Video Game Review: Remnant: From the Ashes

A genre defines the experience for a game then the developers can build on top of those expectations. Remnant: From the Ashes is a weird game as it is a looter shooter without a lot of loot. The core comes from playing with friends to fight through hordes of enemies and defeat daunting bosses. It gets plenty wrong, but with one or two friends, it becomes harder to deny the addictiveness of this apocalyptic adventure.

An alternate dimension has thrown ancient creatures into the modern world, tearing humanity apart. As you go on your underwhelming and confusing adventure, your nameless protagonist gets a whiff of answers along with plenty of more questions. Like any game with RPG elements, you, a random person in this world with no credibility, gets tasked with saving it from an evil force, The Root. That trope never makes a ton of sense, but it is more logical than the rest of the

After a brief tutorial, you finally get to choose between three classes, perfectly suited for three people to play together. Scrapper is the tank with melee focus attacks, Hunter has long-range capabilities, and Ex-Cultist (who I chose) is the support member with mid-range guns. Each of the options has a lot to offer with their abilities and weapon sets when my friend decided with the Hunter along with my healing ability, we made for a killer team against the monsters.

More RPG elements get added with Trait Ranks. A series of skills that get points dispensed into for stat upgrades like the essential endurance and some more unique to the world of Remnant as you make progress. It becomes slightly overwhelming as more traits get piled on, yet that goes away as I grew stronger and feeling like a savior rather than some random person who gets thrust into the position.

Customizing your hero is rudimentary with all of the basics like hairstyles and color along with some voices and pre-set faces. It did not feel limiting even though it lacked much depth. I was able to quickly create someone then move on, feeling satisfied with my character.

Combat has a punch that lands semi-hard on enemies. The guns feel right while the melee is a little overly simplified. Guns have mods for an alternate fire with some that are universal and others being character-specific. Whether hacking away at a group of small charging creatures or shooting down a behemoth, it has a rewarding vibe to kill without having to deliver much loot.

The meat of the experience comes from big boss battles. Most of them are just beefed up versions of regular enemies, making them pretty bland except for main story bosses that have a fresh face. Too many times these fights would either be too easy (one of which got glitched and couldn’t move to make for an easy target) or overwhelmingly hard with swarms of minions to back up the monstrous foe or their moveset would be unfair.

The balance for the challenges continues to struggle in other areas. Healing or taking any consumable goes too slowly. Inevitably you die for no good reason because the hero needed to take in his/her time drinking a potion or refilling ammo.

Finding, buying, or grabbing dropped goods is hard oddly hard to come by. For a looter shooter, this is more of a shooter that tosses a bone your way for exploring or progressing through the story. I played for three or four hours before finding a gun in the ruins of a city with a few accessories here and there that boost my stats.

Selling or crafting to NPCs is the best bet for upgrades or new gear. Finding materials or gathering enough scrap for trade is balanced without having to grind at all for what I need. When I saved my piggy bank to splurge, I gained plenty of rewards that made me feel stronger than before. The odd choice that I cannot get my head around is that selling for extra cash come from only materials or consumables, so excess weapons or armor sit in your inventory taking up space and irritating my organizational tendencies.

Gathering the loot is even more comfortable with an ally. Shared loot makes covering landscapes more accessible without fearing on losing out on supplies or potential gear.

A staggering amount of variety comes from the invading creatures. Every area has specific sets of foes to face to keep the gameplay fresh. The designs are just as interesting as their different combative properties, but some of the textures need some work to give more life to the flood of ancient monsters.

The safe haven from the utter hell that is the outside world comes from Ward 13. Resupplying, upgrades, and interact with vendors as you catch your breath. A generic hub world that makes up for its lack of life by its worthwhile upgrade and trading system.

The level design comes to blend together as each new area has a theme that becomes boring. The structure of diverging paths that balance openness and a linear road kept me on track while having fun exploring. The hopes of finding something great moved me, but not finding better equipment ran dry. The procedurally generated mechanic does not work for these reasons.

A lot of familiar elements rise to the surface as I played through more of Remnant. Fog walls and resting at checkpoints to restore items all seem similar to one fantasy RPG that is known for extreme difficulty. Remnant does not live up to the quality as its influences, mostly due to its inconsistent difficulty that can be unfair with the waves of enemies or ridiculous bosses.

At best, visually, this game gets a pass, but at worst, it is hard to look at. A lot of the textures, especially with certain enemy types, look watered down. Stylistically nothing works together.

The animations are a mess. The worst of which comes from cutscenes, which look worse than gameplay. The mouth sync with dialogue is laughable by how robotic everyone seems.

Even though your protagonist has a voice, it is never used except for random quips during a battle. Selective dialogue with NPCs is pointless as no decision matters, and you don’t hear your voice. This mechanic should just be thrown out and let other parts of the game get more treatment.

The music has every ingredient to make it epic, yet it is halfbaked. The orchestral style fits perfectly during important battles, but it is too quiet, and the music comes off underdone in many sequences.

On paper, Remnant: From the Ashes has a lot to offer, except it somehow falls on its face. A few glitches appear, ranging from annoying issues like not being able to talk to an NPC to stock up for a fight or the unkillable final boss who turned his God mode on before my friend and I got to him. The lowered price of $40 is not worth it unless you have a buddy who is willing to go down with you to save the world.

Score: 4/10

Support the blog

$5.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Movie Review: Blinded by the Light

The trend of movies based on classic rock artists continues, but suddenly it diverts in a different direction away from biopics on rockstars with something with more substance for a general audience. Blinded by the Light tells a true story, based on Greetings from Bury Park by Sarfraz Manzoor who also co-wrote this adaption, about hardcore Bruce Springsteen fan and goes beyond that story. This touching film can go for any fan of the musician or anyone wanting to get emotional in a theater, either way, it is a delightful ride.

Javed (Viveik Kalra) is living in tough times with his traditional Pakistani family in a small town in Britain. He feels lost and put down, someone without a voice. His newfound friend Roops (Aaron Phagura) gives him that inspiration for his individuality and passion for writing by introducing him to Bruce Springsteen. The drama-filled life of Javed’s is impactful and becomes way too real; I got put into a weird headspace by how much I could relate to him.

His relationships with Roops, best friend from childhood Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman), and his strict family drives everything. It is wholesome to see his connection with Roops, while the tension in his home brought me closer to him. The real meat of the narrative comes from his strict father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), who wants his son on a path that goes with his values.

Where there is negativity in the protagonist’s life, there is positivity. His English teacher who pushed his writing forward, Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell), was wonderful in every scene. I wish she had more screentime and depth added to the character rather than someone to move the story. Then there is the love interest storyline with Eliza (Nell Williams) who is both interesting and a voice that gives extra contrast to the rest of the cast of compelling personalities.

Everyone’s performance was outstanding, making it even between stars, so nobody took the spotlight. Kalra expressed so much emotion from yelling matches with his father to silently taking in tunes from his big American idol. His costars matched his level of intensity as each member had believable chemistry that brought these relationships to life.

Springsteen’s music gets scattered evenly throughout. The musical scenes get quite inconsistent with each step taken. The stylistic lyrics coming to life to emphasize what the songs mean to Javed make moments more moving. Other times, when people are frolicking in the streets to the legendary artist’s music, it becomes overly cheesy and quite cringy.

An hour and 54 minutes are not too shabby of a runtime, yet it feels too long. Tightening the story would make the enjoyment and wholesomeness of the message much better. Since too many beats in the story get hammered too hard, it starts to become redundant with what is happening in Javed’s life.

The message of music bringing people together and helping them through their troubles speaks the truth. While Springsteen is not my choice, I do know precisely how Javed felt when he listens to the New Jersey-born rocker. The notes about being your own person, especially in a world that beats you down are empowering without becoming too preachy.

Blinded by the Light moved me far more than I thought it had the strength to do. Director and co-writer Gurinder Chadha along with her other writers Paul Mayeda Berges and Sarfraz Manzoor balance the story and commentary on politics to more intimate subjects about family and identity. As I am not a fan of that era of rock, I can surely recommend this heartwarming flick.

Score: 8/10

Support the blog

$5.00

Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Interview: Andrew Wilmot of Vital Noise

#1: Has music always been a big part of your life or did it come later? When was that moment for you?  

Music has always been a huge part of my life. The moment came when I was only 2 years old. My mom would always play different rock records when we were driving around in the car, and even back then, I knew that I wanted music to be a huge part of my life.  

#2: What are some of your favorite albums of all time?  

Appetite For Destruction by Guns ‘N Roses, Iowa by Slipknot, Sempiternal by Bring Me The Horizon, and Beauty Behind The Madness by The Weekend 

#3: What are the hardest and easiest parts of making music for you?  

Coming up with melodies and hooks is probably the easiest part of making music for me. The hardest part would probably be actually recording the music as it can be a very long process, but I still absolutely love it nonetheless.  

#4: When making music, what does the creative process look like for you and the band?  

Usually one of us will come up with a riff or some sort of hook, and then as a band will come together and figure out the music. Once that’s done, I will write the lyrics.  

#5: What is the biggest dream you have for the band?  

The ultimate dream I have would be to be able to play huge arenas like Madison Square Garden.  

#6: When did you first play music in front of an audience? What was that experience like?  

I first played music in front of an audience when I was like 5 years old. My parents got me in piano lessons and my teacher had a little recital for all of her students. I don’t remember much, but I do remember being incredibly nervous.  

#7: Out of every show you have played, what are some experiences that stick out the most to you?  

There have been a couple. About 3 years ago, we got to play at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, which is the biggest venue we have played to date. The audience was super into it that night and it was just an incredible show. The other one that really stands out was about 2 years ago. We got to open up for Buckcherry, a band we have looked up to for a very long time at a private event for the NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA. That was an amazing show and one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.  

#8: What is the dream tour or festival that you would love to be a part of?  

It would be incredible to play some of the huge European festivals, like Rock Am Ring or Download Festival.  

#9: For the rest of the year, what plans does the band have?  

We are currently working on some new music and have a series of shows coming up, which we are very excited about. 

Keep up with Vital Noise here.

Thanks to Rogue PR and Andrew Wilmot for the interview.

Support the blog

$5.00

Image provided by Rogue PR/Vital Noise

Marvel’s Avengers – A-Day Prologue Gameplay Reveal Impressions

Back at E3 this year, Square Enix showed a behind closed doors gameplay video of its upcoming Avengers game. The reception was poor from journalists, and from leaked footage, it did look bad. Maybe it was the cell phone camera that made it look like this is a licensed game from the early 2000s, until I saw the official gameplay reveal – it is that bad.

After a cutscene of the Avengers celebrating A-Day, duty calls as multiple attacks across San Fransisco burst out of nowhere. A little bit of awkward banter between Thor and Iron Man, the first peek at the overall feel is given as the God of Thunder smashes mysterious thugs. His movement looks sluggish, and the hits seem to not have weight to provide a satisfying punch, especially when throwing Mjolnir, his mighty hammer. It looks arcadey rather than a modern action experience.

Continuing the weird writing, his quips and catchphrases during combat are cringy. While the whole cast is excellent with Travis Willingham (Camp Camp and Tell Tale’s Batman) as Thor, Laura Bailey (Gears of War 4 and Insomniac’s Spider-Man) as Black Widow, Troy Baker (Bioshock: Infinite and The Last of Us) as Hulk, Nolan North (Uncharted and Pretty Little Liars) as Iron Man, and Jeff Schine (Mafia III and The Walking Dead: A New Frontier), they all have some flat line delivery along with no chemistry. North and Baker had wonderful chemistry in Uncharted 4, so maybe there was a directing issue, or this comes down to poor writing.

It appears each hero has three main moves to pummel enemies. The animations are enjoyable, but I have little hope the power will be there when playing.

Iron Man eventually comes in to help his friend. Unlike the movies where the heroes fighting side by side creates for exciting fights, this lacks that. He flies above Thor shooting people idly.

If things looked like you would play this in an arcade than pay $60, then it completely ramps up the quarter hungry type of game as Iron Man get his time to shine on screen. Switching to the billionaire superhero, he flies across the wreckage of exploded vehicles to shoot down flying enemies. The destruction of the landscape looks spectacular, which loses its mesmerizing effect as Tony blasts generic thugs out of the sky.

Hulk’s combat section does not repair any damage. He does what he is best at, smashing. The impact is not there, making him, along with everyone else, a lot less powerful than he should. The green Avenger jumps over gaps in the Golden Gate Bridge by wall jumping from one collapsed piece of debris or vehicle to another. It is overly linear and adds no depth to the gameplay.

Captain America continues the generic fighting as he kicks, punches, and uses his iconic shield to defeat incoming enemies. This beat-em-up section looks like every other scenario. While each character does have unique abilities, I don’t have confidence that will make enough of a difference for the quality.

Black Widow chases Taskmaster, the only supervillain shown off so far. Out of every character design, he is one of the best. A brief platforming section along with a QTE (quick time event) heavy battle with the antagonist screams the early to mid-2000s in the worst possible way. She does get in a real battle with two more stages of this battle, which shows off weak gunplay and slightly faster movement from the agent.

Screenshot_2-d27f

It ends on a cutscene of Captain’s death and a few cutscenes from the trailer shown before this Gamescom reveal. All of the cutscenes are impressively crafted. The epic scope makes this story worthy for the Avengers, but everything else falls flat to make me not even care for its potential.

The second AAA title from Marvel Games looks terribly disappointing. Outside of pretty graphics, it offers no appeal to me at all. After the success of Spider-Man, I thought things looked positive for the other studios developing for the publisher. Turns out I was wrong as this comes off as a dated and generic action game that would have come out a decade ago as a cheap tie-in to one of the movies.

What do you think of the gameplay for Marvel’s Avengers?

Marvel’s Avengers comes out May 15, 2020, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia.

Support the blog

$5.00

Images via Marvel Games/Square Enix

Song Impression: A Day to Remember – Degenerates

Only a few bands hit me the way A Day to Remember hits as they have been one of my favorite bands for close to ten years at this point. Bringing pop-punk and metalcore into one group should not work, yet it does. These Florida boys bring out the pop in pop-punk in all of its glory with the first song since their 2016 effort Bad Vibrations.

Lead singer Jeremy McKinnon has his moment in the spotlight to kick things off. He sets the tone that this will not be one of the band’s heavier tracks, but a catchy tune that will surely be cemented into my brain for the next few months. Beats and clapping give this an extra poppy flavor before drummer Alex Shelnut bashes in followed by the rest of the band to blast off.

After a hard-driving introduction for the rest of the guys, things take a step back. Shelnut and bassist Josh Woodard deliver some groove as McKinnon sings the first verse. Before the pre-chorus, guitarists Neil Westfall and Kevin Skaff enter with some heavy riffs. Often times the chorus is set as the piece to get stuck in the heads of fans, but every second is as catchy as the last.

The beginning with clapping and subtly place electric beats comes together again for the pre-chorus leading into a sing-along chorus full of prideful instrumentation from every member. McKinnon takes his time to sing with confidence in this grand moment.

Everyone becomes subdued as they play during a significant build-up in the bridge. McKinnon leads the charge that goes into a heavy breakdown. Their hardcore roots start to show in this brief part that is suited to start headbanging before the bold climax as they end with the final chorus.

Degenerates blend new and familiar flavors that any fan would expect. The pre-chorus is certainly different while the rest is an evolution from the past two records. A Day to Remember never disappoint and now I am desperately waiting for a new album announcement.

Support the blog

$5.00

Image via A Day to Remember/YouTube

What We Know: Control

Remedy Entertainment has established a name for itself with trippy shooters like Alan Wake and Quantum Break. You bet that they are delivering that experience with new tricks in the upcoming project called Control.

Story

Jesse Faden has gone up in her position within the Federal Bureau of Control since her predecessor Trench has gone missing. She must investigate while facing plenty of weirdness in this world, supernatural threat called the Hiss, and figuring out the shady business of the FBC.

Gameplay

Your only weapon is an FBC issues pistol, except it has the ability to be upgraded to go beyond a basic semi-automatic handgun. Altering the gun into a crossbow to a magnum are just some of the possibilities.

48468400947_1e461f3edd_k.jpg

While this is a linear story, some roads open up for exploration and other activities. Side missions will become available if you look hard enough. Like any game that has some open environments, finding additional gear will certainly help in this hostel world.

Powers and abilities take the combat up a few notches. The most significant comes from throwing objects with telekinetic powers along with more will give you the edge that is needed.

Control is heavily focused on killing, but that is not the only thing to do. Puzzles will challenge and reward players when they are not shooting anything in their path. Platforming will also be included for an obstacle that does not get solved by a bullet in the head.

Art Style

The artistic direction is an important aspect here. Brutalism, the most metal name for an art style, that involves repetitive straight lines to make the architecture look clean and perpendicular. Not only will this make how buildings within the bureau, but even how the color scheme and character designs are created.

BureauOffice.0

Release Date

Control comes out Aug. 27 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC for $59.99.

Support the blog

$5.00

Image via Remedy Entertainment

 

 

Movie Review: Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus

Nickelodeon reviving classic shows got me excited with the announcement of an Invader Zim movie. One of my biggest influences for my humor was this gem from the early 2000s. The cancellation prevented getting the right conclusion to the story for these wonderfully disturbing characters, and it is everything I could have wanted.

Zim (Richard Steven Horvitz) becomes quite depressed as he finds out his alien overlords sent him to Earth to dismiss him rather than the vital invasion he had hoped. As Dib (Andy Berman) feels sympathetic for his arch-nemesis, he inadvertently helps him into a disastrous plan for destruction.  Now Dib and his sister Gas (Melissa Fahn) must save the world before Zim idiotically wipes out all of humanity and himself.

Seeing the return of the protagonists along with Zim’s cute, yet moronic robot companion Gir (Rikki Simons) adds to this nostalgic trip. Plenty of classic characters are missing which it should have leaned into, but that does not stop the delivery of favorite obscure faces along with some more iconic personalities from the series.

Having the original cast and masterminds like director Jhonen Vasquez, who created the original series behind the brilliant writing hits every note that my adult brain remembers from my childhood. The humor stays on point with its many flavors from creepiness to random gags that caught me off guard. As I grew older, I worried I would feel differently, but this is the ultimate reunion that still makes me laugh.

The same animation style remains its grotesque self with plenty of disturbing images. The character designs for Invader Zim add to that unsettling feeling as people or aliens interact. Everything gets turned up to 100 with sensory overload with colors and utter chaos during the final act.

The nostalgia does not overstep. Vasquez, Gary Wilson, and Breehn Burns balance out nods to the past and creating an original story. The comics have an influence, but it did not go over my head, making it accessible for anyone who lost touch with one of the network’s best shows.

Nickelodeon has delivered the proper sendoff that Zim deserved over a decade ago. Some jokes or banter stayed past its welcome throughout the hour and 10-minute experience. This short, sweet conclusion is a must for any fan back in the day, which is easy to watch due to Netflix hosting Earth’s invasion.

Score: 9/10

Support the blog

$5.00

Image via Nickelodeon/Netflix