The Division 2 Review: Technically Brilliant

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is a great game. Ubisoft’s followup effort to a rocky but ambitious looter shooter has probably yielded the best in the genre when it comes to sheer technical prowess. That much is evident from the first few hours players spend in Washington, D.C., and continues throughout their journey. Where The Division 2 becomes its most entertaining, however, is much deeper than even the first twenty-odd hours players will spend with it. If that’s what you’re interested in – or the base of the mechanics Agents have at their disposal – then check out our Division 2 review-in-progress first.

In short, that hands-on experience was colored by being impressed with the enemy design, gunplay, loot, and environment-building in The Division 2. That hasn’t changed as the game has progressed; unfortunately, neither has the game’s major flaw, which is its narrative, and it has picked up a few more along the way. More than anything, though? The Division 2 is a technical masterpiece of a game, and even with the hiccups in play that Agents will inevitably experience, it sticks out as one of the best in its class once players get enough time with it.

Related: 20 Things Only Experts Know You Can Do In The Division 2

The Division 2 is a third-person cooperative shooter that looks to capitalize on the good will its predecessor had earned after Ubisoft spent years modifying it post-release to make it more palatable. In the same vein as other looter shooters, The Division 2 offers a solo experience to those less inclined to team with friends, although it’s also one of the more punishing to those who don’t want to use a buddy system. Most of this review is from the perspective of someone who pushed through much of the content in randomly-made groups, and tackling the content solo can be a more frustrating exercise that requires a level of precision that many people just don’t want out of a 50-hour plus shooting game, so be warned.

After churning through The Division 2‘s lengthy story content, it becomes apparent that the bulk of what makes the game truly great actually awaits Agents at the end of the line. Once you hit the The Division 2‘s endgame, it really opens up. Players can select between specializations, and then assemble teams out of other players who have reached the end of the story to take on a super gang called the Black Tusk. The specializations, a bomber called the Demolitonist, a jack-of-all-trades called the Survivalist, and a sniper called the Sharpshooter, all play out in unique ways, although the Demolitionist was our primary focus. Using the grenade launcher as a disruptive tool rather than a powerful end-game powerhouse ended up being more frequent in practice, and it’s that subtle shift in expectation that really marks what makes the endgame so great.

It’s not that the endgame is wholly unique to the genre. It’s that it doesn’t hold your hand or simply stack you up against bullet sponges. Sure, The Division 2‘s idea of a powerful endgame enemy still typically amounts to a dude wearing a lot of padding and a helmet. But getting to that boss is a whole different story. Tactics are vital for any group, and The Division 2 is the first looter shooter that really captured the MMORPG vibe in that sense. Preparation. Getting familiar with The Division 2‘s crafting system and choosing the right weapons. Map awareness. Familiarity with enemies and the environment around them. Precision and teamwork. All of these factors can mean life or death in endgame Invaded missions, and it’s thrilling every time.

The big draw to The Division 2 in general, and especially the sensation of that life-or-death endgame, is the way that combat is deliberate and challenging. That begins well before a player ever enters the fray. The customization options in The Division 2 transcend what we’ve come to expect from looter shooters in the past. Instead of simply accumulating a large enough gear score to sufficiently end the lives of the most seasoned enemies, The Division 2 also tasks players with really thinking about what they want to accomplish with their characters. Agents can’t just cram their gun full of every mod in existence and call it a day – mods carry negative consequences with them too, and you’ll have to decide which things you’re willing to give up in order to get what you want. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s fascinating to see just how much that addition brings to the title’s endgame content.

That wouldn’t be possible without the slick, brilliant combat that defines The Division 2. The game is built around its cover system, and will punish players looking to get too rowdy with a swift death at the hands of some bemused enemies. Finding the right place to take cover is a dance in its own right, but the skirmishes involving multiple teammates and enemies becomes a complex waltz between different debris, each side looking for the right angle to take down their opponents. The enemy AI is refreshingly fun to play against, too. One of the most memorable early moments can be found in running up to a sniper, who will immediately panic and scramble to run away. It’s the details that matter, and Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment have done a wonderful job of prioritizing them.

The PvP areas, the Dark Zones, add additional ways to find the thrill of combat, and they’re also extremely useful in improving loot. The reduction of the grind – and just the sheer ubiquity of loot, which should be a staple of looter shooters but isn’t always – is a welcome addition to a game that can be pretty bulky. Likewise, playing against other people, who behave drastically different from the admittedly quite good AI, can be a nice change of pace for those who have gotten weary of progressing through the main campaign beating up on robots. The Dark Zones remain fairly simplistic after launch at the moment, though, and it’s clear that they’ll end up being one of the main focus points of The Division 2‘s future content additions. Right now, they’re fun. Later, they’ll be fun and important. It’s a good progression and thanks to the abundance of good gear to be had, Dark Zones remain relevant even now.

If there’s a major complaint to be had with the way The Division 2 is laid out, it’s that so much of this is buried at the end of the line. The entire story feels patchwork, and can be rough to sift through at the best of times. It’s a shame, because the NPCs are alive and wander the streets in a way that it’s easy to find them worth protecting. The same can’t really be said about the characters that you’ll be exposed to as major players in the narrative. It’s a small issue, but it’s one that’s so persistent within the genre that it would be nice to see someone finally crack the code and create a story people actually care about. It’s especially disappointing because the game’s open world, which allows players to chip away at side missions and events at their own pace while exploring a beautifully-rendered Washington, is so vibrant and full of life even as the world has decayed. The animals that are roaming throughout the world, coupled with a mixture of ally and enemy characters looking to accomplish their own ends, breathe life into a setting that’s main story feels wooden and rehearsed by comparison.

The other issue with the way progression is laid out is that it takes forty to fifty hours to get to the specialized Agent characteristics, which are what vastly alter the course of the game’s combat and make tactics even more important. Burying it at the end of a long campaign feels egregious, and although it gives players something to play towards, in a game this well-designed, that doesn’t feel necessary. Pushing through the early elements of the game might lead people to believe The Division 2 is far more simplistic than it is, and even twenty hours in, there are still new enemies, playstyles, and challenges awaiting Agents deeper in.

That’s the most frustrating part. The other is that The Division 2 is just slow – in every aspect of its design. The story takes a long time, sure, but so does combat. A few too many times, open world missions suddenly became slogs through waves of bullet-sponge enemies that were clearly designed to make the event simply take more time. That was a mistake The Division 1 made and, while it’s infrequent here, that it’s even present at all can be disheartening and eat into the precious hours players will need to simply reach the endgame.

Overall, though? The negatives are vastly outweighed by all the brilliance The Division 2 brings to the table. There’s a genuine argument to be made for the game’s main campaign as being worth it on its own, far before the endgame gets its hooks in you. That’s a genre first. There’s still room for improvement – in a game this vast, that only makes sense – but The Division 2 is definitely the best looter shooter we’ve ever had the pleasure of playing, and is a must-own for anyone interested in a blend between good FPS gameplay and the MMORPG genre’s more alluring, addictive qualities.

More: The Division 2 Faction Key Locations: Hyena, Outcasts, & True Sons Guide

The Division 2 is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. A digital code for PS4 was provided to Screen Rant for purposes of review.

2019-03-28 08:03:14

Cody Gravelle

Windscape Review: A Fun Throwback That Leans Too Heavily Into Nostalgia

Windscape is a first-person single-player adventure game that is unashamedly nostalgic, boasting a throwback style to the likes of titles like The Legend of ZeldaGolden Axe Warrior and Secret of Mana (Dennis Witte, who developed Windscape, lists these as his childhood favorite games). In this day and age of gaming, this is not exactly a bold move for a developer to make, as the indie market is heavily saturated with titles looking to draw in gamers who are longing for the past. Luckily, Windscape is both fun and well-made, though its reliance on nostalgia stops it from ever carving out its own unique path.

In Windscape, players step into the role of Ida and start the game on her farm where she lives with her parents. After a few tutorial quests that help lay out Windscape‘s movement and crafting systems (which boils down to finding the right ingredients and combining them at the appropriate station), the open world will become available (along with other quests). It all plays out like other adventure RPG titles, but the game’s laid back approach, which seemingly encourages players to focus more on exploring than worrying about any sort of grand quest line, is Windscape‘s real strength. It’s also the first real noticeable influence that Witte’s childhood favorites have on the game.

Related: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review – A Brutally Difficult Masterpiece

The combat in Windscape is more akin to an Elder Scrolls title than something like The Legend of Zelda, with players hacking and slashing in a similar fashion with swords and shields, shooting enemies from afar with bows and arrows or using magical spells. It’s not exactly an in-depth or complex system and standard enemies are never all that complicated to take out with proper timing, but it works with what Windscape is going for in both terms of complexity and aesthetic. Still, on the surface, it’s a rather curious choice to mirror the game’s combat after Elder Scrolls, though there’s no denying the franchise’s impact on sandbox-like titles.

Quests in Windscape are fairly standard adventure RPG affair: delivery and fetch quests, crafting items for other NPCs and fighting bandits in some distant cave. Every once in a while you’ll come across a particularly tricky puzzle room or boss (this is where the game really embraces its The Legend of Zelda roots) that will really offer up a challenge if you’re not well equipped, but all-in-all, it’s nothing that can’t be overcome by learning the inherent patterns that Windscape holds its mobs to. There is a main quest line to follow, like most titles in the genre, but again, it’s designed in such a way that players will never feel rushed to complete it.

While the character models aren’t exactly pleasing to the eye, the world itself is beautifully crafted and structured. Building and town placement is logical enough to where players will never feel like they’re wandering aimlessly too long before getting to the next settlement. There are times when it’s a little hard to actually walk around and movement itself probably could have used a little more fine tuning to work better on steeper inclines (especially during combat) but it’s never really game-breaking.

Windscape has a lot going for it but throughout its rather short 10 to 15 hour run time (depending on play style) there’s a sense that it lacks its own identity. There’s a little The Legend of Zelda here, Elder Scrolls there and even a slight Minecraft feel with its visuals, but there’s little in the game that feels wholly original. Worse, the mechanics it does lift from other titles are not enhanced in any way, even though they’re obviously lovingly applied. And unlike a lot of its inspirations, Windscape doesn’t really pack a lot of replay value, as most quests aren’t enjoyable enough to be played more than once and it lacks difficulty levels.

Despite its failure to create an identity for itself, Windscape is still a charming and fun little throwback game that’s at least worth a trek through its colorful and danger-filled world. Witte’s love for retro adventure RPGs fuels the title and his love for those games is apparent throughout. It’s just a shame that Windscape leaned so hard into nostalgia instead of taking some risks and expanding on its intriguing sandbox setting.

More: Hidden Details In The Original Legend of Zelda Only Super Fans Notice

Windscape is available now on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC for $19.99. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.

2019-03-28 01:03:22

Corey Hoffmeyer

God Eater 3 Review: Hungry for More

God Eater 3 is a lot of things: complicated yet streamlined, goofy and serious, fun but not particularly inspired. The third entry in the God Eater series on the surface feels like a Monster Hunter or Dragon Quest game. There’s a team, a battalion’s-worth of weaponry, giant monsters, and a complex role-playing system to customize it all. But we’ll let the amazing and beautifully animated intro to the game’s main menu speak for itself (see below).

In God Eater 3, the player takes on the role of a God Eater, a child given unique abilities that make them the perfect soldier in the war against the destructive Aragami (giant monsters). Truth be told, their abilities are actually more a of curse than a gift, as the imbuing of some of the Aragami’s power into a human has disturbing and painful side effects. Additionally, the government doesn’t give these new soldiers (officially dubbed Adaptive God Eaters, or AGEs for short) any freedom, forcing them into a sort of slavery where they fight the beasts by day and wait in a jail cell with other AGEs by night. But after an ash storm destroys the facility that houses the main character and his/her friends, they finally have the freedom they’ve always longed for.

Related: Next Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC Character is Likely from Dragon Quest

God Eater 3 features character creator that’s a lot of fun, allowing a limited but distinct variety of choices. Your character can have any color hair they so choose, in addition to eye-patches, bows, and even bunny ears to adorn their head. Your silent protagonist quickly makes friends with Hugo, the de facto leader of the AGEs in your battlement. He does most of the talking, helping players in a few short tutorial missions that do their best to explain both the lore and the gameplay of this post-apocalyptic world.

Each level follows a similar structure, seeing the player drop into a small area populated with Aragami. After all the monsters are defeated, the player is transported back to their hub world where they can talk to various NPCs, upgrade their loadouts, and prepare for the next mission. The combat of the hack-and-slash variety and in addition to their power, each AGE is equipped with a God Arc – an incredible weapon that functions as both a gun and a sword (and a shield). The guns don’t appear to be very effective early on, but because of special ammo types like freeze, see usefulness once the enemies become more difficult to take down. Blade form is the primary way to deal damage, and players will see damage numbers rapidly rack up when teammates are focusing one enemy.

Aside from basic attacks, the characters all have the ability to enter Predator Form, by absorbing some of the soul of a Aragami. Effectively, a giant demon mouth spawns from the character’s Arc and eats some of the soul; this allows the player to enter a heightened state where they move faster, do increased damage, and get special bullets for their gun. This “Burst Mode” is highly effective in killing monsters, especially when combined with character’s ultimate abilities. The starting power involves partnering with a teammate to increase total damage dealt from both characters for a short time. Each party member also has their own special abilities and different unique God Arcs.

God Eater 3’s Aragami are challenging and diverse. Some of their individual appearances are frightening, while others look more like giant crabs or boars. All of their moves are generally telegraphed, so dodging around them and landing the killing blow every time isn’t impossible. It doesn’t take too much trial and error to get perfect “SSS” scores on missions. The game allows for a vast amount of replayability, encouraging players to go back and improve their grade.

The game also features four-player online co-op for its main missions and that’s the recommended way to play God Eater 3. There are also special 8-player co-op assault missions where a matchmaker can group players with others and/or AI allies. While the AI characters are well-programmed and don’t always act as damage sponges, God Eater 3 is clearly intended to be played with friends. The short bursts of exciting action followed by basic inventory and leveling up are ideal for a party of four. The story as experienced solo isn’t really compelling enough to be more satisfying than fighting along side a real-life friend.

That being said, the game’s characters are generally a blast, though some fall into anime tropes without offering much else to round them out. One has to wonder how certain armor for the female characters is at all effective against the Aragami. But the dark and simultaneously light world of God Eater does allow for a perfect backdrop for the over-the-top blade and gun action. The fluid movement on the battlefield is a nice accompaniment to the story that never feels like it slows down.

If God Eater 3 sounds like the average action role playing game, it’s because it is pretty cut and dry. In the hours played, it was hard to find something that truly sets the game apart from similar titles. The combat’s addition of forms (blade and gun) is unique, but the emphasis when fighting is generally on blade; other games do hack-and-slash better. RPG elements are streamlined but still rich enough to engage more seasoned players. The game’s strength is in its multiplayer and drop-in-drop-out style of play. Fans of the series can’t go wrong with God Eater 3, but it might not be the game that’s getting the series any new ones.

More: Melbits World Review

God Eater 3 is available now on PC and PlayStation 4 for $59.99. Screen Rant was given a PS4 copy for purpose of this review.

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2019-02-07 02:02:09

Kingdom Hearts 3 Review: Tale As Old As Time

Kingdom Hearts 3 Review

Jumping into Kingdom Hearts from the off must be a daunting experience. The numbered releases of the series are outnumbered by side-games, meaning that players who want to pick up the entirety of the story may want to put a project plan together to ensure they meet the requirements. Nonetheless, Kingdom Hearts 3 attempts to pull these strands together cohesively, all the while determined to push the series forward and towards a dramatic finale.

Kingdom Hearts 3 may have been in the pipeline for some time, but nonetheless the title doesn’t feel like one that has struggled to be put together. Rather than a Frankenstein’s monster of old and new ideas crammed into a neat package, Kingdom Hearts 3 recognises the 13 years it has been between numbered entries, and adapts accordingly. It manages to feel like the original Kingdom Hearts games, but also takes into account gaming improvements that have arrived over time.

Related: Kingdom Hearts 3 Guide – Everything You Need To Know

In short, all the gameplay elements that made Kingdom Hearts a bizarre and unique experience back in the day remain here. Action-oriented JRPG gameplay is dropped into the twisting pathways of a generally linear story, complete with armies of weak enemies and damage-sponge bosses. Meanwhile, the true allure of Disney-themed levels and story arcs comes to life through the occasional unique game mode, breaking up the more traditional gameplay with mini-games and genre-defying bursts.

These moments are once again the best of the bunch, and Square Enix has done a tremendous job of delivering them. Kingdom Hearts 3 includes some extremely well-crafted worlds based around the best of recent Disney and Pixar titles. When the development team adds little extra snippets of gameplay framed around these moments, it’s enough to bring out a kid-like joy, as if it tapped into childhood wishes for a game based around said property.

Perhaps the best example of this is the Toy Story world, called the Toy Box. Player character Sora is thrown into Andy’s bedroom in toy form along with long-term compatriots Donald and Goofy, and then teams up with some of the Toy Story gang to go on a fun adventure to find their missing friends. Starting with the room itself, it’s a great recreation of that well-known Pixar setting, before heading out into the wider world.

The gameplay within the Toy Box world is great, with mech-based segments alongside the traditional combat and the joy of being able to explore a toy store, complete with a host of fun new enemies. Most of the segments of Kingdom Hearts 3 work this way, though, from the colorful landscapes of the Kingdom of Corona from Tangled through to the frosty world of Arendelle from Frozen. In a way, these moments feel like a virtual Disneyland, with individual movies given their own spotlight, particularly with the Attraction attacks that emulate theme park rides.

Kingdom Hearts 3 Attraction

Although this element of Kingdom Hearts 3 is hugely successful, the core gameplay isn’t quite as perfect. It’s still a lot of fun, but it is worth pointing out that the moments of bog standard combat, where Sora et al take on the forces of darkness that pop up within each movie world, aren’t as gripping as some other modern games provide. It’s not as engaging as top tier action RPG titles like God of War, lacking the fluidity that has come with other very recent releases – perhaps a hangover of just how long this game has been in development.

However, part of what works about Kingdom Hearts as a whole, and not just when it comes to gameplay, is that it allows players to choose how much they put into it. The core gameplay includes lots of intricacies and technical aspects to maintain, and this is true across different modes such as those weaker sections when flying through the larger galaxy on the Gummi Ship. However, in general players can still just bludgeon through the game on normal difficulty without delving into menus and more complex mechanics. This is a very strong part of Kingdom Hearts 3, and although the game deserves to be explored in this manner – not only is it a lot more fun but it also makes it less of a grind in combat – it’s still good to know that those after a more casual experience can still hop on and enjoy it.

This flexibility is part of the major appeal of Kingdom Hearts 3, with the game allowing a degree of player control within its more linear, restrictive form. Yes, players will still follow the same path and complete the same levels as everyone else, but whereas some may simply sit back, press the main attack button and wait for the next cut scene, others will get more involved, diving into the mechanics as well as exploring the game to get the most out of its hidden collectibles or non-compulsory systems like cooking with Ratatouille‘s Remy to get temporary stat buffs.

Kingdom Hearts 3 Remy

By having a relaxed approach to player engagement, it turns what should be a niche product into one that is much more accessible. After all, Kingdom Hearts 3 is a weird game – much like the entire series. It’s a teen drama formed around prophetic visions of the apocalypse, with its key heroes coming as beloved childhood characters. Yet, it all works, in spite of what rationally should be a chaotic bundle of clashing ideas.

Once again, this comes down to players getting out as much as they put it, although it’s fair to say that Kingdom Hearts 3 does work at its best when its focus lies on being a playful RPG that pays attention to its source material. Sora’s never-ending optimism that aligns with the LEGO Movie mantra that “everything is cool when you’re part of a team” gels well with its hopping from place to place to meet fellow larger-than-life characters that players already know. It’s a dip into a bubble bath of nostalgia, with the added bonus of it being a return to the Kingdom Hearts universe as a whole.

It doesn’t always work, of course, with the introductory segment based around Disney’s Hercules being an example of when the title doesn’t quite feel natural. Dialogue with Herc is stilted, and the fast talking jabs of Hades fail to resonate when aimed at Sora, Goofy and Donald. Meanwhile, Megara’s character seems very far from the quips of old, appearing briefly with an entirely mute Phil to tick off a box rather than add anything specific to the overall experience.

Kingdom Hearts 3 Frozen

That’s a rare misstep, though, and overall the tone of each Disney movie is replicated fairly well, albeit put through a Square Enix filter to help it work with the overall plot of the game. No characters quite match their silver screen counterparts, with the possible exception of Flynn Rider and Rapunzel from Tangled, but it’s close enough for it to generally feel seamless. Meanwhile, the Pixar films work very well in the same setup, with Big Hero 6 working perfectly within the Kingdom Hearts universe.

The overall story is another example of something that shouldn’t work – and, to be fair, in the minds of some does not. Even without the Disney elements, the plot of Kingdom Hearts is convoluted, with time travel, alternate dimensions, virtual realities, and ancient magicks thrown around with abandon over the course of 17 years. When Disney characters are thrown into the mix, it takes on the tone of a fever dream, and this is something that has never quite shifted from the series – and partly why it has become so captivating.

Those players who have only picked up the numbered entries, or who perhaps haven’t been keeping tabs with the franchise since Kingdom Hearts 2 released, might find the prospect of this a bit daunting. After all, Kingdom Hearts doesn’t suffer fools lightly, and does expect players to understand what is going on relatively quickly. There’s no dump of exposition to bring players up to speed, or at least not to the level that those who have been absent for some time may require. Nonetheless, it still works from a story perspective within the framework of Kingdom Hearts – just about. Reigning in the sprawling arcs of Kingdom Hearts is a major challenge, and while those who have never quite found the allure of the series will be as confused as ever, it will likely leave long-term fans happy.

At the end of the day, this is who Kingdom Hearts 3 is aimed at, too, and for the Kingdom Hearts fandom it’s the kind of experience that will go down a treat. Newcomers will find it incredibly bizarre, and sometimes certain worlds or gameplay methods are more successful than others, but overall it’s what fans will have been hoping for. A sprawling, varied game that is all the better for its wild, confusing moments.

More: Screen Rant’s 25 Most Anticipated Video Games of 2019

Kingdom Hearts 3 releases January 29, 2019 for PS4 and Xbox One. Screen Rant was provided with a PS4 download code for the purposes of this review.

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2019-01-28 01:01:03

Jagged Alliance: Rage! Review – A Step In The Right Direction

At one point, the Jagged Alliance series was a staple in the genre of turn-based tactical strategy games. When the original developer went under, the franchise went through a series of releases over the next 19 years that saw standards take a drastic drop. THQ Nordic is now handing over the developmental reigns to Cliffhanger Productions for Jagged Alliance: Rage!, a spinoff title set 20 years after the first Jagged Alliance. For the first time in a long while, this modern entrant to the series gets a lot right – but it gets a fair bit wrong, too.

This time around, the game forgoes a bountiful roster of mercenaries for a finite group of series regulars who each have their own pros and cons. The game starts in an identical manner to Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business, with the mercs’ helicopter being shot down as it arrives on a fictional third-world island. From this point on, however, Rage! starts to build its own identity, introducing plenty of new mechanics to the series to make the title not only stand out from its predecessors, but the strategy genre as a whole.

Related: Read Screen Rant’s Achtung! Cthulu Tactics Review

The core gameplay is just as veterans of the series will remember it: actions like moving, aiming, and shooting cost action points, which refresh at the end of every turn. The game has a stealth mechanic that allows for players to quickly melee kill enemies caught unawares, heavily encouraging guerrilla tactics. There’s also the namesake of the game itself – the Rage system. As mercenaries kill and take damage, they get adrenaline. This adrenaline grants Rage Points, which allow mercenaries to utilize special moves without spending action points. For example, Raven can take a shot that ignores enemy armor, and Shadow can move across the enemy line of sight without being seen. These kind of moves can make a huge difference in combat, and it’s a pretty intuitive system that compliments gameplay nicely.

The game introduces plenty of survival elements into the mix too, like its infection and shrapnel systems. Mercenaries taking hits have a chance of catching shrapnel, which lowers their overall HP until a surgical kit can remove the shards. Likewise, using dirty bandages or drinking dirty water can lead to infection, which delivers similar setbacks until antibiotics can be obtained. Hydration is an important recurring mechanic as time progresses, adding a sense of urgency to keep players moving. Later on in the game a water reservoir can be captured, which helps mitigate at least one of the game’s longterm dangers. Mismanagement of any of these three mechanics will be severely detrimental to one’s campaign.

If one doubted the ambition THQ Nordic has with Jagged Alliance: Rage!, a quick look at the map is all it takes to assuage these doubts. The island map is huge, featuring plenty of combat zones interspersed between rest areas. As players traverse along the map, they have the option of setting up camp in order to rest, remove shrapnel, upgrade equipment, or use inventory. Just like in Jagged Alliance 2, enemy forces will begin patrolling between locations, forcing players to pick and choose when to rest and when to move on. In a game where scavenging the supplies needed to survive is difficult, this adds a pretty intuitive risk-versus-reward system to resting. Resting also advances the clock an hour, which will determine if combat takes place at day or night. For stealth-minded players, it’s yet another strategic approach to take into consideration.

These mechanics combine into a strategy game that has a great amount of depth for a $15 title, so it’s frustrating that a multitude of issues weigh down the experience. While the simplistic and choppy graphics can somewhat be forgiven given the price, the console edition of the game is rife with lag issues. Maps with lots of enemies – of which there are many – also cause massive delays as the AI slowly ponders moves off-screen. Pacing is a continual problem for Rage!, with some missions ending in moments and others taking ludicrous swaths of time to complete. The enemy AI also leaves much to be desired: we encountered several instances of enemies running back and forth in confusion, or just making nonsensical moves in general. Looting enemies after a battle is also a tedious process full of clicking and dragging, and it slows down gameplay to a crawl.

Despite the introductory sequence riffing heavy on sci-fi influences, the first hours of the game start off on a pretty generic note with absurdly evil enemies enforcing a brutal dictatorship. This dictatorship indoctrinates young soldiers into its ranks by utilizing a homebrew drug called bliss (yes, just like how Far Cry 5 uses a drug of exactly the same name, used in the exact same way, for the exact same purpose). While the late game plot does drag itself back into more interesting territory, most of the voice acting across the board leaves a lot to be desired. There’s plenty of fan service to be found in the dialogue, though, and it’s pretty indicative that Cliffhanger Productions has a realistic viewpoint on where the Jagged Alliance series is currently clawing its way back from.

Smartly, the game is priced as a budget alternative to the likes of strategy juggernauts like XCOM 2 or Civilization. Coming in at $15, the game delivers surprisingly in-depth gameplay and a good length of playing time. Many series veterans are bound to be disappointed by nostalgia-blinded high expectations, but for a $15 budget title the game delivers a good, if not memorable, experience. It may not be the best strategy game of recent times (or even of this year), but Jagged Alliance: Rage! did something that no other series entrant from the last 19 years has managed to do: give hope for the future of the franchise.

More: Original DOOM Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary

Jagged Alliance: Rage! is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Screen Rant was supplied an Xbox One code for this review.

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2018-12-14 01:12:33

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Review: Everything We’ve Ever Wanted

The greatest crossover event in history is finally here. No, we’re not talking about Avengers: Endgame; it’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The fifth entry in the fighting game series is easily the biggest one yet, touting 74 playable fighters and over 100 (or 300 if you count variants) stages. In addition to the traditional “Smash” mode, Ultimate features a sprawling Adventure mode called “The World of Light,” Classic Mode, and numerous other ways battle as your favorite Nintendo characters. With such a massive game, there were ever more massive expectations. With a firm handshake from Master Hand himself, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate met those expectations, and joins its predecessors as one of the best the genre has to offer.

The Nintendo 64 release of Smash Bros, now dubbed Smash 64, was released in 1999. In the nearly two decades sinceplayers have seen a lot of changes and newcomers. In Super Smash Bros. Melee, the roster more than doubled from 12 fighters to 26. It became the best-selling Gamecube game and is the reason that to this day, many prefer using Gamecube controllers in Smash Bros. Masahiro Sakurai, the series’ director at one point thought that Melee would be his final game. But he returned for Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii and Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS. He and his team continued to add characters and stages from beloved games, to the point where fans wondered how he could top himself next.

Related: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Here’s the Fastest Way to Unlock All Characters

Well, they have their answer. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is truly better than the series has ever been. After some high notes (Melee) and lower notes (Brawl), Sakurai combined fan input and his own passion to make an iteration of Smash so filled to the brim with content and love that it’s impossible to know where to start.

So let’s start at Smash. It’s the game’s main mode and the most persistent and most-played part of this Smash Bros. saga. The way it works hasn’t changed much here, only been fine-tuned. Sakurai and team have done an amazing job in the short span of time since the Wii U and 3DS’ Super Smash Bros. iteration (often referred to as Smash 4). The graphics are beautiful, crisp, and clear. Impacts of every punch and kick feel hard-hitting but not too cartoonish. Characters pop off of the screen and even against the bright backgrounds of the stages they never managed to get lost. It’s a triumph of engineering that this game can be played at all with so much happening in a single match. Four (or more) characters running around, grabbing items on an often-times moving stage. But it’s easier to follow than ever, not just because of enhanced graphics and a terrific resolution on handheld.

Smash Ultimate is not a port of the Smash 4 as so many fans initially feared; that much is true after playing a single match. It’s immediately noticeable in the way that hits register. It feels more like Street Fighter than any other previous Smash game. It’s still a Nintendo game of course, but everything feels a bit heavier and quicker (if not bloodier and more “realistic”). When fighting 1v1 for instance, attacks all do a bit more damage than they do in a Free For All with four players. This speeds up the game quite well; it falls in between the insanely fast Melee and the tempered and approachable Smash 4. In addition to the damage buffs, 1v1 also adds a dynamic camera that zooms in when finishing blows are dealt. It really adds to the cinematic quality of watching a friend pummel another friend. Even if you’re the one being pummeled, it’s hard not to appreciate how good it looks. There’s also a stock countdown display and a map that can be toggled on or off when a character reaches the border of the level.

Though the game’s roster features 74 characters, players only start with 8, the same 8 starters from Smash 64 (the original Super Smash Bros.). One gripe with the game is that is takes a long time to unlock all of the remaining 66 characters. Though there are some ways around it, the game forces players to fight each one, which can only happen after a certain amount of hours played. This could get frustrating fast for those who want to unlock their favorite hero and have to wait 10 hours. Once all the heroes are unlocked, the game comes alive.

The new fighters fit right into the formula, as if they’ve been here forever. The Inklings from Splatoon have a wonderful flow to their movement, they’re fast and sneaky; taken right out of their shooter and adapted for a fighter. King K. Rool (Donkey Kong) and Simon Belmont (Castelvania) are also newcomer standouts, their movesets perfect homages to their games and backstories. Returning fighters have all been given reworks, some major, some hardly noticeable. Link from The Legend of Zelda resembles his Breath of the Wild iteration, and has new and improved bombs to boot. For players preferring the old-school way he was played, there’s always Young Link as well.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate introduces the idea of Echo Fighters, copies of certain characters that are mostly the same but with a few tweaks. There’s Daisy, who is a lot like Peach with a few minor changes and Chrom who is mostly like Roy but also has some of Ike’s moves; sort of a Fire Emblem mash-up. It’s confusing why some characters are labeled Echo Fighters and others are not. Dr. Mario is his own fighter and so is Pichu, but Richter is an Echo. The decision seems arbitrary, but in the end is mostly semantic; all the characters are a blast to play.

The stages are also terrific; returning and new. The addition of an element called “Stage Morph” allows players to change between levels in the middle of a match. It’s very strange but helpful for getting to visit every single stage a bit quicker. It spices things up, and if friends can’t decide on a favorite stage, the answer can now be “let’s go to both of them!” There are also plenty of new customization options for fighting, with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate finally allowing players to save their rule sets, so they don’t have to change it from Timed to Stock each time their hardcore gamer pals come over. Music can be changed on each stage (there are more than 800 tracks to choose from), and stage hazards such as bosses can now be turned off. These changes emphasize how much Nintendo looked at fan feedback to help make the game more easily customized and navigated.

In addition to the traditional Smash mode, there are several new versions. Returning from the Wii U, there is 5-8 player smash – a utterly brilliant mess. It’s recommended just to stick to 4 players, but if you have that many friends over at once and no one wants to wait, give this all-out brawl a shot. There’s also Special Smash, a mainstay of customization, where players can make every character giant or tiny, super slow or super fast. It offers a respite to the no-items competitions, but isn’t nearly as exciting as the new modes: Squad Strike and Smashdown.

In Squad Strike, players choose 3 or 5 characters and battle their friend doing the same. Each character can be used as a stock (or life), making for a single round that is unpredictable. Players hide the order of their lives from their friends, so there’s no counter-picking! This mode is endlessly entertaining and a great new way to try a bunch of characters and see how you stack up 1 on 1. Smashdown is the perfect mode for newcomers and vets with a lot of time on their hands. The mode forces players to choose a new hero each round, eliminating any hero that was chosen before. Friends can pick their rival’s best character to guarantee they can’t play them; there’s a ton of fun strategy to be found.

Though it’s hard to believe, the game has more content… a lot more. There’s of course the returning Classic Mode, a single-player or co-op short campaign that features a few different versus battles against computers. These battles always feature items and generally some odd changes: the enemy might be metal, start with a baseball bat, etc. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate does a lot to improve the mode since years past. It’s fast, featuring only 6 stages, a bonus stage, and a final boss. But it’s never the same; each character has their own specific set of matches. Mario, for example, will face Giga Bowser as the final boss, but Roy faces Master Hand. These variations make the mode tremendously more replayable than in the past. The repetitive bonus level is the odd standout here; the same across all versions, it’s best skipped entirely so players can get to the final boss.

For those with friends in other area codes, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate does offer an online mode. Though it’s a significant improvement from Brawl and subsequently Wii U, the ability to play over the internet with friends is strangely still one of Nintendo’s greatest failings. Players can create lobbies where they can battle their friends with a customized rule set. Unfortunately players have to make an entirely new lobby to change the rule set AND players can’t queue up for the next game if they are spectating, only do one or the other. Quickplay against random players is even more frustrating. Players select their “Preferred Rules,” for instance 1v1-No items, but it doesn’t mean that Nintendo will match you with someone with those same rules. Queuing is a total gamble, and the occasional lag-spike doesn’t help.

The biggest new addition to the game is perhaps its strangest: Spirits. There are over 700 of these figures, and each provides stat boosts and other changes to the player’s character in matches. At default, they are set off, but they could cause some interesting mix-ups when used in a 4-player brawl. Their main use is for the Adventure mode: “World of Light.” This RPG-influenced mode sees the player travel around a large map, defeating different characters and “freeing” as may Spirits as they can. It’s confusing at times, features 20+ hours of content, and isn’t for those looking for traditional Super Smash content.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate lives up to its name and has almost everything: all the fighters, all the music, all the stages. It has Spirits, if players decide to care about this new addition, but we’d trade it for a modern online multiplayer infrastructure. There has never been a better game to play with friends on the Switch. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate might just be among the best games to play with friends, period.

More: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – Persona 5’s Joker Joins as DLC

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is available now on Nintendo Switch for $59.99. The Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Fighter Pass is available for an additional $24.99 or as a bundle with the digital copy of the game for $84.98.

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2018-12-10 04:12:06

The Last Remnant Remastered Review: Good Update For Mediocre Game

It’s always exciting when a favorite classic game gets a remaster, but then there are times when players wonder why some games get a remaster at all. Such is the case with The Last Remnant Remastered, which technically looks good, but the title itself doesn’t hold a candle to similar games in the JRPG genre.

The original version of The Last Remnant released in 2009 and follows the story of a young boy, Rush Sykes, whose sister gets kidnapped by monsters. The game is all about his search for his sister, as well as uncovering details about the mysterious remnants, magical artifacts that have sparked wars throughout the world’s history. Rush meets many other characters along the way, including those who can help him in his quest.

Related: Dragon Quest XI Review: A Magical And Near-Perfect RPG

If that story seems a little dull, it’s because it is. Even in The Last Remnant Remastered, the plot doesn’t really do much to compel the player into caring about what happens to this world and its characters. Considering that Square Enix has an entire back catalog of JRPGs with the kind of stellar storytelling that players continue to discuss in 2018, it’s sort of surprising that the company chose to give this one a remastered version for the PlayStation 4. The characters in The Last Remnant feel uninspired as if the writers were going through the motions of creating a roleplaying game. Even the main character, Rush, isn’t someone players can care about, even though he’s a boy whose parents have all but abandoned him for their work and whose sister gets kidnapped.

The Last Remnant does a few things, though, to separate itself from other JRPGs. Rush does not wander all over the world in search of his sister. Instead, there’s a world map that has points on it, places that Rush can quickly travel to, either within a particular city or throughout the world. More areas open up as the game progresses. While in specific areas, Rush can go to shops and purchase items, as well as talk to NPCs. Some NPC’s have specific quests that Rush can take immediately. The problem with this, though, is that if the player takes the mission, Rush immediately goes to the area where it takes place without any idea of what level that quest is. There are also guilds where Rush can hire additional “units,” groups that help Rush when he goes into combat against enemies. This kind of travel on the game map is refreshing, especially when almost every modern game is now so open world that players spend hours just trying to climb up and down a mountain.

It’s the combat that really sets The Last Remnant apart from other similar titles. Although it is turn-based, each turn covers an entire unit, so the player only gets prompted to choose actions for each unit, rather than for each party member. It’s hard to explain and even more difficult to understand during gameplay. Although Square Enix tried to do something different here, it ends up feeling like the game is playing itself during battle scenes, taking most of the control away from the player. It’s also very unpredictable, meaning that Rush and his units will die a lot, which gets annoying after sitting through the same cut-scene over and over: unfortunately, this title doesn’t have a “skip scene” feature.

One of the biggest complaints about the original game had to do with issues regarding the graphics. The remastered version not only fixed those issues but makes this classic game look pretty good, much better than it did in 2009. However, it doesn’t look quite as good as most games released in 2018, so a remaster can, apparently, only do so much.

Square Enix made this old title look fairly new again, but the critical question here is why? With so many other great games in its library, why did it choose The Last Remnant to remaster? Square Enix might have used its valuable resources for a different project. Regardless, fans of the original game should feel pleased with The Last Remnant Remastered.

More: 15 Final Fantasy Secrets That Square Enix Never Thought You’d Notice

The Last Remnant Remastered is available now on PlayStation 4. Screen Rant was provided PS4 copy for the purposes of this review.

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2018-12-06 01:12:22

Command & Conquer: Rivals Review – Tiberium Poisoning Through Microtransactions

Fans were concerned when Command & Conquer: Rivals was announced. First revealed at E3 2018, the potential for a return of the beloved Command & Conquer franchise was outdone in the eyes of gamers by the format of this new title. After all, Command & Conquer: Rivals moved the franchise into mobile gaming like Clash Royale, and therefore all the pitfalls that could potentially come with it.

Unfortunately, those worries from within the community were not without good reason. Command & Conquer: Rivals is a Command & Conquer game in name only, with huge differences from the tone of the games that came before it. A lot of this comes from the limitations that have been placed on the game to fit within the tropes of mobile gaming, which is disappointing given how many great games are available on mobile devices that ignore these negative conventions.

Related: Command & Conquer: Rivals Release Is Now Available

One of the biggest problems that Command & Conquer: Rivals faces is aligning itself with the history of Command & Conquer. Quite simply, there’s not a lot here that feels like a Command & Conquer game, with a focus on fast gameplay without as much emphasis on long-burn tactics. This is by design, with the gameplay revolving entirely around owning specific parts of the map grid at opportune moments to launch nukes at the opposition, but it feels far from what Command & Conquer fans would want.

It boils down to the fact that this type of mobile strategy game does not work well with the franchise’s roots. Although there are a few tactical nods here and there – striking at the right time, going after the other team’s Tiberium harvester, or targeting an unexpected platform – in general gameplay consists of a simplistic rock-paper-scissors approach to having the right unit for the right situation. Gone is the priority given to base defense and building an army for specific eventualities, with Command & Conquer: Rivals stuck with skirmishes by design.

There’s a clear attempt to take on the Clash Royale formula that dominates the mobile strategy market, with similar overtones and a focus on maintaining a fast pace. Where Command & Conquer: Rivals differs, however, is that players have control over individual units, sending them to specific tiles and to attack specific enemy units if they so choose. Here, at least, players can see a shadow of the old series, with a tiny amount of micromanagement and at least Command & Conquer‘s trademark voice snippets as a unit is given an order.

Tonally, though, the game feels very different from the rest of its franchise. Command & Conquer has not always been serious, with the Red Alert series in particular amping up the hammy quality that had sometimes caught hold of the series to spectacular effect. However, Command & Conquer: Rivals has almost the feel of a toy box, and this isn’t helped by the disposable feel of the units in question, to be discarded when an appropriate moment strikes.

That’s not necessarily a problem for the strategy genre, as outlined by the success of the Nintendo Wars series of games. However, Command & Conquer: Rivals is not just an awkward fit for the franchise, but also showcases some of the worst examples of business practices in mobile gaming. The game is rife with microtransactions from the get go. Indeed, the only positive to be found is that, at least, it doesn’t try to get to you spend money to get an instant Ion Cannon or something equally heinous.

Where this truly falls down is a reliance on levels for individual units. Although players will unlock different units via card unlocks – with a random element that of course ties into loot box mechanics – there’s a priority on levelling up different unit types through training. What this means is that a player’s individual units will not necessarily be on par with someone else trying to climb the rankings, immediately giving those with the power to level up regularly an advantage and pushing a meritocratic approach to tactics out of the window when it comes to the overall leaderboards.

It’s a story that those who are familiar with the free-to-play category of mobile gaming will know all too well. After all, it’s a framework that many microtransaction-based games with a multiplayer focus fall into. To truly compete, particularly at the higher levels, players need to level up, and here’s where the predatory element really comes into play. Although the game includes a matchmaking aide called ‘Fairplay’ to help curb some of the inherent problems with this system, it would be preferable to not use this model in the first place.

Command & Conquer: Rivals puts a lot of emphasis on tiering, with players segmented into different leagues based on their level. This could result in a solid community and the groundwork for a solid competitive scene. However, given the issues that the game has with microtransactions – with regular pop-ups in between games and suggested purchases even appearing as a greeting for players as they boot up the game – it’s hard to see Command & Conquer: Rivals earning a loyal following.

As always with free-to-play games, it is possible to progress through simply playing Command & Conquer: Rivals. However, there are limitations here that push players towards making payments, such as wait times to receive crates, higher quality crates coming at a premium, and a daily limit of ten games played with a ‘Daily XP Bonus’ which makes any experience gains beyond that point negligible – a subtler mechanic to push people towards paying than a direct one such as a match cap, but still one that strongarms players away from enjoying the game at their pace.

Because of this, it is obviously easier to upgrade through paying real-world money for in-game currency. These currencies come in the form of credits, which are used for training units and acquiring cards directly, and diamonds, which are for the game’s loot box crates. As such, after a few games – which are always quick to pass – it could be very tempting to just spend some money to make progress.

Command & Conquer: Rivals is always happy to remind you of ways to spend cash on the game. The title’s storefront is always a press away, with ‘deals’ seemingly constantly available to give players a boost. Some of the prices for these packs are also exorbitant, in line with wait-time machines like The Simpsons: Tapped Out.

Command & Conquer: Rivals is therefore very hard to recommend. Long-term fans of the franchise will likely reject it for the heavy changes it has made to the formula, with all eyes now on whether those Command & Conquer remasters will deliver the RTS style that fans enjoy. It’s an extremely poor use of a beloved gaming franchise, and EA should have taken more care given Command & Conquer’s mismanagement over the years.

For players into mobile strategy games such as Clash Royale it may be an easier pill to swallow, but Command & Conquer: Rivals is a terrible example of bad business practices in an industry that sorely needs an overhaul. Recently, loot boxes in mobile games were named as a potential reason for the rapid rise in child gambling problems, and including such a heavy emphasis on microtransactions leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

All that remains is to see just where this lies in comparison to other poor uses of old properties in mobile gaming. Although Command & Conquer: Rivals is still some ways off the horror show that was Dungeon Keeper Mobile, by virtue of having a game that actually functions, it is still a major let-down. One to be avoided, particularly by those who have fond memories of the franchise as a whole.

More: December 2018 Video Game Releases

Command & Conquer: Rivals is out now for iOS and Android devices. Screen Rant was provided with an iOS download code for the purposes of this review.

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2018-12-05 01:12:21

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden Review – Charming and Challenging

The world as we know it has ended. Our advanced technology could only take us so far, and now remains simply a distant memory. Skyscrapers are just stories passed down by the elders to those willing to listen. This is the world of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden. If it sounds a bit familiar, that’s because it is; the post-apocalypse is probably the most common setting in games. So while it’s easy for stories set in this world to be derivative, Mutant Year Zero manages to set itself apart as a unique tactical adventure.

Like the name itself, MYZ: RtE presents itself as a generic world-ending story. The player controls a group of scavengers as they embark on a mission to find Eden, a mythical city and the last vestige of hope in their broken world. They’ll journey to many desolate places: The Cave of Fear (a tunnel filled with car wrecks) and The Sea Titans (a marooned ship) are just two of the earlier levels. The player will take their heroes a long way from their home in the Ark, a neon city far above the water and the dangers of the mutated “Zone.” Zone, Eden, Ark; it’s as if the developers were selecting from a mad-libs of post-apocalyptic storytelling. Luckily, derivation ends, like the game’s burrowing mutants, just below the surface.

The player starts outside of the zone, leading their small team of Dux and Bormin. Dux is a mutated duck-human who enjoys saying “duck you” (not quite as groan-worthy as it sounds) and Bormin is a boar-man with a tough exterior and even tougher demeanor. Their dialogue injects just the right amount of color into the darkened, moody setting. It’s a nice contrast to games that feel their characters have to be just as depressing as the worlds in which they reside. After a few quick introductory levels, the player is introduced to a third part member, Selma: a female human mutant. She fits right in with the squad, her sarcastic energy a nice compliment to Bormin’s drier sense of humor. All of the characters (including ones unlocked later) converse while traversing the world with their own distinct observations, and during combat with exclamations and put-downs. These interjections really help to spice up the long turn-based cycles.

There are essentially two different modes of traversal: the exploratory free-roam and the turn-based movement system. All levels start with the player given free control over their team, able to switch between the crew with the press of a button. The group can be split up or travel together, giving the player the ability to set-up tactically for a fight before it starts. Before combat, the player can also search for collectibles like scrap, which can be used to upgrade weapons, and armor, hats, or weapons to equip.  While in the real-time mode, players will need to use stealth to their advantage, sneaking past high-level enemies and finding cover to take the advantage if a fight breaks out.

And fights will break out. Though Mutant Year Zero smartly incorporates its stealth system, the key component of its gameplay is the turn-based combat. Similar to games like XCOM and Mario + Rabbids, the player moves about the battlefield, indicated with spaces, using cover and flanking enemies to deal damage without getting it dished out on them. Each character has two actions possible during a turn, from movement, to firing a weapon or throwing a grenade, to a special ability. The interfaces used here are beautifully designed and easy to navigate. It’s a pleasure to shoot and run one’s way through the destructible overgrown cities and junkyards.

Related: Mario + Rabbids Donkey Kong Adventure Review

Though their personalities (and adorable yet semi-realistic appearances) are what makes the characters standout, their abilities are also unique. Mutant Year Zero features a progression system that unlocks fighting and passive powers for each squad member. After leveling up from fighting, the player can spend points at their leisure, upgrading health or range or trying out something new. For example, Dux can sprout moth wings and fly, allowing him to gain a high-ground advantage in the middle of a firefight. Bormin can eat the corpses of slain enemies to regain health, solidifying his position as the tanky member of the team.

In addition to character upgrades, players can also modify loadouts and team abilities. A quick trip to the Ark (the game’s functional hub world) grants the player the chance to visit several other fun characters: Delta, who upgrades weapons, Pripp who helps level up the team as a whole, and Iridia, who sells grenades, medkits, and weapons. Paying these folk a visit is vital in surviving out in the zone and making it past higher level enemies.

Because all though the characters are cutesy at times (even in their boarish-ness), the world is unforgiving. Fighting off other scavengers, robots, and mutants becomes increasingly difficult, even on the normal difficulty settings. Throw in the fact that players can access an “Iron Mode” with permadeath, and Mutant Year Zero undoubtedly offers a challenge for every player. Those who have played turn-based combat games before will be familiar with the set-up, but pleased with how well designed the AI is, flanking the player and retreating at all the right moments. Reacting correctly and going into a fight prepared and stealthily is key.

The post-apocalypse has seen its fair share of heroes; unique as they may be, their world is always about survival. In Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, the concept is the same, but the approach makes the journey well worth it. Fans of turn-based combat will want to make sure to add this to their collection.

More: Astro Bot Rescue Mission Review: PS VR’s Killer App

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC for $34.99. Screen Rant was provided a digital PS4 code for this review.

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2018-12-04 04:12:37

ABZÛ Review: A Relaxing and Meditative Deep Dive on Switch

Developer Giant Squid’s Abzu is just as hard to quantify now as it was when it originally released in 2016. This is due in large part to Abzu being a wealth of contradictions. The world feels expansive and breathless in the moment but on reflection the experience is actually quite short. Abzu is also all about the narrative journey but there’s very little “actual” story. Most off-putting of all, Abzu is a video game where there’s very little in the way of traditional gaming mechanics.

The contradictory Abzu first made it its way to gamers’ screens on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One two years ago and now Abzu has come to Nintendo Switch. There are no special features in the Switch version besides the obvious of making the game portable. This itself is questionable as Abuzu is more suited to indulgent play sessions than anything that can be picked up and played on-the-go. Even so the unique Abzu is still a journey worth taking even if it can sometimes feels more like an interactive screensaver than a video game.

Related: Nintendo Finally Gets with the Times and Lets Players Monetize Gameplay Videos

The conceit of Abzu is simple. Players are put in control of a nameless, genderless deep sea diver and tasked with following the words of Finding Nemo‘s Dory to the letter, “just keep swimming.” There’s only one goal in Abzu and it’s to go. Abzu is an adventure game in every sense of the word.  There’s no real challenge to speak of and all the storytelling is ambient as opposed to anything direct. Abzu gives exactly what the player puts into it which is unconventional but understandable and welcome. The diver travels from area to area without fear of losing oxygen and just the player takes in the ocean behind them. A few surprises and secrets can be uncovered in Abzu but for the it’s mostly very straight forward.

However, this simplicity isn’t a knock on Abzu‘s overall quality. Everything Abzu lacks in challenge and directness it more than makes up for in memorability. From the very start Abzu manages to entrance with its graphics. Abzu begs players to explore its magical undersea world with these visuals and there are plenty of rewards to be found if the mission is taken. Whether it’s just entering a new area with a radically different color scheme than the previous one or riding on the back of a dolphin Abzu is stuffed with charming and relaxing moments. Abzu won’t hold the player’s hand and point out the most interesting areas of any given location but that wonder of discovery is the selling point.

The “feel” of Abzu is one of its best qualities. There’s a sense of calmness and serenity that pervades every inch of Abzu. It’s so refreshing to play a video game set in an underwater world and not be frightened of running out of air or be in a constant battle with the controls. Water levels in some iconic games are infamously terrible but Abzu is the exception. Most of Abzu is a different type of experience from most mainstream gaming but that’s rather welcome. 2018 has seen so many monstrous-sized triple AAA releases that are full of open worlds with almost too many things to do. It’s a perfect change of pace to literally dive in Abzu and just start leisurely exploring.

Abzu isn’t a blemish free experience. The big flaw of Abzu is the game’s length. It’ll take roughly two hours to reach the game’s endpoint. While that time can be doubled to uncover every secret that’s still only four hours in total. To Abzu‘s credit the brief runtime does feel wholly complete. There’s material jam-packed into those two hours but it’s still just two hours, which is on the short side even for an indie game. It’s even harder to reconcile this short time as the Nintendo Switch version isn’t launching with any kind of price cut or discount despite the age of Abzu.

It’s fair to be turned off by Abzu in concept alone. If similarly styled games like Journey, Flower or even Limbo and Inside weren’t enticing Abzu won’t be any different. Abzu doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to slow-paced adventure titles with interesting art designs. The world is what makes Abzu special not anything about how it plays or the game’s ambitions. That was the case in 2016 and it’s certainly the case now. Yet even if Abzu doesn’t offer a brand-new experience it still accomplishes its goals very well.

 More: Nintendo Switch 2 is Already Going to Release in 2019

Abzu is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Screen Rant was provided a review copy for the Nintendo Switch.

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