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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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)

Dark Quest II PS4

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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Capsule Reviews: Ratalaika Ravings (1 of 2)

I’m at that point in my gaming life where I’m really appreciating all the shorter indie games I get codes for simply because most of these titles are a blast to play and have a bit of replay value in cases where you’re hooked in and don’t mind having at it a few more times with a game you’ve enjoyed. Anyway, the fine folks at Ratalaika Games have been really great at dropping some fine budget titles that range from great to surprisingly good, so here are a few you may want to take for a spin:

metagal-squareboxart-01-ps4METAGAL ($4.99, PS4/PS Vita – Cross-Buy, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One): Or, MEGA MA’AM, if you like. Indie developer RETRORevolution’s cool little game is a nicely crafted mash note to Capcom’s classic hard as nails franchise, and while it’s not in the same class as as that long-running series, it makes a good enough impression that I’d love to see some sort of followup down the road.

The game has fun with its references and that titular character has a few amusing lines that keep the experience light and airy through the mildly to major challenges you’ll face. Character design and the overall artwork are stellar stuff, recalling the 16-bit MM titles, while level design is a bit of hit and miss. Well, you’ll be missing a few jumps here and there and taking hits thanks to faith-leaping and some enemy placement that assures you take those hits and like them (slap!), but that’s par for the course in the platforming game, folks.

As with a MM game, you can choose to play in a linear fashion or hop around, taking on the eight stages as you see fit. Sounds and music are also appropriately retro, so expect to get a grin going throughout this one every time you fire it up. I’ll gripe here about not being able to shoot up while climbing and the too easy to nab Trophies, but overall this one is a nicely priced budget gem that deserves a Buster Shot recommendation when all’s said and done.

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(sings) “What goes up, must come down…”

Score: C+ (75%)

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Outward: Out Now, Expect Toughness Ahead

Outward boxIf you think most modern RPG are either too easy or rely too much on guiding the player almost nearly everywhere, developer Nine Dots Studio and publisher Deep Silver have a game that will be right up your alley. OUTWARD places you in the shoes of a normal adventure-bound type who’s out to pay off a debt in a dangerous land where you’ll need to be wholly prepared for every single encounter.

This mixture of survival game, action RPG and adventure seems to be geared for co-op play either offline or with a friend online, but stubborn ol’ me will have at it solo at least until I locate a reliable friend who also has a copy of this so we can hop in and play together. I’m expecting the experience will make for a fun and hard as hell trip into the brave new world of Aurai (which looks quite lovely rendered in Unity), and if the trailer below is any indication, I also think the game will gather a pretty loyal fan base as word of mouth spreads.

We’re going to get in some play time with this one soon and report back a few impressions. When it comes to combat and general gameplay, I tend to be overly cautious when I play a new RPG as playing every one the same way tends to not work out at all. So I’ll try hard to not die (too much) as I learn the ropes. Back in bit with some wordier words on what’s looking like a completely challenging game.

-GW

 

Lost Ember: Making Mooneyes at This Great-Looking Game

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I’d been quietly following Mooneye Studios upcoming Lost Ember for a few years with the hope that the dev team would be taking their time to make an already gorgeous  game even more so. So this new trailer and actual launch date are making me really happy:

Lovely, isn’t it? Well, that July 19 release date for PC, PS4 and Xbox One is indeed a good thing, and with a Switch version also in the works, it’s safe to say about the only folks who might be a tad perturbed will be Mac and Linux die-hards who have to be a bit less grumpy unless their wants are taken care of. Anything is possible, so who knows what will happen in the future, I say. Go stick this one on your watch and wish lists, folks.

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A wolf whistle to the art team for such spectacular environments might not be a bad thing here.

– GW

Hell to Pay 3: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Launch Trailer

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Shadows may Die Twice, but I’ll die quite a lot more playing this and be totally happy with that.

Confession: I’m notably terrible at FromSoftware’s Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls games and Bloodborne, but I keep playing them all because of my overall love for the developer’s work and generally very solid lineup since the King’s Field days and the fact that they make some really damn fine games that have been varied, fun to play and challenging. I fully expect to be even more terrible at their new game, Sekiro™: Shadows Die Twice, set for a PC, PS4 and Xbox One release on March 22, 2019.

This trailer is, to put it mildly, absolutely magnificent:

Granted, it’s a given that Activision and From have a guaranteed evergreen hit here that’s a gorgeous reminder the dev cut its teeth on some superb single player experiences way back in the 32-bit era. But this game also makes me wish someone would nudge the developer to get to work on Otogi and Otogi 2 remakes or remasters, as those were two very well-made original Xbox titles that deserve a new life on current-gen hardware or hardware yet to come. We shall see, of course, but hey – if we’re also getting Metal Wolf Chaos XD this year from Devolver Digital, anything is somewhat possible in the future.Micro

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Hey, pal… got a light?

-GW

Hell to Pay 1: Warhammer: Chaosbane Update

It’s Beta time for those of you who pre-ordered Warhammer: Chaosbane on PC and console, so those of you who’ve plunked down that deposit can dive right into the thick of things and let all hell break loose. That beta time only lasts until the 13th of March. so get busy betting busy on that, folks.

Set for launch on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on June 4th, 2019 for the Standard Edition and on May 31st, 2019 for the Digital Deluxe and Magnus Editions, the game looks to fuse Diablo-like action/RPG with the classic Warhammer setting and if that trailer is any indication, Bigben and developer EKO wll have a huge hit on their hands. It’ll be interesting to see how this stacks up against the still mighty Diablo III on consoles, but it’s safe to say that genre fans will be well served if all the pieces fall into place.

-GW