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Review: Horizon Zero Dawn

Game: Horizon Zero Dawn1

Developer: Guerilla Games

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Platform(s): PlayStation 4

Release Date: February 28th, 2017

MSRP: $59.99

With the Nintendo Switch out now that this is posted I felt a particular urgency to play Horizon. It’s a game I knew I would like and one I was determined to spend as much time with as possible prior to Zelda and the Switch. Roughly three days later I’ve put over thirty hours into Guerilla Games PS4 exclusive, and I’m so glad I made time for it. 17097308_1464375290241493_8658031887260918580_o

Our protagonist is Aloy, a female outcast of the Nora tribe and a skilled hunter. Horizon is set in what I can only describe as the post-post-apocalypse. Maybe I’m just making excuses for a game I like but how far removed  ( by thousands of years) Horizon is from the end of the world makes it infinitely more interesting than your typical post-apocalyptic game. Your task is simple, win acceptance into the Nora tribe that shunned you as a “Motherless outcast” and discover the truth about your own heritage as well as the truth behind what happened to the “metal world” and the people that came before.

The world of Horizon is populated with lots of dangers including Raiders and cultists, but the biggest by far are the wild machines. The wilds of this earth are filled with rejects from Transformers Beast Wars. The smallest of the bunch are known as Watchers, they resemble raptors and are easy enough to take down. These typically appear as guardians for herds of other machines to alert them to your presence. Beyond Watchers, you’ll encounter a whole lot of cool looking animal-themed robots from the Bison looking Long Horns to the Sawtooth which is essentially a huge Sabertooth Tiger. The deeper into the game you get, the more you’ll encounter large-scale killers like the Thunderjaw a T-rex with twin missile launchers and an attitude.

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Hey big fella

 

Combat with these beasts is one of the deepest and most enjoyable gameplay aspects of Horizon. You don’t have the power to brute force these beasts so instead you’ll rely on Aloy’s Focus an ancient device that gives her a sort of eagle vision or detective mode that is all too common in open world games these days. You can use this to locate glowing weak points on enemies and pick away at them slowly in a very, Monster Hunter like fashion. Some of the larger enemies like the Thunderjaw can even have heavy weapons knocked off and used against them. If monster slaying is your game Horizon has a whole line of hunting lodge side quests to scratch that itch.

Aside from necessary large scale encounters Horizon has a large focused on stealth. Small human enemies and small robots like the Watchers can be killed with a single strike from stealth. Horizon took a page from Assassins Creed with a whistle mechanic that had me stacking bodies in the bushes pulling my enemies one at a time.

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Be very quiet

 

As you complete main story missions and side missions you’ll accumulate experience and be able to dump skill points into upgrades abilities like increased stealth or stronger melee strikes. In addition to these abilities, Aloy will gain some exceptional skills through completing side quests. Early on Aloy gets the ability to hack small machines to fight for her. Throughout the game you’ll find robot manufacturing plants called “Cauldrons” reaching the center of one of these and hacking its core will allow you to subsquently hack the machines produced there but don’t expect to do so without a fight.

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Now we wait

 

In addition to Aloys bow, you can purchase many weapons from traders on your journey including trip wires and a sort of repeater rifle. I never used much more than my trusty bow, and a weapon called the rope caster which allows you to tie down enemies temporarily. You can also buy new armor sets for Alloy which give certain benefits like damage reduction from specific elements. You can also find and craft upgrade modules to boost weapon and armor stats.

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A look at the weapon modding screen

 

The crafting system of Horizon is incredibly deep. One rule applies always be looting. Grab plants, machine scraps everything you can, you’ll always be crafting fresh ammo and health potions and most of these materials are also used in trading with merchants, however, the metal shards you loot are the primary currency in play.

Most importantly for me, Horizon fixes a lot of the problems I have with open world games. For starters it has towers to help reveal the map in the roaming Long Necks but only four in the entire game. You mean I don’t have to climb 400 watch towers? Thanks Guerilla. The map also doesn’t feel too populated, you have plenty of side activities, but they don’t feel overwhelming. You can also buy maps to reveal more icons if you like horrible messes. Combat doesn’t feel repetitive like it often does in games like Farcry and Assassins Creed fighting behemoths that are far stronger than you keeps you on your toes.

It seems funny to say that one of Horizons biggest strengths is that it delivers on story. I have no doubt we will see a Horizon trilogy, despite this Guerilla left no real dangling threads. Horizon answers all of the big questions it answers. A sequel is basically a sure thing, but it may be something very diffrent.

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View from the top

 

Horizon Zero Dawn is a really special game. It blends an enticing story with likable characters and gorgeous environments. It has challenging and rewarding combat that makes you want to challenge robotic death machine for hours on end. Horizon Zero Dawn is a perfect open world game and Sonys new IP to watch.

Score: 10 out of 10

 

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Review: Psychonauts In The Rhombus Of Ruin

Game: Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin

Developer: Double Fine Productions

Publisher: Double Fine Productions

Platform(s): PlayStation 4(PSVR)

Release Date: February 21st, 2017

Price: $19.99

It’s been twelve years since Psychonauts the zany platformer about a Raz a young boy with psychic abilities attending a summer camp to become a psychic spy or “Psychonaut” was released by Double Fine. Psychonauts 2 was announced by creator Tim Schaefer and launched with a Fig campaign in order to crowd fund a portion of its development costs. The crowdfunding campaign was a success, and we’re set to see Psychonauts proper sequel sometime in 2018. In the meantime, however, the PlayStation VR exclusive Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin sets picks up where the original game left off and sets the stage for Psychonauts 2.

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Secret bases and such

 

Rhombus of Ruin picks up where Psychonauts left off, and I mean exactly where it left off. You start off aboard the camp jet on your way to rescue Truman from unclear captors. Obviously having played the original game will make you appreciate this experience a whole lot more bit it isn’t entirely necessary and can serve as a good introduction point for those hoping to play Psychonauts 2. It’s also a great a fun reason to whip it your PSVR, gotta justify that purchase somehow.

This Psychonauts VR experience works and looks pretty great. Entering the beautifully animated Tim Burton-esque world Psychonauts is both gorgeous and fun. You play as Raz from a first person perspective although you never move. To make progress through the environment Raz can use his Psychic abilities to enter the viewpoints of other living creatures. In the first section of the game, you’ll jump between the perspectives of Lilie, Sasha and other familiar Psychonauts characters to learn about Raz’s abilities including telekinesis you can use to move objects, pyrokinesis for burning anything in your path and psyblasts to really bring the hurt.

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The underwater environments look gorgeous in VR

 

The bulk of the gameplay involves moving through the perspectives of different guards and fish where Raz, his Psychonaut Companions, and Truman are being held.You’ll have to shift perspectives a lot of the time by using fish to get from point to point and free your companions of hallucinations brought on by poisoning from a crystal known as Psyrilium that causes sickness in Psychics.As you free your allies, you’ll be one step closer to regaining all of Raz’s abilities and finding the culprits behind Truman’s kidnapping.

Rhombus of Ruin isn’t terribly long. It is at its core another VR experience. I beat the entire thing in one roughly three-hour sitting. The puzzles, while fun aren’t terribly taxing and mostly revolve around snapping Sasha and the others of their Psyrilium induced hallucinations. One such puzzle involves rescuing Coach Oleander from a dance party.

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Oh, hey coach

 

The VR environments are rendered smoothly although I found myself craning my neck a whole lot in order to target my next psychic jump. In addition that all too familiar “out of play area” VR message would pop up, this might simply be the consequence of me attempting to take in the environment, though.

Rhombus of Ruin is a fun well put together VR experience and a great time for fans who’ve been waiting years for more Psychonauts. It may not resonate with people unfamiliar with the series. For those people, things like Batman and Job Simulator are more satisfying VR experiences. It may not be terribly long, but it’s a small taste of a world I have a lot of love for and has me more excited than ever for Psychonauts 2, I hope we can make it to 2018.

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see you in 2018

 

Score: 7 out of 10

 

 

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Review: Splasher

Game: Splasher

Developer: Splashteam

Publisher: Plug In Digital

Platform(s): PC(reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4

Release Date: February 7th, 2017(PC) Spring 2017(console)

Price: 14:99

The first game from indie developer Splashteam launched on Steam, PSN, and the Xbox Marketplace earlier this month. While it hasn’t been getting an insane amount of attention, a quick look for the game over on Giantbomb.com caught my eye. In Splasher, the style of Splatoon meets the precise and frantic platforming of Super Meat Boy.

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Dumb fleshy robots

 

Selling someone on Splasher is relatively easy. Do you like super fast and fluid platforming, a kickass soundtrack and characters eerily similar to the inklings of Splatoon? If all of that sounds good Splasher is for you. In Splasher you play as a purple haired boy only referred to as “Splasher.” You’ll platform your way through the Ink Corp facility saving employees along the way all in the hopes of catching a mad doctor who appears to just be making some freaky fleshy robot monsters. The plot isn’t clear but dammit this thing has style!

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What purpose could all these buzz saws serve in an ink factory?

 

Super tight precision platforming makes Splasher a joy to play for hours, every move feels deliberate, and new elements added as you progress make sections both more challenging and more satisfying to conquer. Above I compared Splasher to Super Meat Boy which feels right with some fundamental differences. Like in Meat Boy you’ll bounce off walls dodging saw blades and enemies as well as other hazards, however, unlike Meat Boy you have a weapon of sorts at your disposal. Early on you’ll be given a waterpack you can use to shoot enemies, hit switches and clear ink that gives you trouble. Two ink types pink which makes you stick to surfaces and yellow which makes you bounce off are vital to solving Splasher’s puzzles. Later in the game, the ability to fire these ink types from your pack in addition to water make for some amazing fast-paced puzzles. As these puzzles are a whole lot of trial and error the super fast respawn times, as well as the thoughtful checkpoint placement help, keep things flowing.

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Really lasers?

 

In between levels you’ll enter a hub world to explore. It’s not much to look at, but from here you’ll access every stage and be able to switch over to time trial mode which can become a quick obsession. You may also notice an area that is gated off. In each stage, you’ll encounter factory workers to save. Each worker you rescue gets you one letter eventually spelling out splash. If you’ve scored a high enough point total of 700 for defeating enemies and clearing paint by the end of the level, you’ll rescue a final worker with an exclamation point. You’ll need to save at least 60 of these guys to reach the last level, don’t sweat it too much though I achieved this number naturally without trying too hard.

Splasher’s art pops with color and personality. It seems minimalist and a whole lot like something you might seem out of  The Behemoth( creators of Castle Crashers and Alien Hominid). You can also grab the soundtrack which is pretty great on Steam for an additional four dollars. Little sound effects like the record scratch effect on death also lend themselves to make the soundtrack more enjoyable.

Splashers biggest problems lie in some control mix-ups. Once you have every ink type, it’s easy to get caught up and fire the wrong shot causing an easy death. While this is far from a huge issue, it can get rather frustrating on longer sessions. Splasher’s length also leaves a bit to be desired. I finished the whole thing in about five hours, while fifteen dollars isn’t terribly expensive you can get more bang for your buck in other titles. I also wish Splasher were just a bit harder. Some levels took me a bit to get through, but it never reached the insanely challenging level that Super Meat Boy does.

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Pink ink makes you stick to surfaces

 

Splasher is pretty great looking and super fun indie title from Splashteam. If super fast platformers are their game, I hope a sequel is in their thoughts. While Splasher isn’t perfect it is polished and a whole lot of fun to play. You can pick it up now on Steam and on PS4 and Xbox One in the spring.

Score: 8 out of 10

 

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Review: Resident Evil VII: Biohazard

Game: Resident Evil VII: Biohazard

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Platform(s): Xbox One, PlayStation 4/PSVR, Microsoft Windows

Release Date: January 24th, 2017

MSRP: $59.99

It’s 2017, That is a fact. It just feels important to remind myself that I’ve finished a Resident Evil game in 2017 and don’t want to gouge my own eyes out. Capcoms horror franchise has a lengthy and rather fascinating history. The first game is fantastic, the second equally so, the third sound in its own right, the fourth is one of the greatest games ever made. It’s the fifth and sixth outing that feel a bit out of place. Five takes the formula of four and adds Cooperative play. While it isn’t a terrible experience, it loses something that I can’t quite put my finger on that made four so fantastic. Six is a metaphorical dumpster fire, I couldn’t even bring myself to complete it. All of this said I was apprehensive about the seventh installment in the series. It’s still early in the year so it may be premature to say, but Resident Evil VII might be the biggest surprise of the year, Capcom knocked it out of the park.

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The bridge to the old house is a tad unsettling

 

In Resident Evil VII you play as Ethan Winters who, for once is no cop or soldier but your average Joe in a shitty situation. Ethan’s wife, Mia went missing three years ago under mysterious circumstances when Ethan receives an Email from Mia claiming she is alive and in Louisiana Ethan sets off for the Baker residence down in the Bayou to find his wife.

When you first jump into Resident Evil VII, you’ll immediately notice some big differences from past games in the series. For one the first person perspective allows for the feeling of larger immersion(especially in VR) and tighter shooting. It’s the first hour or so of the game that feels very diffrent than the standard for Resident Evil, though. You’re alone in a dark house and unarmed. Not even a knife to make you feel like you stand a shot at fighting back.

Combat can feel a bit clunky at times but works overall it works well enough, aiming is tight enough, and you’ll never encounter large hordes of enemies, encountering even three or four at a time is rare and usually an indicator of a time to flee. Unless of course, it’s a boss encounter. Good rule, if the door is locked, you’re probably in a boss fight so good luck.

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this is fine

 

Control wise anyone familiar with a first person shooter could pick up and start playing right away. Connecting item boxes make a return, like Resident Evil games of the past inventory management, plays a huge role. As you progress, you’ll find bigger backpacks upgrading your inventory size. You can have up to four weapons equipped for quick access on the D-pad. Gone are the days of jumping to the inventory menu to equip a new weapon. You’ll save at Cassette players instead of typewriters( the future is now?). In “Madhouse mode” a difficulty unlocked upon completing the game you’ll need to carry cassette tapes with you to save.

Combining item is a useful tool, not only for inventory management but for staying alive. Green herbs are present while yellow and red have been canned. The item creation formula is simple. Chem fluids plus green herb equals healing ointment, chem fluids plus gunpowder equals ammunition. You’ll even be able to pick up separating agents to reverse the process.

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Oh Clancy, we hardly knew you

 

You’re constantly hunted in Resident Evil VII. Jack Baker, the patriarch of the Baker Clan, will hunt you throughout the main house sort of like Nemesis in Resident Evil 3. You’ll have to deal with other members of the Baker family depending on what building you’re in, but Jack made me the most uneasy, always wondering whether or not he’d come crashing through the next door was nerve racking.

Resident Evil VII has collectibles as you’d expect. Aside from documents that shed more light on the story you’ll be able to find 18 antique coins that you can use to unlock things like health upgrades and a special Magnum for that extra punch.

Resident Evil VII is at times unsettlingly beautiful. I was playing on a PS4 pro and on a TV those darks are dark, HDR is an amazing technology. Character models looking amazingly realistic to the point that you occasionally get that uncanny valley effect. If you play on VR you’ll be trading some visual fidelity but I assure you the immersion is worth it.

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Gator needs his gat

 

I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention the fantastic sound direction in Resident Evil VII. PSVR is the best way to play(we’ll get into that below), but I can’t stress enough play with headphones regardless of whether you can play in virtual reality. The sound of footsteps in the distance, the creaks of an old house and even the wind blowing through an open window are enough to keep you on edge.

“Resident Evil VII will sell you on VR”

As the majority of people playing the newest Resident Evil will not have the pleasure of playing with a PlayStation VR headset, I thought it would be best to talk about VR in its own section as it does feel like a different game.I can’t stress this enough, Resident Evil VII is VR’s killer app. Resident Evil VII will sell you on VR.

Of all the games in this long-standing series, most would say they remember the layout of the Spencer Mansion, the setting of the original Resident Evil the most. For me I can now say I remember the Baker residence in a much higher detail because I didn’t just look at it on a screen, I was in that house. If you took me to a physical representation, I could tell you exactly where Grandma’s room on the second floor is, after you’ve somehow tricked into going into that building of nightmares that is.For anyone with doubts about the legs of VR technology, Resident Evil VII is the proof that it isn’t going anywhere. It proves a handful of things, a first person shooter in VR can work and feel great, the sense of immersion VR can bring is the next big thing in games, and finally, first person horror in virtual reality is scary as hell.resident-evil-7-4

Controls in VR are simple enough since the game doesn’t support the PlayStation Move controllers it works mostly the same. To aim you’ll use your head movements rather than the thumbstick which feels great, It’s honestly more natural thank a typical aiming mechanic. To move your field of view you can flick the right stick to turn thirty degrees at a time( it’s possible to turn this off in favor of natural smooth scrolling, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you enjoy vomiting) although strange you’ll adjust quickly, and it feels natural in no time. You can also adjust how much you jump per flick in the settings. The standard thirty worked well for me personally. Making movement comfortable is the most important part of a good VR experience, and Capcom nails it here so much so that my time remaining in VR has gone up dramatically. My longest consistent session of Resident Evil in VR was about five hours, prior to this I’d never been able to stay much longer than an hour.

It took me around ten hours to beat Resident Evil VII, had I done my original playthrough in the standard TV mode it would probably be closer to eight. The tension and fear Capcom manages to build for VR players is unparalleled. I’ve found myself playing a horror game in a way I’d never played any other. Walking down halls slowly, gun drawn, pushing open doors slowly, feeling a slight sense of relief whenever I stumbled upon a safe room or some ammo. I’m by no means a coward, but this game had me on edge constantly.

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Can’t I just break these?

 

If you asked me back a few months ago When Resident Evil VII was first revealed what my thoughts were on it I’d tell you I wasn’t expecting a whole lot. Resident Evil 4 was my favorite game in the series, and it’s been all downhill from there. Much like Resident Evil 4, VII shakes up the formula, and it’s the step in the right direction both for Capcoms series and future of virtual reality.

Score: 9 out of 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas

Game: Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas

Developer: Comfox & Bros

Publisher: FDG Entertainment

Platform(s): ios, Android, PC( reviewed), PS4, PS Vita(unreleased) Xbox One, Nintendo Switch(unreleased)

Release Date(s): November 14th, 2013 (ios), March 17th, 2015(Windows PC), September 7th, 2016 (Xbox One/PS4), December 15th, 2016 (Android), 2017 (Nintendo Switch), TBA (Vita)

MSRP: $5.99(mobile devices) $14.99(PC and console)

With a short lull in between all the big Resident Evils and other big titles on the horizon, I found time to give due attention to a little game that has been crowding my Steam library for over a year. Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas was described upon its original release on ios back in 2013 as a beautiful mobile tribute to Zelda. I am not the biggest fan of mobile gaming; I’ll play on PC or console over my phone in a heartbeat. So it’s no surprise I hadn’t heard a damn thing about this game before it came to PC and even then it took me some time to finally get around to it I can at least say I’m happy I did, and you should too.

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Just be cool, nobody thinks you’re a Zora

 

Oceanhorn is most easily explained by its likeness to Zelda, specifically its similarities to A Link to the Past and Windwaker. In usual Zelda fashion, you’ll explore dungeons and fight enemies using your trusty Sword and Shield, bombs, and bow and arrow. Through a brief look at the environment and simplicity in the many islands, you’ll explore it’s obvious that this game was built on a phone, however, the addition of gamepad support has you feeling like you’re on a real Hyrule adventure in no time.

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Maybe the Zelda homage is too on the nose

 

Oceanhorn follows a young boy on a journey to find his father and defeat the legendary Oceanhorn, the last of the living fortresses. You’ll travel from island to island in search of three medallions you can use to call forth Oceanhorn. Traversing diffrent dungeons and puzzles.

Oceanhorns biggest weaknesses are in its camera perspective. The isometric viewpoints can make puzzles frustrating at times and bring progression to a frustrating slog. In addition to a camera built for phones, Oceanhorn’s likeness to Zelda can be as bad as it is good. It wears its influences on its sleeve sometimes it just feels like a plain rip off. Heat containers are just called heart containers, save for having no control over it everything about the boat design just screams Windwaker. Oceanhorn even uses the typical structure of a Zelda title, three dungeons to obtain three stones or medallions of legendary power. One of the races called the Gilfolk are very clearly the equivalent of Zoras from the Zelda series.oceanhorn-steam-screenshot-6

Oceanhorn does have a few key differences from Zelda, for one it has a leveling system. You’ll gain experience as you defeat enemies and finish goals outlined in your journal such as breaking a certain number of pots or knocking an enemy into the water to defeat them. As you level up you’ll be able to carry more ammo for weapons like the bow and arrow and unlock some new equipment like the pumpkin seed gun, a projectile weapon used to defend yourself from your boat.

Oceanhorn might be something of a lower quality Zelda clone, but it’s something charming in its own right. For the low asking price of fifteen dollars(as I wouldn’t recommend playing on mobile) its a short little adventure to tide you over until Breath of the Wild launches and best of all can be played on almost any device you already own. Oceanhorn has a sequel in the works, and I hope with a bigger budget, the team at Comfox & Bros make an excellent second outing.

Score:7 out of 10

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Review: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle

Game: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega battle

Developer: Bamtang Games

Publisher: Bandai Namco

Platform(s): PlayStation 4(Reviewed), Xbox One

Release Date: January 16th, 2017

MSRP: $14.99

No doubt looking to score points for the sake of nostalgia and the fact that a major motion picture based on the original franchise is due out in March, Bandai Namco has released a downloadable 2D brawler based on the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Mega Battle is a pretty simple 2D brawler in the vein of Streets of Rage and the like. The most apt comparison probably being the Power Rangers brawler for the NES and Sega Genisis. You’ll move across six levels, each split into three different sections beating up classic Power Ranger enemies like Puttys and some strange looking Knights, Birdmen and flying parasites from the Dark Dimension.

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Always a surfboard level

 

You’ll collect experience from defeated enemies and level up at designated stations provided by Alpha-5. You’ll be able to buff your ranger’s damage output as well as health, defense and stamina in addition to unlocking new and more powerful combos.

The basic level structure consists of two large brawler sections followed by the Rangers facing off against a monster first on foot and then in their Megazord. Megazord combat is the less than stellar shakeup. You begin in Tankzord form, each player has their own reticle and can fire at marked targets on the giant foe as well as destroy incoming projectiles. After this stage is over, you’ll move on to full-on Megazord combat, which, for me is the biggest disappointment.  While the amazing art of Mega Battle combined with the original theme while you battle a giant monster is awesome, these fights are bogged down to simple QTE button presses. Sure, in multiplayer every player has to get it correct to land a hit, but it still feels rather trivial.mighty-morphin-power-rangers-mega-battle-reveal-trailer-ps4-xb1

The art style of Mega Battle feel’s super cutesy and comic bookie. The characters and monsters all look beautiful, and you’ll have plenty of characters to choose from. Each Ranger has two models while unmorphed one for the first two seasons of the show and you’ll be able to play as fan-favorite Tommy Oliver as bothe the Green and White Ranger.

Mega Battle supports up to four player co-op which is most certainly the best experience the game has to offer. I played once through main story solo and once with a second player. The manic screens of repetitive enemies can quickly lose their charm over the roughly three-hour story if you’re playing solo, but half the entertainment comes from having at least one buddy to play with. You’ll be able to use powerful combination moves with multiple players, these are unlocked on the skill tree mentioned earlier.mighty-morphin-power-rangers-mega-battle-fighting-700x366-optimal

After beating the game, you’ll unlock boss rush mode as well as a special floor clearing mode called Rita’s tower. I only played around with these for a short while, but they add some extra playability to an otherwise short game. At a $15.00 price point, the six-level count is excusable, and the boss rush and tower modes add some fun after the fact. The story is also worth multiple runs for the sake of leveling up multiple characters.

If you want a closer look, my pal Tom joined me for a brief look at the games first level over on my Youtube channel which you can check out below.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle is a solid little game for fans of the series as well as fans of 2D Brawlers, it’s out now on Ps4 and Xbox One.

Score: 8 0ut of 10

 

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Review: For All Of Its Flaws Final Fantasy XV Reminded Me Why I Love The Series

Game: Final Fantasy XV

Developer: Square Enix

Publisher: Square Enix

Platform(s): Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (reviewed)

Release Date: November 29th, 2016

MSRP: $60

 

Ten years is a long time to wait for anything. Nevertheless, it’s been ten long years since a fourteen-year-old me first got a glance at Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the game that would become Final Fantasy XV. Over the course of all that time, FF XV underwent a whole lot of changes. In truth, the game that made it to retail was only worked on in its current form for two years or so. Final Fantasy XV is far from the perfect game, it did, however, grab me in a way an entry in the series hasn’t since Final Fantasy X, and in doing so reminded me how the series shaped me and countless others as gamers.

 

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Great start 

Final Fantasy XV is, as its name suggests the fifteenth mainline installment in the Final Fantasy series. For those unfamiliar with the series, Final Fantasy is a Japanese Role Playing series famous mostly for its vast worlds and typically turn based combat. Turn based combat was turned away from when they tried their hands at the Massive Online Multiplayer or MMO game with Final Fantasy XI. I’ve felt, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that the combat especially hasn’t felt great since FFX, the fast paced real time combat of XV has been more of an enjoyment for me than I could’ve ever expected, more on that later, though.

 

Final Fantasy XV follows the story of what can only be described as a bachelor party gone horribly wrong. You play as Noctis, the prince of Lucis on a road trip with his best friends Ignis, Prompto, and Gladiolus. With his fantasy entourage assembled in his dad’s convertible, the Regalia, they’re to make way for Altissia where Noctis will marry his betrothed Lady Luna Freya the Oracle.

After some early missions, it’s quickly discovered that the Nifelheim Empire who was set to sign a treaty with Lucis has betrayed and murdered Noctis’ father and all but destroyed the Crown City. With all this information in hand, it will be up to Noctis and crew to gather the power to take down the empire and reclaim his throne.

If all of that seems confusing, it’s because it is. Final Fantasy is famous for it’s deep lore and hard to grasp stories, but the plot of FFXV is one of its greatest sins. You’ll spend a lot of time waiting for exposition that never comes. Who are these characters? What’s their connection to Noctis and Friends? Why am I even here, and what’s up with that damn crystal? For ten years of work, you’d think a cohesive story isn’t too much to ask for. The part that really rubs me the wrong way is how the CG prequel film Kings Glaive tends to be the answer to a whole lot of plot holes. I actually watched the film and as someone invested in the plot of FFXV enjoyed it more than I expected, it’s the way that the folks at Square Enix have essentially made what should’ve been an extra bit of media for those who really enjoyed the world they’ve built required reading. It’s worth noting that the developer has promised to patch in cut scenes adding a bit more exposition in the future and with the recent addition of New game + it might be worth a second go about.

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Lemme take a selfie

 

The part of all this that really rubs me the wrong way is how the CG prequel film Kings Glaive tends to be the answer to a whole lot of plot holes. I actually watched the film and as someone invested in the plot of FFXV enjoyed it more than I expected, it’s the way that the folks at Square Enix have essentially made what should’ve been an extra bit of media for those who really enjoyed the world they’ve built required reading. It’s worth noting that the developer has promised to patch in cut scenes adding a bit more exposition in the future and with the recent addition of New game + it might be worth a second go about.

The gameplay of Final Fantasy XV is what really pulled me in. A large open world with hours and hours of side content, which essentially equates to JRPG Skyrim and if that doesn’t sound awesome to you then I guess I’m a far bigger loser than yourself. I found myself getting completely lost in side content during my first twenty or so hours with the game. For the completionist in all of us don’t worry, you’ll have full access to return to the open world even after the credits roll. I’m far from done with this world.final-fantasy-xv-trailer-blowout-reveals-more-gameplay-story-info-platinum-demo-brotherhood-anime-series

Combat revolves around Noctis’ ability to summon weapons, a kingly ability he also lends to his companions. Noctis can equip up to four weapons of his choosing from swords and lances to classic Final Fantasy spells that he crafts like thundara. On your journey, you’ll also acquire royal arms from the tombs of the past kings of Lucis. These Weapons are incredibly powerful but drain Noctis’ HP(Health Points) so keep potions on hand. The trademark combat move of FFXV is Noctis’ warp strike ability. He can use it by throwing his weapon to warp and attack far off enemies or travel to safe locations to recover MP(Magic Points) during combat.

In addition to his primary attacks Noctis has a round meter surrounding his weapon display know as the Armiger meter that fills as you fight. Once filled he can surround himself with all the royal arms he’s acquired, and attack in a powerful fast-paced flurry of blows. At times the combat system can be frantic and confusing, I’ve found it’s at its best when facing one large enemy in a more open environment. Significant amounts of enemies and tighter spaces tend to result in difficulty with dodging and a whole lot of getting knocked down.

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These guys are jerks

 

For all of its issues, FFXV’s main cast holds it together. The banter is goofy but often fun, and the party plays off each other well. Each character is equipped with his own unique ability that levels up as you progress. Experience as a whole is tallied and banked when you make camp for the night in and Elder Scrolls like fashion. At this point, Ignis will prepare a meal from ingredients in your inventory which provide stat boosts the following day. You’ll also see each characters unique ability level. Noctis is the party’s fisherman, this talent is leveled through actively fishing at piers. Prompto’s skill is photography, at camp, he’ll lay out all the pictures he’s taken that day, and you’ll be able to keep up to 150 in an album (Prompto take about 10 photos a day). Ignis is the party’s cook, and through preparing meals and discovering new recipes, he’ll level up the talent. Last but not least, Gladiolus possesses the survival talent which allows him to find items on the ground and in combat, simply walking around will boost this skill.ffxv-gamescom-2016-screens

As much as Noctis and his pals your car the Regalia is as much of a character. You’ll be able to purchase upgrades for speed and fuel consumption at rest stops and have them installed by Cindy at the Hammerhead station where the game begins. One of my favorite features of the Regalia is acquiring new soundtracks to listen to at rest stops. Check everywhere you’ll be able to hear any Final Fantasy soundtrack you choose.

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You can acquire the Regalia Type-F post game

 

Final Fantasy XV is at its heart a fun exciting game about four best friends on a fantasy road trip. With hours of things to do in both the main story and side activities in the vast open world. Although far from perfect XV is the perfect blueprint for what a Final Fantasy game looks like in 2016. I can’t wait to indulge in every expansion and look forward to what the all but certain Final Fantasy XVI looks like.

Score: 9 out of 10

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