Amnesia: The Bunker Review - Shellshocked
2010's Amnesia: The Dark Descent altered the horror genre forever as the breakout game made in a particular hide-and-seek style. It's one which relies on a lack of combat, putting players in horrifying situations they can't win, and demanding they run and hide instead. Through countless imitators and even a few sequels, Frictional Games has had its formula repeated, but Amnesia: The Bunker is not the latest in that lineage. It plays quite differently, though it still feels like a classic Amnesia game in vital ways, and it's this combination of old and new that helps make it the studio's scariest game since The Dark Descent.
Amnesia: The Bunker is, in some ways, the Amnesia you may know already. You'll play in first-person as a character who is suffering from memory loss and must piece together their own history, as well as that of the unnerving locale in which they inevitably find themselves. In The Bunker, that character is Henri Clement, a French soldier during World War I who loses consciousness while rescuing a fellow soldier from harm's way, then awakens in the titular bunker seemingly all alone--though he will soon wish that were truly the case.Out of the frying pan...
Through scattered notes, the story of the labyrinthine bunker will come into focus. It's an entertaining, albeit detail-light, saga that seems to tie directly to other games in deep-cut ways that some players will appreciate. But it's just as easy to play it and not have any context for the story at all, or take it as a standalone horror story about a man trapped in a maze with a monster. It works well enough in each case, but it does feel like there's less narrative to unpack than past games in the series.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Diablo 4 Review - Mother Knows Best
With Diablo 4's release now here, it's sometimes difficult to reconcile that Diablo III is over a decade old. Its release was polarizing for a number of reasons, but its evolving formula of action role-playing endured, enjoying a resurgence with its post-launch expansion that carried through years of ongoing seasonal updates. It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that each of those years helped inform the design of Diablo IV, a game which confidently delivers gameplay that has been carried forward and refined from both Diablo II and III, while also establishing a strong foundation for the franchise's future.
Diablo games have always contained stories for their single-player campaigns, but you'd be forgiven for thinking of past storylines as merely contextualization for the game's primary focus: dungeon-crawling. That's where Diablo IV makes one of its most striking changes: It not only takes its story far more seriously, but it tells one that's far more engrossing than ever before. As a traveling wanderer, you come across a small town of villagers on a snow-capped mountain range looking for some aid. After killing some creatures and returning, you're welcomed as a hero and given food and shelter, only for the villagers to try to use you in a ritual sacrifice to Lilith, co-creator of Sanctuary and recently resurrected antagonist of this tale, moments later. This encounter links you to Lilith, driving you forward on a quest to stop her plan of amassing an army for her own nefarious purposes.
Much of that sounds like standard Diablo fare. There's a big, bad demon, and you're the only one who can stop it. But Diablo IV makes intelligent use of Lilith, layering her motivations slowly to the point where you can't help but consider her side of the argument. She's not driven solely by the lust for destruction. Instead, she's grieving, with the place she once created to escape the endless cycle of war between heaven and hell now being used as a staging ground to continue it. She's an antagonist that has been slighted by those she trusted at every turn, and while her means of exacting justice provide the reason for your entire crusade in the first place, it's surprising and equally welcome when Diablo IV forces you to slow down and consider the true goal of your struggle.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Street Fighter 6 Review - Battle Hardened
In one play session, I'm honing my skills with my main man Zangief. In another, I'm walking a fully customized avatar through a bustling city, its streets lined with AI-controlled strangers I can challenge to battle at my leisure. In a third, that same avatar is dropped into a massive room filled with arcade cabinets and other players looking for a fight. Street Fighter 6 learns an immediate lesson from the content-bare release of its predecessor, as it offers a variety of significant features and modes right out of the gate. It is a robust, fighting game that is of a premiere quality. Street Fighter 6 is incredible; a return to form for the franchise that welcomes both new fighters and seasoned pros.
SF6 splits its content into three hubs: Fighting Ground, which most closely emulates the classic SF experience; Battle Hub, where players can congregate to challenge each other and compete in tournaments; and World Tour, which is a sprawling, globe-trotting story mode with an open world and RPG hooks. Each format centers around the classic Street Fighter style of 2D fighting gameplay, and that excellent core experience is what drives everything.
Mechanically, Street Fighter 6 doesn't fall far from previous games in the series: You have multiple normal attacks, special attacks, Super Arts, and movement techniques specially designed for each of the roster's 18 characters. Some have an in-your-face style with heavy strikes and damaging throws, while others are better suited to keeping their distance and picking moments to strike. What distinguishes SF6 from previous iterations are the core universal mechanics shared by all characters. While the effects and execution are the same for each fighter, these mechanics have their own distinct flair and flourish of personality depending on the character you choose. These universal mechanics are also where much of Street Fighter 6's gameplay depth is.Continue Reading at GameSpot
The Lord Of The Rings: Gollum Review - We Don't Wants It, We Don't Needs It
When it comes to art, I'm something of a masochist. I listen to music that the average listener might describe as "unlistenable." I relish in the skin-crawling cringiness of the major motion picture musical Cats. I gravitate toward games that make me beat my head against the wall, for better or for worse. However, every pain junkie has their limit, and The Lord of the Rings: Gollum pushed me to mine--and then some.
The long-delayed stealth adventure from Daedalic Entertainment, centered around one of Middle-earth's most iconic (if not exactly likable) characters, does not simply miss the mark here or there: It's an unbridled disaster of truly epic--like, Tolkien-level epic--proportions. Beyond its overly simple level design, jarringly dated graphics, and deeply uninteresting gameplay, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is broken to the point where it's nearly unplayable, making it one of the worst uses of a licensed property in recent memory.
The game begins in Cirith Ungol, the Orc-infested outskirts of Mordor, some 60 years after Bilbo Baggins stole the One Ring from our slimy, frail protagonist, Sméagol--or Gollum, as he's come to be known. Taking place not long before the events laid out in The Fellowship of the Ring, the crux of the story is instantly recognizable to anyone even peripherally familiar with the series: Gollum must find Bilbo and take back his "precious" at any cost, while avoiding the wrath of Sauron along the way.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Humanity Review - What Is A Man?
Some days you wake up, put on your clothes, and head to work or school. Some days you sleep in and enjoy a hard-earned day off. And some days your consciousness emerges from slumber in the form of a tiny ethereal Shiba Inu, and mysterious glowing orbs instruct you to guide a seemingly unending stream of human souls through winding geometric constructs to a radiant square of light. You know, normal things.
This is the premise of Humanity, a new spatial puzzle game from developer Tha and publisher Enhance Games. Players familiar with the Enhance Games library of titles like Rez and Tetris Effect likely have some idea of what to expect: an artsy experience with chill vibes, minimalistic yet striking visuals, intuitive gameplay, experimental music, and an undercurrent of positivity and warmth. Humanity ticks all of those boxes off easily, while also establishing itself as a unique and charming puzzle game that both calls back to old favorites and adds interesting new innovations.
As the nameless meme-dog, you are tasked with guiding the stream of humans that emerges from a mysterious portal "into the light"--a specially marked square on the field. To accomplish this, you place directional commands on spaces where the flow of humans are walking. If they need to turn left to avoid careening into a pit, you bark and leave a marker to tell them to turn left. Simple! It's a little bit of Lemmings, but perhaps more akin to Dreamcast sleeper classic Chu Chu Rocket.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Planet Of Lana Review - Mutual Dependency
Planet of Lana begins in the quaint fishing village its titular protagonist calls home. As you chase after your older sister, stumbling at times--which elicits laughter from big sis--you're afforded time to get to grips with the game's 2D platforming, jumping and climbing over the wooden docks, platforms, and rooftops that make up this small but dense town. After passing through a bustling market where people are selling strawberries and freshly-caught fish, you sneak past a chef chopping up vegetables amid plumes of steam before passing by empty boats moored in the crystal-clear waters the town is built upon. It's a moment of serenity that could be mistaken for a rural location on Earth, were it not for the all-encompassing moon dominating the sky. As you gradually make your way out of town and into the verdant hilltops nearby, this fleeting tranquility is shattered by the ominous sight of dozens of drop pods tumbling into the planet's atmosphere.
Darting back through the village in the opposite direction is a harrowing experience, as an apocalyptic army of tinted-black robots begins rounding up any signs of life. The peaceful sound of waves crashing against the shore is violently replaced by people screaming and the unnatural bleeps of faceless colonizers, establishing a sharp contrast between tranquility and chaos. With her entire world turned upside down, Lana sets out on a seemingly impossible quest to rescue her captured sister and village, taking you on an enchanting four-hour adventure that's inspired by cinematic puzzle-adventure games like Another World, Inside, and the Oddworld series. You can see bits and pieces of each of these games reflected in Planet of Lana's gameplay, from its deliberate platforming to its logic and physics-based puzzle-solving. Yet it's the animated movies of Studio Ghibli that serve as the primary influence for Swedish developer Wishfully--something that's apparent right from the game's first few seconds.
Opening up on a shot of the daytime sky, the vivid hand-painted art style immediately pulls you in and evokes movies such as Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro without trying to replicate their exact style. Objects closer to the screen are coated in finer detail, for instance, while the vibrant backgrounds use broader, thicker brush strokes, creating a layered image that makes it feel like you're inside an interactive painting. Just glancing at screenshots sells the game's gorgeous aesthetic, but it looks equally stunning in motion, with trees swaying in the breeze, critters scurrying out of sight as you traverse through woodland, and ancient structures whirring to life after being dormant for decades--the world feels alive. The sense of scale is noteworthy, too, not just from a visual standpoint, but because of the way it gives perspective to the scope of Lana's task. The giant robot mothership that initially looms in the distance gradually consumes more and more of the horizon as you inch closer to its foreboding structure, providing a visible landmark for your journey's progress.Continue Reading at GameSpot
After Us Review - Abstract Dystopia
Nothing quite compels you to buy into a game's stakes like happening upon the decaying carcass of a dog who's starved to death. This is the first of several emotional moments in After Us. The surrealistic set dressing of this 3D platformer is regularly morbid but it makes for quite a compelling dystopian world to explore, if only to satiate an innate curiosity--how did the Earth end up like this and is there anyone left? The simple combat and good-but-not-great platforming mechanics bog down the experience a bit but After Us' incredible environmental storytelling of a doomed world clinging to a feeble hope more than makes up for it.
In After Us, you play as Gaia, a young spirit tasked with tracking down and salvaging the souls of the last creatures on Earth. These include animals like the aforementioned canine, the last dog who died of hunger, and coming across others lead to plenty of somber moments of human cruelty--the last eagle caged and plucked, for instance, and the final whale to be harpooned. There's a present-day storyline that runs parallel that isn't all that interesting as it's difficult to relate to the mostly-silent Gaia, who displays small signs of emotion during certain cutscenes but seems to largely view the world around her with passivity. The history of this Earth's past, which you uncover in your pursuit of the lost animal souls and optional collectibles, is far more captivating and works as a strong narrative backbone for the platformer.
Running and jumping are Gaia's primary ways of navigating the world, and these actions are complemented by other platforming staples like hovering, rail-grinding, wall-running, and dashing. She's a bit too floaty and loose to control in certain platforming segments--there were quite a few moments where a frustrating mistiming meant I accidentally leaped over a floating chunk of freeway and plunged to my death or sprinted a step too far and skidded off the top of a skyscraper. Most often, failure was the result of the controls working against me, not my own mistakes. Thankfully, the checkpoint system in After Us is relatively forgiving so even the most irritating of deaths are only small setbacks.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Lego 2K Drive Review - Oh Snap
Lego thrives on versatility and variety. The brand has become associated with everything from model towns to outer space to licensed franchises like Star Wars to original IP like Bionicle and Ninjago. Lego 2K Drive is relatively narrow compared to the wide array of Lego iconography, but that laser-like focus works in its favor. The team at 2K and Visual Concepts has made a great racing game first, allowing the Lego elements to organically add both an astounding amount of customization and flavorful visual flourishes to make a lively and enjoyable open-world driving experience.
Under the hood, Lego 2K Drive is a combination of open-world racing games like Burnout Paradise or Forza Horizon and kart racers like Mario Kart or Sonic All-Stars. The main campaign has you exploring three big biomes, each with their own wide variety of activities and events, punctuated by kart races against rival drivers who run these regions. But part of what makes both exploring and racing so fun is how toy-like it feels, thanks to some smart systems that remove any possible friction from exploration.
When driving around in a typical open-world racer, you may have to set a waypoint to your next objective and spend a few minutes making your way over by following the roads. In Lego 2K Drive, your vehicle auto-switches from roadster to off-road vehicle to boat based on whatever you need at a given time. The click-clack of your vehicle instantly reconstituting itself into something new when you hop from a road to a river just feels great every time. A generous nitro boost and a dedicated jump button mean you can hop over obstacles and scale hills with ease. Other cars or small buildings in the way? No problem, just smash right through them and they'll explode into a thousand Lego bricks, building your boost meter in the process. This effectively makes the whole world your playground, letting you carve paths through it. There's almost never a hard barrier between you and the fun.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun Review - Purge And Tear
The Boltgun is perhaps Warhammer 40,000's most iconic weapon, yet it took until now for a video game to really nail its pulverizing impact. The Space Marine's Bolter (as it's commonly known) is not the machine gun equivalent it's often portrayed as in other games. This powerful firearm is essentially a rapid-fire rocket launcher, capable of penetrating almost any armor and then blowing up the Imperium's enemies from the inside out. Developer Auroch Digital clearly understood the assignment with Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun, as the eponymous weapon is tremendously fun to use as you rip and tear your way through eight hours of '90s-inspired first-person shooting. The Bolter roars with an emphatic racket, and each pull of the trigger packs an almighty punch, ferociously propelling these explosive rounds through flesh and bone until the battlefield is little more than a crimson pile of viscera and sinewy chunks.
Classic retro shooters like Unreal Tournament and Quake are obvious inspirations behind Boltgun's fast-paced and frenetic combat, but it's the original Doom that feels like the principal source of reverence. The use of 2D sprites alongside 3D environments, color-coded keycard hunting, and garish, over-the-top violence all harken back to id Software's seminal title. Boltgun is unashamedly a Doom clone with a Warhammer skin, but Auroch has sprinkled in some modern touches, too, from the dizzying amount of particle effects on screen at any one time, to the intricate level of detail found on each and every weapon, to the sheer scale of some of its environments. Verticality is also heavily emphasized, with a jump and mantle animation giving you the chance to scramble and leap off ledges, much like in 2016's Doom reboot. All of this leads to Boltgun managing to capture a tangible sense of nostalgia while also tapping into the fluidity and pacing of a contemporary shooter. It's a familiar but potent mix, resulting in a viscerally satisfying game that's relatively easy to pick up and play.
The story is suitably paltry, however, providing just enough setup to explain why you're on a distant planet mowing down anything that breathes in the name of the Inquisition. As battle-hardened Space Marine Malum Caedo, you're dispatched to the Adeptus Mechanicus Forge World of Graia to investigate some concerning goings-on. As it turns out, the Ad Mech were running experiments that have predictably gone awry and spawned a Chaos invasion. After a botched landing leaves you as the lone survivor, you're put to work cleansing the forces of Chaos armed with an ever-expanding supply of powerful weaponry.Continue Reading at GameSpot
The Last Case Of Benedict Fox Review - Fair Deal
Like my favorite metroidvania games, The Last Case of Benedict Fox is built around solving a mystery. It can go too far in its efforts to be deeply mysterious, especially in its first half, but engaging puzzles and unsettling art direction pull you along, even when mediocre combat and platforming mechanics get in the way of the fun. There's an interesting story in The Last Case of Benedict Fox, one wrapped up in an interesting world of supernatural intrigue that I want to know more about. It just takes a while to fully uncover its best parts.
In The Last Case of Benedict Fox, you play as the titular detective, who breaks into a strange manor in order to investigate a ritual he wants to perform. The answers he seeks, unfortunately, reside in the minds of a young couple who are now dead. Thankfully, Benedict is connected to an eldritch-like demon who grants him supernatural powers, including the ability to go into the minds of those freshly dead. Going into Limbo--as Benedict calls it--transports you into a space of sprawling mind palaces, each filled with the deceased's worst nightmares, insecurities, and traumas transformed into physical monsters. As you explore further and farther, you find the necessary memories to unlock new parts of the manor in the real world and piece together the steps to the ritual.
If all of that sounds a little convoluted and leaves you with many questions, that seems to be what The Last Case of Benedict Fox is going for, simply dropping you into a densely layered situation without the necessary build-up to fully grasp what's going on. The game holds its cards too close to the chest, unfortunately--going so far as to hide for the entire first half of the game what exactly the ritual that Benedict is researching even does and why he's looking for it. The plot swings way too far past intriguing and mysterious into confusing territory for the first half of its runtime. This makes for a deeply unwelcoming opening, which sets up a story and character motivations that are difficult to parse, with names, dates, lore, and jargon quickly thrown at you with little in the way of explanation. Once you manage to get a ways into the game, The Last Case of Benedict Fox graciously begins answering a few of the questions it poses, giving you more of a reason for wanting to explore its riveting Lovecraftian-inspired world, but it still just takes way too long to get there.Continue Reading at GameSpot
The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom Review
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is so much more than a sequel to Breath of the Wild. While this newest entry in the Zelda franchise is most recognizably similar to that 2017 game, it builds upon the foundation so thoroughly and transformationally that it feels like a revelation. This is The Legend of Zelda at its finest, borrowing the best pieces and qualities from across the franchise's history and creating something new that is emotionally resonant, captivating, and endlessly rewarding.
Breath of the Wild upended the Zelda formula by presenting a vast and lush open world to explore--a reenvisioning of the unguided experience of the original Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Tears of the Kingdom follows in its predecessor's footsteps with a similarly naturalistic setting, but the world has changed in subtle ways. Not everything is exactly the same or where you'd expect it to be, and the map is marked with myriad opportunities for exploration and curiosity. Once again, you'll hardly ever round a corner or crest a hill without finding something else to do or engage with. Hyrule feels serene even as it bustles with life and activity. The score is as majestic as it is unintrusive, accentuating a dire battle or narrow escape with an exciting up-tempo rendition of the theme and then easing off with softer tones to let you breathe in the atmosphere.
Much of the reason that the world feels so different this time is that your tools for engaging with it are so much more flexible. Like the Great Plateau in Breath of the Wild, you don't even enter the open world until you've found four key abilities in a tutorial area. Together, these abilities are the engine that drives Tears of the Kingdom--in the same way Breath of the Wild was centered on exploring wilderness using your slate of abilities, these new tools center Tears of the Kingdom around building and experimenting to overcome obstacles in inventive ways. It's a beautifully implemented evolution of what made Breath of the Wild so special. While it's more ambitious than Breath of the Wild in how much you can express your own creativity, it also manages to do this without buckling under its own weight.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Redfall Review - Half-Staked
Arkane doesn't put ladders in its games. The team says as much with a succinctly stated poster in one of the rooms in its Austin location: "F**k ladders," it reads. The team has said ladders feel limiting by putting players in a "mode" where they can't use their weapons or abilities, and they often even fall to their deaths anyway--Arkane hates ladders. And yet, there are ladders early and often in Redfall. This surprise would become emblematic of my time in the vampire-infested Massachusetts town. Redfall is Arkane making compromises to its own design philosophies to serve a genre it may have been better off avoiding.
Redfall is a four-player co-op loot-shooter that pits players against vampires and the cultists who follow them. The story premise is classic Arkane stuff, but in practice, it plays like a tug-of-war that its usually inventive team could not win. Most aspects of what the team is known for--unrivaled world design, intricate immersive sim elements, improvisational combat--are rarely found here. In their place are run-and-gun fights with unresponsive AI enemies amid a host of bugs that are so prevalent, it genuinely feels dejecting to see the game launch in this state. Wherever things have gone wrong in Redfall, and there are several places, it feels like the result of a team with a foot in disjointed worlds: what it's known for and what it's tasked with doing.
The game's two maps are bigger than anything Arkane has done before, from either its team in Texas or France, but the team struggles to fill that space with the same intricacies that made games like Dishonored and Deathloop both Game of the Year winners and Prey a cult classic. Too often, you and up to three others playing in co-op will move across barren beaches or through wooded areas with little more than some sheds or campsites to rummage through. The game's second map, which you'll unlock halfway through the campaign, is noticeably better because it comes closer to the team's past efforts, with more interesting landmarks and more verticality built into its neighborhoods, but it still doesn't quite get there.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review - Fear Itself
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor builds on the already-winning formula of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order by making Cal Kestis a more powerful and resourceful Jedi Knight, while also upping the stakes and the challenges he's facing. Exhilarating lightsaber combat and physics-defying platforming puzzle challenges remain the best part of Respawn's latest Star Wars game, but Survivor also makes big swings with its story this time around. Cal's quest takes him to new corners of the galaxy, but the most compelling journey he makes is an introspective one. Survivor is a very well-written tale about overcoming fear, and it's the Jedi story I've wanted for a long time.
Survivor takes place about five years after the events of Fallen Order, with the Mantis crew having gone their separate ways to pursue different goals in a galaxy increasingly dominated by the Galactic Empire. After a daring escape from Imperial authorities, protagonist Cal finds himself on the planet Koboh, where he discovers a High Republic Jedi protocol droid who carries a clue to reaching Tanalorr, a supposedly unreachable mythical planet. Seeing a potential home that's free of the Empire's influence, Cal sets about reassembling the Mantis crew for another galactic scavenger hunt, but his efforts are waylaid by a former High Republic Jedi who--having originally discovered Tanalorr decades prior and bid his time until the right moment--wants Tanalorr for his own purposes.
The High Republic is a fascinating time period for Survivor to connect its story to given what we know has transpired between that era and the events of post-Revenge of the Sith. The comics describe The High Republic as the golden age of the Jedi. And that may be the case, but we also know this time period will culminate in the Jedi Order led by Master Yoda, who preached to a young Anakin Skywalker that "fear is the path to the Dark Side." Not anger. Not grief. Not any of the other emotions a Jedi is supposed to unhealthily suppress. The events of the High Republic teach the Jedi that fear is the path to evil--the other emotions are just stepping stones along it.Continue Reading at GameSpot
The Mageseeker: A League Of Legends Story Review - Magic In The Air
After a decade of resting solely on the laurels of its hit MOBA, Riot Games's decision to expand the lore of the ultra-popular League of Legends and its war chest of playable Champions will likely go down as one of the company's best moves. It's already given us Ruined King and the Netflix show Arcane, and it will soon give us Song of Nunu, Convergence, and the fighter Project L. The Mageseeker: A League Of Legends Story is the next expansion of LoL's lore, and it keeps Riot's momentum going with great combat, a beautiful world, and a riveting (though admittedly slow-starting) story.
The Mageseeker follows Sylas, a mage living in Demecia, a city that persecutes magic wielders through a special task force called Mageseekers. Sylas has the ability to absorb the magic of other mages, which makes him one of the most powerful magic users in the world. Before he discovered his power, Sylas was a Mageseeker himself, and during one of his assignments, he took pity on one of the mages he was seeking out. However, his innate ability kicked in, and his inability to control the magic he unknowingly absorbed from his quarry resulted in the deaths of multiple innocents. Despite his service to the Mageseekers, the discovery of his own power led to his imprisonment for 15 years. Now he is out and he is seeking revenge on those who sent him away.
The aesthetic choices in The Mageseeker are immediately impressive. The minimalist pixel art on display is a far cry from the state-of-the-art graphics modern consoles are capable of--heck, it's even a stark departure from the game's source material. However, the way developer Digital Sun tells a story through this art style, whether it's the backdrop of a scene or subtle movements in characters both playable and not, is remarkable.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores Review
Horizon Forbidden West was too big. I enjoyed the game overall, but my main takeaway from the experience was that it was entirely too much of a good thing. At a certain point the open world just felt overwhelming, and as a result the sprawling story began to lose its punch. Burning Shores, the first and only announced major expansion to Forbidden West, takes place in an entirely new area with a narrowed focus that hits the spot for Horizon fans, while introducing a handful of creative new mechanics and weaving in intriguing plot threads to pay off in the future.
Unlike the Frozen Wilds, the major expansion to the first game, Burning Shores is explicitly an epilogue to the main campaign, not a side story. It picks up exactly where the cliffhanger ending left off, and it heavily references a mount you only received near the very end of the campaign.
Spoilers for Horizon Forbidden West follow.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Minecraft Legends Review - Tides Of War
Taking the world and characters of the original Minecraft, a sandbox block builder, and putting them into a real-time strategy game with action elements is--while certainly a cool-sounding idea--an experimental move. Sadly, it's one that doesn't quite pay off in Minecraft Legends as the simple action elements actively detract from the more tantalizing possibilities present on the strategy side. However, it has good ideas outside the story-driven campaign that keep the game from descending into an absolute slog of an experience.
In the story campaign, you play as a denizen of the original Minecraft, who is plucked from your time and transported back to an older version of the Overworld that has long since passed into legend. This Overworld is overseen by Foresight, Action, and Knowledge--three deities who each add a dash of charm to an otherwise straightforward story of good versus evil. The simple villagers and animals are under attack by the Piglins, who are constructing portals across the land and building machines that make everything more like the Nether. In a final act of resistance, Foresight, Action, and Knowledge call on you and your building smarts to construct defenses, Golem soldiers, and war machines to slaughter the invading forces.
It's a fantastic concept that's made even better when the game dips into the more absurd elements--you can build giant redstone-powered cannons to lay waste to entire battalions of enemy Piglins one explosive shell at a time, for example, or construct ludicrously giant wooden bridges to safely transport troops over whole stretches of mountainous terrain. And having the chance to forge alliances with normally antagonistic Minecraft creatures, like the surprisingly honorable Skeletons and all-too-eager-to-die-for-the-cause Creepers, is also enjoyably silly.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp Review - War Games
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is a remake of 2001's Advance Wars and 2003's Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising. While the first Advance Wars hasn't aged as well as its sequel, both games are nevertheless elevated by Re-Boot Camp's robust suite of game modes, the local and online multiplayer, and an intuitive map editor. As a package, there is plenty to do, see, and unlock, and it's all held together by a fantastic presentation that evokes Saturday morning cartoons and colorful board games.
Foundationally, the Advance Wars flavor of turn-based tactical combat holds up well. In its most rudimentary form, two commanding officers hailing from different fictional countries move units around a map to wipe out enemies and capture key areas. Each unit, however, has strengths and weaknesses that need to be considered for both individual firefights and multi-turn campaigns. For example, Infantry and Mech units are the only units that can capture cities, airports, seaports, and bases. They are instrumental to securing victory, but their movement is limited and they are weak to just about everything. APCs, Transport Copters, and Landers can ferry Infantry and Mechs great distances, but they need the protection of other units due to their inability to attack. Of course, the units tasked with this responsibility also have their own set of strengths and weaknesses that need to be considered. Tanks can be devastating at close range, but long-range Rockets can make short work of them. Artillery can clean up enemies at medium range, but they are useless at close range.
Coming to grips with each and every unit can be a little daunting, but Re-Boot Camp has numerous tutorial missions across both games, many of which cover the same ground. The basics, such as commanding units and capturing cities, are handled in an optional Field Training menu, which can be accessed in both games. However, the first handful of missions in both campaigns also act as tutorials and run through the basics of armored, naval, and aerial warfare. These tutorials do a great job at showing you the strengths and weaknesses of each unit, but a lot of the same info is covered twice. This means that the early hours of Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising can drag on a bit if you start with the first game.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Dead Island 2 Review - Eat The Rich
Games labeled as being in "development hell" rarely release in a state anyone would want to experience--if they release at all. With Dead Island 2, however, Dambuster Studios kicks away a decade of dev hell problems like they’re a zombie lunging for its throat to deliver an undead RPG that is surely imperfect, but also enjoyable and even inventive.
Dead Island 2 is a first-person action-RPG set against the backdrop of the same zombie plague that caused mayhem in the original game's story. It moves the series away from its fictional island of Banoi and brings it to Los Angeles--which, you may recall, is definitely not an island. It's an odd move given the franchise's name, but a forgivable one once you begin to explore, as the semi-open world of the game's story and setting prove to be one of its greatest aspects.
None of the game's many locations are massive, but several of them are big enough, and regardless of its size, each zone is full of secrets, side quests, and plenty of reasons to stray from the main path. Dead Island 2 shirks a true sandbox-style open world in favor of smaller but more authored locales with far fewer repeating elements. It's ultimately a benefit to the game, as it tends to strike an engrossing balance between width and depth.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Tron: Identity Review - Gone In 60 Millicycles
Bithell Games finds itself with its highest-profile project to date in Tron: Identity, a visual novel set in Disney's sci-fi universe. On paper, combining an IP as narratively rich as Tron with a studio as driven by telling stories as Bithell should be a good match. And though Tron: Identity is a masterfully told tale, even with the branching possibilities it presents, the game ends so abruptly that it puts a dampener on the experience.
Tron: Identity follows Query, a detective tasked with solving a case involving an explosion at The Repository, a massive building in the center of The Grid. Something valuable has been stolen from the Vault where the explosion occurred, and Query must investigate by speaking with those in charge of The Repository, asking questions to gain information, and solving puzzles to unlock memories stored in the series' iconic Identity Discs.
From the jump, it's clear this choose-your-own-adventure style of visual novel is right in Bithell Games' wheelhouse. The first choice you're given seems innocuous, but it will affect how some people speak with you later down the line. Some characters switch from friendly to hostile depending on what you say, while others can go in the opposite direction. There were multiple moments early on where what I thought was the right decision blew up in my face, which kept me on my toes for the rest of the game. Every choice you make holds some weight and discovering the different paths through multiple playthroughs leads to some surprising new information.Continue Reading at GameSpot
EA Sports PGA Tour Review - Hit The Links
EA Sports PGA Tour is unlike any other golf game I've played. It still features familiar elements from the series' past--back when Tiger Woods was front and center--such as slow-motion heartbeat moments and climactic power shots. But after an eight-year hiatus from the world of golf simulation, EA has returned to the fairway with a more demanding recreation of the sport that's as much about feel as it is mastering the game's robust mechanics. With 30 courses covering all four majors--including The Masters at Augusta National--EA Sports PGA Tour has a plethora of golfing action to sink your teeth into. It's just a shame there are a few notable issues in critical areas that hold it back from greatness.
The first of these is the game's swing mechanic. If you've played a golf game before, the actual act of swinging a driver or 5-iron will be familiar. You pull down on the analog stick to bring the club back, then push forward again to unleash your shot. This has been a staple in golf games for a number of years now, and there aren't any alternatives at the moment--not until a three-click system is implemented in a later update. The issue with EA Sports PGA Tour is that there's a slight delay between your input and the on-screen visual. Your swing isn't 1:1, so there's an uneasy disconnect where you never quite feel like you're in total control. The general malaise of each swing doesn't help matters either, with the slow, clunky pacing and frustrating lag making it difficult to nail the timing and power of each shot. I eventually grew accustomed to these idiosyncrasies over time, but it never feels quite right and fails to capture the satisfaction that hitting a 300-yard tee shot should achieve.
To compound the issue, EA Sports PGA Tour also lacks any sort of meaningful tutorial. There are tooltips that pop up and cover the basics the first time you play, but these brief snippets barely scratch the surface of everything going on under the hood. Instead, the game has a suite of challenges that happen to include a Coaching Academy. This is the best place to start, even if these challenges still neglect to offer any tips or feedback to help you along the way. What you get is a variety of contextual situations covering different aspects of the sport, from putting downhill to dealing with elevation changes and the multitude of shot types on offer. There's a lot of trial and error involved, but the repetition of replaying each situation does give you a greater understanding of how everything works. It's not a very user-friendly approach, but it sets expectations and is genuinely helpful in an unconventional way, even if it might prove frustrating for some. Plus, completing these challenges also earns you XP that can be used to improve your created character.Continue Reading at GameSpot