Overwatch for Nintendo Switch Review: Overwatch, Underachieved

The Nintendo Switch has been on the market for less than three years, and its portability has already changed the way many people want to play their games. Overwatch, like many of Blizzard’s other titles, has maintained a sizable base of players and fans in the years since it came out. The two seem like a natural fit for each other, especially considering Nintendo’s much more open policies on third-party games nowadays. That makes it all the more disappointing (though not exactly surprising) that the Switch version of Overwatch is so lacking. From performance and visuals to controls and even portability, the noticeable downgrades effect the game to the point that it’s far less enjoyable than the other versions.

To be fair, the fact that Overwatch is even playable on Switch is a feat in itself. Those who have never had access to this widely beloved team-based shooter still have a lot to look forward to, and the compromises of the Switch port will be less obvious to people picking up the game for the first time. This version is also up to date with all of the characters, cosmetics, maps, and modes already available in the other console versions, and will be getting all the same updates going forward. Even on the Switch, a good match of Overwatch is still a good match of Overwatch: two well-coordinated teams of unique characters battling back and forth over an objective can be as intense and exhilarating as ever.

Related: The Witcher 3: Complete Edition for Nintendo Switch Review

The problem with this port is the amount of other details that can get in the way of that fun. For starters, the Joy-Con controls are flatly inadequate. Not in the layout itself, per se – button bindings can still be fully customized – but in the controllers themselves. Whether playing docked, undocked or handheld, the stubby sticks and small buttons are far from ideal in a fast-paced first-person shooter. The Switch-exclusive gyro aiming is more of a flaw than a feature, and makes it feel like driving a car rather than aiming a weapon. Thankfully, you can turn those motion controls off as soon as you feel them for the first time. Unless you have a 70-dollar Pro Controller or some other alternative, there isn’t really a comfortable way to play.

Performance is another issue, despite the game’s frame rate holding steady most of the time. Overwatch on Switch is locked at 30 frames per second, which is an unexpectedly bad thing when you’re trying to line up a precise shot or use an ability at just the right time. What’s worse, though, is the fact that the frame rate can drop below 30 during crucial moments, like the final push for an objective or multiple ultimates being triggered at once. The overall resolution is visibly lower as well, particularly on textures and character models. While it doesn’t usually have a major effect on the game itself, there’s a lot of very noticeable pop-in and character models will sometimes be represented by strange moving orbs until they actually load.

One might argue that the portability of this Switch version is its main selling point, but that’s not a very strong point in the case of Overwatch. Since it’s almost entirely an online multiplayer game, taking it on the go is much less appealing unless you know there will be a robust wi-fi connection wherever you’re headed. Cross-play with players on other platforms is still absent, so matchmaking only happens within a smaller pool of Switch players and exacerbates the problem of search times for role queue and arcade modes. On the other hand, that’s probably a good thing for players on other systems, given the huge difference in performance and input between versions.

Overwatch on Switch is technically functional, and that’s the best thing that can be said about it. If you don’t care about the game’s tactile input or graphical output and aren’t planning to be very competitive, maybe this port will be enough to suit your needs. Still, we would only recommend this version to those who have no other option.

Next: AI: The Somnium Files Review – Worth a Look

Overwatch is now available on Nintendo Switch for $39.99. A code was provided to Screen Rant for the purpose of this review.

2019-10-22 01:10:08

Connor Trinske

Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville Review – Kinda Corny

In the endless war between the plants and the zombies, the greatest battle begins. Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville updates the formula from the Garden Warfare series and adds a compelling PvE element and a boatload of the series’ signature brand of humor. It has its shortcomings, including some technical hiccups and a convoluted economy, but Battle for Neighborville‘s wealth of gameplay options add up to a delightful and family-friendly alternative to the likes of Call of Duty and EA’s own Battlefield.

The Plants vs Zombies series has come a long way from its roots as a mobile tower defense game, with the Garden Warfare sub-series arguably eclipsing the main titles in popularity in recent years. Though the title is different, make no mistake: Battle for Neighborville is essentially Garden Warfare 3, and builds off the foundation laid by the previous titles.

Related: This New Handheld Plays All The Game Boy Classics

Pretty much everything from Garden Warfare 2 is present and accounted for in Battle for Neighborville, from the core meat and potatoes shooting to the surprising complexity of the class-based team dynamics. The PvP action is functionally very similar to GW2, but with some quality-of-life improvements like the ability to sprint. This comes in handy in the game’s big new addition, a PvE co-op adventure mode.

Battle for Neighborville‘s adventure mode sees players tackle a series of missions as either the plants or the zombies in three large maps. The first map has campaigns for both factions, while the other two maps are each exclusive to one faction or the other. Even with the new sprint function, some classes like the Chomper and the Electric Slide are nearly unplayable in this mode since their movement speed is so painfully slow, but it’s still a great option for playing around with classes and experimenting with different play styles in a relatively low-stakes combat scenario.

While the adventure gameplay wears its Destiny influence on its sleeve, each map is instanced to the player, so solo players will be stuck alone with AI against the horde. Thus, some classes are significantly less useful than others in solo play. Fortunately, the entire game can be played in two-player split screen or four player co-op, which truly opens up the experience and allows for coordinated teams to utterly dominate the battlefield. Non-stop co-op action also helps make up for the repetitive mission structure in the sandbox mode, which usually consist of “go here, shoot thing, get item,” repeated ad nauseum. Boss battles are a major highlight of this mode, and they’re much more manageable with a friend or three by your side; when faced one-on-one, they can be a bit too bullet spongy.

The central hub of Battle for Neighborville is Giddy Park, an online social hub clearly based on Destiny‘s Tower. Unfortunately, Giddy Park is arguably the weakest element of the game, filled with an overwhelming amount of currencies and shops. This is one case where it may have been better handled through a series of mundane menus. There are cosmetic loot rolls that can be purchased for coins, but with 20 classes across both factions, plus a ton of useless items like emojis and text bubbles thrown in, it’s virtually impossible to get anything remotely useful from the “Mr. Reward-O-Tron 9000” capsule machine. Even worse, the classes all begin with almost no customization options at all, so players are going to have to invest for several hours before they even have a chance at beginning to have a degree of ownership over their characters. There are some cosmetics that are given out over the course of the game, especially in the open-world adventure mode, but it’s still a shame so much content is locked behind a literal gacha mechanic, even if no microtransactions are involved (though they will be implemented after launch, natch).

Of course, any criticism of Giddy Park and shady economies fades away once the actual battles begin. Battle for Neighborville is as rewarding as the best in the genre with its mix of team-based action, class-based character selection, and visually spectacular shootouts. As mentioned before, each faction has ten classes, and they all manage to feel different from one another, even across party lines. The Foot Soldier Zombie and the Peashooter Plant are theoretically the basic class of their respective team, but they have completely distinct skills and weapons. Every match in PvP feels asymmetrical but still somehow balanced. While there are some similar classes here and there, Plants vs Zombies deserves acclaim for creating an online multiplayer shooter with 20 different character archetypes. An early favorite so far is the Acorn, who can transform into a towering oak that doubles as an armored troop transport for other acorns.

Whether in the 4v4 mode reminiscent of Counter Strike, traditional 8v8 Team Vanquish, or the Battlefield-esque Turf Takeover mode, battles in Plants vs Zombies are fast, tactical, and volatile. Just because there’s no blood or traditional guns doesn’t mean it’s not a hardcore experience for shooter fans of all skill levels.Colorful explosions fill the screen with shiny particle effects that are just as satisfying as the damage they dole out to enemy fighters. Even when on a crippling losing streak, it’s hard to stay mad at a game as adorably goofy as PvZ. Every character is full of personality and the gibberish dialogue they spout is pretty adorable, though it can wear thin over extended play sessions. The series’ signature humor carries over into the adventure mode, as well. Though none of it is voiced (safe for some gibberish here and there), the dialogue boxes are full of silly jokes, almost like a family-friendly Borderlands. Whether or not it sticks the landing will depend on the tastes of each individual player, but we found the comedy in PvZ to be harmless at worse, and genuinely funny at its best.

On one hand, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is a mild upgrade from Garden Warfare 2. On the other, it adds a whole new adventure mode which is a ton of fun with a friend in local co-op or online with a group. Don’t let the cute presentation and jolly vibes fool you: Battle for Neighborville is just as intricate and intense as any of the more “mature” games on the market.

More: Plants Vs Zombies Creator Shares The Original Concept Art

Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Screen Rant was provided a PlayStation 4 digital copy. Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro.

2019-10-19 05:10:47

Zak Wojnar

Fallback Review: Labyrinthine Roguelike Action | Screen Rant

Fallback is a chaotic, twitchy rogue-like from developer Endroad that finds players taking on the roles of the last few remnants of humanity, leading a rebellion against killer robots. With explosive action, unique 2.5D perspective, and great-looking graphics, it’s a great budget adventure that succumbs to a few sidesteps, but nothing too major.

Following a devastating ecological disaster, these individuals have been forced underground to live in a subterranean city to keep themselves “safe,” or at least that’s what they think originally. The robotic guards who were originally meant to protect the last few humans to ever exist are now sentient, malevolent “guards” that continue to patrol the city below. As such, the last bastion of humanity isn’t taking this type of subjugation lying down. The humans join forces to overtake the robots who have pronounced themselves lords of the humans, and it all has to do with a special plant that could potentially make the environmental viable for life again. Players are charged with helping a motley crew of survivors make their way to the surface to put this nightmarish subjugation behind them once and for all.

Related: Warsaw Review: A Tactical Roguelike That Needs Work

Setting off in Fallback throughout the rust-colored subterranean tunnels and multi-floored structures means you’ll be exploring a wide variety of different, randomly-generated areas in search of the portal that will take you throughout the three levels that need to be cleared to make progress. This is obviously easier said than done, however. At the very least, there’s an unlimited number of runs to accomplish this, seeing as Fallback is a roguelike. Players can select one of three characters when kicking off each run. This allows potential escapee to opt for different health-restoring abilities, passive moves, and different types of shields. Ultimately, players need to choose which character you want to use based on what play type works best for them.

Each level finds players exploring the area with uniquely-built two-dimensional paths. Characters consistently move as if they’re in a regular side-scrolling game, but the world will twist and turn around to fit characters into where they’re going next. The developers describe this type of level design as “Escher-inspired,” and it really does appear that way, the way each area is transforming into different, impossible shapes on top of itself over and over again. In terms of visuals, it’s nearly a doppelganger for the PlayStation classic Apocalypse, and movement feels somewhat identical to that game as well. Though there’s a lack of color to be found here, which may put some players off, there’s no shortage of challenging obstacles and enemies to fell, particularly the menacing, aforementioned robotic overlords.

Each character has several slots for ability upgrades. Players earn special currency while  These can be purchased throughout each level’s shop that sells a variety of passive, disposable bonuses. As soon as one run is failed (or completed), it goes away. They can be useful in a pinch, however, and there are other abilities that can be unlocked as additional human survivors are freed throughout each level.

These boosts are all-important when running through a level, no matter which character was chosen at the onset, but even with the augments and abilities available, the game can quickly turn into a race to find them during its later stages, making it less fun and unique than at the beginning.

Unfortunately, despite how great the other game’s elements are and how finely-tuned the ever-changing environments are, combat is rather pedestrian. There aren’t a wide variety of enemies or boss encounters, and while the enemies that are in-game do become more difficult to fell over time, they aren’t nearly as interesting as the tangled corridors players must figure their way through. For anyone looking for a budget-priced yet satisfying roguelike, however, Fallback is hardly a bad decision. It may be a bit rough around the edges still, but it’s still worth a weekend or two of gaming.

Next: The Witcher 3: Complete Edition Nintendo Switch Review – Ciriously Good

Fallback is available on PC. A digital PC code was provided to Screen Rant for purposes of review.

2019-10-19 05:10:33

Brittany Vincent

Radio Commander Review: Neat Idea, Dodgy Intelligence

Strategy games have always had a strange relationship with the idea of an omniscient player. Smaller scale titles like Age of Empires or Command & Conquer include fog of war to add a layer of mystery to enemy movements, while grander 4X games like Stellaris provide users with an even greater state of visibility. A game that takes strides to limit this is Radio Commander.

For its core concept Radio Commander attempts to put a more realistic bent on strategy. The name says it all; in Radio Commander, the player commands units using purely a map and a radio. Set during the Vietnam War, the game tries to tap into a feeling of the unknown, as the player makes decisions based on the intelligence they have been given.

Related: Constructor Plus Review – A Delightfully Quirky Building Sim

At the very least this leads to Radio Commander feeling quite different from similar games in the strategy market. Rather than scrolling around a map and making tactical decisions based on a clear visual indication of the best course of action, instead the player is reliant on the rigid locations on their mission map and the updates given by the different units they control.

This could come across as something of a gimmick, but developer Serious Sim dedicates to pushing this idea as far as it can go. As such, Radio Commander‘s control scheme is rather unique. Instead of the usual tactics fare, the player uses keys to navigate the use of the radio and map, before choosing from different scripted options to order troops around.

It’s a neat idea and one that separates Radio Commander from other independent strategy games like the excellent Frostpunk. However, it does take a fair bit of getting used to, with the user needing to beef up that muscle memory for the quick route through different combinations. Some players may never quite feel natural with the control scheme, although with more and more practice it becomes less alien.

Such a rigidity from a control and systems perspective leads to the requirement to take a different approach. Without oversight of what is ahead it pays to be more cautious, working with the cues that are given as part of radio responses from the soldiers on the ground. There’s no such thing as rushing to victory with greater numbers here, so being careful and getting into the mindset that Radio Commander requires is definitely needed.

It only goes so far before the limits become apparent. Radio Commander isn’t the most visually impressive game, and thanks to its structure and mechanics that doesn’t really matter. However, when there’s not enough variety within the gameplay it can get a little bit dull when swapping between a handful of mainly static screens.

Radio Commander does not have enough variety to keep players fully engaged. Its core campaign is nine missions long, but none of them quite feel different enough, although the custom game mode thankfully does allow a little more flexibility. It also works as a place to test out different strategies outside of the campaign, if the user wants to run a few trials.

Despite this, Radio Commander does suffer from feeling too samey a lot of the time. The scope of each mission doesn’t really deviate enough to tax the player, beyond them gaining a better understanding of the radio options available. Even the mild story elements of the campaign don’t do much to shake up the feeling of repetition.

In part this comes down to the issue of unit management within each mission. For a game like Radio Commander, which limits player view to such a degree, to be truly successful it needs a level of intuition within each unit’s actions. However, instead players will need to manage even the simplest of tasks, which takes away not only from enjoyment of the game but also what immersion had been built by its controls and setting.

This problem, when combined with the restrictive control scheme, does mean that Radio Commander is an example of execution not matching the idea. Despite its strong conceit, this does not translate into a final product that players will want to spend a long time with. Radio Commander is a solid novelty, but it’s unlikely to be a truly memorable experience for those who pick it up.

More: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Review – Lessons Learned

Radio Commander is available on PC. Screen Rant was provided with a PC download code for the purposes of this review.

2019-10-19 01:10:07

Rob Gordon

Baldur’s Gate & Baldurs Gate II Enhanced Edition PS4 Review

The enhanced edition of the first two Baldur’s Gate games arrive on consoles, to the delight of everyone who still knows how THAC0 works.

Baldur’s Gate & Baldur’s Gate II are iconic games. No other computer title before or since has so accurately recreated the rules, environments, and play style of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, a fact which is both the game’s strongest element and, unfortunately, the exact aspect which makes this franchise so incredibly tedious for some people to play.

Although new additions by Enhanced Edition developers Overhaul Games and Beamdog go a long way towards making the first two Baldur’s Gate games tolerable for today’s players, the whole experience is very heavily tailored to a specific fanbase. Players not willing to put in dozens, if not hundreds, of hours conforming to AD&D rules, reading extensive blocks of text, and crossing their fingers during repetitive dice rolling sessions should look elsewhere. However, if the prospect of nearly unlimited player choice alongside a well-written slow-burn fantasy adventure is intriguing, then the Baldur’s Gate series is almost required playing.

Related: Baldur’s Gate Developer Leaves BioWare After 22 Years

Originally released in 1998 and developed by BioWare, the first Baldur’s Gate can be best described as a low-level Dungeons and Dragons adventure game. Players venture through pre-rendered backgrounds in an isometric, third-person perspective, collecting party members and battling monsters while travelling up and down the Sword Coast, the western shore of Faerûn, in search of both the cause of a region-wide iron shortage and in order to discover the reason why they were driven from their home in the first place. From battling rats in a basement to sneaking through the bowels of a palace, Baldur’s Gate not only features nearly every fantasy cliche imaginable, but revels in them.

Baldur’s Gate and its sequel are unforgiving games. Death can occur at any moment throughout the nearly 100-hour campaign, and although some NPC fatalities can be reversed with high level spells or access to a proper temple, some of them cannot. This can happen even when not in combat, as party members (and the player themselves) can get struck by lightning randomly during storms, prompting lengthy strings of profanity if said player hadn’t saved their game in a while.

The combat mechanics of the Baldur’s Gate games are pulled directly from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, incorporating the innately confusing To-Hit-Armor-Class-Zero (THAC0) system when deciding on the results of randomized attack rolls. A combination of strict adherence to this somewhat archaic format and the inconsistency of random dice rolls leads to hundreds of lengthy combat encounters in which the player has very little control over the outcome of the battle, forcing them to sit back and watch with a mix of frustration and tension as over and over again both parties attack, miss, attack, miss, and repeat until someone finally does damage.

As a late 20th century PC role-playing title ported to consoles, Baldur’s Gate & Baldur’s Gate II Enhanced Edition suffers from some layout issues. A useful feature is the Auto-Pause, which, once found in one of the multiple menu screens, allows the player to adjust the times when the game automatically pauses, which can be a lifesaving feature in battle. Lacking a mouse to direct the player’s movement and attention, the controls can be a little touchy, with the selection tool rapidly jumping around when too many interactable objects are in the same direction the player is facing. Small glitches, such as the player character becoming stuck on the side of the screen after fast traveling or changing from interior to exterior locations, were also observed during gameplay but easily fixed.

Baldur’s Gate & Baldur’s Gate II are both fantastically written, adequately-voiced games, and thanks to the Enhanced Edition players who want to experience just the story and exploration of these titles without dealing with frustrating combat and high-stakes death gambles can do so by selecting the game’s new Story Mode difficulty feature. While this may remove much of the tension combat encounters in these games are rife with, certain areas of both titles can be so incredibly tedious and irritating some players may find it a necessity in order to complete them at all, or at least to do so without some serious save scumming.

Fans of later BioWare titles like Mass Effect and the Dragon Age games will find a lot of familiar mechanics in the Baldur’s Gate series, especially where companions are concerned. Players who want to grow their adventuring party can choose from a plethora of different types of characters they meet along their journey, and these characters all have unique personalities and specific questlines attached to them. In an act which has become a BioWare tradition, the player can even form a romantic relationship with some of these NPCs.

Player characters can be carried over from the first Baldur’s Gate to Baldur’s Gate II, another BioWare staple which was also featured in Mass Effect. Although multiple companions from the first game are featured in the sequel, none of their statuses carry over in the same capacity. Also included are all the expansion packs for both titles, even 2016’s Siege of Dragonspear which bridged the narrative gaps between the first and second game, and any campaign can import a character at any time, even if the original Baldur’s Gate was never completed. Hopefully, the upcoming Baldur’s Gate 3 will include this function as well.

Baldur’s Gate & Baldur’s Gate II Enhanced Edition is a quality port of a highly complex mechanically-focused Dungeons and Dragons video game translation. While most definitely not for everyone, players who delight in THAC0 number crunching, dungeon dwelling, retro RPGs, or any form of fantasy writing will find a lot to enjoy in these former PC-only titles. Gamers who prefer a little less talk and a lot more action, however, might not get the warm fuzzy feeling others do when playing this somewhat irritating but irrefutably influential game series.

Next: More Baldur’s Gate 3 Details Revealed

Baldur’s Gate & Baldur’s Gate II Enhanced Edition is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. A PS4 code was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.

2019-10-15 03:10:43

Christopher Teuton

Felix the Reaper Review: The Same Old Song And Dance

Felix the Reaper is a dark romantic comedy that oozes wonderful personality but its puzzle design hardly evolves beyond the opening moments.

Felix the Reaper just wants to find love, much like you’ll find yourself wanting to love this charming puzzler by Kong Orange and Daedalic Entertainment. From the get-go it seems impossible not to get on board with Felix. He’s a goofy grim reaper who uses his grisly job – staging the bloody deaths of mortals – as an excuse to win the forbidden affection of a life-giving goddess. He also really, really likes to dance. What’s not to love? The answer lies in the solid but ultimately stagnant gameplay that doesn’t consistently command the same level of fondness. 

Felix himself grows on you real quick thanks to his cute dances that look great among the game’s wonderful animations. Strangely enough however, Felix the Reaper isn’t a rhythm game nor does it feature any actual music-based mechanics whatsoever. Even the soundtrack, while serviceable, is far from spectacular. Players instead solve a series of surprisingly challenging grid-based navigation puzzles. Since Felix can only traverse in darkness, you must move and stack objects, then use a sundial mechanic to rotate the sun’s position to create shaded paths safe for travel. Success comes in finding ways to deliver a designated item to its proper spot, which in turn triggers a victim’s Rube Goldberg meets Final Destination-style death.

Related: When Ski Lifts Go Wrong is A Charming and Challenging Puzzler [REVIEW]

Stages require much trial and error that feels akin to solving a Rubik’s cube. There’s a definite logic to it, but don’t be surprised to find yourself stumped and randomly shuffling things around before stumbling upon the correct path. Still, deliberately working through stages can be fun, and it does feel rewarding to see all the pieces fall into place. Toggleable hints help alleviate frustration by showing both the overall goal as well as suggested steps forwards. Illustrated checkpoints also effectively communicate that you’re on the right track. Felix the Reaper drops the ball though in the tutorial department, namely in letting players know what they can do beyond the basics. For example, warp pipes and the ability to stack objects are never explained (or, if they are, not clearly) despite being crucial aspects of the game. 

Post-level report cards encourage players to finish missions within a time frame or with limited moves, among other optional requirements. However, some drawbacks can discourage any desire to murder with efficiency. For starters, hitting pause doesn’t stop the clock. If you need to walk away for whatever reason, you’ll either have to suspend the game entirely to preserve your time or commit to finishing a level in one sitting.  Chasing a goal that seemingly doesn’t respect your time is often more trouble than it’s worth. A preview mechanic helps save players from making unnecessary moves by letting them manipulate the sun–and thus view possible routes–before acting. Unfortunately, using this mode feels sluggish and nowhere near as snappy as simply turning the sundial normally. Given that there’s no compelling reward for hitting any of these extra benchmarks, you’re better off ignoring them entirely and playing with reckless abandon. 

A lack of meaningful evolution in gameplay holds Felix the Reaper back more than anything else. Later chapters don’t bring anything new to the table. You’ll spend the final hour moving the same barrels, boxes, and wagons in the same manner as in earlier levels. It’d be great if each chapter brought a major, unique mechanic. The best puzzle games build upon established conventions by finding ways to flip them on their head, forcing you to reexamine familiar problems in new ways. As it stands, Felix the Reaper is a series of very minor variations of the same exact theme. Once that becomes clear, sticking with it for the long haul becomes less and less an alluring proposition since you know exactly what you’re getting with no hope of surprises.

Felix the Reaper is a respectable game that unfortunately stagnates after the first couple of chapters. None of its puzzles are bad; they’re just tough and don’t change much. That’s a bit of a shame because it boasts a coffin’s worth of personality, both in presentation and in the writing. Whether it’s watching the kooky, elaborate death scenes or chuckling at Sir Patrick Stewart’s humorous narration, you’d have to lack a pulse yourself not to smile at this. Fun can certainly be had, but the potential for greatness feels buried six feet under. 

More: Killer Queen Black Review – Regicide Has Never Been So Much Fun

Felix the Reaper is available October 17, 2019 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Mac. Screen Rant was provided a digital Switch code for the purpose of this review.

2019-10-15 03:10:01

Marcus Stewart

Frostpunk Console Edition Review: The Thrill of the Chill

Despite its graphical compromises, Frostpunk: Console Edition is an excellent way to experience one of the best games of last year.

It’s almost always a good thing when a platform-exclusive game is made available to a wider audience. In the case of Frostpunk: Console Edition, it’s a great thing. Developed and published by 11 Bit Studios, Frostpunk originally launched for Windows PC in spring of 2018 and became a sleeper hit that captivated players with its involving combination of city-building, societal management and survival simulation. The relative commercial success of the game has allowed it to expand with updates and DLC for over a year since then, and now Frostpunk has officially come to PS4 and Xbox One.

Some might be wary about console ports of former PC exclusives, especially one that involves top-down city-building and minuscule adjustments. Luckily, Frostpunk: Console Edition is a port made with care. It may not be as pretty as its PC counterpart, but this version is optimized with a fully rebuilt control scheme for gamepads and plenty of additional content, making it a great way to play one of 2018’s best games.

Related: Green Hell Review: A Nightmarish Trip Through the Forest

The alternate-history premise of Frostpunk has always been one of the most intriguing things about it. In the late 19th century, an apocalyptic winter has fallen over the earth as the result of sudden global cooling triggered by malevolent natural forces. As the worldwide blizzard gets colder and colder with no end in sight, nations desperately pour their resources into finding new ways to survive. England has constructed massive, monolithic coal burners called Generators, designed to serve as powerful heat sources. But these generators need huge amounts of coal in order to function, and there’s only one place with enough coal reserves: the Arctic.

The player takes on the role of the Captain, who has led one of the expeditions north and discovered a new home in an icy crater, where they have installed the Generator. Now the real work begins: fueling the Generator, scouting the wasteland, and keeping the city and its people alive as the last hope for humanity.

All of the gameplay elements of Frostpunk are still fully featured in the console edition, and the moment-to-moment tension is as impactful as ever. The bird’s eye view of the crater allows the player to command all facilities, workers and construction at once, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s easy. Micromanagement and forethought are key from the minute the first groups of workers are sent to gather resources. How cold is it in all the city’s zones? Are all the workplaces fully staffed, and how many sick citizens are there? Are the scouts out looking for other survivors? Can you pass a new law yet? And how long until the temperature drops again? Juggling all this while maintaining resources, laying out buildings, and developing tech is essential to keeping people healthy and hopeful. Frostpunk is a game of triumphant highs and nail-biting lows, unpredictably tied together into an incredibly satisfying experience of management and survival.

11 Bit Studios has put a considerable amount of effort into the new control scheme for consoles, as well. The button layout has been redesigned from the ground up with controllers in mind, and while it doesn’t quite have the speed or precision of a mouse and keyboard, it works remarkably well. Handy radial menus and a revamped, intuitive UI make it seem like the game was designed for consoles all along. There’s a surprising amount of customization options too, allowing the player to adjust camera and cursor sensitivity, snap distance, and snap strength in order to get everything feeling just right. Frostpunk: Console Edition also includes all the free DLC added to the game up to this point. A lack of replay value was one of the complaints about the original release, but with three alternate scenarios and an endless mode now (plus paid DLC in the future), that issue has been thoroughly addressed.

If there’s a complaint to be had with this port, it’s the fairly noticeable change in graphical fidelity. As is the case with most console games, there are no video settings to tweak. Zooming in close enough to your city reveals grainy edges, jagged polygons and lower-resolution textures, especially compared to the PC version. This may not necessarily be a problem for those that haven’t experienced the game on PC, but either way, the in-game photo mode isn’t a very attractive option on console.

On the whole, Frostpunk: Console Edition is an outstanding port of an outstanding game. It’s absolutely worth a look from console players who haven’t had the opportunity to play this absorbing city-builder/survival sim until now. Although this version may not offer much to those who have already bought and played it on PC, the fact that Frostpunk is now accessible to more people is a cool thing in itself.

Next: Frostpunk Dev’s Next Game Might Not Be So Depressing

Frostpunk: Console Edition is now available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One for $29.99. A PS4 code was provided to Screen Rant for the purpose of this review.

2019-10-15 02:10:39

Connor Trinske

Down to Hell Review: This Game is Hellishly Bad | Screen Rant

Down to Hell is in a category all its own of non-vaporware indies worth skipping, and its only value may be in teaching developers what not to do.

Imagine a side-scrolling action RPG that challenges players with a precise mix of fantasy combat and platforming, rushing them along through its breathtaking hellscapes to face off against nightmarish boss after nightmarish boss to the breakneck beat of Doom-like metal stylings. To truly understand the kind of experience that Down to Hell offers, though, imagine a game in which all of the above is present but has been executed as poorly as possible. Taking a handful of well-trodden ideas and half-baking them into an amateurish slog of a 2D hack and slash, Down to Hell is an unentertaining mess from beginning to end.

First, however, credit should always be given where its due, and there is some credit to be meted out even in the wake of a game as inferior as Down to Hell. It has but a single redeeming quality, that being the obvious work put it in by its visual designers, whose talent – along with that of the programmers who managed to keep the product from shipping as a crash-prone bugfest – is probably the most functional and creative asset at Polish developer Red Dev Studio’s disposal. The hell-inspired backgrounds of Down to Hell aren’t exactly pretty (they’re far too blurry for that), but they employ a robust palette of hues and gradients that commingle to sufficiently invoke the eternal twilight and despair of the game’s purgatory setting that every other part of the experience seems hellbent on sabotaging.

Related: Mistover Review – It’s An Anime Darkest Dungeon

Beyond that solitary beacon of redemption, though, Down to Hell is unmitigated bum to actually play. At first glance, it seems to have so much in common with the bleak Christian imagery and undertones found in the Dark Souls series that it’s easy to assume that it’s yet another low-rent Soulslike to throw on the pile, but it’s really just a run-of-the-mill 2D action game with non-essential dodging. That wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself were it not for the fact that Down to Hell is just so bad at it. It promulgates itself as a tough-as-nails fantasy adventure with RPG elements, but its progression system is a non-starter and the actual gameplay, whether performing light and heavy attacks and casting spells, simply amounts to a repetitive click-fest. Playing more like a loosely cobbled boss-rush than an action platformer (with only pointlessly short action platforming sections between bosses), the entire game can be completed in just a few hours because players can just spam the same attack or two over and over again until everything dies.

Despite its short length, Down to Hell still instills a disproportionately deep sense of wasted time through its repetitive nature and laundry list of irritations. Every time the player character swings his sword, the camera awkwardly zooms in and back out as though it were controlled by a substance-abusing Lakitu. Almost every boss shares near-identical, flat planes with different backgrounds for arenas, with each monster employing suspiciously similar attacks as the rest and looking more ill-designed than the last. Every animation exudes a level of mediocrity and disjointedness that hearken back to the earliest days of Adobe Flash, excepting the fact that many artists of that period were producing quality interactive media leagues beyond what Down to Hell is apparently capable of despite its use of the far more usable and purpose-built Unity engine.

It’s doubtful that Red Dev Studio prioritized story to be as integral to Down to Hell as its unsatisfying gameplay, but it’s nevertheless present in a game that otherwise lacks anything else of interest. Aside from some decent but irrelevant lore in a menu, Down to Hell‘s plot is nonsensical, and its protagonist is unlikable in ways even the writing team could not have possibly intended. In a nutshell, an angsty knight with a chip on his plated shoulder begins his descent into hell because he’s proven too powerful for his fellow mortals. Oxymoronically – and for the only time in the game – he’s almost immediately overwhelmed by low-level minions, at which point he’s saved by a girl (who’s also visiting hell?) before she, herself, is kidnapped by the very forces from which she just handily rescued the knight. At that point, the knight decides to not have any more near-death experiences and vows to free her as a childlike means of getting back at her. Combined with a bottom-of-the-barrel localization from Polish to English rivaling Zero WingDown to Hell‘s story is strikingly awful.

In all fairness, game development is far from easy, especially in contrast to, say, video game critique. Nothing exists in a vacuum, however; Red Dev Studios’ sin cannot be so easily separated from the towering catalog of indies of similar scale, so many of which achieve far more in disparate systems and characters than Down to Hell can muster in an entire playthrough. Every game is a learning lesson for a studio to put under its belt, though, and it can be sure that Down to Hell has a lot of lessons to offer Red Dev Studios if it’s only willing to learn.

Next: Indivisible Review – On the Verge of Excellence

Down to Hell is now available for PC and will release on Nintendo Switch in 2019. Screen Rant was provided a PC code for this review.

2019-10-12 06:10:58

Phillip Tinner

A Knight’s Quest Review: A Fun, Buggy Zelda Clone | Screen Rant

Sky 9 Games’ A Knight’s Quest’s puzzles and platformer elements are a big win for the genre, but there are too many bugs for it to be recommendable.

A Knight’s Quest, developed by Sky 9 Games, is the latest in a long line of action platform games inspired by The Legend of Zelda, though this title doesn’t try to hide that fact throughout its dozen or so hours of playtime. This is both a good and bad thing, as A Knight’s Quest’s Zelda-inspired puzzle sections are clever and fun but the rest of the game has little identity of its own. Pile on its frustrating technical issues, from various bugs and poorly designed navigation, and the end result is a mixed bag of an action adventure platform that lacks any sort of polish.

The story of A Knight’s Quest is fairly straightforward: players take on the role of Rusty, the adventurer son of a Mayor who accidentally sets free demons intent on destroying the world. Rusty’s goal is to stop these demons and set things right again. While this may sound like a dramatic and horror-like narrative, A Knight’s Quest is actually rather funny and filled with tongue-in-cheek moments that poke fun at both the entire genre as a whole and modern society in general. In fact, the dialogue is surprisingly smart and easily one of the biggest consistent strengths of the game.


Another area where the game really nails it is in the puzzle and platforming sections. It’s also where it shows its The Legend of Zelda inspirations the most successfully. From early proving ground puzzles that require strategical thinking and full use of the game’s mechanics, like wall running and avoidance of dangerous objects like spikes, to figuring out the best way to traverse A Knight’s Quest’s open world map and access new areas, there’s a lot of fun to be found for platformer enthusiasts. Sometimes the puzzles are overly frustrating, especially later in the game, but there’s a sense of accomplishment inherent to completing them.

It’s just too bad that the world and navigation are so frustratingly designed in A Knight’s Quest. There’s never a clear way forward from one mission or area to the next, and the title seems to revel in this fact. Again, this is another big nod to The Legend of Zelda, which often encouraged free and untethered exploration as a way of discovering what to do next. The problem with it in A Knight’s Quest is that the open world that players and Rusty occupies isn’t nearly as well thought out as in any Zelda game. It’s a great idea on paper, but the execution here is sloppy at best.

While A Knight’s Quest does include a combat system, it’s nothing really noteworthy. Players can lock on to demonic enemies, similar to games like Dark Souls, which does add an element of flow. But its system of button mash attack, block, and then repeat gets old very fast and serves as an afterthought compared to the puzzler and platformer elements. The boss battles are entertaining enough to offer distraction in between the elements in the game.

And then there are the vast, annoying and far too frequent bugs permeating throughout A Knight’s Quest. From audio alignment issues in cutscenes to respawn glitches that see Rusty caught in an endless loop of death and revival, A Knight’s Quest is one of the most unpolished games in recent memory. A lot of these bugs rear their ugly heads early on in the game and often. With a lot of games, bugs can be ignored or at least framed in a humorous light (look at any Bethesda title), but here they’re game breaking and nearly enough to recommend players stay far away until the inevitable patches start rolling out.

A Knight’s Quest has spots of pure brilliance, there’s no doubt about it. The puzzles are expertly designed, the story and dialogue is fun, engaging and smartly written and the world building is layered and memorable. But on a mechanical and technical level, it is a game entirely lacking polish or smart craftsmanship. Traversal is often frustrating and confusing in all the wrong ways and the bugs are invasive and game breaking. Plus there’s just that feeling that it pays homage a little too often to The Legend of Zelda without understanding what made those games so memorable in the first place. Overall, this is a quest that probably should have spent more time in the planning stages.

More: The 15 Most Insane Pokémon Glitches

A Knight’s Quest is available now for Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC and PlayStation 4 for $24.99. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.

2019-10-12 06:10:54

Corey Hoffmeyer

Rain of Reflections: Chapter 1 Review – An Intriguing Sci-Fi Hybrid

Rain of Reflections: Chapter 1 combines point and click adventure with turn-based strategy to share an interesting if slightly clunky sci-fi tale.

The future never seems to be a happy, comfortable place, does it? Whether it’s the nuclear wasteland of Fallout or the brutal chaos of Borderlands, the horizon often seems like a dark place in video games. For Rain of Reflections, the world is on the brink of a different kind of collapse, where infertility has taken over the species and what seems to be the last human child has already been born.

Rain of Reflections is a new episodic adventure game from Lionbite Games. Taking cues from science fiction and cyberpunk tropes and giving it an artistic flourish, the title focuses on Wilona, a scientist working on this infertility crisis who decides to free the last living child from captivity.

Related: LUNA – The Shadow Dust May Be The Best Point And Click Puzzle Game Of 2019

At its core, Rain of Reflections is a point and click adventure game, although strategic elements play a major part in the game’s design. The player will have a look around its environments, solving puzzles and interacting with NPCs to try and get from section to section. It feels quite old-fashioned at times, although rarely as opaque as some of the traditional point and clock games that it emulates; Leisure Suit Larry it is not.

Nonetheless, there’s something comforting about the way in which Rain of Reflections sets itself up. There’s a noir quality and the enticing aspect of a mystery to uncover that feels similar to the tone of Broken Sword, albeit not quite as naive and excited in its approach. Even so, there’s still something classic about the way these adventure game moments are set up, although they do miss the welcome challenge that old-school games provided, and instead feel a little closer to modern peers like the Telltale Walking Dead games in terms of difficulty.

Rain of Reflections makes use of its near-future setting well here, utilizing the player’s ability to check out mise-en-scene to help grow an understanding of its world. The game clashes between baroque iconography, cyberpunk trappings and post-apocalyptic destruction, a blend that aims to showcase the sheer class divide which has befallen the world.

This leaves Rain of Reflections in a very different place to the other obvious choice of story that tells a tale of mass human infertility: Children of Men. Whereas P.D. James’s novel, as expertly updated and brought to the screen with 2006’s film adaptation by Alfonso Cuaron, showed a world fully on the edge, Rain of Reflections dives into how wealth and power can protect someone from the problems of the outside world, if only at a surface level.

Indeed, this first chapter of Rain of Reflections doesn’t quite have the depth of theme to really hit home. Its world is an interesting one, particularly the gulf between the gorgeous, rich environments of the upper classes and those who live outside of that bubble, but for now there’s not too much to dig into. With further chapters to go, however, there’s every hope that this will become more apparent with time.

There’s a cartoonish quality to Rain of Reflections, in part because of this lack of anything to get the teeth into. Its characters feel vibrant yet two-dimensional, from surly cab drivers to the strange people who live outside of society. There’s still a charm to it, an offbeat quirk that goes a long way in terms of overall enjoyability, but players will be hard pressed to truly grow interested in any of the characters as of yet.

Thankfully, there’s a variety of game modes to keep Rain of Reflections interesting. At times, the point and click elements will lead the players into hacking minigames, where they can unlock data, tap into communication systems, or bypass security systems to unlock gates or turn off electric fences. With three versions of these minigames, they never feel as awkward as notorious examples like the plumbing of BioShock or Mass Effect’s hacking, instead remain in place as a fun little diversion.

These also come up in the other core game mode, which takes the form of turn-based strategy. The player’s units – Wilona and eventually Luca – have to navigate through small arenas to reach an exit point. Although combat can happen, shooting at a ne’er do well in the undercity of the Trench or taking on the police in enclosed environments, the main emphasis here is still stealth, and it’s always best to avoid confrontation where possible.

Rather than health bars, instead the characters will have their motivation slowly taken away by enemy attacks. As such, a key part of this mode is effectively navigating the map, unlocking gates or turning off generators, and making it to the other side unseen. It’s not the end of the world if combat breaks out, but it is much simpler to stay out of sight wherever possible.

It’s actually a neat touch, and something that helps separate Rain of Reflections from other games of its ilk. The game ends up being closer in feel to Invisible, Inc. at times, but again is never too taxing. This is helped by Wilona’s cloaking system, which allows her to temporarily become invisible to avoid being picked out by the police. This can be a real life-saver, but timing when to use it is key, and making sure that the player does not become too adventurous with their movements.

These main game modes blend together well, creating a neat first chapter for Rain of Reflections. There’s a lot of potential here, and its modes actually have the scope to expand more – particularly the turn-based system which could truly become a formidably difficult part of the game as the chapters go on. Should Rain of Reflections be able to meet that potential then fans of either genre could have a place to turn for something a little bit different.

As it stands, the first chapter of Rain of Reflections is still a strong one. It has its clunky moments, and probably needs more by way of story craft as the chapters unfold, but nonetheless there’s a hook here that players may enjoy. With more of the world to see and do, ideally the next chapter will pack an even bigger wallop.

Next: The Sojourn Review – A Puzzling Situation

Rain of Reflections: Chapter 1 is available for PC. Screen Rant was provided with a PC download code for the purposes of this review.

2019-10-12 06:10:27

Rob Gordon