Pillars Of Eternity is exquisite. Magnificent. It's like crack and catnip to me: bona fide roleplaying cracknip. Then again, I was always going to love it.
You need to be aware that I adore Black Isle's Infinity Engine RPGs, and Pillars Of Eternity is a true return to form by many of the original masters. Though I didn't back the Kickstarter, I've reviewed this game through a thick lens of nostalgia and affection that I simply can't do anything about.
Bear this in mind, but thankfully it doesn't really matter here. Pillars Of Eternity is a truly exceptional isometric cRPG that's worth playing if you're a fan of the genre, but it's specifically designed to cater to those who still carry a torch for those grand old Infinity Engine days. After all, they're who funded it in the first place!
Take its setting, for example. Eora is a marvel, a world where souls are mutable and complex interesting people live complex interesting lives. The huge tract of it that exists in-game is gorgeous, moody and exciting, from dense forests and crumbling ancient ruins to its massive bustling cities, while evocative naming conventions and beautifully-written lore fleshes out what doesn't. There are gods and wars, big events, real history. We'll enter this setting as a wildcard, a Watcher, who goes from refugee to destined hero. It's fabulous and provides plenty of scope for new modules or sequels like any quality campaign setting.Click here to read more...
It's highly unlikely we'll see Final Fantasy XV released this year as it's apparently only around 60% complete. So it was a great surprise to hear that Square-Enix were releasing a lengthy demo for it. Well, if you bought an copy of Final Fantasy Type-0 that is.
So let's dive into this vertical slice of the game that lets us play around with some basic combat options and also provides a large area to explore. Seriously, this thing is huge, no wonder they called it an Episode rather than a demo.
This lengthy taster begins with a brief introduction to the four main characters of your party. There's some serious box ticking of RPG-tropes here. There's the muscle head, the smart guy, a Junkie-chic version of Cloud wearing a weird vest jacket that looks like a tartan skirt at first glance and then there's you, Prince Noctis, a skinny ultra emo haircut. There's not enough story or dialogue scenes offered to provided a fully rounded opinion I'll admit. But as first impressions go, they're fairly dislikeable. I've noticed that FF party members have been a wonderfully diverse group over the years, so it's odd to see this Japanese equivalent of the Backstreet Boys.Click here to read more...
Visual novels are becoming increasingly popular here in the West thanks to the hard work of international publishers and their valiant localisation teams, bringing us text-heavy narrative experiences that hinge around characters, story and 'talking heads' presentation. Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is one of the best I've read since the first Danganronpa, but it also attempts to inject more interactivity into the typically passive genre with tactical turn-based battles and frequent dialogue choices.
To be honest, I really wish it didn't. We'll get to that later.
The story is the crux of any great visual novel, and Tokyo Twilight tells an absolute corker. Arriving as a new transfer student to a Tokyo high school, you're free to create your own persona (note the small 'p' before you get too excited!) down to name, favourite pastime and even blood type before settling down to classes. However, it doesn't take long before you end up conscripted into a paranormal organisation with a few classmates, pursuing a career as a freelance ghostbuster. Who you gonna call?Click here to read more...
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is bigger than Hotline Miami in every way imaginable. From a massively expanded runtime to multiple playable characters, an involved canon-hopping storyline and sprawling murder playgrounds, Dennaton have thrown everything they can at the game to give you more bang for your buck.
We expect this from sequels, of course, but being bigger doesn't necessarily equate to being better. Something that Hotline Miami 2 players will find out the hard way.
Hotline Miami 2's storyline is utterly bizarre. Starting with a controversial fake-out, the plot schizophrenically leaps between events before, during and after the first game. New plot threads are brought up and ignored or left dangling. Characters are introduced, killed off, taken in unexpected directions or otherwise discarded. One moment you're storming a garage as a hired goon, the next you're playing as an actor depicting the events of the original or fans obsessed with the legendary serial killer, then you're fighting the communist invasion of Hawaii. Dialogue shifts between uncanny and clichéd on a whim.
The whole thing eventually unravels as the boundaries between fantasy, reality, delusion and videogame break down, the structure collapsing under its own obtrusive and obnoxiously wordy weight. It's confusing, deeply pretentious and I absolutely bloody love it.Click here to read more...
Missed the earlier episode reviews? Use these links to get to Episode 1, Episode 2 and Episode 3. Unlike the previous episodes, I’ll be putting a score at the end of this one that reflects the complete Season Pass / retail release.
This is it then, the finale to what has been a very encouraging episodic series debut from Capcom and the Resident Evil series. This is where we find out what happened to Claire and Moira as they make their way to the top of the tower and we’ll find out if Barry and Natalia can catch up with them and get some answers of their own.
Last week we were pleasantly surprised to see both parts of the episode last almost twice as long as previous episodes. So, it was a massive kick in the teeth that Claire’s ‘half’ of the final episode lasts about 15 minutes. And there are some incredibly annoying ‘platforming’ sections that will more than likely result in a few cheap deaths to mess with your overall stage rating. Fortunately, Barry’s is closer to two hours, but it’s incredibly frustrating as Claire’s piece lacks any real sense of closure.Click here to read more...
Tales From the Borderlands: Episode Two - Atlas Mugged is excellent, but I have to start this review with a bit of a moan.
Three months, Telltale. Three months.
I've always loved episodic series, whether Stingray, 24 or The Wolf Among Us. After each episode ends I have time to think about the cliffhanger, to debate it with my friends, to fantasize about what could happen and then finally sit down to enjoy the next one jangling with excitement. Binging cheats us out of this simple pleasure, and my 'Telltale routine' involves pouring a glass of half-decent red wine, switching my phone to silent and enjoying each new episode to the full.
Unfortunately, a quarter of a year goes from satisfying suspense to plain boredom and annoyance, and even Telltale know it. The fact that Atlas Mugged starts with an apology and overlong catch-up proves it, and frankly Telltale needs to publish and stick to firm release dates now. Hell, television series start next week at the exact same time. That's what makes the waiting bearable.
So it's a good thing that Zer0 Sum ended on such a satisfying bang, then. And that, as mentioned, Atlas Mugged does the business.Click here to read more...
Capcom's penultimate episode to Resident Evil: Revelations 2 edges us ever closer to what has so far been a very successful experiment for the series as it tries out an episodic model with four episodes over as many weeks.
Like previous episodes, you'll control Claire and Moira for the first part and Barry and Natalia for the second. Given the ending of the last episode, you may be desperate to find out what happens to the latter pair, but you'll just have to wait.
Both parts are very action heavy this week. A little hint, be sure to carry as much ammo as possible for Claire's section in particular - you're going to need it for some of the boss fights. For those of you playing in local co-op, the secondary characters feel a bit more involved this time. Moira's flashlight skill to briefly blind enemies buys vital time for Claire as she reloads or lines up a careful headshot. Laying into enemies with the crowbar should be working better for you now as you'll no doubt have built up some decent BP currency to upgrade your stats.Click here to read more...
Before we dive into our assessment for Dreamfall Chapters – Book Two, here’s a handy link to our review of Book One for those who need to catch up. I’d also like to add that, while we did score the previous episode, we will not be scoring Book Two. This is to match our new policy of only awarding a score to episodic games once they are completed. We’ll still provide “The Short Version” at the end as usual, but the numeric scale OF DEATH won’t return until Dreamfall Chapter’s conclusion. Anyway, let’s talk about Book Two: Rebels in as spoiler-free a manner as humanly possible.
Wow. I was not expecting that much content.
My personal run time for Book Two came in at just over 7 hours. When combined with the 4 hours I spent with Book One, it makes the current available content of Dreamfall Chapters longer than most entire seasons of episodic games. And we still have 3 instalments to go. Of course, all that time spent in-game means nothing unless the experience is any good, and while it’s quite clear that the increased size and scope of Book Two has made it a fairly buggy affair at launch, the end result is an engrossing, engaging, and entertaining second instalment.Click here to read more...
Final Fantasy: Type-0 is a four year-old PSP game.
Remember this. Chant it like a mantra. Understand it and most importantly accept it, because if you don't set yourself realistic expectations, Final Fantasy: Type-0 HD is as likely to disappoint as delight.
Its release marks a significant event for JRPG aficionados, and I'm not talking about Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae (in fact, that's the last time I'll mention it!). Type-0 has a somewhat legendary status as 'the one that got away,' a title promising a huge cast of characters, a mature bittersweet premise and superb real-time combat that was cruelly never localised for western fans. Until now.
As a devastating war wracks the continent of Orience, the brutal Miletesi empire launches a strike against its neighbors, using a deadly army of war machines and the power of their nation's magical crystal to decisive effect. The kingdom of Rubrum hangs in the balance, its magic users in disarray, but they have a secret weapon. Fourteen military cadets of the mysterious Class-0, skilled in asymmetrical warfare and mysterious magical abilities, turn the tide of battle and play a key role in the stability of the region while discovering the truth about their origins and an overarching conspiracy.Click here to read more...
Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines is astonishing, but you probably haven't even heard of it. Despite releasing with almost no publicity, this brave Vita exclusive is one of the most innovative, exciting and forward-thinking JRPGs I've played in quite some considerable time... and deserves your attention.Click here to read more...
Those of you that have played the Nazi Zombie Army games will know what’s in store, but for those who have only just shambled in let’s get our summary on. In this alternate WWII timeline, the Allied victory is almost at hand when Hitler decides to activate “Plan Z” – unleashing a zombie apocalypse. It’s up to the last living souls left in Germany to fight their way through the endless hordes of undead, take out Zombie Hitler, and end the madness once and for all.
That’s pretty much all storytelling you’ll find in ZAT, although the new third campaign does its best to inject the odd bit of world building throughout. That said, the story was never going to be the focus of this game – killing zombies is – and in that regard developers Rebellion have clearly got it down. The weapons available feature enough variation in terms of weight and accuracy to suit most tastes, especially in regards to the bullet physics system in the game (which can be turned off when the easiest difficulty is selected.)
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Capcom and Ninja Theory's DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition is essential for two types of gamer. Those who have never played Ninja Theory's reboot and those who have and adored it but crave an extra challenge. I've already seen this going from as little as £20 during launch week. Considering the content, the telling tweaks, extra modes and the DLC being thrown in too, that's a bargain.
First, a little on the base game itself. DmC (or Devil May Cry) is an origins story for Dante, the son of a demon father and an angel mother. His mere existence is a threat to the Demon lord, Mundus, and as such Dante is public enemy number one. Mundus controls much of the human world through debt and has demon minions running everything from soft drink companies to news networks, making it easy to track Dante down and make him out to be a menace.
Dante starts with some badass skills as his infamous weapons return in the familiar forms of a huge sword and a pair of pistols. The action sees you using combinations of both to rack up epic combos and increase your style rating, netting more points and working towards the holy grail of a SSS rating for a level.Click here to read more...
Ever since the omni-shambles that was SimCity, we’ve yearned for a city building simulation that wasn’t a hot mess. We even hoped and dreamed that Maxis might salvage the wreckage of their game and actually deliver on the illusions / tricks we had been sold. Sadly, that will never be, but hope isn’t lost. A new challenger to the genre’s throne has finally arrived with Cities: Skylines, promising to wipe away the disappointment with gameplay that not only works, but allows players to truly design their dream city.
And you know what? For the most part, Colossal Order have done exactly that.
This is thanks to the gameplay being informative and approachable right from the get-go. Starting a new game is simple enough, with information available on what travel connections are possible in each region. Once in-game, tutorial-style pop-ups announce the unlocking of options once certain milestones are hit, introducing players to new services and reminding them that they are there if they have yet to investigate them. It’s an approach I found not too intrusive as development of the city progressed.Click here to read more...
The original Shelter was a very special little thing. Guiding a litter of defenceless badger cubs through the dangers of a harsh uncaring wilderness was a unique change of pace, but more importantly it encouraged us to feel some strong, unexpected and conflicting emotions towards our fragile charges. Instead of unconditional love, we frequently felt annoyed by their inability to fend for themselves, resented them for holding us back, yet desperately tried to save as many as possible from predators, fires and starvation. Being a parent isn't easy.
Nearly two years on, Shelter 2 promises great things. Instead of a beleaguered badger, we're now much nearer the top of the food chain as an agile lynx, tasked with caring for and training her litter until they grow big and strong enough to move on. The linear structure gives way to an open world of sorts, linked by a hub zone, ostensibly increasing the sense of scale and opening up new avenues for exploration. I must admit to being very excited about the idea.
But, unfortunately, Shelter 2 ends up being a markedly inferior experience. The very things that make it different, and better on paper, actually make it worse.
Click here to read more...
If you love Starship Troopers, you're going to get a massive kick out of Helldivers.
The goddamn bugs whacked us, so now the 'managed democracy' of Super Earth finds itself beset by ravaging hordes of aliens, twisted cyborgs and hyper-advanced civilizations. Only the brave citizens of the Helldivers have what it takes to turn the tide, fearlessly dropping into the most dangerous missions from orbit and bringing the light of propaganda to the entire galaxy one blackened nuclear crater at a time. Or just charging straight into the grinder.
Verhoeven would be proud, but in gameplay terms, Magicka fans are going to be in their element here. Arrowhead Game Studios are already experts in the field of utterly bonkers cooperative shooting, and Helldivers takes things one step further. You'll drop into battle with three mates and an insane customised loadout, calling in everything from turrets to mechs and tanks from orbit, then desperately try to avoid being killed... or accidentally killing each other.
Friendly fire has never been so much fun, and it makes Helldivers one of the most entertaining twin-stick shooters in years. Would you like to know more?Click here to read more...
After a hugely promising opening episode, I couldn't wait to get into stuck into the next one this week. It looks like the new series has some staying power as Capcom have delivered again with the episodic model looking like an increasingly natural fit for the series.
Again, the episode is split in two with the first half following Claire and Moira and the second continuing from where we last left Barry and Natalia. Claire and Moira come across another group of survivors and they team up to find some helicopter parts to make an escape attempt. Nothing's ever that easy, especially when a hoard of infected lay siege to your safe house. It'll be very familiar to Resident Evil 4 fans and is a fantastic scene as you defend multiple windows while the hoard attempt to smash through.
The skills menu where you can buy upgrades at the start, intermission or end of the episode is starting to come into better use now that you may have built up a few more points. Make a beeline for the one that allows Claire/Barry to fire their weapons while you're controlling Moira/Natalia. This is particularly effective for siege situations and the like. And best of all, any ammo they use, doesn't come out of your supplies, although they do cause less damage. Overall, though, this is a fantastic option and a clear improvement over the days of giving Sheva some spare bullets in Resi 5 and sighing as she unloaded them all into your back.Click here to read more...
ScreamRide is an odd little game. As Nintendo and Sony bring out new hardware and big exclusives, Microsoft's answer is a trio of roller-coaster themed minigames from the developers of Rollercoaster Tycoon.
You'll cling on for dear life as we hare through ridiculous loops and corkscrews, design your own monstrous creations using a robust 3D CAD suite and destroy some buildings with a catapult in glorious slow motion because why the heck not, effectively playing three separate games in one package. It's left-field, out there and exactly the refreshing change of pace we love to see from console manufacturers in off season.
But that's not why ScreamRide feels like such an odd proposition. A game about creating, riding and annihilating awesome roller-coasters should be bags of fun by all rights... and yet screams turn into yawns after just a handful of hours.
To find out why we'll need to discuss ScreamRide's three gameplay modes in turn: ScreamRiding, Demolitions Training and Engineering. As an employee of a somewhat shady testing company with limitless resources and a mandate for testing human endurance, we're free to pick our career path and work through the standalone campaigns through six shared thematic zones.Click here to read more...
I love Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, even if I occasionally fantasize about ripping open my special edition New 3DS XL, yanking out the MicroSD card and smashing it to pieces with the business end of a claw hammer.
It's a weird relationship, I freely admit, which I share with the rest of the series too. As always Monster Hunter is a magnificent beast, a massive freeform hunting experience in which we track down hulking terrors, scandalise them with weaponised bagpipes (if you so choose, I'm a creature of habit) and make stylish shoes from their skulls. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate expands and improves on every aspect imaginable, yet clings to a few awkward design decisions that seem purposefully implemented to drive players insane with pure unmitigated hatred.
What makes Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate a superb game, however, is that I can understand why these decisions were made and how they ultimately make for an utterly sensational experience overall... even when I'm screaming at the screen.
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Episodic titles have proved to be a big success for games like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us and more recently, Life is Strange. But how will the episodic model fare with a genre like survival horror? Well, if Episode 1 of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is anything to go by, it could go rather well.
Unlike the aforementioned episodic titles, Revelations 2's four episodes will be released weekly instead of every six weeks or more that we're used to seeing. The benefits of this are obvious to everyone involved and it keeps the episodic/TV ideology plausible.
It would seem that Capcom have made the full game and then set out a decent release schedule, instead of frantically trying to put each episode together on the fly - which is probably why Episode 2 of Life is Strange has been delayed recently and everything coming out of Telltale is riddled with bugs.
The story takes place between Resident Evil 5 and 6, but if you're not up-to-date with the series, you'll be fine. I'll not delve into the story too much, but you're essentially stuck on an island in a facility packed with, you guessed it, zombies! For one half of the episode you control fan-favourite Claire Redfield and new girl, Moira, daughter of the original Resident Evil's Barry Burton. For the second half of you'll finally get to play as Barry himself, with a little girl called Natalia.
We've already reviewed the New 3DS XL, which is a fantastic piece of kit for serious handheld gamers, but here in Europe it's not the only option on the table. The New 3DS includes all the extra inputs and new features -- faster processor, C-Stick, Super-Stable 3D, Z bumpers and more -- but manages to cram them into a much smaller form factor at a lower price point. With swappable cover plates to boot.
I must admit to writing off the New 3DS as a bit of a novelty, especially given its no-show on the other side of the Atlantic, but Nintendo were kind enough to lend me a review unit which I've been thoroughly testing over the last seven days.
Consider my eyes well and truly opened! While the 3DS XL was a great console that only needed small refinements, the original 3DS was deeply flawed in a number of respects that have all been completely shored up. Far from a gimmick, the New 3DS is actually a seriously impressive little machine that might even be more suitable for some players than its big brother.
Click to enlarge.
Unlike the New 3DS XL, which has remained almost completely unchanged in terms of dimensions, the New 3DS has put on a bit of girth. Or love handles, to be precise. Clocking in at 142mm x 80.6mm x 21.6mm (compared to 134 mm x 74 mm x 21 mm), it's slightly but definitely chunkier in all but depth, which still lends the clamshell a slim form factor that can easily slip into a regular pocket or bag.
This extra heft is very much appreciated, though, as it allows the New 3DS to deliver a range of sweeping improvements starting with a larger screen. The top 3D screen has increased in size by a factor of 1.2 (3.88 inches vs 3.53 inches), which is still piddling compared to the beastly New 3DS XL or almighty Vita, but original 3DS owners will notice a massive difference in terms of comfort and viewing distance. The resolution remains the same, but in practice you'll actually be able to see more of the fine detail in better-looking titles.Click here to read more...