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The First Descendant Review - Grind Me Down

Sat, 07/20/2024 - 04:15

The First Descendant is a bad video game that's occasionally fun. These fleeting moments of joy speak to the potential of the game's bedrock, where snappy combat ekes out glimpses of delight amidst a torrent of disappointment and frustration. Everything surrounding the game's fast-paced shooting is painfully dull, tedious, and egregiously predatory. The First Descendant is a free-to-play, third-person looter shooter that feels like it was designed to please shareholders rather than the people playing it. It's derivative and soulless, bereft of new ideas outside of the myriad ways it attempts to extract money from its player base. It's a foul example of a game designed around monetization, even in a market saturated with freemium looter shooters.

It doesn't start on good footing, either. The First Descendant's story is convoluted and sterile, but the basic premise places you as one of the titular Descendants--a group of humans with unique abilities passed down to them from their fallen ancestors. You're tasked with fighting for the survival of humanity against an invading alien threat known as the Vulgus, who traveled to the colonized planet of Ingris in search of an infinite energy source.

These interdimensional invaders come in all shapes and sizes, with very little in common regarding their visual design. Some look like gray-skinned humans; others are grotesque creatures with large glowing claws. There are sleek and smooth-edged robots, but also clunky ones, too. Some are made to resemble humanoid lizards, while others are floating orbs that shoot lightning. There's no cohesion or unifying theme to the Vulgus. Even their names range from Greg to something more alien, like Alzaroke.

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Kunitsu-Gami: Path Of The Goddess Review - Danse Macabre

Fri, 07/19/2024 - 07:42

At first glance, Kunitsu-Gami: Path Of The Goddess feels like the spinning plates metaphor made manifest. Each stage requires you to purge supernatural rot, rescue villagers, build traps, and fight off waves of hideous demons, all with the goal of aiding a divine maiden in her quest to rid Mt. Kafuku of a plague. The gameplay mechanics required to achieve all of those tasks, however, bundle together to create one of the more distinct experiences in video games this year.

On a moment-to-moment basis, Kunitsu-Gami tests your fighting skills, as well as your wits and your ability to think on your feet, lest the maiden in your care succumb to the rot. There are elements where the fun of its sword-swinging, demon-slaying action is supplanted by menial tasks, but those hiccups aren't enough to derail the whole experience. Kunitsu-Gami is a refreshing new addition to Capcom's stable of IP and a solid execution of an engaging gameplay loop.

This new adventure puts you in control of Soh, a samurai warrior who is sworn to protect Yoshiro, the aforementioned divine maiden. Their home, Mt. Kafuku, has been invaded by the Seethe, a demonic force of otherworldly entities who have spread a hideous plague of "defilement" throughout the land. Soh must lead Yoshiro through each town and village on the mountain, protecting her at all costs as she purges the defilement once and for all.

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Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus Review - A Hollow Night

Fri, 07/19/2024 - 07:00

As more metroidvania games come out, we're seeing fewer of them resemble the originators of the subgenre--Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night--and more that clearly take inspiration from those that came after. Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus is one such example, with tons of clear parallels to Hollow Knight in terms of both gameplay and narrative. In a few ways, this works extremely well for Path of the Teal Lotus--if you're going to take inspiration from a game, do it using one where there's a lot of good stuff to build on. However, Path of the Teal Lotus pales in comparison to its inspirations by making mechanics and features that were already problems in Hollow Knight, like an unclear map and frustrating platforming gauntlets, worse. It makes for an altogether decent-enough game if based solely on its own merits, but one that doesn't stand out at all when held up against its juggernaut contemporaries.

In Path of the Teal Lotus, you play as the titular Bō, a celestial blossom charged with fulfilling an ancient prophecy and defeating a terrifyingly large monstrosity after falling from the heavens. Armed with a bō staff, Bō must traverse and fight their way through picturesque locales, meeting characters and fighting monsters inspired by Japanese folklore. It's an incredible narrative tee-up, but one that comes after hours of coy character dialogue and not much in the way of direction beyond "go get this ability to get to the next area." Path of the Teal Lotus' story takes a long time to get going, leaving the first half of the game feeling directionless. And once a story does start falling into place, the game is already heading toward its conclusion, culminating in an overall narrative tempo that initially feels far too slow before becoming rushed and difficult to follow.

This is a gorgeous game, especially the urban hub area.

And I wanted to get lost in this game's world. Path of the Teal Lotus is a beautiful game, featuring a colorful, hand-drawn 2.5D style that incorporates vibrant greens, electric blues, somber purples, and shining reds. Character and enemy designs are varied and pop against the backdrop, with details helping to highlight NPCs you want to talk to and enemy weak points you want to bash. The world relies on the tried-and-true method of associating a specific color with each location and then relying on said color to depict the same location on the map, reinforcing each distinct locale and the unique challenges you'll encounter there, whether it's the icy blue of a snow-covered mountaintop or soft pink of a sakura-filled forest.

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Demon Slayer: Sweep The Board Review - Sleep Once Bored

Thu, 07/18/2024 - 05:20

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is a wildly popular anime and manga series that stars a captivating cast of characters all seeking to protect innocents from insidious threats. My wife and I are huge fans of the show to the point that we’ve obtained dozens of Banpresto, Figurizm, and Masterlise figures for our humble collection. It’s also why I was intrigued by Demon Slayer: Sweep the Board!, a virtual board game adaptation of the series from CyberConnect 2 and Sega.

Following its release on Nintendo Switch this past April, Demon Slayer: Sweep the Board has been released on additional platforms. Unfortunately, however, it seems my wait for Sweep the Board to come to PC was not worth it. After nearly 10 hours of playing, I still have a hard time discerning just who exactly this game was made for. From clunky controls to boring minigames, Sweep the Board feels like a party game that lacks any sense of "party."

Demon Slayer: Sweep the Board adapts several arcs of the manga and anime into Mario Party-esque layouts. From Asakusa and Mount Fujikasane in Board 1 to the Swordsmith Village in Board 5, each map is chock-full of references and nods to moments from the show, which was a treat for me as a fan. For instance, there are multiple paths in Mt. Natagumo that take you to Tsuzumi Mansion, which has a mysterious drum that causes characters inside the building to move to random locations. The Swordsmith Village, meanwhile, has hot springs, mechanical training dolls, and Haganezuka chasing you around. Those familiar with the source material will no doubt get a kick out of the references, albeit a brief one.

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Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail Review - A New World

Thu, 07/18/2024 - 04:50

Coming off the heels of the decade-long Hydaelyn and Zodiark saga, Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail takes you to completely new territory, quite literally. For once, you--the Warrior of Light--are offered the chance for some peace and quiet alongside your friends, with no calamitous threat looming over your shoulder. There are no dragons to slay, gods to fell, or villains to vanquish on the agenda. Hell, we traveled to the literal edge of the universe, I think it's fair to say we deserve this break.

This latest adventure is the beginning of something new for the MMO and aims to try something a little different with a number of unpredictable outcomes. You'd be setting yourself up for disappointment if you're expecting this expansion to offer the non-stop excitement and narrative revelations or Shadowbringers or Endwalker, but Dawntrail is still a great setup for a lower-stakes adventure, and one that ultimately makes Dawntrail's twist that much more compelling.

Major spoilers ahead for Dawntrail's story

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Gestalt: Steam And Cinder Review - Steamed Ma'ams

Thu, 07/18/2024 - 02:12

More than almost any other genre, the metroidvania is reaching a saturation point. We have beloved modernizations like Hollow Knight and Axiom Verge and big-budget takes like Batman: Arkham Asylum or this year's Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, alongside a steady, constant drumbeat of indie releases. It's hard to throw a rock at Steam without hitting at least a couple of metroidvanias, and with that much choice, it's hard for any one to stand out. Gestalt: Steam and Cinder is the latest indie take on the genre, but it manages to do what many others don't: pay homage to the two most prominent originators of the genre with smart, deliberate design choices that help it stand out in a crowded field.

In some sense, all metroidvanias combine aspects of Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Gestalt does so as well, but it also wisely leans on some of their best attributes, which feels like a conscious choice. For Super Metroid, that means a vast, interconnected world that is broken into a handful of distinct zones that play like their own stages. And like Symphony of the Night, it sports gorgeous pixel art with an emphasis on slick combat with light RPG hooks.

In Gestalt, you play as Aletheia, a no-nonsense bounty hunter who is on semi-friendly terms with the governing body of Canaan, a post-apocalyptic steampunk city. The world has recovered from the devastation of a war involving clockwork soldiers and cursed armor, but the stability is tense and everyone senses it's coming to an end. You get the impression throughout that Canaan's peacekeepers have tried to recruit Aletheia at various points, but she's always preferred to go her own way because she is, above all else, a cool, independent protagonist. Taking bounties ultimately leads to trouble as she investigates the areas around Canaan for clues about what's really going on.

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Flintlock: The Siege Of Dawn Review - Gunpowder and Deicide

Wed, 07/17/2024 - 22:00

Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn has been marketed as a souls-lite rather than the more common souls-like, which I assumed meant it would be more approachable while still retaining many of the genre's core tenets. This is partly true in that it's nowhere near as punishing as From Software's games, and features familiar elements like bonfire-esque checkpoints and an Estus Flask-style healing system. Yet the game's style is more akin to something like Star Wars: Jedi Survivor than any Dark Souls game. Flintlock feels like a mashup of sensibilities between a souls-like and a more traditional action game, bridging the gap between the two with its own delightful approach to fast-paced combat and high-flying traversal.

One area in which Flintlock immediately stands out amongst its contemporaries is its unique setting. Mixing magical high fantasy with elements from the 17th to 19th century and the advent of gunpowder, Flintlock's world is immediately intriguing. For your part, you're strapped into the boots of protagonist Nor Vanek, a sapper in the Coalition army who unwittingly breaks a seal to the Great Below, unleashing malevolent Gods and their armies of the dead upon the lands of Kian. This act sets in motion a fairly straightforward story as Nor--wracked with guilt over condemning her home to near-annihilation--sets out on a path of vengeance to kill the Gods and retake the world. She's joined by a mysterious fox-like companion called Enki, who's keen to share his knowledge of the Gods while aiding Nor's efforts with a host of magical abilities.

The narrative's simple, laser-focused approach works in the game's favor, giving you a clear end goal to pursue that aligns with the snappy pacing of its action and movement. There are moments of interpersonal conflict, but the story never deviates from its deicidal path, lending the narrative a purposeful sense of forward momentum that carries it through to the end. The trade-off, however, is that you're unlikely to feel any attachment to its small cast of one-dimensional characters, despite enjoyable performances from Olive Gray (Halo), Alistar Petrie (Sex Education), and Elias Toufexis (Deus Ex: Mankind Divided).

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Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition Review - Go Go Mario

Wed, 07/17/2024 - 22:00

Nintendo deserves and often rightly gets a lot of credit for the proliferation of esports and speedrunning, two competitive video game subcultures that have exploded in recent years. The Nintendo World Championships events were among the first high-profile, publisher-led efforts at esports, and many of the best-known speedrunning records are based on classic NES games. It makes sense, then, that Nintendo would capitalize on its place in history with Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition, a hybrid speedrunning tutorial and ongoing online competition for Nintendo Switch. While the tools are a bit barebones for true speedrun enthusiasts, the presentation nicely preserves and illuminates the joy of racing to shave milliseconds off your best time.

Nintendo World Championships kicks off on a self-congratulatory tone, having you peruse icons, favorite NES games, and "Hype Tags"--slogans from throughout Nintendo history--to build your profile. The icons are all from Nintendo-published NES games, but the "favorite games" include lots of third-party games and even Famicom listings. Similarly, the slogans run the gamut from nostalgic ("Plays With Power") to more contemporary ("Retro Game Collector"). It's a nice little touch of personalization to welcome you into Nintendo's long history.

Once you've created your profile, you can choose One Player or Party Mode. The One Player menu greets you with three gameplay options: Speedrun Mode, World Championships, and Survival Mode. Speedrun Mode makes for the bulk of single-player, and is composed of a large collection of challenges from across 13 classic Nintendo games. Those challenges are then reused for the solo online play and Party Mode challenges. The challenges include each NES Super Mario Bros. game (including the so-called Lost Levels), Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Excitebike, and Balloon Fight, among others.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splintered Fate Review - Turtle Loop

Wed, 07/17/2024 - 08:30

As strange as the idea sounds--teenagers who are mutant turtles, who also happen to be ninjas--Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been a wildly successful franchise going back to its origins as a comic book in the '80s--so successful, in fact, that it spawned a legion of copycats, copy mice, frogs, sharks, and more. With that history of imitators in mind it’s funny to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splinted Fates act as such a direct clone of Hades, just with a TMNT coat of paint. Unlike Street Sharks or Biker Mice from Mars, though, this does an admirable job of capturing most of what makes its inspiration great.

As is tradition, Master Splinter has been kidnapped, and it’s up to the four turtles to battle through four levels of roguelite action to get him back. Each run starts in the sewers, moving room to room as you clear enemies and collect power-ups along the way. When you die, you are transported back to the turtle’s lair to regroup, buy a few upgrades, and start again.

Splintered Fates was originally a mobile game, but it was built with modern high-spec devices and access to controllers in mind. As a result, its solid core gameplay loop feels right at home on the Nintendo Switch. Delivering attacks before quickly dashing away to avoid damage generally feels fast and fluid. Intense fights near the end of a run can be a dizzying whirlwind as you prioritize targets and deliver blows in the small gaps in which enemies are vulnerable. Attacks quickly charge up a powerful special attack and a tool with a unique power, like Michelangelo’s taunt, which stuns and damages enemies in a small area of effect.

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Flock Review - Creature Comforts

Tue, 07/16/2024 - 02:00

The creature-collector genre is dominated by Pokemon and filled out from there with many games heavily inspired by it. Through a certain lens, Flock is a creature collector, too, but if you go into it looking for a game very much like Pokemon, you won't find it. The task of filling out your Pokedex-like Field Guide by discovering a world of (mostly) fantastical creatures, each with their own physical and behavioral traits, is very much like the genre's titan, but beyond that, Flock is much more lax, not to mention charming and delicate. It's better described as a creature observer, and that novel approach winds up being very enjoyable.

Flock takes place in a gorgeously colorful wilderness called The Uplands. As the customizable player character and bird-rider, you and an optional co-op partner head into a small camp where your aunt and some pals need your help cataloging the many critters roaming the land. The entire game takes place on the back of your feathered friend, and the game's way of automatically adjusting your flight path vertically, while you do so horizontally, makes it all very easy to control. It feels light and fun in your hands, like going down a slide at the playground.

This child-like spirit is present throughout the game, from its candy-colored trees and plains to its small cast of characters who speak mostly in terms players of all ages can understand, but who occasionally pack a hint of something more grown-up in their musings. I found it similar to how characters on many Cartoon Network shows speak. It isn't trying to be subversive, like a Dreamworks movie sneaking in an adult joke; rather, it treats its audience with some maturity, expressed in the words characters choose. It's immediately inviting, and the game's soft music makes for a perpetually calming soundtrack that keep game feeling meditative and decompressing.

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Zenless Zone Zero Review - Hacker's Delight

Thu, 07/04/2024 - 12:00

Zenless Zone Zero (ZZZ) is HoYoverse's third game launch in four years. You'd think that HoYo's formula would get stale with yet another free-to-play gacha RPG dropping just 15 months after the release of Honkai: Star Rail, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The developer has managed to create another familiar but distinct gameplay experience by once again learning from past missteps to deliver a game that is both iterative and innovative at the same time. The downside here, however, is that ZZZ puts several new and interesting elements together but forces you to spend the most time with the least interesting of the bunch.

Zenless Zone Zero has more style and aesthetic excellence than both Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail, all in a much smaller package in terms of world size and scale of locations. At this point, Genshin Impact's open-world has become almost too large and sprawling to facilitate a comfortable or compact mobile gaming experience, meaning it's best experienced on PC or console. Meanwhile, Star Rail is the exact opposite because its turn-based combat and auto-battle features are a perfect fit for mobile devices. Zenless Zone Zero sits squarely in the middle of those two experiences by combining roguelike puzzle dungeons, fast-paced action combat, and chill life-sim activities into one varied gameplay loop.

The story also deviates from what we've come to expect from HoYoverse. The world-building is still strong, but it's scaled back considerably. Instead of high-stakes conflicts with gods and higher powers, so far, Zenless Zone Zero has you follow the daily lives of two tech-genius siblings--Wise and Belle--as they find ways to make money legally and illegally. You get to pick which sibling you play as, but no matter who you go with, both remain in the story as characters who get regular dialogue. The main difference is that you choose what your protagonist says and control them while exploring the city of New Eridu.

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Luigi's Mansion 2 HD Review - Weegee Board

Tue, 06/25/2024 - 23:00

As the Switch moves into the twilight years of an especially lengthy lifespan, Nintendo has increasingly turned toward remasters of its back catalog to fill out the release calendar. This is the context for Luigi's Mansion 2 HD, a remastered version of a relatively recent 2013 release on 3DS. The sequel is a game that served as a sharpened, refined take on the ideas presented by the first Luigi's Mansion--and laid the groundwork for the even better Luigi's Mansion 3--so having access to that piece of the series' history untethered from the 3DS makes it feel that much more valuable. While the recency makes it feel less essential than some remasters of older classics like Metroid Prime or Super Mario RPG, it's still just as fun to solve puzzles, schlurp ghosts into your jerry-rigged vacuum cleaner, and enjoy some gentle scares along the way.

The original Luigi's Mansion was a cute diversion-verging-on-tech-demo that helped cement Luigi's personality as Mario's skittish and reluctantly heroic brother. Drafted against his will to catch a bunch of ghosts, it was a kid-friendly take on Resident Evil by way of Ghostbusters--even down to the tank controls, puzzles, and interconnected mansion setting. Luigi's Mansion 2, by comparison, swaps out the single environment for a series of different buildings that all reside in one extremely haunted neighborhood called Evershade Valley. That gives the game a more disconnected, mission-based feeling than both its earlier and later entries, in exchange for environments that present very differently from each other and allow for the feeling of themed haunted houses: an ancient tomb, a creaky old snow lodge, and so on.

The mission structure focused on single goals that take around 15-20 minutes to complete seems primed for portable play on 3DS--the game's original platform--and that gives Luigi's Mansion 2 a particular rhythm. It's easy to pick up and digest a stage or two at a time but harder to get lost in for long stretches of time without feeling like you're going through the same steps over and over. A typical mission has you exploring a particular section of the building you're investigating, usually needing to locate some MacGuffin to unlock a section, sucking up a few scattered ghosts, and taking part in at least one arena-style fight against several ghosts. Rinse, repeat.

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The Rogue Prince Of Persia Early Access Review - Time Master

Sat, 06/22/2024 - 04:15

Still in early access, Evil Empire's The Rogue Prince of Persia is already an entertaining 2D roguelike, building a world composed of vibrant colors and dozens of monstrous soldiers that are ever-so-delightful to slice and crush over and over. For now, the game falters when it comes to delivering a compelling story, but its use of narrative breadcrumbs to lead the player through its assortment of levels helps to maintain an incentive to push forward when its challenging combat presents a roadblock that takes a handful of attempts to overcome. It's still too early to say anything definitive about the full game, but what's here is more than a sound bedrock--this is a great spiritual successor to Dead Cells that builds on an already engaging combat loop with smooth parkour and movement mechanics.

In The Rogue Prince of Persia, you play as the eldest of two princes, who has found himself stuck in a time loop. The Huns have invaded the prince's home city, utilizing a strange dark magic that has overwhelmed Persia's forces. Possessing a medallion that revives him in an oasis encampment just outside the city three days into the invasion every time he dies, the prince has to repeatedly fight his way through the Huns to reach their leader and kill him. While working his way through the various levels of the game, the prince will also run across allies and members of his family--some captured, others still fighting the Huns--whom he can aid by utilizing knowledge gleaned from multiple loops.

This game is very pretty.

The prince's investigations play out as a mind board with pictures of characters and notes that are connected with lines, hinting at what you might have to do next to proceed in the game. A note discovered in the Huns' camp reveals that an important individual has been captured by the game's first boss, for example, encouraging you to reach said boss to question them as to their identity. Some of these investigations require you to travel to specific areas in a certain order over the course of a single run--I once had to talk to someone in one of the two starting areas to grab a specific item, travel to another area to use said item, and then go onto a third location to see how the used item had affected the environment. Dying amid a run would reset the process, as the nature of the time loop would mean that I never spoke to the person in the first area in the first place.

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Still Wakes The Deep Review - The Abyss Stares Back

Wed, 06/19/2024 - 03:19

Though The Chinese Room has previously worked in the horror genre, I don't think of the team as primarily a horror-centric development studio. Rather, I've long felt its name is synonymous with sadness. The throughline spanning games like Dear Esther, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, and even Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is a feeling of melancholy, longing, or even tragedy. Still Wakes The Deep continues this run of depressing games, which I mean as a compliment. By leaning into the studio's forte, the game's memorable horrors become more affecting hardships.

I've found it difficult to write about Still Wakes The Deep as I didn't want to spoil its best aspect--the monster at the root of it all, which isn't shown in any pre-launch materials. But then I discovered how the game has been advertised--"The Thing on an oil rig"--which seems to let me off the hook. As it turns out, that elevator pitch is exactly what this game is like. Blue-collar workers stranded with a creature of unknown origin is a classic horror premise--Alien's "truckers in space" is essentially this, too. The Chinese Room pulls from these genre titans to tell a story of its own and places it all in an especially uncommon setting.

It's Christmas 1975. Aboard an oil rig near Scotland, Caz McLeary evades the personal problems awaiting him back on the mainland by joining his buddy and several others toiling away at sea. The game's early moments set the scene well, with large, intimidating human-made machinery creaking and bellowing amid a storm. Indoors, claustrophobic corridors are plastered in cautionary signage that reminds players of just how dangerous and oppressive an oil rig is--even without a monster showing up. Fulfilling any role in such an environment seems to merit copious hazard pay. As waves crash around the perimeter and rain-soaked ladders climb to platforms that feel more like thrill rides when you stand atop them, the game's message seems clear: This place is not safe, and humanity doesn't belong there.

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Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree DLC Review - Kill Them With Kindness

Wed, 06/19/2024 - 00:00

Late into Shadow of the Erdtree, Elden Ring's first and only DLC, I encountered something I'd never seen before in a From Software game. Nestled in a far corner of the Land of Shadow was a village untouched by the death, devastation, and decay left in the wake of Messmer The Impaler's bloody conquest. There, I watched trees sway gently as the wind swept through and marveled at the multicolored flowers spread across a field of lush green grass. The twilight of an overhanging moon met the golden rays of a life-giving tree towering above, creating a dream-like tranquility that was accentuated by soft, sorrowful music. No monsters lurked in the shadows and no threats awaited around corners; there was just beautiful, untarnished serenity.

Shadow of the Erdtree takes players to the Land of Shadow, a place that has been hidden away, where the laws of the venerated Golden Order that governs The Lands Between were written in blood, and that has been forgotten and left to fester. Battling through the Land of Shadow's numerous castles, caves, and crypts delivers exactly what you want from a From Software game and what made Elden Ring an open-world masterpiece when it was released two years ago. It offers the same thrilling sense of player-empowered exploration and rewarding discovery, as well as the satisfaction of triumphing over adversity. These aspects of Elden Ring are all as potent in Shadow of the Erdtree, but it's the game's subversions that are the most striking.

Shadow of the Erdtree is full of surprises, whether it's an unexpected moment of calm, a new gameplay twist, or a narrative revelation. The biggest of these, however, pertains to my expectations. I was ready for a modest-sized expansion to the world of Elden Ring akin to Bloodborne's The Old Hunters or Dark Souls 3's Ringed City. What I got, however, was a full-fledged, 30-hour game crafted by a team that is peerless when it comes to creating worlds that feel as dangerous and unnerving to be in as they are satisfying to conquer.

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F1 24 Review - Narrowly Misses Pole Position

Sat, 06/15/2024 - 08:23

The 2024 Formula One season is finally heating up. Max Verstappen will probably still win a fourth successive driver's championship after the final race in December, but at least the rest of the field is making life more taxing for the dominant Dutchman and his Red Bull team. Recent races have been more competitive and unpredictable, with multiple teams battling for first place in any given race weekend. It should be the perfect time for F1 24 to launch, but the same excitement generated by the real-life product doesn't quite apply to Codemaster's latest. It's still an excellent racing game, especially when you factor in an overhauled Driver Career mode, but its overt familiarity means there are fewer reasons than ever to upgrade if you own F1 23.

F1 24's most significant selling point is its new, reworked Driver Career mode. You can still play through this multi-season experience as a custom driver, but F1 24 now lets you strap into the helmet of one of the 20 superstar drivers on this season's grid. You may want to try and win Verstappen's fourth successive championship yourself or pick a younger driver like Yuki Tsunoda and earn your way onto one of the bigger teams in the sport. Not only this, but you can also opt to start as an F2 driver--beginning your career in either F2 or F1--and choose from a selection of legendary icons like Aryton Senna, Jacques Villeneuve, and errr… Pastor Maldonado. This isn't just a cosmetic change, either, because all previous stats and accolades carry over, including the number of successful podiums, race wins, championship victories, and so on. It's an enticing prospect being able to potentially win Michael Schumacher's record eighth world title or attempt to rebuild Williams back into a title contender with Senna behind the wheel.

Your driver's reputation within the sport will grow as you achieve top-10 finishes, complete contract targets, and tick off more accolades. This can help you secure a new deal with your current team or attract the attention of rival teams, who will then start vying for your services. If this happens, you can agree to attend a secret meeting and negotiate a move or turn down the offer, with the whole thing emulating the sort of behind-closed-doors nature of sudden driver moves that occur in real life. If you opt to stay with your current team, they'll be pleased with your decision. This is nonsensical considering the meeting was supposed to be secret, but these covert rendezvous are a nice new addition nonetheless.

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Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Review - Losing My Religion

Sat, 06/15/2024 - 04:12

The original Shin Megami Tensei V was great. When I reviewed it back in 2021, I loved the challenging combat, the excellent art design, the menagerie of mythological beings, and the overall dark and oppressive atmosphere wherein humanity hangs by a thread. But there was certainly room for improvement, so I was eager to see how Atlus would handle Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance, its revised and expanded multiplatform release. So rather than repeat what was said before--much of my original review still stands--it's more worthwhile to look at Vengeance's most important changes and new additions. There's a lot that's been added and adjusted, so let's focus on what made the biggest impact on the game overall.

Perhaps the most noteworthy is its performance. Instead of being constrained on the Switch hardware, Vengeance is now multiplatform, allowing the game to run at a much smoother 60fps. Though the Switch version was known to chug when a lot was going on in its big, open environments or in combat, this is no longer a problem. (Since we've reviewed Vengeance on PS5, we can't say if the Switch version still has these performance hiccups, though we do know it aims to run at 30fps.)

Visually, however, Vengeance looks similar to the original; the environments and character models lack the sort of intricate detail you might be used to seeing on current-gen consoles. Still, what Vengeance lacks in ultra-detail it more than makes up for in stunning art design, filling the world with beautiful angels and goddesses, vile demonic hellspawn, and a blend of tarnished wastelands and mysterious, otherworldly constructs.

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Destiny 2: The Final Shape Review-in-Progress

Fri, 06/07/2024 - 07:03

It's impossible to think about The Final Shape without the context of the last 10 years, seven other Destiny 2 expansions, and four original Destiny expansions, plus the campaigns that came with the releases of both games. This eighth Destiny 2 expansion is, to some degree, the culmination of the somewhat haphazard decade-long journey that the first game spawned. And while the story itself hasn't always been consistently building toward a conclusion, there's a clear, mostly positive evolution across all those steps that informs what The Final Shape is to Destiny as a whole.

I've noted in the past when expansions were high water marks for Destiny 2 as a game, but this is something else. The Final Shape isn't just another step forward in a long march of progress, but a leap. At least so far, two days in, The Final Shape is as close as Destiny has ever gotten to the original promise of the game when Bungie first described a shared-world sci-fi fantasy shooter set in a strange and far-flung future. This isn't just Destiny 2 as the best it's ever been--this is Destiny 2 as it always should have been.

It all starts with a story campaign that tosses you into the Pale Heart of the Traveler in a bid to stop the Witness, Destiny 2's long-gestating ultimate villain, from using the game's convoluted physics-ignoring powers to rewrite reality. It's immediately apparent that developer Bungie has taken a different tack from how it usually approaches these chapters, trading overcomplicated, jargony plots for a focus on Destiny 2's main cast of characters as they head toward a potentially world-ending confrontation. The Final Shape is easily the best story Destiny has ever told in an expansion, clearly laying out what is at stake and, at least emotionally, how it'll work, and setting players on a journey straight from point A to point B and a final confrontation with the Witness.

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Killer Klowns From Outer Space: The Game Review - Clownin' Around

Thu, 06/06/2024 - 06:14

I don't believe in "so bad, it's good." If a movie is especially bad, I'd sooner not waste my time since I don't find especially bad movies interesting on any level. So I've not seen the cult budget horror movie Killer Klowns From Outer Space in probably 25 years, when I was a horror-loving kid who didn't yet know he didn't like "so bad, it's good." That means I initially wasn't excited about a game based on this movie, despite my appreciation for the burgeoning asymmetrical horror multiplayer genre. As it turns out, Killer Klowns is a surprisingly nuanced PvP horror game with enough sugary silliness to not be taken too seriously. Rather than "so bad, it's good," it's simply good.

Killer Klowns follows games like Dead By Daylight, Friday The 13th, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, pitting players versus players in a familiar horror landscape. In the case of this game, players are split into lobbies of three murderous klowns versus seven survivors trying to outlast them and escape the map within a 15-minute time limit. Though each asymmetrical horror game has carved its own path, Killer Klowns actually looks and plays much like Illfonic's Jason Voorhees game, which I find to be only a good thing. It's not a clone, but where it's similar, it's welcome, and where it's different, it usually works out, too.

Survivors will need to scrounge for tools like melee weapons and health kits while, more importantly, locating and activating one of several exits across one of multiple sprawling maps, each of them built with intricate shortcuts to discover and routes to learn so that a skilled survivor can get some distance between themself and the squeaky shoes of a klown on their heels. Meanwhile, the klowns are tasked with patrolling the map and killing all humans, either by directly attacking them or hanging them up as human-sized cotton-candy cocoons until they wither away.

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XDefiant Review - Modern Warfare

Wed, 06/05/2024 - 09:00

XDefiant's practice zone offers a stark reminder that you are, in fact, playing a Ubisoft game. In one corner of this abandoned convention center, there are arcade machines for Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Just Dance 2014, and Riders Republic. Near the front desk, a large screen displays various Assassin's Creed protagonists striking a pose, while the short corridor leading to the assault course is adorned with a giant Rabbid statue, wide-eyed and mouth agape. All of this gives the impression that XDefiant is a celebration of Ubisoft's history, but that's only half true. Instead, it's a celebration of Ubisoft games that predominantly revolve around shooting guns.

XDefiant feels like an homage, and as such, doesn't offer anything we haven't already seen in the competitive shooter space before. It's a generic free-to-play shooter, mixing ingredients from games like Call of Duty and Overwatch to create an all-too-familiar broth. Being wildly unoriginal isn't a bad thing if the formula works, and in this case, it does, for the most part. But some of its disparate ideas don't quite mesh, and this approach isn't enough to stand out in a crowded shooter market--especially when it delivers such a continuous sense of deja vu.

Each of XDefiant's recognizable game types pits two teams of six players against one another. The action here is grounded, foregoing much of the fluid traversal present in many modern shooters by limiting your movement options and restricting where you can climb. Combat is fast-paced and twitchy, informed by a brief time-to-kill and rapid respawns; it's solid in much the same way CoD was circa 2011, featuring a smaller toolset and tighter focus on distinct weapons.

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