Interstellar Rift Early Access Preview

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As I sit behind my keyboard with a new game to appraise, I often get these terrible grips of panic when attempting to start the review off. Mainly things like “Does that make sense?” “Am I over explaining?” and sometimes “What the hell did I just play?”. Quite often (thank God) I find that having a passion for whatever I’m playing helps a lot.

This bodes well for Interstellar Rift. As a game it’s been in development for a fairly long time, slowly building a fan base and adding new features and upgrades along the way. In a market that has its fair share of build/survival games, it’s hard to find something that stands out. Rift does this. Long-time players are more than happy to zip around the starting station preparing the materials necessary to venture out into the depths of space. Oddly devoid of a tutorial, this can be a little off putting to the new player. Gladly a modicum of exploration and touching everything in sight will lead to some fairly intuitive game play.

For the uninitiated, Interstellar Rift is a building game where players plunder local asteroids for materials to make ships, weapons, scanners and new space stations. You step into a new game into what looks like the set of Tron, bright colours and blocky structures. Staring out of a window shows just how vast space is. The developer has captured it perfectly. There is very little sound and what there is tends to come from doors opening and closing, player sounds and the noise of the teleportation devices.

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There is no HUD as such, menu interactions are carried out by using a wrist mounted computer (think Pipboy on the wrong wrist) and the myriad of screens around the structure. These screens become your contact with everything you need, the ships overall design, its power functions and even the reprocessing units. It adds a layer of immersion that you don’t immediately appreciate until you have played for a while. Take some time to build up some unrefined ores and water, then turn those ores into ingots and break the water down into its component elements of hydrogen and oxygen (required for fuelling your life support and engines). There are some nifty teleport pads all leading to the different sections of the ship, this is to ensure that you never need to fill your inventory with raw materials,  and you can keep hold of all the good stuff.

Taking flight in your new ship opens you up to more asteroid fields and potentially new types of ore – amusingly one of which is Unobtanium. But that’s all for now. You will encounter other player’s vessels, each searching for the next big haul.  Not much else. This gives rise to so many opportunities for the devs to drop in ship to ship combat (which is extremely limited at the moment) and they have promised PVP station combat, piracy and even NPC aliens and vendors.

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To top all of this off, IR has an extremely well created ship building tool. There are dozens upon dozens of possibilities to sustain the wildest dreams of the hardened space cowboy. Everything from window types, ceiling fans, power supplies and weapons arrays can be positioned, rotated and placed on a ship of your making. From that, if you can dig out enough space rock, you can create it and add it to the server! Minute details such as the ability to make sure critical systems have redundancies should you suffer loss of power from external and internal attacks. Having enough oxygen to make sure life support is sustained from room to room is again, another brilliant move on behalf of the developer. The more players you have on your ship, the faster oxygen is depleted and carbon build up causes eventual damage to your health. Both simple yet surprisingly deep options allow customisation rarely encountered in this genre are extremely rewarding to the creative and imaginative player. I did have to use YouTube and research quite a bit beforehand, but it becomes a lot easier with practice and it wasn’t long before I was off to create the next floating space Ark.

With the game rapidly approaching full release and with a slew of new features pending, this will keep the existing player base more than happy for a long time to come.

Umbra – Pre- Alpha Preview

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I started spotting word of this game over Twitter, a few re-tweets here and there. What was being touted was a Kickstarter project using Cryengine, next-gen graphics and what looked like a whole bunch of fun on the intro video.

They were not wrong.

The build I have been given to test is very early, super early in fact. But from what I played, I loved. Umbra is a hack ‘n’ slash extravaganza. Also did I mention that it is stunning? The Cryengine does just that, makes you want to weep with joy. Watch the video, crank that bitch right up and rejoice as your eyeballs melt out of your face.

Incredible eye candy aside the game plays exceptionally well for a demo that takes up about as much room on your HDD as a well detailed photograph. I’ve played it through a few times, I’m still finding new ways to combine my skills and spells.

Let’s explore the mechanics – you have quite a choice of skills and spells, and you can assign these to either mouse button, and a small pool of additional spells on your number keys – or in my case assigned to my thumb keys on my shiny new mouse. There appears to be space for using a controller as well. Plugging in an Xbox controller led to all sorts of fantastic oddness, but the tech is there to be built on.

There is no fixed progression, you have a mana, rage and stamina pool to draw upon, each combining in their own ways to allow blocking, sword sweeps and fiery death to be visited on the shuffling hordes. Boss characters make an appearance like Diablo – Colours dictating what to expect from the enemy type and what abilities they possess.

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Spells combine most satisfactorily, much like Diablo, you can build an arsenal of attacks that mean you barely get touched by enemies as they come at you in waves. My favourite being an area attack that flash freezes everyone around you. Allowing you to lay tremendous amount of beat down with your weapon of choice, or as I did, a great big fireball.

The last time I checked, this game has reached its kickstarter target and is well on the way to completing its next stretch targets.

The sheer amount of stuff happening on screen at any one time is staggering. Light interacts with motes of dust, leaves fall from trees, clothing ripples, enemies and not to forget the burly SoB Crusader chap with the *Insert Weapon Here* and shield looking like a Juggernaut. Bodies stay splatted , body parts strewn all over as you lay waste. Bits of scenery have a habit of exploding as well when you start throwing your sword and spells around. It’s truly a feast for the eyes.

Noteworthy Differences :

You get a house, or at least a housing area is promised. The idea of being able to maintain your own little slice of umbra and personalise it at will has a big draw factor form me.

There exists a spell ability called an Apocalyptic Form. This allows the hero to transform into an all singing, all dancing walking nuke which different forms convey different stat boosts and abilities. Sounds exciting, and i can’t wait to see where they take it.

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Wants :

This game is pretty much amazing but there are a few things I would love to see.

  • Spell growth – I get that the more times I use a spell the better (read stronger/more damaging) it becomes. I would love to see alternate spell choices fixed or otherwise. Spell branching into different effects and sprites.
  • A female character, this is a stretch target I know, but it seems a very large stretch.
  • The ability to change my UI how I want it
  • A haunting soundtrack
  • Companions
  • Multiplayer

Try to avoids :

  • Repetition of levels. I love the idea of procedurally generated maps. This will increase replay value massively
  • Diablo and its play it harder – get better rewards. not everyone wants to play the same thing over and over.

 

All in all I can’t wait to see the finished product, Hell, the beta in fact, as this demo is absolutely stunning. If you haven’t backed it or are just curious as to it’s current state you can find them on Kickstarter HERE

 

 

Call of Duty AW: Ascendance DLC Review

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Whether you love or hate it, one thing cannot be denied. This game is a juggernaut. The sheer volume of DLC and customisation is enough to make the most cynical fan-boy cave in and purchase something. Be it a season pass – which many would argue is not worth its full cost, or just a weapon skin.

This brings me neatly to the second of Activision’s planned expansion packs for COD. Ascendance. Boasting of four new maps, a new zombies experience, and a new weapon, The Ohm LMG/Shotgun (What?!).

There is a lot of glitz and glamour around these releases, with the addition of new unlockables, helmets, armour, Exo equipment, and the promise of several days of 2x Experience. Quite often it is very easy to get a game as the online attendees swell the gaming ranks.

The Maps:
Following in its usual business model Activision/Sledgehammer have given 1 old map a shiny makeover, and presented three new maps to boost around whilst attached to a metal exoskeleton and carrying weaponry enough to destroy a small army..

Perplex:
This my favourite map out of the four. Based in Australia, battle commences around an apartment complex built out of sections that slot together like a modular PC. Awash with bright colours and brilliant verticality it often leads to race to control the top floor, as the team which can manage this best of all tends to win the day. That’s not always a perfect choice though, as the top of the complex is very open and can be attacked for ALL sides. The environmental change takes place halfway through a game when nearby cranes begin to move some of the modular buildings to new positions, exposing some camping spots and creating new hidey holes.

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Comprising of a three lane battlefield, fighting around the crashed hulk of an alien space craft in the shadow of Mt Rushmore.  This gives some excellent vantages points for snipers to make use of. There are a lot of intersecting tunnels and paths to allow you to traverse the map quickly whilst avoiding the majority of fire.  In my experience it’s best to stay mobile, the longer you remain static the quicker you will be flanked. There is no environmental event on this map.

Climate:
My least favourite of the maps. This takes place inside a Biome entirely controlled by nanobot technology. Fighting takes place around a small circle in the very centre of the map and there is little place to hide. Expect the enemy team to be waiting for you when you run around a corner and adjust accordingly. The middle holds a pool of water, when a klaxon alerts the whole map halfway through the level advising that the nanobots are malfunctioning, avoid the water at all costs as it turns to extremely caustic acid killing you very quickly. Happily to make sure you are aware of the change the water turns a putrid green colour.

Chop Shop:
This is the redux map. Modernised to reflect the future, this symmetrical industrial complex is the site of an exoskeleton black market, selling and removing exo suit parts. Fighting tends to clump in the central corridor, and is a very efficient way of controlling the game. However this leaves the side walkways mostly clear of enemies, meaning ambush attacks are relatively easy to spring if the opposing team is much less cohesive than yours.

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Zombies is still a lot of fun if you have friends to play with, suffering only when you solo cue and play with randoms. With a further selection of armoury collectibles dependent on progress through the Burgertown level and the weirder weapons found in the pack a punch boxes.

The last thing i will speak about is the new weapon. How they managed to pull off a machine gun shotgun hybrid is beyond me. The weapon in its base form is very heavy, meaning it’s slow to aim down sight. Changing from LMG to shotgun is not overly rapid either, but fast hands mitigates this somewhat. Shooting down sight for anything longer than a second renders the weapon really inaccurate, but with little recoil. I struggled with this weapon, having to resort to being a sneaky bastard and pouncing on campers with the shotgun, which to be fair, is extremely powerful within 5 feet. Unlocking a sight for this gun and the fore-grip turns the LMG into a death laser. The improvement is markedly different, making achieving the no mods camo unlock MUCH more difficult with this gun.

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Pros:
-New maps are fun and fast
-New weapon choice
-Extra unlockables for even more customisable character
-Perplex really is awesome

Cons :
-Expensive to buy individually
-Even more purchasable skins and stickers for ludicrous prices
-New maps not added to hardcore Team Deathmatch rotation, Hardcore fans miss out unless they play Mosh Pit – which is always empty as a game lobby
-Re-used old maps is still not popular with fans across any FPS game

Score 7/10

 

Spirits of Xanadu Review

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Cast your mind back to 1997. To a film that managed to scare the absolute wibblies out of me. I’m talking about the one with the abandoned space ship that disappeared, only re-appear completely devoid of crew, this haunted craft would push the boundaries of what we believe is possible. I’m talking of course, about Event Horizon. Watch Laurence Fishburne run around trying to save his crew from Hell. Watch them all die horribly. Spirits of Xanadu manages to capture the intense isolation and eeriness of an abandoned ship perfectly.

Devoid of any actual tutorial as such, you dock with the Xanadu in the hope to establish a few things. 1 Where is everyone? 2. Which member of the Crew has gone full Sam Neill? 3. Can the ship be brought home safely? Now when I say that paranoia kicks in, it’s nowhere near as intense as Alien (but then I doubt falling from the world’s largest bungee jump, with no rope and a pillow to break your fall is either). However the designers have edged the game play with a delicious thrill of impending doom and threat of unwarranted terror. You start off in the docking bay, fully briefed with your mission, you collect the nearby torch and gun. I say gun, this thing is like the Tomy equivalent of a laser, operating on low power. It makes the right swooshy laser noises, but it really doesn’t feel like this is a weapon that will help keep you safe. Holding down the trigger allows the gun to charge a ‘la the plasma pistol from Halo. Now why would they give you a gun if they didn’t want you to kill stuff?

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This isn’t a shoot’em up. It’s a brilliantly woven murder mystery, which unfolds through a collection of incident reports, partially recorded diaries and hastily scrawled messages. Written in either blood or marker these notes can be found scribbled on walls, floors and even boards, adding to the tension and general discomfort as you genuinely fear for the crew. This game looks and feels like Deus Ex and System Shock, combined with a point and click story element. And it is completely open to explore the whole ship in any order you wish. I can’t really expand without revealing a lot of spoilers, but what the devs have created, is quite possibly a masterpiece of deduction and investigation.

The more practical minded of you may wish to explore the ship methodically, checking the crew quarters, medical bay and engineering to establish what happened to the crew and hopefully restore power to the ships internals. Clues as to how to do this are scattered in plain sight, and I found myself making connections with the evidence even when on the opposite sides of the ship with the odd ”Eureka!” moment spurring me on. The voice recordings are suitably creepy (think Bioshock) and do an excellent job of combining with the pieces of written word. Unexplained bloodstains and more than occasional foray into the ships air ducts add to the atmosphere as you begin to piece together the tragic events that rocked the Xanadu.

This is not an easy game by any stretch. You have to think your way through it, meaning you have to read and re-read every piece of evidence you have collected. Same with the recordings, some of the information is subtle, so much so it’s easy to get frustrated and miss small, important details. Anyone used to this this type of game will find it a little easier to piece together, but I was playing way outside my comfort zone and found it hard going. The graphics are unusual. mostly 16 or 32 bit from the feel of them and the interior of the ship corridors begins to blend all into one ( this may in fact be deliberate on the designers part, to create a loss of equilibrium and direction). When you do encounter something that hurts you, in my case this happened to be a wall monitor which I shot in idle curiosity, the edges of the screen redden slightly, but it is very difficult to tell exactly when you are close to death, the only way to recover seems to be drinking a soda (of which there are a fair few) and simply waiting around.

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And now for the really weird shit. Not content with creating a fairly lonely and desolate playing space, the devs decided to go a little next level on the WTF-o-meter. I’m talking about visual disturbances that happen so quickly you think it was YOU that was having an odd moment. First time you spot a kabuki mask will freak you out a little. Revisit an area and you will find marks on the floor and walls that you were sure weren’t there the last time. Furniture that seems to propel itself across the room, and the extreme dislocation you get when you actually get killed… the game doesn’t end. It transports you to a holding cell, which is completely bonkers if you haven’t ever visited that part of the ship, plus the lights all switch off. Meaning you have to whip out the torch again, it becomes disorientating in the extreme, especially when the lights eventually pulse back into full brightness, and you realise you have been unnecessarily using your torch for the last ten minutes.

It is well worth the price to play this, even if there are no Xenomorph monstrosities hunting you down.

Pros:

Excellent story driven by the player

Superb atmosphere really accentuates the loneliness of space

Multiple endings

Cons:

Graphics are dated

Frustrating for newcomers to the genre

Overall

Score: 8.5/10

Shadowrun Online : Boston Lockdown Review

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You know, part of me wishes there was a world changing event and magic is brought into the light. There are few people who could do with the odd lightning bolt, plus travelling on the motorways would become a lot more interesting with the overhead threat of a Dragon attack. Sadly we don’t live in the world of Shadowrun: Where Bladerunner meets Baldur’s gate, Spinal implantations combine with summoning killer bears.

Those of you new to the whole Shadowrun universe, it started life as a tabletop game a ‘la Dungeons and Dragons – Dice, Skill books, a Dungeon Master and excessive body odour. Porting into a digital world, your runner works their way through a series of missions involving corporate espionage, brute force and assassinations in a bid to earn credits to spend on cool, funky equipment such as replacement limbs, mystical foci and big fat hand cannons.

Needs more Blade Runner right?

These missions take their sweet time into introducing you into the storyline which revolves around the resurrection of a dragon (who has been ”missing” for some time) and the increasingly shady deals including body parts, drugs and black market weaponry.

I’m a fan. Anyone who has played any of the XCOM series will be a fan. This is one of the top tier turn based strategy games out there, and after three different incarnations, it really should be. The skills tree is deep and rewarding, as well as making life difficult for people who try to be a jack of all trades. The weapons and equipment vary in degrees of appearance and type allowing you to customise your heart out. The combat is satisfying and rewards skilful positioning of your main character and the accompanying squad in order to take out enemies with greater ease.

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This game is hard. Like genuinely unforgiving. Miss-step in combat and expect to feel the full wrath of the opposing forces. Reloading your weapon in the wrong place will get you killed. Relying on that summoned minion to take out the bad guys? The AI will focus fire it down. Kudos to the designers of the levels making you have to genuinely think in order to complete the missions with your team intact.

There are a few issues with this game. In making it so familiar, the designers have pushed it a little too far and the game can feel very generic in some parts. Nothing should come as a surprise when playing through the missions, plot ”twists” are telegraphed minutes in advance. I would have liked a lot more variety when it came to weapon skins and additional tactical items as there seems to be too few (from what I have seen, there may be a loot system in the background), plus killing enemies yields only experience, no drops or organ recovery, which to me seems like a waste. God forbid you don’t cover all bases when it comes to non-combat skills. The agony of walking past a locked box for a loot whore like myself… It doesn’t bear thinking about, especially when missions only reward ”nuyen” the monetary unit of the future. The graphics options barely raise an eyebrow – post processing can be turned on and off, but doesn’t make a huge difference to performance (and I’m running a GTX 460 and 2nd Gen i5).

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I did mention the Online bit right? This game is astounding when you team up with others. At the time I played I was lucky enough to have access to the private press server – which was lonely. I saw one or two people, but they left the social hub before I could whip out my best impression of Goldshire Local Chat!!!ONEONE11. Logging in to the launch game means a teeming horde of people

desperate for assistance. The beauty of it is that you move at the same time as your team mates, this allows for some clued team tactics to take out some of the hardier enemies. Loot is assigned from lockers and pickups without the need for rolling (much like Diablo 3) and some of the spells and skills work in synchronicity. For example, the hacker specialist can stun and mark a target, any subsequent attacks against the marked target cause additional damage AND the opponent cannot attack back.

Overall I really enjoyed the game, it’s a lot of fun teaming up online to complete tricky quests, and I really look forward to any expansions and content patches to bring the game up to speed. Thankfully the developers really listen to their fans (as seen on Steam) and they have fixed a major issue already.

Pros:
– Instant familiarity of controls and mechanics
– Deep character customisation
– Online play is superb
– Short snappy missions

Cons :
It is not an iOS port.  Please omit.  Leave in the bit about it being generic.
Cons :
Sadly not moddable.

Score: 7.5/10

Reign of Kings PC Preview

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Picture in your mind, the sprawling landscape of Skyrim. Tundra gives way to pastures of green grass which then slowly transforms into a field of ice and mountainous paths. Now imagine hacking at a tree with a wooden axe in Minecraft, collecting blocks and building whatever your fevered brain can imagine. Now smash them both together, take out the terrible enemies, and add in combat from Mount and Blade with all its decapitations and amputations.

This is Reign of Kings. And it is superb.

You spawn on a beach as a newbie. Sporting a thong (male and female alike) and after going through a pretty impressive character creator you are warned that your face will always look like this… unless you create a potion of facial change (lol what?) The only indicators you have on your HUD are 3 coloured bars, representing your current hunger, thirst and stamina. A quick rummage through your loincloth reveals a couple of bandages and a wooden stick made of driftwood. This stick becomes your main form of attack and defence, it can also be used to harvest resources. It’s then up to you to not die. Sounds easy? It’s not. You may be lucky enough to encounter similarly attired players, but as this is a live MMO, a la Day Z, those who are well equipped will make short work of dispatching you. Sleeping out in the open is also not advised, you can be easily bludgeoned to death during your slumber and when you log back on, you’ll find yourself back in your loincloth wondering why you are 50 miles away, bereft of all your hard earned equipment.

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Trees and bushes offer little for those in search of a good meal, berries may keep you hydrated, but offer poor nutrition. Animals flee at the slightest touch of your clumsy beat stick. Wolves will eat you in the face. Other players will stab you in the face. Starving will make you want to eat someone else’s face. Happily, unlike Day Z, you cannot take a munch of Long Pig. But starving takes a long time. So it helps to get established quickly.

In its current build, the game is not without its faults, there are numerous graphical issues, the combat is very hit and miss (literally!) and the developers are still getting used to the server economy and respawns. But stick with it.

 

Pros:

  • Glorious map design
  • Intuitive game mechanics – borrows heavily from other survival games
  • Big fricking catapults
  • You can become a King!

 

  • Other player characters can be dicks – there is not a massive amount to do
  • Top tier equipment and weapons can be achieved quickly
  • No real reward for becoming King
  • Graphical issues need fixing

 

Overall verdict: Successful patching will make this a fan favourite, the anti-cheat system is well on its way to stopping hackers. It will need a WHOLE load more objectives and missions to make it truly wonderful

Hotline Miami 2 : Wrong Number Review

hotline_miami_key_art_smallHotline Miami: Forever remembered as an absolute gem of a game, an absolute must-have in your Steam collection. Devolver advanced their name in a big way after its release. A thumping soundtrack and fiendish gameplay which allows for flexibility of completion that doesn’t shy away from 8 bit brains, blood and gore. It would be safe to say that when I caught wind of a sequel, I registered my interest to review it pretty much instantly. Upon boot up I was not disappointed at all.

The soundtrack is another level of brilliant. Primal, resonating music assaults your ears as you start the first ”tutorial”. The tracks are instantly addictive ear candy, even if you have no particular love of the genres. Combined with the already existing game mechanics, (albeit with a few tweaks) makes the game feel immediately familiar if you have played the first game.

For those of you that skipped the stunning original, expect nastiness, short brutal frustrating puzzles in which you basically have to slaughter your way through levels of NPC goons. This happens across several locations and across several flashbacks; which include drug induced trances, and even a snuff movie set. Utilising a masked character, wherein the masks convey a special ”bonus”, the quotations being used in this case to show that not all of the mask choices are good for level completion, and often there is only one choice of mask. Examples being that one mask will allow you to kill with a single punch, but stop you from picking up any of the weaponry on that level. This can hamper you severely when facing a multitude of ranged opponents.

HLM2_Screen2BThe gameplay is simple. Steer your masked avenger through a series of rooms using doorways, cover, and quick manoeuvres to sneak up and eliminate the bad guys in the shortest and nastiest way possible. Use an ever increasing amount of close combat weapons (bars, bats, knives and chains) to one hit kill most opponents, or throw them to stun your opponent, this will allow you to run in and finish them by either bashing their head into the floor, or stomping their skull flat.

Oh and did I mention the gratuitous gore? These executions cause severed limbs, exposed entrails, decapitations and more blood than a shark attack film. Completing a level looks like Christmas in an abattoir. Yet somehow it feels detached, perhaps because of the 8 bit nature of the graphics nothing seems quite as messy as it should. The alternative is to go loud and start blasting your opponents with guns, shotguns, assault rifles and submachine guns. The inherent risk in this is that very few weapons allow you to reload; they are noisy, which means attracting additional attention. Which is never good. Guns are not your best friend, they can help you in taking down melee immune soldiers (I know right?) but most of the time your ammo will run out before the sheer number of goons threatens to overwhelm you.

Hotline_Miami_2_-_Screen_2Now for the negatives. This game suffers in comparison to its predecessor, not hugely, but certainly noticeably. Enemies are prone to becoming stuck in doorways, when stunned, they can get back up and be stunned again. They glitch horrendously, meaning an enemy you thought was defeated stands up and blasts you in the spine more times than you care to love. There is one irritating glitch or bug; sometimes kicking in a door will not allow you to fire your weapon immediately upon crossing the threshold of the doorframe. This will have you hitting restart a LOT if you rely on this strategy to get to the next room. Not only firing your weapon, but throwing whatever is in your hand also doesn’t work in the same scenario. It’s not game breaking, but it does deny you one option for getting a decent grade for the level.

Other than that this game is huge fun, it’s bigger than the last game, the story is both scary and confusing and the music is sublime. Devolver have done themselves proud yet again.

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Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night Review

cw2_promotional_large_portrait reviewI saw this as being attached to the Games Workshop licence,  and on a whim asked to review it, partially to disprove a few naysayers about GW and their IP (intellectual property ) and them “putting it about a bit” by throwing licence permissions at any old studio. Mostly because I thought this game looked a lot of bonkers fun to play, and it reminded me a little of an old collectible card game I played in my youth.

The premise is joyfully unencumbered of complications – get the chainsaw wielding hard-man to the end of the game whilst keeping him alive through hordes of zombie monsters; collecting weapons, equipment and spells called blessings to aid your overly manly quest. The main character appears to be an amalgamation of all the late 80’s and early 90’s action heroes, and is equally as one dimensional. Chainsaw in hand he spouts cheesy one liners guaranteed to warm the cockles of any connoisseur of that genre, eliciting an eye roll or wry grin from the author.

CW2LOTN_-_005That established, this is where things get a little bonkers. The game itself is timed, you have an hour to get Chainsaw Warrior to the end through various encounters, these are determined by a shuffled deck of cards, defeat one deck, and there are four more to contend with, each deck representing a different locale.  Defeating the encounters is determined by a dice roll, quite often against the randomly generated stats your character is given at the start of the game itself. It’s almost as if the designers took an RPG, added in the standard loot hunt/equipment requirements,  threw it at a text adventure, then drizzled a card game such as Magic or Hearthstone over the top. The most compelling bit of this meandering prose is that somehow this mincemeat custard trifle works, when it really shouldn’t.

Enemies make up the vast majority of the encounters, and the Hero must make a choice on how to engage the baddies based on current ammo count, how close the enemy is and if there are any special rules on the enemy card itself. Dice rolls against the stats on the cards (and against your own character’s) decide if the zombie/soldier/mutant crocodile take a chainsaw to the tits, or if they take a bite out of your pools of wounds.

Destroying your way through an army of zombies allows you to move to the next card, which may be more zombies, an ammo drop, a boss enemy or even nothing at all, all the while running down the timer, and the deck card count. Running out of wounds and you’ll die, running out of cards in a deck moves you to a whole new level of pain, the decks above the first containing more additional rules, more cards and a whole bunch of new meat to chop into chunks.

CW2LOTN_-_001I must admit, I was a little wigged out at first, but the more I allowed the game to develop,  I could see just how the ruthless the studio were with the challenge implicit with the RNG elements. The seemingly crushing dice rolls and never quite knowing if your ammo was ever going to be replenished. This game WILL frustrate you, but when the dice gods favour your rolls, you will become desperate to reach the conclusion of the deck and start the challenge anew.

Downsides to this game? There are only so many zombie deaths that will give you satisfaction before you want to choke yourself with a rubber sextoy as the chainsaw noise grates on the ear after just a few kills. Anyone unused to random luck games will hate that there is no guaranteed win. The graphics would be undemanding of a Casio wristwatch and dialogue makes the monotone translation of Bulgarian photocopying manual into English seem fun. The upsides however are the mash up of genres, the challenge of the unknown and re playability that roguelike addicts will adore.

Score: 7.5 out of 10.

Bladestorm: Nightmare Review XBox One

Bladestorm_Nightmare_-_NEW_VISUAL reviewI was really excited to play this game – the promise of strapping on a sword and mowing through a million French and English soldiers during the Hundred Year War, a’la Dynasty Warriors (made by the same studio! ) had me foaming at the mouth. Now perhaps I should have played the first Bladestorm before taking this on – it’s not what I expected.

The combat system from Dynasty Warriors is lurking in the background, the game engine hasn’t been changed, or updated all that much. Character models still perform well, running, swinging weapons, mounting a horse and all the rest. The combat is much more measured, a Pokemon-esque ability type is attached to each unit, and of course they are stronger or weaker against other units – an example being horseman can decimate a slow unit such as swordsman, but will die horribly to pikemen/halberdiers and are 50/50 against missile units. Combat is initiated by coming into range of an enemy and enacting one of the units abilities by a button press, which will then cool-down until you can use it again. It is very satisfying destroying an entire phalanx of soldiers with a well timed charge, or a volley of arrows.

2Sadly, despite the excellent historical narrative between fights, the game is marred with some glaring issues. The main character, a mercenary who receives his missions in a shady tavern by a horrendously voice acted barkeep, is supposed to become a general of some renown. What happens is a very disjointed tutorial that only explains some of the vital information, but none of how or why your guy is equipped differently to your starting unit. Another aspect not explained is why everyone looks like Sephiroth from the FF series with a different hair colour, despite being European.

You would be forgiven for thinking that this was an XBOX 360 game upon boot up, the graphics are below standard for a next gen console, which is sad really, as there are some lovely backdrops to the battlefields. Towns and Keeps seem like they were added as an after-thought, feeling very two dimensional rather than a physically imposing structure, add to this the hit and miss collision detector, I witnessed clipping through other soldiers, walls, invisible walls and even when stood in the middle of an enemy troop I ordered my squad to attack and it didn’t register at all.

21Koei have created a surprisingly deep skill and inventory system. Defeating enemy generals and captains (i.e. Kings from the time, or other mercenary types) drops various pieces of equipment and skill book pages. Utilising these back in the safety of the tavern allows you as a general to become more adept at controlling whichever unit you find yourself attached to. Which is brilliant, as the longer battles have you skipping through each troop type in order to punch your way through the opposing army battle lines. The equipment is scarce, even with a merchant in the bar for you to buy and sell from, so you feel like a quartermaster picking and choosing which of your men and women get better equipment. This is then reflected by how well those troops do when you leave them to the devices of an NPC leader, as it’s very easy to have tunnel vision for your objective as the rest of the region is being challenged for ownership. Poorly equipped troops, or undeveloped warriors will be crushed under the hooves and leather boots of The Black Prince, whereas highly skilled soldiers will be able to survive a lot longer, taking less damage and having more resistance to their diametric opposite (i.e. who they are weakest against).

51If they were able to tie both of these elements together well, this would be a richly rewarding – if slightly over the top title that would reward you for getting to the deeper end game. The alternate game mode: Nightmare, is a lot of fun. They introduce mythical creatures such as dragons to the battlefield and it changes the game for the better as these beasts cause tremendous damage whenever they attack meaning you will have to recycle your tactics and troops in order to defeat them.

Overall had the numerous bugs been ironed out, and the graphics been up to standard I would be awarding this a higher mark.

Breach and Clear : DEADline Early Access PC

DEADLine_Final_1421928737At the time of previewing this game, I managed to play two builds. Post patch being significantly better to play for a newbie to the game. This may lead to some inconsistency when you look into this game yourselves, and you should look, as this game is worth the £11 or that it’s currently on sale for.

Breach and Clear : DEADline is the second game with the Breach and Clear name attached to it. Devolver is the publisher attached to it, and the icing on the cake being Gun and Mighty Rabbit. I haven’t had the privilege to play the first game – although it is on my list for the next Steam sale – so the only thing I can compare it to is if the first two Jagged Alliance games had a baby with XCOM. The gameplay is fairly simple. Build a team of soldiers – made up of several classes – and complete the missions given by WoW style quest givers on an isometric map.

Deadline-Sewers-ActionMode-ShamblingHorde-WM_1421928771Players are treated to a great little prequel mission, where the game gives you a very good tutorial on how the mechanics work, skills and how to control the camera. As you play out the first mission it becomes apparent that a lot of care and attention has gone into the character models and their behaviour as a unit of soldiers. Manually aiming your rifle (of whoever you have selected) causes your team mates to aim down sights and move slowly, move into cover and your squad try to assume low profiles alongside and start covering fire lanes like real soldiers would. Upon contact with an enemy one of two things happens, your team open fire, or the game pauses all of the action meaning you have triggered an event.

Enemies in this game are made up of zombies, humans and zombie-monsters – AKA the Tank from Left for Dead. These enemies also seem eerily well modelled, headshots will trigger massive damage, knee and leg shots cause them to fall to the ground and drag themselves along the floor, leaving a blood trail as they go. The concussive nature of the weapons fired at enemies will also cause staggering to varying degrees, a shotgun and sniper rifle will knock a target off its feet completely.

DEADline-Breeder_1421928806Back to triggering an event, this is where the game moves from the standard fare to the sublime. All action pauses, allowing you to make tactical decisions based on the equipment and skills your team have to hand. This could be enabling a huge burst-fire to suppress an incoming horde, using your scout to highlight enemies from a pack and ensure they take additional damage for the next few seconds, and throwing smoke, flash and explosive grenades for evasion and group damage. This mode can be jumped into and back into real time with just a single button push (just like Dragon Age), when used in combination with the extensive cover system, can make for some excellent set piece fights for survival.

Deadline-Urban-Scaffolding_Attack-ThrownGrenade-WM_1421928773For an Early Access game, it does have some bugs still left. I encountered building internals not loading correctly, Soldiers acting in perfect synchronicity until you give them a second command, resulting in one member stood still whilst zombies ate his face off. The skill tree system is good, but it felt as if my guys were levelling up after every small encounter and the skills seemed VERY cheap for the effects they gave. Loot is earned from scattered crates which when opened vomit up the loot Diablo style – this led to loot becoming stuck in scenery or disappearing completely.

Those superficial slights aside – which the Devs know about *high five* – This game plays really well. The studio is looking at adding dungeon encounters, an online mode (squeal!) and a greater amount of enemy types and weapons loadouts. A personal wish of mine would be to make the skill trees a little deeper and specific, and make the corresponding skill point cost a little more expensive.

Keep your eyes open for this one. It’s going to be a cult classic.