Lornsword Winter Chronicle: That Certain Something Piques My Interest (Again)

 
(Thanks, zbencz2!)

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You know, it figures.

Here I was, about to slip away from some of the busier genre games that involve some hybrid elements in favor of more streamlined gameplay and here comes indie dev Tower Five’s Lornsword Winter Chronicle popping up on my radar. Great. Not only is it a brand new game make by former Creative Assembly folks, it’s got that lovely mix of ARPG and strategic elements going for it and as a final kicker, it looks really great. Actually, the kicker for me is even though it’s headed to Steam soon, it’s also coming to PS4 and Xbox One at some point and that’s going to be something I’m dying to see because yes, consoles are my platform of choice these days. Let’s take a look at that trailer, shall we?

(thanks, Lornsword!)

Hmm, maybe the real kicker is the game supporting drop in-drop out co-op play?  That’s also certainly more than enticing to me.  Maybe it’s my ears and eyes perking up and being thrilled to see something like this doing things in a somewhat different manner? Or perhaps it’s just that oddly poetic text that accompanies that trailer that sounds like a song if you think about it long enough? Okay, that’s a smaller but welcome detail more than a selling point. Still, it’s a good sign for what’s ahead, I think.

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Well, not that I’m back IN, I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays, so yes indeed, I’ll be checking out the Steam version and hoping the PS4 port can keep up because this sure looks like a game that I’ll be playing for a while. Yeah, go wish list it, I say.

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-GW
 

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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

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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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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Ematic Switch Controllers: Solid Alternatives For Budget-Minded Gamers

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Surprise, surprise – these two budget controllers are pretty awesome.

 

Generally, when it comes to peripherals, I’m mostly a first-party OEM guy, particularly when it comes to controllers. That said, once in a while I’ll stumble across a third-party item that not only does what it needs to do well, it does it well enough to recommend without hesitation. I’d initially planned a review of the otherwise decent officially licensed Horipad Wired Controller ($19.99) and was just about done writing when I got an email from an Ematic PR rep asking if I was interested in taking their Wired N-Switch ($19.99) and Wireless N-Switch ($27.99) Switch controllers for a test drive. Of course, I said I’d love to and shortly afterwards, both arrived and were indeed, taken for a few spins and assorted tests over the past two weeks.

switch horipadI’ll say first and foremost, that licensed Switch Horipad is an excellent official controller that’s lightweight, simple to set up out of the box and a really well-manufactured unit that works fine with every game I tested it with* with no real weaknesses outside the lack of vibration, NFC, and motion control functions that give certain Switch games that extra kick. Yes, that low price point means you get not a hint of feedback which is disappointing unless you really don’t care and just want a solid, inexpensive and very reliable controller for yourself or the kids.

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For some reason, the Horipad looks as if it’s got a slight frown, while Ematic’s has a “Hey, check me out – I’m cool!” smile thing working for it.

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Review: X-Morph: Defense (Nintendo Switch)

X-morph box switchDeveloper EXOR Studios has done such a phenomenal job in porting X-Morph: Defense ($19.99 Standard Edition, $29.99 Complete Edition) to the Switch that I hope it’s likely going to be a game that will be studied for quite some time students getting into game making or by other devs who want to port a game they’ve made onto the platform. From visuals to performance, it’s a wonderfully complete experience that easily stacks up to the other versions made for more powerful hardware.

The funny thing is, I initially didn’t want to play this because I pretty much stopped cold playing tower defense-type games thanks to to having played so many for so long I became bored with the relative sameness they shared despite thematic differences. Thankfully, the addition of fast-paced arcade-style twin stick shooting blends well with the real-time base expansion elements and yes, the ability to play not as the humans, but the aliens in the process of vanquishing anything the earthlings toss at them as they attempt to mine the planet for its resources.

Hey, if you’re going to wreck the planet, you may as well do it in style and a continent at a time, right?

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Review: Vaporum (Nintendo Switch)

Vaporum_switchAs a well-aged (I prefer the term “vintage”) fan of old school dungeon crawlers, I knew Vaporum ($24.99, worth every penny) was going to be right up my alley. With its dark thematic elements, Dungeon Master meets BioShock vibe and plenty of play and replay value, the very worst thing that I could think of as I sat down to type out this review was simply only being able to get through the game once for this post and having to move onto something else thanks to my stupidly large backlog.

The team at Cypronia has converted developer Fatbot Games’ stellar PC game into a mostly excellent home console version and yes, when I say home console, I kind of mean it. While you can indeed take this on the go as a Switch owner, you’ll have to deal with somewhat smallish onscreen text and controls that can be a bit complex as they’ve been translated from keyboard and mouse to a controller with a lot less buttons to operate. Everything works as it should, but there are a few fiddly moments that require a trip to the options screen to adjust things to your preferences.

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Shocker! Just about everything wants you dead in this game – expect traps and tricks galore as you get deeper into the thick of things.

Personally, though – this is exactly the sort of game you’ll want to play while socked away on a rainy vacation at home in front of the TV in docked mode. That way, you’re all into the visual and aural experience (the game both looks and sounds fantastic) and not having to be interrupted by outside distractions such as some kid walking up to you and asking “Hey, is that a Switch? Can I play, please because my mom won’t let me take mine outside and… blah de blah, blah, blah..” (true story, that). This is the sort of game where concentration, planning and execution are all urgent forces vying for your attentions.

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