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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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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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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Not-So Random Film of the Week: Way of the Dragon/Return of the Dragon

Hey, look! it’s that time of the month again – you know, when us guys get together and do the usual, but in public and with way too many people watching (well, hopefully). Yes, it’s time for an all-new (but not very much improved) installment of…

(theme song plays):

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If you did NOT hear a theme song, let me know. I paid some guy on eBay a pretty penny for a theme song. Hmmm… I think I need to stay off eBay for a while…

This month’s other entries can be found at Mike’s Take on the Movies, The Cinema Monolith, and Wolfman’s Cult Film Club, so go get reading (you’ll need your own popcorn and beverage of choice, though).

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A bit of misleading marketing copy here thanks to this getting a US release after Lee’s unfortunate demise and Enter The Dragon popping up in theaters first in the States.

If my fading memory is correct, the first martial arts flick I’d ever seen was Way of the Dragon (or Return of the Dragon) sometime in the mid 70’s on a black and white TV, either on WOR or WPIX, I believe.  It was pretty horribly dubbed from what I recall, but then again, so were way too many foreign films of all genres from what I can remember.  That version was what I saw as “definitive” in my youth until I finally heard from a few friends in the late 80’s that I’d probably want  to see it in its original language. That took a while, as I finally got around to seeing a cut of the Cantonese/Mandarin version with English subtitles about 10 years back and it made for a much better experience.

As a kid, I didn’t pay close attention to dubbing other than cracking up at the way the mouths moved while wondering how those actors onscreen often said the dopiest things. As I grew older and gained more knowledge about films and the dub/sub process, I saw that more often than not, bad dubbing was the result of rewriting dialog and trying to fit those words into the mouths of whichever actor was speaking lines. Granted, Bruce Lee’s first complete work as a writer/director/producer isn’t exactly going for the gold on the scripting front, but it works far better when you see how Lee uses the language barrier as a major part of the film’s plot.

(Thanks, fortunestarmedia!)

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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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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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Capcom Home Arcade: Someone’s Dream Collection, With Caveats


(thanks, Official Capcom UK!)

Hmmm. I kind of have no idea how to feel about this other than agree that yes indeed, those gorgeous Sanwa sticks and buttons and what is looking like rather sturdy construction will insure that the Capcom Home Arcade will indeed find a niche in the homes of collectors and Capcom and/or arcade enthusiasts who’ve always wanted such a product. On the other hand, that price point more or less assures that this one will be out of reach for those gamers who may want this set of classics sans the fancy design as a far less expensive physical console disc or game card or as a basic digital download.

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Oh, it’s an exercise in ego, but it’s kinda cool to look at, that’s for damn sure.

Granted, perfect arcade ports (or hopefully flawless ports) do exist for folks running emulators on all sorts of devices, so the lure of an arcade setup going for less than an arcade machine is going to be a big draw. But I can’t see Capcom committing to this as the sole way to play these games as while it’s probably going to sell out as a collectible (and yep, make a load of cash for eBay sellers who snap up as many as they can charge up on a few credit cards so they can resell them at a massive markup), it’s just not a very good idea to make these titles exclusive to this device. Yeah, some folks say *any* publicity is good publicity, but I disagree when much of that noise is of the negative variety that may eventually hurt any traction this item needs to be a success outside the collectible marketplace.

As usual, we shall see what happens as that October release date approaches, but if some of the brutally salty responses to that UK trailer are any indication, I’m betting that we get some sort of compromise where anyone who wants to play this collection gets to on their console of choice. Well, hopefully that’s one outcome that should please the gaming masses to some extent. Yeah, I’d want one if I could afford it and yep, we also got some of those licensed Marvel titles to make an appearance in the near future (he said, remembering how hilariously fun The Punisher was back in the day).

-GW