Month: July 2014

Child of Light review

Posted on Updated on

I originally decided to write this review in verse, as Child of Light is presented. However, it was shit, so I scrapped that idea and will just do a plain, vanilla review. I’m so sorry.

256290_screenshots_2014-07-15_00001It must be said that Child of Light is a truly beautiful game. From the art style, to the score, to the story…just beautiful. You play as Aurora, the daughter of a duke in 19th century Austria. One day, Aurora falls into a deathly sleep, and everyone assumes she is dead. But, plot twist, she is not! Aurora wakes up in the strange land of Lemuria; a land in which the sun, moon and stars have been stolen by the dark queen, Umbra. It’s up to you to restore it, as Aurora, the Child of Light! The game is developed and published by Ubisoft, and isn’t their usual MO, but don’t let those nasty sceptics put you off – they did a bloody good job! It’s also written by Jeffrey Yohalem, who wrote AssCred: Brotherhood (the best one) and FarCry 3.

256290_screenshots_2014-07-15_00003The game is presented like a mixture between a children’s bedtime story and an opera. Just looking at the unique art style reminded me of books from my childhood, illustrated by artists such as Mick Inkpen, or Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. There isn’t much more I can say about the art style that does it justice – just check out some of my screenshots. It’s like a picture book come to life, and if that isn’t enough just to give this lovely game a go, the accompanying score is just wonderful. The game is a love letter to older JRPGs in numerous aspects – the music being one of them. Composed by Canadian artist Cœur de pirate, it seamlessly blends serenity with peril, tranquillity with jeopardy and even, dare I say it, light with dark. Once you have finished the game, the soundtrack is definitely something that you will not let go of. I have it playing right now (for scientific purposes)!

256290_screenshots_2014-07-16_00005Aurora is joined on her journey by a firefly named Igniculus, who can be used to reach far off objects, heal, and slow down enemies in battle. The game also features a co-op mode, where a younger sibling can control Igniculus (because they won’t be controlling Aurora, will they?). There are seven colourful party members to unlock in total (eight with the Golem DLC) as the game progresses, each with a wide variety of skills such as healing, offensive magic, status magic, tanking and so on.

256290_screenshots_2014-07-15_00013Fans of older JRPGs such as some of the older Final Fantasy games, notably VI, will feel a wonderful sense of nostalgia. Well, at least, I did. Combat follows a turn-based battle system in which combatants must wait until they reach the appropriate point on the battle gauge. Once they get about 3/5 the way down the gauge, you can select an attack. The rest of the gauge is ‘casting’. If a character is attacked whilst they are casting, they will be interrupted and sent back down the gauge. Igniculus can slow enemies down, allowing you to manipulate their battle gauge. As such, the battles require quite a lot of tactics and timing. Two members of your party can be in the battle at any time, but you can swap in and out whenever you want to issue an action, meaning that you can chop and change and tailor your combatants to suite the battle’s needs. There is a wide variety of enemies, and every character has their uses (albeit some more than others) so battles rarely feel stale or tedious. I played the game on the higher difficulty (obviously), which made it a lot more challenging but not impossible. It required me to think about fights tactically, and always be one step ahead, planning my next move. There were a few enemies that posed a bit of a problem, but in the end once I worked out their patterns it was quite straight forward. Bosses are often accompanied by a couple of ‘basic’ monsters, so my advice is always get those goddamn adds first! Outside of combat, players control Aurora through the nicely painted levels in a kind of Limbo side-scrolling puzzle solver way (just with much less child death…). The game also features an impressive skill tree which, whilst appearing quite dautning, is very straight forward so both veterans and newbs can grasp it. Once the story is completed, New Game Plus is unlocked, allowing you to restart the game with your current party and skills and fight even tougher enemies! #replayvalue256290_screenshots_2014-07-15_00005One unpleasantry is that the game uses Uplay. Yh. Once you get past this, all is well, but there is that initial moment when you start the game and you’re filled with dread as you have to sign in to yet another account using some annoying client that no one cares about.

256290_screenshots_2014-07-15_00009As I said at the beginning (which feels so long ago now, doesn’t it?), all of Child of Light’s dialogue is written in verse. It follows a rhyme scheme of ABCB, and whilst an interesting and mostly well written approach, some rhymes do often feel a little forced and lazy, and as a result completely breaks the flow of dialogue. But writing a whole game in rhyme is pretty darn challenging I’m sure, so I can let them off for that mostly. Mostly. The story if endearing and thought-provoking, but it’s the overall experience that makes Child of Light a must-play. It’s just beautiful. Have I said that already? Probably. But it is. Beautiful. Go play!

256290_screenshots_2014-07-15_00004

Advertisements

Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 Review

Posted on

Ok, firstly, whoever designed the menus for this game needs to be fired. You hear that, Wizards? Fire your menu man. Get a new menu man. Or menu woman. I don’t discriminate.

255420_screenshots_2014-07-21_00005

To coincide with the release of the core sets, Wizards of the Coast have been releasing the Duels of the Planeswalkers games yearly since 2011. If you aren’t aware, these video games are based on the trading card game Magic: The Gathering. The basic format for each game is the same – players must battle (sorry, duel) through a series of opponents in games of Magic. Whilst not as fun as playing with pals IRL, the Duels games have been a fun way to get that little bit of Magic fill when your friends aren’t about. Until now.

255420_screenshots_2014-07-17_00009

Duels 2015 is a bad game. As I mentioned, the menu screen is clunky and unresponsive. It takes about 4 clicks of “start” before you can actually get into the game. From there, you are greeted with an ugly ‘minimalistic’ black and white home screen. Once you have gotten over this melancholy menu, you must traverse rocky animations and perilous scrolling. You would be mistaken, after all this, for thinking that you can just jump into a game. But how wrong you are, my little cherub. Duels 2015 features a tutorial, which is very handy for new players, but if you’re a veteran of Magic then you don’t need to hear all this spiel. You can skip the five tutorials…individually. If you opt to take them, you are accompanied by a patronising female voice. It’s the kind of voice that, if you heard on the phone, you’d think “goodness, what an attractive woman!”. That isn’t what a want, Wizards of the Coast! I don’t want hot women mixing up my Magic! That’s like…antithesis. It’s confusing. I want to hear a gruff mage or something! Anyway, after the tutorial, you choose a colour from the five Magic colours – red, blue, white, green or black. From there, you are then taken to another screen where you pick a dual-colour deck centering around that first colour. I went with a blue/black, which (as you’ll know if you’re a Magic nerd) generally focuses on milling and discarding. This deck did not. As I was cast into this ‘boss’ fight, I played common after common after uncommon, with no real synergy or purpose. This deck was terrible. After a few attempts (I cranked the difficulty up to max because I’m awesome in my head) I beat him. Now the real game begins.

255420_screenshots_2014-07-17_00002The story is alright – Garruk, a planeswalker, is cursed and has gone scatty and is killing other planeswalkers. You must track him down and gently soothe him into submission. Like more Magic lore, however, it’s one of those stories that reading the synopsis on Wikipedia is a lot more interesting than the actual thing. It’s basically just a chase through various planes, as was Duels 2014‘s story. The difference with 2015 is that this shit is canon. But we don’t play these games for the stories, do we?

255420_screenshots_2014-07-17_00006Nah. It’s the gameplay that draws the boys to the yard. From the beginning of the game, you can only play with the deck that you chose in the tutorial. This is unlike past Duels games, in which you could choose from a variety of very different pre-made decks, each with an interesting play style. For me, this was one of the best features of the Duels game, as it enabled you to play with card combinations that you had never seen before. But unfortunately that has gone. Thrown out like yesterday’s ham. I struggled a bit, using my shit-deck to defeat the boss in the first plane, but managed to do it eventually. Afterwards you are given the option to now fully customise your shit-deck. However, unless you pay IRL money for awesome cards, your shit-deck is probably going to remain a shit-deck for a while (or a crap-deck at best). Yeah, Duels 2015 incorporates that old gamer favourite, micro transactions! Defeating enemies unlocks booster packs, which contain cards you can use. But if you want the real good’uns, you have to fork out for ‘premium packs’. This is, quite frankly, disgusting. Not only are you limited to only playing decks from a relatively small (300) card pool, you must pay for really good ones! If I wanted to pay for Magic cards, I would be playing Magic Online…or in real life! As far as the actual battles are concerned, the pace is quite quick, which makes a nice change from previous instalments. That’s about all that’s changed for the better really. They have gotten rid of the nice little animations on some of the uber cool cards from 2014, which is a shame. Also, when you enter combat, the playing board splits apart to reveal this big red…bit? I…I don’t even.

What even is that?
What even is that?

The pay-to-win situation is not even my biggest gripe with the game, as I was excited and forked out the money to buy the ‘special addition’ before the game was released, highly anticipating hours of joy, so I was rewarded with some pretty good cards. No, my main gripe is just the overall design. Duels 2012 had the Archenemy game mode: a 3 vs 1 game, where the 1 draws special archenemy cards to give themselves buffs and boosts. It was a fun addition that provided ever changing challenges. Duels 2013 had Planechase, in which players fought on different ‘planes’ that added various effects to the game, changing the dynamics completely. Even 2014 had its sealed mode, which was a complete let down and waste of time, but at least it was something. 2015 has nothing apart from the campaign. You can play a ‘practice match’ with up to four AI, but there is no option to make it a team game, only freeforalls (to my knowledge anyway – these other options may well be in the game, hidden among the tangling vines of the unforgiving and unforgivable menu screen). So the campaign is split up into 5 planes, with each plane consisting of four battles including a boss fight. There is an option to ‘explore’ the plane, which I assumed meant that you were cast into a 3D rendering or something, which would have been cool. But these are just some extra battles that you can do to unlock a couple o’ more cards. There is an achievement for completing them all, but there is no screen telling you how you are progressing. You just have to kind of guess when you have completed it, lest you be caught in an everlasting cycle of fighting spiders or minatours. There are a handful of extras features, which include looking at Magic adverts and a handful of concept art (with some information about each plane) but that’s it. I tried to jump into multiplayer too, but it seemed that no one was online…. But instead of giving me the option to quit whilst it was looking for a game to join, I was forced to wait a few minutes until it timed out by itself. What is this.

I was on this screen for much longer than I would have liked.
I was on this screen for much longer than I would have liked.

So there you have it. Save yourself some money, and go and play one of the old instalments instead of picking up Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015. With clunky menu screens, poor pacing and less features than its predecessors, 2015 is more of a brain haemorrhage than fun game. I find myself genuinely getting angry when I play. I don’t want a smoke animation when I click exit! I just want to exit! They have turned the innocent Duels series into a bad clone of Magic Online. £6.99, as it is on Steam, is an ok amount to pay for this disappointment, but unless you fork out more you’re probably not going to have a good time. The question is, when Duels 2016 comes out next year, will Wizards rectify their mistakes, or will the Duels series fall into that money grabbing pit that so many games these days tend to do?

The cutscenes are kind of cool though.
The cutscenes are kind of cool though.

The Wolf Among Us review

Posted on Updated on

 

I have finished it and I want more!

Developed by Telltale Games, the same studio that produced The Walking Dead and Sam and Max games, The Wolf Among Us is (what I would describe as) a point-and-click-multiple-choice-crime-noir-episodic-adventure game. Like The Walking Dead, upon starting The Wolf Among Us, you’re greeted with a message that says “this game series adapts to the choices you make. The story is tailored to how you play.”Goodness, I thought to myself, how exciting! Whilst the overlying plot is always essentially the same, how it pans out and how you get there is down to the choices you make. But we will come to that in a bit once I explain the amazing premise of this game.

Colin, one of the "Three Little Pigs".
Colin, one of the “Three Little Pigs”.

The Wolf Among Us is set in the same universe as the Fables comic series, published by Vertigo (DC). The comics were first released in 2002, but I will admit I had never heard of them until playing this game, and I’m a self acclaimed comic nerd! For shame… In the world of Fables, various characters from fairy tales, fables and folklore have been evicted out of their homelands, and are forced to live among normal human beings (“mundies”) – some of which resides in New York City, in a community known as Fabletown. To protect themselves, the Fables must keep their identities hidden from mundies and the outside world, and as such use magic to keep themselves safe. Many of the anthropomorphic animal Fables, or Fables such as trolls or giants that cannot pass as human, must use glamours to disguise themselves. But glamours aren’t cheap, and many Fables cannot afford them – these Fables are sent to The Farm, which is supposed to be a safe-haven but is apparently more like a prison. The idea of incorporating fairy tale characters into the real world has indeed been done before, but nothing on this scale, I think. The Fables must overcome real life obstacles and band together to survive, lest they all fall apart. Some characters such as Bluebeard (who was a personal favourite of mine) are doing quite well for themselves, whereas others like the Little Mermaid have a much sadder tale to tell.

Mr Toad with Toad Junior "TJ" in the background.
Mr Toad with Toad Junior “TJ” in the background.

The story of The Wolf Among Us follows a gritty murder investigation in Fabletown – this game is not for the faint of heart! You play as Bigby “The Big Bad” Wolf. Yeah, that’s right. You’re the Big Bad Wolf. Bigby (Big B, get it?) is the sheriff of Fabletown, and is trying to relinquish himself from his past of killing grandmothers and blowing down pig’s houses to help his fellow Fabletown citizens. When one of their own is murdered, Bigby must hunt and track down the killer, avoiding detection from the outside world, and gain the trust and respect of the sceptical Fabletown citizens. That’s the gist of it really, without spoiling anything else. But surely that’s enough to entice you into the game? I know it was for me. But if not, let’s talk about the gameplay.

wofl 1If you have played The Walking Dead, then you know what to expect. The game is made up of five episodes that were released bi-monthly from October 2013 to July 2014. Playing The Wolf Among Us is like watching an interactive series. A large part of the game is cutscenes, but at every conversational fork in the road, you must make a decision. For example, a character may ask Bigby how he’s feeling. You have the choice to respond “Fine”, “Great, thanks”, “Fuck off”, or “…”. How you respond will influence how the story pans out and how characters act towards you. Ask the right questions, and you’ll get the right answers. It’s like LA Noire, but not painstakingly boring. Out of conversation, you control Bigby through means of point-and-click gameplay. Each explorable area has a number of objects that you can look at or pick up to try and uncover clues and information, and piece the investigation together. There are also a number of quick time events to keep you on your toes during a couple o’ little brawls, but these are infrequent enough for them not to get boring and stale. Throughout the game, you also uncover character and event dossiers in the form of The Book of Fables, which is a great little add-on to help keep track of who people are and learn some of the lore surrounding Fables.

250320_screenshots_2014-07-10_00008The game’s visual design is again similar to that of The Walking Dead: it’s almost animated. It’s a very unique art style that plays out well with the story. My one gripe is that sometimes characters’ movements and facial expressions looked a little robotic, but I can let that slide – it’s still immersive as hell. Musically, the score is brilliant at creating the exact atmosphere that the developers desired, and really adds to perilous mood. It’s that kind of score that you don’t really notice at first, but when you notice it it makes the scene ten times more impactful…which I don’t think is a real word, but describes my point wholeheartedly.

250320_screenshots_2014-07-10_00003The Wolf Among Us has not only opened up a new series that I want to explore (Fables), but has also introduced me to a new genre of game. Whilst some people may find the interactive story elements boring, I personally loved every moment of it. A couple of the episodes are weaker than others, but all in all this was a great experience, and I want more from the world of Fables. My hat goes off to Telltale Games, who are currently working on a new Borderlands and Game of Thrones game – both of which I am very excited about.

250320_screenshots_2014-07-13_00001I managed to get The World Among Us on the Steam sale for about £6.99, but it looks like it’s gone back up to nearly twenty squids. The story takes about 7 – 9 hours to complete, depending on your choices and how thorough you are. Due to the amount of choices the game offers, there is a lot of replay value: my first playthrough saw me as a kind, sympathetic Bigby, but I want to try again and be an absolute dick and see how that affects things. You can also compare your choice stats to others who have played the game. So whilst £18.99 is a fair bob, I think that it’s well worth it. Just keep a vigilant eye open for it to come down in price. Now, I am going to go and write fanfiction. I wonder if Jack Frost is a character in the comics? That could be interesting….

Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Adventure Time: Finn and Jake’s Epic Quest review

Posted on Updated on

It’s a gosh darn shame when studios seem to just spew out licensed games for a quick buck. They’re never very good, often short, tedious and underwhelming. This is exactly what has happened to Finn and Jake’s Epic Quest. It is important to note that I played the Steam version of this game; I don’t know how the other versions fared against it.

download (4)

Released earlier this year, Finn and Jake’s Epic Quest follows the Adventure Time heroes through various levels as they try to track down BMO, who has been kidnapped. There adventure takes them through various placed throughout Ooo: the Witch’s Garden, the Ice Kingdom, Fire Kingdom and Land of the Dead. Game wise, each of these stages are split up into 8 levels, making 28 in total. That may seem like a lot, but unfortunately each maze-like map is very samey. The gameplay is reminiscent of the old ToeJam and Earl that were released on the wonderful Sega Mega Drive back in da 90s – that is to say, you control Finn and Jake from an almost top-down perspective through the various maps, much like a dungeon crawler, encountering enemies along the way.

download (3)

Killing enemies is kind of enjoyable, as it should be, but I feel like they could have done a lot more with it. You can switch at any time between Finn and Jake, though Jake appeared to be a lot stronger and quicker throughout the entire game, so I didn’t really feel the need. It would have been better if, say, each character had a specific skill so you had to chop and change between them. Anyway, fighting wise, the duo have a light attack and heavy attack, which can be mixed and matched to create three or four hit combos. This adds some flavour to the combat, but I found myself just using the same powerful combo over and over again, especially against enemies with larger hit bars, which is another little flaw…notably with bosses, who are very boring to fight. Enemies drop various things when they die, such as health potions, moneyz, keys to open chests, and Enchiridion pages, which enable you to cast various magical spells. Again, this is kind of cool, but like the combat, I found myself just using the same four or five spells on repeat, with some spells seeming absolutely redundant. Money allows you to purchase and reveal more Enchiridion pages from Choose Goose and Princess Bubblegum respectively, as well as being used to pay Doctor Princess to fully heal you, and have Billy upgrade your weapons. Both Finn and Jake have 5 possible upgrades, depending on what level the characters are at. For Finn, these include various swords he has used throughout the series – though I was disappointed to see no Grass Sword as his ultimate. Jake, on the other hand, just kind of upgrades his fists into various shapes such as an axe, anvil or mace.

download (2)
Glitches are also quite prominent – note two Jakes.

The game boasts original voice acting from Jeremy Shada and John DiMaggio. However, apart from Finn, Jake and BMO, every other character talks using weird trumpet noises, which is kind of strange and unnerving. The musical score is pretty good, taking inspiration from the Adventure Time episode “Guardians of Sunshine”, though there are a couple of issues with audio clipping at times.

download
Lady Rainicorn. An Enchiridion spell that allows you to fly around for a bit, with fun music to accompany!

One thing I will say about this game is that, apart from the weird lack of voice acting, is does encapsulate the world of Adventure Time very well. Enemies are those that frequent the show, including Hug Wolf, Cute Pigs, Flambits, Penguins, Tree Witch and more. And each Enchiridion page is a reference to an episode – you can use spells such as the Jake Suit, equip fancy masks (from “The Creeps”), knife storms, PB’s liquid pyrotechnics, Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant and so on. Basically, if you’re a fan of the show (why else would you be playing this?) then you’re going to have a nice little nostalgia trip for a couple o’ hours. But that’s all really.

download (1)

All in all, this game is very subpar. I know that it is marketed at children, but it’s very repetitive and offers little challenge, and I don’t even thing a young person would enjoy it that much. One thing that I am a bit surprised about is how there is no local co-op; it seems almost a given, with one character controlling Finn and the other controlling Jake. The level design is pretty lazy, and the gameplay quite stale. By the sounds of it, the non-Steam version of the game has a lot more levels to offer, so it may be more worth the money. I paid £6.99 for this, which isn’t much, but I don’t really think it was worth that. It’s kind of fun, but forgettable, with literally no replay value unless you genuinely enjoyed it. One day, maybe we will get a good Adventure Time game: I’m thinking some sort of wicked cool Ooo based RPG. Mayhaps one day…mayhaps…