"The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing 2 punches well above its weight and ends up as a markedly superior game. Seriously, even the optional tower defence sections are good enough to be a standalone game in their own right."
I'm not trying to take credit for Deathtrap -- even I'm not that egotistical -- but I certainly called it in our Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing II review. NeoCore are already masters at creating rock-solid action RPG gameplay with compelling progression and great combat, so having discovered a knack for tower defence too, they decided to build a brand new game mixing all three elements together.
The result is half Diablo-style dungeon crawler, half tower defender and all delightfully OTT gothic horror romp. With multiple classes, tricky mazes, hordes of enemies, addictive levelling, versatile upgrades, co-op, infinite user-generated content and more besides, Deathtrap expertly blends the strategy of tower defence with the insanely hectic combat of Diablo. It's an example of a tower defence RPG hybrid that actually tries to break the mold, and rise above the pack in an otherwise crowded sub-genre.
And because it's built on the dependable Van Helsing foundation, it's also an example of an Early Access game that actually works!Click here to read more...
Platform: PC (reviewed) | Xbox One version TBA
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Don't call it a Roguelike. Dungeon Of The Endless may feature permadeath and dungeon crawling, but one word can't do justice to this extraordinary genre-defying beast. To take a stab at pigeonholing it, I suppose that 'Real-Time Turn-Based Strategic 4X Tower Defence Roguelike RPG hybrid' is probably the closest I can get.
So the first thing you need to know is that Dungeon Of The Endless uses traditional Roguelike genre staples as a launchpad for a totally fresh and unique Sci-Fi experience that continually switches up the pace and challenge in exciting new ways.
The second and most important thing you need to know, however, is that it's absolutely bloody fantastic. Dungeon Of The Endless was already impressive when Ampltude Studios released the alpha last year, and has only grown stronger due to user feedback and honest painstaking hard work. I'm having trouble finding anything remotely wrong with it, but explaining how all of its crazy genre-blending systems interlock will take some doing.Click here to read more...
For my money, Fallout 3 is probably the best RPG of the last console generation and quite possibly the best game too. Its enormous game world was both enormous, unpredictable and dense; while the story and gameplay armed us with more choice than any other game I can think of.
If you haven't yet sampled Bethesda's exquisite take on the Fallout franchise, you can now get the GOTY Edition for less than a London pint. Thanks to ferreirm @ HUKD!
Platforms: PS3 | PS Vita (reviewed)
Publisher: NIS America | Reef Entertainment
The trailers lied. Yes, Akiba's Trip is a game in which you'll rip the clothes off sexy vampires, but that's not what it's about.
It's actually a cel shaded celebration of otaku counter-culture in all of its bizarre diversity and a love letter to Tokyo's trendy Akihabara district. It's big-hearted, anarchic, punk, devastatingly cool and fiercely unapologetic in its desire to do its own crazy thing; a blend of riotous street combat with compelling RPG components and visual novel elements. A little like Yakuza by way of Jet Set Radio, only much rougher around the edges.
All-told, Akiba's Trip is one of the most pleasant surprises of 2014, though admittedly the combat still revolves around ripping people's clothes off. We'll get to that in due time... but for now, note that I said "people," not "girls."
Revealing that you'll spend half your time disrobing hot buff dudes clearly wasn't at the top of the marketing team's priorities!Click here to read more...
Dragon Age: Origins | Origin | Free
Dragon Age: Origins is that rare thing, a Tokien-esque dark fantasy game that makes its universe and canon feel fresh, vital and new while still dealing with the clichés we know and love. It also happens to be a truly brilliant RPG with great characters, plenty of player choice and the ability to create your own character from numerous races and backgrounds with unique playable backstories.
And it's FREE! Go get it, though don't bother with the sequel. Thanks and credit to gemsa @ HUKD!
Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning is a seriously big game, and one that balances exploration and character skill development with exciting moment-to-moment combat. The fantasy setting is thoroughly uninspired and as insipid as they come, but there's no quibbling with the raw value. The DLC and 'full version' is also on sale, Tsung reminds us in the comments.
Thanks once again to jaystan @ HUKD!
The last time we left our heroes, they'd emerged from a vicious street fight and secured a new base of operations. The Division's first gameplay trailer gave us a look at how players will cooperate to take back New York from the deranged survivors of a chemical attack; using both gunplay, strategy and RPG-esque skills to outmanoeuvre and outsmart their foes.
It's all right here in this E3 video. Watch it, else nothing that follows will seem wondrous. Or make any sense.
Ubisoft brought the next chapter to Gamescom 2014, or perhaps more accurately, the prequel. After showing us the daytime section again, running on Xbox One and iPad, they whisked us off to a new section of the game set during the previous night. Manhattan feels like a totally different place after sundown, an eerie and haunting environment that feels preternaturally wrong as you carefully pick your way through the ruined streets. A once bustling city now silent and deserted, save for the packs of hard-edged operators stalking through the rubble.
However, the day/night cycle is more than just a stylistic choice. New threats come out to play once the sun sets, and you'll need to work together in order to survive until dawn.Click here to read more...
In Exilium | IndieGameStand | £0.62 minimum (RRP: £5.99)
I love the idea behind In Exilium. Apparently it's a hack & slash action RPG that hinges around exploration as opposed to hub-based questing, forcing you to constantly reach out to gain strength and solve the mystery of your exile. However, I also have to point out that I haven't played it. For £0.62 minimum -- more than a £5 saving versus the Desura RRP -- it has to be worth a punt if you like the sound of the premise.
Platform: PS4 | Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Here we go again. I reviewed Diablo III on PC... then the last-gen console version... then the Reaper Of Souls expansion pack... and finally we come to this. The Ultimate Evil Edition. The final showdown. It's time for the last dance with the devil -- that is, unless Blizzard brings out another expansion.
To be honest, I'm still in two minds about whether Diablo III really works on consoles. Despite pretending to be a glorious last stand against the forces of hell, all it really involves is holding the A button (X on PS4) until all the enemies are dead or you've passed out from boredom. The leap from mice to controllers removed an entire dimension of precision priority targeting, so instead you'll just mash that button and then mash it a few more times to pick up all the loot in the vicinity. Then roll. Then hold down A for another five minutes.
This shouldn't be fun. It should be torture. But ultimately, somehow, Diablo III's Ultimate Evil Edition ends up being enjoyable and annoyingly addictive to the point where I'd rather be playing it than leaving my den -- let alone writing this review.
Basically, Just Add Mates.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS Vita
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Handhelds and strategy RPGs were made for each other, and Disgaea continues to be one of the biggest names in the business for those in the know. Nailing that sweet spot between quirky upbeat humour, insane social life-destroying tactical depth and adorable exploding demon penguin murderers, the irreverent series always feels more at home on portable consoles than it does in the living room.
Case in point, Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited, which provides the ultimate definitive edition of arguably the strongest game in the franchise.
Sardines, dood! Yes, once again, Disgaea isn't ashamed to be deeply silly when it comes to the storyline. We find ourselves following Lord Valvatorez, a once-terrifying vampire tyrant now relegated to a lowly exploding penguin instructor in the depths of hell thanks to some hastily-made promises. His mission, not to mention his obsession with the nutrient value of sardines versus human blood, quickly derails as all manner of crazy characters show up and hilarious diversions poke fun at established conventions, but a strong central theme and great localised dialogue keeps things interesting even if you've never played a Disgaea game before.
It's a surprisingly engrossing tale, even providing alternate 'bad endings' with their own non-canonical epilogue when you fail certain battles. Just remember not to save after seeing one! More importantly, though, Valvatorez is by far the most interesting protagonist in the series. Older and more experienced (but no less bizarre) than his predecessors, he's genuinely hilarious, likeable and benefits from a believable and relateable motive. Move over Laharl.Click here to read more...
South Park: The Stick Of Truth may have taken its sweet time, but was ultimately worth the wait back in March. Trademark OTT South Park humour acts as an accompaniment to genuinely solid RPG combat and progression, making for a game that's as solid as it is hilarious and outrageous. £13.99 is seriously cheap too. Thanks to apollolo @ HUKD!
Nobody expects the Dragon Age: Inquisition! Well, apart from all of you savvy gamers, who are probably already aware that BioWare's fantasy RPG sequel is heading to store shelves in early October. You can now take a good long look at its tactical combat, exploration, companions and massive dragon fights in sixteen minutes of narrated gameplay footage, which was previously only shown behind the closed doors of EA's E3
prefab hype fortress booth.
The dragon encounters, while slightly reminiscent of a certain other game containing oversized lizards, certainly look to be a high point of the game. We dearly hope that BioWare can redeem themselves for the previous game and hark back to the brilliance of the original.
We've danced this dance a thousand times before, but once more for the road: just look at these games. Baldur's Gate Complete. Baldur's Gate II Complete Edition. Icewind Dale Complete Edition. Icewind Dale II Complete Edition. Planescape Torment. (And The Temple Of Elemental Evil, more's the pity).
Now buy them for less than the price of the Baldur's Gate enhanced edition. Thanks to jaystan @ HUKD!
Do I need to explain what Skyrim is at this point? Suffice to say that this is the Legendary Edition that includes all of the DLC, and it's a smart bargain thanks to GameFly's cheap voucher code price. Thanks to shunts36 @ HUKD!
February 24th, 2015.
It's so far away. So very far away. We've got Summer, Autumn and Christmas to get through first, all of which stand between us and playing The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. It wouldn't be so bad if CD Projekt had just announced the date, but nooo, they had to go and deliver a drool-inducing trailer instead.
Seriously, put some kitchen towel on your keyboard before watching this. It's stunning.
Etrian Odyssey Untold is handily the best game in the series, though it probably shouldn't be.
In fact, I shouldn't be able to recommend it at all. Following a heartbreaking European delay (still, at least we got Bravely Default a few months before the US - not that we're bitter or anything), it arrives on our shores as a remake of the 2008 DS original that borrows Etrian Odyssey IV's engine, right down to plundering plenty of assets. The fantastic old-school dungeon crawling is present and correct, the brutally tough yet rewarding exploration and combat that requires us to make our own maps on the lower screen, yet years of improvements have left it behind.
Etrian Odyssey IV introduced overworld airship exploration and other new features when it released last summer, so even with the delay, Untold ought to be obsolete. Lest we forget the cheekily ambitious Demon Gaze, which beat Untold to the punch on Vita.
And yet Etrian Odyssey IV feels like a prototype, a beta test, for something truly remarkable. A game that knows how tough an on-paper sell it is, and boldly flies in the face of the established franchise formula by adding something simple yet devastatingly effective.
Character. Real, genuine, vintage character. Or should that be characters?Click here to read more...
Diablo III was broken, but Blizzard have fixed it. Not only have the recent patches made grinding fun and rewarding, but Reaper Of Souls adds some great meaningful content (including the best act in the game and brilliant new class), alongside a new way to experience the game in Adventure Mode. Some of you have already abandoned Diablo III and frankly I can't blame you... but it's worth a second look to check out the free updates - then pay a competitive £15.95 for the expansion if you like it.
Remember to use the voucher code from liking their Facebook page! You can unlike and re-like them if necessary. Thanks to Trogador at HUKD for this burninating deal!
Platform: PC (pre-order includes Steam beta, £8.88)
Developer: Pixel Ferrets
I'm wearing a chicken on my head, swinging a sharpened carrot around like a vegetarian lunatic and feeling fantastic. See, I worked hard for these bizarre items in Secrets Of Grindea, the indie RPG that glorifies "grind" and shows us that it doesn't have to be a dirty word.
The clue's in the name, see. Grindea. Geddit? Now behold my mighty carrot.
I was lucky enough to encounter Pixel Ferrets and their hot Swedish export back when they were enrolled in Gotland University, whereupon their prototype was already polished enough to win universal acclaim from a panel of industry veterans including Jason Vandenberghe, Ernest Adams and... erm, me. Then it won the Student Choice Awards. And then the Swedish Game Awards. Two years on, and Secrets Of Grindea is finally available to pre-order and play as an early access title.
If you're at all interested in classic RPGs like Secret Of Mana, you probably ought to pay attention. Despite the potential for parody, Secrets Of Grindea is deadly serious about providing a rock-solid gameplay experience to enjoy, ensuring that the grinding and humour are built on firm foundations.Click here to read more...
Nobody expects the Dragon Age Inquisition!
Well, actually, that's not entirely true. Not only does this new trailer set up the basic premise (we're the sole survivor of a disaster with magical powers and a great destiny... again), show off the shiny trans-generation graphics and hype us up for retooled dragon combat, but it also confirms that BioWare's sequel should release in October.
So we therefore know exactly what to expect and when to expect it. What we need to know, however, is whether it can put the series back on form after Dragon Age II totally squandered the first game's potential. We'll be sure to fetch the comfy chair and find out [that's probably enough misquoted Python now - Ed].