The Swords of Ditto Review

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Available On: PC, PlayStation 4

Many video game genres overlap and blend well together. Shooting and third-person action. Narrative-rich adventure with first-person exploration. RPG elements in just about everything. Yet in the paraphrased words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, just because you can combine genres doesn’t mean you should.

The Swords of Ditto is a cautionary tale. The concept seems solid: combine the basic structure of classic top-down, 2D Zelda within the framework of a challenging roguelike, creating a frustrating experience that relies too much on repetition.

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dragon quest xi

Pre-Order Bonuses Revealed for Dragon Quest XI

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Square Enix has announced the pre-order incentives for upcoming RPG Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age. Pre-ordering the physical PS4 edition will grant unique bonuses from GameStop and Amazon. Dragon Quest XI releases September 4 on PlayStation 4 and PC.

Pre-ordering Dragon Quest XI from GameStop will grant the following digital goodies:

  • The Elevating Vest: Armor that grants extra experience from every battle.
  • Three Seeds of Skill: DQ fans will recognize these items as once per use consumables that add an extra skill point.

Amazon’s pre-order goodies are similar:

  • Arriviste’s Vest: Armor that grants extra gold with each battle.
  • Three Seeds of Skill: Same as above.

Dragon Quest XI can also be purchased digitally from the Square Enix store and via Steam.

According to the Steam store page, pre-ordering DQXI on PC includes the following bonuses:

  • Wallpaper set
  • 15 Seeds of Skill
  • Wings of Serendipity: Amulet that summons rare forms of monsters.

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age will be the first main Dragon Quest game to release on a home console in the US since 2005’s Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. Spin-off MineCraft-like Dragon Quest Builders released in 2016. Handheld remakes of Dragon Quest VII and Dragon Quest VIII released on Nintendo 3DS in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Dragon Quest XI released last year in Japan on PlayStation 4 and 3DS. It’s coming to PlayStation 4 and PC to the US on September 4, with a Switch version arriving sometime in the future. It has not yet been rated but previous Dragon Quest games range from E to T.

hotel transylvania

Hotel Transylvania 3: Monsters Overboard Sets Sail in July

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Game tie-ins for kid’s movies used to be a dime a dozen. Most of the licensed games are tied to LEGO games these days, yet Bandai Namco is producing a game based on Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation. It’s called Hotel Transylvania 3: Monsters Overboard. It’s developed by Outright Games in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment. Monsters Overboard arrives on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC the same day as the film, July 13.

“Following our long term strategic partnership with Outright Games, we now bring the famous monsters to a complete new story with Hotel Transylvania 3: Monsters Overboard” said Hervé Hoerdt, Vice President at BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe. “We want to keep offering the best entertaining experiences to the whole family and with this new title. All I can say is that new adventures are around the corner!”

The lovable monsters from Hotel Transylvania are washed up on an island following a storm while on a cruise vacation. Players control both Drac and Mavis as they form a crew of little minions called Impa. Impa are used to solve puzzles, battle enemies and save missing monsters. Basically it sounds a lot like Pikmin.

“Since 2012, families have enjoyed watching the humorous monsters of Hotel Transylvania go on fun filled adventures ,” says Jamie Stevens, EVP Worldwide Consumer Products at Sony Pictures Entertainment. “Now, players can jump into the story and help Drac’s Pack save the day! It’s a completely new experience.”

Hotel Transylvania 3: Monsters Overboard launches on July 13. Also coming July 13 is the film it’s based on, Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation.

co-op

Divinity: Original Sin Is One of the Best Co-op Games for Couples

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Seven months and 80 hours later my partner and I finally put down our PS4 controllers in triumph to watch the end credits roll on Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition.

We have played many cooperative games together over the years but none have enthralled both of us quite like D:OS. Its rewarding tactical combat system, huge world, and most importantly, a story that weaves together both characters equally kept us invested in one of the best cooperative gaming experiences we’ve ever had.

Divinity: Original Sin was part of the new wave of Kickstarter indie games back in 2013, riding the explosion of successful multi-million dollar campaigns like Project Eternity, Wasteland 2, and the Double Fine Adventure. The common thread through most of these campaigns was nostalgia. Indie developers wanted to bring back niches genres that weren’t popular with major publishers, such as point and click adventures, and tactical computer role-playing games. Two of my favorites.

Divinity’s campaign was a big success, releasing in 2014 on PC. As a fan of classic PC RPGs like Fallout 1-2, Baldur’s Gate, and Planescape: Torment I immediately devoured it. While it definitely fits the mold of a classic cRPG, Divinity goes beyond what I expected. It takes its open-world cues from the even older Ultima series and adds gameplay functionality that’s closer to actual tabletop Dungeons & Dragons than anything else.

A year later, in 2015, it released on consoles with an Enhanced Edition upgrade. It would be several years before we finally caught up with modern consoles and I considered giving it a replay, this time cooperatively with my partner

I was unsure it would be a good fit for us. Until then we’d enjoyed quicker, easy-to-digest co-op games like Diablo 3 and the entire Borderlands series. Divinity: Original Sin is a huge, dense, lengthy RPG that refuses to ever hold your hand. Yet we completely fell in love with it.

It Takes Two

Want to pick a lock and steal from someone’s home? Go for it! Want to murder everyone in sight? You can certainly try. Just want to head into a dungeon and find some sweet loot? Now we’re talking!  These things have all been done before, and done well, but Divinity: Original Sin puts a unique cooperative spin on everything. One character can distract a guard while another sneaks past. One can be in the middle of a lengthy dialogue session with a dangerous cult leader while the other can get into a battle with mutated plant life outside of town.

The seamless split-screen opens up the possibilities in an already player-driven world, allowing couples to join forces or separate to do their own thing as much as they want.

co-op

The story focuses on two main characters who are equal in every way. Instead of having a second player tacked on as a sidekick or hireling, both are Source Hunters, essentially federal agents who hunt down dangerous magic users in the fantasy world of Rivellon. In Single Player you customize both of them at the beginning. Obviously in multiplayer we each get to choose and make our own Hunter. My partner created a mage who specialized in Fire and Earth magic, while my rogue wielded a bow along with some useful Witchcraft abilities.

While both characters begin the game as blank slates, we’re given numerous opportunities to flesh them out. Throughout several key moments in the story, our characters indicate they wish to chat. We had some fun roleplaying our characters with each other. Our responses earn points towards various personality traits, such as Romantic vs Pragmatic and Forgiving vs Vindictive. These traits don’t influence the game much (a +1 to a minor skill or so) but do wonders to bring our characters to life.

These moments are also baked into the single player, leading to some challenging exercises in juggling multiple character roles. Divinity is built from the ground-up for two player co-op, but playing single player is equally viable thanks to its carefully tuned turn-based combat.

You Have My Sword

Combat in Divinity is challenging and complex, which are not typically hallmarks of a good couch co-op game. It’s completely turn-based, with characters receiving a pool of Action Points each turn. Everything from moving to attacking to casting spells costs a certain amount of AP, along with putting spells and abilities on cooldown. Learning how and when to use skills is paramount.

Even more challenging is that characters don’t automatically learn new skills when they level up. Skill books must be found or purchased from vendors. This grants total customization to how we want to play our characters, but can be overwhelming in the beginning with so many options available.

co-op

Complexity brings perseverance, and Divinity’s combat is very rewarding. Many abilities can be combined with the environment for satisfying effects. Cast a lightning bolt on a puddle to create an electrified zone that stuns anyone inside. Shoot a fireball into some oil barrels and watch the gigantic explosion that sets the ground aflame. Coordinating together is the only way to win many battles. Nearly every turn we had to discuss how best to utilize our abilities in any given situation, like the best cooperative board games.

I’ll never forget the time I lost my characters midway during a battle with some nasty giant spiders in the desert, only to have my partner pull us through with careful coordination and strategic planning. What seemed like a quick reload turned into an epic comeback as she gradually prevailed, and we cheered together at the end.

Thankfully Divinity’s battles prioritize quality over quantity. Many RPGs, particularly Japanese RPGs, are plagued with repetitive random battles designed to gradually drain your resources. In Divinity all enemies are visible directly on the map, and they’re relatively few and far between. Individual battles last much longer but are also much more meaningful, which is more how tabletop D&D operates than many hack and slash video games.

co-op

Divinity’s huge world and length can be off-putting for many couples. Eighty hours is incredibly intimidating if you want to see it all the way through. If you do the math we averaged only about three hours a week, and that was typically long sessions on weekends.

Firing up the game became like our weekly D&D adventures (shameless plug): getting together once a week to unwind and play the next phase of a story together. The familiarity of jumping in to accomplish the next tasks at hand – rescuing an imprisoned witch, avoiding deadly patrols in a mine, helping a sentient wishing well find his brother – provided a strong sense of purpose and organic narrative throughout many weeks and months.

Completing Divinity: Original Sin has left a temporary void in our gaming schedule. Yet we’re also excited to jump into Divinity: Original Sin 2 when it launches on consoles this fall. I’m sure it will take us another 6+ months to finish. I wouldn’t have it any other way.