Is nothing Sacre...
Nope, can't do it. This is no laughing matter. Deep Silver have dredged up the bones and bits of the Sacred IP, chucked most of them out, and used the remaining pieces to assemble a game bereft of any particularly worthwhile. Sacred 3 bears the Sacred name, but it's something of a shell of a game rather than the open-world, loot-stuffed romp to which fans might be accustomed.
Gone are the expansive environments of previous, "proper" Sacred games. Indeed, Sacred 3 has more in common with Sacred Citadel than its numbered predecessor. Except it's not a side-scrolling beat 'em up designed for couch co-op -- it looks like a top-down, Sacred-esque RPG.
But it isn't.Click here to read more...
Developer: Extend Studio
Publisher: Origo Games
Wouldn't it be useful to have seven clones at your beck and call? That way you could attend four different day jobs and still have doppelgängers left over for a full house of Mario Kart multiplayer. Decades of science fiction tells us that nothing can possibly go wrong with that plan. No sir.
Anyway, as a certain maniacal Agent once famously said: "the best thing about being me... there are so many MEs." In this case I'm a small green blob called Filo, tasked with saving a cheerful cartoon world in puzzly platform style. Foes need stomping, switches need pressing, bottomless pits need jumping and collectibles demand snaffling; a daunting task for a tiny gelatinous globule.
Or at least it would be if a run-in with a mysterious cosmic entity hadn't granted Filo the ability to control a small army of clones and transform them into useful platforms. And dinosaurs. And rocket-launching hovertanks.Click here to read more...
Why aren't you any fun, Wayward Manor? You're the result of a collaboration between a successful indie studio in The Odd Gentlemen -- responsible for the really rather good The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom -- and one of my favourite authors: Neil Gaiman; you have a promising set up that sees players taking on the role of a ghost and attempting to frighten an unwanted family out of the eponymous house; you look like a mix of the works of Tim Burton and Henry Selick...
So where did it all go wrong?
Let's break it down. Wayward Manor is a point and click puzzler set across twenty-five stages, each of which see you peering down into various rooms of the grumpy manor, itself rather wonderfully voiced by Gaiman himself, and manipulating various items and fixtures and fittings in each of these rooms to scare the unwanted family member currently inside. Six scares are required before you can summon the ghoulish energy to unleash a torrent of spectral energy that'll send the whole chamber rattling, and force your victim to flee in terror.
The manner by which you go about amassing those six scares differs in form, but not in function. The game basically revolves around you clicking the left-mouse button for everything, but timing and angles are key. Sending a mouse scurrying in front of your unsuspecting mark at just the right time involves precise deployment, as does dropping a bottle from the rafters as your target passes by. It's simple stuff, but the game restricts your abilities slightly. In each room, there are three tiers of interactive opportunities, expanding as you build up the scare count and amass more power. In the first level, you can only throw bottles around, then your influence spreads to the window shutters, and after that all bets are off.Click here to read more...
I failed the first level of Gods Will Be Watching over ten times before I finally managed to balance hacking a computer mainframe, watching over a bunch of jittery hostages, and staving off some grenade-happy soldiers successfully. Even when I had, I still wasn't certain that I'd actually done it through my own skill and deft multitasking rather than some sort of fluke born from frustration.
The game's first level gives you four hostages and a computer system to crack. Soldiers inch their way towards you down a nearby corridor, and the only things you have to halt their progression is the threat of violence to the hostages or a spot of blind fire, both of which freak out your captives.
The hacking progress bar takes its sweet time, and though you can charge a hacking boost in increments, each time you do, your own cyber security takes a hit. Occasionally, your corridor-covering chum will have a crisis of faith, sometimes your hostages will tell you that they're about to run or fancy ending it all or don't think you're looking, and you'll have to decide how to deal with the situation.Click here to read more...
Unrest is a game all about talking to people. There's little by way of direct violence in this indie RPG adventure title from Pyrodactyl Games, instead the emphasis here is fixed firmly on the notion of playing a role, wrapping yourself up in a character and then making some rather weighty decisions.
This is absolutely my jam.
The scene is set in the city of Bhimra, with the game taking its cues from a fictionalised, fantastical vision of ancient India. The years have not been kind to Bhimra and its population, and interminable famine, drought, and burgeoning slums have brought the city to the brink of utter collapse. An uneasy treaty with a neighbouring Naga empire, whose citizens are a giant race of snake people, would seem to be the answer, but in exchange for provisions and welfare, the Naga are looking for jobs for their skilled workers. Unlike Bhimra's caste system, the Naga empire allows for greater social mobility, but even so, there are only so many opportunities to go around.
That doesn't sit too well with certain pockets of Bhimra's society, however, particularly out in the slums where an influx of immigrants would seem to be the absolute last thing their city should be undertaking in a time of famine and strife. Riots start kicking off, and a royal visit to the areas of deprivation, designed to illustrate the benefits of the treaty with the Naga empire, goes horribly awry. Everything goes downhill rather quickly after that and you the player, are in charge of determining a future path for Bhimra across eight chapters and five different playable characters of varying standings and affiliations.Click here to read more...
Developer: Alan Hazelden
Sokobond is a game about making molecules.
It's so simple. Controlling a single atom, you'll move around some 2D grids in cardinal directions to bump into other atoms, locking and bonding if you each happen to have a free electron. Like a Sokoban puzzle, only with molecular bonding. Geddit? Eventually you'll form a molecule and learn an interesting science fact, all while enjoying a soothing minimalist atmosphere and subconsciously improving your basic chemistry skills. A low-key idea, but so masterful in the execution that Sokobond became one of 2013's best puzzle games.
Time makes fools of us all, and I simply didn't have enough time to pick up and review Alan Hazelden's minimalist masterpiece at launch. Now that it's headed to Steam on July 21st, however, I finally have a perfect excuse to rave about it.Click here to read more...
Hands up if you fancy playing one of the best RPGs of the last decade, because that's what we've got right here. I could spend 1500 or so words dissecting Divinity: Original Sin for you before delivering that conclusion, but frankly that's time that you could be spending playing Divinity: Original Sin.
Let's put it this way: if you like your old-school, isometric RPGs, if you've lamented the increasing tendencies of modern games (especially purported role-playing games) towards handholding and streamlining and other simplifications, if what you crave from an RPG is freedom and customisation and a combat system that makes you pause and think, this is the game you've been waiting for.
You should probably stop reading and go and buy it right now.
If you're still here, perhaps you need a little more convincing. Some proof, perhaps, or a little more specificity. We're back in Rivellon for this prequel to Divine Divinity, but it won't matter if you've never played a Divinity game before. You can jump straight in and starting questing to your heart's content, the only things you'll miss out on are a few "A-ha!" moments and in-jokes as previous characters make cameo appearances. You begin the game by creating two Source Hunters, who are on a mission to find the dastardly magical evil-doers that have been mucking about with the balance of things and so on and so forth. It's a fairly hackneyed story, one we've seen countless times before, but it's the way Larian tell it rather than the story itself that makes Original Sin such a delight. This game is all about freedom, choice, personality, and funny one-liners.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS3 (reviewed) | X360 | PC
Developers: CI Games
Publishers: CI Games
I wanted to love Enemy Front, I really did. As a big WWII FPS fan, I’ve been starved for years and have only recently got a taste of the genre coming back with the ‘what if the Nazi’s won’ Wolfenstein on PS4 and the ‘let’s shoot Italians in Africa for a change’ of the recent Sniper Elite III. Enemy Front could have been another game to show that WWII is still one of the best settings for FPS titles; instead, it’s probably buried it.
The game’s ambitions are pure enough, but CI have struggled to cope with the CryEngine and basic gameplay design, producing one of this year’s biggest messes. The frame-rate crashes into single-digits whenever you go indoors, especially when moving up the stairs of any of the multiple apartment buildings. The checkpointing seems intent on making you relive the worst parts of the game whenever you bite the dust after the increasingly random number of perforations deemed acceptable is reached.
Glitches see enemies that can only be sniped get stuck behind pillars. You can be shot by enemies through several buildings, leading to the impression you’re being shot by ghosts. Your own shots frequently fail to register in some of the worst hit detection I’ve ever seen. You’re pretty much forced to rely on sniper weapons as the close range lunacy of the jitteriest MP40 in existence suggest the lead hero has wrists made of jelly. Sometimes weapons sink into the ground when you put them down for a sec to use a rocket launcher. Stealth melee takedown animations are so lengthy that you’ll be seen by another soldier every time. The ultimate slow clap award though goes to those gifted flying Nazis that seem to get skyhooked away from the battlefield. It gets to the point where all you can do is laugh through the rage.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS3 | PS4 (reviewed) | X360 | XO
Developers: Edge of Reality
It’s always amused me just how much people hate Michael Bay. I mean, it’s a film about toys. Of course it’s just robots hitting each other and stuff exploding. Don’t like it? Well stop paying a fortune to watch it at the cinema thus encouraging him to make more. Seriously, I had to delete one person from facebook because they were complaining about how awful the film was despite them paying to watch it twice.
Personally, as an effects fan, I quite like the films (not seen the new one yet though), but wish they were about 45 minutes shorter. I approached the latest tie-in game with low expectations, but with a willingness to be pleasantly surprised, despite High Moon Studios -whose Cybertron series has been widely praised by critics and fans alike- not being at the helm. Fingers crossed they get to work on a brand new entry to the series once they’re done with helping out on COD: Advanced Warfare.
Rise of the Dark Spark is only a tie-in the sense that it’s been released alongside the movie, as most of it takes place on Cybertron with a few Earth levels bookending the campaign. Throughout the adventure you get to play as a large number of Autobots and Decepticons. The game handles like a standard third-person shooter with you mowing down waves of enemies with a variety of light and heavy weapons.Click here to read more...
Developer: Telltale Games
Decisions, decisions. We've made plenty of them during the last four episodes of The Wolf Among Us, some big, some small, some tough and others seemingly simple, but it's finally time to find out whether any of them really mattered in the long run. Everything rests on whether Episode 5: Cry Wolf can tie up the series in a satisfying and bittersweet fashion, while atoning for the stodgy pacing of the last chapter.
Put simply: it does. Not only is Cry Wolf an emphatic end to Telltale's first Fables collaboration, a stylish, menacing, comprehensive and deeply rewarding experience from pacey start to shocking finish, but it's also one of the best pieces of interactive entertainment they've ever released.
We've been keeping our reviews free of major spoilers, so you can read our verdict on Episode 1, 2, 3 and 4 to get the measure of the series thus far. Our final verdict is no exception, meaning that the following few hundred words will be heavy on opinion and light on description.
Click here to read more...
Platforms: PC | PS4 | Wii U | Xbox 360 | Xbox One (reviewed, £11.99)
Developer: DrinkBox Studios
'MetroidVania' platformers may be as ancient as Mother Brain and wall chickens, but they still pull in the punters. From Shadow Complex to Dust: An Elysian Tail and Strider, there's nothing more satisfying than constantly earning new skills and abilities while exploring brilliantly-designed levels, then eventually backtracking to beat challenges and humiliate enemies that once lorded it over us. Guacamelee! proved to be a superb example of the genre back when it released as a PSN exclusive last year, offering all the bells and whistles we expect, only with a heaped serving of spicy Mexican flavour to punch things up.
Indeed, punching things up was the aim of the game, only our newfound identity as a superpowered Luchador also let us throw down on Day Of The Dead-themed skeletal hordes with wrestling moves, smash our way through Aztec temples and occasionally turn into a chicken for the sheer merry heck of it. Pollo power!
Fifteen months later and the Super Turbo Championship Edition has arrived on new-gen consoles, Wii U, PC and Xbox 360, boasting updated visuals, new content and all the previously-released DLC. You could say that it's the whole enchilada. Since it's currently free for Xbox One owners and available as a free upgrade for PS4 gamers who picked up the original, it's high time we gave this fierce fiesta our full attention.Click here to read more...
Platform: PC (£8.99)
"I love the idea behind Concursion" is a nasty little backhanded compliment, but it must be paid. This astoundingly ambitious indie project is built around a sensational premise: exploring five different classic genres that continually bleed into and feed off one another as the barriers between them collapse. One moment you'll be jumping on nasties and leaping over pitfalls, the next you'll be piloting a spaceship or racing through a Pac-Man maze, experiencing completely different mechanics and combining multiple gameplay styles in increasingly imaginative ways.
It's the sort of radical Big Idea™ that can turn a modest little boutique title into a cult classic, and make an indie experiment more than the sum of its individual parts.
This will be paramount for Concursion, unfortunately, because its individual parts don't hold up under scrutiny. What can charitably be described as a deliciously inventive genre hybrid could equally be labelled as five rubbish games bound together in a uniquely fascinating way.
Click here to read more...
Format: PS3 | PS4 (reviewed) | X360 | XO |PC
Publisher: 505 Games
Sniper Elite III has opted for a change of scenery for its latest long-range melon buster and visits the sandy vistas of Africa during World War II. Unlike most WWII games, there’s a surprising lack of Nazis, instead you’re generally shooting Italians with ze Germans apparently not being fans of the searing heat.
Scenery change aside, it’s business as usual, shooting Axis soldiers from oh-so far away, with gruesome slow-mo detail accompanying most shots. The series’ stable gore looks more grisly than ever on the new consoles. Skulls explode, teeth smash from jaws, bones snap, insides are ripped through and of course testicle shots are back. On the default settings, I soon tired of these slow-motion killshots that follow the bullet from your gun right up to its messy destination. I’d advise dipping into the options to turn down the frequency of them as they lose their impact by the end of the first stage otherwise. They also make it difficult to keep track of nearby enemies between shots.
There’s a tagging feature that does allow you to mark enemies via use of your binoculars. Marked soldiers will then appear through any surface, in a similar way to Far Cry 3. It’s a shame you can’t tag them through your sniper scope as switching back and forth between the rifle and binoculars is a cumbersome experience.Click here to read more...
I've said it before and I'll say it again: you probably ought to investigate The Secret World. It's an MMORPG like no other, a thought-provoking, deeply atmospheric and peerlessly-written experiment that flies in the face of everything you'd expect from the genre. A twisted version of our world where everything is true, every fairy tale, conspiracy theory and horror story, where a working knowledge of sheet music and ISBN numbers is just as important as a deadly skill rotation. Not to mention steely nerves and a willingness to actually flex your grey matter.
Shame about the ending, though. The Secret World closed like a TV season finale, promising grand revelations and a triumphant return to Tokyo: the horrifying ground zero that kickstarted the game's events. Two years and a shift from subscriptions to 'buy once,-play forever' later and I'm finally in a position to say "konichiwa" from Kaidan. Promising a new playfield, horizontal progression system and the beginning of the end for the current story arc (if time is actually linear in The Secret World... goodness, there's a whole separate article in there), this is the descent into madness we've been waiting for.
Was it worth the wait? For both hardcore and lapsed fans, Issue #9 is arguably the pinnacle of the experience thus far. A terrifying, chilling, haunting, deeply referential lungful of filthy air.
My wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.Click here to read more...
Platform: 3DS, also on Wii U (eShop, £9.99)
Developer: The Game Bakers
"Every once in a while, a mobile game comes along that delivers quality and value consistent with a full-price handheld console release. A game that offers an experience that wouldn't feel out of place on the DS with a premium price tag... but costs next to nothing. SQUIDS is one of those games." - Mobot iOS review, 2011
Deja vu much? This will make for the third time I've reviewed SQUIDS in as many years, and the fact that I still enjoy the experience speaks volumes about the quality and enjoyment factor of this crazy genre hybrid. Whether on iOS, Android or now Wii U, the squishy underwater lovechild of Fire Emblem and Angry Birds still manages to blend strategy with artillery and a huge dose of silly referential humour.
And now it's on 3DS, a big fat fully content-and-feature-complete edition with an IAP-free economy that also grants you a free copy of the Wii U version here in Europe (details here). As such, this review is going to be short and sweet, since we already covered the original Wii U eShop release in May. Instead of rehashing old ground, we'll focus on what makes this new version different, better and wetter than its predecessors.Click here to read more...
Platform: PC (£6.99)
Publisher: Daedelic Entertainment
All is not well in Midgard. Munin, Odin's loyal spy and informant, has been transformed into a mortal human by the nefarious Loki and set adrift in a dangerous 2D world. Flightless but not helpless, our heroine sets out to reclaim her feathers and return to her place on Odin's shoulder by...
...erm, rotating some tiles. For eight hours.
Anyone expecting a radical new adaptation or in-depth exploration of Norse mythology should lower their expectations immediately, because Munin is very much a puzzle game first and foremost that does the bare minimum to embrace the setting (beyond a handful of names, attractive art direction a handful of text screens written in a deeply ugly typeface). However, patient players who crave an exceptionally challenging platform puzzler with a penchant for deadly physics-based traps will be in their element.Click here to read more...
Platforms: 3DS | PS3 | PS Vita | Wii U (reviewed)
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Cards on the table: I love One Piece. Granted, there's a world of deeper, more exciting and incredibly tedious anime/manga franchises out there, but for me there's nothing quite like watching madcap super-powered pirates fighting each other, engaging in hilarious banter, learning intense lessons about comradeship and doing almost no actual piracy whatsoever.
It's the sweet spot of irrepressible humour, great characters, shapeshifting reindeer, stretchy protagonists, violin-playing skeleton musicians and swordsmen so badass they hold a third blade in their teeth. And, as such, perfect videogame material. Even the incredibly inconsistent Omega Force managed to make an excellent Dynasty Warriors spin-off in One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2, but Gabarion have gone one step further by basing their latest tie-in on something more profound.
Namely Monster Hunter. It's a concoction that shouldn't work, yet in practice makes for one of the best anime tie-ins ever developed: a gorgeous, enormous and surprisingly compelling game that lasts for hours on end.
Though, as I made sure to mention in the very first sentence of this review, I'm a fan myself. Bear that in mind, won't you?Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS3 (reviewed) | PS4 | 360 | XO | PC
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
With a World War I setting, Valiant Hearts: The Great War explores relatively unfamiliar ground for gaming, or even movies to be honest, as it was generally WWII that inspired so many films and games. It’s hard to believe that the human race had the capacity for war again after the events of WWI and Valiant Hearts plays an important role in showing us that this was one of the darkest moments of humanity’s very chequered past.
Unlike most war games though, Valiant Hearts isn’t another one-man-army first-person shooter or a strategic tactical sim. It’s a heavily story-driven experience with puzzling and old-school adventuring at the core of the gameplay.
The hand-drawn visuals ensure that you’ll fall in love with the game early on and they certainly helped open a few doors for the game in terms of coverage when it was first announced. Like Rayman Legends and Child of Light, the game uses Ubisoft’s fantastic UbiArt engine that brings hand-drawn images to life in a way that other engines can only dream of. Valiant Hearts goes for the solid colours and thick black lines of a comic book style instead of the moving watercolours we saw with Child of Light, proving for any doubters the versatility of the engine.Click here to read more...
Developer: Carbine Studios
Here we are – finally at end of the review that just wouldn’t stop coming (blame Carbine accordingly for their gigantic game, I say.) There’s still a lot to get through before the verdict, but here’s a helpful hub if you’ve missed my previous instalments or want a refresher on my previous musings on WildStar.
We begin this instalment by taking a look at the Limited Action Sets and the AMP system, which acts as the skills and talent tree for WildStar respectively. As long as players are out of combat, the flexibility and user friendly nature of the LAS is one of my favourite aspects of Carbine’s efforts. Being able to swap out abilities at a moment’s notice ensures players can try new tactics and combos, along with the option of powering up equipped abilities with Tier Points to unlock bonus effects. On top of this, being able to buy new abilities from the menu without having to travel to a trainer is a godsend, as it means players no longer have to make their way back to the nearest one upon levelling up (something a lot of MMOs still do, annoyingly.)
Click here to read more...
Developer: Codemasters Racing
GRID Autosport doesn't have an in-car cockpit view. It has two in-car cockpit views.
Despite releasing a scant twelve months after GRID 2, Codemasters' latest track racer addresses every criticism that fans levelled at last year's mixed effort. And then some. Awkward drift-heavy handling has been replaced by tight grippy simulation. Instead of no driving assists whatsoever, we can access every optional helping hand imaginable, letting us scale the experience to our specifications. An idiotic story about social media gives way to a freeform campaign that Milestone would be proud of, complete with five totally different disciplines and AI that fights back, preparing drivers for an enormous multiplayer suite powered by the RaceNet sevice.
In short it's everything that dedicated racing fans wanted from GRID 2... but by tuning, tweaking and expanding upon practically everything in the package, GRID Autosport is also deeply impressive in its own right.
You could even argue that it's five track racers in one, spanning TOCA to tyre-shredding street showdowns.Click here to read more...