Storyteller Review - Tale As Old As Time
For many of us, the fantastic tales of knights and dragons, love and loss, and brave heroes overcoming all obstacles are the ones that made us fall in love with storytelling. However, as we get older and life grows more complex, so do the types of stories we yearn for. Although the hero's journey may serve as a foundation for countless tales, these stories ultimately evolve into retellings, reimaginings, subversions, and entirely new creations--ones that alter our notions as to what a story can be. It is this feeling of surprise and delight that Storyteller aims to capture. However, the imaginative puzzle game ultimately fails to bottle that magic, failing to meaningfully evolve and instead delivering a repetitive and underwhelming experience.
The premise of Storyteller is simple yet tantalizing: You create stories that yield a certain outcome by altering the order in which key events occur. You do this by filling in boxes that resemble comic strip panels, using an established list of characters and settings to do so. As you structure your story, adjusting variables where needed in order to create the ending needed to pass the level, the panels interact with each other, resulting in a sort of interactive butterfly effect.A man slays a vampire to protect his bride.
The challenges start off simple enough--make the prince and princess fall in love, help the knight slay the monster, etc.--then quickly become a bit more complex, requiring you to understand a certain character's temperament and how that may flavor their interactions with others. For example, the noble knight is wary of murdering another character. The bloodthirsty baron, on the other hand, will leap at the opportunity. Similarly, the knight will always vie for the queen's affection, though it remains up to you to get her to feel the same towards him.Continue Reading at GameSpot
The Last Of Us Part I PS5 And PC Review - Desolation Row
The Last of Us Part I's PS5 version was reviewed by Jake Dekker, while its PC port was reviewed by Alessandro Barbosa.
Joel looks different in The Last of Us Part I. It took me a while to notice, but once I did, it was hard to unsee. There's a pain in his eyes. His clothes and features are the same, but there's a quiet, unmistakable torment imprinted on his face. I've played The Last of Us nearly a dozen times across PS3 and PS4, and I had never seen it worn so plainly. I know Joel has a troubled past because The Last of Us Part I goes out of its way to show you a traumatic death in the opening scene, but that pain was never etched into his facial features this clearly.
There's an argument to be made that The Last of Us Part I is too similar to the PS3 and PS4 versions to be considered a remake, and part of me agrees with that sentiment. The story is identical, the level design is exactly the same, and the gameplay--apart from some quality-of-life improvements--is unchanged. On paper, if you've played The Last of Us and remember it well, there's little reason to return to it on PS5.Continue Reading at GameSpot
MLB The Show 23 Review - Grand Slam
Jackie Robinson is many things: a hall of fame baseball player; a Rookie of the Year, MVP, and World Series winner; and, most notably, the first Black man to break baseball's color line and compete in the Major Leagues. The legendary number 42 made his Brooklyn Dodgers debut in 1947 and lit up the diamond with his electric playstyle, all while facing intolerance and hatred from fans, opposing players, and teammates alike. Jackie Robinson's alluring talent was one of the reasons he was chosen to be the first Negro League player to integrate into the previously segregated Major Leagues, but it was his outstanding intangibles--such as his ability to handle racist abuse with grace--that sealed the deal. Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, will tell you that Jackie Robinson wasn't the greatest player to ply his trade in the Negro Leagues. That's not to disparage one of the greatest players of all time, but to provide context for just how good some of the league's other players were.
MLB The Show 23 shines a spotlight on these unknown and forgotten heroes of the Negro Leagues. A new Storylines mode explores the league's rich history, telling a captivating story of extraordinary people triumphing in the face of abhorrent prejudice and hate. It's a landmark moment for sports games--and video games in general--meshing The Show's consistently excellent gameplay with educational and inspiring video packages narrated by the extremely knowledgeable Kendrick himself. The rest of the game iterates on its predecessors and shakes up the Diamond Dynasty formula with some major changes, but it's Storylines: The Negro Leagues that stands out above all else and elevates the entire experience.
Eight players are featured in this interactive learning tool: Leroy "Satchel" Page, Hilton Smith, Andrew "Rube" Foster, Hank Thompson, John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil, Jackie Robinson, John Donaldson, and Martin Dihigo. You may have only heard of one or two of these players, but every legendary figure has a whole series dedicated to their life and career, with each one spanning between eight and nine episodes.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Dredge Review - Grant Us Eels
For many, fishing is a serene, relaxing hobby. It's a playful, yet often deadly game, where typically the one holding the rod is in full control. Out on the open seas, this dynamic is often flipped. Manning a trawler for days on end, fighting devastating weather conditions, and drifting away from land for weeks at a time can take a toll on your body and mind. It's these sorts of conditions that Dredge so neatly encapsulates in a handful of smartly designed mechanics, but it's the sinister undertone seeping through every crack that makes its fishing expeditions that much more treacherous.
You begin Dredge arriving at a small fishing hamlet on an ever-so-slightly larger island. The town's mayor is in need of someone to supply its population with fish and loans you a small but capable boat to fulfill that. Fishing is what you'll do most in Dredge given that you'll never get the chance to set foot on land, so it's a blessing that it never feels tedious. Each battle with a creature beneath the crest of the waves plays out as a brief minigame focused on timed button presses. The format of each one changes depending on the class of fish you're trying to catch, but the basic premise and overall difficulty remains the same. Completing each one isn't even required for a successful catch. Instead, your ability in each minigame just speeds up the process, which can come in handy when you're trying to get back to shore before nightfall.
While the wide, sun-kissed ocean is inviting during the 12 hours of daylight you have during each day, it's an entirely different prospect at night. A thick fog settles in over the wide expanse, with your boat's lights often struggling to cut through them effectively for navigation. While out at night, your stress levels rise consistently (indicated by a Sauron-like eye that starts moving more erratically the higher the level goes), and with it, the chance for some surreal occurrences. Rocks that you might have been sure weren't on your path before suddenly appear, damaging your hull and potentially robbing you of some of your current haul. As you press on through the stress, your so-called delusions intensify, with anything from pitch-black ravens with glowing red eyes beginning to circle you to ghostly ships appearing in your periphery and setting themselves on a crash course with your vessel.Continue Reading at GameSpot
WWE 2K23 Review - Head Of The Table
The legendary Shawn Michaels retired from pro wrestling in 1998 after suffering a career-ending back injury at the Royal Rumble. No one expected him to lace up his boots and step back into the ring again, yet the Heartbreak Kid made a triumphant return in 2002, eventually going on to cement his legacy with unforgettable matches against the likes of Triple H, The Undertaker, and Ric Flair. The quality of the second half of Michaels' career ensured that his surprise comeback would be remembered as one of the most spectacular returns in WWE history, and it's one that's echoed in some ways by WWE 2K23. Following the disaster that was 2K20--a game so bad its successor was outright canceled--developer Visual Concepts returned to the squared circle last year with a solid foundation that 2K23 improves upon in a variety of ways, finally putting the long-running series back on form with a surprise comeback Mr. WrestleMania himself would be proud of.
Little has changed since last year's entry from a gameplay perspective. You still alternate between light and heavy strikes to execute various combos; grapple your opponent to hit them with suplexes, DDTs, and spinning neck breakers; and build up meters to gain access to signature moves and flashy match-ending finishers. Some may bemoan that it still doesn't play like No Mercy--an N64 game that many still consider the best wrestling game ever--but the series has never tried to. 2K23 is a solid wrestling sim, with most matches swaying back and forth as momentum shifts via desperate reversals and last-ditch kick-outs.
The improvements Visual Concepts has implemented are subtle, yet prove to be welcome adjustments, successfully banishing some minor annoyances from 2K22. The timing window on reversals, for instance, has been tightened up. Previously, it was a little too easy to turn the tide of a contest thanks to the generous amount of time you were given to nullify an attack. With a shorter window, reversals feel more impactful this year, encouraging you to study your opponent's move set and sharpen your reaction times as a result. This ensures matches are more engaging and also imbues each one with some added tension.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Resident Evil 4 Remake Review - Stranga, Stranga, Now That's A Remake
How do you remake Resident Evil 4, an experience that changed the way action games are made today? It is, at best, an unfair challenge and, at worst, an impossible task. So, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel a second time, developer Capcom has doubled down on the brilliance of the original's design--elaborated on it, and finely tuned the experience. The result is a stunning remake that reminds longtime fans like me of its brilliance, while also introducing an all-new generation to a modern classic and one of the most important games of all time.
If you're not familiar, the premise of Resident Evil 4 is straightforward: Leon S. Kennedy, the cool and handsome rookie-cop-turned-government-agent who you may remember from his escapades in Resident Evil 2's Raccoon City, has been sent to rural Spain to track down Ashley Graham, the US President's missing daughter. Yes, it's a "save the princess" trope but, even 18 years later, its juxtaposition against the survival-horror genre serves as an immaculate setup for the game's over-the-top set pieces. In this case, the princess is in another castle, but it's a castle besieged by parasitic infections and mind-controlled cultists, so you'll have to blast your way from a rundown village to a military island to get her back. While the core pillars of tense, up-close-and-personal action and careful resource management remain welcomingly unchanged, improvements to character development elevate the story as a whole. Now more than ever, Capcom is aware of the tone and humor of the game after it felt accidental in the original. This time, it feels like Capcom is leaning into it, striking a considered balance between heart-pounding horror and laugh-out-loud cheese.
This time, Leon isn't just a cool-looking dude with swoopy hair and a sweet jacket, who says sometimes cool, sometimes corny things, and does super-cool stuff. He's more than that: Now he's a cool dude with cool hair doing cool stuff who also acts like a human being. This is a Leon who carries the trauma of the Raccoon City incident from Resident Evil 2 remake, which gives more weight to his character and serves as compelling context for his motivation to save Ashley Graham. This time around, it's not just another assignment for Leon--it's a chance at redemption for the lives he couldn't save in Raccoon City. This narrative continuity is a strong thread that ties the remakes together with emotional heft, making this new era of the franchise feel stronger and more unified than the originals.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza And The Lost Demon - Malice In Wonderland
The difference in direction between the Bayonetta trilogy and the newest entry in the series, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and The Lost Demon, is impossible to ignore. In place of the self-assured dominatrix we know and love is a timid young girl who is far more comfortable clutching a stuffed animal than she is a pistol. Instead of large-scale, action-packed set pieces and the mainline series' unapologetically over-the-top style, we are treated to enchanted forests, well-worn book pages adorned with soft illustrations, and gentle, childlike curiosity. As such, the first few hours I spent with Bayonetta Origins were filled with complete and utter confusion. I couldn't find the connection between Bayonetta Origins and the Bayonetta trilogy, or the threads that connected the two experiences to one another. But thankfully, the team behind Bayonetta Origins could.
Bayonetta Origins is an achievement, both within the Bayonetta series and games as a whole. It is proof the rules and limitations placed on certain, big budget series are made to be broken--especially when you can do it with this much creativity and tact. The charming adventure-puzzler is also just delightful to play, and is far more than what it appears on the surface. As its story unfolds, it slowly builds into a recognizably Bayonetta game--one filled with excitement, darkness, subversions, and feminine liberation--all while maintaining an identity all its own. All this combined with a touching tale of companionship and maternal love--that may or may not have made me cry a lot--makes for a game I urge you not to overlook whether or not you're a fan of the Bayonetta games.
Set long before Cereza steps into the souped-up shoes of Bayonetta, Origins is best described as a "coming-of-half-lumen-sage" story. After witnessing her mother's imprisonment due to a forbidden romance with Cereza's father, the young girl is forced to seek refuge under the tutelage of a powerful witch who lives on the outskirts of the forbidden Avalon forest. Her teacher is firm-yet-kind--clearly intended to show in part where Bayonetta's cool demeanor comes from--but is often frustrated by Cereza's cowardice. As such, when a spirit visits Cereza and tells her that the courage she needs to become a proper witch and rescue her mother lies deep in Avalon, the young witch quickly sets off in search of it.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Destiny 2: Lightfall Review - Deft Stranding
With Destiny 2: The Witch Queen and its assorted seasons in the rearview mirror, 2023's Lightfall expansion has some big shoes to fill. Improved storytelling, new gameplay modes, and the ensuing seasonal content made The Witch Queen expansion a standout experience, and Lightfall doesn't manage to reach the high bar it set. Destiny 2's latest add-on introduces major gameplay tweaks, an exciting new subclass to play around with, and plenty of fresh Exotic gear for your arsenal, but this is overshadowed by a disappointing campaign and a lifeless Neptunian destination that make for an underwhelming combination.
Lightfall doesn't waste any time setting the stage, taking place shortly after the devastating events of Season of the Seraph. After a quick slideshow narrated by the silky-smooth voice of Lance Reddick's Commander Zavala brings everyone up to speed, it's all hands on deck as the Witness finally makes its long-awaited arrival in the Solar system to battle the Traveler. From the opening mission, the action unfolds at a breakneck pace, as a new Shadow Legion of Cabal led by a reborn Calus set a course for Neptune, and you're hitching a ride alongside them in an effort to prevent a doomsday scenario from occurring.
Bungie has spoken several times about adopting an '80s action movie vibe for Lightfall, and that influence is felt everywhere on Neptune's primary location, Neomuna. From a city bathed in neon lights and a training montage as you master your new powers, to the introduction of a cast of characters that include analogs of loose cannon space-cops, maverick rookies, and grizzled veterans just one week away from retirement, Lightfall wears its not-so-subtle inspirations proudly.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Dead Cells: Return To Castlevania Review - Pay ME Tribute
I loved Dead Cells, but it never struck me as particularly Castlevania-like. The acclaimed action roguelike from Motion Twin certainly had some passing resemblance in some of its combat mechanics, but not so much that I ever made any association to Konami's vampire-hunting franchise. So when the studio announced it was making an expansion modeled after Castlevania, I was certainly intrigued, but also surprised. How would that work, exactly? Pretty well, it turns out, as Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania is a clever fusion of Castlevania homages and Dead Cells' structure, and helps to illustrate how Castlevania DNA has been a part of Dead Cells all along.
The similarities between the two are cut into stark relief by their differences. Castlevania, and especially the Symphony of the Night sub-genre that serves as the basis for most of this expansion, is an exploration-based action game, with a castle full of tightly-knit secrets and clockwork-like precision to its progression gating. Dead Cells very much isn't that, as its roguelike biomes mix and match different pieces like Lego bricks. You'll recognize certain pieces after you've played it enough, but it will always be impossible to draw a consistent map or to tell a friend exactly where to find a secret key. In this regard, they couldn't be more different.
So the blending in Return to Castlevania can best be described as Dead Cells doing its best Castlevania impression. The Castlevania biomes are still randomized in the roguelike style, but the pieces do feel more oriented around puzzle-solving and secrets than in the main Dead Cells game. In fact, that's one of Return to Castlevania's most impressive tricks--it's still built around interlocking pieces, but the more secret-solving components don't feel contained to small, individual parts. It's almost as if the game is building a fresh, albeit relatively small, Castlevania map every time you respawn.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Review - Souls-Like Of The Three Kingdoms
The first boss fight in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is right up there with the toughest first bosses in video game history. This opening battle pits you against Zhang Liang of the Yellow Turbans, as you clash in a kinetic two-phase fight to the death. It's an intense skill check that challenges your prowess of Wo Long's mechanics almost immediately. In many ways, it feels like a rite of passage for the rest of the game and a bold statement of intent from developer Team Ninja. I initially loved how it forced me to adapt to the demands of the game's particular brand of Souls-like combat, yet the further I progressed, the more this feeling dissipated as I realized that this introductory struggle was little more than an unbalanced outlier, providing a much sterner test than the bosses following it.
For many, this sudden difficulty spike will be a barrier to entry, halting progress a mere 10 minutes into the game. It's a shame Wo Long begins with such a sturdy roadblock, not least because this initial undertaking isn't indicative of the rest of the game moving forward. In fact, outside of this first boss, Team Ninja has crafted one of the more approachable Souls-likes in what is a traditionally challenging genre.
I didn't encounter another boss fight on par with Zhang Liang's difficulty until roughly 15 hours into Wo Long's campaign. Most of the bosses in between were a relative cakewalk, to the point where I was able to cut down each one on my first attempt--usually in under a minute. I still had fun dispatching every single one, but the ease with which I was able to do so makes them lose some of their luster and reinforces the notion that the first boss is at odds with the rest of the game. The battle with Zhang Liang sets up expectations that never come to fruition, particularly when other fights allow you to summon help from either AI or human teammates.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Tales Of Symphonia Remastered Review - A Classic Regenerated
Tales of Symphonia was a formative experience for me. For my young 11-year-old brain, it redefined my understanding of the JRPG genre. The vibrant presentation, action-focused combat, and mature story took me by surprise. Weekend after weekend, a friend and I would explore the world of Sylvarant together, making incremental progress in each play session. While I had played a few JRPGs before, none had hooked me the way Tales of Symphonia had.
Despite my deep reverence for Tales of Symphonia, I haven't touched it since 2004. I don't really know why. I bought it on PC a few years back, but it just felt wrong to play that game sitting at my desk one random evening after work--almost as if it would tarnish the magic of that experience and the memories tied to it. However, with the release of Tales of Symphonia Remastered, I decided it was finally time to return to this world to see if it was as good as I remember. The result was a bit mixed.
Tales of Symphonia follows a kid named Lloyd Irving as he accompanies the Chosen One on a globetrotting adventure. The Chosen One, Colette, instructed by divine prophecy, must "regenerate" the world in order to end war, famine, and hatred. It seems like standard JRPG fare, but the story is darker and far more complex than it initially lets on. Despite trying to do the right thing, Lloyd and his companions are confronted with moral quandaries that often leave a trail of destruction behind them. What makes the story so effective is how it rarely shies away from the consequences of our heroes' actions. Conflicts are rarely resolved neatly, and the story is better for it.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Octopath Traveler 2 Review - Go Your Own Way
Octopath Traveler was a pleasant surprise when it debuted a few years back. Its then-new HD-2D engine was a delight to behold, and the gameplay drew inspiration from some of Square Enix's most storied franchises: a deep Final Fantasy-style class and customization system mixed with the non-linear exploration and story of the SaGa series with a dash of combat that took cues from Bravely Default. These are great inspirations to draw from, but it resulted in a game that, while excellent, seemed to be struggling for a distinct identity. Perhaps the developers recognized this as well--with Octopath Traveler II, Square Enix seems to be trying to add new gameplay elements that give the franchise a personality of its own. And, for the most part, it has succeeded admirably.
The core of Octopath Traveler II is a traditional, turn-based JRPG with many of the usual gameplay elements: towns and dungeons to explore, objectives to complete, etc. Where most JRPGs present a linear method of progression, however, Octopath Traveler takes a very different approach: You begin the game by selecting a "main" character from eight candidates. This character has their own unique background, story arc, and goals, and will serve as a constant presence throughout your playtime. After an introductory story chapter, you are then free to explore the world to your liking. Eventually, you'll meet the other seven characters, allowing you to bring them into your party and follow their storylines as well, all culminating in a finale that ties the individual story threads together.
The focus on individual character arcs rather than a huge, high-stakes threat for most of the game's runtime is refreshing, allowing Octopath Traveler II to tell a variety of intriguing stories that vary wildly in both tone and focus. Some of them are comparatively weaker, but others command and hold your attention and keep you eager for more. Agnea's star-struck search for fame is notably bland, for instance, while Temenos' investigation into a murder plot by a religious cult and Throne's quest to kill the adoptive parents who raised her are excellent stand-outs. My personal favorite questline is the story of Osvald, who I chose as my starting character--a tale of a scholar who plans a Count-of-Monte-Christo-style prison escape and revenge after being framed for the murder of his own family by a scheming colleague.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Kirby's Return To Dream Land Deluxe Review - Kirb Your Enthusiasm
Mario is the most versatile character in the Nintendo oeuvre, but Kirby has to be a close second. Though the pink puffball may not spend his free time go-karting or playing tennis, his catalog includes a ton of experimental games and art styles that stretch the limits of what a Kirby game can be. Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe, a remastered version of the 2011 Wii game for Nintendo Switch, is in most ways a very traditional Kirby platformer. But its playful spirit, approachability, and a sizable new epilogue campaign make it much more than a retread.
The main story component of Return to Dream Land is a colorful romp as you restore the parts of an alien ship, set to a joyful and buoyant soundtrack. The adorably bulbous alien Magolor crash-lands on Planet Popstar and seeks help from Kirby and his friends. Those allies are a major component this time, because Dream Land features drop-in co-op for up to four players. You can include any number of multicolored Kirbys in your ranks, but you can also bring along other familiar faces: Meta Knight, Bandana Waddle Dee, and King Dedede. Each has their own move set--Meta Knight is more agile than the weighty Dedede, for example--but only Kirby has the signature Copy ability to swallow enemies.
Kirby's combat isn't simplistic, but it is forgiving. There's a ton of contextual moves you can do with each Copy ability, which means you can pull off impressive juggles. But the enemies aren't much of a threat, so you don't really need to master the combat. It's a different approach from some other Nintendo franchises, which use simple move sets to pull off an increasingly difficult array of challenges. This one seems more aimed at letting players meet it wherever they are.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Atomic Heart Review - Crispy Critters
Atomic Heart doesn't hide its BioShock Infinite inspirations. The game begins in a city in the clouds, features reality-bending and elemental powers you can employ in your fight against advanced robots, sees you scrounging for resources in an idyllic city that's falling apart, and stars an amnesiac protagonist grappling with the nuances of free will. By the time you reach the climax of the story and you're asked to visit a lighthouse, you know what's up. Where Atomic Heart most differs from its inspiration is in the lens through which it focuses its narrative, exploring concepts of free will via Soviet Russian collectivism instead of the U.S.' individualism. However, its intriguing premise is let down by a deeply unlikable protagonist and a predictable storyline that doesn't do anything interesting with its cool ideas.
In the alternate history of Atomic Heart, a scientist named Dmitry Sechenov kickstarts a robotics boom in Russia in the 1930s. By the 1950s, the working class has been abolished in the Soviet Union and completely replaced by robots controlled through a hive-mind network called Kollectiv 1.0. The game begins a few years after that, just prior to the public unveiling of Kollectiv 2.0, which will allow all humans to have equal access to the hive-mind to control robots remotely through a Thought device wired straight to their brain, as well as connect and share information with each other across great distances. Basically, it's the Internet plugged into your brain and available 24/7.
With the benefit of 21st-century hindsight, we know the Internet will not end up being a 100% good idea even if the main character Major Sergei Nechaev, an agent who serves Sechenov, fully believes in the dream of a world where everyone equally has access to each other and the wealth of information that will surely be shared. Assigned to investigate a disturbance in Facility 3826, the Soviet Union's foremost scientific research hub, Sergei is joined by Charles, a sentient glove that gifts the agent with a host of polymer-fed technopowers like telekinesis and cryokinesis, and provides a sounding board for Sergei's oftentimes annoying and borderline abusive collection of quips and unfunny comebacks.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Hogwarts Legacy Review - Sleight Of Hand
Hogwarts Legacy is developed by Avalanche Software, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The game has been embroiled in controversy due to transphobic remarks from Harry Potter author JK Rowling. Although she is not personally involved with its development, she stands to profit from its success. For more, read our in-depth article on how Rowling's comments have impacted the trans community. In this article, you will also find links to trans creators you can support, as well as charities you can donate to.
It's difficult to find someone oblivious to the world of Harry Potter. For many it was a property that grew up with them, with both the book and film series persisting in the zeitgeist for decades. It's confusing then that it's taken this long to get a game that promises to deliver on the fantasy of becoming a wizard or witch within that universe; attending classes, learning spells, engaging in mischief, and exploring the grandeur of Hogwarts Castle. Hogwarts Legacy delivers on that promise, to a degree. Its adaptation of this universe is undeniably the most extensive yet, allowing you to truly explore Hogwarts and its surrounding areas like never before. But it's also stuck too keenly in the present (and sometimes, past) of open-world game design, reducing much of what you do to repetitive checklist activities in a world that is disappointingly barren.
Hogwarts Legacy takes place in the late 1800s, although you might be hard-pressed to notice that from the way characters speak or by the clothes they wear, which look ripped straight out of the films set in the late 1900s. You play as a prodigal witch or wizard of your own creation, this time fighting against a goblin uprising led by one particularly nasty one named Ranrok. This props up a predictable and surprisingly sporadic narrative, with main beats and progression only taking place every few hours as you complete the requisite quests around them, which are often barely related. There's so little screen time for many of the main characters that you struggle to get a sense of their motives, especially so in the case of Ranrok, who only appears to deliver a line or two to some subordinates before he disappears for a couple of hours. It robs him, and the story, of any sense of emotional tension, reducing it to nothing more than "talented good student takes out bad powerful goblin" by the end.
While trying to stop a potentially cataclysmic uprising, you'll also be required to juggle the duties that come with being a newly inducted fifth-year at Hogwarts. Being both a new and older student means you get to enjoy the thrills of learning some familiar spells from earlier years, but also have access to a wide range of more advanced ones as the year progresses. The initial introduction to each class is captivating, from partaking in duels in Defence Against the Dark Arts or being subjected to a screaming Mandrake in Herbology. These are some of the moments where Hogwarts Legacy is at its strongest, recapturing the sense of wonder that has made this world so enticing to so many. The mechanical components of each class, however, fall woefully short. The small minigame used to convey wand movements for each spell feels ripped out of the series' very first video game entry nearly two decades ago, while many of the activities introduced shortly after are brief, uninteresting, and usually used as a means to fill your map with many more instances of the same thing. They quickly extinguish any glimmers of hope that the school aspect to your time at Hogwarts will be as engaging as many of these classes might seem from the outside.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Like A Dragon: Ishin Review - Rewriting History
Take the faces, voices, and over-the-top theatrics that have made the Yakuza franchise renowned, and transport all that back to 19th century Japan. The result is Like A Dragon: Ishin, an enticing period piece that also includes the series' action-brawler gameplay and ridiculous hijinx. Even though the context has changed, swapping the gangs of the modern criminal underworld for political factions in a tumultuous time in history, Ishin is yet another example of what developer RGG Studio does best: melodramatic storytelling.
It's been a long time coming as Yakuza: Ishin, originally a PS3/PS4 game from 2014, was not previously localized and brought to the West like other entries in the franchise. This new version lands somewhere between a remaster and remake, but it is based on older iterations of Yakuza games which makes Like A Dragon: Ishin feel dated in several respects, particularly in moment-to-moment gameplay. Still, its fundamentals are solid and the main draws of the franchise remain intact, hooking me with its characters and twists that had me eager to see its historical fiction unfold from chapter to chapter.
Instead of the glitz and glam of Kamurocho, Ishin takes us to late-Edo period Japan, around the time of the end of the samurai class and just before the country's modernization. In the same way previous Yakuza games offer a sort of virtual tourism, Ishin's vivid reconstruction of Japan's past (albeit with more creative liberties) delivers the same thrills. The streets are filled with menacing men wanting to cut you down as you mind your business strolling through the markets, restaurants and bars represent the era's cuisine, and tons of side content reflect the culture and traditions of the time. While it may not be as dazzling as the neon-lit streets of the modern day, the more low-key setting of Kyo (which is now modern-day Kyoto) is refreshing and a welcome change of pace that lets the Yakuza formula thrive once again within a framework it is comfortable with.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Wild Hearts Review - Build Me Up
You only need to glance at Wild Hearts for a moment to see the similarities it shares with Capcom's Monster Hunter series. Both games are about exploring large, open areas--either alone or with other players--to find and defeat giant monsters, then harvesting and using their parts to craft better weapons and armor. Developer Omega Force has explored the genre before with the Toukiden series, and those two games represent perhaps the best examples of the monster-hunting genre outside of Capcom's own influential best-sellers. With Wild Hearts, Omega Force hasn't just set out to create a simple imitation, though. Sure, it has plenty of familiar elements, but the novel Karakuri system gives the game a unique identity that sets it apart from its contemporaries.
In the fiction of Wild Hearts, Karakuri is an ancient technology used by hunters to conjure impressive pieces of technology out of thin air. In action, it's a fast-paced crafting system that serves multiple functions, opening up your available options both in and out of combat. You start with what are known as Basic Karakuri, the first of which lets you produce a wooden crate that launches you into the air when you climb on top of it. You can stack up to three of these crates at once to generate extra height, which proves useful when exploring the environment but really comes into its own when fighting Wild Hearts' various monsters, known as Kemono. You can launch from these crates and transition into a devastating downward strike, or utilize the added elevation to quickly avoid an area-of-effect attack that spews out a pool of lava or poisonous clouds. Most Karakuri serve a dual purpose such as this, whether it's a springboard that proves useful in dodging attacks and propelling you toward Kemono, or a glider that allows you to traverse large gaps and position yourself above monsters for an aerial barrage.
Erecting these Karakuri is quick and simple, so it doesn't take long before you're integrating the various devices into each combat encounter. Constructing a crate, springboard, or torch in the heat of battle eventually becomes second nature, and being able to do so is just as essential to each battle as knowing how to use your specific weapon of choice. Later on, you also unlock various Fusion Karakuri, which use different combinations of Basic Karakuri to create larger, more elaborate contraptions. Stacking nine crates together in three rows, for instance, produces a rock-solid wall that can block incoming projectiles or halt a charging Kemono in its tracks, launching the beast into the air before leaving it in a vulnerable heap on the ground. You can also summon gigantic bouncing hammers, powerful bombs, and blinding firework cannons that can knock flying enemies out of the sky.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Horizon Call Of The Mountain Review - New Heights
Horizon Call of the Mountain and PlayStation VR 2 are inextricably linked. The Guerrilla- and Firesprite-developed title is a successful virtual reality game thanks to the tech housed in the PSVR 2, and the PSVR 2's capabilities are best showcased by the game. Admittedly, the barrier to entry for experiencing it all is very high: You'll need to own a PS5, purchase the $550 headset, and then get the $60 game on top. But those who do will be treated to a game that's an impressive technical showpiece and an enjoyable Horizon game in its own right.
Call of the Mountain takes place in the same vibrant setting that you're used to exploring as Aloy. However, for this game, the protagonist is Ryas, a member of the Shadow Carja who has been imprisoned for questionable actions. Ryas is busted out of prison and sent on a perilous journey to figure out why the machine animals of Horizon's worlds are acting out.
This is a familiar narrative beat for a Horizon game, and a lot of the story is carried by Ryas. Ryas' brother went missing while also trying to solve this particular mystery, so he has a personal stake in going out of his way to help those around him in order to figure out what's going on, even if the people he's working withtreat him like an outsider. My interest in Call of the Mountain was primarily in seeing how it utilized the new hardware, so it caught me by surprise when I found myself invested in Ryas as a character. The game does a great job of slowly unpacking his story and showing that there may have been more to his history than it initially seems.Continue Reading at GameSpot
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review - Greatest Hits
Since the franchise's introduction in 2012, the Theatrhythm games have masterfully capitalized on the Final Fantasy series' incredible soundtracks. Using a gameplay system that's approachable yet deceptively challenging, while also mixing iconic scenes from past games in the background, the games act as a playable portfolio of FF's most memorable moments. Final Bar Line is speculated to be the final game in the Theatrhythm series, at least for a while, and if that's true, it's an incredible final act.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line presents 385 music tracks from across the Final Fantasy spectrum, with a healthy mixture of fan favorites and deep cuts spread out across 29 different categories. After selecting a song, players will press buttons along to its rhythm via three types of notes: red, which requires a single button press; yellow, where a button press is paired with flicking the joystick in a designated direction; and green, which must be held for as long as the green bar is present.
This traffic light-esque system sounds simple, but it can be downright devilish in practice, especially on higher difficulty levels. Keying in on which parts of the song the notes are corresponding to can be tough, especially with compositions as complex as what longtime composer Nobuo Uematsu and his peers have devised over the years. That said, it's still immensely fun being able to interact with these iconic songs in this way, as I found my whole body moving to the beat while I tapped along on the controller.Continue Reading at GameSpot