Review: Elli (Switch)

elli boxBandanaKid’s Elli ($19.99) is a fun, family-friendly game that focuses on precision platforming and simple to moderate puzzle solving over the standard combat-focused action that’s a staple of the genre. This ends up being a good thing for those looking for something a bit different than the usual mascot-themed, enemy-packed games where variations on the butt-bounce and besting big, bad bosses are core gameplay elements. On the other hand, those looking for a deep and direct comparison to certain AAA or other indie games of this type may find what’s here a bit lacking in a few areas.

For example, while the lovely, mostly isometric visuals are lovely to admire, there’s enough of a Breath of the Wild vibe here to prod one into thinking it’s some sort of spin-off gaiden featuring some lesser known NPC’s. Granted there’s a plot here about Elli, a 600-year young elf trying to celebrate her birthday only to have those Crystals of Time she’s guardian of swiped by the not so friendly Ghasti, whereupon it’s off to the races to retrieve them. That’s pretty much all you need to know and the game doesn’t throw any major world-building at you in an attempt to try and make you think it’s any deeper than that.

That by the way, turns out to be a mostly good thing, as the gameplay’s simpler focus is on getting from Point A to Point B and dealing with assorted obstacles just works well without the baggage of perusing copious amounts of whys and hows via lengthy text or cut scenes. On the other hand, between the mostly silent NPCs and Elli’s own somewhat quiet approach, the game at times feels a bit empty outside her general motivation to catch that nasty Ghasti.

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Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls Headed to PC

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It’s baaaaaaack (yes!)

Say, can we get a “Finally!” up in here? Anyway, according to the Wizardry Wikipedia page:

As of 2017, thirty-nine different spin-offs were released in Japan, with four of them also making their way to North America: Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land, Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls, Wizardry Online and Wizrogue: Labyrinth of Wizardry

That’s a lot of Wizardry games and if you’re one of those Sir-Tech missing purists who hasn’t touched a game in the series since the still fantastic Wizardry 8, I can safely say you’re missing out on a few games that, while they may look different than what you’re used to, do an excellent job of capturing the spirit and gameplay.

of the series. Personally, I’m psyched for this news because when my first PS3 was stolen, I lost ten years of game saves including about 120 hours of Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls along with the accompanying DLC. Although I ended up replacing the console and repurchasing the game and DLC for it, I’d been hoping this entry would have eventually made it to other consoles at this point. But hey, a PC version will do just fine for me, especially with the updated features and a solid price point that also includes the DLC.

It’s trailer time, already? Well, okay, here you go:

Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is scheduled to release on May 29, 2019 for Windows PC via Steam and the Humble Store by Humble Bundle for $14.99, €14.99, and £12.99, with a launch week discount of 10%. I’m gathering system requirements will be low enough that pretty much anyone who wants to play this can do so.

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-GW

Now Playing: Project Nimbus: Complete Edition

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Wow. So, Project Nimbus: Complete Edition is out NOW for the Switch and so far, it’s pretty spectacular for that $19.99 price point. While not as visually sharp its PS4 older sibling, it’s still a great-looking game, there’s extra content in this version and the fact that it’s an Unreal-4 powered game running so well on the hardware makes it a must-buy for fans of mecha games in the Gundam/Macross vein. There’s also a solid Ace Combat element in the speedy air-based gameplay and even a dash of Armored Core in some of the customization elements.

Is there a thrilling trailer? Oh, you bet there is, folks:

So far, the game’s quite a blast to play in each mode I’ve sampled. in Campaign, a quick tutorial gives you the basics as a playable mini-mission before the festivities truly begin. The game is meant to get you playing as quickly as possible, so there’s little downtime during missions unless you deliberately hold back or are wanting to do a bit of exploring as enemies are targeting your mecha with all sorts of ordinance. In English: don’t dally too much here or you’re getting turned into scrap metal in rapid time.

Survival mode is as you’d expect, fly ’til you die fun for kicks and yes, it’s also solid as well as a good way to test your growing arsenal. Finally, Warfront mode is an excellent sort of rogue-like experience that randomizes missions and awards resources to spend on mecha upgrades. There’s an addictive RPG loop at work here as even a loss counts as a gain as any gear and rewards earned are kept. I fully expect to spend more time here than in the 26 campaign missions. Amusingly enough, I currently have the game paused as I type this out, so I’m going to sign off here, get this posted, get back to the game and get to knocking out a review over the weekend. So far, I’m finding very little to gripe about.

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Uh… those aren’t fireworks, pal. A celebration IS in order, but you’re gonna have pigeons littering the landscape when those homing missiles find a target.

Back in a bit.

-GW

Review: Outward (PS4)

outward PS4 bxFor the record, I wanted to dislike Outward ($39.99) less than 15 minutes in after nearly dying during the tutorial thanks to an near-invincible enemy guard whose health never seemed to drop past a certain point and kept regenerating far too quickly to be reasonable. During my digital near-death experience, I ran away to recover, only to return and find he’d just *poof!* simply disappeared from the spot where he and the other guard I’d dispatched were placed. I recall my eyebrow arching up and letting out a “Great.” before resuming play with the hope things would go more upward before I got too far outward. Fortunately, they did (well, for the most part).

There were a few other issues with the game, such as items randomly vanishing from the bag I was carrying, my character or an enemy getting stuck in certain parts of the map when doing certain actions, and a few textures that could have used a bit more polish, among other things. I decided after a random death that had me unable to locate my bag when I resumed, to stop playing for a bit and move onto a few other games while I held out for a patches to correct these issues. That waiting turned out to be a good thing. Over the last few updates the game became much better and is now a solid recommend for those who want something fresh and furiously challenging. There are still a few pesky bits, but I’ll get to those later.

That said, prepare for a completely punishing game experience that combines fantasy RPG, survival game and simulation elements with a very welcome two player split screen mode and the option to play online with a friend or total stranger. In fact, preparation for every obstacle the game will throw your way is a huge part of surviving, to the point where you’ll be playing this with a keener eye to (at least) staying alive for as long as possible. Once you’re out in the open world of Aurai, your brain needs to go into invisible mommy mode before you get busy with that questing, so get ready to take *everything* under consideration. Do you have your traps prepared? Got enough clean water? What are you wearing for the weather? Did you pack your lunch? Clearly, this isn’t a game for those who don’t like to be reminded that rote carelessness other RPGs let you get away with won’t be rewarded by anything but an easier demise in this game.

Still, even after you get used to the preparation aspects, expect death to come calling regularly like early morning doorbell-ringing proselytizers cheerily chatting on about the end of the world the moment you poke your head outside. Oh wait – hold on a sec… someone’s at the door… What, so early in the day for this? Gyaaaaah.

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Project Nimbus: Complete Edition on Switch Looks Like a Stellar Conversion

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I’d actually heard of GameTomo and GameCrafter Team’s Project Nimbus: Code Mirai a while back when poking around on the PlayStation Store looking for stuff I hadn’t yet tried. That mix of Mobile Suit Gundam, Macross, and Ace Combat the description promised caught my eye (ow) and as my backlog was a bit overstuffed, I wishlisted the game for later.

Interestingly enough, a friend had picked it up last week for his PS4 and just so happened to invite me over to check the game out which proceeded to knock me for a few loops at how polished and thrilling it was. So, here we are, looking at news that there’s a Switch version on the way that has all four chapters plus additional content set for a May 16, 2019 launch.

Here’s a teaser to whet that mecha-craving appetite of yours:

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Warhammer Chaosbane Hands-On: Eko’s of the Past Bode Well for the Future

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I’d hate to be that guy who has to clean those stained glass windows every other day…

WC_cover PS4Way back in 2013, I recall going to a 505 Games press event to play Eko Software’s impressive How to Survive and noting to a PR rep that the developer needed to make an isometric RPG at some point because that game had all the makings of an instant classic despite the overdone zombie theme and copious survival elements. Two years and a new 505 press event later, I’m playing How to Survive 2 and noting to another rep that Eko really, really needed to do an iso RPG just to get it out of their system and how I’d love to see them do something original or even revive a more fantasy-themed game like a Champions of Norrath or some other similarly beefy (and long forgotten) IP.

Four years later and I’m playing through the closed beta version of Warhammer Chaosbane on my PS4 with a huge grin plastered on my face. Although it’s a beta, it’s a mighty fine one full of promise once the dev team adds and tweaks some elements.

In its current state, it’s certainly got some excellent visuals, gameplay that’s immediately fun and what’s looking to be a fairly lengthy campaign just based on looking at the overworld map in the second of two playable chapters. But a bit more polish in a few areas will help put this game into that rarefied air a certain few other isometric games are floating around in. One great thing about the beta is Eko’s willingness to take into account every bit of reasonable feedback from those who’ve pre-ordered the game and have sunk some time into the builds they’ve made available.

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There’s a Dreadful Bond Tech Demo. Go Take it For a Spin, Please

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With its Kickstarter in its final week, developer Clod Studio has released a gorgeously gloomy tech demo for Dario Argento’s Dreadful Bond which makes for an excellent look at the game’s environments as well as some impressive audio design in the form of a haunting piano tune and some appropriately unsettling sound effects. There’s no “action” here to speak of, but I’m betting some of you easily frightened types will feel more than a little creeped out by the strikingly realistic visuals and those assorted ambient sound effects that will have you stop moving your mouse around because it feels as if… well, as if something is watching your every move or worse, is lurking in the same space you are just over your shoulder.

 

 

Wait, that’s just me – I was hungry, poked around in your fridge and made myself a sandwich while I was waiting for you all to download that demo. Er, I hope you don’t mind? Anyway, I’m going to exit, stage left. Go check out that tech demo for Dreadful Bond and pledge towards its completion, I say. Also, you need a new loaf of bread and maybe some Colman’s English Mustard because that boring bright yellow stuff is kinda tame. Okay, Okay, I’m going!

-GW

Modus Operandi: Getting Games Out When They’re Good and Ready

While they’re not a household name yet (but they should be), publisher Modus Games has a number of current and upcoming titles that should please those looking for a bit of variety in their gaming lives. From the return of the Trine series to its side-scrolling origins to three new (or new-ish n one case) IP set to arrive on the scene between this year and 2020, all four games I saw at their press event in NYC were looking great and are well worth waiting for.

ary-logo-colorAry and the Secret of Seasons (in development, PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One)- My first stop was a game with an intro trailer had me laughing out loud for a few minutes because it hit my particularly oddball sense of humor right in the sweet spot. It turns out the game in question is actually a bit more serious in tone yet looking like quite a blast to play. Co-developed by eXiin and Fishing Cactus using the versatile Unity engine, the game intentionally recalls classic mascot character action games of the 90’s and early 2000’s with what’s looking like a strong emphasis on both story and gameplay.

While the demo wasn’t a hands-on one, watching Ary get put through her paces by eXiin’s Sébastien Le Touze kept me smiling constantly. Her season controlling powers allowed for some great puzzle-solving solutions as well as some thrilling combat moments and yes. those powers sure looked great in motion as they affected the environments around then in real time. The ability to change the weather in an area to rainy meant lightning zapping those pesky hyenas or ice hindering them briefly while Ary’s slingshot and sword skills knocked them for a few loops. Granted, the demo had all her powers unlocked at the start, but that was simply to show how versatile she’ll become as the adventure progresses.

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The aforementioned puzzles can be solved in a few creative ways such as creating a large bubble of water to hop into and swim up to a high spot in order to flip a switch, or temporarily freezing an object or obstacle in order to pass safely before you free it and let it take out some baddies. Combining season powers is also key to some areas and Le Touze certainly did a stellar job in showing off what Ary could do. While it’s not set to launch until 2020, it’s a sure bet to be on quite a few watch and want lists, mine included.  If and when eXiin can get a demo of some sort up for everything this will appear on, I’m betting the game will find quite a few more eager fans ready to explore its pretty game world.

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Dario Argento’s “For Bridget” is Just The Thing to Coax A Kickstarter Pledge

dreadful bond logoSo, Dario Argento’s Deadly Bond now has a nicely unsettling Unreal Engine 4-powered short film attached to it and at just over six minutes long, it’s also a nifty means of getting people to pledge to its Kickstarter. It’s a bit of a slow burner of a short, but has a nice payoff and will likely make a few of you want to see more in a playable form.

I’m waiting for a payment to come through for some work I did elsewhere so I can toss a few coins into that particular fountain, but you (yes, YOU) can go on ahead of me with your wallet out if you’re into the man’s work as well as all the effort Clod Studio has put into both the game and short film.Uh, mind the steps leading to that basement, as they’re a bit loose… oops, um… well, that looked painful, ouch.

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While you’re recuperating, I think you could use a little movie to watch… Here you go:

Sometime in 2020, you’ll want to set aside time for a little bit of dread, I’ll bet…

-GW

Dario Argento’s Dreadful Bond: When Supporting a Nightmare is a Good Thing

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Oh, it’s real, alright.

Normally, this would likely classify as an April Fool’s gag of the highest order… save for I got this announcement yesterday and it wholly checks out as legitimate. Yep, Dario Argento has given his blessing to and is the Artistic Director for what’s shaping up to be a rather impressive looking Unreal 4-powered psychological horror game that just so happens to be up on Kickstarter as we speak. Let’s go take a look at the work in question as a work in progress, shall we?

The project is far enough in its progression to be worth a look when the game is eventually released next year and I definitely want this to succeed just to see how well the dev team translates Argento’s visions into playable form. Yes, it would also be totally cool if the PS4 goal tier is met and surpassed just to play this on my system of choice. Granted, the PS5 is very likely to be a thing Sony either teases or announces outright within the next year, but I think developer Clod Studio is well on the way to making something quite artful and memorable no matter where it eventually ends up.

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Now, I just need to decide on my pledge: funding a simple name in the credits, or a digital download version of the final g\build, as those are my current budget limitations. There’s also a little something extra coming from Clod, but we’ll discuss that project once I get the clearance to do so.

-GW