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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explore and read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the edge of my seat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

The good:

+ Amazing atmosphere in the visual and audio department.

+ Great writing.

+ The game has a lot of text.

+ …

The bad:

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

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 90/100

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

residentevil4

Wikipedia entry

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

Ashley & Leon’s “vacation”

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley isn’t Elisabeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It has aged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NekoJonez’s looking forward to these 10 games in 2019

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

#10 – Minecraft Dungeons (PC)

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Announcement blogpost

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

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

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

 #9 – Desperados III (PC)

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Official Steam page

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

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

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

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

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

Nintendo.com Mini-site

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

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

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

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

 #7 – Final Fantasy remakes (Switch)

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IGN article

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

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

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

#6 – Etrain Odyssey Nexus (3DS)

Etrain Odyssey NexusOfficial site

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

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

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

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

#5 – Animal Crossing (Switch)

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Nintendo.co.uk microsite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3 – Town (Switch)

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Teaser from E3 (Thanks GameExplain)

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

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

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

#2 – Pokemon (Switch)

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

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

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

#1 – Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch)

Dragon Quest Builders II

Dragon Quest Wiki entry

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

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

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

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

Closing words

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

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

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

NekoJonez – The Versatile Blogger Award #2

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Every so often, I receive something what I call “a tag award”. These tag awards are a special way of other creators to show recognition to each other. It always puts a smile on my face when I get selected for these “tag awards” since I’m able to answer some interesting questions or talk about something interesting. This time, I got the Versatile Blogger Award from TwoTall4uFool. An award that I also got in 2013, and the rules haven’t changed since then. So, if you want to read up on the rules, you can read them in that article. So, it’s time to get into this award.

TwoTall4uFool

If you are interested in reading articles about newer games and various accessories, I highly recommend that you give his blog a read. His blog mostly focuses on the gaming and tech niche, like myself, but there are also articles on movies and other subjects. Here is a link if you want to check out the amazing writing of TwoTall4uFool:

https://twotall4ufool.com

The seven things about NekoJonez

So, I have to tell 7 things/facts about myself. To make it a bit more interesting to read, I picked 7 different things than in the 2013 article. So, here we go!

I enjoy wearing watches

A comment I often get is either: “As a tech guy, why do you still wear a normal watch” or “As a tech guy, why don’t you buy a smartwatch?”

Well, the reason I still wear a “normal” digital watch is because I find it easier to keep the time instead of pulling my phone out of my pocket and looking at it that way. Besides that, I’m rarely at my desk at work and just having a watch is handy when I forget my phone on my desk.

Besides that, I have been wearing a watch since I was a kid and I honestly never stopped wearing a watch. On top of that, the past few plays I was in, I was able to use the fact I had a watch. For example, I had to play an irritated and annoyed waiter in a tavern and I was able to use my watch pretty well then.

The reason I haven’t bought a smartwatch yet, well, that’s quite simple. I don’t find any benefits for it for me personally. So, just to buy a smart watch to use as a gadget… Nah, I rather spend my money on other things.

I call my gaming style: “Expert casual”.

In my collection, you can find a game in almost every genre. Even in the genres I dislike playing or in genres I’m not too skilled in. My least favorite genres are racing, rhythm and fighting games. My favorite genres are adventure, RPG and visual novel games. Besides that, I enjoy playing (grand) strategy games, tycoon games, action games, casual… You name it.

So, because of this, my play style is what I call the expert casual. I rarely play games to have the most efficient or the most challenging experience. I rarely to never play on the hardest setting. I just play games to enjoy myself and have a great time.

It really shows when you ask me to play multiplayer. For example, I’m a real push over when it comes to Pokémon battles to other players. I’m terrible at remembering meta gameplay. But, I don’t mind that I’m not that good in that. The actual experience is what counts for me, having fun with my friends talking about games and creating memories is what counts.

That is a big benefit of my playing style. Because my playstyle is “jack of all trades, master of none.”, I have played a LOT of games and had some many different experiences, I can talk about almost every style of game.

Evening person

I’m a very big night owl and an evening person. I feel more creative and productive in the evening. That’s why I always write my articles after 5 or 6PM. At those moments, I find that I can write more easily then in the morning.

I especially noticed this when I was writing the write up for my final project this year. I noticed that a lot of sections I wrote in the early parts of the day had more mistakes or had more structural issues than the parts I wrote in the afternoon or during the evening.

I also have trouble waking up. I always have several alarms programmed in my phone to make sure I actually wake up. And when I have to go to work, I wake up an hour before I have to go to the station, so I can wake up calmly and prepare myself without rushing myself. I hate rushing myself in the morning because I know that it’s something that makes me crancky for the rest of the day.

Other media

My biggest hobby is playing video games. Apart from that, I tend to write this blog and I’m also a hobbyist actor in one of my local theater groups. Now, sometimes I get the question to give my opinion on a recent novel or on a recent movie. More often than not, I have to pass on those questions.

As a child, I also loved reading books. But, since I discovered the power of visual novels, I have stopped reading books. I feel that I get more pulled into the story when I’m able to either interact or visually see the story. Something I hated while I was reading where the long, and in my opinion boring, descriptions of how people actually look like. When I write stories, I rarely spent time in describing how the world or the characters look like. I love leaving it up to the readers imagnation.

Now, I have periods of time that I play a lot less video games and I tend to be more interested in watching movies and series. I mostly watch anime when it comes to series. I feel that those more appeal to my style of humor than other shows. But, I also watch other series outside of anime; I love watching police series like CSI or other similar shows. A show I also adore is Relic Hunter, since it reminds me a lot of my favorite movie series Indiana Jones.

A TV-show I watch every year with my family is “Wie is de mol” (Translated: “Who is the mole?”). It’s a game show that is quite big here in Belgium and the Netherlands. I have linked the Wikipedia page of the English version if you want to read more about it.

Yet, I find myself mostly enjoying video games. I think it’s because in video games you can interact with the world and makes the experience more personal for me. The only difference in experience when you read a book or watch a movie is how you interprete it. Maybe that’s a bit of a weak argument but it’s what I think.

Motivation

Now, at the start of the year, I have been chosen as a creative director in a dream development team by LaterLevels. How am I able to work full time, write an article on a new game every week, be a part of an acting group, taking care of live stuff, collecting video games, improving my tech skills… without burning myself out?

Honestly? I have no clue to be quite honest. I just found a work flow that fits me and helps me to get things done. I also try to be as efficient as possible. For example, I never take notes during my play sessions to avoid breaking my flow and to avoid that I focus too much on the smaller details in my review instead of the overall game. Another example is that I play a lot of the games I want to review during my travel times to and from work.

Besides that, I mostly focus myself on the things I’m passionate for. It’s obivious when you read my blog that I adore playing games and that I seriously enjoy writing. The fact that people actually read my work makes me proud. Even when my article gets read by only 5 people, I’m happy.

Reading

An extremely strange fact about me is that I don’t read that often. Here and there, I read other people’s blog or various articles on things that interest me but I get bored easily if I have to read a lot of text on a screen. Something that makes this even stranger is the fact that I love playing through visual novels that have long bits of dialogue.

It has been a year since I actually started reading a book. It was a book about cybersecurity and how you can protect your network against malware and phising. The last time I read a novel was 4 years ago, I read a police thriller about a murder in an online roleplay.

If the text doesn’t catch my interest, I just stop reading. Even when it’s about a topic I’m really interested in. I do have moments where I sit down and read things but they are quite rare. And most of the times, they are other people’s blog posts of authors I know bring an interesting point of view on the subject.

Rapid fire facts

Let’s give a few facts that don’t need to have a lot of explanation/story to them:

My favorite color is the color that the metal silver has. I’m really drawn to that color.

I highly dislike swimming. When a pool uses chlorine, I get very itchy and sometimes even sick.

I use my right hand to write. My handwriting is a mess and it gets even worse with my left hand.

My mother tongue is Dutch (well, Flemish actually… But, not everybody knows the difference between Dutch and Flemish. It’s a bit like you have British and American English.), besides English I can also speak French. I also have a basic understanding of German.

Besides games, I also love collecting old computer software. I just love messing around with old computer programs to learn about the history of computers and just because it’s fun.

Something I have a love hate realationship with are the trackpads on laptops. I dislike using them but I love them whenever I’m somewhere that doesn’t have room for an actual mouse.

Nominations

Now, here are the 11 people I nominate for the award and invite to write an article about this. I’m so sorry to all the friends I leave out.

Reaper Interactive

Sheikah Plate

Triform Trinity

Ambi Gaming Corner

LaterLevels

Adventure Rules

Drakulus

The Well Red Mage

OverThinkerY

LividLightning

Games With Coffee

Wrapping up

So, thank you for reading this article. Thank you everybody for the support that my blog gets. I’m extremely thankful of everybody who talks to me about games that I have talked about on my blog. Thank you for leaving a comment and or liking a post. It really makes my day when I see that somebody enjoyed reading through my article or my blog and maybe discovered a new game to play.

I can spend hours thanking everybody, but I think I made my point. 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!

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

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

Place 10: Angels of Death (Nintendo Switch)

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My review

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

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

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

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

Place 9: Shining Resonance – Refrain (Switch)

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

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

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

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

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

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Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

Place 7: Resident Evil 4 (PlayStation 2)

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Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

Place 5: Death Mark  (Nintendo Switch)

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Official website

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

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

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

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

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

Place 4: Blossom Tales (Switch)

Blossom Tales

My review

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

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

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

Place 3: Fire Emblem Warriors (Nintendo Switch)

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My review

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

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

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

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

Place 2: Dragon Quest Builders (Nintendo Switch)

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My review

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

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

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

Honorable mentions

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

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

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

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My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrapping up 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomb Raider – Writer’s Raid

Tomb_Raider_raid

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

Official website

The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy, both are series that have a lot of loving fans. Now, besides the Legend of Zelda series, there is another series that had a strong presence in my childhood. As a child, I fell in love with the Indiana Jones franchise. I played the various Indiana Jones games until either the cartridge or the CD gave up. Now, I wanted more. Because of that lust for more, I discovered the Tomb Raider franchise. The first Tomb Raider game I ever played was Tomb Raider 5 – Chronicles. That was enough for me to decide to hunt down all Tomb Raider games and play them from start to finish. And I’m not the only one who enjoys Tomb Raider and let me prove that to you, I’m going to raider the various tombs this franchise throws at us together with some amazing befriended bloggers. I hope you are ready, since various treasures of articles will await you in these tombs. Let’s. Get. Raiding.

1996 – Tomb Raider

Tomb_Raider_(1996)Games With Coffee takes us through Lara’s adventure to help Natla.

Grab yourself a cup of coffee, since we are taking a journey through the good old first entry of Tomb Raider.

Together with Games With Coffee we take a nostalgic look to Tomb Raider and discover how it “holds up” today. Depending on who you ask of course.

The analysis of this game is extremely well done and made me remember various stories of the first time I played Tomb Raider. Seriously, give it a read! 

1997 – Tomb Raider II Featuring Lara Croft

Tomb_Raider_IIABXY Game Reviews is following Lara through her journey to find a Dragon’s dagger!

ABXY Game Reviews really wanted to play an old school Tomb Raider game. And I was looking for writers. A match made in heaven I think.

In heaven, that’s where the object Lara is after in her second adventure. A mythological Chinese dagger can came from the heavens that can turn mere mortals into dragons.

Did ABXY Game Reviews enjoy his journey through old school Tomb Raider or do fans of this game get blinded by nostalgia? You have to read this article to find out.

1998 – Tomb Raider III – The Adventures of Lara Croft

Tomb_Raider_IIINekoJonez helps us find four artifacts.

I love telling this story. When I first played Tomb Raider III, I thought I was playing Tomb Raider IV. The reason for that, well, I explained that in my nostalgic look-back of Tomb Raider III.

I tried to avoid writing a review for this game and give some retrospective facts. But it was great fun playing through this game again for this project.

So please, feel free to give one of my entries in this project a read.

1999 – Tomb Raider IV – The Last Revelation

Tomb_Raider_-_The_Last_RevelationSarahsGameCollection is going to take us on a journey to raid the Egyptian tombs!

I discovered Sarah’s website through this project. And I haven’t regret it at all. Her website is a joy to browse through and read.

Her unique writing style is something I love most of her website. While she writes, she adds personal comments like if she is telling a story to you and it’s great fun to read.

I think that this article came together quite well, since it made me want to replay Tomb Raider IV for myself.

2000 – Tomb Raider V – Chronicles

Tomb_Raider_-_ChroniclesTriformTrinity is taking us to Lara’s funeral…?

If you want to know if you should play Tomb Raider Chronicles, you shouldn’t look further. Triform Trinity wrote a short review on the game.

I wrote an article on this game last year, and it shows how people can differ in opinion.

Anyways, I  highly recommend you reading this article. It was a joy to work with TriformTrinity and reading his through his website is such a great and fun time. Since I can assure you that I always have a fun time when I visit his website.

 

2000 – Tomb Raider Level Editor

Tomb_Raider_Level_EditorNekoJonez took a look at Tomb Raider fan’s levels.

I have to admit that I was planning to write an article about the level editor for Tomb Raider for quite a while.

To be honest, this game is one of the reasons why I organized this collaboration in the first place. Since it’s a creative platform that brings a community together. And this project is the perfect “excuse” to talk about something unique like this.

So, if you are curious what the level editor can do, feel free to read it on my blog and I hope you it.

2003 – Tomb Raider – Angel of Darkness

Tomb_Raider_-_The_Angel_of_DarknessSarah’s Game Collection is helping to solve this murder mystery…

If there is one Tomb Raider game I haven’t fully played it, it has to be Tomb Raider – Angel of Darkness.

I heard so many things about it. From it being a bad game to being a decent game. After reading the review that Sarah wrote for this game I got even more interested in finishing this game.

Now, I invite you to read along with me this amazing analysis of the final game that Core worked on in the series.

2006 – Tomb Raider Legend

Tomb_Raider_-_LegendLiana takes us on the legendary journey for a sword.

In this retrospective collaboration project, I always give freedom to the writers. This resulted in Liana writing an amazing piece where she analysed the game very deeply.

Not only that, she talks about the history and development of this game. And she even took a deeper look at who Lara Croft actually is.

I can highly recommend that you give this article by Liana a read. And if you are interested in more of her work, you can also visit her YouTube channel, which I HIGHLY recommend as well.

And allow me to slip some personal advertisement in as well since I reviewed this game last year myself.

2007 – Tomb Raider – Anniversary

Tomb_Raider_-_AnniversaryGames with Coffee takes us, again, on Lara’s adventure to help Natla…

Now, I hope your coffee didn’t go cold since we are going to take a look at the remake of Tomb Raider I.

Games with Coffee brings you a very in-depth review and look at this game. He played it on Steam. I played this game on my PC as well and I have to agree with a lot he said in the article.

This game was one of the games that really drew me into the whole Tomb Raider franchise and it hasn’t let go since.

2008 – Tomb Raider Underworld

Tomb_Raider_-_UnderworldLiana takes us on a journey through the underworld.

Now, Liana takes a look at Tomb Raider Underworld in a very interesting way. You won’t find a review of the game in this article but a very interesting in depth analysis of the game’s story.

Reading the article was extremely interesting. It helped me to connect some dots I didn’t even realize that there were before.

She also analyses Lara’s character and how it all fits in the lore of the series. Seriously, what are you waiting for? Go read Liana’s article!

2010 – Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Lara_Croft_and_the_Guardian_of_LightLaterLevels is going to battle for the light.

After I finished Tomb Raider Underworld, I was waiting on the next entry in the Tomb Raider series. To my surprise, we had to wait 5 years on a new entry in the main series.

Yet, during this wait, we got Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. A game that’s on my endless backlog list.

When I talked to Kim from LaterLevels and asked her if she wanted to be part of the Tomb Raider project, she suggested to play this game on stream together with her other half. She didn’t stream this game but the other spin-off. More on that later.

Now, what did she think of this game? You can read it in Kim’s article. Enjoy!

2013 – Tomb Raider

TombRaider2013OverThinkerY takes us to a Japanese island…

“A famous explorer once said, that the extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are. I’d finally set out to make my mark; to find adventure. But instead adventure found me. In our darkest moments, when life flashes before us, we find something; Something that keeps us going. Something that pushes us.”

That was one of the best quotes out the reboot of Tomb Raider in 2013. In this article, my good friend OverThinkerY took a look at the game. His analysis is great and I loved reading his article. I think you will enjoy it as well.

Also, this game has a special place for me on my blog since it’s the first game I reviewed since I started my English blog in 2013. You can read it here.

2014 – Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

Lara_croft_and_the_temple_of_osiris_artLaterLevels takes us on a journey through the Temple of Osiris.

So, Kim didn’t know that there were two spin-off games. When I told that to Kim, she didn’t hestitate for a second and decided that she wanted to also write about the 2nd spin off game.

Kim did a stream of this game together with her other half. You can watch the Twitch.TV archive in case you missed it: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/310930370

But I also highly recommend to check out her review of this game. Since I loved reading it.

2015 – Lara Croft: GO! & Lara Croft Relic Run

TriformTrinity puzzles his way through various tombs…

…and runs for relics.

Now, in this Writer’s Raid, we also took a look at two Lara Croft mobile games. These are Lara Croft Go and Lara Croft Relic Run. Honestly, I have played a bit of Lara Croft GO myself, but I haven’t played a lot of Lara Croft Relic Run.

So, if you are curious if these games are something for you and worth buying on your Android or iOS device, I think you will enjoy these two articles that TriformTrinity wrote. Have a great read!

2015 – Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise_of_the_Tomb_RaiderOverThinkerY looks at Lara’s rise of Lara Croft.

Of course had Tomb Raider (2013) to end with a cliff hanger. So, the story could continue in Rise of the Tomb Raider.

OverThinkerY takes a great look at the game and gives his own honest opinion on it. (And I gave mine a few years ago)

Something I really liked in OverThinkerY’s article is that he compared this game to what he likes in other games. And he played this game with the DLC included. So, give it a read, I can highly recommend it.

2018 – Shadow Of The Tomb Raider

SotTR_HERO-1-heroNekoJonez is going to take us on Lara’s latest journey.

While we were planning this project, the newest Tomb Raider game got released. To be honest, I claimed this game right away. I wanted to play this game anyways and I felt that it was a perfect way to close this collaboration.

So, what did I think of Lara’s latest adventure? If you want to know that, you’ll have to read my article on Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

And the this was the loot

I knew in advance that the group of writers for this project was going to be very different compared to my previous projects. I want to thank all the writers who helped me in this project, some even replayed games which didn’t age too well.

I hope you enjoyed reading this collaboration between me and these lovely bloggers: Games With Coffee, ABXY Game Reviews, Sarah’s Game Collection, Liana Kerzner, TriformTrinity, LaterLevels and OverThinkerY.

Do check these people out! They are all amazing people and I have to thank all of them to make this become a reality. Besides The Legend of Zelda, Tomb Raider is one of the biggest series from my childhood and reading all these different pieces made me remember why I love the series.

I have to admit that the games didn’t age all too well so it was quite interesting to see what everybody thought about the games they played.

I hope you enjoyed reading through these articles and enjoyed exploring the websites that made this unique project come to life. Feel free to be a Tomb Raider and explore these websites since they are all great sites that I can highly recommend.

If you want to read more articles like these, last year I did a similar project like this on the Zelda series. Also, my friend the Well Red Mage did something similar with the Final Fantasy series. So, thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Writer’s Raid: Tomb Raider III – The Adventures of Lara Croft

Tomb_Raider_IIIWikipedia entry

I remember quite well buying a copy of Tomb Raider IV & V in one bundle. When I came home and placed the install disc for Tomb Raider IV in my PC, I was surprised that Tomb Raider III started installing. I didn’t mind so much, I found the files for Tomb Raider IV on the disc labeled Tomb Raider V. I already owned Tomb Raider V, so I got extremely lucky there. Since I took a look to Tomb Raider IV in the past, I think it would be more interesting for this project to take a look at Tomb Raider III. Now, what do I mean with “this project”? Well, a group of writers and myself took a look at the whole Tomb Raider series and like the Zelda project last year, there is a hub article you can find here if you want to read the other amazing articles.

The Adventures of Lara Croft

TR3-1In this game, Lara is searching for the Infada Stone. When she finds the artifact, she gets approached by a researcher from RX Tech, who informs her about a meteorite that landed in Antarctica millions of years ago. This meteorite was used by the Polynesians to create various powerful stones, one of which is the Infada Stone. So, Lara starts a quest to find all the stones before they fall in the wrong hands.

The story is quite interesting. The main arc of the story, I explained above. But the story takes Lara on several different journeys with their own story. It’s a bit like Tomb Raider V, but the big difference is that they aren’t remembering Lara’s adventures after her death.

So, compared to Tomb Raider II, what is new in this game? Quite a lot actually. The game was primary made for the PlayStation and was meant as a sort of next-gen Tomb Raider. Core Design created a totally new engine for the game and a lot more. If you want to read up on the development, the Wikipedia page I linked above has a lot more to talk about.

The game did rather well. The game scored an average of 7/10 from different publications. If you look on GameRankings.com, the PS1 version even got a bigger score than the PC counterpart. It’s a 5% difference.

Now, the version I have in my collection is “Tomb Raider III – The Lost Artefact”. This is a version with some additional levels included. With these 5 additional levels, the game takes a nice 25 hours to beat the game, making this the longest Tomb Raider game in the series.

The story of the expansion pack takes place in between of the story of Tomb Raider III. So, it’s no epilogue or prologue. Also, this expansion pack was only released for people who owned the PC or MAC version. Sadly enough, this game was sold as a standalone game. The previous two games also had an expansion pack which was either part of a re-release or free to download from the official website.

The game also provided quite a lot of new things and moves to play around with. Lara got some new abilities like using the monkey bars. The new things in this game include new swimming and water mechanics, quicksand and various other things.

I’m glad that I played this game on the PC, since on the PS1, the save feature is restricted. The save feature works sort-of like the save feature in the early Resident Evil games. Where you have to find Ink Ribbons for the typewriters to save. In Tomb Raider III, you have to find save crystals to use the save feature in the main menu.  Since I love to save often in the older Tomb Raider games, I would have been so frustrated if that was also the case on the PC.

During the game, you go to India, UK, USA and Antarctica. You can also visit Lara’s home in this game. If you are a first time player, I highly recommend that you explore Lara’s home first. This way you can get used to the controls and the mechanics of Lara’s jump in the gym. Also, yes, I have fond memories of locking Winston up in the freezer.

How does it hold up?

TR3-2For me personally, this game was fun to play through. The game tested my retro gaming skills quite a lot and I enjoyed walking around the levels. While I had my share of frustrations when missing a jump or not directly knowing where to go, I still had a lot of fun exploring this game.

Now, this game hasn’t aged like fine wine. This game isn’t for everybody. While I don’t mind the dated visuals, I can understand that some people would hate the visuals. The visuals are early PS1 visuals. Yet, I feel they still have some charm and still look better than Tomb Raider I or II.

This game has decent controls. The big issue I have with them is that you can’t rebind the keys easily. There is some trickery you can do, but it shouldn’t be this annoying. Also, since I use an AZERTY keyboard lay-out, some keys were in different places. Thankfully, I got used to the controls after a few levels and I was able to pull of great moves.

Something that did age quite well in my opinion is the music and sound effects. While the soundtrack is extremely short, it’s still a joy to listen too. The soundtrack really fits the mood of the game. It’s relaxing when you are climbing and tense when you are fighting a boss. The sound effects pulled me into the atmosphere of this game.

TR3-3I really enjoyed the puzzles in this game. The only thing I had issues with were the vehicle sections. But, that was mostly because I didn’t know you could speed them up. After I learned how to do that, I had less issues with them. While it’s quite possible to play this game without a walkthrough, I used BadAssGamez’s walkthrough when I was stuck. He finished this game without using any medkits and got all the secrets as well.

In his video’s he also shows tricks on how to skip certain fights or how to easily defeat enemies. If you aren’t used to old-school Tomb Raider games, I highly recommend that you watch his walkthroughs if you need some help in beating this game. If you are used to old-school Tomb Raider games, this game will provide you with various challenges. My favorite level was the 8th level, the Temple of Puna. Mainly because it had various moments that reminded me of Indiana Jones.

I think that this game is still worth a playthrough. If you enjoy playing retro adventure games, I can’t recommend this game enough. I do understand that this game isn’t for everyone. There are moments where the game clearly shows its age. Don’t expect a game with a more modern polish, expect a game that challenges you in various area’s that takes you back to when you were young and played games after homework on your parent’s computer.

If you want to give this game a try, it’s still being sold on Steam for 7€ and on GOG, you find Tomb Raider 1+2+3 together for 9€. So seriously, what are you waiting for?

That’s everything I wanted to say about this game. If you are interested in a full review of this game, please tell me in the comments. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Writers Raid: Tomb Raider Level Editor ~ Lara Raided Fantombs

Tomb_Raider_Level_Editor

Today I want to take you on a journey. Together with various other writers, we decided to celebrate the Tomb Raider series. While a lot of people look at the early Tomb Raider games as games that didn’t age well, I don’t mind that much. True, the games aren’t the best to play nowadays, but I still enjoy them. I knew that there was a level editor as a child but I never taken the time to learn the ins and outs of the tool. In the past, I thought that it was a cheating tool that allowed you to edit levels to give you an advantage. Anyways, the level editor, that’s the theme of this article.

History

Now, what’s the TLRE? What’s the Tomb Raider Level Editor? Well, it’s the actual tool that Core Design used to create the first 5 Tomb Raider games. This tool was released to the public in 2000. Included in the package were beta versions of various levels and a couple of completed levels. A bit later, Eidos Interactive released another few levels. You can dig deeper on the details of those levels on the Tomb Raider Wiki.

If you want to mess around with the tool itself, you can find it here. Out of personal experience, I can say that the tool works on Windows 10. There are various tutorials you can find online. On YouTube and on various forums. Here are a few links you could use:

http://www.tombraiderforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f=16

https://tombraiders.net/stella/trle.html

http://www.trle.net

https://www.aspidetr.com/en/tools/tomb-raider-level-editor/

There is also an updated fan version of the tool called Tomb Raider Level Editor Next Generation. It’s quite a mouthful, but it has more features then the original tool. It also has widescreen support and various other features. More information can be found on this website: http://www.trlevelmanager.eu/ng.htm or you can read about it in detail on this forum thread: http://www.tombraiderforums.com/showthread.php?t=216848

Before I continue with this article, I have to admit that I’m not that good in creating levels with the tools. So, if you are looking for a review of the tools, I think you are at the wrong place. In this article I want to take a look at some random levels I played. Most of these levels are created by other people and the download link will be provided. If you want to play any custom created levels yourself, the best website to find them is: http://www.trle.net

Do keep in mind that all of these custom levels run on one the engine of Tomb Raider I, II, III, IV or V. So, don’t expect HD visuals or anything that the engine can’t handle. So, if you aren’t into the original Tomb Raider games, you might not get into these levels. But, if you are a Tomb Raider fan or enjoy retro adventure games, do give them a try. And don’t worry, there are reviews on almost every level on TRLE.net so you know if a level is good or not.

To play the custom levels you don’t need to have the level editor itself installed or any of the Tomb Raider games. The way how you play these levels is quite simple. After downloading a level, you unpack them and click on the exe file. In some cases, you can hold the CTRL key down to adjust some options like the visuals and things like that. Sometimes there is a readme file included by the author to aid you when certain problems occur. Do read them, since sometimes there is useful information in there. Uninstalling a custom level/game is quite simple. Since you didn’t have to install anything, you can just remove the files.

For beginners

Now, if you decided that you want to give these custom levels a try and you haven’t played Tomb Raider in the past or it was too long ago, let me give you some advice to better enjoy these custom levels. This might look like a lot to take in, but you will get used it to when you play more levels. Start with the highest rated ones. Those are really well built and rarely have cheap traps or overly difficult jumps in them.

First of all, if you run a level that’s made in TRI, II or III, you are able to change the controls from the main menu using the option with the arrow keys. If you are playing a custom level created in TRIV or V, you are able to do so using the “P” key during gameplay. Here is the basic lay-out for the keys:

TRLE1

Feel free to use these pictures as a reference in case the game is in a different language. The sequence of this list almost NEVER changes. To my knowledge, you are unable to rebind the keys in levels created in TR I, II and III. In other cases you can select the action using the arrow keys, press enter and press the key you want to bind it too. Pay attention while you are doing this since the game won’t complain if you bind two things to the same key.

Alright, now while playing this game, know that the game never autosaves. You can save by using F5 and load by using F6. You can save at any location you want, apart from when you are in a cutscene. You can’t pause the game using esc during cutscenes either.

Remember that Lara never automatically grabs ledges. You need to hold down the action button. So, if you jump towards a ledge, hold that button or you will fill. The same button is used to flick levers, pick up items, press buttons and so on and so forth.

You can save while hanging from a ledge, but press the action button right after the game loaded or you will fall. But, the action button is useful for so much more. From pushing boxes to opening trapdoors. If you are stuck, look for a place where the action button does something. Also, when you are trying to open a trapdoor, always try the action button while standing in the middle of a side. The final useful thing to know is when you press action in front of a keyhole and you have the actual key, your inventory will automatically open.

Do experiment with Lara’s jump, since she is quite acrobatic. Something I love using is backwards roll, when I press a button and quickly need to run away. This can be done by pressing the up and down key together while you perform a jump. In one custom level I have to jump back and forth between platforms to make it to the other side.

In some cases, Lara will be able to climb up. Whenever she needs to pull herself up in a tight spot, use the duck key while pulling yourself up. That way she will squeeze herself into the tight space.

Here is another hint. If you need to jump from a ladder to something behind you, don’t jump from the top. Lara will bump her head on the ceiling and loose height. You can jump from a ladder by pressing the down arrow and jump (while letting go of the control key), and then hold the up arrow and control. This technique will proof tricky at first, but practice makes perfect.

Now, I could keep explaining the whole move set Lara has. But that’s something you will learn when you play custom levels. Whenever you are stuck, simply google the name of the custom level and add “Tomb Raider Level Editor” behind it. 9.99 out of 10 chances you will find a walkthrough on it. Unless the level just released, in that case, you can either use the TRLE.net forums or wait a day or two.

Or you can experiment by downloading the level editor and playing the first two included levels. These have very easy levels that aid you in learning how the game is played. The download link can be found earlier in the article.

Oh, and it’s maybe handy to know how to exit a game. If you don’t find the quit button easy, just “ALT+F4” always worked for me.

Now, one annoying thing I want to mention is that “ALT+TAB” doesn’t always work. Be careful if you want to look at a walkthrough or something. Since, it’s possible that you are unable to open the game again. It might either crash or black screen. If that happens, use task manager to kill the process of the game and load it up again. That’s why I use the F5 key to quickly save before “Alt+Tab”. If you use “Alt+Tab” the safest way to get back to the game is to “Alt+Tab” into the game again. It’s possible that it has two open windows, the best best is choosing the window that has a title displayed. In most cases, that’s the name of the engine that’s used.

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

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

The Wolf Pack – Part 2

Image00001

Created by: JesseG

Created in: TR4

Rating: 9.25

Released: 23/08/2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal score: 9/10

Wolfpack screenie

Lost in Temple

Created by: Sal

Created in: TR5

Rating: 5.98

Released: 11/10/2015

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

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

Lost in Temple screenie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal score: 4/10

Poseidons Sanctum

Poseidons Sanctum screenie

Created by: Sarikman

Created in: TR3

Rating: 8.94

Released: 21/11/2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal score: 8/10

Final words

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

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

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

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

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

Tomb_Raider_raid

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

 

Publishing: The Fur in Me

Logo

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

Game Features

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

Modes

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

Other Features 

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

For more information

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

A bit about the developer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Publishing: Thousands dead in LostHero, new souls-like hardcore RPG

Prague, November 11th – LostHero public alpha strikes hard, with casualties reaching into the thousands. Body count rising each day.

“The recently released Public Alpha of the hardcore action RPG, LostHero, has been smashing all cherished institutions like no game before,” reports a T’grank informer with connections to the game. “We’re loving it. Instead of players smashing dozens of enemies with a single sword swing, they’re finding LostHero hopelessly difficult, dying left and right as they try to reach the end of the level. It’s glorious.”

losthero_artwork

The informer reports that the difficulty levels in LostHero are creating multiple hardships for players, but that the game itself has kept them foolishly coming back for more. The non-stop slaughter would appear to be an addiction, though independent sources confirm that’s likely not the case. The game is simply fun to play.

“We’ve been watching this very closely,” says the T’grank informer, “and our statistics don’t lie. We show that it takes more than 50 tries to reach the end, and this is just the beginning! Imagine the misery and chaos that will come with the Early Access release planned for December. And, God help these miserable players, imagine the final release!”

losthero_underground_chambers_screenshot

The informer, unofficial representative of the T’grank, went on to suggest someone, anyone, must step in to stop the madness before their cemeteries overflow with bodies. According to the informer these so-called LostHeroes are in control of the power of reincarnation, so no real damage is done to their souls, but the smell of the bodies has become overwhelming. “Who could withstand anything like it?” he was heard to lament.

After almost three years of development, GoldKnights studio has started a Public Alpha of LostHero – a hardcore souls-like RPG with a sci-fi twist and co-op mode for up to 4 players. The Alpha is free to play to anybody who subscribes. Players can register and subscribe at the official LostHero site.

In case you are interested in becoming a fodder for this brutal campaign, please visit LostHero.com to learn more. There you can also find a complete presskit with all the necessary resources.

Let us know if you need anything else and hit us with an e-mail if you’d like to check out our Early Access prior its launch – we’ll put you on our preview list. Also note that our currently available Alpha build will be undergoing huge improvements in upcomming week or two.

losthero_youdied_screenshot

Contact: Viet Tran – Junior PR Assistant @ LostHero.com – m.tran@lostherogame.com
Twitter @MarekTV

PS: December Early Access is coming and our goal is to attract as many players as possible to the free Public Alpha prior to that date. It is available now, and ends before the Early Access launch. We appreciate any line you can drop about us and our Alpha program. We’re also looking for media coverage for the December release.

ABOUTLOST HERO: LostHero is about an outcast hero, a mercenary of a secret order, who fights against the dark forces of chaos in a world fractured by eternal war. Three dominant races set the stage for his journey. The game can be played alone or in 2-4 player co-op mode. Traveling the dark worlds, players destroy their enemies in a complex skill-based action combat system, collecting resources along the way to craft and improve their arsenal. The more deadly players become, the more successful they will be. And the longer they will survive.

 ABOUT GOLDKNIGHTS: LostHero is developed by GoldKnights. Founded in 2015, we are a small indie studio of 10-20 people situated in Prague, Czech Republic. LostHero is our first comercial title, although majority of team members has a previous game development experience, especially RPGs, dungeons and adventures. Some of us also have a background in medieval swordfighting techniques, which we use to give the fighting system more realistic look and feel.

Publishing: Suicide Guy – Sleeping Deeply now on Nintendo Switch

CoverVideo10.jpg

New lunatic dreams are waiting for you!

In this new chapter of “Suicide Guy” you’ll be challenged with even more insane puzzles, generated by the surreal dreams of the Guy. You’ll encounter the weirdest of the living beings as you go deeper and deeper into his subconscious. This time, to wake him up you’ll need all your skills.

Release Date: Oct 25, 2018
No. of Players: 1 player
Category: Adventure, Puzzle, Action, Platformer
Publisher: Chubby Pixel

Read my review about this game here, the PC version.

Publishing: The Evolution of AI in movies Infographic

AIinfographic.jpg

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

Gamer’s Thoughts: How to play mobile games on your PC.

CaptureOfficial website

For some people, it isn’t easy to buy the latest and greatest phone to play the newest and greatest Android games on. Thankfully, there is a solution for that. It’s a solution I often use myself actually. There is a program called “BlueStacks” that allows you to play any Android game on your PC. I use this tool when I want to take screenshots for when I want to review an Android game. To my big surprise, the folks over at Bluestacks contacted me with more information about BlueStacks 4. So, that’s what I’m writing about today. Before I begin, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the program and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

What’s new

Currently, BlueStacks got a huge update. In v4, a lot of work has been done to make BlueStacks an even better platform to play Android games on. In this infographic created by the developers, you can find an overview of the changes and improvements in this new version.

If you want to download the program for yourself, just go to the official website that’s linked higher in the article and install the program. The installation is extremely easy. Just follow the on screen steps and the installer does the rest for you. It gets even better, when you log in with the same account you use on your phone, you will be able to download all your purchased apps and install them in BlueStacks.

It’s quite impressive on how far this program has come. Back in 2011, the first version of BlueStacks was released and today it’s one of the best programs on the market to play Android games on. With this program, you can easily stream, record or create screenshots from all Android games. And you can even play them.

If you don’t like the Google Play Store, BlueStacks also has its own AppCenter. This center is a new skin for the Play Store. Each program takes you directly to the corresponding page in the App Store.

Here is the best thing of all, using BlueStacks is completely free. There are some ads in the program and you can’t customize your wallpaper. If you buy a premium account, you will be able to change your wallpaper and have no ads. You also got priority responses from the support team, if you need them. This subscription costs only 40 dollars yearly. The only annoying thing is that there aren’t too many payment options.

By doing various tasks, like loading up a game and returning daily, you earn BlueStack Points. With these points you can buy themes and various merch prizes. At the moment of writing, there isn’t a list of which actions award you points. You can also buy BlueStack Points as a sort of microtransaction. But, these points are totally optional.

Playing games in BlueStacks

Thanks to the developers over at BlueStacks, I already got the chance to play around in a development build of version 4. Since BlueStack now supports the mapping of joysticks to keyboard buttons, I decided to try it out in Corpse Party – BloodDrive. Thankfully, there are cloud saves so I can pick up from where I left off.

screen 1

When I first installed the game, for some reason, the game closed to the desktop twice. But, the 3rd launch, the game just works perfectly fine. After mapping the joystick to the ZQSD (WASD in AZERTY, since I’m from Belgium and use AZERTY.) and the other joystick to the arrow keys, I was surprised at  how accurate and fluent this works.

After that I tried to map my keyboard keys to my wireless XBOX360 controller using a program called XPadder. With this program you can map keyboard keys to one input on your controller. It’s quite a neat program actually. BlueStacks and XPadder works just fine together. While I wish that BlueStacks works with controllers like the wireless XBOX360 controller; then again, for how many games will you be able to only use the controller and not have to use the mouse to tap/click on a spot? So yeah.

If you want to set this up for yourself, you need to click on the keyboard icon in the righthand corner. This brings up a new menu where you can choose between controls for various actions. Currently the following things are supported: a tap spot, d-pad, zoom, aim/pan & shoot, Moba Skill Pad, Swipe & Tilt. You click on what you need and drag it to where the button is on screen. If you want to change the keymap, you click on the button and press the key you want. It’s as simple as that.

screen 2

After you click save, you can start playing. Now, you can hide those keys. If you click on the eye icon that’s next to the keyboard icon, have a slider to choose how transparent you want those keys to be. I have set them all as invisible for the next screenshots in this article. I usually play on BlueStacks with invisible controls actually.

The next game I tested was the port of Sword of Mana, I played this on my tablet a while ago and it’s a very great port actually.

screen 3

I quickly got used to the controls I set up for this game. While I could set up a whole lay-out for the menu system for this game, I found that the clicking through it with the mouse works just fine. Also, I found this game easier to play, since now my hand didn’t cover up parts of the screen. I think I’m going to switch to BlueStacks to finish this game since it’s a more enjoyable experience than playing this on my actual tablet.

The final game I tested was Minecraft Story Mode. At first, I was annoyed that I was unable to login to my TellTales Account. But, I quickly realized why. Since I used enter to confirm my password, I went back to the login screen. When I clicked “OK”, the login actually happened. Curious, I took my own tablet and tried the same thing on there, and I had the same problem.

Anyways, I was surprised at how quickly I was able to download and install the episodes on BlueStacks. I actually tested the download speed of episode 5 on my tablet and on BlueStacks and I found that the episode was downloaded and installed faster on BlueStacks than on my tablet.

The reason I wanted to test this game on BlueStacks is because I wanted to check if this game also has the graphical issues I experienced on my tablet or if it’s a problem with the graphics chipset of my tablet. Besides that, I wanted to test a game that didn’t have a d-pad for moving the character but relies on pressing the screen to move your character.

BlueStacks_ScreenShot

Surprisingly, this game works perfectly. I actually placed a hidden dpad and the game reacts perfectly to that. Also, I didn’t notice any graphical issues. But, the graphical issues happened so rarely on my tablet, I can’t say it’s totally fixed. Something I did experience was a small audio desync in the 5th episode. The voice acting started a second after the characters opened their mouths.

The quick time events where easily done with the mouse. It did require me to get a bit used to the new way of playing this game but it didn’t take long. It reminded me that I want to finish this game.

So, now that I tested 3 different games on BlueStacks, I invite you to test out different games. Please, tell me your experiences with BlueStacks in the comment section. What games work and where fun to play on BlueStacks and which games gave you issues?

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

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

ageofmythologyextendededitionSteam store page

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

Tale of the Dragon

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

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

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 the Egyptian missions. The reason for that might be because I’m really fond of the Egyptian mythology.

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

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

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

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

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

God powers and such

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s dance

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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 chillest tracks is called: “Eat Your Potatoes”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

The bad:

-The visuals are just okay.

-The Tale of the Dragon DLC misses some polish.

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

-The save menu should display more information.

-Dying online multiplayer community.

The good:

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

+ You can use mods.

+ Amazing and addictive RTS gameplay.

+ Amazing soundtrack & sound design.

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

+ Good story.

+ …

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

Score: 70/100

 

 

Review: Kirby Star Allies (Switch) ~ Let’s Be Friends

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Official website

I enjoy the Kirby games quite a lot. The atmosphere and gameplay are the biggest reasons I’m drawn to the series. So, when I learned that a new game got released on Switch, I placed it on my “To Buy” list. Earlier this month, I bought myself a copy of this game on a small sale. So, today I want to give my honest opinions on the game. Is it any good or is it not worth your time? After playing Kirby Triple Deluxe and Kirby Planet Robobot, I was quite interested to see what the new offer on the Nintendo Switch will bring. As usual, feel free to leave your opinion on this game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

It’s raining hearts

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Kirby is peacefully sleeping in his house when he gets a rude awakening. Some dark hearts are raining down on his homeland, the land of Popstar. Of course, Kirby goes on an adventure to save the day.

As usual for a Kirby story, the story isn’t the big reason you play this adventure. If you played Triple Deluxe or Planet Robobot, you have seen and experienced this story line and structure before. The writing is solid and together with the character noises, the story comes somewhat alive. But, again, the story shouldn’t be the reason you play a Kirby game.

If you do care about spoilers, don’t highlight the following part. But, I want to tell some things about the ending of the main story. So highlight the rest of this paragraph if you don’t mind spoilers or have already beaten the game. … Okay, while I was playing the final levels of this game, I got a déjà vu. And I had to look it up. This ending has actually been done quite a few times before, but the reason I got a deja vu is because this ending is so similar to the ending of the Kirby game on NES. Seriously, watch a video from the final boss of Kirby Star Allies and than Kirby on the NES. You will be surprised. But, I guess it’s a reference or easter egg? 

Alright, the spoilers end here. Before I continue any further, I want to say that this game is extremely short. You can finish this game in an afternoon since the main story will take you only 6 hours. If you want to complete the whole game, you can do this in 14 hours. This was a huge let down, since the 3DS games were longer than that to fully complete. If you wanted to fully complete those games, you have to put aside 26 hours for each game.

I honestly don’t understand why this game is so short. Since the worlds you explore are fun to go through. Yet, there are only 4 worlds, well 5 if you count the one-stage world to fight the final boss in.

Besides that, there are a few mini-games and a co-op mode and that’s it. The post-game content isn’t anything special. I’m sorry, but Nintendo, why is this game priced at 60€? Are we for real? You can get the 3DS games for less money. Also, other Switch games like Super Mario Odyssey have a lot more to do in it for the same price tag.

Anyways, I’m not going to ramble about the price & length for too long. Otherwise it will overtake this whole review. Let’s be friends and review this … short … adventure.

Let’s be friends

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Each Kirby game has an unique gimmick that sets the games apart. In this game, you can recruit 3 enemies to fight along your side. These characters can be controlled by either a pretty good AI or a friend.

I haven’t played this game with a friend so, I won’t comment on that but, you can play this game with up to 4 players. Since the game is quite short, this game would make for the ideal late night gaming session to play through with your friends.

Now, this game goes further with the gimmick and sort-of reuses a gimmick from a previous entry in the series. Remember Kirby 64 – The Crystal Shards, where you were able to combine two different powers to create one unique power? Well, that returns in this game. Sort of.

For example, when you get the sword ability, you can hold up your sword up in the air. When some elemental friend sees this, they will infuse their power with the sword. So, you can get a flame sword. This leads to some unique strategies and puzzles to get the collectibles.

I found it quite enjoyable to see which unique combinations I could make by mixing powers. While some combinations create the same outcome, I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t too many joke combinations in this game. That was part of the charm in Crystal Shards. Where a combination could turn Kirby into a fridge.

Each time you combine a power, an animation plays where Kirby shows his new weapon/ability in a short of Smash Bros style. Surprisingly, you can change this in the options menu. You can choose between “always show them” or “show them only once.”. If you pick the last one, it will play the animation for each combination one time and when you make that combination again, it won’t play that animation.

There are various new unique abilities in the game as well. For example, the spider and art ability. To be honest, the art ability is overpowered, even for a Kirby game. It can spawn in various healing items with a short cool down. So, you can heal yourself and allies very quickly.

Now, I might be a bit too harsh on this game now. While the game is too short and could have been expanded a bit more, the level design was a blast to play through. The various abilities and friend combinations you can have make for a very replayable game. Also, in the puzzle rooms, the abilities you need are usually inside the room. And if the AI kills them, just walk off screen, wait a few moments and go back and they will have respawned.

The collectibles this time around are puzzle pieces. The hunt for them reminds me of the puzzle mini-game in the Mii Plaza on the 3DS. There are two types of puzzle pieces inside the levels. The normal blue ones and the special rainbow colored ones. The special rainbow colored ones unlock the pink pieces. The blue ones unlock a random piece of a picture. These pictures are just for having something to collect. I think they unlock new characters in the Dream Palace, but I’m unsure. Since I got every character unlocked by beating the game but I haven’t got all puzzles unlocked. The message after unlocking a puzzle stats: “You will be able to meet legendary characters”. So yeah.

It’s no secret that the Kirby games are easy and have a more challenging mode for more experienced players. To fully complete the puzzles, you will have to look around in the various levels. If you would have missed an unique piece, you can see that right from the level select screen. Included on the level select screen, you can also see if there is a hidden switch in the level that opens a hidden level. Including the hidden levels, there are 40 levels in total.

Press X to revive

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These 40 levels take you through 4 different chapters. During these 4 chapters, you explore various locations presented with an amazing visual polish.

The artwork in this game is really good. Together with great animations, the game’s visual presentation is top notch. I don’t have anything to criticize on that front.

In terms of the music and sound, I do have something to say. The soundtrack of this game is pretty good. For those who love nostalgia as much as myself, you will be happy to know that there are a lot of musical references in this soundtrack. Now, there are a few tracks of this soundtrack I disliked. These play in the final moments of the game. Thankfully, it’s only for one battle.

Now, speaking about battles and combat, the controls for this game are good. I did had some minor issues here and there. With some abilities I was unable to easy switch directions, like with the bird ability. When I started attacking, I felt I was locked in that attacking animation. Giving my enemy the chance to put in some damage.

It’s a minor problem since I finished this game with 85 additional lives. You only loose a life when Kirby dies. When an ally dies, you can hold “X” for a short time to revive them with a 1/2 health bar. Speaking about those friends, like the music there are some amazing references there too. My favorite reference is the return of the animal buddies from Kirby’s Dreamland 2 on the gameboy. That game was one of the first Kirby games I ever played.

Anyways, I was talking about the minor issues I had with controls. Another minor issue is that when you have a certain ability and you want to release that ability as a friend… Well, though luck. I haven’t found a way to do that.

The gameplay in this game is like any other Kirby game. It’s a 2D platformer-adventure game where you try to get to the big door at the end of the level. Now, another unique gimmick appears in some levels. In some levels, you will need to have 3 friends before you can progress. You can come across pedestals where you can “merge” together to from a bridge for an ally with a key to cross or you can form a boulder to roll down smashing rocks. I know that it’s a kids game, but the names the developers gave for some of these things are just… “The Friendship Bridge”… Do I have to say more?

The game is still a blast to play. I enjoyed myself quite a lot and rarely got annoyed with the level design. The final level gets a bit tricky with moving blocks. I lost a handful of lives thanks to being squished by those blocks. But, I was rushing things where I needed to take it slow.

Besides the music and various returning characters, the game has other references to previous games in them. Just look at what statues Kirby can change into using the stone ability. The Kirby dance makes a return as well and is adorable as ever.

In this game, there are also various puzzle rooms where you can get bonus stars, puzzle pieces and various other things. By default, the game tells you which abilities you need to use to solve the puzzle. You can disable this in the options menu, from the main menu. Why are the options you find in the main menu not able to be changed during gameplay? I can understand that it’s tricky to code while you are in a level but I think it would serve no big problems on the world map right?

The post-game content is decent but I expected a lot more from it. The two new modes are fun to mess around with but I feel like they are more designed for multi-player than for single player.

Anyways, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s time for the conclusion of this article and my final thoughts on the game.

The conclusion

The good:

+ Fun new gimmicks.

+ Fun to play.

+ Great visual design.

+ Great soundtrack.

+ The nostalgic references.

The bad:

-Way too short & too expensive at 60€.

-Minor control issues.

-The story…

-Useless collectibles.

Final thoughts:

Is this game a bad game? No, this game is a decent game but it’s too light on content. This game has the usual Nintendo polish and there is nothing really game breaking wrong with the game.

My big problem with this game is the length and the price they ask for it. In addition to that, some parts of this game are more designed for multiplayer. I feel that this game could be more fun to play with friends or family.

I do recommend this game, but wait for a price drop or buy it on the cheap. If you pay full price for this game like myself, the shortness of the game might be disappointing. I was able to beat this game in 2 days. This game just needed a longer development time.

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

Score: 65/100

EDIT: This post got a “Nice Job” badge from NormalHappenings. Read more here: https://normalhappenings.com/2018/09/14/nice-job-badges-for-september-14-and-a-guide-to-making-the-most-boring-game-show-ever/