last guardian

The Last Guardian Review

Posted by | PlayStation 4, Reviews | No Comments

Available on PlayStation 4

After years and years of being stuck in development purgatory, The Last Guardian has finally hit the PS4s of everyone who is still willing to give it a chance. And as many expected, Fumita Ueda’s latest creation will be a big point of contention for the gaming industry.It’s filled with gorgeous moments between Trico and the nameless boy as well as stunning environments filled with color, but major issues with controls, camera movement, and AI put a real damper on all the fun.

The Story

Everything in The Last Guardian revolves around the relationship between a nameless boy and a giant griffin-like creature named Trico. It’s amazing to see that bond grow throughout the course of the adventure, and the last stretch of the game is one of my favorite experiences in gaming this year.

Much like Ueda’s other games, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, the overall story has a lot that is left to interpretation. Whether or not you’ll like what that sort of experience depends on what kind of narrative structure you typically enjoy, but I’d recommend the game based off the bond between the two characters alone.

What stands out is the particularly cinematic moments that leave flashes of brilliance throughout the game.Trico saving you a split second before a bridge collapses beneath your feet is just one of many moments that keeps The Last Guardian exciting.

the last guardian

The Gameplay

Puzzles and platforming take center stage as you navigate various temples and lush environments. You’ll need to do things like guide Trico toward a wall with stain glass windows so that he can destroy them. And that’s one of the most promising and frustrating parts of the experience. All throughout the game, you’re powerless.

You need Trico for almost everything, and it feels really good to develop a partnership with this giant beast. Getting past a rather challenging puzzle by instructing Trico or leading the various enemies you encounter to Trico leaves you with a sense of accomplishment. But Trico is also the reason why some of those puzzles are challenging, the commands you have don’t always register with Trico. Sometimes he’ll be facing the wrong way or unwilling to go to the exact spot you need him in. It creates some rather frustrating moments that really hurt the game’s flow.

The Rating

The ESRB slapped a Teen rating on this cooperative expedition due to some fantasy violence and blood, but there isn’t much to be wary of for younger players. I’d recommend playing this game with your kid if they’re even if they’re on the younger side.

Takeaway

In the end, I really enjoyed The Last Guardian. It placed itself among other strong narrative focused games that came out this year. But if you’re on a budget, Ueda’s latest creation isn’t the first game I’d recommend you spend your money on, especially if you’re a stickler for tight controls and intelligent AI.

orwell

Orwell Review

Posted by | PC, Reviews | No Comments

Available on PC

Orwellian is a term that’s being used to describe a lot of games these days. Since Orwell wears its gameplay on its sleeve it’s easy to predict what it’s about. It’s the actual gameplay that’s the unique element here. It’s really different than anything I’ve seen and I had a blast playing it.

The Story

As a new agent in a special program called Orwell, you’re tasked with investigating a set of bombings that appear to be politically motivated. There are multiple parties involve and you end up working through a complex set of suspects to find the culprit, or who you think is the culprit. Throughout the project some of the people you work with as part of the program seem to have some motivations of their own. That’s about all I can say without giving too much away. The story is actually really interesting and kept me engaged throughout the entire game.

The Gameplay

What’s neat about this game is that there’s no external UI. The second you boot up the game, you’re in the tool that you use to complete your investigation. There will be daily headlines from the local newspaper for you to read, not all of which will be relevant to what you’re looking for. Beyond that, you’ll take at some video footage, scour official and personal websites for information and even monitor chat conversations and phone calls. Any important information gleaned from these exploits can be used to create a profile for the people involved. You can bring up these profiles at any point in the game to see where some pieces might fit together.

orwell game

This gameplay is really, really cool, but I do have one issue with the game: It holds your hand way too much. Any information that’s important is always highlighted so there’s no challenge in trying to figure things out on your own. It isn’t until late in the game you’re given the task of only grabbing a set number of what are called datachunks. That made the game a challenge as you had to stop and think about whether each piece of information was important and how important it actually was. I think the game would have been much better if this gameplay mechanic had been employed throughout the game.

The Rating

Orwell hasn’t been rated by the ESRB, but I would estimate it would probably gain a T rating. There is some language and sexual innuendo, but’s all fairly mild.

Takeaway.

Orwell is really fun and new take on the concept of “Big Brother.” I had a lot of fun with this game. My only issue was that it was made too easy by providing you too much guidance. But that’s a small reason. Even with that issue, it’s still a game you should definitely check out.

final fantasy xv

Final Fantasy XV Review

Posted by | PlayStation 4, Reviews, Xbox One | No Comments

Available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
We played on Xbox One

Final Fantasy XV is a game about a long road trip taken with friends. It all starts in the most idyllic way possible. It sputters. It comes to a full stop at points. There are arguments. There are plenty of outright fights. But, it all concludes in an almost surreal way. The funny thing about it is that I can’t imagine a better analogy for my experience playing the game.

I’ve started, stopped, and restarted this review a dozen times over in the last few days because I was (and still am) having difficulty putting my feelings into words. I have been anxiously waiting for this game almost as long as I have had children. My love for the Final Fantasy franchise is well documented so this is a tough one. But, I am a professional (sort of) so here it goes.

Final Fantasy XV is by no means perfect. There is no way that a game in development for as long as it was could be. But, it is a remarkable game that stands alongside its peers. Very few people will mark this as the high point of the series, but that’s ok. XV was never meant to be the best. It was meant to be a reminder to fans (lapsed and otherwise) what Final Fantasy is all about: transformation.

Story

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Final Fantasy XV follows the adventure of Prince Noctis and his three best friends as they travel, via a sick ride called the Regalia, to his arranged marriage to the Oracle Lunafreya. This is as straightforward of a premise as you can imagine, but things don’t stay so simple very long.

(This isn’t much of a spoiler because it happens very quickly.) Noctis’s home kingdom of Lucis comes under attack very quickly and succumbs to the might of their neighbor Nifflehiem. Everything from that point forward funnels our heroes toward an epic conflict.

I won’t lie to you. The story takes some wacky turns, but I found myself legitimately interested in what was going on and what was going to happen next with every twist.

It is impossible to talk about the story without addressing the main characters. Noctis is joined on his journey by his three best friends (Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto). Their friendship is a focal point of everything that happens. You see how it impacts each of them and you see the stress that it puts on their friendships. The real key is that this is a group of men who truly care about each other. There is none of the obnoxious testosterone-fueled bravado that we find in other games. The fact that I was able to see men on screen that were genuine and honest with each other and their feelings was refreshing.

Gameplay

The biggest difference from previous games in the series that people will notice, aside from aesthetics, is that XV is an action RPG. They have stripped away the turned based combat from previous games and replaced it with a fast-paced battle system that requires you to warp around the battlefield and switch between a variety of weapons to help build combos on your enemies. The description I gave may make it sound chaotic, but it doesn’t take much time at all before you are racing around the battlefield like a crazy person

One theme that XV manages to reinforce through gameplay mechanics is how small and personal this journey is for Noctis and company in spite of how epic their quest is. The biggest expression of this theme comes in the idea that the game is broken down into days. You are all but forced to rest at campsites throughout the world each night. While resting you are able to bank the exp that you earned during the day and you can even have Ignis combine ingredients you found in the field to make stat buffing food items. The fact is that these adventurers on a world spanning quest to save all mankind

The Rating

Final Fantasy XV is rated T for teen. The bulk of that T rating comes from the combat. Realistic characters are participating in action-packed combat against all manner of robots and fantastic beasts. The rest of the T rating comes from some mild language.

At the end of the day, FFXV is not a game for children. It earns its T rating and parents should be confident in that.

The Take Away

Final Fantasy XV won’t go down in history as one of the best games in the series. But, it is an excellent game that is worth playing. Final Fantasy fans, especially lapsed ones, should absolutely play this game. Everyone else? This should be on your radar if you like stylish action RPGs.

shadow tactics

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun Review

Posted by | PC, Reviews | No Comments

Available On: PC

The recent XCOM reboots may have revitalized the turn-based tactical genre. But there exists an even rarer gem: the tactical real-time stealth game. Combining top-down views, large maps, and enemy viewcones creates an experience I hadn’t seen in years. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun goes several steps further by wrapping it within a rich, character-focused drama set in the war-torn age of shinobi and samurai.

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BATMAN: The Telltale Series – Episode 5: City of Light Review

Posted by | PC, PlayStation 4, Reviews, Xbox One | No Comments

Available On: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, mobile
We Played On: PC

The Final Episode of BATMAN: The Telltale Series had a lot riding on it. It needed to tie up loose ends, provide a satisfying conclusion to the series arc, and still be an exciting chapter all on its own. Luckily, City of Light did all of this and more.

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beholder

Beholder Review

Posted by | PC, Reviews | No Comments

Available on PC

Spying on people seems to be the new gameplay du jour. I’ve noticed a number of games with this premise popping up lately. Fortunately all of them seem to be sufficiently different from each other, which has made playing these games a lot of fun. One of these games is Beholder. It’s spying gameplay is layered over a substantial amount of RPG choice-making that makes the game way more interesting than it might seem at first glance.

The Story

In Beholder you play as a man who is tasked with running an apartment complex and also making sure none of the residents are up to no good. The world is a totalitarian state, which won’t abide by crimes or even ideological differences. One of the ways this plays out is regular announcements that will ban random items like apples or green ties. At the beginning of the game you realize your predecessor has failed at his job and is being taken away with rather violent means while you and your family are introduced to your new home. Yes, you have a family. A wife, a teenage son and a young daughter.  You live in the basement of the apartment complex. From there you watch what happens on the street and the four floors of the complex above it. The art style has a unique aesthetic wit crisp black and white characters on a colorful, but gloomy background. This fits the story perfectly.

beholder

The Gameplay

Beholder plays much like a point-and-click adventure game. You move around the environment by clicking in different place and interact with objects by doing the same thing. You’re given missions by the state that involve you needing to spy on the residents by noticing their comings and goings and entering their apartments when they’re not home in order to install security cameras. Without the cameras, the apartments are dark and you can’t see anything. Once a camera is installed, you’ll be able to see a section of the apartment. That section can be larger or smaller based on the type of camera you use. Once you see someone doing something they shouldn’t you file a report and the perpetrator is promptly removed from the premise.

All of this seems pretty straight forward, but the game has another layer of play that gives you choices on how to proceed. You can be a good little servant of the state reporting anyone and everyone, or you can choose to withhold information and help some tenants escape before the government knows what happened. This can get increasingly complex as your family members get caught up in the process.

beholder

The Rating

Beholder hasn’t been rated by the ESRB. Based on the content of the game, I would imagine it would probably garner a T rating. The art is a stylized black and white, but the messaging and choices you need to make as a player can have dire consequences, making it a bit more mature on a thematic level.

Takeaway

I really liked this game. I came into it expecting fairly straightforward gameplay of doing X, Y, and Z in a certain order. It was only after I played for an hour or so, that I began to see the depth of the choices I was making and how they were affecting me and everyone else in the building. After two attempts, I met an unfortunate end. But I want to go back and try again because the game is just so intriguing.