Nioh Trial better than full on game releases?!

Nioh Last Chance Trial Impressions

nioh-demo

Nioh has been a game that has been at the back of my mind for some time. I had heard about it, seen a few gameplay videos and was generally intrigued by the whole thing. That said I never did much digging and as such was greatly surprised by the fact that it’s releasing on February 9th and that there is a last chance trial for everyone to play as well!

Before going in it was pretty obvious that this was a very Dark Souls inspired affair and playing the tutorial instantly confirmed this. Personally the more souls like games we get the better and Nioh does plenty to differentiate itself from the competition. Most noticeably its Japanese setting makes for some interesting weapons, armor, enemy design and so on and while gameplay feels instantly familiar to veterans of the Souls series it has a number of noticeable changes to make this a very refreshing and exciting affair. Each weapon for example can be used in 3 different forms, and stamina or Ki as its called here can be regained by well timed R1 presses rather than just letting it recharge. This game more than any other I can think of really places an emphasis on stamina, you can see the stamina of enemies and the well timed stamina recharges mentioned above can also dissipate area of effect zones (That significantly slow down stamina recovery) created by supernatural mobs. This constant focus on watching your stamina created some really engaging and exciting fight sequences particularly against the demo’s boss and larger creatures. Just like Bloodbornes health recovery system it encouraged me to stay in the action more often, as opposed to the more defensive style of Dark Souls games.

The Trial itself has a very significant amount of content, enough to keep me hooked for many hours without getting bored. An entire level is present, as well as a extremely challenging harder version of the same level and also included is a mini boss fight like side mission, which I have been unable to beat. This is perhaps my favourite thing about what I experienced was the very steep difficulty. Even the standard mission was no pushover but I never found the difficulty to be unfair or infuriating, extremely challenging yes but also incredibly fun and rewarding. Levelling up and obtaining new armor, weapons and items, exploring and fighting strange creatures, this game just felt right the entire time. The amount of content contained here and how well executed it all is bodes extremely well for the final game, the trailer certainly looks encouraging.

Perhaps my only real criticism is the graphics, the art design is great but the overall look of the game does look somewhat dated if not dam right ugly. Also even tho I found the selected level extremely fun, it really only served a gameplay purpose and didn’t feel like a lived in place so to speak, as such exploring and moving around the often quite ugly environment is perhaps the games weakest aspect. Otherwise the overall presentation and sound design of the game is pretty awesome.

In conclusion the Nioh Last Chance Trial is an absolute blast to play and if the final game delivers more of the same and then some it could just turn out to be one of the best games of 2017.

Love it, hate it, love it again.. hate it again, this game divides my opinion of it like no other.

The Last Guardian Review

The Last Guardian first announced all the way back in 2007 has at long last been released. While always curious I was never to fussed about whether this game was actually going to be playable and while I’m glad it’s finally in the hands of the players one does wonder what the team was actually doing for all those years?

Have you ever wanted to run around some ruins with a big bird, dog, cat thing which *ahem* shoots lightning out of its tail? Well then The Last Guardian is most certainly for you. All jokes aside that is pretty much the game. As ‘the boy’ players wake up alongside ‘Trico’ a beast of some description chained up, covered in wounds and the remnants of armor, in a tutorial like sequence you build its trust and soon set out together on a quest of simply heading up. The story is very simplistic but not in a bad way. The boy narrates the story, but these moments are very rare and left intentionally cryptic. The story is instead mostly told through the interactions between the boy and Trico and is more about the journey than the final destination. There is little use of cinematics, no other main characters and no collectibles or similar story telling devices used throughout the game. The story has a very fairy tale like quality to it or a very Legend of Zelda type vibe and while not particularly complex it’s unlike anything else I’ve personally ever played. As such it’s hard to criticize the story seeing as it’s very unique and more importantly the kind of story that can only be told in video game format, but seeing as the game was in development for so long one wonders why the story could not have been something so much more?

As always gameplay is the most important aspect of any video game experience and this is where The Last Guardian is at its best and unfortunately at its worst. Even before embarking on the adventure the controls feel wrong. The camera for example I found to be very sticky and delayed, there are many moments when I simply wanted to stop and look around, the camera unfortunately did not make this as nice as it could have been, at other times as many other reviewers have mentioned the camera can be truly awful in tight spaces, particularly when riding on Trico. The gameplay itself mostly consists of platforming, light puzzle solving and a sprinkling of combat, the whole time players only ever control the boy with Trico acting of his own accord or taking basic instruction from the player. Again the controls just like the camera feel delayed and as such take some getting used to, when it clicks it clicks well but at other times simply moving around can be a pain as the controls often fight against you. One of the biggest joys of the game and one of the most frustrating is Trico himself. At times Trico will do exactly what you want him to do or will even do the right thing without the player needing to issue instruction. At other times however Trico will simply not obey player commands, will often leave you behind, will stand about looking confused and so on. I’m all for creating a believable creature after all the story and gameplay are built upon the relationship between the boy and Trico, this however means there are often unbelievably infuriating moments throughout the game where I literally wanted to smash the controller against the wall or wish I could make Trico shoot himself in the face with his lightning tail.

As mentioned above when the gameplay clicks it does so incredibly well. Platforming and exploring around the giant ruins as the boy is great fun and often awe inspiring. The puzzles while simple are satisfying to solve and make use of Trico in some fun and interesting ways. The biggest surprise for me was the combat aspect of the game. It’s not combat in the traditional sense, the boy can’t directly attack the lumbering suits of armor that chase him about but the mechanics at play here are more deep than you would expect. The boy can jump on enemies to topple them over, shove them to make them drop objects or push them off ledges, throw items to stun them and even pull their heads off. When Trico is at play the suits of armor will use spears and swords to attack him and planes of glass to make him cower away. In response Trico will enter a fit of rage and smash all the suits of armor in sight as he constantly strives to protect the player from harm. Later on in the game the boy gains access to an item to take control of Tricos lightning tail which adds another level of complexity to the combat. Unfortunately the suits of armor are used sparingly and like the rest of the game these exciting situations can be plagued by the wonky controls and while fun these sections are extremely easy. It’s a shame because towards the end Trico and the boy work in tandem to successfully defeat small armies of enemies and one can only wish there was more of it or that it posed more of a challenge.

Soundtrack wise the game is pretty good. It’s used quite sparingly but what’s on offer here is used nicely for both quiet moments and the games more dramatic and action oriented sequences. From quiet subtle melodies to rousing and loud assaults on the ear drums the soundtrack has a quality to it that remains consistent and engaging throughout the roughly 10+ hour playtime. In many ways however the soundtrack can be considered to be somewhat uninspired and often comes across as very by the books. It can leave a lasting impression but equally it will often pass by  having fulfilled a purpose but nothing more.

Visually many people have likened The Last Guardian to the likes of PS3 era graphics, while the game was intended for a PS3 release I find this criticism to be unfair. The game is not the most visually impressive thing to experience on the PS4 nor is it the worst. The game takes place entirely in one location and the sense of scale and the interestingly designed buildings constantly beg for exploration. The games biggest fault on its visuals however is that the entire journey looks the same, the areas at the start look the same as the areas at the end apart from the segments taking place in the games big finale. The lack of visual variety for the most part is pretty disappointing as most games always do something to shake things up visually from time to time. That said what’s on offer here can be truly beautiful and awe inspiring, particularly as you get higher and higher the game is often best enjoyed by taking a step back and taking it all in. From the peaceful tranquility of small wooded areas to gazing out at the next massive tower you have to reach.

So one part masterpiece, one part infuriating, tedious trash. Despite the criticism however The Last Guardian is unique, coming out in a year in which most AAA titles involve massive killing sprees with machine guns. It often evokes feelings of nostalgia taking players back to a time when more games like this where made during the PS2 and PS3 era. I can’t recommend that people pick up and play this, but at the same time I feel it HAS to played so that you can figure it all out for yourself.

Battlefield One Campaign kinda bad?!

Battlefield One Campaign Review

So, Battlefield One was released not too long ago and has received excellent reviews across the board. Not just for its amazing multiplayer which truly is amazing but a lot of praise has been given to its single player as well. Having now played though its entirety twice here are some thoughts and feelings on why the campaign isn’t all that great.

Unlike most single player campaigns Battlefield One tells a series of smaller unconnected story’s from around the globe, from the trenches of France to the Mountains of Italy. This both works for and against it. First, some positives, on one hand this allows the player to see the war from multiple viewpoints with characters from different walks of life, from a traditional tribeswoman fighting a guerrilla war against the ottoman empire to a chauffeur turned tank driver taking on the might of German defences. This of course also means that gameplay is very varied from vehicle focussed missions to all out-infantry combat to sneaky open ended stealth affairs.  There are five war stories to play though (six including a short prologue) each with multiple missions to play though. There are some great moments to be had here particularly on the tank and aeroplane missions, featuring some truly awesome battles and cinematic moments and with the more interesting and personal stories to boot.

Of course, the actual production values of the game are nothing short of amazing. With some truly amazing facial animations and for the most part some authentic, believable and great voice acting. The graphics and sound design are overall truly incredible from the thundering sound of shell being fired to the echo of a sniper round, the game also features an appropriately themed and rousing soundtrack used to great effect in both epic and quieter moments.

However, while there are great moments to be had there are plenty of downsides to the campaign. Most notably its length is a major issue. The player only gets to experience one set of characters for a short time, notably not nearly enough time to grow attached or care for the characters, and not all the war stories are equal with two of them being pretty spectacular and the other three somewhat average both story and gameplay wise. Often there are stealth sections that are often tedious and boring, partly due to the very by the books and uninspired stealth gameplay. At other times the player will often feel like an action hero, single handily taking on ridiculous situations, you could argue there’s nothing wrong with that but it certainly doesn’t sit well with the WW1 setting, particularly when enemies will often stand out in the open to be shot at. At other times the campaign will often feel like a missed opportunity, there is certainly limitless potential in the War Stories format which players can only dream of. At other times one can only wish that they decided to flesh out a few select stories rather than having multiple or even focused on having a fully-fledged traditional campaign.

Overall the campaign is by no means bad, what’s on offer here certainly adds value to the overall package with collectables and challenges for those wanting to squeeze out all the content the campaign has to offer. Unfortunately, the length, the often tedious and boring gameplay and the overall direction of the narrative holds this back on what could have been something truly special. Let’s hope that in the future we will see more single player games set during WW1.

Battlefield 1 Multiplayer the best thing ever?!

Battlefield 1 Multiplayer Review

 So, Battlefield 1 was recently released amongst a plethora of other big multiplayer titles. And with a modest 63 Hours playtime within the past week it would be safe to say that Battlefield 1 is clearly doing something right. The kind of game that swallows you up and completely immerses the player into a blissful state and doesn’t let them emerge until hours later.

Unlike most modern shooters with their future or near future settings Battlefield One decided to take itself back to the dawn of all-out war with a WW1 setting. This concept clearly caught the attention of many players when first announced but it is perhaps this decision which has made Battlefield One such a success. Not only does the game stand out from other titles but truly invigorates and revitalises a series which has been very so so with its Battlefield 4 and Battlefield Hardline outings. One thing to quickly realise when first booting up the game is that this is a Battlefield game before it’s a WW1 game, but it’s the way in which those aspects combine that makes Battlefield 1 something truly special.

There are only a few modes to choose from but each mode offers something different, depending on what kind of player you are. From small scale team deathmatch modes to massive all-out war in conquest, there is little variety true but each game type is so flawlessly executed and well done that you could easily spend hours playing just one. Easily the most exciting addition to the franchise is operations, a 40 or 64 player mode of attack and defend which combines the best elements of conquest and rush together. It’s here that everything Battlefield 1 offers can be found, from dynamic weather changes, destructible environments, massive maps, interesting and exciting vehicles, weapons, gadgets and so on. Apart from a few minor bugs the gameplay is truly exceptional in every aspect of its diverse gameplay, whether you be blasting players up close with a shotgun in team deathmatch or dropping bombs on them from a massive airship in conquest.

There is plenty for the player to dig into besides simply enjoying the gameplay although some of these aspects do weaken the overall experience. Each of the 4 main classes for example can be ranked up and each earn new weapons and gadgets between ranks 1 and 3, there is however a massive drought of progression until rank 10 and even then, it only offers a few more weapons to unlock. Battlepacks offer the player a random chance at earning different rarities of weapon skins and this system works great and is very satisfying apart from the fact that the battlepacks are earnt randomly at the end of each match. For the truly invested there are several different medals and dog tags that can be earnt for various feats and of course simply playing to earn a higher rank. The most exciting addition to the progression of the game however is the codex, various challenges and tasks will unlock new entries in the codex so that players can learn more about the weapons, vehicles, tactics and so on of WW1. What could have easily been some half effort inclusion to add more content to the game, is instead an extensive codex bristling with interesting, relevant and well written information. A surprisingly great addition to the game and a great jumping off point for those wanting to learn more about WW1. As one would expect from a Battlefield game the graphics and sound design are as always brilliant and put other titles to shame.

So, Battlefield 1’s multiplayer is something truly exceptional a one more go mentality that starts at 11pm and ends at 2am, its addicting, it’s fun, its everything you could want from a multiplayer game and then some. Plus, it’s only going to get better, with some of the issues raised being directly addressed in future updates, with new modes and a map coming soon and as one would expect a massive amount of content coming in its steeply priced season pass. See you on the Battlefield.

Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration Review

Celebrating 20 years of one of gaming’s most iconic heroes in spectacular fashion.

 

The award winning sequel to 2013s Tomb Raider reboot finally arrives on the PS4. Unlike its predecessor this game doesn’t focus on Lara being marooned on a dangerous island and instead focusses on Lara undertaking her first Tomb Raiding expedition as she follows the trail of a mysterious prophet said to be immortal. The story primarily takes place in the cold desolate region of Siberia a drastically different region from the previous game which blends together wilderness, soviet installations and other interesting and curious locales which are a joy to explore. This isn’t an open world but a majority of the game and side tasks take place in big richly detailed hub areas, with more linear story driven moments linking these environments together. The game is truly at its best in these large hub areas with countless collectables, optional puzzle tombs, side quests, challenges, hunting and thrilling story missions to do at the players own pace.

One of the game’s biggest strengths is its diverse gameplay which blends seamlessly together rather than feeling like separate segmented bits of content. One moment you will be engaged in an all-out gun fights the next you could be exploring a tomb or crypt or hunting deer to make upgrades to Lara’s skills and weapons or you could simply be clambering around the environments on the hunt for more resources and collectables. The content on offer here is brilliant that is if you’re the kind of player that likes to see and do everything, otherwise the main story alone can be completed rather quickly. The game is at its best when everything is rolled up in one package as some segments of the game are often a bit weak. Combat for example has changed very little since the previous game and this is certainly one of the games weaker aspects, many of the games puzzles are also a tad too easy, sometimes even trivial. And while this game like its predecessor is brilliant they are very similar to each other and that familiarity can be off putting.

Overall this game offers an interesting if somewhat anticlimactic story, rich and diverse gameplay and hours of content to stick an ice pick or two in. This is in regards to the main game alone, what makes this package truly exceptional is its plethora of additional content all included on the disk. Detailed below.

Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch, reuse of environments, reskins of enemy’s, a predictable and somewhat uninteresting story, relatively little new content or ideas and yet… still a satisfying and fun little side quest which sits nicely alongside the rest of the main game.

Endurance Mode, Here the focus is on survival as players are dropped into the wilderness which changes each time you play. This is a fun mode in which players have to contend with a hunger and coldness bar and see how long they can survive whilst collecting artefacts to escape with. While this mode is very fun and challenging it can get somewhat ridiculous the longer you survive, such as two bears chasing after you while a flame trooper attacks you whilst also getting shot at with arrows by another faction, yup it really does get that crazy.  Includes Coop to improve survival rates.

Cold Darkness Awakened, easily the weakest piece of content in the entire game, essentially Tomb Raider with zombies, this mode feels uninspired and gets pretty boring very quickly. Fight zombie like enemy’s, solve some puzzles, really not that great and highlights many of the weaker aspects of the games combat systems.

Blood Ties, explore croft manor as Lara in an attempt to save it from the evil clutches of her fiendish uncle. Mostly an explorative story driven journey though croft manor with countless collectables to find and a small sprinkling of puzzle solving. Also included in Blood Ties is Lara’s Nightmare in which Lara yet again fights off zombie like enemy’s. The tight confines of the manor and the emphasis on making every shot count means that they work much better here than in Cold Darkness. This segment of content is short and not particularly re-playable but still an enjoyable addition to the overall package.

The game also includes a plethora of additional weapons and skins as well as a new difficulty mode to boot. Also comes in some well-presented packaging where the game case is in fact a mini art book. If you’re looking for an action packed adventure game brimming with content, you can’t go wrong with this amazing 20 year celebration.

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