that don’t always play are the drill when you are excavating relics and sounds that play too long are your gloves when you are using the super punch and cancel it. 

Not even the UI gets saved in build 2020-08-25. For some reason, there are still controller controls in the level bottom of the pause menu… while I don’t have a controller connected. On top of that, the counter for the number of unlocked endings is completely wrong. Just look at this screenshot to see both issues:

So yeah, it pains me to see this since you can clearly see that the rest of the UI is fine and works great. You can see your current main objective and your special mission to gain additional resources but mistakes like I mentioned above are just giving this game a sort of “beta” feel.

Now, most of the issues I mentioned so far I can personally overlook to a certain degree. Yes, they are annoying and they make the game less enjoyable but not unplayable for me. Yet, the thing that makes the game a bit unplayable in my opinion is the fact there is no real way to lose this game. There is no real danger in this game lurking. There is even no punishment for jumping in the ravine, you simply respawn next to your train.

So, is this game a bad or a good game? On one hand, this game is extremely relaxing and maybe it isn’t so bad that there isn’t a lot of danger lurking over your shoulder so you can enjoy the game at your own pace. Yet, on the other hand, I got a bit bored during parts of this game since I didn’t feel challenged at all.

I think the best conclusion is this. This game is perfectly balanced, as all things should be. While it has (huge) flaws that can turn people away, there are a lot of good things that can draw others in. I honestly think that with some more depth and polish, this game can become a real hit but in it’s current state, I think it will become a footnote in history.

Now, I think the big problem I have with this game is that I have played a game that did this concept a whole lot better in my opinion. I’m talking about SteamWorld Dig. Maybe I’m comparing this game and that game a bit too much in my mind diminishing my experience with this game. But, that makes this game: not a bad game. Since I enjoy trying to get the achievements in this game.

As I said earlier, I’m conflicted about this game. On one hand, I enjoy this game and I would recommend it to people who enjoy games like Minecraft or Steamworld Dig, but on the other hand, I don’t want to recommend this game since it needs a lot more work to be enjoyed by more than a niche audience. Also, I haven’t played the VR version of this game. Maybe that version is more polished.

Maybe when I finish all the endings, I might be able to form better opinions on this game. And who knows, maybe by then a few patches are released that improve the game and I might praise this game a lot more in my review. But for now, I think I’m going to wrap up this article. 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!

Game Quicky: WeakWood Throne (Switch) ~ An Adventure For You.

Nintendo.com page

It has been a long time, hasn’t it? I’m sorry about that, but moving houses just takes a lot of your time. On top of that, my internet connection isn’t up and running yet but I’m quite sure that in the upcoming week, that will be fixed. In any case, this offline time give me some time to play some developer request games like WeakWood Throne. I got a publisher code on the Nintendo Switch for Drageus Games who as you know always want my 100% honest opinion on the game. So, let’s talk about WeakWood Throne and if you should give it a shot or if you should ignore this game. Should you take on this adventure or should you leave it up to the influencers and watch a let’s play about it? Or should you avoid this game at all costs? Anyways, I think we should take a look at this game in my game quicky format while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

An Adventure For You

The visual presentation of this game is amazing. This game looks like a high budget flash game where the developers put in a lot of hours to make everything look cartoony and vibrant. Everything looks very consistent and has a lot of charm.

I really like how the UI elements and the menu really tie into the visual presentation of the game. I don’t have any complaints about the UI and the visual presentation apart from the mini-map that could have provided a bit more information.

The animation is also pretty good. The only minor nitpick that I have is that the player character is rather static when you are in a boat. But if that’s the only thing, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. If even small details like when you change weapons in your inventory change the weapon that the player character is holding are present in this game, I can only say praise to this game.

The music in this game is good. It really fits the mood of the game extremely well and it adds the relaxing atmosphere of this game. The fact that are only sound effects playing during the night cycle gives the night a more eerie atmosphere than the day.

This game is a completely open world and it doesn’t hold your hand. So, you have to figure out this game by yourself while you are free to explore. So, when you encounter an area with only strong enemies, well tough luck. Have fun escaping that area.

While this game is somewhat challenging when you die you can restart at the screen you died. So, there isn’t a big penalty for failure. The only thing I wished is that the game didn’t kick you back to the main menu and showed a small “game over” screen.

The quality you get for the money for this game is quite nice. This game is only 5€ on the European eShop and I think that’s a fair price for the game. You’ll get your money’s worth of it without any doubt.

Maybe let’s just watch this adventure

There are some things I’m on the fence about with this game. The first thing is the map system. While there is a mini-map, there is no overall map. It would have been so helpful when you were able to see a full map and maybe even keep notes or something on it. For example, where you got a quest from or where the nearest potion shop is.

Speaking about potions, that’s the only way I found to heal your character. There is no passive healing in this game. This is an issue in my opinion since gold is quite rare and some enemies hit quite hard.

There is something that I found a missed opportunity in terms of the day and night cycle. It would bring the game so much more alive when the NPC’s where in their houses or on different locations when it’s night. Now they have the same routine and it’s a bit immersion-breaking.

The controls are quite responsive and good but there is something the ruins it for me. Backing out of a menu is quite tricky since I always am using the “B” button to go out of a menu. But guess what, to escape the menu you have to use the same button to enter it, which is “X”. The “B” button drops items and sadly enough, you don’t pick them up right away.

On top of that, the most frustrating part of the controls is the skateboard and the dodge roll. These two actions are bound to the same button. But here is the thing. Tapping “ZL” does a roll but holding the “ZL” button starts skateboarding. But I can’t get consistent with this mechanic. Sometimes I start skating always when I go to the left and on another screen, I start rolling and never skating.

The combat is quite tricky to master. While there are a lot of higher-level enemies in the early section of the game which will wreck you when you aren’t careful, as soon as you get used to the combat controls, it’s quite enjoyable. Just keep your eye out on how much damage you are doing to the enemy and how much health it has left. If it’s too strong, just avoid it.

Let’s not go on this adventure

Sadly enough, there are some things that I really didn’t like about this game. First of all, let’s talk about hitboxes. In combat, they are just fine. Rarely I felt that I was unable to hit an enemy or that a hit didn’t connect. But the issue starts with everything else. You can clip with NPC’s quite easily and push them around. But the worst of it all is trying to hit plants or bushes. That hitbox is so precise that if you don’t hit it dead center, the hit doesn’t register.

While the sound effects are decent, I fell that there aren’t enough sound effects. If these were for non-essential mechanics, I wouldn’t mind so much but I really missed a sound effect for unable to use a potion, picking up an item, and having low health. Some of them also didn’t make sense at all. Why do lily pads and walking on wooden bridges have the same sound effect?

The biggest issue in this game is the lack of a tutorial. While there is a tutorial in the first few screens, it doesn’t explain the mechanics like leveling up your character or how to use the quest menu and things like that. It’s a real shame since as soon as I got the hang of the leveling up mechanics and being able to buy stronger weapons, I started to enjoy the game more. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention that if you revisit the first screens, the tutorial messages still pop up for some reason.

A minor thing that I really didn’t like is  the screen transitions. My issue with it is that it’s sometimes unclear if you are able to transition to another screen or not.  Sometimes you hit an invisible wall and sometimes you don’t. A few times I wasn’t able to transition to another screen while I was in a boat while I was able to transition on foot.

I think it’s time that I address the elephant in the room. Normally I start my articles by talking about the story or the premise of the game. But in this article, I haven’t done that. That has a very simple reason. The story isn’t that good in my honest opinion. I had to open the store description to get some explanation but it was your generic explanation that almost every RPG has, that there is something wrong in the kingdom and it’s up to you to figure it out and help the people. So, I’m sorry, but if you are looking for deep lore and dialogues, I think this game isn’t for you. Granted, I have only played this game for up to 2 hours and maybe the rest of the game will have a better story but so far it didn’t impress me one bit.

Oh, I’m forgetting about something. The save system. Yes, the save system. While it works, I can’t explain how it works. I think the game saves during every screen transition. But there is no icon indicating that so I can’t tell you for certain.

And the final point I want to make is that this game just forgets to bring the options in the pause menu. So, you have to go to the main menu when you want to change the options of the game. And with that, I think it’s high time to wrap this article up before I forget to save it.

Let’s make a decision

I honestly think that if the game had a better tutorial, better hitbox detection, and a map system… Then this game would have been so much better. This game is well made and has so much potential but it lacks depth on some quite essential levels.

I could forgive the game having a lackluster story if it did give some direction to the game. For example, the story in Breath of the Wild isn’t anything special but it gave the player a goal to work towards and it built the world and the culture of it. On the other hand, I think that I might be expecting too much of a game that cost only 5€.

Can I recommend this game? Well, yes and no. I would recommend this game to people who enjoy playing simple RPG/Adventure games or people who are looking for the next game to play on the bus or in the waiting room. But I’m afraid that the issues of the game hold it back and that it will put a lot of people off.

I enjoyed myself while playing this game for this review but I’m unsure that I’ll finish or revisit the game in the near future. Maybe when I’m on holiday and I’m looking for the next game to finish. Or I might pick this game up again when it gets a major update that fixes (some of) the issues I have mentioned in this article.

Honestly, I think that with the right personality, this game might make an enjoyable let’s play to watch. While the game has it’s flawed to play, it has quite a lot of charm and I think that it’s worth going through it.

So yeah, I’m a bit on the fence about this game. While I have played better games, I also played a lot of worse games. I think that’s the gist of it. I think that this game is a perfect example of a very rough diamond that with some polish can get better.

With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you so much for reading this article and  I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

First Impression: Nightmare Reaper (PC – Steam) ~ Can You Sleep Through This?

nightmare reaper.jpg

Steam store pageGOG page

I can’t tell you exactly why, but I’m a big fan of old school 3D shooters. Last year, I took a look at Ion Fury and Wrath. Honestly, I think that it’s because these games stuck the right balance between modern game design and old school gameplay. Now, one day I stumbled across this game. A game in Early Access that released last year to GOG and Steam. A game that presents itself as a game inspired by Blood, Doom, and Duke Nukem 3D. That’s quite interesting in my eyes. Currently, only the first episode has been released and episode two is coming in the near future. At the moment of writing, the developer said that they are aiming to release the second episode at the end of the summer. But, is this game worth your time and money? Let’s take a look at this game while I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Can you sleep through this?

ss_b7e8b7e313a53c7bf3c33a58c248e23c44b7b9bd.1920x1080You play as an unnamed girl who is stuck in a psychotic ward. Her story is being told through small notes that you unlock after beating each level. In order for you to enjoy the game, you don’t need to pay any attention to the story, at all. But, I can tell you out of the experience that it enhances the game tenfold. My imagination and the spare bits of story that I got gave the world-building quite a lot of meaning. My imagination filled in some gaps that made the story quite interesting.

Now, I can understand that some people won’t enjoy a story that is this bland where it’s quite clear that you need to protect yourself on the character or fill in some of the gaps yourself. But, I didn’t find this a problem at all. Since this game focusses itself a lot more on the gameplay than on the story and in that case I don’t mind a “weaker” story.

I always find it quite difficult to review or criticize a story when I know that you don’t have every piece of the puzzle. A story can start off strong and end up quite weak. Currently, I’m quite interested to see where the story is going to go and if it wraps up with a nice conclusion or if it leaves it up to the player to figure out.

As I said before, the story is mostly told through small notes that you can read on your table after beating a level. You unlock one note for every level you beat. Each note builds on the previous note painting a more complete picture of the situation. There is no voice acting during these notes, but that doesn’t mean that there is no voice acting in the game.

The girl you play as is voiced by Marie-Claire Lavertu and I haven’t found anything about her. Now, this might raise some red flags but don’t you worry. The voice actor nails the voice acting of the main character flawlessly. The grunts, the smirks, the laughs… It’s all done pretty well. She did a pretty amazing job of bringing this troubled character to live without saying one line. I wonder if she also did the screams of the other patients you hear when you are in your room.

So, how do you play this game; since you start off in a hospital room? Well, as the name of the game suggests, you are going to reap some nightmares. So, it’s time to go to sleep and you get transported to a randomly generated level where your goal is to beat your enemies and reach the goal.

Retroception

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This game features randomly generated levels. Well, to a degree. The developer created a whole slew of rooms and the random level generator just fits them together in random order.

So that means, that you might find the same layout once or twice but in most cases, each level and each playthrough is quite different. But, this isn’t the only thing that stands out in this game.

The Steam Store page boasts that this game has over 32 weapons and is going to have 80+ weapons. Now, before you think that this is going to be an overload to manage them all… You don’t have to manage them all. That’s because you can only carry over one weapon from one level to the next. Yes, one weapon.

It gets even better, each weapon might have special abilities and has a certain level. So, you need to think and strategize about which weapon you want to keep and which weapon you want to sell for those precious coins.

These coins can drop from destroying the environment, defeating enemies, selling weapons at the end of a level, finding treasure, and playing the Gameboy Advance Skilltree minigame. Oh yes, the minigame. One doesn’t simply unlock new powerups in this game, you have to earn them by first having enough coins and then beat the mini-platform level. Only when beating a level, you lose your coins and earn your sweet powerup. Trust me, these power-ups are worth it! After defeating some levels, I felt more equipped and stronger to beat my enemies.

If I would take a look at all the enemies and weapons, I think I would be here all day. Let’s first talk about the weapons. You have swords, staffs, shotguns, rocket launchers, tomes, pistols, rifles… It’s a whole lot. Personally, I rarely used the bows since I found their fire rate a bit too slow since this game can get pretty hectic and intense with some enemies and a strong gun fits my playstyle more in these types of gameplay situations. And my preferred weapon was a double-barreled shotgun with the chance to shock my enemies I picked up in one of the earliest levels.

Obviously, I’m going to talk about the enemies right now. You have a whole range of enemies. From hit scanning enemies to enemies that take you with melee attacks. It’s essential for you to learn the patterns of each enemy so you can play accordingly for which enemy you should take out first.

There are some enemies I absolutely hated during my playthroughs. These Dragon Plants that not only spit acid but also spit little egg projectiles that hatch smaller dragons. These didn’t die fast enough for my liking. And then I’m skipping over the enemies who throw what I assume mutated blobs of themselves to you and these blobs track you and when they explode… You lose a LOT of your health. And these blobs are so freaking small and annoying to kill…

Now, would I remove these enemies? Absolutely not. They ramp up the difficulty of this game to a very rewarding level. For having so many different possibilities, I’m surprised how much work there has been put into the balancing of the game. New enemies are introduced one by one so you can get used to them, learn their patterns, and try to manage them in the chaos of a whole enemy filled room.

The “punishment” for death in this game isn’t that harsh. Thankfully, since you will die quite often since this game can be quite rough. But I mean that in a good way. The punishment is that you have to restart the level with the weapon you choose to keep from the previous level. But, you don’t lose your gold. So, if one level is a bit too tough, you can grind up your coins, beat a few skill tree mini-games and try again with some new powers.

During my playthrough, I regularly felt the urge to play just one more round, to try to beat that annoying level. I found that most of this game is quite fair and balanced apart from the fire boss. I’m sorry but I find that boss battle just too difficult. That boss hits a bit too hard. My biggest complaint is that this boss appears after quite a challenging level and then you have to try and beat quite a difficult fight. Thankfully, the developer said that he is going to take a look at how the fight can become a little bit easier. And also, he has given us some helpful advice to beat it. It’s the biggest frustration I have with this game since I have gotten so close several times… But one of these days, I’ll do it and defeat that – CENSORED –

So, would it surprise you if I said that I’m not even done talking about all the mechanics yet? Oh, I haven’t mentioned the power-ups, the random events, and the possible bonus gold you can earn by killing all the enemies, finding all the gold and secrets… Well, I’ll leave these interesting and fun game mechanics up to you to find out. There must still be something to discover when you play this game after reading this article, right?

Shoot everything

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You might have noticed by looking at the screenshots, that this game doesn’t have the most modern graphics. This game goes for a more retro aesthetic with some modern vibes. And the game succeeds in that quite well.

In the visual presentation, I find this game quite exceptional. I really like the visual presentation and animation of this game. From the enemy design to the animations on the weapons, I really think they are well done. Especially, when I saw some early footage of the game and compare it to what’s on offer now, it’s impressive how far this game has come. The only minor complaint I have in the visual department is a timer. Yes, a timer of how long your power-up is lasting. Since there is no inventory in this game for power-ups and health pickups, so it would have been nice to see how much a powerup is going to last when you want to use it to rush a boss or a difficult room.

To finish up my thoughts on the visual presentation, let’s talk about the UI. Overall, it’s quite well done but there are a few minor things that I would change. First of all, the “Reset Default Settings” is a great future but I would rather have that feature reset for example only the game features instead of resetting everything. Another minor complaint I have about the UI is there are no page numbers on the achievement page.

Speaking about achievements, it’s lovely that these give you coins in-game but I find them to also have them as Steam achievements. I mean, there are over 80 already. Maybe this is just me, but I almost got an achievement in every round, if not two or three. Maybe I look at achievements in a totally different light but I found them not rewarding to earn at all.

There is one thing that I haven’t talked about yet and I usually talk about quite early in my articles and that’s the audio of this game. First of all, let’s talk about the sound effects. The sound design of this game is close to perfect. On quite rare occasions, I didn’t hear some trap or pickup sound effects playing, especially during fights but that isn’t such a big deal. These fights are hectic enough when you try to manage large groups of enemies, the sparse health pickups, and the great sound effects of the enemies and weapons.

But I want to talk about the amazing soundtrack by Andrew Hulshult. Now, if this name doesn’t ring a bell. Well, let me just say he created the soundtrack of a little game called Dusk and Wrath: Aeon Of Ruin. Let me just say, if you enjoy the DooM 2016 soundtrack, oh man you are going to enjoy this quite a lot.

Overall, I would recommend this game to people who enjoy retro games and shooters. At its current state, I found this game quite addictive and I had a hard time putting this game down during my summer holidays. Before I knew it, I had put in 11 hours in this game and I’m not bored with it yet. I can’t wait to see what the second episode will bring to the table.

To be honest, I had a really hard time finding negatives to say about this game apart from the fire boss being too tricky for my liking. All the other things are things that are either quite minor or can change because this game is still in active development. I’m going to keep an eye out on this game and maybe you too.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future one but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Game Quicky: Bridge Strike (Switch) ~ Shall We Strike?

H2x1_NSwitchDS_BridgeStrike_image1600wNintendo.com micrositeDrageus Games portfolioOfficial website

A few weeks ago, my developer friends Drageus Games sent me a press kit about Bridge Strike. As usual, they provided a press code to me so I can review this game in my usual 100% honest opinion. Now, Drageus Games didn’t develop this game but a small team called Project R3D from Poland. Now, retro gamers who enjoy playing games on the Commodore Amiga might know this title. Yes, it’s from the same developers. Now, in this article I’m going to take a look at the Switch version. I just want to also say that this game is also released on mobile platforms. With all that said, I think it’s high time to take a look at this game in my usual game quicky format. Did this indie studio create an hidden gem or a game best skipped? Let’s find out while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

We can strike!

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In this game you play as an unnamed soldier who is piloting “The Eagle”. But more about the story in a later section of this article.

Since the game is also a mobile game, the gameplay is quite simple. With the right joystick, you move your aircraft around and you shoot with the A button. Simple controls and easy to understand. They are also extremely responsive. Most of this game was played with my Switch Pro Controller and it felt quite good to control.

If you just look at the screenshots of this game, it does look amazing. The visual presentation is something that I have to admire. It’s extremely well done and I dare even say that it’s quite impressive for being an indie game. Including the audio design, the sound effects have impact and the music is quite enjoyable to listen to as well.

Something I want to mention for sure that they I really liked the dynamic weather system. It was a nice surprise to see this amount of effort to the visuals.

We are out of ammo!

Now, I do want to mention something about the story. I can understand that this story for a game like this doesn’t need to be very involved or have very deep lore. For a simple top down indie shooter game, a generic plot can work. But, I do have some problems with the story this time around.

It’s a bit too generic. There is barely any to no world building in the story. Also, there is no explanation to why you should shoot down the bridges. Do you need to cut off your country’s supply lines?

But, you want to know something funny? The story does get explained and it gets more lore and world building. Believe it or not, it’s in the help section. Yes, the help section. Where you expect something like a tutorial or the button lay-out. Maybe this is a strange translation decision but it battles me.

In addition to that, when you read the story in the help section you get the impression that there is much more to the game then there actually is. That you have to fight a lot of enemies or stay hidden. Now, if the simple tutorial is anything to go by, I’m afraid that’s just nothing more than a bit of text. Besides moving your ships and shooting, there is nothing else in terms of mechanics.

And guess what, this means that the game falls into a pitfall of being repetitive quite easily. There are only three things you have to do in this game. One is shoot bridges, two is to slow down at fuel stations and three is dodge or shoot obstacles. That’s it. If you are interested in this game, I do advise you to play this game is short bursts, since this game can get a bit boring after a few levels.

Something that would have helped is that there was a bit more for the player to avoid or play around with. For example, that there were power-ups or enemies that shot back. But after playing the raid mode and some of the campaign levels, I haven’t seen anything like that. And if only there was an autofire, that would be amazing sometimes.

EcLkwT-UMAAIy7mThe game does have a polished feel, but I think that QA looked over somethings. I mean, just look at this screenshot. According to the stats, I fired 13 shots and I got 14 hits. How does that even work when your shot doesn’t go through enemies? Also, 107% accuracy and only 2 out of three stars? Excuse me? Why didn’t I get the full three stars? Especially since the next level, I fired 36 shots, I got 35 hits and I got three starts with an accuracy of 97%.

That level was finally something else than shooting bridges, but it was destroy ships in the water. At first, I thought that they were there for decoration, world building. But these ships that posed no threat were enemies. Look, you do need to give the player a reason to destroy these ships besides giving them one coin as a reward. Since players get way more coins for destroying bridges, which is the name sake of the game.

Something I’m quite strict on is the UI design. It lacks some quality of life improvements. Things like, not going to the main menu when you exit a level but to the level select. Or, the tutorial being one of the first options when you pick “play the game”. Or having some sort of buzz sound when you can’t buy a new plane in the hanger.

If you are still interested in this game, I do not bother with the raid mode. I’m sorry but I got bored after a few minutes of playing this mode. It’s just an endless mission where you have to destroy bridges and the only thing that can kill you is either forgetting to fuel to flying into a wall or an obstacle.

And that brings me to the difficulty. This game is extremely easy and that’s the biggest flaw of this game. There is barely any challenge in this game. Especially since there is barely anything that can kill the player. You do only get three lives in the raid mode, but that’s it. If you make three mistakes, you can just restart. Actually, raid mode is an easy way to farm coins. But, that’s besides the point.

Also, why is there no way to either reset the statistics menu or separate that between stats from the mission mode and the raid mode?

Now, I can keep talking and talking but I think I can put my final thoughts in a nice conclusion, so I think it’s high time for that.

So, shall we strike?

I don’t like giving games a bad or luke warm review. I always try to find something unique and enjoyable in all the games I play. While this game has a lot going for it in terms of stunning visuals, great audio design and an interesting basic gameplay loop… It lacks depth and a lot of it.

Usually, I play a game for at least three to four hours before I even consider writing a first impression or game quicky about it. But, after an half hour to an hour of playing this game, I felt that I had seen everything that this game has to offer. Which is a shame, since looking at the mission screen, it looks like there are a lot of missions and a lot of effort and love that went into this game.

But, it all goes to waste because the basic gameplay loop isn’t engaging enough to keep people’s attention for too long. It can be enjoyable for a short bust or when you need to play a game that’s more laid back but I’m sorry, I have a hard time to recommend this game in it’s current state.

I know how hard and difficult developing a game is. I’m developing software to ease up the workload of the admin office in my school and that eats up a ton of my time. But, I rather keep developing my software until it works and covers everything. To be honest, I felt that I was playing a prototype or a vertical slice of the final product. (This is a game development term which means that you have something playable to give a publisher an idea to where you want to take the game.)

When I look around to what other bloggers are saying, I see that this game is getting a 6 or 7/10. And I’m sorry but I have to respectfully disagree with these scores. Now, if I have to give a score on anything but the gameplay, yes, this game would get a 7/10 or even higher from me. But, the unused potential of gameplay and the focus on retro gaming… I’m sorry but I can’t give a such a high score to that.

Now, if the developers are still working on this game and maybe there is more variety and more challenge in the game, I think that this game might become a lot better. But for now, it’s a game that falls flat on it’s face for me. If I’m overlooking something, feel free to let me know in the comments. But for now, I think that the current version I have played is getting nothing more than a 50/100 from me. But, do know that this low score is because the serious lack of difficulty and variety in this game. Everything else is quite well done.

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

First Impressions: Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition (Switch) ~ Grand Adventure

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Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

Today we are going to talk about a game with a lengthy title. It’s also a quite lengthy game to boot. I mean, this game clocks in at giving or take 60 hours of playtime. Now, in the past, I talked about other games in the series like Dragon Quest IX and Dragon Quest Builders and it’s sequel Dragon Quest Builders 2. But now it’s time to look at and talk about the newest game in the series. The 11th entry got an expanded edition on the Nintendo Switch and that’s what I have been playing for the last couple of days. And I think I’m ready to give my opinion on the question if you should spend your time, money and effort in this game or that the adventure isn’t worth it. 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.

Grand Classical Adventure

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In this game, you play as a nameable hero. You start off in the village of Cobblestone where you partake in a coming of age ritual. It doesn’t take long before things start to go south. Well, it turns out that you are the Luminary, a legendary hero chosen by the world tree Yggdrasil to save Erdrea from evil.

Now, here is the catch. You go to the King to provide your services and things go even more south. The King accuses you of bringing evil upon his land and throws you into the dungeon. So, the stage is set for a grand adventure to prove yourself and save the world before the actual evil entity destroys the world.

The main plotline itself is nothing to really write home about. After playing Dragon Quest Builders 2, where your building was illegal, I felt that I already experienced a similar story in the franchise. Maybe I’m looking a bit too deep into this. Yet, the actual pacing and storytelling are way more enjoyable. The story turns into a journey from town to town where you have a smaller adventure in each town. It’s almost like an anime series where the hero and crew travel around the world.

The writing of this game is just amazing. From medieval speak to people speaking in English with a foreign accent, it’s just lovely. What I mean with a foreign account is that you clearly see the Spanish influences in the made-up language that they speak at some beach cities.

The voice acting really adds a lot to the personality of the characters. While some of the characters really follow some stereotype arcs, I really enjoyed the mix of characters in this game. The characters are written that well, I even started to shout right at some of the characters when they did something frustrating.

Currently, I’m not even halfway in the adventure and I have been enjoying myself throughout the story. I cannot wait to see where the story is going to take me next since the whole world seems massive and a blast to explore.

The Confused Light

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What is a massive world to explore without an interesting visual presentation? This game doesn’t disappoint in that area. One time I played Dragon Quest VII on my PlayStation 2 and I found that game extremely pretty. If you take that game and give it a 1080HD facelift, you get the visual presentation of this game. The world is colorful and extremely detailed to explore. It even has a day and night cycle that makes the world come alive.

Yet, it pains me to say it but I do have some things I disliked about the visual presentation. First of all, there are a few details that were missed while designing some towns. For example, in one of the towns, they forgot to add in a door at the backside of a store. I have posted a video about it on my Twitter. Notice how inside the store, the door is present and when you run behind the back, the door is suddenly nowhere to be seen.

Thankfully, these moments aren’t too frequent and overall, the world is extremely detailed. But, something that is somewhat broken is the triggers to change the lighting. Now, the lighting changes when you enter a building. That isn’t a problem until you start walking to edges of buildings and the light level already changes when you are still outside and next to a wall. Just look at this video I posted on my Twitter, where the ending shows off what I mean. Sadly enough, this problem occurs extremely frequently. Especially at night time and even more when the roof sticks out of the building or when the pathway has a roof itself.

It’s a shame since this is a problem that puts a damper on the excellent animation. I was extremely surprised to see characters actually react surprised or angry when you raided their cupboards or their belongings. Or the fact you can turn the camera around while in battle and see everything from every angle you wish.

Now, I think that the next issue I noticed has to do with memory management for the Nintendo Switch version but the render distance isn’t the best. This is something I can personally forgive since it affects the far off objects that get less detailed render. You can clearly see more detail appear in the frame when you walk up to it. On extremely rare occasions, the detail appears when you are just up close.

Automation

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This game plays like every other J-RPG and especially like most previous Dragon Quest games that came before it. I haven’t played all the Dragon Quest games, so I can’t tell you what’s unique in this title compared to the previous entries in the series.

If you haven’t played any of these games in the past, let me quickly explain it to you. While you take your party on a journey throughout the land, you fight various battles to make your characters stronger and let them learn new skills. With each won battle, your characters gain experience points. When they gain enough experience points, they gain a level. For each level, they get points that allow them to open up a skill in their skill tree.

There are a lot of different character classes that spice up the fighting style and gameplay. From characters that are meant for healing to characters that act as a sponge for all the attacks, better known as a tank. So, you have to choose your equipment wisely as well. You buy a strong shield for your tank and a strong wand for your healer.

There are two ways of battle encounters and this game has them both. On the overworld, the monsters are visible and roam around, so you can pick and choose your battles. Alas, while traveling in places that aren’t the overworld, like the sea, the battles are random and can happen at any moment. Thankfully, in most cases, you see the enemies so it’s not a mess to understand where which system is used.

So, during the adventure, you also have to solve puzzles where you have to look around the environment and dungeons for clues. These puzzles can range from conquering a dungeon to do a fetch side quest to using a monster to climb a crumbling building. A tight control scheme is essential for this type of games and I have to say that this game doesn’t disappoint. After you get used to the control scheme of this game, I have to say that it’s a blast to use. Some features are a bit too buried in menus for my liking but that might be the biggest complaint about that.

Everything is paired together with an amazing soundtrack and sound design. Now a lot of the soundtrack and sound effects sound extremely familiar when you have played previous games in the series. This isn’t a bad thing since this really helps to put the game into the Dragon Quest universe. Plus, the music still fits the atmosphere quite well and doesn’t get boring.

And with that said, I think I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game for now. Because I’m not even halfway done with the game, I’m not going to talk more in-depth about the game for now. When I have finished the game, or put more hours into it, I might write a more in-depth review. But, at this moment I already reached a conclusion.

This game is one of the best games I have played on the Nintendo Switch when it comes to RPG’s. The expansive world and the amazing story is an amazing journey to take part in. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the adventure will bring since I’m enjoying myself with this adventure. I also highly recommend this game to every Dragon Quest fan, RPG fan, adventure game fan and people who are looking for a lengthy and expansive game to sink their teeth into. And if you want to know if the game is for you, you can download a free demo in the Nintendo eShop to try out the game before you buy it.

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

Gamer’s Thoughts: Looking Forward to 2020.

2020_0With a bit of a delay, the article that I was going to write at the end of December is here. Anyways, 2020 is here. It’s a new decennium and I’m quite excited about it. I have a lot of plans in my personal life for this year, but there are a lot of games I’m looking forward to be playing this year. If you want to know what my favorite games were in 2019, I have already written an article about that. In this article, I’m going to talk about 10 games I’m looking forward to be playing in 2020. Unlike my top 10 list of 2019, this list will only have games that are going to release in 2020. Since I can’t predict which games I’m going to add to my collection this year. Feel free to leave a comment with your list and/or your opinion on my list and/or games. Anyways, let’s dive right into the list!

#10 – Desperados 3 (PC) (TBA)

Desperados IIIIt looks like a ton of games I’m excited for often get delayed. In 2018, I wanted to play Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. It took until 2019 when I was able to play the game.

Now when I learned that a series from my childhood, Desperados is going to get a reboot/new entry in the franchise, I was quite hyped. This game was going to release in 2019, but the year has come and gone and the game hasn’t been released…

To be honest, I never finished any Desperados game due to the rather difficult nature of the game. But I had quite a lot of fun trying to beat the levels over and over again. I got quite far in the original game where I was a few levels removed from the ending of the game.

I’m planning to replay the Desperados games to review them on my blog in the future and maybe I’m going to do a marathon with as the final review the new game. For those who don’t know how Desperados plays, let me explain that to you.

So, the game plays a bit like Fire Emblem in a way, but instead of it being turn-based, it’s in real-time. In a way, it also elements of the Metal Gear Solid series where enemies react on sounds, vision and other elements in their surroundings. I find it quite difficult to explain in text, but if you watch a bit of a playthrough, you quickly get an idea of the gameplay.

Quick reflexes, good stealth, quick thinking, and good planning are key to surviving in this game. And this is all set in a western-style game that has interesting and diverse characters that test your skills to the absolute limit.

#9 – Animal Crossing – New Horizons (Switch) (March 20th, 2020)

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While I’m not the biggest fan of the Animal Crossing series and I’m not the biggest fan of the gameplay, I would lie if I said that I wasn’t excited about the new Animal Crossing game.

The new game is about camping and building your own town from scratch. I haven’t kept myself up-to-date with the latest news on the game for a reason since I want to keep myself as spoiler-free as possible.

From the footage I have seen, I can tell that a lot of campaign and scouts’ memories will come back to me while playing this game. And that’s the biggest reason that I’m excited about this game. So, yeah. Let’s see how that is going to turn out.

#8 – Minecraft Dungeons (PC) (TBA – April 2020)

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Just like Desperados III, this game was on my list last year. I was looking forward to being able to play this game in 2019. Sadly enough, this game has been delayed to 2020.

Now that we got more information on the game, I’m even more excited to be able to play this game. Especially since this game is going to include multiplayer! So, this game will be perfect for me and my girlfriend @notthatalice94 to play through and enjoy.

While I have played some Minecraft in 2019, I think I’m a bit burned out on the classic survival formula. So, maybe Minecraft Dungeons breathes new life into the franchise for me and maybe I might get back into classic Minecraft, who knows?

#7 – Shantae And The Seven Sirens (Switch) (Q1-Q2 2020)

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Now, this is interesting. I’m including a game on my list actually is already released. The game is released for iOS and macOS platforms. But I don’t have an iPhone nor do I have a MacBook or an iMac.

Thankfully, the game is being ported to the PC, Switch, PS4 and XBOX One early this year. I’m planning to pick up the Switch version since I’m playing more games on my Switch lately than on my PC. But, that’s not set in stone since after playing a bit of A Hat In Time on my girlfriend’s Switch, I felt that the joy-cons aren’t really the controller for me to play tight platformers like the amazing Shantae series. So, I might buy it for the PC and use my XBOX One controller.

Anyways, maybe this game will give me the drive to finish all the other unfinished Shantae games I have in my collection. I’m having so much fun with those games, yet I’m always getting distracted by other games and it’s getting quite annoying to let the Shantae games left unfinished since they are all quite enjoyable in my opinion.

#6 – Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe (PC) (TBA 2020)

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I simply love adventure games. While I’m not that into walking simulators, The Stanley Parable really surprised me when I played it way back in 2013.

So, a few months ago, I learned that the developers of the game are making an upgrade and expanded version to be released on various platforms. While we know that the game is going to be released on the PC but we don’t know which consoles it’s also going to release on. The developers are looking into the possibilities.

At the moment, the developers state in their press kit that they are aiming to release the game before the summer of 2020. But, we shall see. Since the game was going to come out in 2019 but it has been delayed to 2020 to improve the quality of the game which I think is a good thing.

But, you can count on it that I’m going to write an article on the expanded version of the game as soon as it comes out. When you want to read more on the game, I highly recommend that you read the press kit on their website.

#5 – DooM 64 (Switch) (March 20th, 2020)

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March is going to be a busy gaming month for me. Games like Animal Crossing are getting released but also the remake of DooM64 on Nintendo Switch.

While I have played DooM countless times on the PC and various other platforms, I haven’t played the Nintendo64 port of the game. I have been interested in playing this port ever since I saw Derek Alexander’s video on it. And now I’ll be able in a little while.

So, I’m quite curious to see how different the game is compared to the PC version. Also, I’m curious to see if the developers made changes to the game or if it’s going to be sort of emulated on the Nintendo Switch. Only time will tell.

#4 – Gods and Monsters (Switch) (Febraury 2020)

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I can’t really explain why, but I love a great story about mythological beings. For that reason, my favorite game of the Age of Empires series is Age of Mythology. So, when I learned that Ubisoft is developing a game with that premise, well… I think it’s quite clear that I’m beyond excited about it.

So, yeah, a game that reminds me of a lot of Breath of the Wild and has a talented team behind it; I think this game is going to be quite good. Now, we will have to wait and see how good the game is until it releases. But, I’m going an eye on the game and I’m quite sure I’m going to pick it up as soon as I got the chance to do so.

#3 – Age of Empires IV (PC) (Q4 2020)

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On one hand, I wish that this game doesn’t release in 2020 but on the other hand, I wish it does.

Now, at the time of writing this article, the developers haven’t given a concrete release date yet. But in various press materials, I read that this game is going to release either late this year or early 2021. The only thing I hope is that they don’t rush the release of this game. I rather wait a few more months to have a more polished game than having the game quicker. Unless it’s a sort of beta version where people who pre-order the game can help test the game and help in the final polishing stage of development.

The Age of Empires series is one of my favorite series ever made. I have spent so many hours in the Age of Empires games, it’s crazy. While I’m no pro at the game, I enjoy playing a game from time to time. Earlier in the article, I even mentioned one of the spin-offs that’s my favorite game in the series, Age of Mythology.

Anyways, good luck Relic Entertainment with the development of the title. I know that is a lot of pressure on your shoulders to develop the next entry such a highly regarded series with such a devoted and dedicated fanbase, but we believe in you!

#2 – Death Come True (Switch) (TBA 2020)

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I’m beyond hyped for this game. This game is being directed by the writer of the Danganronpa series, Kazutaka Kodaka. Not only that, but the story also has some elements that remind me a lot about the Zero Escape series.

This game is an adventure game where the main character wakes up without him remembering anything. He is charged with committing various murders. So, together with his time leap abilities, he has to solve the mystery and find out the truth of these murders.

Now, there isn’t a lot of information out there on this game. Also, there isn’t any news if the game is coming to the west, but the fact that almost every tweet is tweeted twice; once in Japanese and once in English gives me a lot of hope.

So, I’m looking forward to this game quite a lot. It feels like a sort of spiritual successor to the Zero Escape games which are high up my personal top 10 games ever made list. I’m also avoiding any press releases on the game like the plague to avoid spoilers and being able to go as blind as possible in the game. And you may be sure that whenever I have the chance, I’m so going to write about this game.

Honorable mentions

Now, there are a few more games that I’m looking forward to but didn’t make the top 10 games list.

#1 – Death March Club (Switch) (TBA 2020)

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Are we for real now? The writer and director of Zero Escape and Ai The Somnium Files are going to release another game in 2020? I’ll be able to enjoy the work of Kotaro Uchikoshi again this year? And the game his big chances about coming to the west since it has an English website as well as a Japanese?

On top of that, this game is also going to be a death game like the Zero Escape games! Just reading the premise of this game is making me want to play this game even more. So, one group needs to sacrifice themselves in order for the other group to even stand a chance in death game.

Just reading the development story of this game on the fandom of this game, makes me even more interested in this game. The talent that’s involved with this game is just amazing. On one hand, I don’t want to read anything more about it so I can go in blind, but on the other hand, I want to know as much as I can to enjoy the game even more… What to do, what to do… Urgh. Oh well, now I have to patiently wait for an announcement of a release date and then wait until I’m able to get my hands on it.

Closing thoughts

So, 2020 is going to be jampacked with a ton of amazing titles. While I had a lot of trouble creating this list at first, in the end, I even had to create a section for honorable mentions.

I’m quite curious about which games I’ll be able to play this year and what I’ll think about it. Maybe I should look back at the end of the year to this list and compare my expectations to the actual released game.

So yeah, that were my top 10 games I’m looking forward to be playing in 2020. I’m curious if you agree or disagree with my list and which games you would have picked. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you had as much fun as I had 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: How to Tell a Hardware Problem From a Software Problem

Jonez note: This article has been written by the fine folks over at https://businessservicesweek.com if you are interested in various topics you should surely take a look at their site. I found this guest post article quite interesting, so I decided to post it. I found it so interesting, I might revisit this topic in the future with my personal advice.

A computer is made up of various different layers and components, all put in place to perform specifically for the computer’s needs. When a computer breaks or has malfunctioned, it can be a big pain and cause various different issues – especially if you use the computer for work.

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When we are subject to a computer issue, it can be hard to determine where the problem is coming from. We have been groomed to just instantly turn it off and on again and pray for the best. But, it is more than likely a hardware or software problem. But, to anyone that isn’t very educated in computer makeup, it can be tough to know which is causing the problem.

The Difference Between Hardware and Software

Computer hardware can be defined as any physical attribute used in or with your machine. So, the hardware inside the computer, or the components on the outside such as your mouse, keyboard, server, and workstation. Hardware is anything that can be physically touched. Without these components to your computer, the software wouldn’t have anything to run on.

Software is a collection of code installed onto the computers’ hard drive, that allows the device to perform. Many systems will divide software into 3 different categories. These are system software, programming software, and application software. These major classes are sequenced in a way that will be able to change the state of the hardware of the computer.

Common Hardware Problems

Most common hardware issues are actually caused by your device overheating, and not being able to dispose of that heat to cool down. This can cause issues with all the components and their performance inside of the computer, disrupting workflow. Other than the underlying cause being heat, another way many hardware issues occur is because of physical damage. For example, dropping or smashing your device can cause the component to shift or even break themselves.

Some noticeable hardware problems can be as follows.

Blue Screen

A blue screen occurs when your computer encounters a failure called a ‘stop error’. The coding of this error causes the computer to completely crash and stop working. They can come onto your screen and produce all manners of information and coding that is being saved into your hard drive disk as it is happening. If this happens, the only way the laptop can be saved is to restart it entirely. This can lead to a lot of data loss, as the applications that may be open as the blue screen happens, do not have enough time to save all of their data.

Noisy Hard Drive

Hard drives, unknown to many, have a limited lifespan and these are something you do need to update every few months or years to have optimum performance. So, if there is clicking or disruptive grinding sounds coming from the inside of your computer, then it is highly likely the hard drive needs to be replaced.

Blank Screens

Having a blank monitor is one of the most common hardware problems. A blank screen is something that is most likely to occur at least once in your time when using a computer. This can be an annoyance if the computer is being used for work purposes or important work, so it’s an issue that would really need to be fixed fast. This problem can usually be caused by loose cables in the back of the computer such as the supply cord or video cable. A simple fix would be too check all of these and ensure they are securely plugged in, to decipher if these are the culprits.

Common Software Issues

Most common software issues are caused due to a bug in the coding sequence or because the system is not working as expected due to an external issue. Software problems can cause a lot of frustration as the software coding in your device is what runs your hardware to work smoothly.

Computer Freezing

A very common software issue in many devices is the incessant freezing of applications or the screen whilst it is in use. As the laptop will now not be able to be controlled by the mouse and no clicks are doing anything, the only option left is to restart the computer. But, instead of flicking the main supply to rid the laptop of complete power, just holding down the power button for 5-10 seconds will allow the device to restart without losing power – hopefully leaving any opened work untouched.

App Command Not Working

Another confusing and troublesome software problem that could occur is apps on the device are not loading or responding when opened. This can be caused by the software trying to load too many applications at once, and it just doesn’t have the power to configure them all. On the other hand, it could be the app compatibility with the strength of the software in your device. It may be possible that the device being used does not have the appropriate coding or sequence in its software to run the app.

Ways around these issues will be to either reboot your device and start on a clean screen with no additional applications running in the background – then start up the app you want to see if it loads. Or, it will be to research the chosen application and the environment it needs to work and compare that to your own device.

Your Computer Boots Extremely Slowly

Although a slow computer can be much of an annoyance, it is luckily one of the easiest problems to fix. The most common cause of the system taking its time to boot up is because there are too many applications trying to load at once in the background as your computer is trying to start too. The best way to avoid this issue would be to set all of the applications on the computer to only load when they are being used. This will stop new downloads sticking to their factory settings and loading as soon as the laptop starts – hopefully allowing your device to start a lot faster.

Conclusion

It is an annoyance for almost everyone when a device has problems or isn’t working properly – especially when it is of great importance to everyday life. It is hard to be able to configure by yourself why the problems are happening and find the cause. Therefore, the most beneficial decision would be to take your device to a repair shop, if the issue continues after reading through the tips and tricks of this article.

First Impression: Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch) ~ Illegal Building Is Fun!

dragonquestbuilders2cover.jpg

Official website

When I played Dragon Quest Builders on the Nintendo Switch, I was highly surprised by the quality of the game. Now, granted, not everybody enjoyed the game and some Dragon Quest fans even disliked the game quite a lot. Take for example my buddy Drakulus, who gave the game a 5/10. Another friend of mine, FalconGameReviews wrote a more lukewarm review of the game. And then you have me, giving the game the full marks. While I won’t deny that the original had some flaws like the lacking combat, I heavily enjoyed my time with the game. After I had beaten the original game, I certainly wanted to play more and when I saw the trailer for the sequel, I was extremely hyped. So, now that I was able to play the game for a while, I can give you my first impressions on it. So, what did I think of the game so far? Let’s take a look. 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.

Illegal Building Is Fun!

dragon-quest-builders-2-11The events of the original game took place in an alternative universe of the ending from the original Dragon Quest. Dragon Quest Builders 2 takes place a few years after Dragon Quest II. In the 2nd Dragon Quest game, the hero Erdirck takes on Hargon and Malroth. Their followers, the children of Hargon want revenge and make sure that nobody is allowed to create anything. But during the story, you teach the brainwashed citizens that building is still fun while trying to avoid being caught by the children of Hargon.

So, they paint builders as a sort of criminal. You start on a ship where you learn the ropes of the game and get a tutorial on the basic game mechanics. When the ship actually crashes, you wake up on an island together with a person named Malroth, that has no memories of his past.

The story so far has been quite enjoyable. The charm of an actual Dragon Quest game is still here. The humor and great writing are still here. Also, in this game, the story is a bit more in-depth. It takes some various turns and it’s more expansive than the original one. Story-wise, I personally think that the story of the sequel is a lot better than the original. It plays more on the central theme of the story but it also has a lot of side stories and side quests to keep you occupied.

The only negative about the story is that the pacing is a bit slow. Personally, I don’t see this as a big deal but I think that this can be a turnoff to some people. Sadly enough there no way to skip the dialogue outright. Or there is no way to look at the previous dialogue, like if you accidentally pressed a button and skipped a part of the dialogue while you were reading.

Now, while I was enjoying the story, I noticed something that worried me a bit. While I was playing the game, either in docked or in handheld mode, the Switch’s cooling fans kick into high gear. My Switch actually got extremely hot in the middle. Also, the Switch is blowing out hot air, which was an unwelcome thing while I was playing this game during a heatwave…

Expanded

Dragon-Quest-Builders-2-Monster-Recruitment-Guide.jpg

A ton of mechanics in this game got expanded to aid you in building the town or doing your quests.

First of all, you don’t need Chimera Wings anymore to fast travel back to your base. There is a new fast travel mechanic that makes life a lot easier. It’s a huge improvement over Dragon Quest Builders 1.

The gilder feature is a godsend. I loved it in Breath of the Wild and I love it in this game. It’s an amazing feature that aids a lot with traveling and exploring the vast and open world in this game.

The Builderpedia feature is an extremely welcome feature as well, it’s a sort of mini wiki inside the game that can help you when you want to build a certain room in your base and you don’t know which items you need to have in your room in order for it to register as a certain room.

The new builder tools like the handy builder’s glove is also an extremely welcome feature. When you misplaced a block, you don’t have to mine it out anymore. You just pick it up again with the glove and place it where you want.

A big complaint about the original game was the camera. Now, the issue was that in tight spaces or in buildings with multiple floors, it was sometimes a struggle to center the camera on your character. In this game, they have a brilliant solution to that problem. With the simple press of a button, you can go into the first-person mode and more easily explore around.

Another great feature is the autosave. The game autosaves after a while of playing. Also, you don’t have to go to the village center to save it anymore. You can easily do that from the menu.

There are a ton of amazing other additions in this game that make this game even more enjoyable to play. From more easily creating rivers and lakes to changing walls into another block with the click of a button… If I would be talking about all the new mechanics and how they improve this game, I would be here all day.

Now, there are a few things that got downgraded. First of all, cooking. While it’s unique and somewhat fun that you need to cook your food on a campfire, you can’t cook in bulk anymore. Meaning that you are unable to easily get all of your food cooked.

While that is negative, the new cooking system allows for more experimentation. Since in some cooking stations you are able to throw ingredients together to make something unique like in Breath of the Wild.

Something I also missed from the original game was the fact you could keep blueprints in your inventory after building a certain room. It would be so handy if I was able to just reuse a blueprint somewhere else. For example, when I wanted to rebuild a certain bar from the main story on the Isle of Awakening, I had to either take screenshots or reference the Builderpedia several times.

Complaining out of love

Dragon-Quest-Builders-2-Boy-Malroth-Windmill.jpgIt might seem that I’m complaining a lot about this game. That’s because I’m highly enjoying my time with this game while still being a bit frustrated at several mistakes that make this game less enjoyable. Now, if I would score the game, I would still give it full marks.

One of the reasons why this game gets full marks is the visual presentation. This game looks amazing. I’m so glad that there is photo mode and a screenshot button on the Switch so I can make screenshots of the amazing landscapes and gorgeous visual presentation of this game. Together with amazing animations, this game really comes to life. I especially like little details like when you move the camera from under weather to above weather, the camera appears wet and various water droplets roll off your screen.

Like every Dragon Quest game, the music in this game is fantastic. I haven’t played a Dragon Quest game where I didn’t like music. That said, I do have to ask the Dragon Quest fanbase a question. Does the soundtrack of this game have original songs or does it also reuse classics from the previous Dragon Quest games, like the original Dragon Quest Builders? I was unable to find more information on that.

Together with amazing sound effects, the audiovisual presentation is excellent. In addition to that, the stable 60FPS framerate of this game is just a blessing. The game runs and plays extremely smooth. I can even say that I rarely had a slowdown. In some rare situations, I didn’t see the animation of a block-breaking but that happened so rarely, I don’t think it’s a huge problem.

Now, let’s talk about the controls of this game. The controls are still excellent. While I played the original with the Nintendo Switch Joycons, I did play this game with a wired Pro Controller. And I have to say it’s great fun.

Even with great controls, the combat is still quite generic. Not a lot changed when you compare it to the original. Now, when I read other reviews, I see a lot of people complain about basic combat. To be honest, personally, I don’t see this as that big of a problem. The game isn’t focused on combat with enemies, the game is more focused on building and crafting a world and your town. So yeah, the basic combat doesn’t bother me that much.

Something that did bother me and got me in a lot of trouble was the fact that I was sometimes unable to eat my healing pots during combat. I’m under the impression that there is either some delay on it during combat or some sort of cool down. Quite often I had to walk away from a battle to eat a healing pot.

Now, a feature that I love quite a bit is that after scripted battles, your citizens actually repair your city. Yes, if monsters manage to destroy your city or parts of it, it gets fully repaired to the way you actually build it. This is an amazing tweak and one that saved me a lot of headaches. Since one time I actually rage quit a boss in the original game simply because it destroyed around 75% of my town.

This might be just me, but I have the impression that this game is easier than the original. So far, I have fought several bosses in the game and quite rarely the gave me trouble.

A minor complaint that I have with this game is that there is only one save slot. Compared to Dragon Quest Builders 1, you had 5 slots per chapter. Granted, this game isn’t split up into chapters, but I really miss the 5 save slots. Since now I can’t really lend out my Switch to my girlfriend without me fearing that she saves over my save for example.

This game is an excellent sequel, it builds upon the original game quite a lot. From a central island where you bring all of your befriended villagers and build your own paradise to unlocking new blocks and various other things with the gratitude you receive. There are also monsters you can tame and ride, you can swim… You can quite easily change your look in-game and let’s not forgot to mention the multiplayer functionality that this game has.

It’s no wonder that various people who are playing this game got addicted to this title. For me, it got to the point that I even put other games aside. Games like Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Fire Emblem – The Three Houses… While this game came out, I was lending my girlfriend’s PS4 since she has Uncharted, a game series I always wanted to play. And nope, I kept playing Dragon Quest Builders 2.

But to whom do I recommend this game? Well, easy. I highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys open-world games like Breath of the Wild or Skyrim. I also recommend this game to people who enjoy Minecraft, Terarria or games of that nature. If you have enjoyed the original Dragon Quest Builders, this game is for you as well. The biggest issue, in my opinion, is the overheating of the Switch. The other negatives don’t affect my enjoyment with this game that much.

So, yeah. I’m in love with this game. There are high chances that this game will be in my top 10 games I played in 2019 list. To be honest, so far it’s even on my list as a contender for Game of the Year. But let’s just wait and see, the second part of 2019 has a lot of amazing titles that will come out. And also, the game will receive DLC later this year, so my opinion might change on that…

I may talk a bit more in-depth about this game if I ever write a review on this game but for now, I think it’s about time that I end off this article right here. I thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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 playing 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 off 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. As a matter of fact, she didn’t get off 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 a profit. If she fails one of these challenges, the shop will be closed without any further questions.

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 in 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 getting 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 overall 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

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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 off 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 at 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 fare. 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 areas 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. At 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 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 upfront. 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 areas 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 areas 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 pay 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 a 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 crafting 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 the 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 the 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 prompt 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 were at a certain location before I actually traveled 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 immersion 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 in 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. 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 on the main menu, you can do that.

After you have finished the game, there is a post-game 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 my 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 of 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

Review: Death Mark (Switch) ~ Alive Until Dawn

death mark

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 has 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 girls 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 spiritual 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 a weird charm. On 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 dead 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 the 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 the 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 for 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 powerfully 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 about 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 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. On 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 flashlight.

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 on 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 of 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 off 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 every step of the way.

If you ask me, I think that this game is totally worth its 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

First Impression: Resident Evil 4 (PS2) ~ Leon, Help Me! LEEEEOOONN!

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Wikipedia entry

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

Ashley & Leon’s “vacation”

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley isn’t Elisabeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It has aged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Lucid Path (PC) ~ Let’s Go RPG’ing

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Official steam page

Today I want to take a look at a game that got sent to me. The name is Lucid Path. It’s an RPG created by Grevicor. I got a review copy of this game to write this review but the developer asked me to give my 100% honest opinion, so that’s what you are going to get in this article. I’m honestly glad that I’m able to try this game, since looking at the screenshots, I’m quite interested in playing it. Also, the developer told me that this is a very short game that throws the player in unexpected and twisted situations. So, you got my attention. Let’s explore those situations then. And as usual, feel free to write a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below.

Misery Loves Company

20181117175122_1The story of this game starts out quite simple. You are tired of your miserable life and you go set out on an adventure. Luck is on your side since adventure finds you really fast. You come across a village that has a problem with a nearby dungeon. Now, it’s up to you to solve their problem.

Before I continue, I must say that the font chosen in dialogue boxes fits the theming for the game really well. But, it made it tricky to easily see the difference between some letters like the “o” and “a”. Now, I didn’t mind it too much, since I’m pretty fluent in English (…If you need evidence, in what language am I even writing then?) so, I was able to read it without a problem.

You go and explore the dungeon and try to solve the problem. You meet several characters that will aid you in your quest. In addition to that, you learn that there is a bigger problem in this dungeon than just the monsters.

The writing itself is pretty decent. You meet some other people from the village during your quest. Since the game is pretty short, I don’t want to spoil the ending or any more of the story. If you are interested, I highly recommend that you check it out for yourself.

Chilling in the dungeon

20181117180029_1The gameplay of this game is quite relaxing. This game is a casual RPG. The gameplay of this game consists out of playing mini-games, choosing when to use your spells and improving your character. Now, what do I mean by “mini-games”? When your character takes on a quest, you don’t have to do anything. You play a small mini-game on an old computer. Depending on how you do in the mini-game, the faster your character is able to finish the quest.

Each time you go and explore the dungeon, you earn coins and medals. With these coins, you can buy better equipment and with the medals, you can improve your stats at the castle. Now, you can also earn coins and medals by doing quests. There are 3 quests you can do. After you have done those three quests, you have to go inside the dungeon to get new ones.

Before I talk about the dungeon, I want to mention the shop. This part of the game still needs some polishing work. There are two things I disliked about the store. The first thing is that you have to drag & drop from and to your inventory to buy and sell. When you try to sell an armor piece you are wearing, that won’t work. And if you double click on something to buy, that won’t work either. This was annoying while I was using the shop. I get used to it, but I felt like I was doing a click too much.

The second thing I disliked about the shop was the colored items. It’s quite unclear with the spectrum is. The ones without a background are the cheapest and weakest ones. Followed by a green background, yellow background, blue background and those with a purple background are the strongest. Now, why not show “lv.1”, “lv.2”…? This makes it easier to figure out and it also helps colorblind people.

Something I did really like about the store is the fact that the inventory of the store is random each and every time. You can refresh the store’s inventory by spending a few coins. I made sure to check the store each and every time before I went to the dungeon to make sure there wasn’t more powerful gear waiting for me in the dungeon.

The gameplay in the dungeon is a bit too uninvolved. The battle takes place automatically. There are two things you can influence. The first thing is when you decide to use your spells. You can store 4 spells. You have a fire spell, thunder spell, poison spell… There is a handful of them. You can only use each spell once during your session. The session ends when you are out of health. When you are out of health, you go back to the town.

Now, the 2nd thing you can influence in the dungeon is the speed of the game. Now, you can either pause, play at normal speed or play sped up. You even have a button to leave the dungeon early. The leave button isn’t a temporary checkpoint, it’s like a retreat. When you faint and enter the dungeon again, you start at the latest checkpoint. Every five rooms, you get a checkpoint.

About the controls for controlling the speed of the game, I found it disappointing that it was unclear which button was pressed. It would be really helpful if there is a visual identification to show which button you have chosen.

Besides that, there isn’t a lot to do in the dungeon. I found this disappointing, I wish it was a bit more involved. I also felt that the AI of the monsters attacked my character more than your companion. Thankfully, upgrading and improving your character isn’t hard. Each time I trained my character and bought better items, I felt I was able to progress one or two rooms further in the dungeon.

Alright, I have to be honest about something. There are some additional things to do in the dungeon. But, I would ruin a surprise for that. So, if you want to know what that is, you should play this game. The only thing I would say is that there should be more moments like those that happen in the dungeon.

You are able to heal yourself outside of the dungeon by doing quests. These quests give green pearls that heal you. So, each time you want to heal, you have to play a mini-game. You can’t enter the dungeon without full health either.

Now, there is a more involved version of the dungeon and that is the arena in the castle. You can choose between three different tiers and with that, you can win an item. Now, you have to press the space bar at the right time to deal more damage. It’s that kind of mini-game that you need to press the button when the pointer is in the green area. In the arena, your equipment does not make a difference. So, it’s pure skill-based in there. You do have to pay coins to get in the arena. The more difficult the challenge is, the cheaper it becomes. This makes sense, since that way you can’t easily farm the cheap items to have a huge mountain of cash to easily buy the most powerful items.

Now, if this was in the main dungeon, that would make the game a bit more interesting. Since most of my enjoyment in this game came from the times I was playing the mini-games and messing around in the town…

Vector mini-games

20181117195941_1Now, this game doesn’t automatically save, so if you don’t want to lose any progress… Quit the game using the menu in the town. Now, if you reboot the game in full screen, you might notice that there is some graphical weirdness going on. Just go into the options menu, click the full-screen option once to go to windowed mode and click it again to go back to full screen. That fixes that issue.

The mini-games are vector-based mini-games. The first mini-game you encounter is a top-down shooter that reminded me of a lot of Asteroids. Each time you shoot a falling rock, the rocks’ drop speed increases. The faster the rock, the more points it gives to completing the quest. Oh, you have to actually do something in the mini-games or your character won’t progress in his quest. After a few floors, you unlock the possibility to play another mini-game for a good amount of coins.

The 2nd mini-game is one where you go down and you aren’t allowed to touch the edges. I personally highly dislike this style of mini-games. Now, this is something personal, but I have never been good at this mini-game. Each mini-game has 2 achievements. There is the “Good at” and “Great at” mini-game. Each achievement is tied to your score.

The final mini-game felt broken to me. For some reason, the mini-game didn’t react on my inputs at certain moments making me lose it. But, that might be because it’s a rhythm-ish style mini-game and I’m not that great when it comes to that.

Now the other mini-games I will leave as a surprise if you decide to play the game. They are quite interesting, but for some reason I found myself enjoying the first one the most. In this game, the Asteroids one is called Planetoids.

Now, this game isn’t too difficult. Some people will find this game repetitive, but I found it a relaxing experience. It was a blast to play something where I was able to just relax and I didn’t need to take the game too seriously. The game became even more interesting after a few hours of play, it opened up more. But, I won’t spoil that. This is especially true when you think that the game is repetitive. Don’t worry, something unique and fun will happen near the end.

There isn’t a lot of replay value in this game. After you have beaten the game, there isn’t too much different in a 2nd playthrough.

This game is also really cheap. So, if you are looking for a cheap enjoyable game; look no further. Yes, I found the game enjoyable. Especially the charm of the visual presentation. It reminded me a lot of Knights of Pen and Paper. The retro feel while not using true 8bit or 16bit visuals is just pretty to me. The game is colorful and lively and just gives off that relaxing vibe. It also has a lot of charm in my opinion. A charm I can’t get enough off.

The animations might be basic, they were just perfect in this game. Like the sound effects, they fit the theming of the game perfectly. The music, well, it’s something I would like to add to my playlist of relaxing music. I really liked the soundtrack of this game.

That’s everything I wanted to say about the game. I think it’s high time for my conclusion and final thoughts.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • The game can be a bit repetitive.
  • Some minor visual issues in full-screen mode when booting the game.
  • The shop needs some polishing work.
  • The exploration of the dungeon can be boring.
  • Some UI improvements are needed.

The good:

+ Enjoyable writing.

+ Great music & sound design.

+ Great visual presentation.

+ Fun mini-games.

+ ….

Final thoughts:

At certain times, I felt that this game could make for a perfect mobile game. At certain points, I felt like this game isn’t really meant to play in long sessions. This game could be enjoyed more in short sessions.

This game has a lot of potential. There are some flaws that could be polished and patched out but they didn’t stop me from enjoying my time with the game. If you are looking for an enjoyable cheap game, I wouldn’t look any further. This is a great time-wasting game.

The biggest issue I felt that this game has is that the game didn’t have enough gameplay. I wish there was a bit more to do, especially during the exploration of the dungeon. Oh well, not every game can be perfect.

I do recommend that you give this game a try and just relax and enjoy the experience. Since, that’s, in my opinion, the best way to enjoy the game.

Thank you 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, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Score: 70/100

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 at 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 Intifada 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 Intifada 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 primarily 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 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 layout, 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 was 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 fewer 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 areas 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.

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 took 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 into 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 than 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 at creating levels with the tools. So, if you are looking for a review of the tools, I think you are in 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 layout 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 open 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 aside. 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 backward rolls 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 is choosing the window that has a title displayed. In most cases, that’s the name of the engine that’s used.

You can quickly load your game using F6, this is very handy. Since you can save everywhere, you can also save while on ladders or while hanging from a ledge. If you press the Action button (usually the CTRL key) during loading, you won’t fall off the ladder or edge. So, be careful with that.

With that said, it’s time for me to look at a few randomly chosen levels over at TLRE.net. I’ll give my opinions on the levels and a small score. If you know of some amazing levels, please do share them in the comment section down below. Footnote, every rating is on a max score of 10. Be aware, I’m not going to give these levels an in-depth review. Just some quick thoughts.

The Wolf Pack – Part 2

Image00001

Created by: JesseG

Created in: TR4

Rating: 9.25

Released: 23/08/2018

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

This is at the moment of writing this article, the most recently released entry. This level isn’t beginner-friendly since it requires some precise jumps from ladders. Especially backward. 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. As 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 of 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 levels were merged into one level.

Overall, a 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 a 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 where 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

Poseidon’s 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 Turbo 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 at the custom level than 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 underwater.

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 at various TRLE levels. I enjoy them quite a lot. Seeing these new levels makes my retro heart 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 about what adventures I’ll find myself in next.

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

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

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

Tomb_Raider_raid

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

 

Review: 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 a 10 hours additional playtime.

694637-age-of-mythology-extended-edition-windows-screenshot-ordering.png

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 Egyptian missions. The reason for that might be because I’m really fond of 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 recording 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 sort 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 challenges 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 Oxcart, that is a sort of movable drop off point for resources. The Greeks 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 explained 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 a 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 a 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 is 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 is 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 spending 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

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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 most chill 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 a 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 simple widescreen 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. Nowadays, 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