Mary Skelter 2: Switch-Bound in September

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Excellent. One of my favorite Idea Factory RPGs is getting a very nice looking digital-only sequel that expands on what made it a solid game in the first place. While there are only four screens to share (so far), I’m gathering Mary Skelter 2 will get fans of the first game quite psyched for its September launch, but new players should also be in the same boat, as the upcoming Switch version also has the first entry included as a BONUS (woo and hoo!).

Read more on what’s in store below the jump.

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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

Digital Division Gives Me The Vaporwares

Well, yesterday for a bit, I was visiting this hot place seen below and not in a good mood over what I saw was a digital injustice (yaaaaaa!):

(thanks, Cartridge Magazine!)

Today, I’m still in that mindset as far as digital-only content goes, but ha and ha bloody ha, when I screw up, I go for it 110%, plus tax. PLUS TAX I SAY!!!

So, last night a friend comes over to return some Blu-Rays he’d borrowed and asks if I’d updated my PS3’s firmware so I could retrieve my game that was “lost”, which just about made me drop the cup of coffee I’d prepared a few seconds before. Fortunately, he reached out and tipped the cup upwards and pressed the RESET button on my forehead before things went blank.

via GIPHY

Okay, kids – here’s what happened that afternoon (cue dream sequence harp tune):

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The Digital-Only Future? It Blows, Folks

So, color me somewhat annoyed. Yeah, yeah, I knew when one buys a digital product, be it a song, game, book or other file type, there’s the chance (well, actuality) that that data will expire and yes, *never* be available ever again unless there’s some sort of preservation being taken care of in the form of say, a physical backup or other legally obtainable copy. Anyway, yes, I still own a PS3 and use it on occasion – here’s what happened today when I went to dink around a bit with a game that’s not all that old:

Yep, that’s right. A game I’d downloaded had been “disappeared” from my PS3’s HDD with nothing left but that nice-looking startup screen. *Poof!*

As I was picking up my jaw from off the floor, my brain cycled in one of my favorite bits of dialog from a favorite film (that’s thankfully, still available on a dang disc):

Garry: The generator’s gone.

MacReady: Any way we can we fix it?

Garry: It’s “GONE”, MacReady.

Sure, I read the fine print on that license agreement, but to have a game in one’s library just VANISH is… kind of shocking and stupid at the end of the day. Was Master Reboot a GOOD game? I kind of have no idea other than the about 25 minutes I played sometime last year when it popped up as a free game on PSN and, not having tried it it, I downloaded it so (get this) I could play it any time I wanted to and find out. Yeah, that was a mistake on my part, I guess. My game historian/preservation side is appalled by this, but it isn’t a new thing. Ask anyone who played the superbly scary P.T. or the stupidly fun Scott Pilgrim vs. The World or any of the many other games that have disappeared from digital stores online.

(Thanks, Wales Interactive!)

Well, at least the PC version is still available (but digitally, grrrrrr!), although I prefer playing on my console(s) of choice.

Yes, I completely grasp that licenses expire after a period of time and all that rot, but a game, song, piece of art or other data important to some people shouldn’t at ALL go dinosaur extinct and become a mere memory after such a brief period. Feh. I’d close this with an “oh well” or something similarly aloof, but I think I’m going to hit myself in the head with a rubber hammer and take a nap until the next disappointing episode of Game of Thrones comes on later this evening. Oh, that show has been and will also be on many discs going into the future, you can bet on that… for now.

-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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Review: Earth Defense Force 5 (PS4)

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Well, that took a while, didn’t it?

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There guys are new and quite a pain in the butt to fight. You’ll see (and how!)…

For me, an Earth Defense Force game is a particularly tricky review because despite the many similarities in each entry, the series has actually evolved over 16 years (yes, evolved!) into a game where you can choose a single character and dive in deep to uncover their rather massive set of weapons as you play through the different difficulties. While on the surface, Earth Defense Force 5 is a thrilling yet simplistic chunk of game to sink into, there’s a nice level of complexity in regards to how to approach missions in either single player, co-op, or online modes that makes if a fresh experience through multiple replays.

For many players, the easy to use all-rounder Ranger will be their initial pick, but I strongly suggest using Wing Diver for her air superiority and ability to snag more pickups than any other class. Or, you can play as each hero in any order, learning their unique skills (the Fencer and Air Raider require a bit of patience to master) as you challenge those aliens out to overrun the planet for the umpteenth time. It’s your call, and with 110 missions to tackle (not including DLC content), this isn’t a short game by any means.

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Going in solo? Expect to learn a lot about how your chosen class plays and put it into practice, or you’ll be in for a world of hurt.

It’s also the first EDF game with a proper (albeit awkward) tutorial for all four classes. It’s unskippable on your first play with any character even if you’re an EDF veteran, but it’s nice to see developer Sandlot make the game a lot more welcoming to new EDF recruits. For those new players, I’d recommend playing through each character’s tutorial just to see which one fits your play style and mess with “farming” a few missions to increase your arsenal. Of course, you can swap between characters between missions if you like, or stick with one for the entire campaign. Couch co-op play is supported via split screen in case you have an extra controller and a pal willing to dive in and get some bug and ‘bot blasting on.

Here’s a look at the Wing Diver intro level (all the EDF 5 videos in this review save for the official trailer are of me playing and there are quite a lot more of them on my YouTube channel, if you’re interested).

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Now Playing: Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark

packshot_1500x2200As I’m still playing this one, this isn’t an “official” review at all, but more of a solid recommendation based on time spent with the game to date. Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark ($29.99) feels like a cross between Final Fantasy Tactics, the Tactics Ogre games and the original Vandal Hearts with more customization options, a gorgeous hand-drawn look, geat music and gameplay guaranteed to please SRPG fans who want a so far very entertaining experience. 6 Eyes Studio and publisher 1C Entertainment have a real winner here that’s even running better after a recent patch fixed a few issues.

This is the sort of game that will bring back more than a few memories of those aforementioned classics to fans who remember while giving those new to it an excellent new epic to go through at their leisure. What’s nice about the game so far is how well its story builds up dramatic moments from the first battle and leads you into certain points where you’re rethinking your opinions of certain main players. Eh, no spoilers here, but let me distract you instead with how the game opens and some early character edit stuff:

Okay, I’d actually recorded close to three hours of gameplay spread over a few more videos, but decided to use this shorter clip because I was thinking I was giving away too much of the story not too long into the game proper. Granted, a good chunk of that time was me messing with the wonderfully deep character creation system and adding a few more troops to my roster, so perhaps I’ll run those clips in a bit once I complete the main story, which so far, is quite good indeed.

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I’ll shut up here and get back to the game for a bit so I can have a more informative review in a few more days. That said, I think SRPG fans will absolutely love what’s here. Hell, if this were on a disc or game card in a retail package, I’d likely end up with two copies just to sock one away for the future. Oh, never mind my oddball collecting proclivities – go give this great game a try whether it be on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. I’ve no idea about a Switch port, but I guess that’s for 1C to decide on if the other versions do well enough and 6 Eyes can get Switch dev kits at some point. Should this occur, guess who’ll be playing this all over again?

-GW

Review: Dark Quest II (PS4)

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Nostalgia alert: This one’s great stuff.

You’d best believe I uttered out loud (to no one in particular) “Wait, there’s a Dark Quest I out there somewhere?” as soon as that email I recently received about Dark Quest II ($14.99) landed in my inbox. I took a look at the brief trailer on YouTube and yes indeed, put in a code request because all sorts of nostalgic switches were flipping in my brain.  A few days of playing this later and I’m very pleased developer Brain Seal Ltd took the time to craft this hard to put down throwback of a keeper.

If you’ve been around the RPG block for any decent length of time, you know the drill: Evil sorcerer doing evil things socked away in his castle, a hero strolls up to the gates, yadda, yadda, yadda – you’re in deep dungeon doo-doo, make new allies along the way and it’s a fight to the finish against that mad magician and his kill-crazy minions. Granted, this game will be a hard sell to some stubborn ones out there who think console or PC RPGs started sometime in the 90’s or early 2000’s, or who’ve never played either classic Dungeons and Dragons, the old board game HeroQuest, or Hero Quest II: Legacy of Sorasil on the Amiga.  DQII wraps these three influences together, adds in some lovely artwork and ties everything together with an appropriately nifty audio experience that seals the deal.  The stripped-down to the basics gameplay here had me grinning through surviving encounters by a hair and even relishing a defeat or three just so I could retry a quest and try new strategies to win.

For players new to this particular style of game, you’ll need to be aware of a few things such as despite the isometric viewpoint this isn’t a “Diablo-style” chase ‘n chop nor any sort of action/RPG in that vein. Combat is turn-based and there’s an invisible sort of dice roll happening where you and your enemies will hit or miss attacks based on a few factors such as active or passive skills and potion use. You can take your time while playing this, as enemies will patiently wait for you to act and yes, this also means when you’re in a room packed full of them, you’ll likely be attacked one by one as their turns roll up.

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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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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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