Video Game Review: Doom Eternal

I adore the 2016 reboot of Doom in all of its blood-soaked heavy metal glory. While Eternal falls short in some areas that its predecessor shined in, it is still a sequel that manages to go above and beyond on the core elements that made the previous entry so special.

Coming off the last title, the mission failed, and Hell rules most of Earth. The Doom Slayer must go through the hierarchy of Hell to stop the demonic army from destroying the last of humanity. It layers in thicker layers of lore and stronger storytelling, making for a much more engaging experience than last time.

The gameplay is so much more refined than Doom 2016. While the guns were great, some felt more tuning would have done them justice. Eternal evolves some familiar weaponry with introductions to brand new toys. Killing hellish monsters has never felt this good.

Glory kills on stunned enemies, and chainsawing through flesh highlights how much more gruesome things have gotten. The over-the-top violence never gets old, and I crave to get back in as soon as I can for more blood-soaked fun.

Mods return for each gun, two for almost everything except for the Super Shotgun and BFG. I felt I was switching between different firing modes more so this time around, mostly due to the new enemy types. It gave more meaning to what I had selected, making fighting that much more strategic and overall improved from four years ago.

Moving is fluid as ever, for the most part. Platforming is a nice touch when you aren’t massacring endless hordes of demons, sometimes getting woven into battles, but at times the Slayer did not grab onto things I was trying to climb. Swinging around, felt satisfying, but the climbable walls felt too stiff.

Puzzles act as a way to breathe in between fights. However, I found it to be lackluster and nothing too impressive. Mostly punch this thing in time to punch another to unlock a door. It was all elementary and not elaborate. Also, I found some to be not so clear on how to go about it despite the classic signals, but I can be dumb too.

Encounters and Slayer Gates are challenges that replace the rune trials from before. The upgrades rewarded make it worthwhile, especially since many of these can take some time as I did die on some a lot. Seriously, fuck Marauders.

Exploring gets deeper with more depth to the level design. It leans linear with nooks and crannies that have goodies to find. Upgrades, toys, vinyl records, and files to expand the lore make me want to go out a collect it all, which you bet I will after writing this review.

Also, if anyone works at id Software or Bethesda, please make these toys and albums, I will buy them all in a heartbeat.

Another cool collectible comes from the cheat codes. Bringing back the old days when games had god mode and infinite ammo. What makes it better, you can use them and not lose progress, making a 100 percent run-through less painful and more fun.

While trying to navigate these worlds, I still found the map to be awkward, like in the reboot. I got used to it, but I still think id Software could dial it in.

Everything can get upgraded from guns, your abilities, and the selection of three runes that have various attributes. It goes into an RPG realm, and while it is on the thinner side, it is a brilliant addition to powerup the most badass protagonist around.

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Speaking of badass, I never felt more empowered in a video game in my life. Once I got the rhythm down of the combat and movement down, it made every kill that much more satisfying. That said, it is a must to go on a harder difficulty. I got put on my ass to keep my ego in check as it is insanely hard but fair at all times.

The bosses get depth with multiple phases and some more exciting move sets. I feel more games these days have lost the art of making an excellent baddie to face. Eternal matches up with FromSoftware when it comes to having an epic battle with a giant monster.

Bones are thrown to you with extra lives that can be found or knowing enemy weak points, a great new addition to get the leg up on these goddamn demons. Keeping up with that fairness, I just mentioned.

The demon variety is about doubled in size. Familiar faces, retro enemies return from the past, and new monsters all are coming after the Doom Slayer. To make it all better, enemy damage shows off armor and flesh getting blown off. It gives a signal to when you are about to kill off a pesty creature while looking so incredibly brutal.

A hub world has been placed with the most metal name imaginable, the Fortress of Doom. Unlock new upgrades, and cosmetic armors (which needed more than the three in there) will prepare you for the next mission, or get you diving into the battlefield in style. Plus, instead of looking at what I collected in a menu,  all of the collectibles with shelves full of toys or being able to play your vinyl collection as I got to relax in the Doom Slayer’s awesome man cave.

One thing found in the basement of the Slayer’s lair is a practice arena called the Demon Prison or its other more brutal name, Ripatorium. I had no use for it as no reward came out of going into fighting down there. I feel honing in on skill is best playing the game normally.

Master Levels is a bonus mode to play specifically selected missions with an added difficulty. Enemies who may not spawn until later in the game will show themselves to you with more abundant spawns. It is not my jam like the Ripatorium, but it does add some additional replayability.

The environments are better than ever. More variety from Hell on Earth, new planets, and ancient cities flesh out this universe. Each new place kept things fresh.

Everything in this game is so devilishly, disgustingly beautiful. Higher-end textures and details pop, especially in the advanced lighting effects.

The online is devastatingly disappointing. While the reboot had an in-depth customization option and various game modes, this has one mode plus a small number of skins to unlock rather than making a character look like an individual. Battlemode is two v.s. one, two demons and one Slayer, to battle it out in three rounds. It is a ton of fun, but that being the only option is a huge letdown as I really enjoyed Doom 2016’s competitive multiplayer.

It is annoying that in Battlemode, you do have to do a tutorial to play the demons without a way to skip it. I wanted to play with my buddies on night one and had to go through a rather unhelpful mission to learn how to play.

Singleplayer missions, weekly challenges, and multiplayer give out experience to unlock more cosmetic skins for guns and playable characters. I wish there was more, and I have a feeling additions will be made, but it was a weak lineup. What was available did look awesome, if that makes up for the lackluster amount.

The shining star outside of the combat is the music. Mick Gordon reprises his role as the game’s composer and elevates this heavy metal soundscape. Outside of battles, an electric atmosphere keeps the vibes going while when the demons come out, so does the brutal tunes. As a lifelong metalhead, Gordon gets the seal of approval.

The elephant in the room is the technical difficulties. On the lighter side, enemies would occasionally freeze in place until I attacked, and a brief lost save made me go back a few checkpoints. The killer was the crashes, which got to a point the game was unplayable for a few days before miraculously fixing itself, even then I had two or three shutdowns while playing.

If Doom Eternal gets an award this year, then it is for the most intoxicating experience of the year as the brutal soundscape mixed with its ridiculous gameplay. It breaks my heart that I have to rate it lower than I want to, but the technical difficulties and online bring it down a peg. That said, the campaign alone with its storytelling, level design, and overall experience beats out Doom 2016, making this sequel more superior in the end.

Score: 8/10

 

 

Video Game Review: Bloodroots

Bloodroots offers cartoony action that lives to its name with bloodsoaked violence that is satisfying through every level. As my first new game of 2020, this is a strong start to the year.

Left for dead by his fellow criminals, Mister Wolf seeks out revenge upon the ones who betrayed him. The story has its twists and turns that make for a surprisingly well-written ride that guides me through the game. I did have points of not caring as it fell short with its cryptic storytelling that should have gotten to the point faster, but its quirky characters made up for some of its faults.

The platforming action indie mixes a style of combat that works as a puzzle. Observe the environment, see what weapons that only have one to three hits before breaking are available, and the enemies standing in the way. It delivers a challenge that did not usually meet infuriating peaks as respawning went to hyperspeed to get me back in action.

Okay, I did get pretty angry at some points.

The controls feel tight with the fast movement when navigating the world and its fighting mechanics. I did have issues of picking up weapons when they lay on top of one another, leaving me to juggle through guns and swords to get what I wanted. Another problem I found was sometimes I felt jumping or attacking was unresponsive, but it did not ruin my experience.

The variety of murderous utensils sprinkled through each level was an astonishing amount. Many of which had their own abilities with little crossover, or at least have a special quality to set one item from another. It could range from a silly killing tool like a giant boot or a Final Fantasy styled sword.

A little cherry on top when defeating the final foe delivers a quick execution that is unique for every weapon.

The enemies match the weaponry variety. Each new threat gets introduced slowly yet consistently to keep the gameplay fresh.

A highlight comes from the identifiable bosses. Each having a personable approach to dueling it out. While the first two had a balance of fun and challenge, the final battle felt cheap with it relying on luck more than skill in some phases.

Another way things never got boring was the level design. Constant new platforming obstacles rose up along with some light destructible environments to add to the chaotic nature of Bloodroots.

Random bonus levels would come in between the main missions. These time trials were fun with no reward and got in the way of the progress of the story.

One reward comes from hats, which are modifiers when replaying levels. It can enhance your chances of survival like a new ability or flips the controls for a greater challenge. I had no motive to go in to redo any level as the points and leaderboard aspects that heavily embedded itself into the end of each objective felt hollow.

The camera adds an extra depth to Paper Cults’ Western adventure. Going from a top-down perspective to a side scroller kept surprising me with its clever uses to give a different feel to various parts of my time killing endless hordes of people. Only once and a while, it did interfere with my vision, making certain spots unnecessarily tricky.

The Saturday morning cartoon style of the graphics brings me back to my childhood. Its nostalgic visuals lend to a show that would be great for adults as Mr. Wolf goes on massacre after massacre with each episode.

The music might be my favorite quality outside of the graphics. A wild amount of influence slides into the Western theme like electronic and rock music. It fits the tone and the high tempo gameplay.

Bloodroots is an endlessly fun adventure with amusing characters and thrilling gameplay. Though the humor falls flat and the story dips here and there, it has more to offer than just its platforming and bloodthirsty action. The price sits right when looking at its relatively short length, depending on how long it takes you to get through it compared to me, a guy who sucks at video games.

Score: 8/10

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Video Game Review: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

EA has had a license to publish Star Wars games for 10 years, and a lot of that decade has been wasted. Now it gave Respawn Entertainment a shot to make a singleplayer game without the microtransactions and other elements that have gotten a bad taste in my mouth from the depressingly disappointing Battlefront reboots. Jedi: Fallen Order defies expectations by delivering the experience that I always wanted from a game in this beautiful franchise.

In classic SW fashion, the developers do take a reasonably safe path in its story. Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Cal Kestis (Cameron Monoghan) finds himself working on a desolate planet to scrap whatever he can find to make a living. After a run-in with Second Sister (Elizabeth Grullon) and her elite Jedi hunting squad in which they are called the Inquisitors, he must go on the run, which leads him to his saviors and new friends, Greez (Daniel Roebuck) and Cere (Debra Wilson). The trio must find an ancient artifact that has a list of force-sensitive children who can get hunted down by Sith forces if gotten into the wrong hands.

The narrative sticks to many of the formulas that have been set by the films; it is still one of the best stories from any format that Star Wars has delved into, mostly because of its cast. Not only are the characters and their bonds strong, but the performances by Monoghan, Grullon, Wilson, and Roebuck can also rival anyone in the films. Although, I wish to see more of Grullon’s villain as she was compelling enough to be one of the best villains in this universe if utilized enough.

I was impressed by how well the writing is with both dialogue, the story, and creating these new characters. I instantly connected to Cal and his friends by how well they interacted and were able to stand as individuals. The best of all is the redhead Jedi’s little buddy, BD-1, my new favorite droid in Lucas’ sci-fi epic galaxy.

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Cal with his beautiful hair and his little buddy

Little details in the writing like stormtroopers trying to pump themselves up to take on Cal or being frightened gave that extra depth to the world around me. From protagonists to generic baddies, everyone felt like a person, or in some cases, an alien.

Of course, the minds behind Titanfall made maneuvering necessary in the core mechanics. Wall running, jumping, swinging are just some things that can be done, and it feels so good, mostly. I enjoyed the hell out of moving around environments and dodging enemy lasers, but sometimes Cal did not do what I commanded. Grabbing onto a vine/wire and some other obstacles can be infuriating as he does not reach for the thing to keep him alive.

Thank you, Respawn, for setting Cal back on the last ledge to make this less annoying, but still, this Jedi needs to get it together to grab a damn rock or rope.

Combat is both intuitive and challenging. It takes skill on any difficulty other than the easiest setting, with each level affecting parry time, damage, and enemy aggression. The lightsaber and force powers feel amazing when mastered, I truly felt like a padawan who would eventually rise up to be a Jedi knight like what I have seen on the big screen my whole life.

I did not find too many bosses, but the right amount that completed the overall experience. Combat has its difficulties, especially with these significant fights. The patterns of big creatures or when fighting Inquisitors strikes a cord in classic boss design that did get me angry when I died, but triumphant when defeating my foe.

Enemy variety is small yet mighty. The right amount of soldiers and animals get thrown into the mix to diversify the experience when fighting while making me think twice about my strategies.

Puzzles complete the trifecta of combat and platforming. This third piece of gameplay can get tricky while not overcomplicating itself. Most of the time, it was quite clever, at least to me, because I am a moron who gets confused when these mind obstacles occur.

Leveling up does make it easier to survive while making fighting more complex. Skills can be earned in a survival, force, and lightsaber categories. It is a straightforward system that does not overwhelm; instead, it streamlines the whole system to become the ultimate Jedi.

The Mantis is your ship and hub to travel to various planets, rest up, and customize on your lightsaber (more on that fun later). It lacks from other safety nets you tend to see with only those essentials waiting to prepare before going into new territory. The ship cannot even be explored with only three rooms for travel, chit chat, and the maintenance that I mentioned.

Customization has plenty of options, but sadly not all of it is exciting. BD-1 and Mantis get fancy paint jobs, especially for my adorable number one buddy. The lightsaber has plenty of parts and colors to swap out, leaving me continually wanting to unlock more options. Things are not so lovely for Cal as he has a few outfits, most of them are boring with lame ponchos that have variety, but I don’t want a goddamn poncho for my hero, who is taking on scary ladies working for the Empire, come on Respawn.

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Level designs balance complexity and simplicity. Each world has its own personality by its environment and wildlife, though that number of creatures is small. The paths do open up with areas that can be unlocked later on or found by looking hard enough. Nothing here is groundbreaking, just satisfactory, and gets the job done to elevate gameplay when needing a break from going straight down Cal’s adventure.

BD-1 can do a lot for Cal like healing, scanning items to uncover additional lore, and unlocking new areas in the map. This little boi gets better with each mechanic that gets introduced.

The one complaint about my robotic friends is when bringing up the map, it was hard to navigate where I needed to go. It needed to be clearer to distinguish parts of the world for an easier time to get from point A to point B.

Exploring does give rewards like upgrades, expanding the universe with interesting details, and finding new cosmetics. I may not be the biggest fan of most of the customization options I discussed, but it is beyond addicting finding crates or old ruins for Cal’s droid to scan. I am not a completionist, but it is easy to do it at the endgame that I feel tempted to grab everything.

Checkpoints allow for a nice reset after death while allowing for a place to rest up to restore health and gain new skills. It clearly mimics other similar titles, and that is perfectly okay with me as it makes things so much easier. I just wish some of these spots were closer to bosses since enemies between Cal and that headache of an opponent will be even more frustrating.

Death has meaning, which surprised me big time. You lose all of your experience, and that is regained when hitting the one that killed you. That extra motivation makes it even better when getting revenge.

The music and visuals tie everything together with an authentic Star Wars experience. The combination of beautiful graphics and the already brilliant style of this franchise is breathtaking. The cherry on top comes from the score crafted by Stephen Barton, Gordy Haab, and Nick Laviers, who all created something that sounds like John Williams and manages to be a unique piece to the puzzle that wraps up this wonderful game.

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The sceneries and Cal’s incredible hair made my jaw drop, I had some graphical issues. Light pop-in textures and objects in the world would occur. Also, I had seen a lot of flickering from lights and shadows. None of this took away from the gorgeous work of art that is Fallen Order, but it did distract me.

Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars title is the experience I always wanted to make me feel like a padawan growing into a powerful Jedi. The game does play it too safe in its overly familiar structure for the action-adventure genre with mild RPG elements in its skill trees. Slight frame rate drops, in the beginning, did worry me too, but thankfully that went away so I could embrace this enjoyable experience.

Score: 9/10

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Video Game Review: Borderlands 3

After years of waiting for a third title, Borderlands 3 has arrived. Gearbox’s stylized looter shooter has been one of my favorites ever since I played the second game. The latest entry is worth the wait in every aspect that makes up the DNA of this cel-shaded universe.

Like many of the stories, the Crimson Raiders need help from a Vault Hunter, yes that is you who carries that responsibility. It becomes a race between them and a new cult called Children of the Vault, run by two psychopathic twins, Tyreen and Troy, who want to not only conquer vaults around the galax, especially the mysterious Great Vault. It is the most apocalyptic, high stakes story to date along with twists and turns that made my jaw drop too many times to count.

The writing kept me laughing for all 30 to 40 hours. No matter how small or big a character is in the campaign, they will not be forgotten. The Calypso twins are worthy enemies who take a Millennial approach to destroy the universe, but they cannot touch the bar set by Handsome Jack.

The Vault Hunters available continue to show the creativity behind Borderlands. Fl4K (Flak) is the beastmaster who controls various creatures for support, Amara is the siren that has become a necessity to have as an option, Zane as the operative with all of his fancy gadgets, and Moze as the gunner, a character with the Iron Bear, a heavy-duty robot to help her in battle. It is the most diverse group with equally essential abilities.

Skill trees for each character have been heavily overhauled. The overall system looks quite familiar, but each of the three branches to choose from radically change playstyle for each of the monster slayers. I played Fl4k who ranged from having more reserved playstyle, an elemental damage focus, and pure aggressive attacks. It leads to far more playability to each Vault Hunter as individuals or when going for a new playthrough as someone different.

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Besides the art, Borderlands is all about its guns and loot. Gear is as rewarding as ever and more abundant than previous titles. A billion weapons was a bold claim, and it kinda works. More of what I found seemed too similar, but the variety of possible additions to your arsenal towers over past entries.

Main and side quests always have a unique spin to make it enjoyable. Even tasks that have a pesky objective make up for it with the wacky dialogue and sharp turns for the moments of laughing and asking, “What the fuck is going on?” I will surely spend plenty of more hours racking up the rest of the optional missions.

The overall feel of combat has improved with new systems like alternative fires, better gunplay, and ragdoll physics that had me laughing every step of the way. Shooting kicks better with improved sounds and animations. Having a staggering amount of different enemy types help make the never-ending killing not get boring.

The psychos and monsters to kill never get old, but bosses give combat that grand scale. These unique foes with better attack sets bring back classic boss battles; however, the series flaw of bullet spongey behemoths will turn an epic fight into a tedious shooting range.

The movement goes faster and smoother. Sliding does not get old while parkour makes for deeper levels as you climb various buildings and mountains. The physics hit the right balance between light and nimble, and heavy enough to not seem like a piece of paper running around killing bandits.

Vehicles have more weight, creating tighter handling. Not many more types of modes of transportation are added, but finding new parts for weapon, armor, and wheel upgrades make for refreshing experiences while still having the same car.

Customization to character colors, skins for both Vault Hunter and weapons, along with advanced vehicle options go above expectations on personalizing your experience. Plus, you get your own room to deck out in the spaceship Sanctuary, the new hub world for trading, missions, and traveling around the universe. Sadly, the bedroom gets a lack of action with only a few spots to put a decoration on the wall.

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Traveling around the cosmos is a fresh idea that works mostly in favor of the game’s scenery and narrative. One or two planets are quite small while others are massive, so that inconsistency disappointed me a little. However, each world has a unique environment, creatures, and eccentric personalities to remember.

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Coop is the ultimate way to play a Borderlands game. Shooting hordes of bloodthirsty opponents is as fun as ever. Four-way duels can show who is the best of your friend group as you step away from the baddies that lurk around every corner. Plus a new instanced loot system does not cause tension when someone grabs that gun you wanted, but old school fans can have the shared option if you would like.

Other online modes are available with Proving Grounds to fight bosses and Circle of Slaughter lets you and others fight hordes of enemies. Both give great rewards, as expected from the gear obsessed series. The problem comes from the lack of interest from the community because it takes a long time to find a match if you are lucky to get put into one.

The endgame will keep me coming back for many more hours. True Vault Hunter is back to replay missions with harder difficulty and better gear possibilities along with a new mode called Mayhem, a three-tiered modifier that makes for crazy stat enhancements to give the robots, bandits, and aliens that edge above you. On top of that goodness, Badass Ranks get replaced by Guardian Ranks to further that empowering feeling that should be felt after defeating the Calypsos.

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Collectibles add to the already stunning amount of replayability. Collecting goods give backstory or funny dialogue from the character it is associated with. Many miss the mark on finding hidden items, but this is one of the best I have found this year.

Initial trailers had me worried for the graphics as the cel-shaded style that makes Gearbox’s megahit series iconic looked out of date. Once I got my hands on the product, I could see I was wrong. The art mesmerized me like it did back in 2012 with enhanced lighting and neon colors to make the world pop out of my screen.

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Technical issues were worse from reports on social media, but I had my fair share. Falling through objects, connectivity problems, friends crashing (thankfully I was spared with one or two exceptions), and my pet would get stuck and not be able to aide me when fighting an army of Calypso fanatics.

The most annoying blemish on the surface came from the audio. Gunfire going quiet and characters talking sounded like they were at a far distance if my back gets turned to them. Usually, radio communication comes up when getting too much space between you and the NPC, but this seemed too inconsistent, so make sure subtitles are turned on.

The debut had the idea while the Sophomore release cemented its legacy by standing out from the vast array of shooters like it. Borderlands 3 does not radically change the formula, it sticks to it like glue. A lack of innovation proves to not always be detrimental as the new edition does not defy expectations, but headshots every target in sight.

Score: 9/10

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Video Game Review: Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan

Supermassive Games created one of the greatest horror games of all time, Until Dawn. The PS4 exclusive’s ideas went on to the first entry of their anthology series, Man of Medan, which takes everything from the 2015 hit and delivers it in a more condensed version. While plenty of ideas transfer over well, this is not quite the same quality I had hoped for, but it is a small treat that is worth every second.

A group of friends rents out a boat to enjoy a weekend of diving and drinking beer. After a run-in with some mysterious men, they come back at night to take the whole group captive. Things turn for the worse as another sinister threat approaches that put the hostages and their captors in danger. However, while it tries to explain these events, a lot of details get tossed to the side for some small and larger holes in the plot.

The voice cast is stellar while the dialogue is a hit or a miss. Shawn Ashmore (The Following, Quantum Break) as Conrad, Arielle Palik (Deus Ex: Mankind Divided) as Conrad’s sister Julia, Chris Sandiford (Jack Ryan) as Brad, Kareem Tristan Alleyne (Watch Dogs 2) as Julia’s significant other and Brad’s older brother Alex, and Ayisha Issa (Polar, Far Cry Primal) as Fliss, the boat driver who takes the group on their vacation. Each character has a memorable personality from Conrad’s laidback attitude to Brad being the smart, good-hearted younger brother to Alex. I cared for everyone, except Fliss who did not bring much to the group dynamic.

Tieing in each part of Dark Pictures Anthology comes from the Curator (Pip Torrens from Preacher, The Danish Girl, and Star Wars Episode VII). He brings up a story in which you are the one to finish writing by your choices during gameplay. It is a great idea to set up every title with this eccentric host.

Unlike Until Dawn, the option to play with one other person is available. Playing alone or passing along to other people is another way to play. Playing alone or with someone else goes either way of having plenty of surprises. Playing with my friend allowed for incredible moments that were equally hilarious and scary.

When having another person, the character they control experiences things differently. If my friend was in another room, I had him telling me what was happening as I had something else occurring on my side. It creates an eerier atmosphere and leaves me wanting to play more to see what he got to play.

Selecting dialogue or actions effects everything. Not as many drastic changes as Supermassive’s windigo invasion, but the things I did experience had weight to hit me in ways I did not expect. Not all outcomes work, especially when it comes to the endings which can not fit with the narrative or feel underwhelming.

Walking around is brutal as camera changes and tight areas make it frustrating to navigate. At times I had no idea which key to hit to go in the right direction or trying to not get stuck in a part of the environment.

Finding pictures give a premonition to what is happening, similar to totem poles in Until Dawn. Some of those collectibles that gave insight to possible scenarios were more helpful than Man of Medan. Seconds long visions do not provide much information on events that can occur, making it fairly useless.

Quick time events were expected due to its predecessor. It does not drown out other gameplay mechanics and usually was not difficult to hit the right keys. Since I felt less in danger, I did not have any issues trying to survive in my playthrough, for the most part.

Realistic animations and graphics look superb. The constant darkness does not wash away the beauty here, which makes the horror that much more traumatic.

Technical problems popped up only a few times. My friend’s game disconnected once, I had a connection error, and my buddy’s game froze at one point. Other than that, things went fairly smoothly, even on the highest settings on our PCs.

Man of Medan has plenty of great ideas, but not everything is appropriately executed. Its mechanics from Until Dawn are not as satisfying. For $30 and a coop experience in a horror game, it is still worth the money, I just hope next year’s Little Hope can nail the premise better to put Dark Pictures Anthology on the right track.

Score: 7/10

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Video Game Review: Control

Remedy Entertainment has built a reputation for making some weird games. Their latest project, Control, is no exception, maybe even the oddest creation from the studio to date. 2019 has disappointed me a lot with its releases, so I had some hype and skepticism going in, and I am blown away by what could be game of the year.

Jesse Faden is the new director of the agency Federal Beuruae of Control. Her first day is utter hell as an alternate dimensional entity, The Hiss, has taken over the building infecting most of its occupants and altering everything inside. Jesse must tackle this mystery, kill everything in her path, and deal with her own personal agenda that brought her to the FBC. It is a condensed 10 to 15-hour experience that is worth the $60.

The only weapon to combat creatures and FBC agents under the spell of The Hiss is the standard issue pistol, yet it is not as simple as it seems. The gun has transformative abilities, which leads to upgrades that can turn it into a shotgun or even a grenade launcher. Most unique and coolest gun in gaming for 2019 goes to Control, congratulations Remedy.

The other way to defend yourself against the onslaught of enemies comes from telekinetic powers. This new reality gives Jesse various skills which reveal themselves as you progress through primary and side missions. It keeps everything simple while building upon these mechanics for freshness, plus nothing is more satisfying than grabbing almost any object to smash infected agents.

RPG elements creep in to add more depth to the already satisfying gameplay. Finding materials allows to craft new gear for your shapeshifting handgun and to make Jesse more powerful. Adding onto this comes from the skill trees which have a wide variety of uses for health, energy for her superpowers, and other necessities.

Mods for the new director and her arsenal add buffs to various attributes. Like everything else to the RPG-esque aspects gets love by being fleshed out entirely. Nothing feels slapped on in an attempt to give more life to the gameplay.

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Moving around with Jesse feels excellent. She is not too light or heavy. Some weight is felt to make her not weigh like a toy, yet not too much since she is a tiny lady.

Enemies have a wide variety of classes. Some are general types to expect like snipers or suicide bombers, while others are more personalized with similar power sets to Jesse. The diversity allows for strategy along with preventing the endless shooting from getting dull.

Boss battles usually are meant to introduce a new enemy with a rare, unique creature to take down. Using an overly difficult fight to showcase a new monster feels tacky, but the rest of the fights are much more fulfilling. The difficulty really shows in these moments, so prepare to get mad when dying and euphoric when overcoming that obstacle.

Outside of killing, the gameplay does get some extra elements to not become a game where you just hold down the trigger and kill what pops up on the screen. Platforming and puzzles add more complexity for a refreshing change of pace. I wish these mechanics got more balance as parkour sections and tricky mind games could use extra work.

Random events come up for Jesse to clear an overrun area. These have goods that make it worth doing but usually feels out of the way as I am too focused on doing something story related.

The developers give everything a purpose, unlike anything I have played in recent memory. Exploration has plenty of rewards to uncover, hidden side missions, and collectibles that elevate the world’s lore. Nothing goes to waste to expand the narrative or give Jesse an edge under challenging battles.

Cleansing infected areas allow fast traveling, upgrading, and taking on Board Countermeasures, which are challenges for that provide new mods after completion. The issue comes from the often time horrendous checkpoint system as dying often leads to a frustrating setback.

Finishing the narrative opens up for postgame content. Wrap up side missions, discover hidden areas, and level up fully to become an unstoppable hero. The gratifying expeditions of the various sectors and rich optional objectives make this irresistible.

Environmental damage does not involve tearing down the whole building, but it is enough to give an extra punch to explosions. Telekinetically controlling nearly object is freeing, it gives me more satisfaction as I see the damage caused by my actions along with the delightful physics to ragdolls and items.

Remedy crafted a gorgeous game with its brutalism style and world bending effects. It gives Control its own personality that stands out from anything else. Camera work during cutscenes boost the already stunning graphics with close-ups to Jesse to see her realistic character model in greater detail.  However, some of the facial animations could use work as certain emotions do not translate well.

Full of personalities, everyone I came across had a memorable identity. Jesse in particular reigns as one of my favorite heroines to come up in a video game in years, mostly due to Courtney Hope’s (Quantum Break) raw performance.

Control toes the line of artsy and accessible. It runs into issues like not always being clear on what to do or where to go with its map. The flaws found are more irritating, not breaking this beautifully, confusing experience.

Score: 9/10

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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

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