Tag Archives: Unreal

First Impressions: Bloodstained – Ritual Of The Night (Switch) ~ Middle Ages Magic.

Official websiteNintendo Microsite

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

Middle Ages Magic

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

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

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

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

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

Metroidvania at its finest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visually underpowered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet notthatalice, answering questions…

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

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

Why did you start your blog?

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

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

What are your favorite topics to write about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jonez’ Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you rather go to Silent Hill or Raccoon City?

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

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

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

Meet me

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

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

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

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

Notthatalice

First Impression: Across The Moment (PC) ~ Let’s Go On A Journey!

Across the moment logo

Official Steam Page

Today, I want to take you on a journey. The journey that the game “Across The Moment” tell you. Currently, the first episode is out. There will be 4 episodes in total. The three other episodes will come as an update in the future. To write this review, I got a review code from the developer. The developer also gave me full control in what I could write in my article. So, this is completely my opinion. In any case, enough introduction. Time to get reviewing this moment. Well, “Across The Moment”. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Note: While I have almost finished the first episode, I’m not going to make this a review since not all episodes are out.

Artstyle tells it all

Across The Moment (2)When you look at the promotional screenshots of this game, one thing is quite clear. This game doesn’t look like your run of the mill adventure game. And it is, this game is trying to tell a grim story about somebody falling into a depression and doing something. I won’t talk about it since it would spoil the game a bit in my opinion. But believe me, this game talks about some heavy subject matter. It also has some social commentary that really made me think about how our lives currently work.

The story gets more power from the voice acting. While the voice acting didn’t click with me at first, after the story started to get more and more clear, I started to understand and appreciate the voice acting and the direction it got.  The only thing I shall say is, imagine it’s somebody telling his life story about he fell into a depression and how defeated he felt. It really comes through in the pacing and voice acting.

Apart from the dialogue, the story is also told by the journal. Whenever something happens, it gets written down in the journal. From story bits to observations of the world you are in. I really like how this game is written. It clearly shows a passion for the story that the creator wants to tell with his game.

Everything is documented from the game, so when you take a break from the game for a while or when you need a refresher on what happened in a certain place or world, you can look it up in the journal. It’s an extremely handy tool.

Thanks to the dark artstyle with bright colors, the story gets even more meaning. The only issue I have with the art style is that sometimes the game is a bit too dark and you barely see where a wall is.

Visually, the game succeeds in setting the required atmosphere. I really liked the world building and the story is told through symbolism. The animations are great too. The use of color really helps to guide the player to where to go next. If I may change one thing in terms of visuals is that more items you can pick up like the screwdriver or the belt are in a different color, even a different shade of grey. Since it’s not always clear if there is an important item you missed or not.

Let’s Go On A Journey

Across The Moment (3)The first episode takes about 1 and half hours to complete if you really know what you are doing. If the other chapters are this long, I think you have a 12-hour game on your hands. But, let’s keep our focus on the current released episode.

This game is a 3D adventure game. It’s more of a walking simulator with a lot of puzzles and exploration. So, basically, it isn’t a walking simulator at all. In this game, you have to solve puzzles to be able to open doors and progress to the next area. Here is where some issues are with the game. My biggest complaint is the inventory. In my honest opinion, the inventory system is decent, apart from one thing. The system that is used to combine items is just annoying to use. Perhaps it’s a limitation of the Unreal 4 Engine being used, but it’s annoying to use. You must click on the ying-yang symbol, drag one item in the left box and the other item in the right box and click on the misaligned “yes” to try and combine them. You don’t even get any feedback if you can’t combine the items. It makes controlling the game annoying.

Which is a shame, since the controls for this game work fine for the most part. I wish that the controls were rebindable. Since, just like various other indie titles, they don’t know that “AZERTY” exists and now I must put my fingers weird again.

Just for you QWERTY-users, a reference. To move forward, I must use the Z key. And to move backward, the Q-key. The S & D-keys do their job fine. Anyways, let’s get back to reviewing this game.

There are two other things I want to point out about the controls. One is there is something odd you can do while you open your inventory. You can still duck, stand up and jump. Also, when you hold any of the movement keys, you hear the walking sound effect.

The second thing I want to talk about in terms on the controls is the jump. Besides having a great jump arc, the jumping is stiff in my opinion. I noticed that when you jump first and then press the move forward key, you don’t reach as far as you jump after you have moved forward a bit.

The jumping mechanic needs some polishing up. I found it frustrating and unreliable to use, especially in the platforming segments of the game. There was one segment in the game that took way too long to make. It would be great too if there were some checkpoints between the jumping segments. There is nothing more frustrating than being almost at the end of a jumping segment and falling all the way down for just one minor mistake.

Symbols

Across The Moment (1)In terms of the music, the soundtrack is good. The style of the soundtrack isn’t 100% my thing, but I love how it adds to the atmosphere of the game. The sound design is decent. While I wish there were a bit more sound effects for when you jump or when you land, I think the sound design is like I said: decent.

The difficulty in this game really depends if you can see the solution or not. Sometimes, the solution isn’t that clear and you are overlooking one thing. Really experiment with your environment and your inventory if you are stuck. Try the “everything on anything and combine everything with everything” tactic if you are stuck.

This game is also available in Chinese and Russian. It’s still a mystery to me why this option isn’t in the options menu but in the main menu. I think it would be more helpful if you move this option in the options menu, to be honest.

I do have to say, this game is only 3€ on Steam. I think that you get more value for your money when you buy this game. If you are interested in this game, I think you should buy this game.

There are also Steam Achievements and trading cards for people who are interested in that. There are 4 card drops for 6 cards to create a badge. Good luck.

That’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I can’t wait to see the second episode of this game since I really want to know where the story goes next. Thank you so much to the developer for giving me a key to try out this game. I really enjoyed my time with this game. I hope you also enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Review: Papo & Yo – Artsy Fartsy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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