The Technomancer PS4 Review

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Developed by French studio Spiders, whose previous work includes the 2013 release, Mars: War Logs, an ambitious title which had mixed success on a shoestring budget.  The Technomancer is the spiritual sequel set on the same red planet during the War of the waters, where Mars has been colonized for some 200 or so years and the barren dust bowl has very much panned out like Arnie’s holiday adventure in Total Recall.

Here you take control of Zachariah, a freshly promoted cadet, part qualified Technomancer, which is a mixture of a Judge Dredd style enforcer and a member of the Sith, wielding magical electric shock powers. Zach is employed by Abundance, one of a number of factions vying for control of this rust bucket of a planet.

At the beginning, there’s a quick combat tutorial to try out the 3 fighting styles you’ll be using, followed by a ‘live fire’ taster test Vs. some of the planets more colourful and interesting creatures which appear to have evolved into effective killing machines before your initiation into the brotherhood, which includes a secret you’ll be forced to take to your grave.

I found the story missions and side quests varied and although most had elements of fetching and delivering information or beating they advanced the story along nicely & after about 10 or so hours the game started to come alive.  There are a number of people you can talk to as the tale evolves which uses a fairly limited but competent dialogue tree. As you run missions for certain factions can have a negative effect on your standings with others, so as one door opens wider the other may shut; eventually you’ll have to align yourself with one of these corporations which will likely cut out missions from the others as a working relationship becomes irreparable.

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Traveling between Martian cities is completed by a Mars rover to which gives you a number of levels and areas to explore, there is a map which you’ll be referring to quite a bit as waypoints aren’t provided as you explore the different areas of the cities each with their own styles and environmental changes.

I really enjoyed the combat styles, the 3 stances offer short medium and ranged attacks which can be changed by the touch of a button smoothly and are necessary depending on the enemies. Rogue offers a knife and pistol, which allows you to fire a small number of shots which stuns the enemies to knock them off, guard. Guardian has a shield and mace equipped and the Warrior stance for combat in the Darth Maul style. Each of these stances can be levelled up separately, so a choice will have to be made if you want a balanced character or if you favour one particular mode of violence, although the enemies you face offer different threats which do mean you have to mix it up, and this can sometimes be a bit trial and error. For myself, I preferred the Rogue option as I appreciated the benefits of a long distant weapon to fend off some enemies who were armed with more superior firepower.

The defensive moves are generally just a combat roll away from the enemy and early on at least you’ll be using that in every battle in conjunction with the health syringe. Along with striking your enemies your electrically charged Technomancer skills are available on a cool down timer and can be mixed in when necessary. To complement the weapons there are crafting tables around which when Zach is properly skilled up allow upgrades & boosts to your gear to generate extra damage when in combat. The combat is generally fast paced with some elements of slow-mo action. Very early on in one of my first combat based missions I had to retry a ridiculous amount of times, as my skill level and damage output was low and the enemies were taking me out with 2 or 3 hits due to one having a gun taking pot shots whilst the other was getting slaps in at close range, the save option offered no saviour  as I was thrown straight back into the cut scene ready to be manhandled again. At one point I even considered starting again from scratch but persevered through sheer stubbornness.

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There are 4 skill trees which are aligned with your combat stance, allowing a boost the Rogue, Guardian and Warrior fighting styles along with the electrical Technomancing skills. In addition, Attribute points to level up core skills such as strength and agility and finally Talent point awards which can upgrade charisma lock-picking and crafting amongst others.

You can recruit 2 others to assist you and mostly act as distractions for enemies in combat, where you can kit them out with any weapons and any gear that you may have looted, in addition to having conversations with them about their views on people & places as your relationships develop which opens up further story arcs for you to explore.

Graphically Tecnhomancer has not offered anything jaw dropping or inspiring, the dark redness of the planet and metallic structures are only offset by the brightness of the planets radioactive mostly hostile creatures that have evolved there. There were never any issues with frame rate dropping, but when for most parts this resembled a superior PS3 title it should never show any signs of struggling on the current hardware.

We’ve been treated well with gloriously detailed cut scenes recently and in the character details here it’s fallen short, the mouth movements appear independent from the stone still expressive face. In some occasions Zac’s helmet was miraculously removed during cut scenes, only to return once the dialogue has concluded. On the opposite end of this, I felt the voice acting had real emotion from most characters and added to the immersion, but I felt this was slightly taken away by the use of bad language from some characters and felt tagged on when it possibly wasn’t necessary.

Tiredness Kills. On your way to your summer hols you’ll likely to see this message on the side of the motorway, this is also true for young Zach, there is a fatigue system in place which insists you take a break every so often, like a hidden health and safety initiative, not resting for Zach loses him an experience bonus in combat, and also makes him less effective in battle scoring less hit points on his opponents, and it’s vital you expend as much damage as you can as it’s plausible to bite the bullet after 3 hits from an opponent.

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The currency system  is serum, which can be found as loot in chests & even in fallen enemies in exchange for their life & a negative hit on Zach’s Karma levels; for which I never lost any sleep over. With water being so short in supply I would have thought this would have been the currency of choice, but no, it’s serum, this can then be exchanged with market traders for weapons or protective attire.

This could be the next step for anyone who’s burnt through everything Witcher 3 has to offer, it’s not as polished or beautiful or as deep, but if Sci- Fi is your thing it will provide you with 25 hours+ of gameplay & an engaging fantasy adventure once you get passed the initial slow paced beginning.

It’s to its benefit being released during the dry spell of the year, nearing Autumn in silly season this title could have fallen into a black hole of releases, but as it is, it should have far more exposure than its predecessor and give Spiders a platform to realise their ambition of their next project.

[button link=”https://frugalgaming.co.uk/shop/the-technomancer-pc-digital-download-22-79-using-code/”]BEST PC DEAL FOR THIS GAME £22.79 – CLICK HERE[/button]

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Kingdom Come: Deliverance Preview

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As Frugal Gaming’s resident historical gaming expert, it’s that time again, where my Frugal Gaming overlords dust me off, pick the twigs out of my beard and wheel me in front another historical gaming epic. This time, my wizened, rheumy gaze has been cast upon KingdomCome: Deliverance, an open world chat-em-up of medieval proportions.

KingdomCome: Deliverance is aiming to be as grounded as possible in historical accuracy. Set in 15th Century Bohemia, (known as the Czech Republic these days), you will find yourself taking part in a story of intrigue and revenge while trudging through the mud-caked streets of villages and castles, chatting to the locals or skewering them with long-swords. As with all early access, this comes with the requisite suite of bugs and glitches and it’s also not representative of the whole game, as the beta provides a chunk of the middle-game to play through. It’s plenty to test the ambitions of the game as well as the systems and characters intended to populate the sprawling map.

Thankfully not all the details of medieval life are present. I’m yet to die of the Plague, my teeth look remarkably Californian and, in a bold statement of going against the trend, there isn’t a button that I can press to defecate. As it is now most of the voice acting and dialogue is temporary, but you get the gist. Most of your time will be spent cajoling scraps of information from NPCs by completing quests. Most quests can be completed in a variety of ways and will dynamically update depending on your actions and while you can use aggression to force information, it’s best to explore the dialogue options as much as possible to level up your conversation ability.

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On the occasion that you have to let your steel do the talking, the combat system built for Kingdom Come: Deliverance is unlike any other sword-fighting system I’ve seen in a game. Warhorse have put a lot of effort into doing it ‘right’, particularly for a game that has a first-person perspective. By using a simple dial in the HUD you can select different stances, parry incoming attacks or attempt feints to get past your opponent’s defence. It’s a little clunky at first but once you get a feel for the rhythm of a sword fight it’s deeply satisfying. To be clear: there’s no way to blindly hack and slash your way out of a fight – you’ll just exhaust the protagonist, you have to be patient but decisive, plus landing the odd punch when you get in close is as funny as it sounds. Incidentally, this system translates well while using a controller, but more on that later.

Built with the Cryengine, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is graphically demanding, so a decent PC is useful to enjoy all the graphical bells and whistles, but I can assure you it looks great on medium settings and of course the game will be optimised prior to release. In terms of environmental design, this game takes trees and forests to another level, the flora a fauna of this game is totally stunning. There are layers of detail in almost all the environments and the towns and villages, making them feel lived in rather than designed. And for all you equestrian fans out there I can officially reveal that the horses in Kingdom Come: Deliverance rank among the best that video gaming has to offer. Resolute, proud beasts, they provide you with dependable transportation, companionship and should you have the time (you will) you’ll find yourself gazing at them while they stare back with deep, soulful eyes.

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I have to applaud the current crop of actors that appear in the game. The dialogue and script are entirely placeholders at the moment. But they reveal a snapshot of the game in development. I spent plenty of time talking to the locals and although it can sometimes feel like you’ve stumbled into the village am-dram Shakespeare rehearsals, I became rather fond of their shonky dialogue delivery. The protagonists voice is the one you’ll hear the most and I grew to love his wooden, stoic exchanges with NPCs, making his utterances of surprise or anger all the more (unintentionally) hilarious. I had to mention this as I’m almost sad that these performances won’t make it into the final game. I appreciate the developers are aiming for AAA values for Kingdom Come: Deliverance, but there is a certain so-bad-it’s-good quality which I hope some hint of will remain in the final build.

My biggest concern with this game is the fact it’s launching on both consoles at. Due to its focus on historical accuracy and faithful recreation of past locations and events, I do wonder if console owners will be drawn to a medieval game that doesn’t feature dragons, spells, or competitive multiplayer. This game is by no means an action-packed hack and slash-a-thon, it is a thoughtful, almost lovingly created slice of historical reconstruction set in a delightful environment with quirky personalities, and even though I approached this game with all the cynical caution my wearied eyes have witnessed in early access games over the years, Kingdom Come: Deliverance won me over with its charm and simplicity.

Pros:

Historical accuracy – you might learn something!

Sword fighting system – it’s like fighting with a real sword!

Voice acting – nutters, jilted wives, drunk soldiers = lol

Cons:

Historical accuracy – can’t see the COD community jumping on this

It ain’t finished – can’t wait to see the finished article

Fallout 4 Review

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It’s 1978, I’m 10 years old. The WWII sirens are wailing overhead, frightened to the core with all of my school. Here we are, huddled in lines in the playground and this is drill in case of a nuclear explosion in London. Welcome to the Cold war in 1970’s London.

Apart from this pointless drill filling us with dread and fear, we had propaganda films, documentaries, leaflets. Destruction was inevitable and even in our innocent tender years; the government wanted us to be fearful.

The cold war was a time filled with real panic, an Orwellian invisible war. I’m talking a stream of propaganda with the intent purpose of making a painful and hellish radiation sickness death certain for all. We actually used to have drills at school for the four-minute warning. Sirens would go off and we would have to gather in our playground, already aware at a young age that we were fucked if this shit went down.

Thankfully we can laugh at it now and we have new invisible enemies. Thank God for Daesh.

And thank goodness for Bethesda, for making the Fallout games and satirising the origin of that period.

I’m in a strange position writing this review. By being late to the party and getting my thoughts on paper, seeing what I can only describe as a backlash against Fallout 4.

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Let me start by saying Fallout 4 is without a doubt, one of my top 3 games of the year. I’m 35 hours in and still haven’t even fondled the main story with any gusto. Fallout 4 isn’t a flawless game, but given Bethesda’s reputation with having ‘buggy games’, it almost is. That could also be one of its problems and a reason for the backlash.

Let’s do the good old potato analogy, every writer worth their salt uses this….. Surely.

Chips? We all love chips? Oooookay! OK!! I promise never to use the chip analogy again! But you het the poin.

Both Fallout 3 and New Vegas (NV was developed by Obsidian, but the same flaws were present) were tasty chip-shop tucker. Scrumptious, large, well-cooked morsels with lumps and all. Those black bits you get on common garden chips are the bugs; we can cut them off if we’re PC gamers or bite around them and wait if we’re console gamers.

Fallout 4 is one of those fancy triple cooked chips. Cooked in the finest clean oils, none of those black lumps are really present; they’re cooked in the safest of kitchens. That is from my perspective Fallout 4’s weakness and strength. Bethesda have seemingly played it safe, and concentrated creating a game that works, rather than taking risks and facing backlash for a game that doesn’t work. It’s a bit clean and dare I say ‘safe’ in comparison to its ancestors.

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So how does it all play? Very well in fact. Fallout 4 has polished the combat and made action much more akin to erm….. Action games. Now, a lot of people are screaming that the game has been dumbed down and is shallow. I can see and value that perspective, but in all honestly I firmly feel that making a game ever so slightly more accessible doesn’t equate to dumb. For the record, I’ve been playing Bethesda RPG’s since Morrowind, so I have seen the transition from what I see and clunky to accessible, I don’t perceive this as a negative. Getting more gamers into the genre is good for gaming. It also has to be said that Fallout 4 is a challenging game, the difficulty is challenging on normal, and you can up the challenge if you so wish.

There’s now base building. It works, it is a nice distraction. Yes, it could have been further developed and more engaging. But it does work and if creation is your thing, there’s a lot of play to be had here, if you’re a compulsive type gamer that loves seeking out materials and spending time planning and creating, it doesn’t do a bad job, it just needs some refining and I really hope it does come back and evolves in future games.

The moral system was another example of a black-lump on a chip in the previous Bethesda Fallout games, lacking real nuance and approaching morals with a very binary approach. You will still have your face shot off for accidentally picking something up that doesn’t belong to you. Now, there is room to manoeuvre and with the addition of more varied companions to aid you in your shenanigans, these allow for a more varied approach to morals and how you choose your righteous, or not righteous so paths.

Certain NPC companions will approve or disapprove of your moral choices. Some like you doing good deeds, others like the scumbag raider thieving mentality. Piss an NPC off too much and they will refuse to travel anywhere with you. This actually lends itself to a more unfettered style of play? Want to be murderous? Change to a less moral companion. This isn’t a massive game changer; it does encourage using different companions, which does add another dimension to your adventure.

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How’s the story? There is one?! Of course there is! But the real meat and bones are your encounters, the exploration, the finds, the small encounters, the side quests. The game is crowded with them.

From your first steps out into the wasteland, you find yourself on a quest to find a loved one, but at a much faster pace than previous iterations, you find yourself swallowed by all there is to do.

I get the backlash, I can see and understand people’s misgivings about the game. Yes, character animations are ropey. Yes, it’s more action orientated. Yes, I’m having a fantastic time with this game.

As I said, 35 hours into the game and I haven’t even thought about following the story. More importantly, I never want the game to end. For myself, that’s a sign of not just a good game, but a classic game.

It may be less of an RPG in the eyes of some, but in many ways it’s a much better game. Hopefully we will see some risks being taken in future DLC and dirty-filthy potatoes in the form of chip-shop chips.

Score 9/10

Pro’s

Not just a massive world, but a world filled to the brim with discoveries.

Fast paced combat

I never want it to end

Cons 

Sacrificed some aspects of depth

seemingly not many risks taken in development

Dungeons of Aledorn | Pre-Alpha First Look

DoA_Team21_Dungeons_of_Aledorn_Manto_02“Spiritual successor to many old school hard-core RPG/Dungeon masterpieces, that combines tactical combat system, exploration in the first person view and intriguing travelling system between main map locations.”

“Dungeons of Aledorn (DoA) is an RPG game that brings back several time-tested principles in a mixture of fantasy RPG/Dungeon. It´s primarily made for (and from) hard-core gamers and those who prefer games with high challenge level.”

Listed features from the Steam Green light page:

 

  • A combination of the time-tested principles of former masterpieces with the advantages of current technology.
  • Classical high-fantasy game setting that places emphasis on realism within its world´s rules.
  • Start with a ready-to-go party of heroes, chosen from a combination of nine races and six classes – or create your own!
  • Branching skills and further specializations.
  • Total immersion into an enormous archipelago realm with various climates and landscapes.
  • Original and atmospheric soundtrack designed by our in-house composer.
  • No more long winded following of quest markers – get your brain ready for intriguing quests with multiple solutions.
  • DRM Free

DoA_Team21_Dungeons_of_Aledorn_news_18_pirate_ship_03Dungeons of Aledorn is a tactical RPG/Dungeon crawler with first person exploration. It boasts realistic hit and stat points with a very detailed inventory system.

Not really knowing a lot about this game or hearing a lot about it prior to getting a look at it, only that it is an RPG that was on Kickstarter. I soon found myself enjoying this easy to pick up and play game that had a lot more going on inside. To begin with it didn’t look like my type of game, but I’m more than happy to try anything and to be proven wrong.

Only having a play of the tech demo which is available via there Kickstarter page http://www.aledorn.com you have the choice of a ship battle or in a cave.

After about 5minutes I thought this had a similar battle arena style to the Banner Saga and other RTS type games. The hex tile space provide the platform of the arena, you have a team of 4 – ranging from a healer, mage etc. You battle against considerable opposition and foes. Effectively a turn based RPG, which was looking a dying breed.

You take turns moving your party into tactical areas in order to attack. You can only move a set amount and attack depending how much you move and how much you attack. Each character has an array of different attack or defend options using the hotkeys. You get a probability of the attack and the enemy can also counter.

The layout and movement around the level seems very straightforward, but the real detail is within the inventory and stats of each character.

With vast equipment choices and stat details, when you really get into this game the upgrade possibilities will be huge, not just for your character but hopefully the equipment and spells too.

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The stats seem catered for everything going! From strength and even stamina mental protection!

Battle tends to flow pretty well with decent animation and graphics, it’s not mind blowing next generation graphics but that’s not the point of this game, that’s not what it’s all about.

This game is the type I would personally play on my laptop with some awful television on in the background. I can see this being one of those “one more turn and I’ll quit” similar to Civilization 5. It seemed so easy to pick up and play and once you get the hang of the tactics and what each character can do this really appeals as an easy ‘pick up and play’ with the real good stuff in the inventory.

After seeing to your foe you’re left to explore in first person mode, I thought this is a great touch and you don’t see in many games (none that I can recall anyway). As this was a tech demo I had nothing to really explore other than my immediate surroundings.

I can see this being a huge attraction in the main game though if you could loot bodies or nearby caves and barrels, those with the ‘carry everything I find tendency’ will have a field day (you never know when those 15 clay bowls will come in handy!)

Watch this space and keep an eye out if you’re not looking to fund the Kickstarter as a backer. With a full story, tutorial, NPC’s and fully operational exploration mode this will be a popular game which I think will take a few by surprise.
The amount of stats, equipment and hotkeys may seem a lot to keep up with and may be too much for some. That’s really the only part I could see a potential flaw with and I wasn’t expecting much being a tech demo. Dungeon of Aledorn has some real potential. It really looks like it could be an exciting first person exploration game with really good RTS battle mechanics gameplay.

Early Access Darkest Dungeon

Wallpaper_Ruins_New reviewI think the opening text for Darkest Dungeon sums up the game perfectly.

“Darkest Dungeon is about making the most of a bad situation. Quests will fail or must be abandoned. Heroes will die. When they die, they stay dead. Progress saves constantly, so actions are permanent.
The game expects a lot of you. How far will you push your adventurers? How much are you willing to risk in your quest to restore the hamlet? What will you sacrifice to save the life of your favourite hero?
Thankfully, there are always fresh souls arriving on the stage coach, seeking both adventure and fame in the shadow of the… Darkest Dungeon!”

Darkest Dungeon is a 2D rogue like dungeon crawler from indie dev’s Red Hook Studios that is currently on Early Access. Darkest Dungeon started life on Kickstarter and smashed its funding goal of $75,000 ending up at $313,337.

Wallpaper_LosingItBigTimeStory time!

You had a rich relative, what the relation was is unclear but he was rich and that’s what’s important. He lived lavishly in a big house where much drinking and partying was to be had. But, as is such with rich relatives he became bored and wanted more. After hearing rumours of an unknown power buried deep beneath the mansion, he decided to find it for himself. Unfortunately the power was more than he expected, driven mad by what he found, he wrote you a letter asking you to come home and sort out the mess he had made, and in his final act of madness took his life.
You have returned to the mansion to reclaim your ancestral home from the unspoken evil let loose by your relative.

As you play through Darkest Dungeon you will gather a band of heroes to take dungeon crawling, these range from Bounty Hunters, Crusaders, Grave Robbers, Highwaymen, Occultists and Plague Doctors. Each class comes complete with their own selection of powers, skills and abilities. Healers, Tanks, Ranged ,Combat Specialists… the usual RPG stalwarts.

While not adventuring you will spend your time in the village, here you can upgrade your heroes, and various buildings to help your team relax. Yes, relaxing is an important part of your team management. Whilst in the dungeons you will need to keep an eye on your health and on your stress bar, the stress bar indicates your team’s stress level in Darkest Dungeon. Unlike the health bar which will go down as you take damage, the stress bar goes up as you play and travel further into the darkness, when it is full your characters resolve is tested, this will give your character’s an affliction such as Paranoid, Selfish, Fearful, Abusive and Masochistic. Obviously these are bad.

Occasionally you may get a positive affliction such as Powerful, Vigorous or Focused.. but I’ve seen more abusive crusaders who refused to listen to orders thus getting an entire team wiped out than I’ve seen focused ones.

8_CrushingBlowCombat is turn-based and easy to learn. Squad placement is essential, certain skills can only hit certain opponents stood in specific places, and certain skills will change the positioning of either your opponent or yourself. If you get knocked into a space where you can’t use a skill, you best pray you don’t die before getting back into position.

In Darkest Dungeon, death comes fast and comes often, it will lure you in with a false sense of security, and then beat you down until you’re begging for mercy, and then it will laugh in your face and continue beating you. When a hero dies, he is gone forever. You will need to try and train up a replacement to take his or her place and hope they last longer than the last one. The Enemies vary from traditional human bandits, spiders, ooze’s to the more Lovecraftian themed gothic horror creatures, unspeakable monsters that penetrate the minds of men and create madness and insanity

In its early access form, there are currently 10 class’s available to hire and 3 areas to do your quests in, with more planned for a later date.
Darkest Dungeon looks gorgeous, it reminds me of a graphic novel coming to life on screen with its amazing hand-drawn art style, Darkest Dungeon is a very enjoyable game and has a LOT of promise. But it may just be a little too hard for some people, the difficulty is both its biggest strength and its biggest weakness, if you play games for fun and relaxation, this may not be the game for you.

I look forward to seeing how Darkest Dungeon progresses.

Darkest Dungeon is available on Steam Here

Costume Quest 2 Review

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Costume Quest 2 Review

PC

Dev. Double Fine Productions

Pub. Midnight City, Majesco

 

How in the hell did we make friends as kids?

From what I remember, I sort of wondered up to people and went, “bogies and bums!” and was then accepted within the group as the thrillingly dangerous one.

Costume Quest 2 is the story of a group of children who have to save the best bits of Halloween from the dismal Doctor White, who is determined to screw up the party for everyone. He has his reasons of course, and is slightly more than just a generic git-villain. Still, whatever it is that motivates him, you are forced into some time travelling shenanigans in order to save the day and return the right to wear costumes and eat sweeties to everybody.

CQ2 is an RPG where you guide a small party of children around a set of environments on the hunt for candy to grab and monsters to bash. Little children obviously make for puny fighters, but fortunately by donning various costumes that you find throughout the game they are able to transform into the character represented by the costume for the purposes of fighting. Dress up as a superhero and you become one at rumble-time, able to punch the holy hell out of robots and monsters and also hurl buses at them. Dress up as a clown and you end up as a freakish oversized buffoon who uses his girth to great effect in the fight. Apart from normal attacks, each costume type has its own special ability; the Clown’s is called ‘Laughter is the best Medicine’ and is a party heal. This basically causes the costumes to become character classes, so you can have a tank, healer and damage-guy in your party – or whatever you feel most appropriate to the stage you’re on.

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Using the delightful cartoon style that will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s played the first Costume Quest game, you once again return to your home-town to find it pumpkin-bestrewn and seasonal. Things soon go wrong however when Dr. White shows up and, engaging the help of a Time Wizard, kicks off this second foray into costume questing. What changes things up a little this time is the environments; future cities, the bayou, even a reform school for naughty candy-eaters staffed by Grubbins, all make an appearance in the new game. It’s a little darker in style graphically, but just a fraction and still retains the humour and light-hearted sense of fun from the original game. The friendly people you find around the place are still just the right side of silly, without becoming obnoxious, and your interactions with everyone keep you smiling throughout the modest 6 hour play time.

If you’ve never experienced the Costume Quest game previously, you should prepare yourself for something of a charm offensive. Nearly every character dialogue, name of attack, place and interactive element in the game is gently funny and cute, leading to the sense of almost overbearing pleasantness in the game. It ought to be something that sits naturally, people just being generally polite to one another, but it actually almost is slightly unnerving for a while until you realise that the game is simply ‘nice’. It’s almost so alien to get a proper game that doesn’t trade on gore, pain or other forms of human misery that it can be awkward to adjust.

CostumeQuest2_Screen_04Some decisions have been made to change up the game this time, that have had mixed results. On the positive side, battles are a little more active now, featuring timed button presses as part of the turn-based combat for every character. This forms part of both the attack and defence portions of combat, so once all the mechanics are introduced, you’re never just sitting back and watching the action unfold. There’s also a risk/reward element to the combat in the form of a new counter system whereby you can choose to begin blocking with a defender before the enemy declares who it’s attacking. Guess correctly and you’ll deal counter attack damage, guess incorrectly and the character actually hit comes off a little worse. It’s a nice idea that adds a little level of strategy to things – purposely having a character feint raises your chances with the other two to 50/50 and a lone character always counters.

On the other hand, one major bugbear of many forum users and reviewers is the decision to change from auto-healing at the end of a battle to forcing you to return to a drinking fountain in a level in order to heal your party. It’s just pointless back-tracking since there are no random encounters in the game, there’s no risk to returning to these save points, it simply artificially elongates the time you spend in the level due to all the back and forth. A shame, because otherwise all the time you spend in CQ2 is otherwise fun, unless you find yourself stumped by a puzzle.

3Yes, Costume Quest 2 does have puzzles, but they are pretty straightforward (with one notable exception). Nothing in it should seriously trouble you too far, battles included. Unfortunately, the cumulative effect of its niceness, length and at-best-moderate challenge results in the game feeling a little too lightweight overall. Whilst it is a solid recommendation if you played and enjoyed the first Costume Quest game, newcomers to the series might do better to visit the more robust original. Familiarity with the characters from the first game will help with your enjoyment of the second in any case.

Now, GET INSIDE READERS… IT’S TIME TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH AGAIN.

 

Karlos Morale

7/10

Costume Quest 2 is out now for PC (Reviewed), PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and XBoner.

 

Oort Online – Frugal Gaming First Look

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Oort Online could be the best thing to use Voxels since Minecraft, maybe even better.  There are so many block building games out there now, we’ve covered a couple here on Frugal, and to be quite honest most of them are absolute pants. I’m convinced that Oort might be something different, something better, and before you stop reading thinking it’s just another clone of the hugely successful Swedish export, just have a look at the trailer below.

First up it looks absolutely beautiful, where other developers are happy just to use plain old simple blocks, Wonderstruck are really pushing to make Oort a real stand out visually.  Having had the chance to go hands on with the game, currently played through my web browser, I was absolutely awestruck at how good Oort looks in action.

One of the biggest draws, for me at least is how easy is it to experience all the different worlds currently available in the early build of Oort.  Not having to put in server numbers or ip addresses, if you find a portal, just walk through it and you’re there.  Peering through these magical portals and seeing a living world on the other side is quite magical.  You can be standing in the sun on a woodland hillside, and right in front of you is a snowy mountain range, just step through and you’re there, no waiting, no loading times, and no messing about trying to log onto a different server.

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I’ve spent hours over the last couple of weeks exploring the strange lands and discovering what other players have been building.  It’s a truly immersive experience and the list of features the developers plan to add has got me rather excited for what Oort will end up becoming if funding allows.

Having decided to forgo Kickstarter, the Wonderstruck guys are self funding via their own website.  With no arbitrary goals to reach, the money pledged it already going to good use.  As the total increases so do different aspects of the game that the team will be able to develop.  At the moment Oort is hovering just over $80,000 and that covers the base game with multiple worlds, building and mining and also weapons and combat mechanics.  The next target met will add crafting mechanics and a recipe system.  A nice feature is that backers will be able to vote on the next feature to be unlocked for funding, it’s a much more organic, community focused and open way of developing games and I like it.

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$15 will get you a digital key for the game at launch, $25 and you’ll be able to jump onboard with the beta when it launches.  There are loads of Youtube vids out in the wild covering Oort and the devs have started doing regular streams via twitch if you want to find out more. Lots of crowd funded games ask for cash before having anything to really show, Oort on the other hand is playable right now if you back at a specific level.

Not everyone feels comfortable with the whole crowd funding scene, but there are more ways than splashing the cash to support Oort Online if you like the look of it.  Oort has flown through the Steam Greenlight process in pretty much record time.  In just 5 days it had enough community support and it’s now definitely going to be releasing via Steam. Even though the Greenlight Campaign is over you can still check out and follow the page and it’s a great way of showing support and also keeping an eye on Oort as it develops.

I was lucky enough to be given access to Oort to help with this preview, but I’ve still pledge at beta access level, thats how much I believe that Oort is going to be something rather magical.  As with all early access games, I’ll be doing a more in depth preview when the beta launches and a full review upon release.

Oort Online can be found HERE

The Steam Green Light Campaign HERE

 

Lichdom BattleMage Review – Xaviant’s Beautiful Monster

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First thing’s first, forget all that you know about the stereotypical Mage in RPG games.  It will only serve to contradict in this game.

Now, with that in mind- or out of mind. Picture this, a Mage without a mana bar or cast cooldown. A magical menagerie of spell crafting possibilities only limited by your creativity and preferences. With that picture in mind, you have the basic premise of Lichdom BattleMage. When I first saw this game on Steam I couldn’t wait to get stuck in, I knew straight away that this would be something right up my alley and it definitely did not disappoint.

In this story of revenge, the motive is set differently depending on whether you choose to play as a Male or Female. In both situations, a loved one is taken from you. You are knocked unconscious and awaken to your city being taken over by the Cult of Malthus. When you awaken, Roth – an immortal mage (who requires a “Dragon”) has bestowed upon you the magical braces. The proverbial key to the Arcane armoury.

However after the tutorial, the story becomes a bonus- there to explore if you wish, but not crucial or imposing on the gameplay, which is clearly the true focus here. For the most part, the story is told through echoes, which are just that- echoes of a previous “Dragon” passing through the same areas that you are. These answer questions about the history of the world and enemies that you face, whilst also delivering the fate of the previous “Dragon”. For me personally, this is a welcomed bonus as it fills out the world and universe in which Lichdom is set. Although I’m not entirely sure that the story should take this much of a back seat.

The journal makes a good reference point at any time throughout the game, as it not only fills out as you progress through the story but it also helps navigate and understand the crafting system. With tips on how each of the components will affect each school of magic as they become available to you. Trust me, the Journal is something you will frequently reference if you want to understand the crafting system and create strong spells. It is not enough to simply create spells from legendary loot, upgrading augments is as important as finding strong spell shapes. The one reason that the crafting system is so confusing, is because of the upgrade system. Literally all loot is upgradeable- you can use shapes to upgrade augments and vice-versa, leading to seemingly endless possibilities. Some loot can be upgraded multiple times.  I found myself studying the crafting system for hours, and this is something I found fruitful and rewarding in the game. Crafting extremely powerful spells consumed me almost as much as using them.

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Whilst Lichdom is a linear game and not Open world, not once did I feel confined or the need to roam. The game is cavernous, spacious, deep and visually beautiful, achieved with Cry Engine 3. Each level plays out in a different environment, jumping from an ancient underground city ruin to a snow covered mountainous region reminiscent of Skyrim, to a rich desertscape with a beautiful oasis for you to explore, the game really does not need to be open world. Some of the settings are visually astounding, clearly the game has a gifted art and design team.

The checkpoint system, which also integrates with the loot rarity system are sometimes far between, but not outrageously far. This game does make you work though. It really makes you work because when you die, your loot rarity is reset to one- giving you only the most common loot items.

My main disappointment with the game was the lack of enemy variety. Whilst it is not a major issue seeing as though the enemies get obliterated in many, beautiful ways (for instance, exploding in to a flurry of ice shards) it does seem like a bit of a cop out. These enemies have no weaknesses or strengths either. So there is no real incentive to use anything other than your favourite schools of magic, which range from your expected lightning, fire and ice all the way through to necromancy (my personal favourite) and corruption .

Some questionable voice acting choices were made here also- no matter how preferential you are to Troy Baker & Jennifer Hale I feel like there voice acting took me out of the setting of the rest of the game, the dialogue for the characters feels a little bit too modern for my liking.

Whilst Lichdom offers me the chance to be the super badass mage I always wanted to be, it does fall short of the mark in a few areas. One being the enemies or lack thereof however I can’t honestly say this was a big deal for me. The crafting system is very complex and I could see why this would be a turn off for some, but for me personally it was an enjoyable and new take on the crafting experience. Perhaps the biggest let down is the story that whispers behind the warfare, in my opinion it should have been more prominent. This game does what it set out to do- make the mage a total badass but it makes you earn it and rethink your tactics over and over again to do so. It’s as much an action RPG as it is a strategy game. How you approach the battle is up to you. How you make progress depends on your choices of growth and with Fable meets Skyrim Graphical qualities and exquisite settings, this game is definitely a  joy to play.

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Developed By Xaviant

Release: 26th August 2014

Available on Steam now: HERE

Price: £29.99

 

 

Divinity: Original Sin Review

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Divinity: Original Sin

PC

Divinity: Original Sin

PC

Larian Studios

Back in the old days, before video games became about fist-bumping, ‘Let’s Play-ers’ and people calling one another ‘bro’, gaming used to be a pretty solitary occupation. You played, you experienced the highs and lows of adventuring in foreign worlds pretty much by yourself. Sure, there were multiplayer games that let you stomp your friend into the dirt – but once they’d gone home to have their tea, it was just you versus the cold, unforgiving computer.

And it hated you and wanted to see you burn.

Fast forwards to today and everything is about social, multiplayer experience. Your friend no-longer needs to be sat in your bedroom, holding the crap controller, in order for you to play with or against them. In fact, they don’t even need to be your friend, as you can log in and play against similarly-minded people across the world. Most of whom, it would seem, have carnal knowledge of your dear mother.

Larian Studios have created an RPG that is at once a throwback to the glory days of PC RPG titles and a showcase of what can be achieved with a modern perspective. If you think Baldur’s Gate or Planescape Torment you won’t be far wrong – isometric display, somewhat open-world experience, although with a strong narrative thread, compelling characterisation and – at times – brutal difficulty. Original Sin offers a clarion call to all those who have been searching for a similar gameplay experience that takes advantage of the fact that we now have something a little higher-end in our gaming rooms.

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Divinity: Original Sin brings back the glory days of ‘traditional’, quality adventuring in a wonderfully realised and well-constructed world, whilst at the same time offering the fascinating spin of allowing you to play co-operatively with a second player picking up the role of one of the adventuring party. An equal role, giving them as much choice as you, an equal share in the glory and portion of the blame if it all ends in ignominious defeat. This was a key part of the Kickstarter promotion and certainly helped to generate the hype around the game – but it’s certainly not necessary to have a second player in order to enjoy D:OS to the fullest.

Original Sin does not hold your hand as you step onto its beautiful shoreline in your role as a Source Hunter and try to uncover its mysteries. Unlike most current adventure titles, the plot isn’t spelled out to you from the get go. We’re given a small amount of context as to why you find yourself arriving on the outskirts of Cyseal – you’re investigating a murder – but soon the scope of the narrative opens out considerably and becomes as engaging as any of the classic CRPG titles of yesteryear.

WHAT IT DOES BEST: LEVEL OF DETAIL

As soon as you dive into the game and are past the mercifully brief tutorial section, you’re thrown into the deep end, with a living, breathing world unfolding in front of you. Soldiers are fighting battles you can help with, and the level of strategy available to you in the opening encounter is huge. From the get go you can choose whether or not to charge in head on, flank or attempt to pincer some fairly hefty, tanky enemies as a well as a spellcaster. Unlike most modern games, it’s entirely possible for you to get killed in your first real fight if you simply decide to walk up to your opponents and whack them with a sword. Splitting your two opening party members, luring enemies into terrain based hazards, forging alliances with friendly NPCs are all possible in that opening battle and it serves as a strong indicator of things to come. You can – and must – really find your thinking cap and wedge it on tight if you’re going to succeed.

The character interaction, inventory management and mystery solving are all highly involved, and as deep and open-ended as you could possibly wish for. The world is populated by the usual generic NPC fodder of course, but aside from the surly barman, untrustworthy imps and bumbling soldiers, there are also Ogres suffering with ennui, displaced seashells with an aching desire to return home and then psychotic elderly Source Hunters. Added to this is your relationship with that second main character, which you can choose to make problematic for optimal stat bonuses but are also very unpredictable if you’re playing with a second player online.

In short, Divinity: Original Sin succeeds where so many other RPGs fail in creating a believable and engaging world that remains that way for its entire length – I’m looking at you, Skyrim.

Divinity 4WHAT IT DOES WORST: LEVEL OF DETAIL (!) OVERWHELMING

Trouble is though, all this depth comes at a price. The game raises a thick, grubby middle finger to the casual gamer. Cards on the table, if you’ve not got the time to devote to playing through the game in some significant chunks, this is probably one to avoid. It does not lend itself at all to piecemeal gaming.

If you’re comfortable with spending a half hour managing your inventory, checking various stats of weapons, popping to the merchant for a quick repair job, clicking through some dialogue trees and assessing which of your four party members would be best equipped to do a given task – all before you actually try a new section of the game – then you’re fine.

If you think that struggling through a particular cave, only to find that you’re simply under-levelled to complete it is all part of the fun of exploration – then this is the title for you.

That may sound like an obvious extreme negative – but it isn’t necessarily so. There are clues as to where you go – but you have to look for them. Not every quest begins with a character with a giant yellow exclamation mark over their head – so progress in D:OS requires time, dedication, seriously ‘legwork’ and patience. But the rewards – oh – the rewards are so worth it.

AT THE END OF THE MONTH, WHEN ALL THE BILLS ARE PAID AND I’VE GOT THAT SPARE CASH, BURNING A HOLE IN MY POCKET, WOULD I BUY THIS GAME? YES I WOULD.

The story, the detail, the sense of accomplishment when you beat a significant monster or solve a tricky puzzle is sensational. I am shocked at what these guys have achieved in a short amount of time and with a relatively modest budget. Basically, every triple A RPG from the last 10 years has been put to shame. If you consider yourself a fan of role playing games – particularly the golden age of CRPGs – you owe it to yourself to purchase Divinity: Original Sin. A true, modern-day classic.

Karlos Morale

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Divinity: Original Sin is out now on PC

Frugal Gaming Review – Child of LIght

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Playable Female Character? Check

Red Hair? Check

A Ubisoft Game? Surprisingly Check!

Reminds Me Of Childhood Memories

Sounds like a Gallifrayan’s dream come true.  Child of Light has been out for a while now and whilst I’ve been wanting to play it for some time, it’s been sitting and stagnating amongst my vast pile of shame.  So braving the murky waters of UPlay on PC I’ve decided to set that right and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you lovely lot.

The game casts you as Aurora, a small Austrian girl with flaming red hair.  Having gone to sleep one night, you awake to find yourself in the mythical land of Lemuria.  Filled with all sorts of beasties and baddies to battle along the way, your quest is a simple one of a small girl trying to get home to her father.  Along the way you will meet some curious companions –  Tristis a Court Jester with acrobatic attacks, Finn a magic wielding Dwarf and even a Rock Gollum via DLC.

Both the story and the characters wouldn’t seem out of place in a Hans Christian Andersen fable.  Likewise that graphical style could best be described as illustrations come to life.  It truly is one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played.  At time mesmerising to behold, the UbiArt Framework engine has been one of the industry highlights for me over the last couple of years.

The game play itself is split into two definite types.  Your exploration takes the form of a simple 2D platforming game, with a bit a flying and a firefly thrown in for good measure.  It’s graceful in movement and a complete joy to play.  Simple light based puzzles and the odd pull/push drag a block around are all unsurprisingly featured.  There are lots to discover in the game, hidden chests and such and whilst it’s nice to find them, the contents don’t exactly lull you into keep searching.

The other game play element concerns combat.  Head towards a foe and the game switches to its turn/time based strategy element.  A meter across the bottom of the screen has icons for each combatant, a bit like the seaside donkey derby games, your character will race along to the activation line when you can then unleash your attack or ability.  Each character, both friend and foe feature on this line and it determines the order of attacks.  So it’s a bit of a twist on turn based combat and anyone who’s played a Final Fantasy game will feel at home.

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If I Stare Too Long, I’d Probably Break Down and Cry

So that’s the meat and potatoes of Child of Light.  A solid little game, but my problem is that it’s not that little.  I’ve played about 5 hours so far, it’s still not completed and it’s back in my pile of shame.  I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve played, but over the 5 hours that I’ve played the game just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.  Although you can level up your character and add new moves and attacks none of it feels different enough from what you start out with, hence the boredom. It’s like that perfect partner that you could take home to mum, treats you like a goddess and would never stray, everyone loves them but at the end of the day they really are a bit of a bore, and you find yourself hankering for something more immediate, dirty and dangerous.  Child of Light is a great idea, and Ubisoft must be applauded for offering games like this along with Valiant Hearts.  But campaign edges towards the 10 hour mark and feels bloated, I’d rather have had 5 hours of exploration and no combat to be perfectly honest.

COL_Screenshot_5_DD_130910_9When you find a game that you want to love, it’s all the more heartbreaking when you realise it just isn’t for you.  No doubt some people will love Aurora’s adventures and rightly so, it’s just definitely not for everyone.  Whilst the combat is a drag that I could of overcome, the lack of engagement with the supporting characters and the way dialogue is presented is a huge stumbling block in wanting to see the whole thing through.

We’ve all got games that we leave half completed, Child of Light might remain that way sometime for me, instead I’m off to the trenches of the First World War, a Dog is clearly a much better companion than a wisp of light.  I can’t wait to see where the UbiArt engine might take us next.

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Child of Light is available on all major platforms – Version tested PC