GameLuster You Know You Do 2017-10-19T20:38:52Z WordPress Tow <![CDATA[Remaster of Star Ocean: The Last Hope arrives this November]]> 2017-10-19T20:38:52Z 2017-10-19T20:38:52Z The prequel to the original Star Ocean will be arriving on PS4 and PC on November 28 as a full HD remaster with added 4K support. The game will be released digitally, with the Steam version having keyboard, mouse and controller support.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope keeps the original item creation and private action systems that explore character relationships and subplots for a richer and more rewarding story. It also retains the exhilarating Blindside battle system, which fuses evasion and offense.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope is priced at 20.99 USD for both platforms. PlayStation plus members and Steam users who purchase the game before December 12 will receive a ten percent discount. Additionally, those who purchase on Steam before December 12 will receive an exclusive downloadable mini-soundtrack featuring music for the game, while purchasing it from the Playstation Store before January 8 will nab you an exclusive theme and twelve network avatars featuring the main characters.

SeanPyle <![CDATA[Hacking and Slashing Through History: Wulverblade Review]]> 2017-10-19T20:32:26Z 2017-10-19T20:32:26Z Anyone reading this review is familiar with the powerful way video games entertain us. But the medium is capable of much more, and the educational aspect of Wulverblade, a newly released indie title from developer Fully Illustrated, highlights this potential. Scattered throughout the levels of this beat-em-up throwback are a number of historical artifacts that, when acquired, provide a blurb of information to the player. These well-written and informative nuggets of knowledge cover Roman history, and although this emphasis on a fiction paralleling reality is Wulverblade‘s most valid claim to uniqueness, the remaining package is a genuinely good addition to the Switch’s flourishing indie library.

Wulverblade is a faithful retread of the side-scrollers of yesteryear. Combat is basic enough to remain accessible but still has the nuance so that improvement is a viable endeavor. When this game first surfaced, I saw some parallels drawn between it and Castle CrashersWulverblade, however, is a distinct offering and strays clear from familiar RPG traits. Whether this is a good thing depends on the player but, personally, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of stat-based incentives and character progression. Wulverblade strictly harkens back to the arcade games that inspired it, and won’t scratch the itch of those looking for an evolution of the genre.

The game offers two primary game modes: story and arena. Arena is a wave-based survival mode that tasks the player with overcoming hordes of enemies who continually grow in difficulty. While the arena inherently lends itself to leaderboard-based competition, it also serves as practice for players to refine their combat skills. Wulverblade‘s story mode is relatively unforgiving, and even slight errors in input have catastrophic results that accumulate quickly. But mastery of its simple control scheme is rewarding; tearing through a horde of enemies unscathed is a cathartic experience, especially if the same crew was responsible for your death earlier.

The experience is marred by clunkiness. An enormous amount of the character’s actions are assigned to a single button, which makes the hectic battlefield a nuisance on occasion. The button used to attack is the same used to pick up objects—a baffling design choice. This cost me health on more than one occasion, and in a game where mistakes are so damning, this frustration often dampened the experience.

Otherwise, the game plays much like one would expect, given the genre. There are three playable characters that fulfill a speed, power, and balance trifecta, and every once in awhile the player will encounter different weapons to use for brief stints. The boss battles are fun, if not slightly redundant and similar, and the challenge is addictive.

Particularly daring players can play a classic mode where only three lives are given to the player. While I don’t know how anyone could have the skill to survive under these circumstances, it is an awesome addition that caters to the hardcore audience that Wulverblade will likely attract.

Visually, it’s a living comic book. Characters and environments fluidly interact and produce a gripping 2D atmosphere. Extra touches, like wolf silhouettes passing through the foreground, are icing on the visual cake. Sound design is good throughout, and the tunes are fitting, if forgettable.

Despite some frustrations, I had a great time playing Wulverblade even though I’m not part of the game’s target audience. The game largely accomplishes what it intends to, and those looking for a beat-em-up on the Switch will likely find themselves satisfied by this virtual romp through historical fiction. 

GameLuster was provided a game code for the purposes of this review.

DougiePowell <![CDATA[Thoughts On Think of the Children]]> 2017-10-18T03:29:47Z 2017-10-18T03:29:47Z Developer Jammed Up Studios, along with Publisher Surprise Attack, have confirmed that their new game Think of the Children will be released this Thursday.

The game describes itself as a “parenting simulator” with goals of keeping your children alive and avoiding prosecution of child neglect.

“Hauled before the court for bad parenting and endangering the lives of your children, the Prosecutors present a series of events as evidence that will either condemn or exonerate you: a birthday party at the park, a day at the zoo, a camping trip, an unexpected visit to the Australian Outback and more,” its Steam store page states. “Only, each of these locations proves to be far more dangerous than they sound, and even the tamest of environments are filled with deadly hazards. Play through each event in flashback to prove your parenting skills—and your innocence—to the judge, and avoid going to jail.”

My first reaction to this game is: I have absolutely no idea who it’s for.

Surely people with kids spend their days trying to keep their real-life kids alive, so I suspect they have no interest in keeping virtual ones alive in their spare time.

People without kids would either not want to try to keep their kids alive, having decided they don’t want kids in life or in games, or would actively try and drown the little brats for their own amusement. Having said that, both the description and trailer are more focused on failing the game—letting the kids die—rather than succeeding at it, as if the cartoony deaths are meant for sadistic pleasure. It’s like when you take someone who pissed you off in The Sims, lock them in a room and start a fire (I’ve heard some people do crazy stuff like that).

The game lists as a feature “All Kinds of Families Welcome.” Are they really, Jammed Up? Thanks for letting alternative families know that you’ve decided it’s okay for them to exist. All families will be welcome when they can be included in games without straight people patting themselves on the back for not being jerks.

View the launch trailer below, though be aware that deaths of children are depicted. It’s all non-graphic, cartoon fare, but it may still offend.


DougiePowell <![CDATA[Glo Review]]> 2017-10-18T03:03:45Z 2017-10-18T00:32:33Z Have you ever played Tetris and thought, “Wouldn’t this be better if the screen was almost completely dark and I couldn’t see what I was doing?” Well, my friend, your incredibly specific prayers have been answered.

Glo is a new indie puzzle game from Chronik Spartan, with the opening description line: “What happens in a game where most of it is hidden?” After gaming for fifteen years, I can honestly say that that question falls into the category of: “I wasn’t thinking that, but am now.” And do you know what happens in a game world where most of it is hidden? Frustrating, repetitive, creepy brilliance!

Despite me referencing Tetris at the beginning of this due to the similarity of having generic cubes, the game isn’t anything like Tetris and is an entirely unique and interesting concept. You move one cube around a world built entirely out of generic cubes, with the aim of sitting on the only unique-looking cube, to crush its unique spirit.

As the game promises, your cube is the only source of light and only illuminates a small amount of the world around you. You can defend yourself by firing a small bullet that creates light into the game world to try and get a better idea of your surroundings, and you can later find new ways to light up the world around you, but for most of the game you are in darkness.

There does seem to be some element of story to the game with short lines of text hidden throughout the levels, indicating that you are being trapped by some sort of evil, creepy overlord, or overlady, or overgender-neutral ruler. The messages are very random, and I didn’t always notice them on my first attempt. This was very intriguing, and I found myself desperate to reach the game’s conclusion for the sake of finding out the fate of this tiny black cube, rather than simply playing a puzzle game.

From what I’ve concluded, you have been trapped in this dark world by the overperson, who is very lonely and in dire need of company. In order to keep you in their world, they’ve set a series of obstacles for you to overcome in your attempt at escape. The messages become more intense, expressing emotion and giving warnings to the square, showing both concern and resentment toward the character and building a complex relationship between the overperson and the player. Yes, it’s deep, and I love it! It creates almost a David Firth level of creepy in an adorable world decorated with florescent blue highlights and rainbow guns.

Like most puzzle games, the game does get incredibly frustrating at times, with very little to go on in terms of instruction and most levels relying on trial and error, or occasionally luck, but for me that’s the appeal of a puzzle game. It’s not angry frustration, it’s fun frustration, the kind that gives you a little squeal of joy when you complete a level you found particularly taxing. However, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this game to someone going through anger management.

You may attempt a level as many times as you like as there is no lives system and when you die you simply start the level again from the beginning. However, if you crave intensive motivation to best the game on the first try, then in the start menu there is a death counter in the top-left corner that I’m sure can give you some motivation.

Like any game, there is room for improvement in Glo. The music is incredibly repetitive and I turned it off after the seventh level or thereabouts. Repetitive music does seem to be the standard for puzzle games, though, so this isn’t a knock unique to Glo.

The visual aspects are beautiful and appeal to the deep gothic princess inside me, along with the bitter sarcastic side that likes to see things suffer and fail. Occasionally you’ll encounter a level that seems a little rushed as some levels feel very similar to ones before, but mostly it’s a well laid-out game world that contains unique levels and is forever changing and adding in new features.

Glo would have more success as a mobile game than a PC game, since it has a lot of potential as a puzzle game and mobile seems to be the main market for puzzle games nowadays. This is the first time in a long while I’ve sat down to play a puzzle game, as I usually play them on my phone during loading transitions when playing other games. (I’ve heard that mobile games are great for the outside world too, but the outside world is also loud and scary.) While Glo has story and charm that keep it interesting and the player invested, I’m not sure if it’s enough to reach the same success on PC as it would on mobile.

On Steam one of the features listed for Glo is “A world where nothing is known, everything is a surprise,” and that pretty much sums everything up. It’s fun, it’s cute and one of the best games I’ve played this year. Glo will be available on Steam on October 23 and, costing only 4.99 USD, I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to play it.

I would have liked it if it had been released earlier since I would have enjoyed browsing Tumblr for Halloween costumes inspired by this game. I guarantee someone would have tried and the result would have been amazing.

GameLuster was provided a game code for Glo by the developer.

Tow <![CDATA[Doki Doki Literature – Horrifyingly Amazing]]> 2017-10-17T04:02:53Z 2017-10-17T04:02:53Z Nobody is more surprised than I am for completing Doki Doki Literature. I dislike horror games since I scare easily, and anything with jump scares, eerie music, and supernatural creatures will have me hiding under my desk. It’s a challenge to get through even the shortest of horror games, though I probably broke my own personal record by finishing three runs of Doki Doki Literature, each more terrifying than the last. Some people might be put off that you’ll need to play the game more than once, but every new game you play is entirely different than the last.

The game did a superb job of drawing me in, to the point where I couldn’t help but play it even when I knew I was going to be scared sh–less. My desire to find out the big why overwhelmed my fear.

Team Salvato has flipped the genre on its head and pulled the rug out from under everyone’s feet, creating something truly amazing under the guise of a romantic visual novel. Its overwhelmingly positive rating on Steam is no surprise to me. The game is also entirely free to play. But don’t take the lack of a price tag to mean that the game is mediocre, because it is anything but. Every aspect of it—the art, characters, music and story—is polished enough to put some paid games to shame.

Doki Doki Literature behaves like your regular, generic visual novel at first. There are cute girls fawning over you the moment you start the game, a staple in this genre, and you are roped into joining the literature club at your school. It frequently hints to something darker under its flowery, adorable exterior, but it’s easy to ignore since nothing actually happens. But soon, these moments begin to add up. The unsettling feeling in your gut grows heavy, until everything finally comes to a head at the end of your first playthrough. After that, anything that can go wrong, goes wrong.

I love how the game builds up suspense. It’s clever because it throws players off when the scares finally happen. This is what makes the horror aspect of Doki Doki Literature so potent, because of how it messes with the player. It’s terrifying how the game finds so many ways to disturb you, like suddenly taking control your mouse, having character sprites glitch, even utilizing fourth wall breaks to creep you out. By creating a dissonance with the player and their reality, it manages to achieve something normal horror games can’t.

In traditional horror games, the scares only happen while playing and escaping is a simple mouse click away. But with Doki Doki Literature, it can feel like you never left.

The game isn’t always about trying to scare you, however. There’s an amazing story to be had once you’ve waded through hell to get there. The dialogue is also a pleasure to read, and the game has meaningful advice to impart to the player. The ending is also one of the best I’ve ever encountered.

Doki Doki Literature is a strange experience that left me with a decent portion of mental scars, but I find myself inexplicably enamoured with it. It is one of those games that leave me truly speechless, invoking so many conflicting emotions I didn’t think was possible for a visual novel. It’s one hell of a ride.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[DOOM Releases for Nintendo Switch November 10]]> 2017-10-17T02:17:22Z 2017-10-17T02:17:22Z The latest Nintendo Direct presentation brought with it many surprises but none bigger than the reveal that Bethesda is bringing DOOM to the Switch. This Goliath of a game released in 2016 to great critical reception and made many gamers’ best of the year list.

Those interested in DOOM on the Switch don’t have long to wait: Bethesda has confirmed the release date as November 10.

Besides this date, Nintendo also released a developer video.

In the video, creative director Hugo Martin and executive producer Marty Stratton discuss some of the features you can experience in DOOM on Switch. This will include the full single-player campaign, Arcade Mode, and the full multiplayer experience, with all downloadable content included.

The developers also touched on their work with Panic Button to ensure DOOM offers Switch users the same fast and brutal experience other system users got to have in 2016.

Check out the video below:


John Morano <![CDATA[Expansion Makes Warframe Even More Masterful MMORPG]]> 2017-10-15T05:35:17Z 2017-10-15T05:35:17Z It seems to me that over its lifetime, Warframe has been three distinct games. At launch, it was clearly an indie title, glitchy with subpar graphics, imprecise controls, no plot, and very little depth. I played this incarnation of Warframe, decided to pass on the game, and didn’t revisit it until a year later. However, during this time, Warframe’s developers, Digital Extreme, worked tirelessly on their game. They reworked systems that players had issue with, like stamina and mods. They improved the graphics. They added new content. Due to all this, Warframe became more popular, and all the while DE just kept on improving it. Eventually, it became a solid triple-A MMORPG. This is the Warframe that I played for four years. Now, Warframe is becoming something different again. DE just released the massive Plains of Eidolon expansion that transforms it into an open-world game.

Before I go into detail on this expansion, I should explain the base game.

Warframe is a third-person shooter, action MMORPG, and quasi-sequel to Dark Sectors, a 2008 cult hit also by DE. You play as the tenno—essentially a faction of space ninjas—in a dystopian sci-fi future, set across real and fictional locations in our solar system. Various factions, like the grineer, corpus, corrupted, and infested, vie for control of the solar system, dragging many innocents into the power struggle. You, as the tenno, are the solar system’s peace keepers. You attempt to maintain balance, occasionally working with some of these factions but more often than not bashing their skulls in. Pretty often you will just run around fighting everyone and everything for loot, and there is a lot of loot in Warframe.

The titular warframes are basically character classes and one of the more important forms of loot. Warframes are cybernetic suits or constructs that work together in a sort of symbiosis with their tenno operators, and they are themselves a part of what makes a tenno. The nature of warframes and tenno has yet to be explained entirely, but warframes have been compared to golems, an artificial yet living construct. I won’t touch on tenno operators so as to avoid plot spoilers.

As you tear through the solar system, you’ll find pieces and blueprints of the game’s 50-plus warframes. You’ll collect resources to build these warframes, and then you’ll level them. Each of the warframes has unique abilities, backstories, and aesthetics. My favorite is Valkyr, a tanky melee-berserker warframe. Her backstory is that she was tortured and dissected by the corpus faction before her fellow tenno rescued her, and she still wears binds as a relic of her captivity. She is basically one-part hunter and four-parts poorly repressed rage. There are numerous other warframes, like Mesa, the gunslinger frame, Excalibur, the swordsman, or Nekros, the necromancer.

Weapons are another important form of loot in Warframe. Your typical loadout includes three weapons: a primary, secondary, and melee. With literally hundreds of weapons to choose from, you’re quite spoiled by choice. For primary weapons, there are rifles, shotguns, snipers, bows, grenade launchers, and more. These broad categories aren’t where weapon diversity ends, though. Under the rifles category, there is the latron marksman rifle, the ignis flamethrower, the opticor laser cannon, the supra laser machine-gun, the sybaris burst-fire rifle, the glaxion ice-ray, or the synapse biological beam gun. Most weapons are built through clan (guild) research, acquired via the market, or obtained from missions, although there have been a few event weapons passed out as rewards or for logins (most of these are currently obtainable via other means).

Companions are another part of most loadouts. These include sentinels (drones), kubrows (dog-like things), and kavats (cat-like things). Sentinels are researched, bought from the market, or acquired via missions in the Void. Kubrow eggs are found on Earth and hatched by players. Hatched kubrows can belong to any of five different subspecies and will have distinct cosmetics compared to other kubrows (body size, shape, colors, etc.). Kavats are similar in this regard, although there are currently only two subspecies. You can also breed kubrows and kavats to get your perfect companion and at one point, due to a glitch, could crossbreed them. This leads to some pretty crazy abominations, which are still in-game, but non-tradeable.

Forma and mods are, essentially, the secret to your power in Warframe. It’s not enough just to acquire powerful weapons, warframes, and companions, you’ll need to level them to the cap (30). Depending on your method, this can take 20 minutes to several hours. Through increasing your gear’s level and applying an orokin catalyst, you raise a gear’s mod capacity so you can use mods with the gear. Also, the first time you max a piece of gear, you gain experience toward your mastery rank, which governs the pieces of gear you can equip and quests you may accept.

Mods make gear stronger, and there are hundreds of these. I have over 500 unique mods in my collection, and there are more. They’re sort of like trading cards, you get them unranked and add a resource (endo) to them, increasing their effectiveness. With the right mods, you can increase a weapon’s damage by over a hundredfold, or make a warframe immortal at certain levels of content. Mods can add physical damage (impact, slash, and puncture) or elemental damage (fire, ice, poison, electric) to weapons. Elemental damage interacts, so if you have ice and fire damage mods, the damage becomes blast, an entirely different elemental type. There’s also utility mods: one gives you the ability to see enemies on your minimap, another lets your pet revive you. These mods add substantial depth and complexity to Warframe and allow for many combinations to strengthen gear.

Riven mods are a newer type of mod, which are specific to individual weapons and feature between two and four randomly generated stats scaled in proportion to how frequently a particular weapon is used by the community. Rivens are important for game balance, as they aren’t too strong on meta weapons and allow lesser meta weapons to compete with more powerful ones.

For example, before riven mods there was a gun I liked, the latron wraith. Unfortunately, it wasn’t particularly powerful, and I could only ever use it on low-level content. When rivens were added, I got a rather strong latron riven which made the gun top-tier and allowed me to use it for all sorts of content. If there’s a weapon you like but it isn’t strong, you can probably balance it with a riven and use it effectively. One of the weakest guns in the game, the furis, has become regarded as one of the most useful, in large part due to rivens. As there are infinite possible stat rolls with rivens, players always have something to pursue.

Warframe is free-to-play and is one of the easiest such titles to actually play free, as the premium currency may be traded. I’ve gotten over 100 dollars worth of premium currency (plat) many times from a single trade, and I’ve many friends who have done the same. I don’t feel like I’m giving up much, either: at one point I sold a riven for a tonkor, a gun I didn’t like, and made a fortune. Many players do this and play Warframe without ever spending a dime. Conversely, there are a lot of people who drop a good amount of money on the game and enable the rest to do otherwise.

Warframe is predominantly PvE, which has given it a very friendly community. After playing toxic competitive games like League of Legends, Warframe is very much a breath of fresh air. Rewards are shared by squad members, so there’s no fighting for loot, and even though there technically is a PvP mode, it’s optional and few people regularly play it.

Veterans often help new players, be it through providing them advice, assisting them in missions, trading them some loot, or giving them entry into a clan. DE has worked hard to eliminate avenues for toxicity, such as making it so people can’t exit a mission at the last second and leave a single player behind. It was quite rare that someone actually did this, but now no one can.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Ark: Survival Evolved, and stated that the game, while originally good, was failing due to an unethical developer. Warframe is the exact opposite. At release the game was pretty lackluster, but since then, DE has made it a major success, and their dedication is allowing the game to reach new heights.

Generally speaking, Warframe’s graphics go well beyond impressive. It’s a beautiful, highly optimized game, which can look good even on low-spec PCs. I personally play it on max graphics with a GTX 980 Ti and get consistently over 100 fps in most areas. Something to keep in mind is that every planet, moon, and zone in the solar system has a unique tileset, or aesthetic, and, sometimes, even more than one. Most of these environments look quite good, Earth in particular, as it recently got a graphical overhaul. Only a few are showing their age.

Enemy models are also well-designed and conveniently rather flimsy. If you like M-rated games with lots of blood and gore, look no further than Warframe and its dismemberment system, with which you’ll be cutting enemies in half and removing those troublesome excess limbs all day long. Conversely, if that isn’t your cup of tea, you can disable the blood and gore. DE has managed to provide their weapons with unique designs, despite having literal hundreds of them in the game. All of them can be further customized with colors, and occasionally via skins, attachments, and alternate holsters.

On the subject of sound, Warframe’s music is passable, but after a few hundred hours, you’ll probably want to mute it and play your own tunes. The voice and sound effects, on the other hand, are exceptional. Each of the hundreds of enemies and weapons have unique sounds effects. It’s not like all assault rifles use the same resources: each weapon in each category is distinct in terms of graphics and sound. Even different versions of the same weapon model, such as the latron, latron wraith, and the latron prime, all have different visuals and sounds. You should also expect competent voice acting for Warframe’s various characters across numerous story quests.

Now to the recent Warframe expansion: Plains of Eidolon. PoE is an open-world zone located on earth wherein players can travel around, on foot or by air, fighting grineer and giant monsters called eidolons. There is fishing, mining, hunting, gathering, and dynamic missions. Admittedly I’ve only had a few days to play the new expansion, but Warframe is my most played game, and PoE is a game changer. The new mechanics and amount of loot it adds to the game is staggering. You can build unique weapons by mixing and matching different parts and craft all sorts of unique cosmetics, and this is just the beginning.

DE called PoE their first open-world zone, suggesting that there will be others. Considering that it just released, it’s likely DE will be maintaining PoE, adding even more content (players haven’t even gotten their hands on all the content released yet).

The Plains of Eidolon expansion is another huge landmark for Warframe. It provides content for new players and veterans alike. I strongly recommend that those who haven’t tried the game yet give it a shot, and those who have try it again. If you’re looking to lose yourself in a beautiful, immersive, action MMORPG, then definitely consider Warframe. It gets my highest recommendation.

DougiePowell <![CDATA[Bury Me, My Love – The Story of a Syrian Refugee]]> 2017-10-15T01:16:54Z 2017-10-15T01:16:54Z French indie developers The Pixel Hunt and Figs along with publisher Playdius and co-producer ARTE have announced the release date for their latest project.

Bury Me, My Love is an instant-messaging adventure inspired by real events surrounding the lives of Syrian refugees, to be released on October 26.

The game focuses on the story of Syrian refugee Nour and her husband Majd. You play as Majd, who is separated from his wife and forced to stay behind, only able to communicate with her through a smartphone. The goal is to communicate with Nour and help her overcome the hardships she encounters. There are multiple endings. The title comes from a Syrian phrase that roughly translates as, “Take care, and don’t even think about dying before I do.”

Bury Me, My Love has the option of being played in real time, with messages arriving in intermittent intervals, or with a fast-track option, which allows the story to be played without pauses.

Bury Me, My Love is inspired by real events experienced by refugees … but our main characters of Nour and Majd are fictional,” said Florent Maurin, founder of The Pixel Hunt. “Our goal for this project was to represent an experience shared by a multitude of people in a thought-provoking and unique way; the hope of finding a better life, with only a smartphone to connect you with your loved ones as you make life and death decisions.”

Bury Me, My Love will be available on the App Store and Google Play Store on October 26 for iOS and Android.


DougiePowell <![CDATA[Golden Joystick Awards 2017]]> 2017-10-11T23:01:40Z 2017-10-11T23:01:40Z Toward the end of last month, voting opened for the thirty-fifth annual Golden Joystick Awards. The Golden Joystick Awards are the second oldest gaming award and a chance for gamers to show appreciation for their favourite games of 2017.

Just twenty-four hours after voting went live on September 21, it was reported that the record number of one-day votes had been beaten.

There are twenty-one categories to vote on, including Best Storytelling, Best Indie Game of the Year, Best Multiplayer Game of the Year, Best Visual Design and Best Audio.

If you haven’t already, please remember to visit the website and submit your votes. Voting is open through November 3. After you finish voting you’ll be able to claim a free gaming eBook worth £15.99. The awards will be presented by Assassin’s Creed’s Danny Wallace in London on November 17.

You can submit votes via this link.

DougiePowell <![CDATA[Middle Earth: Shadow of War Released]]> 2017-10-11T22:35:24Z 2017-10-11T22:35:24Z On October 10, Monolith Productions finally released their Shadow of Mordor sequel, Middle-earth: Shadow of War. The game is an open-world RPG inspired by the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, and contains monsters and Middle-earth scenery familiar to any Tolkien fan along with original enemies and a new story.

Shadow of Mordor follows the last game with original characters Talion and Celebrimbor who attempt to forge a new ring of power to defeat the enemies of Middle-earth, including the dark lord Sauron.

“We worked incredibly hard to massively expand Middle-earth: Shadow of War in every dimension, including the open world, the story, the RPG systems, the core gameplay and of course the personal player stories created through the expanded Nemesis System,” said Michael de Plater, vice president of creative at Monolith. “As lifelong fans of all things Middle-earth, we are so grateful to have the privilege to bring to life the most incredible fantasy world ever, reimagined in a fresh way for fans and newcomers. We can’t wait to see the amazing stories players are going to create and share once they experience all that Middle-earth: Shadow of War has to offer.”

The game was originally scheduled for release in August, but come June, Warner Brothers pushed the release date to October.

Shadow of War is available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, and it has already received positive reviews on Steam and Metacritic.

Emmaline Shettel <![CDATA[Best Soundtracks: Sonic Adventure 2]]> 2017-10-11T00:36:44Z 2017-10-11T00:36:44Z Sonic Adventure 2 has a famous soundtrack. Maybe it’s because it is like a rock album except for a video game, or because everybody knows City Escape even if they’ve never touched the game.

Each character has their own theme. My favorite was Rouge’s: she had the jazzy theme, representing her sassiness. Amy, the peppy one, had the upbeat music. I remember dancing around my room to the girly themes of Rouge and Amy. Knuckles had the rap music to complement his tough guy persona. Sonic had inspirational music about never giving up, because he is the leader. Eggman and Shadow, villains, shared the evil themes.

The variety in the soundtrack allows people of different ages and tastes to enjoy it. The music for each character and scene allows the player to understand how the character is feeling and enhances the atmosphere of each stage.

There is direction and purpose with the music: it tells the characters’ stories, not just a story between villains and heroes. The game represents being yourself and accepting all moods and genres of music, mostly rock, due to the time of its release. It is easy to enjoy the soundtrack because of the many moods and the characters, with whom you will relate. 

I definitely have some of the songs on my playlist.

Image from The Cutting Room Floor.

Emmaline Shettel <![CDATA[Pokemon Platinum is Must Own]]> 2017-10-09T02:50:47Z 2017-10-09T02:50:47Z When assessing all of the Pokémon games that have been made for the Nintendo DS, Pokémon Platinum definitely dominates. This is due to the fact that it is like Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl combined, except with your own house at the end and the infamous legendary, Giratina.

Pokémon Platinum should be bought over Diamond and Pearl because it improved upon them. I picked up Pearl when it came out and fell in love. At first, I was reluctant to get Platinum, but I did because of how cool Giratina was. I since discovered that the graphics were better as well, and Platinum would become my new favorite Pokémon game for the DS.

Some of the improvements are small, but make the whole game better overall. The Pokétch tool in the games was improved in Platinum, allowing the game to be smoother throughout the story. Along with this, seals were made for your Pokémon when they come out of their ball, making the game a more personal experience. A big improvement with these little ones was the fact that gym leaders only use Pokémon of their expertise in gym battles, making them easier to counter and earn your badges.  The Distortion World, the place you obtain Giratina, is an added bonus.

Other changes include getting a villa at the end of the game and being able to re-challenge the Elite 4 with higher level Pokémon, making it easier to level up and challenge yourself. The Wi-Fi Plaza was also a big hit, similar to the Festival Plaza in the newest Pokémon game for 3DS, Sun and Moon. Trading eggs is even available, similar to Wonder Trade in newer Pokémon 3DS games.

The best improvement would be the number of Pokémon available: approximately fifty-nine more Pokémon are available in Platinum. There are other, minor improvements with the makeup of towns, but these don’t necessarily improve the game, just make it more aesthetically pleasing.

I sold my Pearl after I beat it for the notorious Platinum. Don’t get me wrong, Pearl and Diamond are good games, but Platinum beats them both.

Image from Toy TMA. 

Tow <![CDATA[God Eater 3 Announcement Trailer]]> 2017-10-09T01:08:48Z 2017-10-09T01:08:48Z Bandai Namco has officially revealed the third entry to the God Eater series. The trailer shows off one-on-one battles with intimidating monsters called Aragami and slick visuals resembling Bandai’s new IP, Code Vein. Bandai Namco Entertainment America has also announced that God Eater 3 will be localized, though there is no word on a release date or platforms yet.

God Eater is a hunting action game similar to Monster Hunter, but it differentiates itself with some truly impressive world-building, interesting storylines and developed characters. It’s become one of the staples of the hunting genre, and has long since developed its own identity and fan base.

Murphy Wales <![CDATA[Junglers May Be a Dying Breed in Dota 2]]> 2017-10-07T21:30:09Z 2017-10-07T21:30:09Z By now, most Dota 2 players have realized that the laning phase has become the most crucial part of the game. The value of the lane creeps has increased in both gold and experience, support heroes have become stronger, and they can transition into semi-carries for late game. Carry heroes have to not only become strong earlier in the game, but they have to be just as good in the late game. Because of the new laning economy, jungling heroes are having a hard time keeping up. Not only do they have to farm jungle creeps on their own, but they have to do it faster than their laning counterparts. Any kind of interference could devastate their standings later in the game. So which jungling heroes survive in the meta and how?

How Important is Your First Item?

There are only a handful of jungling heroes to begin with, and the list keeps dwindling with each update. Players are discovering new and more efficient item builds for heroes that allow them to farm outside the jungle. Legion Commander, for example, has been denounced from jungling. While she’s not the titular example of a jungling hero, she is known to farm for an early Blink Dagger. However, since the game moves at a faster pace, the Blink Bagger doesn’t come out early enough for her damage to be substantial. When she decides to use her ability Duel on an enemy, her best chances of winning is if their health is below fifty percent. Other builds suggest substituting Blink Dagger with a Shadow Blade.

For a hero to be invested in jungling, they should only need one item to get up and running. Enigma, for example, only needs a Blink Dagger to be effective. Once he has a way to engage the enemy team, he can use his ultimate ability, Black Hole. From then on, any other item is used to prevent anyone from interrupting his ultimate. The same case could be made for Axe. If a player is jungling any longer, they’re weakening the lanes.

How Weak are Your Lanes?

By dedicating a hero to the jungle, the team is actively making the lanes weaker. The offlane suffers by having to face two heroes alone, and the safe lane loses jungle creeps for pulling and stacking. To balance it out, the offlane hero has to interrupt the enemy’s farm, out-level them, and protect their own tower. Bristleback is a standard choice, but as long as the player can outpace their opponent, any hero could be suitable. The jungling hero also has the responsibility to respond to ganking or counter-ganking opportunities in the middle and safe lane. By having the majority of the team on one side of the map, players should be able to resolve conflicts without the offlane getting involved. The jungling hero has the ability to freely rotate between the two lanes, so the mid lane hero shouldn’t have to respond to all threats to the safe lane. While rotating could potentially interrupt the jungling hero’s farm, this is unfortunately the choice they made.

Leaving the Jungle Behind

Once the jungling hero has progressed to being active in team fights, they shouldn’t have to return to the jungle. By the end of the laning phase, all actions should be dedicated to map control. The only hero who should be jungling at that point is the first or second position carry, hopefully farming stacked camps. The jungling hero has a duty to fulfill their role, whether it be an initiation, pushing lanes, or using their all-important ability to win team fights. Any form of backtracking weakens the team, thus proving whether that player should have jungled.

Consider Jungling Carefully

While it’s hard to say explicitly which heroes should and shouldn’t jungle, it can be said that they have to follow these guidelines. In this current meta, a jungling hero will typically be a liability; more is expected from them. The intention isn’t to dissuade players from trying it out but to better understand what they’re getting themselves into. There are plenty of accomplished jungling players who have thrived in this meta, but only after practicing and analyzing camps.  If you’re interested in jungling, just consider if the hero could do better in lane; it’s worth testing.

Emmaline Shettel <![CDATA[Emmaline Rambles: Mobile vs. 3DS]]> 2017-10-07T21:28:26Z 2017-10-07T21:28:26Z As we all know, mobile platforms and the Nintendo 3DS are both on-the-go devices. They each offer games, and, at first glance, 3DS is most likely better for gaming due to it being a dedicated game device. However, there are pros and cons to each.

Expenses: Both can be expensive depending on extraneous factors like a cell provider or the complements to these items (chargers, cases, etc). In the long run, the 3DS is more expensive because of games’ prices. Mobile games are ten dollars at most, 3DS games thirty.

Games: 3DS developers have the better chance to make more story-oriented games. Mobile games are more quick stress-relievers: Games like Paper Toss and Flappy Bird have no goal or way of beating the game, you just complete different levels and quick matches.

Audience: For hardcore gamers, the 3DS is definitely the answer because the games are of higher quality and depth. Battery life for any phone won’t last too long on a game, especially depending on how heated your phone will get and how much storage is being taken up. Think about the time that Pokémon Go Fest failed miserably because of too many players on the server. 3DS is where you’ll find more people to hang out and play with.

Your preference for the 3DS or mobile platforms depends on what you’re looking for in a game and the time you invest in them. When you’re feeling for a light, quick game, mobile is the answer. But if you want a long-lasting game, or you’re ready to game for hours on end, the 3DS is better.

Most of the big titles are not on mobile, only spin-offs such as Magikarp Jump are. Also take into consideration that you can download emulators on mobile devices, though it is often too much for heat capacity and battery life, leading to glitching and an overall annoying experience.

Image from

John Morano <![CDATA[Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds Early Access Review]]> 2017-10-06T01:14:11Z 2017-10-06T01:14:11Z PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, more commonly known as PUBG or Battlegrounds, belongs to an emerging sub-genre of video games referred to as battle royale. PUBG isn’t even the first major hit in this sub-genre. Recently H1Z1: King of the Hill was surprising many with its Twitch and Steam popularity, yet PUBG has eclipsed it entirely.

PUBG is something of a phenomenon, emerging from nowhere and, as an early-access title, dethroning Dota 2 as Steam’s top played game. PUBG is also pretty popular on Twitch as, according to Dot Esports, it ended League of Legends’ 31-month long winning streak as the most-watched Twitch game.

In PUBG players choose from 100-man free-for-all or squad-based gameplay, and can play in the third- or first-person perspective, unless one selects perspective-locked matches.

You spawn over a fairly gigantic map in an airplane, choose when to jump, then adjust your falling angle and parachute to the ground. One may fall to any number of locations on the map. Picking where to land is a risk-versus-reward calculation, which adds a ton of depth to the gameplay. Want to play it safe? You can drop on a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere; chances are you’ll be alone, but the loot will likely be lacking. Want to go for that sweet, sweet loot? Then drop at the military base, but you likely have to fight for it. Some of the more practiced players are able to guess how many others will go for a particular location by factoring in the path followed by the spawn airplane, which makes certain areas more or less convenient.

After a few minutes of looting and fighting, a blue circle spawns and starts closing in on the map in phases. Players who tarry outside this circle take damage, which increases in severity as the game progresses. The approximately 100 players in a game are constantly forced into a smaller area, increasing the likelihood of fights. Eventually, the circle of safety would disappear entirely, but in all likelihood players will have killed each other off well before this occurs. The last player or squad standing is victorious and receives a lot of points that can be used to unlock random cosmetics.

The gunplay in PUBG has quite a learning curve, one which I personally have yet to grasp. Bullet drop and flight time become very noticeable when fighting over long distances, a core part of PUBG gameplay. Players must be able to gauge distances, zero their scopes, and lead targets. You need to know what shots you can hit, which ones you can’t, and the likelihood of giving away your position by taking a shot. If you take a shot you can’t hit with your gun, the person you’re shooting at might turn around, or someone sitting off on the wings might notice you and headshot you. It takes a lot of practice to juggle all this, and making mistakes can be quite frustrating.

There’s also a lot of little tricks that players need to pick up to do well in PUBG. For example, grass doesn’t render at large distances, so if you’re prone in a wheat field, you might be invisible as far as nearby opponents are concerned, but if a distant sniper’s scope passes over your location, you may as well be lying out in the open. You need to know how fast the circle moves and when it’s time to stop looting and start running.

Weapon balance seems to be a bit of an issue at this point, as shotguns are almost never used, and several submachine guns are just plain weak. A shotgun can beat an assault rifle in houses, but most fighting won’t happen there. Due to the map design and functionality of the closing circle, most fighting takes place in open spaces; this necessitate guns that cover a wide variety of ranges. You want something that works at close-to-mid range, and another gun that works at long distances. The assault rifle and sniper combo seems to work rather perfectly in open areas, and is thus the typical loadout of choice.

Weapon balance aside, you aren’t guaranteed to find assault rifles and snipers every game, so sometimes you end up making do with less. When you first drop from the plane, there is often a mad scramble to find a weapon—any weapon—and kill nearby players before they can do the same. If you find an assault rifle, you’re probably going to do just that; if you find a frying pan… let’s just say fighting isn’t your best option.

One might expect the PUBG community to be particularly aggressive or toxic, as such is often the case in competitive video games, and competition is the core attraction of PUBG. However, in my experience, this hasn’t been the case. It’s simple to mute the mics of oneself and others. Most do just this, and there’s no other medium for communication. Put simply, limited means of communication leads to there being less toxic communication. Also, the fact that it’s quick and easy to start a new session and get back into the action reduces players’ perception of competition.

Even if there isn’t toxicity, there is plenty of instrumental or goal-oriented aggression to be had in PUBG. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: it gives games a fast and frantic feel. I remember playing with a four-man team of my friends, and when one of us would go down and bleed out, the order of the day was vengeance (if a player goes down and then bleeds out, they’re done for the match and are stuck spectating).

Often when you’re sure that your squad is going to lose, the goal becomes simply to kill one of the other squad’s players by any means necessary, just to ruin that person’s game in retaliation. This is akin to trying to win a battle in a losing war. The game actively incentivized this behavior by rewarding kills with substantially more currency than hits and by not rewarding downs at all. I remember pulling the pin on a grenade just before a guy wielding a shotgun rushed me, and taking both him and his buddy out when they tried to loot me. Moments like these are a ton of fun, especially if you’re playing with friends.

PUBG is an early-access game, and while it isn’t flawless, it’s easily among the smoothest early-access titles I’ve seen. Glitches are few and far between; I’ve seen maybe four in the thirty-five hours I’ve played PUBG. It’s also being actively maintained, with weapons being regularly re-balanced, the map updated, and new content added. The biggest problem with PUBG at this stage appears to be optimization. Players will often have to opt for lower graphic settings to achieve a high frame rate.

Sound is incredibly important in PUBG. My squad has won by one of our guys shooting toward the sound of another player who was prone in grass without ever seeing him. Often sound will be all you can go on to get a bearing on someone’s location, or whichever player hears another player’s footsteps first will be able to get the drop on them. You have to pay attention to hear that quiet clink of a grenade that someone threw towards you so that you can react in time. Perhaps you can also hear if a grenade bounced and reason out the thrower’s general location by the direction. An experienced player might know whether to run toward a fight or away from it by the gunshots heard. In-game weather conditions further affect the importance of sound; on a rain map it becomes more difficult to hear, whereas on a fog map the limited vision makes listening all the more important.

In conclusion, even though I’m admittedly quite casual when it comes to hardcore multiplayer shooters, I’ve been wildly impressed by the PUBG early access, and recommend it strongly to those interested. Further, considering that it sells at thirty dollars, the price is just right.

PUBG offers a great experience, especially for an early-access title. I look forward to seeing what new content is added to the game and am curious to see if it maintains its current level of popularity.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition Announced For Europe and North America]]> 2017-10-06T00:06:59Z 2017-10-06T00:06:59Z Horizon Zero Dawn released back in February to critical acclaim. Guerrilla Games crafted one of the Playstation 4’s best games with an enthusiastic sense of exploration, excellent story, interesting characters, and stunning visuals. For these reasons and more Horizon Zero Dawn stands as a must-own game on the platform, but if you have yet to pick up the game you might want to hold just a little longer.

Sony has confirmed that a complete edition of Horizon Zero Dawn will be making its way to Playstation 4 on December 5. This comes thanks to the Playstation Twitter Account which mentioned that the complete edition will definitely be complete: it will include The Frozen Wilds DLC as well as all content that came exclusively from the digital deluxe edition of the game. It will sell for of $49.99.

Playstation Europe, on the other hand, has revealed that the game will arrive on December 6 in that region.

Those who already own the game and want some more Horizon Zero Dawn goodness can look forward to The Frozen Wilds, which will arrive this November.

Murphy Wales <![CDATA[The Compendium Should Become Standard]]> 2017-10-06T00:02:29Z 2017-10-06T00:02:29Z I don’t know about you, but I hate it when a compendium ends. After playing with a number of fun features that enhance my experience, the game feels somewhat naked. While I understand the intention is to create value for the compendiums, I can’t help but feel that some of the features should be implemented into regular gameplay. As for the exclusive cosmetic items, they should should still be paid for, but the features used to earn points could be implemented in other ways.

The Betting System

Before the game began, there was an amount of points you could bet on your team winning. If you won, you would win double the amount of points back. For each week you would have a limited amount of points to bet, so each game was a challenge to place your bets wisely. It was a simple system that would add point to your battle pass and encouraged players to think a little more before playing. This part of the compendium was by far my favorite one and should definitely come back as a feature with one caveat: The won points should used to win a random prize.

Controlled Randomization

As of now, players will randomly win a piece of a cosmetic set after a game. It does’t matter if they win or lose, it just happens. The only consistent way of winning any cosmetic item is by using a Victory Prediction gem. While it’s somewhat similar to the betting system, it’s essentially more difficult since you have to correctly predict your team’s victory a set number of times in a row. Should you ever make the wrong prediction, the tracker resets. While I do agree that there should be an effort made to win a prize, I find that these gems don’t make for great value. I propose that the betting system should overtake the gems, or at least the way they are used. Perhaps the gem will have a set number of points you have to win from bets; I think players would be more motivated to buy gems, thus giving them a more concrete value in the market place.

The Trivia Grind

When queued for a match, players who bought the compendium would have the potion to play a trivia game. It would test you on your Dota knowledge and give you some factoids on character’s abilities. It was a fun and useful game that helped pass the time. It wasn’t my favorite feature, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t be a regular feature. In terms of cash value, it’s not something I would pay for, but it isn’t something difficult to implement into the vanilla game. I understand if Valve wants to reserve that for paying players but I’d say they should just remove the points won for guessing correctly and leave the base game for everyone.

Rylai’s Battle Blessing

While I’m not a fan for leaving things in the hands of computerized randomization, I will say that I was always excited for the wheel of fortune sporting a Crystal Maiden. Rylai’s Battle Blessing was a milestone award that would give you a chance to win cosmetic items, even an Arcana set. It was my second favorite feature of the entire compendium. Admittedly, it’s a lot harder to conceive a reason why this should be a regular feature, but I do know how it could be. Like the compendium, the Battle Blessing should continue to be a milestone award, but for leveling up as a player. I think it would be a great way for Valve to show appreciation to its players for staying with the game for such a long time. Perhaps every ten levels, a player could have a shot at the wheel and if the cash value of a prize is too high, they could always switch them out.

Show the Dota 2 Community a Little Love

I know this could be a bit much to ask from Valve, but I’m sure it would be a great show of good faith to the Dota 2 fanbase. With a lot of promises made with no concrete dates and the kick back from Artifact‘s announcement, implementing these features would gain a lot of favor without expending any funds. It’s simply a management of features that adds a new layer to gameplay without changing the game. If worse comes to worse, it could be a limited trial.

Tow <![CDATA[Why You Need to Play Butterfly Soup]]> 2017-10-05T06:32:38Z 2017-10-05T06:04:58Z For all the money big-time publishers pump into their triple-A games, the final product often comes out lacking what indie titles have in spades. There’s a simple charm to games made dutifully and lovingly by one-person teams or small studios, and it shows. What they lack in budget and polish is made up for with heart and creativity. I’m aware not all indie games end up this way – like Ark: Survival Evolved or the countless early access titles which never get off the ground – but I believe it holds true for the majority.

I went into Butterfly Soup with low expectations. I’d heard good things about it and decided to give it a try, since I’m a fan of romance visual novels. The trailer certainly helped. It demonstrated a quirky sense of humour, with several references to internet memes that had me laughing hard enough to wake the neighbours.

Butterfly Soup, designed by Brianna Lei, is about Asian girls falling in love and is both complex and breathtakingly simple, as romance often is. There’s baseball sprinkled in, though the main focus is ultimately the budding friendships and relationships between the characters. The main cast consists of four girls: Diya, Min-seo, Noelle, and Akarsha. I found it easy to relate to them, being an Asian myself.

Each girl is wildly different in personality, background, likes and dislikes, and the way they speak or act. Interactions between them can be ridiculous, disastrous, downright amusing, or, sometimes, all three. I found this variety refreshing and it lends an element of unpredictability to Butterfly Soup, making it feel exciting yet still grounded in reality. The game is also sprinkled with a generous amount of internet memes and group chats, but successfully uses them and never comes off as trying too hard.

The length of this visual novel is on the shorter side. It takes around three to four hours to finish, but does what visual novels lasting up to ten hours fail to do. I was completely enthralled with the story from start to finish, alternating between deep, bellowing laughter or grinning like an idiot. It’s not the sort of laugh which has you replying “lol” to a cute gif. It’s the sort which bubbles over and erupts, where your voice hits a pitch that you never thought was possible. I lost count of how many times I had to hunch over to calm down because one of the characters said something to set me off.

The writing is amazingly fun, dripping with personality and wit. The game flaunts how over-the-top and mischievous it can be, while still managing to touch on problems that aren’t exactly family friendly. Those moments never felt forced. They were handled carefully but never shied from touching on the truth. The game also never felt overtly preachy or self-righteous. I did not expect this kind of depth in what was supposed to be just a fun, romance visual novel.

Butterfly Soup also has sweet visuals to accompany its story. Simple backgrounds draw attention to adorable looking characters, and there wasn’t a single one I disliked. There’s plenty of variation in their expressions and poses, my favourites being Noelle’s face palm and Akarsha’s fake gasp.

Another point in the game’s favour is the easy to navigate UI. The main menu is a tooth sweetening affair with Diya and Min-Seo in the background, and wanting to save mid-game is as simple as pressing the ESC key and clicking on an empty save slot.

With a heart-warming story about growing up, lovable characters, and a sense of humour, there’s nothing to dislike about the game. I actually consider it to be among the best games of the year. Butterfly Soup is the perfect example that visual novels, or games in general, don’t need an overwhelming scope, big budget, or jaw dropping visuals to be great.

I can’t recommend it enough. You can get it for free here, which I did at first, but I went back and paid for it after I’d finished. I sincerely hope more people give it a chance because it’s a game you really shouldn’t miss.

Emmaline Shettel <![CDATA[Why Any Nintendogs Game Is Good]]> 2017-10-04T02:34:39Z 2017-10-04T02:34:39Z Being born in 1999, Nintendogs 2005 release made it a great childhood game for me. There were many pet simulation games, such as Dogz for the Game Boy Advance and Purr Pals for the Nintendo DS; however, these games do not compare to the powerful Nintendogs.

The speaking feature, where the player had to use the microphone, was genius. The microphone ability made the game even more realistic in training your dog. At the beginning of the game, the player has to repeat the dog’s name until he or she learns it fully. Throughout the game, you can use the microphone asset to teach your dog tricks, such as sitting or rolling over.

Taking your dog on a walk and earning gifts during it was the highlight of the game. The more you walked overall, the farther distance you could take your dog. The park and pet stores were just some of the places you could go to meet other dogs or to please your dog.

Along with taking your dog on a walk, you could go to training parks to train your dog for contests like agility or frisbee. Earning money from these competitions was how I got better houses and accessories for my dogs.

Yes, you can have multiple dogs, some in the hotel and some in your house. This is great for indecisive players that want all the breeds offered such as Labradors, poodles, and chihuahuas. The variety of dogs makes the game more enjoyable for picky players or people that remake their real dogs in the game.

The best part of the series is the fact that it is a pet simulation. It is realistic and mobile, so you can take your dogs anywhere with you and feel like you own one and take care of one without actually possessing one or having to pay for one. Animals are important, and for kids to enjoy them at a young age and grow up learning how to take care of them is special.

There are way more qualities to the Nintendogs series, but the core of it is its heart and how it becomes realistic for players.

Image courtesy

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Stardew Valley Headed to Switch This Week]]> 2017-10-04T02:05:28Z 2017-10-04T02:05:28Z After months of waiting, Chucklefish Games has finally confirmed an official release date for Stardew Valley on Nintendo Switch.

Stardew Valley will bring farming fun to the Switch October 5 in North America. Nintendo of Europe confirmed that the game will arrive the same day in Europe.

As for pricing, the U.K. Switch eShop revealed the game will cost £10.99, which is the same price as Steam in the region, and for North America the game will cost $14.99.

Stardew Valley has become a highly anticipated game on Nintendo’s system since it was announced, and finally everyone will play it. Currently the game is only going to be available digitally, and it is unclear whether 505 Games will provide Stardew Valley with a physical release like with the Playstation 4 and Xbox One versions.

DougiePowell <![CDATA[Samurai Riot Review]]> 2017-10-04T00:23:20Z 2017-10-04T00:14:56Z Samurai Riot is a new beat-‘em-up style arcade game developed for PC by Wako Factory. Arcade style games have a special place in my heart, as it’s one of the earliest forms of gaming, and I may hold standards too high for arcade style games. It isn’t easy to find a genuinely good beat-‘em-up arcade game these days, and Samurai Riot attempts to combine this style with a unique storyline that is flexible with player choice.

In Samurai Riot you play as either Sukane or Tsurumaru, two samurai warriors from The Clan of True Honour. They have been sent by their master to fight against the rebel order in a war-torn country. I was initially cynical that the male character was given swords and grenades while the female character must make do with her fists and a cute fox friend, especially as the game begins with Sukane admitting that she has failed regardless of whether you choose to play as her or Tsurumaru. After playing as both, I found the game much more suited to Tsurumaru, despite Sukane being a lot more agile and slightly faster. Sukane is also portrayed as less knowledgeable and experienced as Tsurumaru, and wears noticeably less clothing.

I often remind people that the idea that men play video games more than women is completely fabricated, and I can never ignore it when female characters don’t get the same attention as the male characters. Sukane’s character disappoints me.

Moving on to the actual gameplay, my first impression was simply me getting angry at the controls. I’ll say in the game’s defense that system requirements include “Xbox 360 Controller recommended,” but the game is only available for PC. Designing the game for an Xbox controller inconveniences the PC gamers who don’t have the appropriate controller.

I played the game with keyboard controls and spent my first hour of gameplay getting destroyed while yelling, “I’m pressing one!” passionately at my laptop. In order to get the game to work, I had to edit all the controls, reassigning them to make them work properly, and I had to pause the game to review the controls when enemies started attacking me at all angles (resulting in painful stabbings at the moment of unpause. A tutorial certainly wouldn’t have been ignored, Wako!)

If you lack Xbox controllers, the two-player option will be either awkward or impossible. As a general rule, I hate other people and would like them all to stay as far away from me as possible. However, despite connecting a second keyboard to my computer that the game refused to recognise, the only way to play two-player was to have someone right up close in my personal bubble yelling in my ear and nudging my controls as they smash for their own. Perhaps the two-player aspect would have been better online, but that may be asking too much from an indie game.

When you start the game you’ll be asked to choose between a selection of  fighting styles. I didn’t see a lot of difference between the first few fighting styles, so usually I worked with Dragonfly, described as a “good all-round school,” or Phoenix, by which you get an extra life at the beginning of each level.

I’d recommend playing the first level with each of them and just follow whichever feels easiest to you as they all have their own advantages, with the exception of Frog, a class that gives you the ability to double jump. I found no advantage from this.

Later I unlocked Cobra, which gives you the ability to poison enemies. This made the fighting much easier as it stopped the swarms of enemies from crowding me as much. I didn’t unlock all of the fighting styles, but out of the ones I did, Cobra was the best.

As I’ve already whined about over and over again, I get frustrated when enemies surround me. It isn’t too bad at first, but eventually when enemies who charge and shoot are introduced it becomes incredibly annoying. You get up after being knocked down by one, continue to be stabbed by others, and, only half a second later, get knocked down again by another charger or shooter, and the cycle continues.

This is where the grenades come in handy. I found the best way to counter crowds of enemies was to jump to the left until they are lined up, then charge to the right, button-mashing the attack controls. There are some special moves but their affect is only useful one-on-one, which doesn’t help you during the majority of the game. I’ve heard that there are special moves in co-op that help deal with lots of enemies at once, but, as I’ve already shared my issues in co-op, I can’t really comment on that.

Samurai Riot has no difficulty curve. I found some of the boss fights in the game easier than parts of the first level. Difficulty goes up and down constantly throughout the gameplay, which is a shame because the game’s story involves decisions that affect your journey and the game’s ending, and fighting schools give the game a strong replay value. But when some levels at the beginning are repetitive and difficult, it doesn’t give the player much motivation to replay. It’s also questionable that you can unlock styles to make the game easier so you can replay the game all over again, as money isn’t that hard to accumulate, making the styles fairly easy to unlock.

If you could select difficulty before the start of each level, or if you could replay the game from specific points rather than from the beginning of the game by having multiple game saves, the game would be improved.

One element that I cannot fault the game for is its visuals. The artwork is hand drawn and cute enough to be retro and detailed enough to make the game interesting. Enemies and background art were clearly given much attention, and each level offers a fresh and original location.

You could do a lot worse than buying Samurai Riot. Despite its flaws, after I got past my initial control issues I did have fun playing it, which is ultimately the goal of a game. It was visually pleasing, filled with interesting characters, and I suppose I’d rather be stuck in a war between clans with a cute fox friend than not.

SeanPyle <![CDATA[Three Third-Party Games That Need to Come to the Switch]]> 2017-10-02T03:27:27Z 2017-10-02T03:27:27Z The Switch’s third-party success, up to this point, is surprising almost everyone. Since the Nintendo 64, Nintendo’s consoles have offered meager third-party selection, and there was certainly hesitance about the Switch’s capability to turn the trend around. However, with the help of Bethesda, Ubisoft, and several other developers, the Switch already looks like it will possess a deeper library than any of Nintendo’s recent consoles. In order for Nintendo to sustain the current success of the Switch, the ball needs to keep rolling. While there is no telling which developers are currently planning to support the hybrid device and which ones are vehemently opposed, the following games would all be incredible boosts to the Switch’s lineup.


Despite being more than a year old, Overwatch continues to be a multiplayer phenomena with a player base of 30 million. Overwatch, a hero shooter, distinguishes itself from many in its genre by allowing for a variety of play styles and approaches. Because of this accessibility, less experienced players, or players with bad aim, are still able to contribute in battle.

Overwatch would be basically peerless at this juncture, as the Switch currently has no traditional shooters clogging up the competitive scene. However, Jeff Kaplan, creator of Overwatch, has said that porting the title would be “very challenging.” Still, as far as we know, Blizzard is open to the possibility, and Kaplan’s comments came around March—back when the Switch’s surprising success was not yet evident.

Fallout 4

Depending on the success of Bethesda’s first three ports to Switch, the arrival of Fallout 4 may be inevitable. Fallout 4 is not graphically intensive by any stretch. Considering that the remastered version of Skyrim runs fine on the Switch, Bethesda shouldn’t be technically limited from porting over the Boston adventure. Fallout 4’s continued slide away from traditional role-playing (a recent Bethesda trend) is the target of criticism, but the title is still an addictive open-world adventure with hours of quality content.

Bethesda has been Nintendo’s biggest third-party supporter up to this point. While other developers are seeming to use a wait-and-see strategy, Bethesda has been generous with their ports and must believe that the Switch’s success will continue. This risk will likely pay off, as DOOM and Wolfenstein II will both be unique experiences at this point in the Switch’s life cycle.

Dark Souls Trilogy

Do you have a bizarre fetish for combing through decrepit ghettos and slaying slews of the undead? The Souls series might be for you! Unfortunately, consider a psychological screening beforehand to make sure you possess the state of mind required for frustrations that often accompany the journey. Even the calmest person on the planet can be reduced to insanity by the Souls’ series brutal difficulty. Yet, Hidetaka Miyazaki’s creations make the suffering worth it through their subtle world building, fantastic orchestral soundtrack, and varied, weighty combat. The Souls trilogy, just like the other games mentioned in this list, are games that everyone should experience. More so than the first two games on this list, this series, particularly the third installment, would require significant sacrifices in order for a port to happen.

But unless you’re the type to throw controllers, pray that these titles make their way to Nintendo’s fancy tablet. If you are a remote chucker, though, stay away; throwing the Switch tablet would be a colossal, disgusting mistake, and losing two million souls might impair your judgement enough for it to happen.

What other games need to make their way to the Switch? Let us know in the comments below.

Tow <![CDATA[Ruiner Review]]> 2017-10-05T01:33:39Z 2017-10-02T03:01:52Z Ruiner turned heads when it was announced last year and I was instantly smitten with its chilling cyberpunk aesthetic and action-driven gameplay. Drawing inspiration from anime like Akira and movies like Blade Runner, Reikon Games has successfully created a violent, dystopian world where murder is currency and trust is obsolete. The year is 2091, and playing with people’s lives has never been easier.

In contrast to its bombastic trailers, the game boots up without much fanfare to reveal a simple but slick menu. Upon starting the prologue, I was quickly given control over the nameless, mask-wearing protagonist who’d just broken into a factory. It was then that the portrait of a grim-faced man flickered into existence. “Kill Boss,” the mysterious man demands. Without much choice, my character was forced deeper into the factory, where he stared down the barrels of countless guns, armed only with a steel pipe. As the game succinctly puts it: The only way out is through.

Combat in Ruiner can be frustrating at first. It teaches the basics and leaves you to figure out the rest. Even playing on easy mode is, ironically, no easy feat. I died countless times and spent most of my first playthrough brute-forcing my way through battles and thinking, yeah, that could have gone better. I was riddled with bullets, set on fire, vaporised, my hacker ally egging me on with words dripping in thinly veiled amusement.

“That’s a good boy,” she would say, after I eviscerated an enemy with a meter-long blade. “Get up, puppy,” her snarl would echo in my ears after an agonizing battle that ended in my death. “Your brother needs you.”

But despite being punishing, Ruiner is fair. How players make use of their skills is key. The game allows skill points to be refunded, and it makes experimenting a welcome task. My second playthrough was leaps better after having learned what worked for me and what didn’t. What was once frustrating became rewarding. Accompanied by a pulsing soundtrack, battles intoxicated me with a certain frantic energy and left me craving more.

Between levels, players will find themselves spending time in Rengkok South. The amount of care and detail that went into crafting this hub world is apparent. The city is a melting pot of different cultures, its citizens speaking English, Japanese, and Korean. Flashing neon signs are peppered throughout, acting as the only lights in an otherwise dark city. Thugs can be found crouched between dilapidated buildings. Seedy looking shops line the streets, their entrances guarded by hulking bodyguards. Prostitutes flaunt themselves, reeling in vulnerable souls with sultry croons of “Annyeong haseyo,” which translates to “How are you?”

However, like any game, Ruiner is not without flaws. Despite how well realised the city is, Rengkok South is only skin deep. There isn’t much to do after a brief period of exploration, and although players can undertake side quests from several NPCs, the rewards don’t make much of a difference. It’s a shame the characters aren’t fleshed out beyond several lines of dialogue because it feels like there’s more to discover, but their possible backstories remain just that: a possibility.

There’s also the matter of controls. Keyboard controls are non-rebindable, which might not sit well with some.* For reference, skills are activated with the spacebar, E, and Q keys while movement is controlled via WASD. The mouse is mainly for melee and gun attacks and chaining a series of dashes. The developers have stated the controls are hard coded, so it’s highly unlikely there’ll be any updates to fix it. The game does have full controller support, so using a controller might be a good alternative.

Overall, you can’t go wrong with Ruiner. It’s a game with stellar graphics, addicting combat, and atmospheric soundtracks. Players who love a challenge will feel right at home with this one.

*Update: As of October 4, 2017, the developers have announced that key binding will be added in a patch “very soon.”

Joseph Tomlinson-Jones <![CDATA[Why I think the 1st Gen Pokemon Remakes Are Better]]> 2017-10-01T19:09:03Z 2017-10-01T19:09:03Z Ever since the release of the first handheld Pokémon games in 1996, the series has only ever gone from strength-to-strength.

The games were developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo. Released on the GameBoy, Red and Blue were the originals in the series. Red was granted a makeover eight years later in 2004 as Fire Red, along with a remake of Blue but under a new title that reflected the original Japanese release, Leaf Green.

I didn’t play Fire Red until a few years ago, and having now played it, there are a few reasons why I think the remakes are actually better than the originals (ducks for cover). I have a feeling this may not be a popular opinion but I will explain the reasoning behind it via three points.

  1. Better Graphics

    The graphical upgrade that Game Freak made with Fire Red really brought this generation of Pokémon into the 21st century. Long gone are the vaguely shaded colours (or lack thereof) from the original generation. The way the players now interact with the world around them and the Pokémon with which they travel is displayed in a whole new and more engaging way. Being able to see the green of the trees, the blue of the sea and the plethora of colours that the Pokémon of the world come in enhances ever single aspect of the game. It may seem vain to judge a game on its aesthetics but in this case it really makes the difference.

  2. Running shoes

    For anyone that ever played Pokémon Red and Blue you know that for how wonderful a game it was it was seriously lacking in certain areas, and the speed and flow of the game was most definitely one of them. Game Freak obviously knew the flaws that were in the originals; no one could blame them or the game for the way it was back in the day as there was only so much they could do with the engines and tools they had at their disposal. But Game Freak, being the professionals that they are, knew these issues and not only acknowledged them but also put in place a counter-measure to rectify this. Running shoes may well be the most important change made to these games.

  3. Additional Islands

    In addition to all the other changes they made in the main game, Gmaefreak also introduced a post game which allowed the players to continue their Pokémon journey in a brand new region, taking us outside of Kanto. The additional islands and the story that came with them were huge nods to Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire as the main mission on the new islands is a fetch mission.

Overall the remakes are fully rounded improvement on the originals, and for anyone wanting to get a feel for the first games in the series I would very much advise that you give these a bash first.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[L.A. Noire’s Switch Port Resolution Revealed]]> 2017-09-29T03:07:39Z 2017-09-29T03:07:39Z Rockstar Games Japan has revealed the technical specifics behind L.A Noire‘s Switch port.

L.A Noire will be running at a solid 1080p when the system is docked, and while playing the game in handheld mode it will run at 720p. This latter reduction is a common effect of playing on the system itself and should not impact the game experience.

Beyond L.A Noire‘s resolution Rockstar Games Japan also reconfirmed that the Switch version would include all five additional content packs, on top touch-screen support and motion controls with the Joy-Cons.

No gameplay has been shown from the Switch version of the game but Rockstar Games Japan insists a trailer is on its way. Hopefully we will not have to wait long to finally see the Switch version in action.

L.A Noire arrives for Nintendo Switch, as well as the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, on November 14.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Video Game Spotlight: Asemblance]]> 2017-09-29T03:02:54Z 2017-09-29T03:02:54Z Is it possible to recommend a game to someone if you don’t understand it? This is the question I have pondered for the latest Video Game Spotlight. After some time debating the answer I came to the conclusion that, yes, it is possible.

Welcome to Video Game Spotlight, a series where I provide some attention to little-known new releases. This entry’s game is Asemblance, released in 2016 for Steam and Playstation 4. It was developed by Nilo Studios and is the company’s first game.

For a first game, Nilo went all out to create a compelling experience that will leave you asking questions and wanting to know more. It was pretty evident that the developers put a lot of love into the project. What may seem simple at first transitions into something that challenges your sanity.

I walked away from this game enthralled but with no sense of what had happened. Does this say anything against the game? No. I simply couldn’t piece together the game’s intent or story, but that is what makes Asemblance so fascinating.

You are pushed to try and figure out the game’s intent and figure out the narrative. Luckily this narrative is meant to be confusing. Asemblance is a story about memories – you explore the memories of your character to try and figure out their story.

What starts as a peaceful stroll up a small mountain filled with flowers with an AI remarking that “you always liked this memory” turns into something darker. As you begin to explore further memories and piece together some of the inconsistencies, you see the reason for your troubled memories. Something happened to your wife and you must find doors in your memories to find the truth from your own false memories.

The story is really involving as you are forced to explore and figure out what links your memories. What don’t you want to remember? What are you hiding? At the end of the game I had no idea but was still moved by this journey.

Sometimes a game doesn’t have to make sense to be recommended. Sometimes a game can be nothing more than a pleasant stroll as it challenges you to uncover the missing links in a story. You question how the game affects you and causes you to think about your own memories.

If you are looking for an interesting psychological thriller then look no further than Asemblance. You may leave asking yourself what on earth just happened but you can still say you had a wonderful time.

Asemblance pushes you to explore and captivates you to the bitter end to uncover the truth in your false memories, or at least to find your own truth. What did happen to your wife? Can you find the answers among your fragmented mind?

If you see this game on sale, pick it up. I can’t recommend Asemblance at full price, but on sale there is no excuse not to purchase and explore it. With its perplexing narrative and interesting gameplay mechanics, Asemblance is a little-known experience that needs to be experienced by more.

What are you trying to hide, what are you trying to forget, what secrets lie in the scattered remnants of your mind? Explore Asemblance and you may be inspired to find out.

Featured image courtesy The Vertical Slice.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[PlayStation Plus Games for October Revealed]]> 2017-09-29T02:37:36Z 2017-09-29T02:37:36Z Sony is on a roll with its PlayStation Plus service.

Previously it was a disappointing subscription service with a shortage of major games, but is now improving. The past three months have offered PlayStation Plus subscribers some major games, Until Dawn, Just Cause 3, and Infamous: Second Son among them. October continues this trend with Konami’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Hideo Kojima’s final game under the Konami banner will available for all subscribers to play.

PlayStation 4 owners will also be able to get hold of the perfect game to match the month with The Amnesia Collection.

Owners of other PlayStation systems you get the games that were revealed for September but were actually for October. These include Monster Jam Battlegrounds and Hustle Kings for the PlayStation 3. PlayStation Vita owners will be getting Hue and Sky Force Anniversary.

Remember to pick up the games from September before they change October 3. You don’t want to miss out on offerings such as Infamous: Second Son, Child of Light, or Hatoful Boyfriend.

Featured image courtesy PlayStation Blog.

John Morano <![CDATA[Dark and Light Early Access Review]]> 2017-09-29T02:25:56Z 2017-09-29T02:25:56Z  

Dark and Light recently became available on Steam’s early access, and many of its systems were taken from Ark: Survival Evolved, making the two easily comparable. Studio Wildcard’s controversial but popular title, which I recently reviewed, had just left Early Access.

My greatest criticism of Ark was its developer’s unethical acts and ineptitude. Perhaps Dark and Light’s greatest advantage is that the title has little to do with that studio. Dark and Light has been developed and produced by Snail Games USA, Wildcard’s parent company, who appear to have had little to do with Ark’s development. Essentially, Dark and Light is built off the same foundation as Wildcard’s Ark, in that it uses the same engine and incorporates many of Ark’s game systems, but it is being further developed and maintained by a different developer.

Whereas Ark was meant to be a first-person action survival game, Dark and Light is locked to third-person on official servers, and draws more influence from MMORPGs. Dark and Light features multiple player races and factions, a currency, trade, human NPCs, and towns. Players can invest in these NPC towns, rent housing, or even attack the NPC residents.

The premise of Dark and Light is that the various elven, human, and dwarven civilizations fled their destroyed mother planet, Gaia, making their home on a new one, Archos. However, Archos is primal and inhospitable, so players need to tame the land’s creatures and build new homes. To make matters worse, dark creatures leftover from the destruction of Gaia are raiding Archos, attempting to destroy this new world. As with most MMORPGs, plot is secondary to gameplay, but the premise is well supported by various gameplay systems, such as undead invasion events.

Dark and Light uses the same building system as Ark, one where players gather resources, build them into various pieces, like floors, walls, or pillars, and create more complex structures by snapping these together. There are also different tiers of building materials, such as straw and iron, which create structures that are different in both aesthetics and durability.

Dark and Light has a taming system, but there are a few features which set it apart from Arks. First of all, it is much easier to acquire kibble for quick and simple taming. Secondly, to knock out creatures, players must actively wear them out by binding them with rope-arrows rather than tranquilizing them. Thirdly, the creatures of Dark and Light have a distinct fantasy theme; think goblins, dragons, griffins, and unicorns.

The skill trees in Dark and Light remind me of those present in The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Rather than simply learning to create different items as they level, players train in each skill tree by performing various actions. Leveling is still essential, but the other unlocking criteria make it so that mindless leveling isn’t necessarily the optimal path. Though technically one can unlock everything, the grind that doing so would take incentivizes specialization. For example, I had a friend who chose to focus on unlocking water magic and cooking, whereas I chose to work on earth magic and building. Another friend worked on air magic and gardening. This allowed each of us to contribute something different to our group and to feel engaged through doing so.

Dark and Light’s diversity of magic is quite impressive. I never cared for unmounted combat in Ark, but in Dark and Light, magic improves it. You can shoot thunderbolts from your staff, use telekinesis to throw boulders and trees at enemies, shape shift yourself into a deadly creature, or even shape shift your enemies into a not-so-deadly creature. I found that all of these options made combat feel more immersive while providing extra incentive for me to level and train skills.

As I mentioned earlier, Dark and Light is in early access, and this shows. The game has serious issues, including both horrendous load times (make yourself a snack while you’re waiting to load) and game-breaking glitches. There’s one bug where you can’t log back into a server until someone already in it kills your character. This is obviously a huge problem for solo players since they can’t have a tribe member kill them, and likely must suicide after each session, which is obviously inconvenient. Glitches like these are certainly nothing abnormal in an alpha that’s only been out for two months, especially one of Dark and Light’s scale, but they do make it difficult for those who want to enjoy the game now.

Actions performed by the player can often feel imprecise due to poor hit-boxes and network lag. Most of Dark and Light’s weapons feature two attacks: a quick one and a strong one. I found myself relying exclusively on the strong one because the quick one felt almost impossible to connect (the strong one wasn’t particularly easy to land either). A lot of this is probably due to network lag, and hopefully future optimizations will help solve it, but in the meantime combat feels clunky. There’s little more frustrating than hitting something on your screen, seeing blood fly and hearing the sound effect which indicates you hit it, but seeing the health bar ignore all this. This is because your client is registering and displaying that you hit the creature, but on the server, you’re missing entirely due to the server being behind the client.

Dark and Light is a pretty game, but much like Ark, it’s poorly optimized. If you want the game to look good, you’re going to need a high-spec computer to run it and get good frames. Character and creature models aren’t nearly as pretty as the environments, and are rather ugly.  It’s possible that Snail Games will later work on both issues, as Wildcard did the same for Ark, but I find the ugly models particularly discouraging. The sound design is generally lackluster, too. Some of the music tracks are decent, but sound effects are weak. Due to the poorly designed character models and sound effects, many of Dark and Light’s creatures felt inanimate, which is unfortunate considering how much of the game revolves around them.

In my review of Ark, I warned readers that certain aspects of the game, like tribes and competition over scarce resources, encouraged toxicity, and the holds true for Dark and Light. Unless you’re playing on a PvE server, expect to encounter griefers, cheaters, exploiters, and all sorts of toxic players fairly regularly.

Dark and Light can feel like an unforgiving time sink at times, but much less so than Ark. If you die in Dark and Light, a pillar of light rises from your body, making it much easier to recover your loot. Base taming times and resource gather rates feel better than Ark’s did, and some of the most time-intensive systems (breeding and imprinting) aren’t implemented, and may not be. Further, there is a method called soul-bind that makes it so you don’t drop gear on death, and the resurrection of deceased tames is possible. Given all of this, Dark and Light feels much less grindy than Ark did.

At the end of a review, I typically ask myself “who would I recommend this game to?” In this case, the answer is easy: anyone who enjoyed Ark will probably enjoy Dark and Light. Even if you don’t know Ark, you might still enjoy Dark and Light. Fans of fantasy MMORPGs and survival games could find plenty to like here. That said, if it were me, and I were purchasing Dark and Light out of more than curiosity, I would hold off until it’s a bit more complete. That way I’d avoid potential wipes, annoying alpha bugs, and could potentially buy the game on sale.

In terms of rating, I’d give Dark and Light a seven out of ten at this stage. It’s got plenty of promise, and there’s enough to immerse you right now if you’re inclined to play it, but there’s also a lot of frustrating issues. Also, given Ark’s controversial development history and considering that these two titles are related, it might be prudent to wait and see how Snail Games USA conducts itself. However, if Dark and Light interests you, I would recommend not letting its mixed Steam review score scare you away. Many of these reviews have more to do with Ark than they do Dark and Light.

Tow <![CDATA[Caveman Warriors Review]]> 2017-09-27T04:13:10Z 2017-09-27T03:13:15Z There are few platform games that have succeeded in carving a place in the hearts of gamers. Unlike RPGs, platformers lack the means of telling an engaging story, and it’s an uphill battle to endear the characters to players. Efforts to do so can go either way. One famous example of a beloved platformer franchise would be the Super Mario series. Nintendo perfected the art of a platformer and made Mario into a household name, and nearly everyone, gamer or otherwise, has heard about the Italian plumber.

On the flipside, the most recent and infamous example would be Mighty No. 9. Ignoring the Kickstarter debacle, the game is a mediocre platformer, its problems exacerbated by bad voice acting and dull characters. The main character, Beck, is as charismatic as a block of wood. Mighty No. 9 might not have been badly received if the game was good or, at least, enjoyable. But it didn’t perform in the aspects that mattered and was gutted for it.

Caveman Warriors is a game brimming with personality. Character and enemy designs are varied and interesting, and will likely win over those who play it. JanduSoft has created a lively, prehistoric world to play in. The story is bare-bones but charming enough to keep players invested, and though the focus is on its platforming I liked the effort to make the game more than just a normal platformer.

In Caveman Warriors, players choose between four playable characters. Each have different skill sets and special abilities, and their uses are gradually explained as you progress. We have Moe, a devilish blue-haired man who uses his bongo to deliver short blasts with vibrations; Liliana, a fiery spear-wielding woman with a pet snake; Jack, a balding man who uses his dog as a toupee and wields a stone axe; and Brienne, a muscular mountain of a woman who uses a cooked-drumstick-like club. My personal favourite was Liliana since her special ability came in handy for dispatching opponents at a distance.

Switching between characters is easily done and the game eases the player into juggling different characters through rock monuments and wooden signs placed throughout each level. The unobtrusive nature of the tutorials really set the tone for the game, and I never found myself overwhelmed or needing to pause the game to check up on the controls. Caveman Warriors does well in guiding the player but never coddles them. Other than minor hand holding in the introductory levels, the player is left alone to discover the other aspects of the game, aided by the clever use of environmental clues.

I remember being pleasantly surprised when I was awarded with health items and bonuses when I broke a coconut. It was the same feeling I’d gotten an hour later when I took out several enemies by jumping on them in quick succession – much like what Mario would do when faced with a conga line of Goombas. There’s always a rush of delight at these discoveries, and it reminded me of how I bumbled through platform games in the Game Boy era.

Caveman Warriors often strikes a good balance between being challenging and fun, but there are times where it falls short. Like any game, the difficulty increases as the player progresses. Early levels and their bosses hit the sweet spot of what I felt was challenging, yet they were extremely fun. The later ones, however, would either be a cakewalk or mind-numbingly frustrating. The latter has several moments where I felt things were made difficult for the sake of it. Unfairly placed obstacles would have me dying when I least expected it, or there would be no way to avoid getting hurt. Similarly, there would be some bosses that felt spectacularly unbalanced, and I liken the experience of trying to beat them to plucking teeth.

Boss battles in Caveman Warriors are the most creative ones I’ve ever come across. There isn’t a single boss that resembles the other, save for maybe one, and this made battles especially tense since I didn’t know what to expect. A giant ravenous plant, a caveman clad in leather riding a T-Rex, and even a yeti – I was constantly surprised by the bosses that appeared at the end of each level. I usually died more than once before managing to clear a level. The ability to switch between characters definitely made things easier, since some characters have the ability to counter a boss.

For those worrying about content, Caveman Warriors has two modes, Normal and Arcade. I finished Normal mode in five hours, but playtime might vary between different players. Arcade mode is unlocked once the main campaign is finished, and while the levels are identical, they are much harder and less forgiving. Falling into water or into pits will deduct one life out of the three you’re given, unlike playing in Normal where your health is merely cut down.

It makes things more intense, especially when there are enemies lobbing projectiles from hard-to-reach spots. Extra levels can also be unlocked in both modes by using batteries collected throughout each level. Most of them are hidden, so players should keep a sharp ear out for the faint buzz of electricity as they play.

Those looking for a challenging platformer would get their money’s worth in Caveman Warriors, and while the game can be unfair at times, I enjoyed my time with it. There’s much fun to be had regardless of whether you’re playing by yourself or with friends.

*The code for this game was provided by the developer.

John Morano <![CDATA[ARK: Survival Evolved Review]]> 2017-09-27T02:22:56Z 2017-09-27T02:22:56Z ARK: Survival Evolved is probably the most controversial video game I’ve played since No Man’s Sky (perhaps more commonly known as “No Game Buy”). Despite being one of Steam’s most popular titles and having been rated by over 127,000 players, the game has a mixed reception with a sixty-seven percent positive rating. Ark is one of my most played games on Steam, yet I find myself agreeing more with the negative reviews than with the positive ones.

Ark is a survival game published by Studio Wildcard. I’m going to hold off on talking about Wildcard so that I can start this review on a positive note, as there are going to be a lot of negatives to get through. If you’re looking for an immersive video game experience, a game with tons to do that you’ll lose yourself in, then Ark offers this in spades.

The game’s various “Arks” are essentially different maps that players are dropped onto with nothing but underwear and a strange glowing wrist implant. Each Ark is populated by an incredible diversity of wildlife, ranging from dinosaurs to mythical beasts, and they contain numerous unique biomes. There’s plenty of advancement: you’ll go from wielding a wooden club to a laser rifle and start out taming dodos on a beach to stealing dragon eggs and hatching your own.

One of my personal favorite biomes in Ark is the Redwoods, featuring gigantic pine trees and numerous lakes. These lakes are home to the Castoroides (giant beavers), which happen to be one of my favorite creatures (it’s an excellent gathering mount). One of my tribe’s main bases was built onto several of the redwood’s giant trees.

The building in Ark, while simple and accessible, allows for the creation of a wide range of structures. Placement of structures is free-form, but once you place a single structure, let’s say a foundation, other complementary structures snap to it, like walls. Ark’s building feels like 3D Minecraft, and there’s no higher praise for a video game building system than such a comparison. AAA titles, like Fallout 4, could learn quite a bit from Ark in this regard. I’ve seen many players who played Ark just for the building and passed up on the other elements entirely. You can build bases in a wide variety of locations, such as in a forest, in the ocean, inside a cave, or on a tree.

Taming and breeding in Ark offers a level of depth which surpasses even core Pokémon games. Each creature, or “dino”, gets one point randomly assigned to a stat per level and you can use a binomial distribution calculator to find out how rare a particular dino’s stats are. A tamed dino can only have so many levels, and thus so many points, but you can breed dinos together to give the best of their stats to their offspring. It’s possible for two level 200 dinos to produce a level 300 dino like this.

As an example of this, I might tame a direwolf with forty-six points in melee and another with forty-five points in health, then breed them together to create a dino with both these scores.

There’s also genetic mutations. A dino’s parents might have a mutant gene that allows them to pass down either a stat benefit or unique cosmetic color to offspring (you won’t find out about this until you’ve actually bred a dino). This system is in-depth as you might acquire high stats through taming, or trade for breeding rights from another tribe to produce super-dinos. This system is quite addictive, and if you look at the hours some Ark players have, you’ll understand this as the appropriate word.

Players start out worrying about basic survival, like getting food and water, running away from raptors, and building shelter. Mid-game players often focus on joining a tribe, if they don’t already have one. Late-game players will likely have joined a tribe and be more concerned with intra-tribe or server politics and any areas of the game they excel at (building, breeding, taming, and so on). Interestingly, this conforms with the psychological model of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs almost perfectly.

The vast array of features in Ark make the world much more immersive. Players might spend time cooking, fishing, running through what is essentially dungeons or boss fights, fighting wars with other tribes, taming, breeding, and just hanging out with tribe members or other tribes. I remember playing with a tribe that built a colosseum. They organized dino races and dodo fights for the whole server. It was a blast, and a ton of laughs.

Despite all of Ark’s excellent features, there’s one negative which outweighs them: Studio Wildcard.

At its core, Ark is an MMO, and an MMO needs to be well-maintained by its developers to keep the player base interested. Unfortunately, this is something Wildcard fails miserably at. The only time Wildcard seems to care about what the community thinks is when they’re losing players.

For example: there had been criticisms of the gathering and breeding rates for a long time, but Wildcard didn’t actually boost these rates until they noticed that substantially more people played their game during events with boosted rates. I’ve no doubt that if there were overwhelmingly negative feedback due to, say, a duping bug, and a substantial number of players went inactive, that the bug would be fixed quickly, but otherwise not touched.

Price is also something I consider when reviewing a game, and Ark’s current price tag of sixty dollars (not counting the over forty dollars of DLC) does it no favors. When I bought Ark, it was discounted to around twenty dollars (the normal price was thirty dollars). An Ark dev might argue that the finished product is worth more than the early access price, but I argue that the game was in a better state when I bought it for twenty dollars.

Ark has multiple DLC packs on the horizon, yet there are still numerous bugs, exploits, and optimization issues that the team has yet to address. Further, the finished product does not include all the promised features. Early access games are expected to have issues, but a sixty dollar full-release title? Not so much. To be fair, Wildcard has released some free DLC, but these have been poorly maintained and don’t seem to be a priority (there have been holiday events that didn’t occur on certain maps, like The Center).

While we’re on the subject of issues, Ark has a major network lag problem. When a large number of players are online at one time, or if a large number of structures are being destroyed, neither of which is uncommon, the servers become laggy. This makes some actions, such as aiming and shooting, incredibly difficult. Certain other actions, such as melee with a Gigantosaurus, one of the game’s largest and most powerful tames, become flat-out impossible to perform.

There is another major bug where dinos fall through the world or disappear entirely. These take hundreds of hours to tame, breed, and level, so it’s quite frustrating when this happens. The fact that Wildcard chose to call their game complete and sell DLC despite these glaring flaws is incredibly disappointing.

Wildcard released the twenty dollars Scorched Earth bundle DLC when the game was still in early access. In my mind this is not ethical, as they hadn’t even finished their game before they were looking to make more money off it. Part of the reason for this sale was the paying off of their 40 million dollar lawsuit settlement (the case dealt with Studio Wildcard’s illegal poaching of another studio’s talent). Had Wildcard not settled, this case was substantial enough that Ark could very easily have been pulled from Steam.

As a communication major with a minor in psychology, I’ve always been interested in psychology as it relates to video games, and there are core elements of Ark that encourage negative player interactions and toxic behavior. There are many valuable resources in Ark that are scarce, encouraging competition. Further, players are encouraged to band into groups, or tribes, each of which pursue these resources. In modern psychology, the literature seems to indicate that competition and anonymity are what leads to aggression and ultimately toxicity, something most Ark PvP players have experienced. I’ve seen all sorts of toxicity, including but not limited to griefing, sexism, racism, threats, exploiting, botting, and real-life stalking. The developers ban people for this, of course, but with the amount of people who behave this way, they should be doing more.

To be fair, I’ve also seen plenty of pleasant interactions, and even made some excellent friends through Ark, but negative interactions seem to be far more frequent than positive ones on PvP servers. PvE servers are generally much tamer, but I’d advise avoiding the online features altogether if this sounds like something you don’t want to deal with.

Earlier, I praised the depth of Ark’s taming and breeding systems, but the time investment required to perform these acts on official servers is somewhat ridiculous. First you have to gather the resources to tame a dino, which requires potentially farming for days. Then you have to find a high-level one, which could take hours or months, depending on the desired creature. Finally you have to tame it, which involves knocking out the dino and typically several hours of feeding and protecting it. I’ve seen tames go on for as long as eighteen hours, although most should be in the two-to-six hour range. Taming can be tedious and difficult, and, if you make a mistake, you might lose all the time and resources you put into a tame. This can be worth hundreds of hours in the case of an especially valuable dino.

Once you’ve tamed something, you have to keep it alive. Don’t log in for a few weeks to feed it? Dead. Attacked while offline by another tribe? Dead. Dino glitches through the world? Dead. If you spend a few hundred hours producing some super-dino, you really won’t want it to be dead, and so Ark goes from being a game to a full-time job.

PvP is a lot less fun when you’re putting stuff on the line that takes much effort to procure. Whether video games are addicting is a debate in modern psychology, but Ark certainly makes a case for game addiction.

The death of Ark’s taming system was the introduction of imprinting. One doesn’t have to be a certified psychologist to know that getting less than a full night’s sleep is a bad thing, yet Studio Wildcard has put a system in their game which encourages just this. The imprinting system gives bred dinosaurs bonus stats so long as the breeder logs in approximately every four hours to interact with it. It’s not a slight bonus, either: a 100 percent imprinted dino can be worth over two un-imprinted dinos with the same stats, provided it’s ridden by its imprinter. In the case of some more intensive dinosaurs, such as the Giganotosaurus, breeding can take eleven days. Basically, if you have a job, school, or, you know, want a good night’s sleep, you’re screwed.

Imprinting also encourages the sharing of Steam information. Players can allow someone else to log onto their Ark character and carry out imprinting via sharing their Steam account. Many take this risk rather than skipping work or interrupting their sleep (I’ve had numerous friends and acquaintances who choose to do this). The developers have received criticism for this but have done nothing, likely because the system encourages activity.

When I think of Wildcard, two phrases come to mind: shady and self-interested. The only time they’ve ever heeded the community is when they are certain it’s in their own best interest. If Ark were under a different, more ethical developer’s care, I would be more positive. I tend to give out high scores to games and, despite its flaws, Ark has a lot going for it. However, I don’t trust Studio Wildcard or believe they will complete what is essentially an incomplete game.

Ark could’ve been something great, and if you play it on single player or a good private server, it is a fun ride, but in its current state, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. All things considered, I feel that 5/10 is a fair rating for Ark. It’s not a bad game at its core, but in its current state it’s technically flawed, and I don’t trust the developer to be loyal to the player base. Ark is also a major time sink. I’ve seen people spend thousands of hours on this game, and it hasn’t been out that long. Unfortunately, like the dinosaurs, Ark’s best days appear to be a thing of the past.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Simon’s Top Five Second Generation Pokemon]]> 2017-09-25T00:27:30Z 2017-09-25T00:27:30Z The joy of Pokémon comes from the journey, the varying regions, and the dream of being the best and overcoming everyone in your path, but the most joy comes from the Pokémon themselves. These creatures become your allies and best friends who fight with you and accompany you every step of the way.

From each game we have found that special Pokémon who means the world to us. To celebrate Gold and Silver coming to the Virtual Console, I present my top five second-generation Pokémon.

5. Sunflora

I don’t care what anyone says: Sunflora is a great Pokémon.

It does not matter that Sunflora is unoriginal. Many Pokémon aren’t original and they are still great.

It also does not matter that Sunflora is a statistically bad Pokémon. It may not battle well, but some of the best Pokémon aren’t great for battle. They’re just a great acquaintance who can brighten your day.

The reason I put Sunflora on this list is because it makes me happy. We all need a reason to smile, and Sunflora is that reason for me.

Sunflora gets points for its lovely smile and being an outright adorable sunflower. (Never thought I would call a sunflower adorable, but Pokémon can do stuff like that to you.)

4. Teddiursa

Back when I was a young child, I only cared if a Pokémon was cute. And, really, I’m much the same way now. Back in the day, this is what made me love Teddiursa.

Teddiursa is a sweet, helpless little creature that you want to take back home and hug. Before it becomes its evolved form, the imposing bear Ursaring, it does little harm, but if cuteness could kill Teddiursa would have quite a body count.

3. Crobat

Zubat and Golbat are notorious among Pokémon players because of their high encounter rates in caves. Being a staple of villains’ teams doesn’t help them, either. They are creatures with negative associations.

None of that applies to Crobat, however.

Crobat is used much less by the evil teams and is one of the best poison-type Pokémon you can get.

What makes Crobat appealing is also the happiness factor involved in keeping one. You can’t get Crobat unless you raise its happiness by battling and travelling with it – you have to earn a Crobat. You have more respect for this Pokémon once you earn it and it becomes one of the most reliable allies on your team.

Crobat has been a constant ally on my Pokémon journeys, pulling me through many tough battles and often standing as the last defense between myself and a crushing loss. Crobat has earned a special place among my Pokémon legends – those who fought well in battles – for being a wonderful companion and a great evolved form of otherwise horrible Pokémon.

2. Miltank

Miltank is an odd choice, but I really like this Pokémon. During a recent playthrough of Pokémon Sun, I caught a Miltank and used it as a core member of my team, and it was a great addition. This Pokémon is great for taking hits with its defensive skill but is also a powerhouse when given the right moves.

Gold and Silver may have given us bad memories because of the dreaded battle with Whitney and her Miltank, who likely crushed our best Pokémon. But look past that battle and Miltank is a wonderful Pokémon. It features a great move pool, allowing plenty of variety for how you want to focus Miltank’s moves, and its skills can pull out a victory in even the bleakest of battles.

Miltank is simply adorable and a Pokémon that I would love to have at my side in real life.

1. Chikorita

Gold and Silver had three great starter Pokémon, and while Totodile and Cyndaquil get points for being adorable, they don’t win their way onto this list. I admit I could have filled this list with Chikorita and its evolutions — they are some of my favorite Pokémon ever — but I will just use Chikorita.

The Chikorita line is statistically the worst you could choose but that is half the fun. This Pokémon made each journey through Johto thrilling. You knew that you were in for a hard time, especially when the game hands out similar grass types at a greater rate than other types. It was always wonderful taking Chikorita, and proving it was the best is one of my greatest memories with the franchise.

This Pokémon is adorable. That was always the biggest draw. Even as it evolved into Bayleef and then Meganium it remained consistently adorable. When I just want to have a fun journey through the Johto region, you can bet that Chikorita will be my consistent partner.



SeanPyle <![CDATA[Five Best Games to Play With Your Significant Other]]> 2017-09-24T22:27:13Z 2017-09-24T22:27:13Z Date nights are often spent watching romance movies and Netflix, and video games are less-trodden territory among couples. The interactivity of video games offers an experience unique from movies and television, so playing a fun, cooperative game is an awesome way of growing close to your partner. However, know that gaming with a significant other has risks – a few of these games can incite anger to a disturbing extent and expose you to a side of your partner that you’ll wish had never been revealed.

Mario Kart 8 (Wii U, Switch): 

Mario Kart is a party classic. Its rewarding yet simple gameplay makes it a perfect entry point for those not invested in the racing genre. Kart‘s cute aesthetic and powerful colors are welcoming, and the game controls like it should. The traditional control options are great, and tilt controls are available for those who feel inclined. On the other hand, Mario Kart has a reputation as a relationship destroyer. Anyone who has played Mario Kart can tell the horrible tale of the Blue Shell, a weapon so hauntingly powerful that it threatens the framework of humanity itself. Unless you’re playing Mario Kart 64, in which case it clunks off the nearest wall or comes back and hits you.

Until Dawn (PS4):

Until Dawn is a movie-like horror game that puts a changeable narrative in the hands of the player and prevents the player from losing the game. Instead of showing the player a Game Over screen upon a missed button sequence or a bad decision, Until Dawn uses these instances to compose its story.

Like many others in this list, Until Dawn is a great option for those not already into video games. Make sure your partner likes the horror genre. That’s kind of important as Until Dawn is legitimately frightening. Note that it’s only single-player, but the focus on narrative makes it great for controller sharing. 

Snipperclips (Switch):

The Switch hasn’t yet burst multiplayer content from its seams, which makes Snipperclips, an often-overlooked cooperative romp, one of the best options available to early adopters.

A puzzle game, Snipperclips requires players to problem solve and think creatively. A few sequences in Snipperclips also rely on coordination and precise platforming, which makes communication between players essential for success.

Snipperclips has a demo on the Nintendo eShop you may check out if you are unsure. 

Minecraft (PC, Switch, XONE, PS4, and other platforms): 

Minecraft is like the virtual version of LEGOs, which is exactly why it’s a great date-night game. By harvesting resources, building homes, and surviving the horrors of nighttime, you and your partner will create an impenetrable bond that will last – until one of you screws up the other’s decor.

Minecraft is a good entry point for those without much gaming experience, which makes the game even better if your partner is too casual for your niche Japanese games. Minecraft also lends itself to a variety of playstyles. The game features a creative mode that is solely dedicated to building and allows players to skip the harvesting and surviving from the normal game. 

Borderlands series (PC, XONE, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3):

Borderlands isn’t an easy game. Because of this, it should wait until your partner is invested in gaming. Its addicting, progression-based gameplay will suck up your time, which is the exact type of immersive experience a couple should look for.

Currently there are two mainline games in the Borderlands franchise, both excellent. The second is the better game, but starting with the original is a good idea if you and your partner want to experience everything the series has to offer.

This list is a good starting point for finding games to play with your significant other. If you are a hardcore gamer, and your partner isn’t, then the most important consideration to make is your partner’s interests.

Gaming can be intimidating for the uninitiated, so be sure that your first gaming date night accounts for the type of experience your partner is wanting.

Joseph Tomlinson-Jones <![CDATA[One Gamer’s Life: Writer Joseph Tomlinson-Jones]]> 2017-09-24T02:35:54Z 2017-09-24T02:35:54Z Success and accomplishment are not straightforward. Each one of us has different paths in life that ebb and flow, get complicated, and aren’t like what you see in the movies. Writer Joseph Tomlinson-Jones shares his story of a life with games and aspirations to games journalism.

November 16th, 1990 is a day that would shape the rest of my life – my birth date. Since then I have been on a one track path that has led me here. The journey hasn’t been as straight forward as it may sound.

I grew up wanting to be a policeman. Into my early high school days this idea stuck with me, shaping me into what I thought I wanted to be. Then towards the back end of my high school days this dream died as I realised what kind of physical form you had to be to make it as one. Though a healthy teenager I was also a lazy one, and therefore my law enforcement ambition died.

I grew up playing video games on every console available to me at the time, from the NES to the Sega Megadrive, with games such as the original Mario Brothers or Ecco the Dolphin. More than anything else in my life, these gaming experiences shaped every aspect of my quickly developing mind and body. Blisters were a staple in my life.

As consoles, games and innovation in the gaming community developed, so too did I. As the games being played matured and evolved, I evolved along with them. My favourite game series growing up was The Legend of Zelda. I was not fortunate enough to have played the original in the series – I was born a touch too late and it was never readily available to me. My love for the series began with A Link to the Past.

I was blessed growing up with friends who shared my passion for gaming. In that time all you had to take with you when you went to each other’s houses was either a cartridge or a disc and perhaps a memory card (those were the days).

During the mid-nineties we were all blessed with the PlayStation and, not long after that, the N64. These high tech, 3D capable consoles were the start of something that no gamer born any time before the 90s could have ever dreamed of.

Through the late nineties into the early 2000s, I blossomed with gaming and found my true identity. I was no mere mortal, I was Mr. Gamer. Among my friends I had played the most games across the widest variety of genres and consoles and was the font of knowledge on the gaming world. I knew what was coming out, when it would be released and whether it would be worth playing. I was the go to man and was looked up to as a gaming god.

I was deep into the Gamecube when it released. Games such as Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Star Fox Adventures were the pinnacle of gaming. The Gamecube was all I had ever hoped for in a console. I had found my niche.

I left high school in 2007, aimless. I did not know what I wanted to do with my life after education. I did know that further education was not for me.

I landed a job very quickly, working in a warehouse. While all my friends started college, I joined the work force. I used my first pay slip to purchase a brand new Xbox 360. Compared to what I was used to, this console was of the highest quality. It had been out for a little while by that point but the price had not dropped so it took the majority of the payment I had received. The second I got home I started to play and my prior thoughts about how amazing gaming could be were shattered.

Years went by and consoles came and went, with new innovation after new innovation as developers tried to outdo each other. People chose their favourite console and games, shutting themselves up in a corner and arguing against any who banded with a rival console or game series.

It didn’t take long for me to get wrapped up in all of the on-goings in the gaming world: Who said this, who said that, what was coming next and when. My former glory of being the font of knowledge had diminished over the years as the group of friends I had in school had gone their own direction and I had new people in my life, not all of whom shared my interests as passionately as my old friends had.

I would browse the web in my spare time, seeing what kind of news I could dig up and what games I should look forward to playing. With online gaming a huge trend by this point, I would look for games that I could play with the few friends I had at the time. Game websites were few and far between as gaming hadn’t achieved the level of popularity that it has now, though relative to the 80s and 90s it was in the spotlight.

My job in the warehouse brought in the money I needed to support my still growing addiction to gaming, so I stuck with it and powered on through. I had been thinking to myself for some time ”What do I want to do? I don’t want to be here for the rest of my life.” I knew I had to do something to get out of there, and wanted to do something professional with my passion. I had for years lusted to be a game tester but it didn’t seem a realistic goal. Then one day, my dreams were answered.

I found an advert on Facebook for video game testers. I squealed when I saw this and thought my prayers had been answered. I applied straight away and within a week received a mysterious phone call while at work. I was hoping that I would receive a call, so every time the phone rang I was on edge thinking, ”this could be the one,” but had been sorely disappointed so far. This one call was it and the start of a huge portion of my life, but, as with all things in life, it wasn’t quite what I expected it to be.

The call lead to a representative of the organisation coming to my home and explaining to me an educational programme that was to teach me the basics of the field. He dissuaded me from the course I had intended, for testing video games, and persuaded me into graphic design despite me having zero artistic skill.

As impressionable as I am, this seemed amazing. I thought I would be a top video game designer and see my name in lights! So I made my payments to the company and got the info and packs that I needed to progress, and went on.

It didn’t take long before the plan crumbled and the dream faded. As this was an at-home course I struggled to handle the software I was given and my lack of talent came to the forefront, so I failed, miserably at that.

I left the course woefully behind me and got on with my life. After a few months they were expecting the next payment, but I ignored their emails, letters and infrequent calls. They kept coming so eventually I decided to call them. They said I had to pay up what I owe and continue with the course or pay the buyout clause of half the total payment: £2800. I was aghast, but wanted to be done with it, so reluctantly paid this amount and left my pitiful attempt to gain access to the career path of my dreams behind. I now sought out other ways into the gaming industry.

It didn’t take long till the internet became my friend again and threw me another bone. I saw an article online about video game journalism that advertised you could potentially be paid to review and preview video games from each platform. I nearly jumped from my skin when I saw that some were paying £25 per article and others even more. The highest I saw was £200 for a full game walkthrough. I thought to myself, ”If I can just make a step-by-step game walkthrough with all the trimmings and do it fast, I could earn £200 a week and potentially £800 a month and make a full time wage from it.” But I knew myself: I didn’t have the focus or the talent to complete that many games in a month. I was a casual gamer and wanted to explore a game at a leisurely pace and not rush my way through it.

Even though I didn’t think myself capable at the time of committing to that kind of work regime, I liked the idea of writing about video games. I browsed through the listings to see what kind of people the sites were looking for. There were a few that I liked the sound of and a few that I loved the sound of, some that paid and some that didn’t, some that wanted reviewers or news writers and some that just wanted those who were passionate and could write whatever they wanted about a particular gaming topic.

I siphoned through the options and landed on one that seemed to make the most sense. The site was looking for someone passionate, so I fit the bill. I sent them an email with my intent and waited for their reply. A few days later I received an email back asking for sample writing pieces that showed the kind of talent I had and what my style was. I was excited and slightly scared as I had one shot to get this right and could not afford to mess up. I typed up a review of Skyrim, one of the biggest and most renowned games of its generation. I sent it off with fingers, and everything else, crossed.

A few tenuous days went past. I was on tender hooks, my nerves shot, and then the response arrived in my inbox. I sat, staring at the screen, nervously about to click an unopened email with the title ”Our decision”. I mustered up the courage to face my destiny head on, opened the email and scanned its contents: ”We have looked over your sample writing piece and we want to offer you a position.” That’s all I needed to see for me to nearly break my computer in celebration.

I was elated. I had no idea what to do with myself. I started to write my acceptance reply when I read the rest of it: ”Having looked over your writing piece we can see that you have the basics down but your execution needs to be worked on, you will work side-by-side with one of our editors so that they can try and hone your skills. We look forward to helping you develop and improve. Thanks for your interest.”

Whilst this didn’t come as a complete surprise, since I was new to journalism, I was still a little deflated. I thought my first piece was pretty good. I had covered all the details that were needed for a great review.

Only having read this piece back a few years later and having more experience under my belt did I realise that it was poorly structured, went into too much detail on particular parts and not enough on other and read like a really bad walkthrough. Thankfully the site gave me a chance and put me under the wing of someone with experience who would teach me a lot.

Days, weeks, and months went past as I got the hang of this whole writing business. I started to take on bigger articles and enjoyed doing them. Eventually I decided it was time to take things a step in another direction, so I started a podcast.

It was a menial thing, nothing massive. I discussed things on my mind such as my favourite games or where I thought the gaming world was heading. It only lasted a few months and I did one every week till I had to give up. During the majority of my tenure at this site my wife was pregnant with our first born. Time to write tightened after my daughter was born to the point that I had to give that up as well.

I was out of the business for what was a little over two years. I found time in my schedule again for writing so I scanned the journalism pages to see what was available and saw a posting that caught my eye. I applied as I had before and then waited, to see if my luck was in.

I received an email a couple of days later inviting me to an interview. I replied again, as I had in the past, and the interview was set.

We discussed our gaming history, the things we were in to, the time I had to dedicate to the task and what I would write about.

When we finished the interviewer said he would get back to me in a few days and I thanked him for his time and said I looked forward to hearing from him again.

Not too many days past, I received an email titled ”Offer.” I was back, able to write about games and pursue my passion again.

Murphy Wales <![CDATA[In Dota 2, Late-Game Heroes May Be a Dying Breed]]> 2017-09-24T01:11:00Z 2017-09-24T01:11:00Z Oh, how the great late-game heroes have fallen.

Not since the 7.06 update have they been effective, or so we thought.

It’s no surprise that planning for the late game has gotten a bit difficult. With characters who have the ability to become dangerous within the first fifteen minutes of the game, late-game heroes have been pressured to farm faster. Because of this, many of them haven’t been able to work within the standard, with the exception of one. Despite the poor conditions of a match, Spectre has been a successful late-game hero. What does she have that the others don’t?

Spectre the Resilient

Like most late-game heroes, Spectre isn’t particularly strong early game. Should heroes dive on her, the time for her first item is lengthened. However, unlike most late-game heroes, she only needs one item to set her straight for the rest of the match: Radiance.

Without any modifiers, Spectre’s ability, called Dispersion, allows her to take on multiple foes at one. Because it reflects damage taken, a prolonged fight with her will kill an enemy hero. With the addition of Radiance, she is not only reflecting damage taken but avoiding it, too. Because of Radiance’s mischance passive ability, the enemy will spend extended time fighting Spectre all the while taking the additional passive magic damage from Radiance.

In the event that Spectre is diverted from her pursuit of Radiance, she can still pick up a Vanguard which will allow her to prolong a fight due to increased health and regeneration. To put it bluntly, she’s a ticking time bomb who’s severely resilient. While she doesn’t guarantee a win, she is a hassle for the enemy team. Should she use her ultimate ability, Haunt, she could easily locate the entire enemy team, preemptively deal damage to them using Radiance, and then single out a hero to kill.

Other Late Game Heroes’ Usefulness

What can other late-game heroes do?

Medusa, for example, is a hero who doesn’t appear all that often. She can still be used, provided she isn’t the first position carry.

As of now, the traditional build of Medusa doesn’t do well for her. Most of the items she buys, such as Manta Style, take time to acquire and don’t translate into damage. If she instead builds for utility, she can make some headway. A Maelstrom or Orchid of Malevolence can do her wonders. They provide early-game damage and mana regeneration for her Mana Shield.

For the more expensive items, a Linken’s Sphere should still be effective and an Aghanim’s Scepter would surely spice things up. With each bounce of her ability, Mystic Snake, on an enemy, the Aghs will petrify the hero for a short duration. It’s great for interrupting the enemy team’s ability and for chasing them down.

A great place for a late-game hero who isn’t aiming to be position-one is the middle lane. While a late-game hero’s abilities aren’t efficient at handling multiple heroes at once, they can certainly deal with one. With some solo experience and moderate farm, they are a force to be reckoned with.

Also consider their Aghs ability. Since the hero isn’t aiming to be the main source of damage for their team, it wouldn’t be a crazy idea to consider an alternative build. Most items they typically buy are for the sake of endurance, but since utility is the name of the game, an Aghs could be of use.

Take Morphling for example. Under normal circumstances, an Aghs is a waste, but as a support Morphling, you could potentially make it a six versus five match. The Aghs grants Morphling’s illusion all the abilities of the copied hero. With decent ability on the team, you could potentially copy game winning abilities.

Late Game Heroes’ Worth

Overall, late-game heroes are not worthwhile, but anything might happen in the Twin Fates update. My expectation is that irrelevant heroes will receive a major boost to get them back in the game. As of now, Spectre is the only hero worth investing time into. While the others are useful, there isn’t much they provide that another hero couldn’t improve upon.


Emmaline Shettel <![CDATA[Emmaline Rambles Zelda: Wind Waker vs. Ocarina of Time]]> 2017-09-22T23:43:08Z 2017-09-22T23:43:08Z The Wind Waker and Ocarina of Time are two really good Legend of Zelda games and are the most enjoyed by me. They have been remastered on the Wii U and 3DS, respectively, and bring heavy nostalgic feelings. They will always be classics.

So – which is better in comparison?

Graphics: The Wind Waker and Ocarina of Time have substantially different graphical styles. Wind Waker‘s cel-shaded, whereas Ocarina of Time has traditional 3D fantasy graphics, without such shading.

The cartoony graphics in Wind Waker make it even more kid friendly and also lend the game a happier setting. I prefer them.

Setting: Wind Waker is strictly on water and transportation is by boat. Ocarina of Time is on land and features the horse Epona for getting around.

There are scary places in Wind Waker, such as Forsaken Fortress, and the story can be dark, but the brightness of the sea and the scope of the journey across said ocean exudes enough cheerful vibes to counter any scary darkness.

The dungeons take place on islands in Wind Waker and include many extra treasures, which you can find from under the sea with a grappling hook. 

Ocarina of Time is primarily on land and has elemental dungeons such as the Forest Temple, Fire Temple, and Water Temple. There’s horror throughout, especially in the Shadow Temple. There aren’t as many treasures, mostly deku nuts or sticks. The feel is not as cheerful as Wind Waker’s, especially in the adult segment of the game.

Ocarina of Time does have an exotic dungeon: Inside Jabu-Jabu’s Belly. I mean, come on, you’re inside of a belly, but aren’t being born. 

Music: The key difference between the music in the games is the feel of it, whether happy and upbeat or not.

Wind Waker took a unique approach to Zelda music. Its tunes sound more like a town in the Kanto region from PokémonOcarina of Time is slower and more melodic and fits a Zelda game.

The song you’ll hear the most in Wind Waker is The Great Sea since much game time is spent sailing. The overworld theme does not dominate Ocarina of Time as much. You don’t spend much time on the field – nothing much to do – and night comes early and often, when the music stops.

The songs are a bit more modernized and include catchy beats in Wind Waker. The use of the flute in Wind Waker is also something to consider, especially in Windfall Island’s music. If you want more upbeat music, Wind Waker is the one.

Characters: Ocarina of Time includes Zoras, Gorons, and Gerudos. Wind Waker has these races too, but also the bird-like Rito and charming woodland Korok.

In Wind Waker you play as Toon Link and in Ocarina of Time you play as Young Link and Adult Link. Wind Waker’s Link is more expressive due to the cartoony graphics.

In Wind Waker, there’s a close family to Link,  who lives with his grandma and sister. This makes Wind Waker more playable for kids and gives Link a more personal motive in the game. In Ocarina of Time, he begins as one of many Kokiri kids, with no parents or other relatives close by, unless you count Navi as one.

Story: In Wind Waker you are the titular “Wind Waker”, and use the same item to manipulate the direction of the wind as you sail.

In Ocarina of Time, you are the Hero of Time, and play the ocarina of time to transport, among other abilities.

In both games you must defeat Ganon. In Wind Waker you are doing it at first to save your sister, and then – spoilers – doing it to save Zelda. In Ocarina of Time, you are chosen to save Zelda from the start.

Wind Waker is definitely tougher due to the ending when you must find seven Triforce maps and their shards. Ocarina of Time is as standard as the others: defeating eight dungeons leading up to Ganon’s castle, with no pesky Triforce shards to find.

Summary: Wind Waker is a sea-based, cartoony Zelda and Ocarina of Time is a land-locked, standard Zelda that most young adult gamers today grew up on. I think Wind Waker is more of a challenge, though ironically more kid friendly. Ocarina of Time has been the basis of most Zelda games since its release.

For me, Wind Waker is more unique and, never being on the N64, was a game really new for me. It’s definitely a risk, but I’ll say it: Wind Waker is better.

Featured image courtesy

Tow <![CDATA[Monster Hunter: World Release Date Announced]]> 2017-09-22T03:40:14Z 2017-09-22T03:31:59Z After months of waiting, Capcom has finally announced a release date for Monster Hunter: World. It will be available for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One on January 26. No PC release date has been announced.

This new entry looks completely different from Capcom’s usual offerings, with a much more realistic art style.

A new trailer showcases several new monsters and Astera, the base of operations for the Research Commission as they explore a new world.

Players that pre-order the game will receive special bonuses that include the Origin Set Armor and the Fair Wind Charm talisman, which offer improved starting defense and offense stat boosts for the hunter as well as a useful gathering skill. Those who pre-order the digital edition will also receive a custom PS4 theme.

DougiePowell <![CDATA[Anireal: Gaming-Inspired Album Explores Child Abuse]]> 2017-09-22T03:14:26Z 2017-09-22T03:14:26Z Anireal is a new video-game inspired album by composer Calbert “Schematist” Warner that explores child abuse. The album’s sound, inspired by video games, is based on the life of game developer and friend of Warner, Jessica Fong.

“After several conversations with fellow composers and artists, I noticed the topic of mental health was an area that was frequently ignored or unexplored,” Warner said. “While meeting Jessica Fong and hearing her talk so candidly about her abusive past, I realized I had more than enough motivation to create this project.”

The album tells her life story. The first happy and upbeat track, “Fragments,” is a reminiscing on happy moments from childhood, but the tone shifts in the next track, “Recovery,” which conveys the intimate thoughts of someone suffering from abuse and depression. Each track highlights a key turning point in Long’s life, leading to regaining her sense of self in the final track, “Anireal.”

“I was heavily inspired by video game composers such as Yuzo Koshiro, Nobuo Uematsu, Shoji Meguro and Zircon and wanted to blend a variety of styles together to create a convincing melodic storytelling experience, and I am proud of the end result,” Warner said.

Anireal is available now on Spoitfy, iTunes and Bandcamp. All proceeds go to the charity New York Centre for Children to help others suffering from child abuse.

Featured image courtesy Bandcamp.

Joseph Tomlinson-Jones <![CDATA[Secret of Mana Remake Due Early 2018]]> 2017-09-22T02:51:29Z 2017-09-22T02:51:29Z On August 25, Square Enix announced there would be a remake of the classic SNES RPG Secret of Mana. Originally released in 1993 and widely regarded as one of the greatest RPGs of all time, Secret of Mana invites players on an action-packed adventure taking on the role of Randi, along with his two companions Primm and Popoi, as they battle a perilous empire to reclaim the magical power of Mana and bring the world back to order.

Whilst faithfully retelling the beloved story of Randi, Primm and Popoi, Secret of Mana will also include new features and updates. There will be a new soundtrack, a new visual style, and voiced characters. The gameplay will be changed to bring the twenty-four-year-old RPG to the modern era.

Secret of Mana will be available digitally on the PlayStation Store and Steam on February 15. Those who pre-order on the PlayStation Store will receive special character costumes as well as a selection of character avatars.

Those who pre-purchase the Day One Edition, which will be available until one week after the launch on Steam, will receive the three character costumes as well as a custom downloadable wallpaper.


Robert Scarpinito <![CDATA[Divinity: Original Sin 2’s First Twenty Hours are Promising]]> 2017-09-22T02:32:28Z 2017-09-22T02:32:28Z Inside a cave where some elves gather, a human boy named Mody runs up to you, asking you to play hide and seek. You, being Lohse, the singer celebrated across the land, accept the challenge, partially to avoid tarnishing your friendly image. During the game, he goes invisible, but Lohse doesn’t have too much trouble finding him. Mody then decides to introduce Lohse to his best friend: a skeleton who’s been petrified by a magic spear for years. Now it’s up to you to free this skeleton’s body and soul.

That’s just a small taste of what Divinity: Original Sin 2 has to offer.

Divinity: Original Sin was an incredible computer RPG when it released in 2014, and the Enhanced Edition a year later only made it that much better. That game cemented itself as a powerhouse in the recent movement to revive the old-school CRPG genre. The top-down view and rigid yet flexible combat system brought the feeling of playing a tabletop game like Dungeons and Dragons to life, and the writing was clever to boot. Amid the serious, world-ending tones of the story, the writers at Larian Studios were never afraid to pepper in some pop culture references or cheeky witticisms.

And after spending more than twenty hours with the sequel, I can say it goes above and beyond any expectations the first game may have set for it. Divinity: Original Sin 2 retains the essence of the first game but makes meaningful changes to the presentation, interface and combat, transforming the sequel into something greater. Fights are as punishing as ever, the dialogue is still playful, and the loot system is somewhat more streamlined for convenience. If there’s anything you should know right now, it’s that fans of the first game will find themselves enjoying the sequel just as much, if not more so. Those looking for a robust CRPG that rewards creativity, Divinity: Original Sin 2 should be a welcome addition to your library.

The game greets you with a character creation screen that has options with overwhelming implications on how you’ll play the rest of the game. Which of the four races are you? Is your character undead? Which of the fourteen class presets do you start with? Is your character one of the six pre-made origin characters with rich back stories and personal quests, or a completely custom creation? The choices you make feel like they will affect every aspect of the game.

Your character’s gender, race, and origin all factor into the tag system that Larian has built, and you can choose other tags to apply to your character, such as Scholar, Jester, or Outlaw. More tags are earned based on your actions in the story, but having to decide some of them so early in the game helps you understand your character’s place in the world. You’re not just a male elf necromancer; you’re a male elf necromancer who likes to study the world around you, but you’ve done things outside of the law to learn some forbidden supernatural secrets.

If you decide to play as any of the origin characters, you may still change how they look, their stats, their abilities, and so on. Gender, race, and tags are locked in, however. The other five origin characters (or all six, if you decide to create your own character) can be found in the game world and recruited as party members. Each of them have their own personal goals that they try to accomplish as they accompany you through Rivellon. More often than not, they’ll drag you and the rest of the party into whatever antics they get into. I find myself fairly invested in the progression of these quests. Much like in the first game, these quests aren’t often a one-and-done affair, as completing one task for a party member often gives you a new goal on the horizon. Conversations with these origin characters are generally entertaining and informative, and it’s easy to want to root for these characters’ successes. As condescending as the Red Prince can be, there’s a part of me that wants to help him reclaim his throne after he was exiled. While Sebille can be dark and violent, it’s easy to sympathize with her history of being used as an assassin against her will.

The primary way you learn about these characters and the world around you is through the dialogue system. Knowing how to talk in this game is equally as important as knowing how to fight. A good persuasion check can save you from a really bad fight. Talking to the right people can lead you to new loot that you might not find otherwise, like the magic spear that petrified Mody’s skeleton friend. The dialogue system also feels more immersive than the first game’s, which had choices with specific sentences your character could say. In the sequel, each dialogue option instead features a description of how your character reacts to what the other person has said or done. This sets the stage for players to put themselves in their character’s shoes rather than being told what their character says.

When you’re not exploring the world and talking to NPCs, you’re more often than not going to be fighting the many enemies that inhabit Rivellon. From evil demons to oppressive magisters, Divinity: Original Sin 2 has no shortage of creatures for you to sling fireballs at. The turn-based combat is robust, allowing you to set up all kinds of over-the-top combos with your team. Each turn, a unit starts with a certain amount of Action Points, and every action requires some AP. Run out of AP and that unit’s turn is over, although you can also prematurely end a unit’s turn to carry AP over to the next round. The AP system makes each turn feel like a puzzle game with innumerable solutions; it’s a joy to see what each of your party members can do and figure out the best course of action they can take. Do you pull the long con and have your archer take the high ground to rain down more damage at longer ranges? Or do you keep him on the ground to launch some elemental arrows right now to set up your wizard’s next turn? The combat is incredibly flexible and allows for all kinds of strategies.

The bread and butter of the combat is the multitude of spells and skills the game offers. There are ten major schools, each with their own long list of skills. Like the first game, some schools synergize very well with each other. For example, you can use a Geomancer spell like Fossil Strike to create a puddle of oil under the feet of two enemies, then ignite it using Ignition from the Pyrokinetic school, causing the enemies to take fire damage over time. A character with points in the Summoning school can then use Conjure Incarnate to summon a fire elemental from the pool of fire. Each and every fight is a testing ground for the cause-and-effect style gameplay that the skill system has laid out, and I often find myself wondering if these two spells can interact with each other or how that spell would affect an enemy with certain status conditions.

To be clear, however, the game isn’t easy. Assuming you don’t play on the easiest difficulty, you’ll likely suffer your first death within the first ten fights, and party wipes aren’t uncommon. As you understand the game better, you might find yourself wanting to respec your characters, and that’s OK. It’s a game with a steep learning curve, but once it all clicks, the game will feel more fair and manageable. You’ll learn from the mistakes you’ll make, and mistakes will likely be plentiful while learning the game. But if you stick with it, the addictive combat will win you over.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a game that doesn’t care that you’re the player character, which probably contributes to the steep learning curve. The game world doesn’t make many exceptions for you, and it’s a game that forces you to live with the consequences of your actions. If you cross a faction, they’ll more than likely attack you on sight. If you pickpocket an NPC, they’ll notice that they’re missing something and ask to search your pockets. If you murder an NPC, even without witnesses, people might stumble upon the crime scene and ask questions. The game makes you accountable for your actions, making each moment more important than you might think.

The game has the framework to support all kinds of replayability after the lengthy story mode. For one, you can play the story again with completely new builds, and Larian opened the game up to modding on day one. Aside from the story mode, Divinity: Original Sin 2 also has a game master mode, which is meant to simulate classic tabletop gaming. One player can create a story that everyone else can play. The GM can control the NPCs, creating an interesting interactive experience. With modding and game master mode open from day one, the game will likely have a long life and won’t gather dust any time soon.

The game also allows for up to four-player multiplayer, so you can journey through Rivellon together with up to three other friends. You can each create your own characters and move around the world freely. In my experience, it can be almost too easy to get lost with other people playing the game. Players can split up and start all kinds of quests simultaneously, and if any one person runs into a fight, they either have to fend for themselves or wait until everyone else runs over to join. Playing with friends can feel disjointed with all kinds of interruptions, which could possibly be alleviated with the options to teleport your character to other players and back. Playing with friends can be a trying experience, but at the same time, there’s something novel and exciting about being able to play a CRPG with your friends as your other party members.

Larian Studios has created something really special in Divinity: Original Sin 2. It takes an addictive gameplay loop to make the twentieth hour of gameplay feel just as interesting as the fifth, and with well written, troubled yet driven characters at the helm of the experience, this game stands tall as a juggernaut of the CRPG genre.


Simon Smith <![CDATA[Layers of Fear Peels Apart On Switch]]> 2017-09-20T00:19:08Z 2017-09-20T00:19:08Z Layers of Fear is a horror game that explores the depths of the protagonist’s own mind as players venture through a puzzling labyrinth filled with personal traumas. Through the game you explore the mind of an artist trying to complete his masterpiece, building from his own experiences and slipping grip of reality. This game released for the Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Now Aspyr Media, as well as Layers of Fear developer Bloober Team, have revealed that the horror will continue as the game is now headed to the Nintendo Switch. Titled Layers of Fear: Legacy, the game will bring the main title as well as its additional content, Inheritance, to players.

Legacy will also include a selection of Switch-specific controller support, including HD Rumble, touch screen usage and motion controls. It is unclear how these features will affect the game, if at all.

This version of Layers of Fear will be a Switch exclusive, and you may get a taste of what to expect from the game’s Switch announcement trailer below.

No release date has been announced.

SeanPyle <![CDATA[Project Octopath Traveler: Quirky Name, Intriguing Game]]> 2017-09-19T23:51:50Z 2017-09-19T23:51:50Z Square Enix’ fall from grace, at least in the eyes of classic-JRPG fanatics, is well-documented. With every numbered Final Fantasy entry, the publisher diverts further from its original formula, for better or worse. The release of Final Fantasy X arguably began the criticism, but XII, XIII, and XV all added a share of controversy to the mix. While all of these games are meritorious in their own ways, they ultimately failed to scratch the itch that has pestered old-school JRPG fans for years.

Several years ago, Square finally responded to this sentiment and developed Bravely Default for Nintendo 3DS. Bravely Default was a daring blend of old and new, combining classic RPG elements, like a class system, with modern conveniences like a random encounter frequency slider. Despite a number of faults, the new series contained elements that many JRPG fans spent years yearning for. Fans were happy to see this effort from Square, and the publisher was likely happy to see its risk pay off financially. Fortunately, it appears that Bravely Default’s success has forced Square to reconsider their strategy and develop more games in the vein of SNES- and PSX-era JRPGs.

During the Nintendo Switch’s initial debut in January, Square’s new game, an RPG with the working title Project Octopath Traveler, was revealed. At the time, not much was shown – just enough to entice a few hardcore RPG fans. However, the game’s new showing at Nintendo’s recent Direct sparked a positive reaction across the gaming spectrum. The art style, which adds a high-definition twist to 16-bit-style graphics, captured everyone’s attention, and the branching, multi-character narrative structure is an innovative design choice that firmly plants this title as Square’s next attempt at tapping into RPG nostalgia. Shortly after the Direct’s conclusion, a demo was released onto the Switch’s marketplace.

Octopath’s narrative is uniquely told, and the player will explore its world through the perspectives of eight different characters. In the demo, two of these characters are available to try: Olberic, a knight with a tragic past, and Primrose, an indentured dancer with a secret identity. I played through both of the demo’s offerings, and throughout the entire experience, I was captivated. Primrose’s story is surprisingly dark, and Olberic’s, while perhaps only slightly deviated from many RPG knight tropes, is tightly focused and engaging. The dialogue isn’t impervious to the cheesiness that bogs down much JRPG storytelling, but ultimately, the story is delivered well through sharp voice acting, powerful musical pieces, and interesting narrative developments.

Overall, I am entranced by Octopath’s partially retro aesthetic and wondrous soundtrack. Yet, I have a few apprehensions, all of which are small issues that will hopefully be sorted out before the game releases. Fortunately, part of Square’s rationale in releasing the demo is to collect feedback. In fact, surveys have already been administered to some players of the demo.

The combat system is good and in many ways similar to Bravely Default. The interface is simple and intuitive and, judging by Olberic’s and Primrose’s skill sets, will offer multiple approaches to the player. However, many fights are stretched too long. Rather than feeling legitimately challenged by these lengthy random encounters, I more often feel frustrated. Regular enemies have too much health and battles often become a rinse-and-repeat affair – one that hollowly inflates the time spent within each battle. I’ve read some complaints about the game’s art style, mostly that some of the visual effects are presented too strongly, but I find it all beautiful.

Square’s emphasis on collecting player feedback will make Octopath’s developmental trajectory interesting to follow. Developers don’t often place much stock into the opinions of their player base, so whether Square decides to go against the grain here will largely affect the final product. For the most part, reception to Octopath has been great, with most complaints mirroring the small ones I voiced earlier. If adjustments are made while leaving the intriguing core of the game in place, then Octopath will be a boon for JRPG enthusiasts thirsting for a classic experience. Perhaps more significantly though, Octopath’s exclusivity with the Nintendo Switch makes it important for the console’s library, and the addition of a megaton JRPG would provide the Switch’s currently barren 2018 lineup with a needed spark.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode One: Awake Review]]> 2017-09-19T23:13:25Z 2017-09-19T23:13:25Z Dontnod Entertainment did a wonderful job with Life is Strange. They weaved together an excellent narrative with many tough subjects and introduced genuinely interesting characters players sympathized with. While the series was enjoyable from start to finish, there was always one element that held it back: the protagonist’s sidekick, Chloe Price. Despite story justification, she dragged down each episode with her everybody-hates-me attitude. It was this element that made entering Before the Storm worrisome. The game could have been a train wreck thanks to a terrible protagonist, but some changes made it an enjoyable journey.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a prequel series set three years before that will span three episodes and explores the story of Chloe and Rachel Amber, the “perfect” girl from Chloe’s school. This story is referenced during Life is Strange, but in Before the Storm it is in full view, and players may see all the development of these characters and their bonds with each other.

It helps that Before the Storm has a more likeable Chloe. She clearly feels pain from the death of her father and from being abandoned, more or less, by Max, but we haven’t reached the point when Chloe will be put over the edge. For now she comes across as someone who doesn’t care but, deep down, still wants to. Her less whiny attitude in Before the Storm makes her more enjoyable to play as and see the life of.

Part of this is because Before the Storm’s developer, Deck Nine, cast a new voice actress for Chloe. The original voice actress, Ashley Burch, made Chloe whiny and unlikable. Her new voice actress, Rhianna DeVries, has more range. During moments of grief Chloe does not just sound whiny, and happy moments are genuinely powerful. There are less moments when you want to tell Chloe to shut up and you sympathize her. Near the episode’s conclusion is a notable scene that plays out perfectly. Awake has dramatic moments that build sympathy for Chloe by exploring her mindset, such as a moment where Chloe smashes a camera over frustration with Max.

Awake starts out at an old mill as Chloe heads out to see a band play. Chloe accidentally gets herself into trouble with some dangerous people but is saved by Rachel. After a night of drinking and dancing to the band, they cement the bond that carries them through the events of the episode as Chloe opens up and accepts Rachel as a friend and perhaps more.

The episode fleshes Rachel out as a character. Due to her situation in Life is Strange, we were unable to learn much about her. We heard slight recounts from Chloe but never got the full picture. It’s great to be front-and-center to the story and properly understand why Chloe was so attached to her.

The episode explores how Rachel is a girl of many faces: the intellectual actress at school and the rebellious party girl outside of school. The episode explores Chloe’s fascination with Rachel and how the two girls come to find so much meaning in each other. Considering that this bond will be the cornerstone of the series, it’s great that Deck Nine illustrates Rachel as an interesting character.

The draw between Chloe and Rachel is that they end up with similar stories. Their friendship seems more genuine than Max and Chloe’s because neither uses the other for personal gain. Chloe often wanted something from Max, but in Awake Chloe and Rachel are two girls who are hurting and need a friend.

The game does lighten up and show the joy of youth as characters play games like Dungeons and Dragons or two truths and a lie. These comic relief moments are where the game shines most. Some of the optional conversations are funny, like those had when playing Dungeons and Dragons. Chloe’s responses to the game are hilarious.

Decision-making is more difficult as the game lacks Max’s rewind ability. Before the Storm takes a Telltale-like approach, forcing you to make decisions in the moment. Many of the choices in episode one of Before the Storm determine how open you are with Chloe, deciding whether she is shut off or open about her feelings. Although there are some choices that seem like they might cause problems for Chloe down the line, many don’t seem like they are going to affect much.

The unique new mechanic for Before the Storm are backtalk sequences. In these you must choose the correct responses to opponents’ dialogue. This is done by carefully listening to and selecting the comment that will best match what has been said. For example, when called a child you may respond about being at a playground. These tie into Chloe’s stubborn personality and fit the game well, though are used too often.

The Before the Storm series is off to a great start thanks to Awake. The episode did well to reacquaint us with the sleepy town of Arcadia Bay and Chloe, delivering many deep and surreal moments. Awake forms a better Chloe and succeeds in introducing Rachel. It also ends on a cliffhanger that promises a thrilling second episode.


Murphy Wales <![CDATA[Why Not to Hate Valve for Artifact]]> 2017-09-17T17:32:51Z 2017-09-17T17:32:51Z During the Dota 2 international, Valve announced a card game based on Dota 2. The game is called Artifact and does not have a release date. Many fans have responded negatively. Their frustration stems from a number of things: they hoped for a demonstration of new heroes, the release of an Arcana cosmetic set for Pudge, and the continuation of another Valve series.

Since the announcement, ex-Valve writer Marc Laidlaw posted the plot of Half-Life 2: Episode Three online. Realizing that the Half-Life sequel would never be released, fans began pelting Dota 2 with negative reviews that had nothing to do with the game. Needless to say, there are former fans of Valve who are extremely upset with them. While Artifact isn’t the game they wanted, there are things to reconsider.

Valve Hasn’t made a Game in Years

Fans are completely justified holding Valve with contempt. After the creation of Steam, many members of their creative team left. The selling platform provided more than enough income for the company so that creativity was no longer a driving force. Most of their efforts have now been focused on creating content for some of their current titles such as Dota 2.

While Artifact isn’t creating a new intellectual property, the fact that it’s a new game is significant. Valve is taking a note from Blizzard and creating a card game to compete against Hearthstone. While we’re not sure what the mechanics of the game will be, we do know that Valve has never been sloppy. We’re not sure who the creative team behind it is, but it would be unsurprising if they brought on new talent like they did for Dota 2 with Ice Frog, the creator of Dota.

Why a Card Game?

While they are jumping on the bandwagon, Valve has acknowledged that electronic card games have been flourishing. Ever since Hearthstone entered the scene, die-hard Blizzard fans, table-top enthusiasts, and casual gamers have flocked to the e-card genre.

While Hearthstone wasn’t the first of its kind, it certainly is the most popular. It’s intuitive, free, and playable on desktops, smartphones, and tablets. Other companies began investing in the e-card genre, CD Projekt Red with Gwent, for example. Realizing this, Valve must have figured that some Dota 2 fans would be willing to play an e-card game if it used the same intellectual property.

Valve is a Master of Free-to-Play Games

While we know the game will be aesthetically appealing, the real money will be made from in-game purchases. With Dota 2, Valve makes over 18 million dollars a month. To clarify, Dota 2 is a free-to-play game and the only parts that can be purchased are aesthetics. In an e-card game, there are numerous things that could be purchased: card packs, single cards, and more. This isn’t to say that Valve will do something maliciously underhanded to gouge money out of the players; they make enough money elsewhere. Valve simply knows how to get a community invested into its game by allowing them to take part in its creations.

Part of the reason Dota 2 makes so much money is because individuals can submit designs for in-game aesthetics. Players also have a vast amount of customization choices. This is something Valve does better than Blizzard. (It wasn’t that long ago when there was controversy over the drop-rate of items from loot-crates.)

Keep Things in Perspective

While there’s still a lot to learn about Artifact, Valve will at least put their best foot forward when releasing the e-card game. It isn’t Half-Life 3, but it’s something new. It may be best to reserve judgement on the game. There are plenty of other more justifiable complaints to make against Valve, specifically of the green light process of new games in the Steam Marketplace.


Emmaline Shettel <![CDATA[Emmaline Rambles: On Cheating and Cheat Devices]]> 2017-09-17T17:08:00Z 2017-09-17T17:08:00Z Why do consumers spend thirty dollars on a cheating device? Because consumers like to win.

I remember what I felt when all my weeds on Animal Crossing: Wild World were replaced with money bags: power.

The first thing I want to do in any Sims game is type in motherlode for a huge whopping amount of Simoleons. This makes the game more fun because you can screw around and get fifty flat screens in every bathroom if you please.

That cheat code only gives you extra stuff, and doesn’t actually help you complete the game. A game like Zelda or Pokémon would require you to put forth some effort to defeat bosses. To my knowledge there’s no cheat that says “beat the Elite 4 leader.” Gaining extra stuff will help you beat the game easier and faster, but is not needed.

Cheating devices are amazing because they’re convenient. You insert the game cartridge into the cheat cartridge and, voila, you’re a cheater! These little cartridges were very helpful in advancing me through any game that was based on money, which was a lot. It also saved me time from going to

The Action Replay was convenient and dandy, but there were two upsetting things with the device. Sometimes, it did not work properly. I always feared it would make the game lag or mess up – it is hacking into it, after all. The other drawback was that you could not add games to it. Whatever games you used with the Action Replay were the only ones you could actually hack into. Big titles like Mario and Pokémon would be on there, but I got it for Animal Crossing. Finding cheats for smaller titles such as Bratz was harder, and it was more difficult for those games’ younger audience to enter cheat codes.

Any cheating device will cause some lagging or performance change to the game you hack into, but it makes the game more enjoyable. The Game Shark did this for Pokémon: Leaf Green – imagine ninety-nine master balls and a Mew in your PC box in the Pokémon center. Quite a performance changer.

Cheating is helpful if you are trying to test the abilities of a game and try everything that you can in it without having to invest gobs of time in playing it.

Think about it this way: you’re spending thirty dollars to spare time in a game or earn impossible things in it. That’s on top of the money you spent on the base game. I would only do this for worthwhile games.

Cheating is frowned upon in the gaming industry, but if you’re just goofing around, testing the glitches, then cheat on.

DougiePowell <![CDATA[Five Poor Life Lessons Taught By The Sims]]> 2017-09-17T15:09:39Z 2017-09-17T15:09:39Z For almost twenty years The Sims has been a very popular franchise with no signs of slowing down. Currently on its fourth iteration, with many console spinoffs in between, the games have raised a generation of gamers, including myself. If I were to apply those weird statistics where people figure out how much of their life they’ve spent eating or in the bathroom to how much of my life I’ve spent on The Sims, I would probably spiral into a deep depression from which there would be no recovery. Suffice it to say that I tried once and soon stopped.

The Sims appeal is that it’s a simulated life game, but how close to reality is it, really? What has it been teaching that generation of naive gamers? Well, here are a few poor life lessons I’ve gleaned from The Sims.

1.) You’ll Find a Job

I thought I’d start with the obvious and most notable item on the list. I graduated from University in June 2016 and since then I’ve spent more time unemployed than employed. Even if it is far harder to get a job now than when The Sims was first released in February 2000, I think we can all agree that it was never as easy as it has been portrayed in the lives of our sims.

True, spending months filling out applications and walking out of poor interviews that leave you wallowing in a vat of self-pity would make for a terrible video game, but finding your dream job by looking at the newspaper or the computer makes for a very poor life lesson. In The Sims, even if for a few days, you have to make a living doing a non-dream job (oh, such a hard life!). But with persistence, making sure you read the paper every day, you will find your dream career. Assuming you work hard for a few weeks by making sure to show up to work at least every other day, talking to yourself in the mirror or playing chess against yourself, you’ll eventually get your dream job.

In The Sims 3 and 4, you don’t even have to look at the computer to start your career track, you just choose where you want to work and they’ll let you work there!

In reality, a lack of money and desperation will lead you into a dead-end, soul-crushing job, which won’t necessarily have anything to do with the degree you spent all that money on, until you wake up one morning realising that your dreams have died.

Simulated life’s more fun.

2.) You’ll Be Able to Afford Help

The French Maid is one of the most iconic characters in The Sims and, according to The Sims 2 loading mini-game, is Will Wright’s favourite character. The maid has been present in all Sims games, including (most of) the console versions. You call her up, she comes in straight away, cleans up after you then runs straight off again.

Unfortunately, the maid will set you back 10 simoleons an hour, including a 15 simoleon base fee. But, fortunately, as we discussed in point one, you earn at least 106 simoleons a day, and since the maid will clean your entire home in only a few hours, you can easily afford a maid, never have to worry about cleaning your house, and can focus on an amazing career.

You want a beautiful, amazing garden but don’t have the time, the know-how or, indeed, the motivation to try? Well, after just a few days of work you’ll be able to afford a gardener who’ll do everything so you can look out the window at your wondrous flower beds and never have to lift a finger (let alone get it dirty).

Do you need a short break from your bundles of joy? Call up a nanny or babysitter who’ll take care of them for you until a time when you can stand to look at them once more. Need to go to work? Holiday? That’s fine! The sitter’ll stay until you get back. No need to check in, just enjoy your independent life.

This isn’t how life works, is it?

Look around you. Those dishes that are piling up in the sink, mocking you…the pet hair on the rug…the dust on the bookcase…. There is no relief, no help that is a convenient phone call away.

You’re all alone now. You’ll always be alone.

3.) You Can Easily Maintain Your Friendships

All Sims games have a simple premise for friendships. Socialise with other sims and your relationship score with them will change. Positive interactions will raise it, negative ones will lower it. If you socialise enough with another sim and get your daily relationship score to 50, you will become friends. With time your lifetime relationship score will progress, determining the closeness of your friendship, but it’ll only progress as high as your daily relationship score. But the higher your lifetime relationship score gets, the longer it’ll take for the friendship to decay.

Your friendships will decrease over time if you do not socialize with them on a regular basis, but if you give them a call every now and again you’ll be able to maintain your relationships. The game will even give you a little reminder if you are losing a friend.

A development that I greatly appreciated came in The Sims 2. The game would simply produce a reminder bubble about your friend, rather than forcing your sim to receive 10 bloody phone calls every evening from a neglected friend.

This developed again in later games when a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while will become a distant friend, but a quick cup of coffee or invitation to hang out will soon resolve the issue.

I will admit that with social media it is easier to stay in touch with those from your past, but calling someone you knew 10 years ago and inviting them to hang out might seem a little off. If you just take a moment to think about all the friends you had a decade ago and how many of them you would consider close friends now, maybe you’ll get the gist of what I’m writing about.

The Freetime expansion pack also introduced a new concept called BFF, where if two sims are best friends for a certain amount of time then they’ll always be friends. Even if you never. speak. again.

There is no limit to the amount of BFFs one sim can have, and they aren’t very difficult to accumulate.

The most annoying thing about the friendships for me was the link into careers. Somehow your new friendship with the pizza delivery person will help you progress as a scientist.

I’d like to squeeze in an honourable mention here: The Sims teaches the lesson that romance is inevitable. While some sims are more compatible then others, if you pester another sim enough, you can eventually convince them to sleep with you and stay with you.

Stay safe, kids!

4.) Sex = Love

And that leads me to my next point. Brace yourselves, this is about to get real.

Unlike the others, this point is one that was improved in later games and is only a problem in The Sims 2. It was one that bugged me repeatedly and made me feel very uncomfortable: the concept that you cannot “WooHoo” with another sim until after you fall in love.

While the idea of engaging in sexual activities in games is one I find rather odd, it’s never bothered me like has in The Sims. Even the silly euphemisms for sex creep me out. WooHoo wasn’t introduced until 2, before then it was simply “play.”

In The Sims 2, before WooHoo is even an option, you must have two sims socialise enough to fall in love. In the memory recorded, the sim will say, “I love you,” to the other sim. After this, you can walk away and never see them again, but the two sims will still remain in love and not lose this state unless they interact negatively when the lifetime relationship score is below seventy. This never has to happen, even.

I already know that I’m taking this too seriously, but unlike in other games, where sex is portrayed as a novelty, it serves a purpose in The Sims as it is a life simulator, and this is an aspect of life. It’s a poor life lesson that isn’t only unrealistic, but potentially damaging.

The sex-equals-love aspect is one that needs to be wiped from existence. It’s damaging to young people and their concept of love and relationships. It doesn’t teach the lesson “you should only WooHoo if you’re in love,” but instead teaches, “If you truly loved me, you’d WooHoo with me” or “I WooHoo’d with them, so I must love them.”

One Lifetime Achievement for a romance-aspiration sim is to “WooHoo with 20 different sims.” Are you honestly going to put that in your game, EA, and convince us that these sims are hopelessly in love with every single one of their conquests?

I really want to make some kind of sarcastic joke to lighten the mood, but I won’t even try to make light of this, so will move on.

Note that if you save up enough aspiration points for the love tub, you can engage in one night stands and use the WooHoo interactive option without falling in love.

5.) You Will Achieve Lifelong Happiness

In The Sims 2, the aspect of wants and fears was introduced to the game. If your sim achieve wants, then they would become satisfied with life. If they achieve fears, then they will become miserable. A sim may also have a lifetime want or goal, which if they achieve they will become permanently satisfied with life. This concept evolved with the sequels, becoming more complex and more flexible. It also added a key component that the Sims needed for a long time: a point.

Rather than the monotonous everyday life you had to put your sims through in the original, this wants-and-fears concept gave you something to aim for with your sims and made the game slightly less like a waste of time. It also made things a tad more depressing.

As you sit in bed in your underwear and stare at little Emily, having achieved perfect lifelong happiness, even though she is only a teenager, by maxing all her skill points, you realise how empty and bitter your life has become. It would be wonderful if at one point in life we are given a goal and for the rest of our life we have to focus on achieving that goal, be it career, friendships or family. But as humans we are too fickle for that. Our goals change over time and it’s nearly impossible to lead a life without any regrets. And even if your sim doesn’t achieve their lifetime goal, they’ll probably still be satisfied with a lot of smaller aspects.

In life you will never be as happy as your sims. You will never achieve the goals and the skills that they have. All you can do is stare at your sim with gut-wrenching envy, until you finally snap and drown yourself in a ladder-less pool as you weep into your keyboard.

So, I hope you enjoyed my fun little list, and, if nothing else, at least I can now try and convince myself that the collective days of my life I’ve wasted on the game franchise have now led to something productive.

While I was writing this both Sims 2 and 4 tried to load, on separate occasions, as if to tell me to stop taking things so seriously and just play with them and be happy… forever.

Murphy Wales <![CDATA[Underlord, the Lord of High Rank Matches]]> 2017-09-17T04:01:42Z 2017-09-17T04:01:42Z For some time now, Underlord has held the highest win-rate for players in the high-skill bracket. Most would expect the character to make an appearance in the internationals but, surprisingly, he didn’t. While the pros aren’t beholden to following the meta, one would at least expect them to use the most effective tools. So what made Underlord so unappealing?

What makes Underlord Good?

The great thing about this hero is that he’s a natural carrier for auras. From his Atrophy aura to items such as Guardian Grieves, Underlord does a lot in the background. Because of how tanky he is, Underlord will endure the worst while giving his team health regen and reducing incoming damage. He’s also a good carrier for Blademail, Pipe of Insight, and Crimson Gaurd. With all of these items, Underlord becomes a questionable target for his enemies. He has a lot of early game potential because of his abilities, Firestorm and Pit of Malice, and can push lanes effectively. With his arsenal, he can do it all: harass the enemy team’s carry from farming, push the lane, and lock a hero down. Best of all, people are sleeping on the potential of his Aghs ability. Providing fifty percent of your bonus damage to your team is nothing to sneeze at.

The secondary benefit of this character is his ability to transition into late game. Most supports will have a capping point should they not pick up fighting items. Their abilities are more suited for team use rather than farming. Underlord, however, is a character who can farm early on using Atrophy Aura and Fire Storm. These moves allow him to either farm creep waves or endure jungle creeps. With efficient moves to gain gold, he can afford to buy an array of items that help suit him for late-game. Clearly he has a lot of benefits, so why wasn’t he at the international?

Underlord may be too Passive

While we’ve seen how much he can do behind the scenes, Underlord doesn’t have many active uses. Generally, a support has a specific role in mind based on their abilities. Ominknight heals and grants immunity to damage, Crystal Maiden can harass and provide mana, but what does Underlord do?

While he is a king of passive abilities, his active uses don’t contribute much to a team fight. Fire Storm deals damage based on the percentage of a player’s health but has a very limited area of effect. To get the full damage of the ability, one would need a form of lockdown. While Underlord’s ability, Pit of Malice, has the capability of ensnaring an enemy, the duration they’re caught in is too short. This limits his ability to chase down enemy heroes. This means he would either need a character who is better suited for chasing enemy heroes to be with him or to buy an item.

To sum things up, Underlord is a character who needs to buy items if he wants to be a more active use in team fights. After watching this year’s international, it became clear that the meta was favoring active uses. A solid stun, burst of damage, or heal was of more use than a passive buff. The only exceptions would have been abilities that increased armor or attack speed or became attack modifiers.

Should Underlord be apart of the Meta?

Despite the prior criticism, Underlord should definitely be a more common hero in the current meta. While the pros favored more active uses, the value of passive abilities should not be underestimated. Underlord is an easy hero to learn that has options when building items. Even at his worst, Underlord is a hero who can tilt elongated fights in your favor just by living, and he always has the ability Dark Rift to ensure an escape for his team.

Joseph Tomlinson-Jones <![CDATA[T. J.’s Ten, Part 4 – Number One]]> 2017-09-15T05:49:10Z 2017-09-15T05:49:10Z Here it is, the final chapter in the list. With great pride, I introduce my number one pick.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is the black sheep of the Zelda series, but to me it is the series’ shining glory. Majora’s Mask, like the other titles in the series, is a tale of heroism, but there are dark undertones and a story of impending doom.

Majora’s Mask was released only two years after the critically acclaimed Ocarina of Time. Moving away from the standards of the series, this game was set in the land of Termina (some speculate it was named as a derivative of terminal). A moon is plummeting towards the land, caused by a tortured masked skull child who attacks Link in the game’s opening. The story starts with Link riding solemnly through the Lost Woods in search of his fairy companion, Navi. While traveling, he comes across a masked skull child who steals his possessions and his horse. Link pursues his assailant deeper into the woods, and in his pursuit falls into a mysterious place and begins a new journey of self discovery.

There are key gameplay differences that separate Majora’s Mask from its predecessor. One of these involves the masks. In Ocarina of Time masks were part a side quest for the Happy Mask Shop, but were only tokens and had no powers. In Majora’s Mask, masks have their own individual properties.

For example, consider the bunny hood. In Ocarina of Time, while this was used to stop Stahl children from appearing at night and was given to the post man in Hyrule Field, it didn’t grant Link any special active abilities. In Majora’s Mask it gives Link the ability to run twice as fast and allowed different speech options depending on whom you were talking to. The masks with more dramatic effects are the transformation masks, which you get from special characters throughout the game. These include the Deku mask, the Goron mask, and the Zora mask.

The second key difference in Majora’s Mask over its predecessor is the three-day cycle. The game operates on a three-day time span that repeats endlessly and represents a moon’s fall onto the world. Throughout these cycles you must complete the major quests to stop the destruction the moon’s crash will cause.

Throughout the game the transformation masks are key to different challenges, activities and dungeons. Each mask has a temple that you will use it the most in. They also have uses in the overworld.

The Deku mask turns Link into a deku – a very light creature. In Deku form, Link can use specially designed flower beds as launch pads to shoot up into the air. When at the apex Link will release two little flowers which act like helicopter blades.

The Goron mask transforms Link into a heavy Goron and grants him the ability to pound the ground, which comes in handy when trying to open some doors with old and rusted switches. Another Goron ability is rolling, an attack and mode of transport.

The third of the transformation masks, the Zora mask, turns Link into a lean and nimble Zora who has the ability to swim and, while swimming, use a magical barrier as a shield.

Along with special abilities, each of Link’s transformations have different versions of the ocarina styled to the characters’ race and personality. The Deku has a set of pipes, the Goron a set of drums, and the Zora a guitar. In specific situations you must select the right instrument when playing certain songs.

As in Ocarina of Time, the ocarina has teleportation abilities. Throughout the land there are Owl statues which you must awaken with your sword so you can then teleport to them from any location. This ability saves time which is hugely beneficial given the time limitations in the game.

On the topic of music, Nintendo outdid themselves with the soundtrack in this game. They tailored every piece of music to the scenario and landscape that it is associated with. Every single note is memorable and unique. When I hear a piece of music from the game I can vividly picture the location you would be in.

Each temple has a unique and dramatically different soundtrack. The music and the atmospheric undertones are all around you, fully immersing you. The overworld, Termina Field, is set to a rendition of the classic Zelda theme. It’s an inspirational track that accompanies well exploring a Zelda game.

The most important song is the Song of Healing, used to sooth the soul of those being tortured by darkness, usually inflicted on them by the skull kid. This song is also used to acquire the transformation masks.

Returning is the Song of Storms, with a few added features that give it further use. Another song returning is the Song of Time, which allows you to return to the beginning of the three-day cycle. Variations of it allow one to travel ahead in small increments or change the pace of time.

Each temple requires a certain song played to gain access. Some of these are gathered through essential side missions that keep the game fresh as one progresses. As mentioned, you have a continuous cycle of three days in which you have to defeat every temple, achieve every item, win every heart, and complete every side quest.

A lot of the game revolves around Clock Town, the main hub where a majority of the NPCs live and work and where a hefty amount of side quests originate. Many of the people in Clock Town are returning NPCs from Ocarina of Time. Malon is back as Romani, who has a ranch named after her in the game. The Cucco Lady, also from Ocarina of Time, returns as the Stock Pot Inn owner Anju.

Fans speculate that the use of NPCs from Ocarina of Time throughout the game was done with a purpose beyond saving time and money in development. The game may be based around the stages of grief. As Link sets out on a journey in search of his lost companion Navi, he goes through these stages, which is why he recognises so many faces from Hyrule.

Another theory suggests that Link dies at the start of the game when chasing the skull kid and the rest of the game is just his soul grieving as it accepts his fate, and he recognises the characters from his adventure in Hyrule.

The end of the game is dramatic. People have fled the town as the moon looms close overhead. On the night of the last day, when midnight strikes and the door to the Clock Tower opens, Link enters the tower to confront the skull kid.

This game is very special to me. I always loved the Zelda series and until this game was released I was never able to decide which of them was my favourite. I was nine, going on ten when this game came out, and despite the game rating being slightly beyond my physical years, it spoke directly to my soul. I cannot speak highly enough for this game and its legacy. I rate it 10/10.

Tow <![CDATA[The Alliance Alive Announcement Trailer]]> 2017-09-15T00:35:05Z 2017-09-15T00:35:05Z Despite shifting their focus to the Switch, Nintendo is still making good on their promise of continued support for the 3DS with many great games slated for release towards the end of this year as well as next. The Alliance Alive is one of the games that lives up to that promise. Atlus announced during Nintendo Direct that the RPG is due for the west in early 2018.

The Alliance Alive follows nine characters in a world now ruled by Daemons. One thousand years ago, Daemons invaded the world of humans, subjugating humanity, and creating a great barrier to separate the realms. Borne from this cataclysmic event was the Dark Current. It carved a cross shaped swatch across the ocean, swallowing countless cities in its wake. Humanity was decimated. Hundreds of years later, the time for resistance has come, and the world is about to be changed yet again.

The Alliance Alive allows players to explore towns and dungeons, and features a turn-based battle system. Despite the similarities between The Alliance Alive and The Legend of Legacy in music and art, the games are not related.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Releasing in December]]> 2017-09-15T02:28:09Z 2017-09-14T16:02:16Z Contrary to speculation, Nintendo has confirmed Xenoblade Chronicles 2 will be released in 2017.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was a highlight of the latest Nintendo Direct. It focused on the game’s world of Alrest and its many factions’ political, military, and religious positions, and noted that each kingdom lives on the bodies of titans in a world of clouds.

Nintendo also talked about the Blades, a group of people who work with you, providing different forms of weapons and abilities based on their class. Different classes include Attacker, Defender, and Healer. Class choice will change your approach to combat – you will be balancing different characters depending on the situation.

A December 1 release date was confirmed.

A special edition will include the game, a soundtrack CD, a 220-page art book, and a steel-book case. A Xenoblade Chronicles 2 themed pro controller has also been revealed.

Watch the trailer below for more on the game’s factions and gameplay:


Tow <![CDATA[Okami HD releasing this December]]> 2017-09-14T15:54:53Z 2017-09-14T15:54:53Z A timeless classic arrives on current-gen consoles, ready to be revisited by old fans and experienced by a new audience. Okami was originally released for the PlayStation 2 before it was ported to the Wii in 2008 and then the PlayStation 3 in 2012. The remaster, dubbed Okami HD, will be coming to the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on December 12.

Okami HD will feature updated graphics. 4K will be supported on the PS4 Pro, Xbox One X, and PC. Widescreen resolution and 4:3 will also be available, with the addition of loading screen mini-games from the original PS2 version not present in the Wii and PS3 ports.

DougiePowell <![CDATA[Middle-earth: Shadow of War New Feral Tribe Video Revealed]]> 2017-09-17T04:36:15Z 2017-09-14T15:52:56Z With less than a month left to go before the release of Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Warner Bros. and Monolith Productions have released another trailer for the new game, this time showing off the Feral tribe, an orc faction that tames the various violent beasts of Mordor.

According to a press release, the orcs in Shadow of War will be split into different tribes, creating a diverse, living world for the player to explore. The crucial Nemesis System makes a return and will likely help make the factions, such as the Feral tribe, feel more alive.

“Feral Orcs live among the graugs, caragors, drakes and other monsters when they can, while adorning their clothing and armor with trophies from the beasts they’ve hunted,” the press release states. “In battle, the Feral tribe is also infamous for roaring, snarling and rending flesh with a ferocity that rivals any caragor.”

Shadow of War is an open-world RPG inspired by the works of J.R.R Tolkien and set between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The game introduces new characters and villains, as well as familiar locations and monsters from the original Middle-earth stories. The game is due to be released on October 10 and will be available for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC.

Joseph Tomlinson-Jones <![CDATA[Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition released for Switch]]> 2017-09-14T15:51:16Z 2017-09-14T15:51:16Z Rayman Legends, previously awarded platformer of the year and winner of multiple other awards such as for art and music, has arrived on the Nintendo Switch for the first time with Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition. The game allows up to four players to play co-op, and offers an exclusive wireless local multiplayer experience in Kung Foot mode. With the Switch console undocked, players can use the touch screen to take out enemies, manipulate platforms, cut ropes and much more, anywhere, anytime, in both solo and multiplayer.

Set in the familiar world of Rayman, the game follows our protagonist and his brightly coloured band of friends as they discover a mysterious tent filled with a collection of captivating paintings. The gang must run, jump, and fight their way through each world to discover the secrets of each of the mysterious paintings.

Check out the trailer below to see if Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition is a game worth your time.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Minecraft: New Nintendo 3DS Version Announced and Available Via Nintendo eShop]]> 2017-09-14T15:48:19Z 2017-09-14T15:48:19Z Many of us already own several copies of the hit game Minecraft, but now there is another version for you to get your hands on.

Nintendo’s latest Direct has unveiled Minecraft for the New Nintendo 3DS. On top of the announcement the game has already been released via the Nintendo eShop, with a physical version set for release in the future with no specific date unveiled.

The New Nintendo 3DS version of the game will include standard game modes Survival and Creative; though it is unclear whether additional modes will arrive for the game in the future, it does seem unlikely.

If you own a New Nintendo 3DS prepare to check out Minecraft on the Nintendo eShop.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Dragon Quest Builders Coming to Switch in 2018]]> 2017-09-14T15:46:44Z 2017-09-14T15:46:44Z Dragon Quest Builders made quite a name for itself in Japan. The game changed up the traditional Dragon Quest formula to offer players a Minecraft-esque experience where players were given a space in the world to rebuild a destroyed town. Players could also explore the wilds of an area to search for resources.

This game made a huge splash when it arrived as a Playstation exclusive for the Playstation 4 and Vita, but that exclusivity has now ended thanks to the reveal that the game is headed to Nintendo Switch.

It was only a matter of time for the original Builders announcement for Switch when the game’s successor was revealed for the system in Japan a few months ago, but here we are.

Not much will be new with the Switch version. Most of what many know about the game from the previous version will be available such as the game’s campaign mode as well as a free build mode. But the latest Nintendo Direct did confirm Switch owners will gain access to an adorable Great Saber Cub for faster movement around the world; it’s not much but should make a nice companion.

Dragon Quest Builders has been announced for a spring 2018 release, where it will bring some great Dragon Quest adventuring and town building to the Switch.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Bethesda Bringing Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and DOOM to Switch]]> 2017-09-14T06:25:46Z 2017-09-14T06:25:46Z Bethesda is going all out with support for the Nintendo Switch with not only The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim but two games no one saw coming. During Nintendo’s latest Direct it was revealed that Bethesda is bringing DOOM and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus to the Switch, much to everyone’s surprise.

DOOM impressed almost everyone when it released in 2016 for major platforms, with its stunning visuals and smooth gameplay, and will be arriving for the Switch during the holiday season.

Meanwhile, Bethesda announced Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus back at E3 for the Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC as a follow up to the 2014 hit Wolfenstein: The New Order. Now the sequel is also headed to Switch. Although system owners will have to wait until 2018 for the game, the portability option might make this port worth the wait.

The rebooted Wolfenstein series takes place in an alternate version of history where Germany won World War II and now occupies the United States. As B.J. Blazkowicz, you fight to spark a second American Revolution and take back America from the occupying forces.

Did you expect to see these games in the Nintendo Direct? It’s safe to say nobody saw Bethesda going this far for the Switch.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Thimbleweed Park’s Switch Release Date Announced]]> 2017-09-14T06:17:32Z 2017-09-14T06:17:32Z Thimbleweed Park is a throwback to the heyday of point-and-click adventures that has already been very successful on multiple platforms. We recently learned that the game is heading to the Playstation 4 as well as Nintendo Switch. While a release date was announced for the Playstation 4 release, Switch fans were left waiting.

Until now.

Developer Terrible Toybox have finally unveiled when Switch users can get hold of the game. Thimbleweed Park will arrive on Switch on September 21, costing $19.99 USD. A similar price is expected for those in Europe.

Thimbleweed Park will support both physical and touch controls.

There is a quiz you can take to see if Thimbleweed Park is for you. Here are the questions:

  • Do you still feel guilty about microwaving a hamster in Maniac Mansion?
  • Would you know what to say if someone suggested that you fight like a dairy farmer?
  • Do you have no idea what those last two questions are about, but love stuff like Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Stranger Things, jokes, puzzles, and vacuum tubes?

If these questions aren’t enough for you, check out the trailer below (check it out regardless, really):


SeanPyle <![CDATA[You Might Have a Chance for a SNES Classic]]> 2017-09-14T06:01:50Z 2017-09-14T06:01:50Z While I often have many tabs open when surfing the web, my experience pre-ordering the SNES Classic was record-setting. I sat in intense anticipation as 12:00 p.m. came nearer, and I refreshed five different shopping sites at a rate that compromised the health of my computer. NeoGAF was guiding me through the steps I should take to better my odds, but I was never convinced I had a legitimate chance of securing a pre-order. And rightfully so, as my online attempts to pre-order were fruitless. I refreshed the first site the actual second pre-orders activated, went through the purchasing process as fast as humanly possible, but received nothing besides a “Your Cart is Empty” message. Unreal.

Afterwards, other sites went up. Again and again, the Classic instantly sold out of pre-orders. Some of the dedicated were able to acquire a pre-order online, but these were only a fraction within the niche group of video game obsessed sub-humans like myself. If this hardcore group of Nintendo fanboys couldn’t all get ahold of a pre-order, how on earth is the layman supposed to? Furthermore, how could parents possibly fulfill holiday wishes?  I was able to make it to a local GameStop and make a pre-order, but I didn’t feel good about it — I felt dirty.

The NES and SNES classics are both popular but not to an extent that completely explains consumers’ inability to acquire one. Until yesterday, Nintendo had not done much to convince us that their claims of producing “significantly more” units were legitimate. The short production period of both devices brings Nintendo’s motives into question and points toward a possibility that Nintendo has been accused of often: artificial scarcity. Perhaps these plug-and-play consoles were created solely to drive up Nintendo brand awareness. Fortunately, Nintendo made a statement that may quell some of these fears.

On Tuesday, Nintendo announced that the NES Classic would re-continue production in 2018. This development comes as a surprise because earlier this year Nintendo said that the Classic was discontinued. Nintendo’s eagerness to stop production of the NES Classic was an enormous red flag, so their decision to get them back on store shelves warrants optimism among Nintendo faithful. Along with the NES Classic’s return in 2018, the SNES Classic will continue to be produced throughout next year. Reggie Fils-Aimé, president of Nintendo’s North American branch, warned consumers not to spend more than the intended $80 price point for the SNES Classic.

“I would strongly urge you not to over-bid on an SNES Classic on any of the auction sites,” he said. This claim came about two days ago and became the target of skepticism, but this new announcement by Nintendo implies they intend to back up Fils-Aimé’s rhetoric.

The success of the NES Classic was likely underestimated by Nintendo. Similar plug-and-play consoles have never done well before, so Nintendo’s initial hesitance to produce millions was justified. However, their inability to adapt to the unit’s demand resulted in obscenely high prices. The first blunder was excusable, but why didn’t Nintendo adjust? Why did they discontinue the NES Classic? Just when Nintendo’s actions become indefensibly pointed toward artificial scarcity, this supposed adjustment should make Nintendo fans optimistic. It appears that they may finally be serious about getting these consoles to the fans who want them.

Emmaline Shettel <![CDATA[Emmaline Rambles: Pokémon Players Trolling the Global Trade System]]> 2017-09-14T05:45:31Z 2017-09-14T05:45:31Z The other day I was playing Pokémon Moon, and I was in the Festival Plaza. Out of pure boredom, I logged onto the Global Trade System and started looking up older generation legendaries. The abundance of legendaries could not have been fathomed. But there was an occurring, weird instance: shiny legendaries that were posted multiple times by the same player.

Reading this, you might think, “So?”

Well, a shiny legendary is pretty much nonexistent, next to people putting more than one Pokémon up on the GTS at one time. It works as shown: you seek out a Pokémon and give whatever is needed for the trade, or you put up a Pokémon and request another.

I wasn’t thinking clearly so at first glance I said, “Wow, I need to go catch what they want so I can get my hands on that shiny Kyogre.” It wasn’t that simple. They wanted a Ditto, which is found in one area with a five percent catch rate. I tried to catch one for about an hour, but no luck. So I put Gyarados up for trade, in hopes of getting a Ditto in return. The next day, I logged back onto the GTS and received a Ditto. Immediately, I returned to the page of the Kyogre and tried trading it… but they wanted a male Ditto. Please note: Dittos do not have any gender.

Fed up, I researched the issue and multiple people have encountered this same problem: trolls. We just can’t stop them. So what did Nintendo do about this? They banned Ditto, apparently, but guess what? It doesn’t stop at Ditto.

Continue on, trolls, you’ve won.

Tow <![CDATA[Accel World VS Sword Art Online PC Release Date Announced]]> 2017-09-11T00:48:27Z 2017-09-11T00:48:27Z Bandai Namco Entertainment Europe has revealed that Accel World VS Sword Art Online Deluxe Edition is coming to PC and will be available on September 12.

Two worlds collide in Accel World VS Sword Art Online – the Accelerated World and Svart Alfheim are mixing. Players may jump into the deteriorated world of Alfheim Online to save a friend from the clutches of Persona Babel, combine different fighting styles from fan-favourite characters, switch seamlessly between playable characters in real time, and experience intense four vs. four matches.

In addition to the base game, the Deluxe Edition will also include three DLC packs: SAO Ordinal Scale, Castaway from Another World and SAO Origins.

Tow <![CDATA[The Lost Child Announcement Trailer]]> 2017-09-10T06:57:39Z 2017-09-10T06:53:30Z Developed by Kadokawa Games and published by NIS America, The Lost Child will be heading to North America and Europe in 2018 for Playstation 4 and the Playstation Vita (digital only).

The story follows Hayato Ibuki, an occult journalist, as he investigates a series of mysterious suicides in Tokyo. During his investigation, he encounters a strange girl who implores that Hayato must live, bestowing upon him a mystical device that allows him to capture celestial and arcane creatures.

He is now thrust into a world beyond anything he has ever known, home to all manner of horrific demons and celestial beings. In it, he must delve into dungeons called ‘Layers’ and solve the mystery of the device. Where his journey leads him is unknown, but it could decide the fate of our world.

Interestingly, The Lost Child seems to be a spiritual successor of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, a game that released to mixed reviews in 2011. Its developer, Ignition Entertainment, has since shuttered, the director and character designer Sawaki Takeyasu now owning the rights to the game.

The Lost Child will take place in the same universe as El Shaddai, and will be a turn-based RPG instead of an action title like its spiritual predecessor. There hasn’t been a preview of the gameplay in the west, but it might be similar to Kadokawa’s other dungeon crawlers.

Emmaline Shettel <![CDATA[Why I Deleted Pokémon Go]]> 2017-09-09T02:52:22Z 2017-09-09T02:52:22Z Pokémon Go initially garnered huge interest and generated thousands of memes. However, I have deleted it. Growing up on Pokémon and playing Pokémon Leaf Green as my first game inspired me to download it. But, like any other mobile game, there were downsides that stifled my long-term interest.

I got tired of seeing the same Pokémon no matter how much I walked. I also was annoyed when the game would close out or heat up your phone, causing you to lose a rare Pokémon. For instance, I was going to catch a Slowbro at the riverfront in my town, but lost the chance to catch it because of these technical issues.

Making Pokémon Go Plus was a good idea for Nintendo to renew interest, but it was priced at $34.99. Why pay that much for a mobile game? Buying a console Pokémon game would’ve been more fulfilling at that kind of price.

Inspiring people to exercise more was a good intention but not great in practice. Nintendo also waited too long to release legendary Pokémon. Legendaries have been released long after I deleted my app. I downloaded it again and it’s still the same: too expensive to get more pokéballs.

At first, all was going well for Pokémon Go, though I thought of it, “Pokémon Go away.” The game seems to be more appealing to younger kids, people that had low expectations, or those who hadn’t played Pokémon before. The download numbers and hype was huge for longtime Pokémon fans, but this positive wave died down, especially after the Pokémon Go Fest tickets all had to be refunded because there were too many people there for the cell phone service to handle.

Despite initial excitement, I deleted Pokémon Go because of underwhelming execution and overwhelming expense. It’s some fun initially, but this wears off as you realize it’s just another shallow mobile game.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[In Defense: Fallout 4]]> 2017-09-09T02:16:30Z 2017-09-09T02:16:30Z No game series is as interesting as Fallout. While many games have a dystopian or post-nuclear environment most of them don’t build a world so well developed. Say what you will about the Fallout franchise, but each game crafts an interesting landscape with quirky characters, missions, locations, and stories. Despite the brilliance of Fallout’s design, fans harshly criticized the latest entry in the franchise, Fallout 4.

Why do players praise the rest of the franchise yet view Fallout 4 with such bitterness? Unlike most games, this is easy to figure out. It’s because of how Bethesda handled the final product.

There is a pattern with Bethesda’s in-house games. Their titles are often huge sandbox worlds built on player choice and progression while also being broken messes. This is part of why Skyrim is so well loved and hated. Yes, the broken-game aspect was a pain, but the scale of the world helped players feel like they were part of it and going on a real adventure.

A similar idea was in Fallout 3, wherein players were free to wander the desolate wasteland, following a central narrative but also creating their unique story. This philosophy has driven Obsidian’s New Vegas and Bethesda’s second Fallout effort, Fallout 4. But where New Vegas is loved, Fallout 4 is viewed disdainfully.

After playing through New Vegas I see why many enjoy this world more. The sights and sounds of New Vegas are astounding. Seeing the lights of the New Vegas city shine in the distance over the Mojave wasteland is incredible. But in terms of fun and stories, Fallout 4 is the better game.

New Vegas and Fallout 4 are each unique, and how much a player likes one over the other depends on one’s gameplay preferences.

Where New Vegas plays similarly to Skyrim and Fallout 3, focusing on traditional gameplay within the context of a role-playing game, Fallout 4 creates an action-oriented experience. The reason why many disregard Fallout 4 is because it’s a game for beginners that emphasizes accessibility.

People come to expect too much from a franchise. Many of the long-time fans want franchises to cater towards them and not open up to wider audiences. With Fallout 4, Bethesda created a game with a simple and somewhat evocative plot that is easier to get into.

A comparison of the opening areas in New Vegas and Fallout 4 elucidates the games’ differences. In New Vegas it is easy to get killed as soon as the game begins, whether by Powder Gangers or geckos. In Fallout 4, defeating the handful of raiders you meet in Concord is easy, and you are quickly gifted Power Armour. Your first real challenge is defeating a Deathclaw, but by this time you are confident and can manage.

Fallout 4, created with newcomers in mind, is a much easier game than Fallout: New Vegas. The game gives players more freedom in combat and the missions are more linear, not requiring players to have spent excess time creating a specific character for specific tasks, or trying to do a series of annoying fetch quests for Elvis impersonators.

The most important note about Fallout 4 is that it is misunderstood – people need to understand this game better. Sometimes we need to judge a game by its own merits and not by its predecessors’. Fallout 4, through a similar framework of the other Fallout games, carries a different vision for the franchise.

Simply overlook the past and you will find yourself enjoying this game much more. Suddenly every location and idea in the game is exciting and does not seem like a watered-down version of something previously done.

Though the game sold well people failed to give it a chance, judging it on a selection of dumb side quests and a world that failed to grab them. Yet, if you try playing the game on its own merits, you will find one of the greatest games ever made through its setting and side stories.

There is one consensus with Fallout 4 that I agree with: the ending of the main game failed to be anything special and does not leave a lasting impact. However, this does not greatly taint my overall love of the game. In terms of staying power, Fallout 4 has plenty. By ignoring the main quests you are free to wander a fantastic playground, and even find settlements and build them up to your hearts’ content.

Of all the Fallout games, in Fallout 4 there is more reason to scavenge for rubbish because everything is useful and can be transformed into a handy tool for a bases’ development. To build structures, see the world transformed by your own actions, and give the people of the wasteland a place to call home is a memorable adventure.

At face value Fallout 4 fails to offer long-time fans the same adventure they loved in past games, but Fallout 4 offers a wonderful experience for newcomers. There is plenty of fun to be had exploring the wasteland. If you can keep in mind that this adventure takes the franchise to a more basic level you might actually like it.

DougiePowell <![CDATA[The Exorcist, Early-Access Review]]> 2017-09-08T23:51:45Z 2017-09-08T23:51:45Z I love indie horror games for their unique concepts. I also love that Steam has made it possible for new game developers to share them. Steam’s indie horror scene is how I discovered The Exorcist, an early-access horror game by Z Games that was released last month.

In The Exorcist, you are a young, recently graduated priest named Alonso who has been given the responsibility of exorcising everybody within a small yet heavily possessed village. You must research the symptoms of a possessed person in your library before performing house calls to determine whether someone is experiencing possession or just expressing individual emotions. Be careful, because if you get this wrong — if you determine that someone is not possessed when really demons fill their soul — then the game will end and your priest character will be sent to prison.

I hope the finished game includes a life system or some demerit, like losing experience, rather than having complete failure after misjudging a case. You can continue the game from your last save, but having the game abruptly end at the first failure is frustrating.

For each case there are several clues you look for to determine if a suspect really is possessed by a demon. These are the smell of sulphur or the speaking of Latin, and there are word tricks you ask, like: “What have I got in my pocket?” If you successfully complete an exorcism you gain experience, and if you fail, as I have mentioned before, the game will end. But the answers don’t always mean that there is a demon at hand. They could mean the suspect is working on their chemistry homework, is studying Latin, or is Gollum.

The game has many bugs that I hope the developers will work out before the full release. I remember getting caught in a loop shortly after the visit to the police station. I ended up in a library after finding a book in the suspect’s apartment. Being unsure of what course to take here I left the library and then encountered the policeman again and had to repeat the whole experience! I was caught in this loop at least five times before I finally made Alonso stand next to the obscure piece of bookcase necessary to progress in the game. From reading the comments on Steam I see I’m not the only person to experience this.

Another problem with this horror game is that it’s not scary. The description of the game makes the very bold claim: “In The Exorcist you will be scared, so much scared [sic].” I wasn’t scared, and more than that I can’t imagine how anyone could be. Granted, while I live in constant fear of almost every aspect of the real world, it takes a lot from a game to actually scare me. Five Nights at Freddy’s didn’t scare me — I was too aggravated by how frustrating the game was to be frightened. I don’t see how anyone could find The Exorcist genuinely scary.

For one, it looks adorable! The game is designed in the style of an old arcade game, and so this world of demonic possession appears cute and amusing. It was visually pleasing – I love the style, especially in indie games, as it’s cheap to design and easy to control. But it doesn’t look scary.

What made old, similarly stylized horror games like Splatter House so controversial wasn’t the arcade style, but because at the time there hadn’t been a game that violent before. Since then there have been lots and lots of violent games that make Splatter House look like something you would stick the kids in front of to distract them while you slip out. I don’t see how a cute little animated character, hopping around a cute little town, visiting the cute little prison, the cute little police station and the cute little graveyard is supposed to scare me.

The use of text rather than voice contributes to the lack of horror. It’s easier to scare someone with a character growling Latin into their ear than with a character speaking Latin only in text on the screen. Even with slightly eerie music and the occasional scream when something goes wrong, the lack of voice over stands out.

According to Steam’s description of the game, the stories within are based on real exorcisms. This might have made it scarier for some, but I highly doubt that each exorcism story in the real world occurred in the same small town surrounding the same church, and the player must believe in spirits and exorcisms in the first place for this claim to be credible.

The game will release early next year on Steam for the same price as the early access game. While there is some fun, the developers need to work the bugs out of the game and rethink their intentions; do they want their game to be scary, or not? As is, it’s one of the cutest horror game out there.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[L.A. Noire Headed to Current Systems]]> 2017-09-08T00:32:38Z 2017-09-08T00:32:38Z L.A. Noire brought 1940s detective adventures to the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PC back in 2011 to moderate success. Now, six years later, publisher Rockstar Games is bringing the game to current systems.

This will include the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, with enhanced visuals and 4K support on the Playstation 4 Pro and Xbox One X. The game will also launch on the Nintendo Switch with much of the same additions as the other releases.

However, Rockstar has gone the extra mile to bring in new features based around the Switch’s capabilities. L.A. Noire will feature motion controls, HD rumble, “contextual touch screen controls for portable detective work” and new wide and over-the-shoulder camera angles.

A version of the game for the HTC Vive platform has also been announced titled L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files. Rockstar is covering all bases with the current release.

Sam Houser, founder of Rockstar Games, said:

We’re excited to bring L.A. Noire’s unique mix of real detective work, classic Hollywood atmosphere and thrilling action to these new platforms. Now with a choice of spectacular virtual reality, stunning 4K, or the freedom of portable play, these enhanced versions are a perfect opportunity for players to experience this richly detailed world in a whole new way.

In case you are unfamiliar with L.A. Noire you may watch the trailer for the original version of the game below.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[The First Syberia’s Release Date On Nintendo Switch Revealed]]> 2017-09-08T00:13:55Z 2017-09-08T00:13:55Z The whole Syberia trilogy will come to the Nintendo Switch in the future, but the developers are going to release the games one by one so players may enjoy the full series.

The first game in the series has officially been dated for Oct. 20 in Europe and North America.

The Syberia games were created by Benoit Sokal and Microids, with the first game following protagonist Kate Walker as she travels to the French village of Valadilène to enter negotiations for the purchase of an automaton factory and soon finds herself embroiled in a deep mystery.

The original game released back in 2002 and is now a cult classic. You may check out the trailer for the game below.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Resident Evil Revelations 1 & 2 Heading to Switch in November]]> 2017-09-08T00:03:48Z 2017-09-08T00:03:48Z Capcom has confirmed that Resident Evil Revelations 1 and 2 will be headed to the Nintendo Switch on Nov. 28 in North America and Nov. 30 in Japan. A retail version will be available for $39.99 that has the first game on cartridge and a download code for the sequel. Alternately you may buy each game digitally for $19.99 on the eshop.

Resident Evil Revelations originally released for the Nintendo 3DS before spreading to other systems, including the Wii U. Revelations 2, however, will receive its Nintendo debut on the Switch.

In case you are not in the mood to wait for the Switch versions of the Resident Evil Revelation games you may find them both on the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

DougiePowell <![CDATA[SimBin UK Announces Women and Wheels]]> 2017-09-07T23:34:18Z 2017-09-07T23:34:18Z Earlier this week SimBin Studios UK announced Women and Wheels, the first ever women-only esports racing competition. SimBin made the announcement at this year’s European Women in Games Conference, held in London.

The competition is due for autumn and will draw attention to the roles of women in racing and its history. The female-friendly atmosphere hopes to drive more women into the esports scene. SimBin also promise that a percentage of the revenue will go to female-focused charities, although specifics have yet to be released.

“We’re thrilled to announce Women and Wheels,” said Allan Speed, the head of SimBin Studios. “As a developer, we’re acutely aware of the low female participation in esports. Around seven percent of our race competitors are female. Unbelievably, that’s probably over average. We want to see more women enjoying the thrills and spills of the virtual track and esports in general. At SimBin we’ve achieved 50/50 gender balance in our studio workforce, so we thought we’d try to encourage more women to compete in our competitions too.”

Marie-Clare Isaaman, CEO of advocacy group Women in Games, announced that she was behind the project.

Women and Wheels is a fantastic initiative. It’s a shame we need women-only teams, leagues and competitions in esports but until the sector fully matures, becomes more gender balanced and takes steps to eradicate online bullying and misogyny, they represent a great way to get more women involved by building communities, confidence and skills,” said Isaaman. “It’s not true that women aren’t competitive, or that they don’t like cars. The CEO of General Motors is currently a woman, and the founder of Autoweek, Denise McCluggage, used to race Ferraris! Esports has great potential to level the playing field for women in competitive sport, and I think Women and Wheels is [a] progressive step towards achieving that.”

Women and Wheels will be a timed online racing competition, available on Steam. Prizes for competition winners include a €3,000 Racing Simulator Chair, two Fanatec Racing Wheel and Pedal Sets, and a life-coaching program from Epiphany Junkie.

Despite gaming perceived as a male-dominated entertainment form, it is estimated that 50 percent of gamers are now female, but only 5 percent are esports players. Women and Wheels is an important step towards encouraging more female gamers to get into the genre.

Women & Wheels logo courtesy

Emmaline Shettel <![CDATA[Emmaline Rambles: Always Get Sonic Adventure 2]]> 2017-09-07T22:58:03Z 2017-09-07T22:55:39Z Ahh… the best Sonic game in the whole franchise: Sonic Adventure 2. Even though Sonic DX is right up there with it, nothing tops it. From the soundtrack, to the characters, to the story, Sonic Adventure 2 trumps all.

1. The characters

I couldn’t ever beat the whole Sonic DX game because of Big the Cat. Let’s talk about how his whole story is based on fishing. I can’t fish. I’m a fighter not a fisher. In Sonic Adventure 2, all gameplay is actually fighting oriented, with different fighting techniques and objectives. For instance, there’s Knuckles and Rouge, who are the treasure hunters; Sonic and Shadow, the standard fighters; Tails and Eggman, the shooters. (Shadow isn’t even featured in Sonic DX!)

2. The soundtrack

Sonic Adventure 2 is notorious for its soundtrack. Maybe it’s because I used to dance around my room singing Amy’s and Rouge’s theme songs, but I actually know the songs in the game. In Sonic DX, I would know the songs if I heard them, but I can’t name them off the top of my head. However: “Pumpkin Hill,” “City Escape,” and “Live and Learn” – these should all ring a bell and bring the nostalgia back. I’ve talked to at least three nerds, all of whom knew what “City Escape” was. That’s the only evidence needed. Knowing the music by heart makes the game more playable, and all the lyrics are associated with the story, which leads me to the next point.

3. The story itself

There is a Hero story and a Dark story. The heroes include Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, and the villains are Shadow, Eggman, and Rouge. The story is focused on these rivals and how they come together. The ultimate objectives are for Sonic to beat Eggman and Shadow to beat the Biolizard. Separating the characters’ stories is a lot harder because you have to master many specific skill sets. The story is also more enjoyable since the heroes and villains are united as teams.

I would’ve compared this to Sonic Adventure, but it was far too similar to Sonic DX (with E-Gamma and Big the Cat being characters). Among these, I think Sonic Adventure 2 is known best for the soundtrack, which make the millions of stages more enjoyable. On a short note, the Chao World is also more easily accessible in Sonic Adventure 2.

This game is definitely in my all-time top 10.

*All opinions above, such as the claim that Sonic Adventure 2 is the best Sonic game (especially that one), are those of Emmaline Shettel and most certainly do not represent those of GameLuster. 

Joseph Tomlinson-Jones <![CDATA[T. J.’s Ten, Part 3]]> 2017-09-05T07:10:58Z 2017-09-05T07:10:58Z Closing in now on the final instalment, following are 4 through 2 of my top 10 favourite games. I hope you’re all excited.

With no further delay, let’s get into it.

4. Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto has been a staple on consoles since 1997 and it feels as though we have had one every year since. That isn’t quite accurate but speaks for how prevalent the series is.

Rockstar really mixed it up with the most recent installment of the franchise, introducing three playable characters who have different abilities and attributes. The location for this game was the inner city of L.A. and its surrounding locale.

The work Rockstar put into landscaping this game was immense. They left out no detail and those who reside in the area could recognise many of their local hang out spots. This added an extra level of intensity to the gameplay that ensued.

The majority of the game is based around heists, bank jobs, robbing jewelry stores, and stealing vehicles. There is a planning stage before every job, and you have to gather supplies to make the job possible. In some cases these are police cars and in others it’s grenades.

As I previously mentioned there are three main characters to play as in this game. There is Trevor, the psychotic lunatic who easily flies off the handle and has the capabilities to make a very mundane situation a million times worse. Then there is Michael, the suave, cool-headed calculator of the trio. A pro in the business, he knows how things are done and knows how to do them. And finally there is Franklin, a newbie in the biz who was always pulling car jacks and initially got involved with Michael and Trevor when he hijacked Micheal’s son’s car. Together these three make the backbone of the team that is involved in each and every heist, each putting their own unique talent into the task at hand.

Michael’s ability is to slow down time in a gun fight, allowing improved accuracy and better maneuverability to surround your enemy. Franklin’s ability is to slow down time when he is driving, improving the nimbleness of any vehicle that is being driven. This is why in most if not every heist Franklin is the getaway driver. Trevor’s ability is in line with his nature; he has a berserk mode, which sends him into a frenzy where he takes little to no damage when shot and can identify enemies as they approach. There are missions where all of these come into play and they can also be used while freely roaming.

Aiding the three musketeers in planning the many jobs is Lester Crest. A computer genius and heist mastermind, he worked with Michael on a couple jobs before, and loves the thrill of what they do. He plans each and every move with meticulous precision.

This game is fun to play even if mulling about the map taking in scenery and playing whatever mini games and side missions are available. Rockstar will be challenged in trying to outdo this. I rate this game 10/10.

3. Evoland

Developed by Shiro Games, a French development company, Evoland was first released in 2013 on PC. I discovered Evoland when it was released on handheld devices in 2015. Since its initial release, the game has exploded in popularity.

Evoland takes its players on an adventure through generations of RPGs. The start of the game is basic with a simple, black-and-white style and only two direction options, but as the game develops it takes you through every progression of video games. 8-bit graphics, 16-bit graphics, polygons and full 3D graphics come your way.

Beyond graphics, the gameplay evolves as well. The battle style changes, from turn-based through to free-roaming battles. This game is an ever-changing formula designed to take the player on not just an adventure through lands and dungeons but also through their gaming past.

Evoland has strong influences from quite a few well-established franchises such as Final Fantasy and Zelda. Many of these games’ influences can be very easily identified throughout the game from the simplicity in the general gameplay to the design of the enemies and story.

When played on a tablet, the game comes into its own. Not only then do you get the progression of the graphics and the gameplay but you actually get a change in the game’s input, starting with D-pad controls and ending up with an analogue stick (or the best representation of one on a screen). This really shows the plethora of changes our games and gaming systems have been through over the past 20 years.

This game doesn’t carry personal historical meaning for me but it was an excellent play. I completed it in about forty-eight hours (less if I hadn’t had life commitments). It isn’t a long game but the journey it takes you on is one that spans years. I give this game a 9/10.

2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The fifth installment in The Elder Scrolls series takes place in Skyrim, a province of Tamriel. Released on November 11, 2011, five days before I turned twenty-one, I had booked a week off from work with two reasons in mind: having my birthday off and dedicating my every waking second to playing this outstanding game.

From morning until night, with minimal breaks and maximum focus, I played through caves, dungeons, graves, cities, towns, an expanse of wilderness, up mountains, and through lakes. This game had it all. It had a near endless environment to explore – as far as the eye could see someone could travel to and visit.

Everything about the land in this game had thought, dedication and lots of love put into it. The skies above Skyrim were a thing of beauty. From the brightness of the day with the floating clouds to the piercing light of the stars at night, to the pulsating dance from the aurora borealis, each and every detail took your breath away.

You don’t need a lot to create intensity if the setting is right, but one thing that always goes a long way to setting the tone and mood of a situation is audio. If a soundtrack hits the spot it sets the entire tone for the rest of the game. Prior to Skyrim, the series had always hit the mark with the soundtrack and this was no different.

The gameplay is flawless – it’s smooth and well designed. The combat system, from dual-wielding to magic and archery, is responsive and executed well. Two-handed weapons act how you would imagine, especially when it comes to weapons like sledgehammers, which feel heavy and cumbersome. On the other hand, light melee weapons swing fast and effectively, with a reduction in damage. Archery is free flowing, especially when in sneak mode, allowing for more accurate targeting and more damage with the sneak bonus.

All the weapons are designed with their own perks and play styles, allowing for different tactics to be used in combat to work your way through the challenges laid before you.

Magic is also an option in your offensive arsenal. Spells are diverse with elemental damage including fire, ice, and lightning. Along with the basic melee magic there are also shouts that can be used — the perks of being dragonborn include the power to use a dragon’s voice. With the Thu’um, you are granted different abilities depending on the shout you have selected, from the infamous Fus Ro Dah to the lesser known Laas Yah Nir (Aura whisper – detect local life). The shouts of the dragonborn may be wielded to many ends.

Shouts are gathered and learned in different ways and in different places throughout the land; you can find them lying in caves, on top of mountains and in the depths of draugr tombs.

There are many things within this game that you will be able to discover if you play it, and should you desire a document to read you may search a more in-depth review. My only purpose here was to relate the general vibe. I rate this game 10/10.

Tow <![CDATA[Root Letter Review]]> 2017-09-05T05:21:54Z 2017-09-05T05:21:54Z Root Letter is the first title in the Kadokawa Game Mystery series with contributions from key staff who worked on Konami’s LovePlus series, like character designer Mino Taro. When it was first announced, I was drawn in by the gorgeous art and knew I needed to play it. Other than its art, Root Letter also interested me with this line:

“I’ve killed someone. This is farewell… goodbye.”

Any who read it would surely be gripped by curiosity and, like me, decide to give the game a chance. This was reflected in the sales. Root Letter sold over 200,000 copies, and the head of marketing at PQube describes it as a “phenomenal” success.

Unfortunately, for all the excitement and intrigue the game generated from the art, summary, and trailers, Root Letter disappointed me. As someone who has played a number of visual novels, Root Letter is merely serviceable, failing in both story and its attempt at a mystery.

For the uninitiated, a visual novel is a game with static graphics, most often using anime-style art, with minimal gameplay, consisting predominantly of narration. Many visual novels have multiple endings that are determined by the choices of the player, and Root Letter is no different in this regard. For the sake of making this review less confusing, I will be referring to Root Letter as a game throughout the review rather than a visual novel.

The story puts you in the shoes of an adult man in his thirties who discovers old letters from his pen pal he regularly wrote to fifteen years before. He finds an unopened letter with no post mark and, to his horror, discovers it contains a confession where she claims to have killed someone. His curiosity bubbles over and sends him packing to Matsue, the town which his pen pal, Aya Fumino, lived in.

The first chapter is a glance into what you can expect from the rest of the game. Throughout the story the main character is propelled from place to place only by vague reasons that make absolutely no sense, playing detective and being a nuisance to the Matsue community.

The premise of Root Letter is promising, but it’s badly executed and poorly written. One example of this is the reason the main character sets out to search for his pen pal. His motivation for doing so is laughable. He decides to search for her because he was curious, not even bothering to form any sort of plan and just ups and leaves for Matsue. It’s an extremely lazy attempt to justify why he sets off on a wild goose chase that had me scratching my head.

From there, it’s just a series of poor coincidences and random discoveries that pushes the story forward. The pacing is choppy, with the main character going from place to place with no rhyme or reason other than the game needing him to be there. This pace hinders the atmosphere of mystery and anticipation Root Letter is aiming for.

As the man attempts to solve the mystery he’ll run around Matsue and confront people who vaguely resemble the friends Aya talked about in her letters, and he wonders why his attempts to wheedle information out of them ends in hostility. The main character lacks tact and comes off as a wannabe detective, constantly relying on brute force and wild guesses. There was even a scene where he walks into a high school, searches the premises, and is surprised that the staff and security haul him in for questioning.

Root Letter feels like the writer scribbled down a bunch of vaguely interesting ideas and strung them together, lacking the coherence a proper story should have. I could only play it in short bursts because my attention would inevitably drift away, bored out of my mind as I read painful lines like:

“I made a reservation at the Matsue Inn.”

“I have arrived at the Inn.”

“This must be the Matsue Inn which I made a reservation at.”

Thankfully, Root Letter doesn’t last longer than ten hours, because I doubt I’d have completed it if it were any longer.

Root Letter’s characters fall into one of two categories: interesting and thoughtful or plain obnoxious. You’re given some backstory on each character as the game progresses and how their relationship with Aya Fumino shaped them, and for the most part, they are decently written. Being able to compare the characters’ past and present selves made the game interesting. There’s something bittersweet about seeing how far they’ve come, or how far they strayed from their dreams.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the main character. He’s bland and uninteresting. The only trait resembling characterization is his obsession with his pen pal, Aya. What Root Letter is doing is giving us a blank canvas to project ourselves onto. This is a common tactic in visual novels as it gets the player to feel more invested in the story.

However, the failing of Root Letter is that it forgets the player has no control over the actions of the main character. The only thing you have a bearing on is how he replies to Aya’s letters, which determines which of the five endings you’ll end up with. This is a problem because when the main character does something thoroughly unlikable, doing something you wouldn’t, it creates a dissonance between the player and the game.

Root Letter’s only saving grace is its art. Each location in Matsue is beautifully drawn and brought to life, the clean and crisp backgrounds giving players plenty of things to appreciate while searching for clues. Characters are also tastefully designed and gorgeous to look at, with none looking similar to the other. The game could have been much more, but ends up falling short because of bad writing.

Overall, Root Letter isn’t the worst visual novel I’ve played and there are people who played and liked it. But I can’t recommend it unless it’s on sale, simply because there are better ones out there to spend your time on.

Final review score is out of 10.

DougiePowell <![CDATA[Dreamed of School Management? Check out Academia: School Simulator]]> 2017-09-05T05:48:42Z 2017-09-04T15:22:51Z So, have you ever dreamed of building your own school?

… No…? Not at all…?

Well, just in case you have, indie developer Squeaky Wheel announced on their website the release prices for the early access version of their new game Academia: School Simulator.

For twenty dollars, you may purchase the base game, downloadable from Steam or as DRM-free from the game’s website. For an extra five dollars, you may purchase both School Simulator and Squeaky Wheel’s first game, Political Animals, which received mostly positive reviews on Steam.

If you fork over an additional ten dollars, you can get both games and have your name featured in the game (if you’re into that sort of thing). The developers describe this as an “additional tip,” so if you are particularly excited for the game this option is a sweet way to support the developers.

While an additional ten dollars may seem like a reasonable hitch to support a new developer, having to pay an additional one hundred and sixty-five dollars to have an in-game sprite look like you feels like a bit of a stretch. The developers admit that this additional price is steep, claiming that the high cost is due to the effort of making the sprites: “The price jump might be a little shocking. But in the end, we decided to stick to it because the $200 accurately reflects the amount of time it takes to make custom sprites and program them into the game.” Only one-hundred of these sprites will be available, and Squeaky Wheel do not expect to sell many.

What makes me particularly cynical of the game, aside from the fact that school isn’t normally an exciting time that we’d like to use our free time to relive, is the game’s description on Steam: “As the school Principal, watch your students as they get bullied, find love, flunk exams, and basically just try to get through the roller-coaster ride that is high school.”

I think we can all agree that very few people find genuine “love” during High School (apologies to any High School sweethearts reading this) but that bullying is listed first and the description lists “flunk exams” rather than pass, makes me think the game may glorify the flaws and trauma of school life. What’s the appeal in that?

The game will release this Friday for the PC, a Mac version following later and a Linux version in consideration. If the prices above seem out of your reach, the game will be on sale for a twenty percent discount during launch week. So prepare to fulfill your high school management fantasies – if you have them.

Tow <![CDATA[High Hell Trailer]]> 2017-09-04T14:35:04Z 2017-09-04T14:35:04Z Devolver Digital is known for bringing amazing indie titles to the gaming community, and it remains keen on keeping up with this track record. Developed by Terri Vellmann, the mind behind Heavy Bullets, High Hell has made its dramatic entrance with this eye-popping reveal trailer.

High Hell will be paradise for adrenaline junkies as they descend upon the criminal underground like a wrathful, mask-wearing god, bringing lethal salvation in the form of guns, flame throwers and rocket launchers. Drug lab lunch breaks have never been as exciting as you hop, dart, and dodge around obnoxious cartel members and brainwashed chimps, wreaking havoc in the process. Those wanting a high-octane, vibrant FPS should keep an eye out for this one.

A release date for High Hell has not been announced, but the game is due for Steam and GOG later this year.

Emmaline Shettel <![CDATA[How to Game for Relaxation]]> 2017-09-04T06:02:59Z 2017-09-04T06:02:59Z Knee deep in school or work and you’ve forgotten about video games? Video games add to the challenges you face everyday? Feeling stressed to complete a goal in a game? Can’t relax with video games?

Here’s my advice to curb video-game-inspired stress.

1. Play a game you’ve beaten before. You know it’s possible, and you still have fun.
2. Play a game that is worth the stress – one that you’re good at and don’t get destroyed at.
3. Play a light game. A mobile app could do the job (just not Clash Royale).
4. Play a game that you do not have to play on a hard setting. There’s no point in Ranked or Master Quest if it’s going to stress you more.
5. Play a game that is second nature to you. For me this would be a quick match of League of Legends. If applicable, play on Normal or bonus game mode because if you lose it won’t be a big deal.
6. Use video games to take you out of the real world when you’re strained. Play an open world game such as Skyrim, Zelda, or Runescape.
7. Play with a friend. This should ease tension as well as allow you to roast teammates on the opposing team.
8. Do NOT play an educational game. Only do so if this actually relaxes you. The point is to get away from school.
9. Once you realize you’re strained, immediately play games to distract your mind. If you prolong your stress, you may get to the point where you don’t want to do anything except procrastinate and curl up in a ball.

School sucks, at least for me, and video games can sometimes be my medicine. A warm cup of tea, a “light” match of League of Legends, and nothing but motivation to win, and I shall conquer all stress.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle Review]]> 2017-09-04T06:01:22Z 2017-09-03T00:19:42Z It’s hard not to like the Rabbids. Their wacky antics and comedic style make for charming and simply silly games. Merge that with the lighthearted and fun world of Mario and you are in for a good time. These words are ones that you would think you’d never say, yet here we are: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle has to be the quickest turnaround in history for a game’s response, where one moment we are condemning its potential but the next singing its praises. Not only does the game look good in trailers but in action it’s a new classic.

Mario + Rabbids is light in the plot department but does weave in an interesting narrative to begin your adventure. The opening cutscene shows a huge Mario fan playing with a device (known as the Supamerge) that can fuse items together, but after leaving the Rabbids – who else? – show up. One grabs the Supamerge, sends everything into chaos, and winds up in the Mushroom Kingdom. The rabbids immediately cause trouble. Four Rabbids don costumes of Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi, while the rest are fused with items and become enemies waiting to be stomped.

The plot won’t win any awards but it does bring Mario and the Rabbids together. The basis of the game is you chasing one particular Rabbid across different worlds to stop him from causing further chaos with the device.

While the overall plot is basic the writing is commendable. Ubisoft have dialed the Rabbids back so they are slightly less irritating and also devised ways to make them standout. Throughout you find Rabbids doing random things in the Mushroom Kingdom, which fits perfectly with the nature of their character. They inject some much needed humor into the world. Nintendo has never thrived at being funny but with the Rabbids there is always some hilarious moment just around the corner.

Ubisoft also finally gave much needed story development to Bowser Jr., which tied in wonderfully with the game’s humor, and did something that Nintendo has neglected since Super Mario Sunshine. The developers have gone the extra mile to deliver an entertaining and funny romp through the Mushroom Kingdom.

Mario + Rabbids features two different gameplay styles: tactical battle sequences and exploration. Exploration is more than what it seemed by the trailers and is a decent chunk of the game. On your way to the next battle sequence there are often plenty of open spaces you are free to explore. These spaces net you coins, treasures, new weapons, and more. These are some of the best parts of the game because they inspire the collector in us all.

While exploring you encounter several puzzles to solve, which add some variety to the game. Sometimes you need to navigate block puzzles, and other times you are exploring an area to find buttons that will open up a path. There are even pipe puzzles where you need to find the right combination of pipes to progress which is done by pressing buttons to move specific pipes. While they were not always challenging there was a thrill each time you came across these. They are a simple yet effective distractions.

Battles on the other hand are Mario + Rabbids‘ main gameplay element, and are enjoyable. They play as turn-based grid battles. On your turn you move your characters across the field and then take aim and attempt to shoot your opponents. This varies from traditional gameplay because of a greater focus on movement attacks. If an enemy is in range of your available movement you can select them as a target as they approach their end position. This results in them performing a slide tackle which deals varying amounts of damage based on the character and their current abilities.

More abilities are tethered together through the games’ movement system such as being able to have characters boost each other further onto the battlefield. This can be used to get to higher ground for an attack or even help move characters away from enemies. In Mario’s case you can boost him up to bounce on an enemy’s head for damage. There is always plenty of room for strategy as you figure out the best means of using the game’s movement systems to gain the upper hand or potentially avoid damage.

The battles are complemented by the game’s skill tree. With this you can unlock additional perks or power ups for your characters. These include health boosts, movement range upgrades, sliding tackle damage boosts, the number of times you may slide tackle an enemy, and additional weapon upgrades. There is a wide berth of options in the skill trees and it was fun to see how each would change up strategy in battles.

Strategy is also enhanced by the characters. At the start of the game you have access to Mario, Rabbid Peach and Rabbid Luigi, each character armed with their own weapons and powers to help you in combat. You begin to unlock new characters such as Rabbid Mario and Yoshi, as well as regular Yoshi, Luigi and Peach. Each character brings new gameplay options to the table with their varying weapon types making drastic differences.

Take Peach’s shotgun. Up close she can deal massive damage but at a distance her attack is widespread. Luigi can be used as a sniper to hit foes from greater distances, while Rabbid Peach is great for her ability to do up to four slide tackles in a turn. Each battle can bring a wealth of new strategies as you determine the best character outfit to go alongside Mario for the current battle scenario.

Character selection requires cognizance of each one’s active abilities. Each character has access to two active abilities, which can be used to shield themselves from harm or take shots at moving foes. Each character is outfitted with specific abilities to assist in the battle, such as Rabbid Peach being a healer. Mario has the hero shot to blast moving foes, and regular Peach can put up a one-turn shield on all nearby allies. There is a lot to the gameplay that keeps it perpetually interesting.

Finding different strategies also depends on the mission type. These have decent variety. Your main battles typically require defeating all foes, and in this you will employ many of the major strategies. There is also an objective for defeating a certain number of foes which challenges you to strategize quickly as more enemies spawn. Then there are the escort and reach-the-end missions. In these missions you are playing defensively as you try to figure out the best enemies to defeat based on what’s blocking your path to the other side of the battlefield.

The reach-the-end missions are among the best of the game. In these you seek the optimal path to the goal. Enemies are a troubling nuisance along the path to victory. You complete these missions by getting at least one of your characters to the end, meaning you can wind up pushing one character to the finish while the others draw fire. Escort missions play out in a similar manner except your goal is to get a specific character to the end. These missions can be annoying but among the most satisfying when you get the character across a dangerous battlefield.

Finally there are boss battles, which take place at the end of each of the game’s four worlds. In these battles you need to solve a small problem on the battlefield to make enemies available to hit. The first boss, for instance, requires one of your characters to hit a button which removes his banana stash and make him vulnerable. These battles can get frustrating but are fun additions at the end of a world, offering a nice change from everything that came before.

If there is one complaint that could be levied against the game it’s that fights may become tedious. This is the fault of enemy types, as while there is some decent variety you still wind up fighting the same Rabbid foes multiple times. New types are not added often enough so by the time a new enemy finally comes along you know the best way to handle all previous foes. Fights can still be chaotic but the slow out-pour of enemies doesn’t work to the games’ favor.

On paper Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle seems like a really bad idea for a crossover, yet in practice it’s a blast. It’s funny to think that when documents were leaked early with the basic idea of Mario + Rabbids people condemned it, then as soon as we experience it everyone changes their tune. This oddball crossover that shouldn’t work ends up making for a wonderful experience that shows plenty of love for both franchises.

Joseph Tomlinson-Jones <![CDATA[T. J.’s Ten, Part 2]]> 2017-09-02T03:43:43Z 2017-09-02T03:43:43Z This is the second instalment of my top 10 list – 7 through 5. These games are from the deepest realms of my heart. I hope you enjoy.

7. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is the Nintendo GameCube’s reincarnation of the series with a slight variation on the traditional recipe. This 2003 release introduced the concept of real-time fighting and also had Game Boy Advance capabilities enabling co-op play. The graphics were beautiful, and the multiplayer design was innovative. Since the release of this game, there have been five more releases under the same title with two sequels, one distant prequel, and two other titles. Exploration is one of the main focuses of the title, which is standard for RPGs, and is done primarily via the lead characters’ caravan.

As with most modern day RPGs, the player may put some degree of personality into their character from the get-go. You are not given a set character to play with and get to choose which race they come from. But to minimise the overall impact this has on the game, the developers made it so every race could use the same physical and magical abilities.

The game takes place in an unnamed land covered in a toxic gas known as Miasma to which direct contact can be costly or even fatal. Towns and settlements are protected from the gas due to their crystals, which generate an impenetrable barrier for the Miasma. The barrier that the crystal provides is not everlasting, and once every year it needs to be restored, which leads to the main premise of the game: yearly brave individuals from each settlement have to go out in search of Myrrh, a liquid substance that powers the crystals.

This is an amazing game within the Final Fantasy series and should be played by all who either love the series or have been looking for the right game to gain their passage into the series. This game holds a special place with me. While it wasn’t the first game in the series, it opened it up to a gameplay style that was right up my street and boosted my love for it. I give this game a rating of 7/10.

6. Pokémon: Fire Red

I chose Fire Red as opposed to traditional Red due to the alterations made from the original. One of the more notable and welcome changes was the feature of running shoes, which made traversing the land of Kanto a more fluid and enjoyable experience. The most notable and obvious change from the original is the graphical upgrade that brought the Kanto we all know and love to a newer generation, making the whole world more vibrant and inviting.

The original was released in Japan for the Game Boy back in 1996, and the re-release came to the Game Boy Advance in 2004. The Fire Red edition of the game introduces a post-game feature so that once you have achieved Pokémon champion status you can continue your progression and find new challenges in another, distant region. This new post-game content is a nod to the Ruby and Sapphire games as the mission you are given is to collect components that make cross-region Pokémon sharing a reality.

This and the original game are dear to me because Red was one of the key games that got me into gaming at the young age of six. At such an impressionable age this game was a game changer. All the subsequent Pokémon games have leap-frogged off Red and Blue‘s success and have set the platform for more sequels and more regions around the Pokémon world. The series has become a gaming staple over the years and many eager gamers await each and every release. I rate this game 9/10.

5. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Wind Waker was a break from the traditional portrayal of Zelda and received mixed reviews upon release. The hardcore fans of the game did not like the graphical style; some people thought it was childish and too cartoon-ish. Some gave it the benefit of the doubt and reserved their critique of the game until after they had played it.

The Wind Waker is set in a world covered mostly by a great ocean. Link’s companion through this game is his boat, the King of Red Lions, who finds Link washed up in the sea not too long into the adventure.

The premise is that Link is in search of his sister who, mistaken as Princess Zelda, was kidnapped by a great bird. Along the way Link gathers his usual array of weaponry, some of which are familiar and some of which are new, but all of which will be of great use during the journey.

You’ll come across new friends, new challenges and an array of new and puzzling dungeons to explore as you rid the land of the evil forces that disrupt a long-held peace.

While at first I agreed with the critics who disliked the changes Wind Waker made to the classic Zelda recipe, I grew to love it and it became one of my top three favorite Zelda titles.

It was later remade for the Wii U with new HD graphics and slightly altered gameplay. The game has held up against the test of time and is still as relevant in today’s world as it was when it first released in 2002. I rate this game 9/10.

DougiePowell <![CDATA[Nominees Announced for European Women in Mobile Gaming]]> 2017-09-01T03:15:44Z 2017-09-01T03:15:44Z Yesterday, the organisation Women in Games announced the nominees for the European Women in Mobile Games Awards. The award ceremony will take place on September 6 at the East London Arts and Music Academy in London.

Nominees include:

  • South Park Phone Destroyer. Led by Neha Joshi, Producer at RedLynx, a Ubisoft Studio from Finland
  • Jungle Animal Hair Salon 2. Led by Miglė Šaulytė, CMO at TutoTOONS from Lithuania
  • Birdie’s Adventure. Led by Astrid Refstrup, Co-Founder at Triple Topping Games from Denmark
  • Eden Isle: Resort Paradise. Led by Elaine Reynolds, CEO at Simteractive Ltd. from Ireland
  • Rocket Rumble. Led by Vicky Smalley, CTO at Small Jelly from UK
  • Serena Supergreen und der abgebrochene Flügel (Serena Supergreen and the broken blade). Led by Linda Kruse, Co-Founder & MD from Germany
  • A Normal Lost Phone. Led by Elizabeth Maler, Co-Founder at Accidental Queens from France

The awards at stake include The Grand Prix, the award for the best mobile game made by a woman or a team of women, and the Leadership Award, recognizing the exceptional quality of the work of a mobile game developer.

“We’re very pleased with the number of entries we’ve received for the first Women in Games Mobile Awards, coming from around Europe and representing a broad selection of pioneering women in the industry,” said Marie-Claire Isaaman, CEO of Women in Games. “Our ambition with these awards is to highlight the breadth of talent that exists and as such we encourage everyone to submit their entries next year too. All are welcome, whether they have been in the industry a long time or just starting out.”

Women in Games is a non-profit organisation that encourages women to pursue a career in the games industry and supports those already in the industry.

More nominees may be announced leading up to the awards. Tickets for the award ceremony may be purchased on their website.


  • Women In Games. (2017). Nominations announced for the European Women in Games Mobile Awards. Available: Last accessed 31st Aug 2017.
Simon Smith <![CDATA[Playstation Plus September Lineup Revealed]]> 2017-09-01T03:14:07Z 2017-09-01T03:14:07Z It’s that time again.

Sony has unveiled the games that Playstation Plus subscribers will be able to purchase this September. This month will see a follow up to July and August with another major game available on the Playstation 4. So without further adieu, here are the Playstation Plus games for September.

Playstation 4 owners will be getting Sucker Punch’s action game Infamous: Second Son, as well as independent title Strike Vector EX. Those with a Playstation 3 can look forward to checking out Truck Racer as well as Handball 2016. Vita owners will be able to get We Are Doomed and Hatoful Boyfriend. Please note that these Vita games are also cross buy with the Playstation 4.

Playstation Plus is becoming more viable with the newest additions of monthly major games. July brought us Until Dawn, while August brought us Just Cause 3. Remember you only have a couple of days to get August’s Playstation Plus offering if you have not done so.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Releases 2018, Switch Exclusive]]> 2017-09-01T03:10:22Z 2017-09-01T03:10:22Z During Nintendo’s Switch unveiling in January, many developers shared news on upcoming projects for the system. Among these was Suda51 who announced a brand new No More Heroes for Switch.

The new installment, titled Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, sees Bat Girl’s father trying to kill Travis Touchdown, but they get absorbed into a game console. They will need to battle through six indie games to survive the battle.

The game will arrive in 2018 as a Switch exclusive. A new trailer shows off some wacky scenes. No gameplay is shown.

Travis Strikes Again contains a Deadpool-esque vibe with amusing fourth-wall breaks. You’ll see.

Trevor Whalen <![CDATA[Dusk Impressions: A True Throwback]]> 2017-08-31T10:39:09Z 2017-08-31T10:39:09Z David Szymanski’s Dusk is a ’90s-inspired first-person shooter set in rural America. The game feels like Quake and looks like a marriage of Blood and Redneck Rampage. It releases Halloween, but if you pre-purchase it on Steam you can play Episode 1, The Foothills, right now. Unlike other throwback shooters — Serious Sam, Painkiller, and Strafe, for examples – Szymanski has captured the spirit of ’90s-era FPS games.

The map design and pacing of the game is clearly ’90s FPS. There are colored keys with matching doors. There are secret areas. Maps aren’t linear but are open areas you move back and forth in. Some are tighter, others have large open areas. They all feel Redneck Rampage, Blood, and Duke Nukem 3D, more so than they feel Doom and Quake, though those games’ genes are certainly in the pool.

Movement is similarly inspired. You can strafe-jump and bunny-hop to ridiculous speeds, more easily than in the Quake games. I was able to jump up very steep slopes, rendering the laws of physics null, exactly how it should be in this kind of game.

The AI behavior is ’90s-shooter style. Enemies run straight at you or hang back and shoot, and there has been no coordinated strategy on the enemies’ part so far. Different enemies have different attack styles, so some strategy is required in what weapon you use and how you dodge the enemies’ attacks. Blood and gore is present but not insane, which is true to the game’s spiritual predecessors.

There are pistols, shotguns, and machineguns. There is a powerup – the Fast Fire Totem – that enables your gun to fire rapidly. You may duel wield, a feature that, while not in Doom or Quake, was in Blood.

The game system is throwback as well, with an old-school menu, a quick-save feature, and no checkpoints except at a level’s start. The results screen after each map and the level select screen are based directly on the same from Doom.  

Not every part of Dusk is specifically Quake and its contemporaries and predecessors. Enemies speak, like in Quake II. There’s a flashlight, which is an element from Unreal and Half-Life. You can zoom in, which was also in Unreal and Half-Life, but only on certain weapons. There’s no fall damage, unlike each of the classic FPS games noted in this story. It still all counts as ’90s style.

The game consistently offers variety. Maps become more complex, new enemy types appear, there are boss battles, and new weapons are doled out. The design builds on itself.

The core quality of Dusk is that it captures the soul of the ’90s-era FPS. Other throwback shooters like Serious Sam, Painkiller, or this year’s Strafe claim ’90s FPS design but only have parts of it. None of those games are exactly like Doom, Quake, and their contemporaries. Dusk is. I could tell right at the start.

If you loved ’90s-era FPS games, I recommend you pre-purchase Dusk now and check out the first episode. It’s a great, true throwback shooter. Hold off if you’re not a ’90s FPS enthusiast, as then you may not appreciate Dusk’s design.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Steamworld Dig 2 Coming September, Pricing Announced]]> 2017-08-31T05:19:51Z 2017-08-31T05:19:51Z Steamworld Dig 2 was revealed earlier this year for the Nintendo Switch. It promised a bigger game with more hours of gameplay then the original and a greater sense of exploration, a point which the developers emphasize.

Steamworld Dig 2 has been brought up yet again, this time through a Nintendo Switch Nindie Showcase where a release date of September 21st was confirmed. Image & Form also revealed the games’ pricing, which is higher than the original game but around the same as Steamworld Heist.

The game will cost $19.99 / €19.99 / £14.99, which they justify with the many hours of content including boss battles and the freedom to explore. Image & Form discussing the price decision shared:

WD2 will be available on Nintendo eShop for $19.99 or your region’s equivalent. That’s twice the price of the original Dig. It’s at least ten times as good, so it’s more than a nice deal. Expect somewhere around 10 hours of gameplay and multiple boss battles in a big, sprawling world which you’re free to explore and dig through at your own pace. The game is even longer for those of you itching to find all secrets and unlockables (and there are plenty).

You can check out the games newest trailer below, and look out for Steamworld Dig 2 when it arrives on Nintendo Switch this September.

Joseph Tomlinson-Jones <![CDATA[Morality Systems and Player Immersion]]> 2017-09-26T23:34:49Z 2017-08-30T05:17:13Z Imagine you spend hours of game play rescuing an NPC, guiding them through painstaking tasks, mazes, and hordes of enemies to get them to safety and then, just as salvation looms, the game throws a curve ball at you. You have a choice to make: you can either spare the life of your hard laboured trophy, risking the lives of every member of your clan, or sacrifice your trophy to retain the lives the people that have stood by you. Which ever choice you make will change the outcome of the game that will only be revealed long after your choice is made.

Morality systems have become increasingly popular in video games. Player morality is being put under the spot light and most of the time it affects the outcome of the game for either the better or the worse.

People use video games as a way to escape the monotony of the real world, to escape to a place where they can be someone else, free of the stress that comes with life and work, but moral systems in games throw that into disarray, pushing the boundaries of players by making them puzzle on how their actions can impact the outcome of the adventure.

Some games give you freedom over text and speech options superficially. For example, in Telltales’ Game of Thrones series, you are given a choice to protect your sister from Ramsay, but no matter your choice it doesn’t turn out well for you. Games in the Fable, Fallout and BioShock series offered speech and action options that matter in the immediate and long term.

Many gamers consider themselves to be good people with strong moral values who follow the law. The best way for people like that to experience the opposite side of the coin is through a video games’ morality system. Choosing to do something evil in a video game can be exhilarating and sometimes lead to unexpected outcomes. My personal morality prevents me from ever choosing the evil route despite my inner demon shouting at me to do otherwise.

There have been times in my gaming life where I have thought about an NPC: ”I would love to kill you so much.” I have even taken this option (only after hard-saving). There have been other times where I have sacrificed my own desires for the purpose of trying to complete the game as swiftly and to the book as possible. It doesn’t matter how many times or how many opportunities I get to make calls like this – I still make the same decisions over and over again because it reflects who I am. I can never stop being me.

Game developers want the player to impart some of themselves into their game. The more immersive a game is the more someone is going to feel a part of it. This is why gaming is becoming a more widely accepted media platform and now rivals the film industry for revenue. Games’ interactive nature allows for more personal experiences.

The saying ”through choice comes responsibility” is especially appropriate with this topic. In games you take responsibility for your actions, good and bad. The two worlds that we all live in, the one of good and honour and the one of evil and corruption, are in conflict. We all have the potential to be good or evil. We typically don’t think about internal morality during our daily lives and this is why when we play games that bring it to the forefront of our mind we struggle more than we could imagine.

The games of the past were limited in what they could offer in this kind of experience due to limitations of the software, though games then did implement morality systems. The increase of immersive graphics quality complements morality-based game systems. The proliferation of each mean good things for the future.

With new technologies immersive and morally challenging game play is going to blow the lid off of things we knew growing up. VR headsets will enhance this concept by placing players fully within the game and the choices you make will be more costly. This is the start of the future of gaming and is a privilege to behold.

Emmaline Shettel <![CDATA[Video Game Addiction: A Personal Account]]> 2017-08-30T04:54:24Z 2017-08-30T04:54:24Z I can safely say I’m addicted to League of Legends. I find myself repeating “one more game” to myself after each match. I check the time and think, “It’s only 12:00 am right now.” Soon, it’s 4:00 am. I could’ve got more sleep and continued playing matches the next day, well rested – too late now.

When a game is second nature to you, it’s more fun because you play effortlessly. A game is more addicting when you have it down pat. Loving a game to death is different from addiction. I love Harvest Moon, Pokemon, and Rune Factory, but I can’t play it all day like I could League.

It’s easy to pick League over anything else, and the matches go by so fast. You may pause single-player games at any time, but in League you have to play each match you enter start to finish, otherwise LeaverBuster comes. Even if I take a break from the game or have to work through LeaverBuster, I still play and enjoy League.

The multiplayer and the teamwork make League so addicting. Playing by yourself can be boring, which is why a multiplayer option in games makes them better, like playing together in Animal Crossing titles or trading in games like Pokemon.

I think the best way to handle an addiction is to have the guilty item out of sight and out of mind. For instance, I do not have a laptop, so when I play League it’s on a friend’s computer, and not everyday (which also makes playing the game more special).

Because of my addiction, I have a love-hate relationship with League. I love the game, but can’t stop myself from playing twenty-five games in one sitting. I’m sure this is how people feel about their favorite games, especially those that are quick and with addictive systems.

The reward system for League is narcotic. I get addicted to earning key fragments and chests when I get a S rank or higher on a champion – basically, getting skins or champions for free. Who doesn’t like free stuff? And when I play League, I feel accomplished when I win and also get a perverted kick from crushing other people’s dreams.

Video game addictions like mine to League are not bad unless they’re preventing you from socializing and working or going to school. All I can say about this is to keep getting pentakills in League or the equivalent in any game you desire.

Chris Jackson <![CDATA[Black Manta Joins Injustice 2]]> 2017-08-29T04:24:02Z 2017-08-29T04:24:02Z NetherRealm’s epic superhero fighting title, Injustice 2, will be receiving a new character from the Aquaman universe very soon. Today, Black Manta has been showcased in a new gameplay trailer.

The trailer shows off Black Manta in action as he fights against his archenemy Aquaman, alongside numerous other heroes and villains from the game, including Green Lantern, Swamp Thing, and the Flash.

Check it out below:

NetherRealm will be releasing two other new DLC characters: the iconic Mortal Kombat character Raiden and the stylish monster hunter Hellboy. With Black Manta coming September 22, Raiden and Hellboy should soon appear in their own dedicated gameplay trailers.

Injustice 2 is available on Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Will you be picking up DLC pack 2? What do you think of Black Manta? Let us know in the comments below.

Murphy Wales <![CDATA[The 7.06f Dota 2 Update isn’t that Bad]]> 2017-08-28T03:05:38Z 2017-08-28T03:05:38Z After every international Lead Developer IceFrog implements an update to Dota 2 to reset the meta. It’s to prevent players from exclusively using the heroes the pros abused. Normally, the most prominent heroes will receive significant nerfs to their abilities, but something different happened this time: the heroes only received minor nerfs. Why?

7.06 Early-Game Meta

If you take a look at the 7.06f update, you’ll see the most common changes to abilities is how often they might be used. Whether it be an increase to cooldown rate or the amount of mana it consumes, their use during the early game has lessened. Why would this be the most prominent change? Well, the current meta has been leaning toward early-game capability. This doesn’t mean a game can’t extend into late game, but early-game capability should prevent that. Ganking, team fights, and team pushes onto tier-one towers are all strategies favored in this meta. This means heroes who are strong by ten minutes have a lot of power.

To dampen their strength during early game, I’d say these nerfs were mandatory. Take Night Stalker for example. Once the first night hits, opponents are at a disadvantage. Since most heroes don’t have all their abilities available, he can competently gank a hero with little risk. This makes the carry lane a prime target. Unless the carry has wards placed and a rotation from another lane, they very well may fall behind. I believe that’s why, with the exception of Sven, there are no position one heroes in the top twelve.

Despite this, I don’t think IceFrog wants rotations to be excluded from gameplay. Since the 7.06 update, supports and initiation characters have received more use and are becoming more powerful. During early game, heroes like Crystal Maiden or Skywrath Mage can be deadly while having a use late-game. In order to preserve their utility, a lengthened cooldown rate and increased mana consumption would suffice.

Success Rate

When looking at the top twelve Dota heroes of TI7, you’ll see something rather interesting. Nearly half of the selection has less than a fifty percent win rate. You’d think that the most common heroes would have at least a sixty percent win rate to be used so often. Instead, we saw heroes being picked for function over win rate. Because of this, it’s plausible that IceFrog didn’t see any strategies that can be abused. In fact, despite there being the top twelve heroes, there was a high selection variance between characters. When a hero is nerfed to the ground, it’s to ensure they don’t control the meta of the entire game. No character should have a guaranteed positive win rate. Otherwise, what’s the point of variety?

As proof of this, Faceless Void has a thirty-nine percent win rate. During the group stage events, Void was picked repeatedly. Teams would try multiple strategies focusing around his Chronosphere ability. Despite him being repeatedly picked, strategies based around him would lose frequently. As a result, when the main stage events began, his pick rate declined. This proved that there wasn’t a single ability among characters that would guarantee a win.


We’re still unsure if this will be the final gameplay update before the release of the new characters, but for now it’s merciful. This would be a model update by my standards. When variety is prevalent and no one strategy is dominant, the game is doing well.


Murphy Wales <![CDATA[Lich for Best Support of the 2017 TI]]> 2017-08-27T23:20:38Z 2017-08-27T23:20:38Z At this year’s Dota 2 International, Lich proved to be the most sought after support hero. Despite having a 50% win rate, he was picked first or second. In addition, he played fifth position. What about this hero made him so desirable for such a low position? Well, there’s more to this hero than most expect.

Hero Breakdown

While his abilities aren’t outright amazing, Lich’s moves have longterm potential. His arsenal includes Frost Blast, Ice Armor, Sacrifice, and Chain Frost. These abilities, along with the 7.06 updates, made Lich one of the most substantial supports in the International. I’ll examine some of his abilities to demonstrate why.

Frost Blast

Upon targeting an enemy unit, the ability will deal a moderate amount of damage to that enemy and the surrounding area. Movement speed is reduced by 30% and attack speed is subtracted by 20. While the move isn’t initially dangerous, it’s a continuous source of damage during the laning phase since it has a cooldown of eight seconds. It’s also a great tool for chasing an enemy down since it cripples their attack and movement speed. In a meta where chasing an enemy down is crucial, this move is a godsend.

Ice Armor

This ability adds armor to a friendly unit or structure that also attributes attack slow to any attacking enemy. While it’s intended for defense, it may also be used offensively. For offense, Ice Armor can be cast on an initiation hero.  For example, Venomancer with Ice Armor has the potential to blink on the enemy team, cast Poison Nova, and apply attack slow should he be attacked. This provides the initiation hero the chance to also escape should things turn for the worse. Even if it’s just one less attack, that minute difference can be the deal breaker.

For defense, Ice Armor enhances heroes’ and structures’ endurance. Should an enemy hero attempt to take a tower, Ice Armor forces them to have to expend more time to damage the tower, leaving them prone to a counter attack. This move works well against heroes whose focus is attack speed. Heroes such as Troll Warlord, Ursa, and Legion Commander despise attack slow. With this move available to reuse every five seconds, Lich is a downright counter to them. It’s not outright amazing, but the longevity of its use is phenomenal.


This was by far Lich’s most pivotal ability during the International. It allows Lich to devour a friendly lane creep and gain a percentage of mana proportionate to its health. It also gives you and allied heroes all experience the creep would normally provide. The potential of this ability to cripple experience gain is devastating. In the 7.06 and 7.06e update, the money and experience gained from lane creeps has changed. The experience from melee creeps has been reduced from 45 to 40, and their bounty gold extends from 34 to 38. While there is an additional melee creep for the first fifteen minutes, the significance of the range creep is increased. They provide 90 experience and 18 to 26 gold. While their economic influence isn’t as large, the amount of experience a player could lose from missing a ranged creep is frightening. In addition, denying a creep grants you 30% of its experience and the opponent 70.
Keeping that in mind, it means that by eating the ranged creep and denying at least one melee creep, Lich is denying over 102 points of experience from the enemy. This could create a massive experience gap between him and his enemies in lane. In five to eight minutes, Lich could be level six casting Chain Frost on two level four Heroes who don’t have the ability or stats to survive.

Chain Frost

On a whole, Chain Frost is a powerful but inconsistent move. Upon release, an orb of ice will bounce up to ten times between enemy units. It will deal up to 460 damage while reducing move speed by 65% and attack speed by 65. The potential damage is outstanding and, should it hit two or three enemy heroes, the attack and movement slow is great. However, consistency is the name of the game. How Chain Frost bounces is random, and should creeps be present, an enemy hero can escape unscathed. In short, the ability prefers optimal conditions.

Hero Talents

I won’t mention all the talents available, but there are three that make Lich a great choice for late game. At level 20, Lich has the option to gain 150 damage. This talent is crazy and is the very reason some players have adopted a semi-carry build. Between spells, Lich can continue to fight, making him a threat regardless of what position he’s playing. At level 25, Lich can either choose an attack modifier that slows attack and movement speed by 30% or add an additional 35 armor to structures. Depending on whether you’d like to play in a defensive or offensive manner, Lich will make himself a problem for the enemy team.

Personally, I favor the attack modifier because the armor only applies to structures. While the armor is useful, it has its limitations. It can’t be used in a fight, it’s only useful on your side of the map, and it relies on the enemy team to push. The attack modifier is practically a free Eye of Skadi and has more options. Whether it’s to catch a fleeing hero or to escape, the additional attack and movement slow provides options. Nonetheless, the armor is still significant. Should you be pushed back to you tier-three towers, that armor will allow your team to hold them off.


Lich’s value is his ability to hamper the enemy team through all stages of the game. From manipulation of lane experience to slowing the enemy, there’s almost no time that Lich can’t be of use. The majority of his moves are consistent and easy to use. This means that both new and professional players can make use of him. For these reasons, Lich was the best support for the Dota 2 2017 International.

Joseph Tomlinson-Jones <![CDATA[T. J.’s Ten, Part 1]]> 2017-08-26T21:01:00Z 2017-08-26T21:01:00Z Over the years I have played games from all genres and from all developers, and I’ve been composing a list of the ten games that, out of all, I would advise any gamer of varying skill levels to play.

Following is the start to the list, and with each title will be a review and reason why the game means so much to me. This will be the first article in a series of similar ones.


10. Mass Effect

The Mass Effect series has been widely credited as one of the best of a generation and now has more than three titles. The original set the stage for a whole new platform of gaming. A space-raiding, planet-surfing, alien-killing game that offers all sorts of adventures, from investigating missing persons on distant planets, to infiltrating enemy bases, to searching for alien artifacts that could hold the key to deeper space travel. This game offers a well-rounded experience that should keep any level of gamer entertained for hours on end.

Mass Effect was not quite like anything I had played before. I had played adventure games and I had played space games, but the diversity in this game pushed the boundary of what I was used to. It melded adventure with space to bring an experience that encapsulated me for more hours than I care to count. I recommend this game to anyone with a love for RPG games and a love for a game that just keeps on giving. I rate it 8/10.

9. Mario Kart: Double Dash.

There are amazing titles in the Mario Kart series, and Double Dash is no exception. It strays slightly by allowing cooperative play: partnering up with your friend you may race with one at driver and another at shotgun to fire items.

The special thing about this mechanic is that should you be on a track that one of you knows better, you can flip your position at any point, allowing you to capitalise on another mechanic unique to Double Dash!!: specialised ammunition.

This game means a lot to me as I received it for my birthday as I hit my teenage years. Having my friends come round and play for hours on end will forever be one of the fondest gaming memories I have. For those of you who love the series and love playing with friends, I would very much advise you to try the game if you can get your hands on a Gamecube or a Wii. I give this game a 9/10.

8. Bioshock

Would you kindly play this game?

Bioshock is a retro-futuristic-themed FPS which blends aesthetics of the American 1950s with science fiction. It plays smoothly, and you can quickly and easily be caught up in the journey as it is laid out before you.

The world of Rapture, a city below the sea created by the mastermind Andrew Ryan, has fallen on some tough times. With the ever patrolling Big Daddies and Little Sisters and the roaming splicers, navigating your way through Rapture is difficult. You want to collect all the Adam, the game’s mana, that you can to preserve your energy. For each Little Sister you encounter, saving her or harvesting her yields you little or lots of Adam respectively. What you choose for each affects the end game.

Bioshock offers something for all gamers. Beyond firing guns, players may use plasmids, a more wizardly way of destroying enemies. These plasmids grant you special offensive and defensive abilities

I only played this game within the past 18 months, so I am very much behind the rest of the civilized population. But though I only played it recently Bioshock had such a big impact on me that it beat games on this list that I have held close to my heart for many years. In no uncertain terms, that speaks volumes for this game. I truly recommend anyone to play this game and they would not regret a single second of it. I rate it 7/10.

Disclaimer: All opinions in this and any subsequent T.J.’s Ten posts are my own and in no way reflect those of GameLuster.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Video Game Spotlight: The Town of Light]]> 2017-08-26T19:44:37Z 2017-08-26T19:44:37Z In this Video Game Spotlight, I write on The Town of Light, a game brought to us by developer LKA. It released on Steam back in February 2016, but didn’t arrive on the Playstation 4 or Xbox One until June 6 this year. I played the PS4 version and think more people need to experience this game.

The Town of Light is not a game that will make you feel good. It is emotionally and mentally challenging. The developers note at the start that to tell their story many uncomfortable moments had to be included that will disgust you, shock you, and make you wonder what on Earth is going on.

The game is inspired by real events and stories. Much of what is shown actually happened – we are wandering through the shadows of the past. This is the story of those confined to asylums and what they have gone through.

The Town of Light explores mental illness. You play as a girl named Renèe, and she is locked up in an asylum in the 1940s. While the game’s primary story is set in the 1940s, you play as a modern incarnation of Renèe in 2016 exploring the rundown asylum, trying to put your story together. Your memories are not quite what they seem; through your illness you miscue events and grow confused over what you think reality is.

I want to highlight the idea of exploring the asylum in 2016. The darkness and decay of the asylum complements the tense atmosphere. This goes well alongside our own character who is arguably suffering from dissociative identity disorder. Our own mental stability makes things much tougher and more tense, and brings up questions of who we are and what our connection is to Renèe. (Minor spoiler: in the story I got this was never answered.)

At certain intervals you are given the chance to learn more about Renèe. You get to choose how far into her “illusion” you go. As one example, you find a medical file for Renèe and choose what to do with it, with the options: it’s my file, I have the right, who’s going to stop you, or it’s not right. These moments dictate certain directions for the story pushing our character further into Renèe’s story, or away from it. At some points it feels like you are deciding whether you are enabling her character or trying to snap her back to reality.

The game proceeds on a step-by-step basis. When you first arrive at the asylum you only can explore a set area. In this section you will find what you need to learn Renèe’s story. The game then slowly opens new areas as you further develop her story, exploring the harsh realities that she faced.

The Town of Light is a walking simulator with minimalist gameplay, and works just fine. The game has a story to tell and the developers tell it through the environment and narrative caches embedded throughout. Renèe goes through many hardships which are challenging to face but ultimately shine a light on the harsh truths of asylums that were often ignored by the world outside their walls.

The Town of Light has an incredibly deep message to tell and you need to wander through the halls of insanity to see it. You must be mentally tough to get through it and it is extremely dark and depressing, but The Town of Light is a game that needs to be experienced to explore the harshness of mental disabilities and the sad tale that the developers have woven. In one moment you hope the story might have a happy ending, but in the next moment such hope vanishes. This pendulum swing reflects the truth of the game’s story.

The Town of Light is a lesser-known experiential game that you need to play. You might not walk away happy but you will walk away with a lot to think about. This is a great exploration of the truths of mental illness and the horrors of asylums, even if it’s hard to swallow.

Tow <![CDATA[Things to Look Foward to in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux]]> 2017-08-26T17:07:35Z 2017-08-26T17:05:28Z

Atlus has announced a remake for Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, and it will be hitting America’s shores alongside their other remake, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, in early 2018. The remake, titled Strange Journey Redux, promises new and improved content, updated visuals and an unforgettable experience.

Here are some of the features I’m looking forward to in Strange Journey Redux.

New Content

There were three major characters and three endings the player could pursue in the original game. Strange Journey Redux introduces a new character called Alex, who will play a major role in how the story unfolds. Not much has been revealed about her but I’m eager to see how she will affect the overarching story of Strange Journey, especially since official trailers have placed much emphasis on Alex holding a grudge against you, the player.

In addition to Alex, the remake will also include a new dungeon and new endings. In the original game the choices you picked determined your alignment. To summarize, going with the Law alignment would get you the lawful ending, Chaos the chaotic ending, and Neutral the neutral ending.

Naturally, this makes me wonder what the new endings in Strange Journey Redux will be like. We might get an ending where the player rejects all three sides and stands alone. Maybe we will get the option to swat the respective characters of each route to join us. An ending where Alex kills the player might also be possible, but until more information is released, I can only guess at what Atlus has in store for us.

Voice acting

The original game was entirely unvoiced and relied on story and witty dialogue to draw players in, but I always felt the game could have benefitted from voice acting. Strange Journey Redux answered my prayers and fans who are undecided about buying the remake might be swayed at the tantalizing thought of hearing their favourite characters.

Unfortunately, Strange Journey Redux will only be dubbed in Japanese, so there will be no English dub. This is a strange decision for Atlus since the game is more suited for English voices compared to other SMT spinoffs as a majority of the characters aren’t Japanese. There’s even a character who speaks with a butchered southern accent, and it would’ve been hilarious to hear it.

However, from the small bits of Japanese dub I heard from trailers and in-game footage so far, the voice actors have done a great job bringing their characters to life. The voices of Jimenez, Zelenin and Gore suit their respective characters perfectly and were better than what I initially expected.

I’m not too worried about the final voice-over quality since Atlus has a great track record with both English and Japanese dubs in games like Persona and Devil Survivor, but I wish we could have had both languages for Strange Journey Redux.

New art and sound effects

Much of the art in the original game, done by Kazuma Kaneko, will be replaced in Strange Journey Redux with new illustrations by Masayuki Doi. Although I’m a fan of Kaneko’s severe-looking art style, Doi’s art is stylish and appealing in its own way. It remains faithful to the originals while managing to look unique, and I feel like they will be well received by people who prefer a modern, anime look.

Strange Journey Redux will also feature updated visuals. I’m guessing dungeon backgrounds will either be touched up to look better on the 3DS or redone entirely, but seeing as the ones in the original game were detailed and looked great, I doubt any major changes will be made.

After watching an Atlus livestream where they showed off the game, it’s clear that sound effects for various elemental and physical attacks have also been replaced. Skills like bufu and garu sound near identical to the ones in Persona 5. Even knowing that Atlus probably did this to save money and time, I can’t help but feel disappointed new sound effects weren’t made for Strange Journey Redux.

Both newcomers and fans of the original will have something to enjoy in Strange Journey Redux. The original game was a wonderful experience and despite how ridiculously difficult it could get, it captured my heart. What I look forward to the most is not the updated visuals or the new art, but getting the chance to play the game again. Look out for it in 2018.

Tow <![CDATA[Ruiner Releasing this September]]> 2017-08-24T04:33:44Z 2017-08-24T04:28:15Z Devolver Digital has finally announced a release date for Reikon Games’ Ruiner, a brutal action shooter set in a cyberpunk metropolis called Rengkok. You’ll be playing as a helmet-wearing man who’s tearing the city apart in search of his kidnapped brother. Aided by a mysterious hacker and armed to the teeth, Rengkok won’t stand a chance. But be wary, for your ally might have something sinister in store for you.

Coming to PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One on September 26, Ruiner promises weapons galore and a dozen different ways to butcher those out for your blood.

Reikon Games was founded in 2014 by four veteran game designers who have worked on the Witcher series, Dying Light, This War of Mine, and Shadow Warrior.

Trevor Whalen <![CDATA[Quake Champions Enters Early Access]]> 2017-08-23T20:09:30Z 2017-08-23T20:09:30Z After a summer-long closed beta, Quake Champions is now an early-access game. The Champions Pack, which includes access to all and future champions, may be purchased through or through Steam for 29.99 USD – full release price will be 39.99 USD.

The early access version includes two new maps, new customization options, and new champion Doom Slayer. There will also be tutorial videos and target practice for low-skill players, Lore items that will unlock Lore skins for champions, and Rune Challenges for players to unlock and complete.

There are six new champions planned to be added by the end of 2018, which Early Access purchasers will get as added. Purchase of the Champions Pack also unlocks a skin for the Ranger champion and three reliquaries, the top-tier in-game reward chest that includes goodies like skins or customization options for player profiles.

Those who were in the Closed Beta may continue to play the game in free-to-play-mode, with access to only one champion, through only. Those who were not in the Closed Beta must purchase the Early Access version to play. The official free-to-play version of Quake Champions will come later.

Closed beta players who opt not to purchase Early Access will nonetheless play on the same servers as those who do purchase it.


DougiePowell <![CDATA[Middle-Earth: Shadow of War Monsters Trailer]]> 2017-08-23T03:02:30Z 2017-08-23T03:02:30Z While we anticipate October’s Middle Earth: Shadow of War, Warner Brothers has revealed a new trailer for the upcoming game showing new monsters and enemies.

The trailer shows plenty of recognisable creatures from J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic Middle-Earth, such as the orcs, trolls, and spiders, as well as some newcomers. Among these is a new enemy, the Spirit of Carnan, a tree or Ent-like being whose purpose and origin has sparked much speculation.

The game is a continuation of Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, with original character Talion and the ghostly, controlling spirit elf-lord Celebrimbor fulfilling the last game’s promise to forge a new ring of power to fight Sauron (which does make me worry about interference to the canonical events of The Lord of the Rings).

The Tolkien franchise has produced some very pleasing games over the last few decades, and Shadow of Mordor was one of the better ones, with nice visuals, open-world design and combat. However, I don’t understand why developer Monolith prefers placing their original characters into an existing franchise rather than producing their own, but far be it from me to argue what works for them.

The release date has been pushed back and Middle Earth: Shadow of War releases worldwide on October 10 for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[New fighter Lola Pop headed to Arms]]> 2017-08-23T02:19:42Z 2017-08-23T02:19:42Z Nintendo is continuing to support Arms with new content, and after a recent video teased a new character announcement Nintendo has revealed its newest fighter.

Introducing Lola Pop, a clown complete with baggy pants and red nose. Lola Pop’s character stage has desserts reminiscent of her name. Background characters have piles of cakes that suggests her connection to a clown-themed dessert shop. This is just speculation based on what has been shown in the trailer, which you can watch below:

Lola Pop will bring some new arms with her, although many of these are variations on pre-existing arms, with a character twist. Her base arms include nunchucks, some shields akin to those used by Helix, and a triple-stamp launcher.

Lola Pop should add some more character to Arms when the game receives its version three update, although no date has been given at this time.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Fire Emblem Warriors Releasing this October in Europe]]> 2017-08-23T02:04:49Z 2017-08-23T02:04:49Z A new trailer has arrived for Fire Emblem Warriors that delves into even more story content. The trailer centers around Fire Emblem Fates and the ongoing conflict within that game, but with a slight twist: Fire Emblem Warriors will bring together sworn enemies to fight for the common good as the Noir and Hoshido agree to work together to defeat the Chaos Dragon.

Watch it below:

While we were previously aware of Xander and Ryoma being playable in the game, Leo, Camilla, Hinoka and Takumi have also been revealed as playable. The only royal siblings who are sitting out of the game are Elise and Sakura. Although they might be revealed later, their given classes in Fates could keep them off the roster of Warriors.

Nintendo of Europe has also revealed that Fire Emblem Warriors will be headed to the Nintendo Switch and New Nintendo 3DS on October 20. While this date only applies to Europe, a similar release date could come for North America.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[The Original Fear Effect is Being Remade]]> 2017-08-22T04:07:34Z 2017-08-22T04:07:34Z Many have forgotten about the Fear Effect franchise that once graced the original Playstation, but it might be time to start remembering. A while back Sushee Games began working on a new entry in the franchise, Fear Effect Sedna, but something else is also in the works.

Sushee and Square Enix have revealed that a remake of the original Fear Effect is in development, titled Fear Effect Reinvented. The game will maintain its classic fixed camera angles, although minor changes will be added to make it slightly more playable. The tank-like controls will be removed to make a smoother experience.

Fear Effect Reinvented will also bring back the original’s classic cel-shaded look, on top of the violent game over screens.

Here is a brief teaser trailer for the game:

Benjamin Anseaume, founder of Sushee, shared this on the announcement:

“As support for Fear Effect Sedna quickly built up steam, we realised how much love Fear Effect as a franchise still had amongst gamers. At the same time, we realised that as well as offering established fans something new with Sedna, it would be great to introduce fresh players to Fear Effect by remaking that first great adventure. Fear Effect Reinvented will capture the same spirit and atmosphere as the original game, but it’ll bring it into the present with drastically improved visuals, tweaked controls and other exciting extras.”

Fear Effect Reinvented will arrive sometime in 2018 for Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.

DougiePowell <![CDATA[Trans Characters in Gaming]]> 2017-08-22T00:08:03Z 2017-08-22T00:08:03Z LGBT representation in the media has been a mixed barrel over the years, from overly camp villains and victims to overly sympathetic stories, written by cishet writers. Gay representation has improved in the last few years, although some characters feel far from perfect. But without a doubt the trans community gets the worst of it, with decades of insulting characters written out of ignorance, no matter how well meaning, such as on TV shows Nip/Tuck and Family Guy. LGBT organization GLAAD researched that transgender characters are cast in a victim role forty percent of the time, work as sex-workers or ex-sex workers twenty percent of the time, and anti-transgender slurs, language and dialogue was present in at least sixty-one percent of the catalogued episodes and storylines.

With TV shows such as Transparent or Orange is the New Black, there is some effort to show trans-positive representation and an active need for things to change. Media representation is important for a group because it reassures them they are not alone but also has the power to educate people about areas they aren’t familiar with, such as with trans people. Misconceptions run rampant — I can already read the “I identify as an attack helicopter” comments below this. With that in mind, given the wide popularity of video games, should video games developers include more trans people in their games?

Characters come to mind immediately, such as Nintendo’s Birdo who in 1988 had this infamous description: “A boy who believes he is a girl.” There is also the ambiguity of Leo from Tekken. These characters and those like them always sprout mixed feelings in my liberal soul, the part of me that feels we should support any representation forever fighting with a part of me that hates misrepresentation. I’ve read a lot of fan theories about which characters could be underneath the trans umbrella, including player characters and NPCs, but rarely something canonical, and I can testify as a lifelong slash-fiction writer, representation can be found in anything if you look hard enough. Whenever I bring up the topic, I’m always asked, “How can trans characters be properly represented in gaming?” Truthfully, I don’t have much of an answer to this question.

However, in the sweet, liberal corner of Tumblr that I so often reside in, a game called Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator was receiving a lot of attention. The game follows a very simple concept: You play a single father who has moved to a new area with the goal of romancing one of the NPCs, for reasons I don’t understand nor do I wish to try to. My first reaction to the name, the story and the Steam trailer (that includes a sickeningly sweet theme tune that made me want to shove cotton candy in my ears to drown out the sugar) made me cringe a little. However, the game has received very positive reviews on Steam and has a 72 out of 100 score on Metacritic.

But why was Tumblr so pleased with the game? Not only was one of the date-able characters trans, an aspect of the character that appears to be only a side note rather than a large part of his backstory along with him not notably standing out from all the other NPCs, but the player has the option to become a transgender character. To quote one Steam review: “Finally I can be the cool trans dilf I’ve always wanted to be.”

The game probably isn’t going to go down as one of the greatest games of all time, but it has gained a loyal following because of its inclusiveness. Making your character trans doesn’t seem to affect any other aspect of the gameplay.

So why aren’t more games doing this? Dream Daddy is an LGBT game, as your character is undeniably LGBT, so I feel this inclusion was made to tap at a wider audience, which is a good thing. But if it took so little to attract that audience, then is it something game developers should make an effort to include more of, especially in games that don’t regard themselves as LGBT?

Maybe developers don’t find reason to bother. I’ve played a lot of fantasy games and they rarely open with a big flashing sign that says, “This character you are playing as is definitely not trans. Now begin game.” So, if you wanted to play as a trans character, you could just decide they were so and carry on with the game. Depending on how free the game world is or how strict the storyline is, you’re bound to run into one or two problems down the line, but presumably nothing so large as to crush your dreams.

But as noted at the beginning of this writing, representation is still important. Before writing this I looked into games where the player can become or is trans, and other than Dream Daddy, I couldn’t find a single one. That’s not to say that none exist, but if they do they’re not easy to find. On top of that I couldn’t find any games where your character can identify as non-binary or genderfluid. I find this incredibly surprising and frustrating as video games can be a first step for transpeople to experiment with their gender identity. I spoke to a friend of mine (who chooses to remain anonymous) to whom gaming was the first opportunity for her to express herself as female.

“There are plenty of games where you can design your character, their appearance, their decisions, and this also includes their gender. Games like Pokémon, the Fable sequels and various MMORPGs allowed me to present myself as female in a new world,” she said. “I was a girl and no one questioned it or tried to fight me on it. For me it was a big step in coming out as transgender.”

In an article by blogger Charlize Veritas, she expresses similar views.

“For transgender people it’s something even more special. A dream we’ve held for so long. You see, it’s a chance for us to play as our preferred gender,” Veritas writes. “We can finally be that badass chick who saves the day from hordes of aliens or that righteous dude who fights the undead masses to avenge his mortal soul, but whatever your quest is… you finally get to do it as you.”

So possibly to the Steam reviewer, Dream Daddy was more than a dating simulator game with annoying music — it was a chance to experience their authentic self while gaming. If just ticking a box during character design is going to make someone happy, then why not take it one step above “male” and “female” boxes and include all the people who identify as genderfluid or non-binary? Why shouldn’t they be able to achieve “a dream they’ve held for so long”?

Remember that if you do not think games should have playable transgender characters, you always have the option of not playing a game with them or of not making one as your character.

DougiePowell <![CDATA[Attack On Titan 2 game announced for 2018]]> 2017-08-21T23:27:50Z 2017-08-21T23:27:50Z Koei Tecmo has revealed developer Omega Force is working on a sequel for the multiplatform Attack on Titan, so far only named Attack on Titan 2. The sequel is scheduled for U.S. release in early 2018.

The release was announced today on their Facebook page, along with a teaser trailer, featuring known scenes from the original manga along with high-paced dramatic music and the promises of the pleasing blood and violence from the previous game.

The trailer came with the promise: “Players will once again don the renowned Omni-Directional Manoeuvre Gear as they fight and repel the fearsome Titans that threaten humanity, to restore peace within the walls.”

Along with the trailer, Koei Tecmo also changed the Facebook page’s cover photo to a release poster for the game. More information is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

The Attack on Titan franchise has become a classic since the manga’s release in 2009, and the critically acclaimed anime series in 2013 was praised. With season 3 in the works, the promise of more games inspired by the series seems inevitable. Given the overall positive reviews of the original Attack on Titan game, along with my personal enjoyment of the game and franchise, I am feeling rather optimistic about this title, however I will temper my excitement until further information is released.

Omega Force’s Attack on Titan 2 isn’t the only game of the franchise in the works. Spike Chunsoft’s previously announced Attack on Titan 2: Future Coordinates for the Nintendo 3DS is coming to Japan later this year.

The exact release date has not been confirmed, but as the third season of the anime is set to be released in April 2018, it is possible that the game may release then as well.

Simon Smith <![CDATA[Miitopia Review]]> 2017-08-22T01:10:07Z 2017-08-21T23:04:47Z Nintendo is good at finding ways to keep its Miis relevant. What started out as a personal novelty for Wii Sports has evolved into much more. With the Nintendo 3DS, Miis became a representation of ourselves for the system’s street pass function, wherein we got to play a series of silly games with the Miis we met on our travels. Then Nintendo created its definitive game for the Miis, Tomadachi Life. In this game you simply lived out a fictional life with your friends. It was simple but appealed to a decent audience. Now there is Miitopia, an RPG that expresses a deeper use for Miis as a whole.

Miitopia is the name of the fictional kingdom in this game. You play as a lone traveler, your Mii, who is thrust into their destiny after meeting the evil force that plagues the land. The Dark Lord is attacking the citizens of Miitopia, stealing their faces and placing them on the monsters that roam the world. Upon witnessing the Dark Lord’s acts, you are tasked with heading out to face the threat alongside your varying traveling companions.

This is where we see one of Miitopia’s best features: its use of Miis. When you play Miitopia you will be asked to choose a Mii to represent yourself, the hero. The game will also ask you to design the Miis that will represent your allies. You are free to build your team in any way you want. Do you want your real family to be your allies, or perhaps your best friend, or someone you idolize? Your team is not a set of pre-existing characters. Rather it’s a personal choice of what you want to see.

With each of your allies you also get to choose the specifics for their character. There are a range of classes for you to select from. In the early game you have staples such as Warrior, Cleric, Mage and Thief, but there are also some wacky options such as Pop Star and Chef. As the game continues you even gain access to new class types such as Cat or Princess, the latter of which was absolutely hilarious for male characters. Each class comes with different abilities and statistics, and there are plenty of opportunities to experiment as you progress through the game.

You also select their personalities which will offer both positive and negative quirks. Examples include Cool, Laid-Back, Kind, and Stubborn. There are seven different personality types to play with which can be a pain or really helpful. The Kind type, for example, will occasionally jump in front of potentially deadly attacks to save another character, while Laid-Back often use their allies as human shields. Miitopia is exciting when you see what each character brings to the table when paired with a personality, and sometimes personalities can clash with classes, leaving a lot to be considered.

Much like your allies you also cast important characters in Miitopia. You can create a Mii to fill the role, or you can choose from a huge list of available characters. Other players have built an incredible library of Miis that represent famous actors, popular characters and more. It was great to explore the available lists and decide a character that fit each role.

To be able to cast Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z as the villain was entertaining. Or, casting Professor Layton as the King, Bayonetta as a Fairy, and even Solid Snake as an arrogant prince. Miitopia is at its best when it enables you to freely choose the faces that surround you. This feels like a personal story that acts to empower you as the player to fulfill your own fantasy within the game. Miitopia is still a scripted adventure, but the choices in how you cast your characters is welcome and makes Miitopia special.

In many ways Miitopia is like Nintendo’s former foray with the Miis, Tomadachi Life. You act as more of an onlooker to the game while it plays itself, and this is perfectly fine. Most of Miitopia’s charm is born from the many elements that are out of your control, making Miitopia a game that is never tedious to play.

Miitopia is built as an RPG but acts in unexpected ways more often than not. Miitopia can be considered your first RPG; there are many elements that hold your hand and there is little input actually required, though the game does have turn-based battles.

As the player most of your job is handled more as an overseer of the action. In battle scenarios you make choices for attacks for your character and where they are going to attack. The allies you receive on your journey are controlled by the game. This can lead to many frustrating moments as you watch helplessly as they choose to make an action that fails to carry on what you started.

It is interesting to see what each character chooses to do, and it builds upon the personality of each character. Offering no power to the player, these supporting characters manage to become a vessel for you.

There is plenty of enjoyment in overseeing the action and helping at crucial moments. One way is by using healing sprinkles, a limited resource that you can use to recover hit points and magic points on your characters.

There is also a space known as the safe zone which you can move characters to. Most commonly this is used when enemies cast negative effects such as setting you on fire, making you evil, or inflicting you with uncontrollable laughter, to name a few. With a short time in the safe zone these negative effects are removed and your characters can return to battle.

Outside of battle situations you don’t do much. Between levels your characters stay at an inn where you can pair them in a room to build their friendship levels. You also oversee their needs; from defeating enemies you often get food items which you can feed to your team to increase their skills. This is a gamble as characters have their own likes and dislikes. You can give them one food item and they will love it, while another they might completely hate. You will regularly want to try new food items to find what’s optimal for your character’s growth.

You also earn money from battles and random chests in levels. This is another moment where Miitopia shines. Your characters will ask for something they want such as a new weapon or clothing item. If you have the funds you can give them the money to buy the item, but they won’t always come back with what you sent them for. This was great in showing how the Miis think for themselves.

The Miis are the game’s greatest asset. Just seeing them makes the experience worth it. When not at the inn or in battle your characters are often just strolling through levels, and you have no control outside of speeding it up and occasionally choosing a path. Yet it was still thrilling to watch the Miis as they journeyed through each level. They have small conversations and occasionally bigger ones where they stop and converse on something specific. These moments are often hilarious.

It is this element more than anything else that is Miitopia’s greatest draw. The game isn’t necessarily fun as you really are sitting down and just watching a game run itself for more than fifteen hours. Yet you keep going as the world filled with random Mii characters is so charming, and you thrive on every bit of dialogue and look forward to the next moment.

Miitopia even gets better when you work on building your characters’ relationships. At the inn after each level your characters’ friendship levels grow with whom they share a room. As the bonds grows you unlock various helpful perks where characters will team up for an attack, avenge each other, and sometimes even sacrifice themselves. Seeing how your characters work together for exciting and dramatic moments was another element that makes each battle so inviting.

At inns you can also get random scenes between characters that work toward building their friendships. Many of the scenes are repeatable across the course of the game but they never get any less charming. There is a particular beauty to characters randomly giving presents and seeing how the other reacts, which can also lead to jealousy from other characters. Each scene is captivating and a joy to watch for their simple charms and their often goofy nature. It was hard not to smile when watching the Miis interact on their journey.

Friendships can also break. Through random moments in levels a scene may trigger that will show characters in a fight. Many of these can be fixed before the scene ends thanks to another character or simple forgiveness, but others carry over. During this time your characters will not have access to their friendship perks with the feuding character, and it can lead to some amusing scenes. In battle characters can get into fights, dealing damage to each other but also enemies, or they might argue on who gets to attack first. Friendships can be ruined in a variety of ways such as through certain attacks or personalities — such as being used as a human shield.

Miitopia isn’t a fun game, and you will either love it or hate it but that’s part of its design. It’s surprising that this is not a game that would normally appeal to most players, but the moment the game begins you find yourself absorbed. You want to watch the Miis and see the cutscenes, you want to discover what part of the game you get to choose next. Miitopia isn’t thrilling but it’s a solid game that would work well for RPG newcomers or someone looking for a charming game to play on the 3DS.

Emmaline Shettel <![CDATA[Emmaline Rambles: The Sims – Bustin’ Out]]> 2017-08-21T01:44:04Z 2017-08-21T01:44:04Z The Sims Bustin’ Out has good reviews, but I’ll have you know that the Gamecube version is difficult. Really difficult. Hear me out: the graphics and socializing goals all make the game harder than it should be (unless I’m just bad at video games).

Since the The Sims Bustin’ Out was made during the Gamecube, PS2 and Xbox generation the graphics are bound to be a bit under expectation these days. Even with this in consideration, though, it may still be a problem when you can’t tell the difference between a pinball machine and a toilet. I played the Gamecube version for the home console port, but have also played the GBA version. The graphics on that are much better. I recommend getting the Gameboy Advance version if you already have bad vision, because the graphics in the Gamecube version are so unfocused that you can’t even tell what certain facial features are.

Socializing is the worst. In real life, of course, but also in The Sims: Bustin’ Out. Complimenting someone can seem too nice to other sims, making them jealous. You have to please everyone. Then there are socialization options such as Spank Booty or Admire Body, but getting to use these options requires a friendship level – about 50 or more points – with a sim. Even entertaining a sim can offend them and cause your points to go down, entering the negatives. Social activity is complicated and even when you think you’re doing right you might get punished.

The main goal of the game is to be promoted and to do this you have to keep gaining friends and building skills. It’s hard to make even one friend because you also have to be in the mood to talk to them. In the GBA version socializing is simpler because you can appeal to the character you’re talking with. For example, there are specific categories to talk about like food, creativity, and careers.

The social goals are hard. Once you get higher up on the career ladder, you must have up to four or more friends. One of the goals might be to throw an amazing art party – there are about 500,000 articles that show up on Google pertaining to this goal. A lot of the goals are accomplished by chance and take days.

In one of the houses you live in, you have to control three people who don’t even own a shower. Money is hard to make when you accidentally sell $17,000 worth of someone else’s furniture and now owe them money. The goals are also hard because you have to switch between careers. I learned this the hard way by trying to get a different sim from mine promoted, and discovered that goals only get completed when your sim accomplishes them, no matter the career.

The GBA version has much easier goals because they require completing mini-games rather than climbing a career ladder. You can easily accomplish a set of goals by just performing well on a mini-game once.

The Sims Bustin’ Out for Gamecube is hard. Each version has different goals and people, so playing both should be fun, but the Gamecube version is too difficult. You can “woohoo” in the GameCube version only, though – that could render my entire argument null.

In short: if you plan on revisiting The Sims: Bustin’ Out, purchase the GBA version. You’ll thank me later.

Emmaline Shettel <![CDATA[School vs. Games: Some advice for student gamers]]> 2017-08-20T04:53:55Z 2017-08-20T04:53:55Z As new school years start, writer Emmaline shares her thoughts on balancing work and play for the gamer in class.

The school year has just begun, tough and time consuming as ever. As usual, there’s a lack of time to play video games and the stress that comes with school makes you want to play games even more.

Let’s say you take your first couple of days to relax and get settled in by playing some games. Then next week hits and you have 5 assignments that are due by Friday; you’re already drowning in schoolwork. How will you prevail?

1. Balance. Use video games as your relaxation time, your prize for doing your work.
2. Prioritize school. Even though you could possibly gain knowledge from your games, stop procrastinating and put schoolwork first.
3. There are weekends. This is the time to play and chill.
4. Utilize school time. The more you work at school, the less you have to do at your house.
5. Use video games in school. Got a paper assignment for writing about anything? Write about video games so you get the best of both worlds.
6. Use video games to your advantage. Learn from your video games to create new ideas or get influenced for Art or perhaps even Band. Don’t forget about making money by playing games (Twitch streaming, professional gaming, writing for game websites…).
7. Save games for the end of the day. This makes them even more fun and worthwhile – especially if there’s a game that was just released that you haven’t gotten a chance to fiddle with.
8. Play stress-relieving games. Games can make you stressed if you’re trying hard to beat a level. Play quick, jump-in-and-go games.
9. Distract yourself with a simulation game. Make a virtual character that actually does their work – it may make you feel accomplished in some way.
10. In contrast to #8, you could play stress-provoking games to enhance your desire to do work. Who would want to play such a difficult game when you could do less difficult work (and work that actually has a due date)?

In reality, we have lots of time to play video games. This will especially be true when we retire and get fat. If we get our degrees now, we can buy as many systems and games as we want to later.

Managing your stress is important for your mental and physical health. In doing this, you will be able to stop procrastinating and reward yourself with the fun and comfort of video games. If you’re dedicating time to video games, make a career out of it – start making a portfolio of game-related works. This is productive even if you aren’t completing school work.

So game on – and remember, all work and no play…you know the rest.

PS4 image courtesy of