3.02.2021

Ashes: A First-Person Dungeon Exploration Experience: A Short Review

     Ashes is an intriguing game to be sure.  It touts itself to be a combination of a narrative focused first-person walking simulator with a dash of Skyrim.  Meant to be a single-sitting gameplay experience giving you a light dose of explorative adventure into the life of a man suffering some odd form of amnesia that wakes up in a strange dungeon.


    The gameplay of Ashes is simple enough, including melee combat, a few puzzle sections, and a handful of platforming sections.  The combat is barebones.  You literally just fight a handful of skeletons with melee weapons through swinging and even a block.  It's sufficient for the game, really.  Ashes really doesn't need any more depth to the combat.  Hacking and slashing is good enough for this type of game.  Though, I actually would've appreciated much more of it.  Not all at once, but peppered throughout.  To see the bodies of others laying around, or even maybe a few skeletons shambling around in cells.  Or better yet, why not have a few just aimlessly wandering around confused and not actively threatening the player even when confronted?  And why aren't any of them found fighting amongst themselves?
     There is weapon degradation as well, which I found to be extremely annoying because from the weapon goes fine for quite a while, then suddenly looks to be near breaking and breaks in just a few swings.  The swiftness it happens always seems like it is fine for 9 swings, one swing to damage the weapon, followed by one to break it.  That progression is too quick, and honestly, why even have it in the game at all?  The weapons seem to have 2 damages, weak and strong, and they are separated by roughly one hit worth of damage to kill an enemy and the system really could be done without completely.

     On a side note there's some floating orbs that light the areas up and can be broken, but there's really no purpose to them.  Why have them even be destructible if it isn't for a reason?  It seems like a strange decision.  Bouncing off that, the game has a collectible in the form of glowing green skulls.  The fact they are there isn't a problem, it offers a nice distraction while exploring the dungeons.  What nags at me is they seem like an item that should offer a reason for being there.  Maybe have them drop some lore of the world, or spark a new exclusive memory unlock.  Have a reason to be collecting them outside of Steam achievements.  There's a necromancer out there in this world, so why not have them tie to maybe bits of narrative from him?  Or perhaps have them be other peoples' memories (include their own voiced narration)?

     As for the level design and art...  you know, I actually really, really like it.  I'd actually tie it much more closely to being a combination of a narrative walking simulator and Ico, as opposed to Skyrim as the devs say.  Ashes has a very nice feel and it's areas differ just enough to make things interesting.  There's dark shadowy areas with green glowing ooze, to empty sewage tubes, as well as bright sunlit courtyards, creating a nice range of things to look at.  With that said, there's room for expansion here.  Considering how vast the castle is, personally I would've really liked to have a lot more exploration options.  There's a bunch of doors that don't open- so why not make them open into larger places to roam around in.  That would help get rid of the deliberate linearity the game has you follow along, providing players with more time to enjoy the world.

    My biggest qualm with Ashes is that it feels like it's truly just the beginning of a larger game.  There's some unfair storytelling elements that make the ending both good, but also predictable, and a little unfair. [ SPOILER: Not one other skeleton is wearing clothes, and they all have a distinct sound when running around- so why does the player have clothes and not make that noise?  That kind of thing is deliberately lying to the player to make a payoff in the end.  The twist could be handled better, the story could have a bigger payoff by having some of the skeletons wearing bits of clothes and some distinctions.  Maybe have some wear gauntlets, some wearing all clothes, some just pants, and so on. That isn't to say I didn't like it.  I guessed it quite early on, and liked the narrative memories coming back as you progress through the castle.  It might've been more effective to space them out instead of having large chunks all at once.  Slow it down and allow us to digest it as we go.  If the developers take my recommendation to add more places to explore they could add small touches to expand the story as well.  Perhaps have a series of passageways that lead to a kitchen or dining hall and maybe something like memories returning of dinners with the family come to the surface.
     Now I must also mention the voice acting of the player-character's narration.  He does pretty well, but could use just a bit more emotive force and range.  Granted, what we get is good, so that isn't a complaint, more of a request, I want just more.  I want more story.  I want more exploration.  I want more combat, puzzles, and exploration out of Ashes!

     Ashes appears to be an exercise for the developer to show off what they can do while still leaving us wanting more- as I wrote earlier, this game feels like the beginning of something much larger.  I'd be more than pleased if the devs, Windlimit Games, went and actually added some of the extra things I've suggested.  But I digress, even as it is right now, it's still a decent fantasy dungeon exploration game with a unique narrative.  I'd happily recommend this game because it's all of the things I want in games lately- it's brief, engaging, and fun- and it actually leaves me wanting much more.  Overall, Ashes is a great one-sitting experience and I'm eager to see what the devs make next.  Go check it out.

     Ashes is $3.99 on [ Steam ]

*Review Copy Provided, Thank you

1.10.2021

ZCREW: The Last Legion: Review: A Decent Start to a Post-Apocalyptic Shooter

      ZCREW is a Diablo-esque post-apocalyptic isometric shooter.  A group of elite militaristic elites have banded together to bring order to a world falling apart and reclaim the Earth from mutant hordes.  As the official sites say:

     "ZCREW is an isometric shooter that supports up to 4 player co-op. In the world destroyed by an alien virus, every day is a matter of life or death. Players will need to cooperate and fight back the mutant blight in their quest to rebuild the world and restore civil order.

     Battle within the Ruined City and the Lost Desert, facing hordes of infected humans, mutant insects and creatures unknown until now."


INITIAL THOUGHTS

     Players begin the game and can choose one of 4 different classes- Assault, Warrior, Supply, or a Medic.  They all begin with a singular skill like a dash or teleport.  As you do missions you unlock both more skills (of 4 total) as well as small perks applicable to the character, weapons, or skills they use.  Each of the classes then also begin with their own type of weapon- assault rifle, sniper rifle, SMG, etc- and it is an absolute slog to level up anything because the experience is based on in-game level completion and I don't believe enemy kills actually seem to give you any bonus XP.  

     The early game skills make the player classes start relatively the same, but as the game goes they wind up much more varied in HOW those skills are used- which is awesome.  Each character's movement skill begins just as a movement, but as skills unlock through leveling the characters up they add bonuses to them.  The Assault class can leave a trail of electricity to the teleport, while the medic can disperse poison orbs in 4 directions upon dashing.  It is the beginning of great system.

     There's a lot of good ideas in mission variety- find or investigate areas, escort NPCs (that really shouldn't be nearly as dumb as they are currently), even some where you need to find some parts and build something to make way into the next area.  Honestly, some of the early levels could be lengthened with the option for more exploration, but overall, it's still really fun to go in and start the action.  The levels don't have much right now in the way of extra things to wander around for.  They are made to be simple and linear by giving you tasks to complete and waypoints to follow.  Drop in hidden areas or things for players to loot.  Give players a reason to explore these gorgeous-looking areas you've made.  

     For weapons, you have to randomly find design blueprints as random drops, parts, and currency to build new guns, then create parts to build those guns up in the players' hub.  The system isn't great, and could definitely use some streamlining- why should you need 2 of the same gun blueprint to make that gun?  Why doesn't one suffice?

     The weapons have just barely enough difference, but could use some bolstering to make them feel really different (the bullet impacts, reload and firing speeds, firing distance, etc).  Players begin with their class' starter weapon, but can switch to another later.  Each weapon then can be upgraded with parts you find schematics for- such as extended magazines, sights, shoulder stalks, etc- each item bumps up various stats to the weapon you attach it to.  It's a great idea, but the implementation is poor.  Just as the core weapons, players have to find multiple blueprints of the same weapon (often it's 2), then randomly find parts during missions, and then currency to make them.  But you also need to use multiple terminals in the players hub to build them up, then another to equip them, and so on.  Why not let players be able to equip a weapon from the crafting station or personal inventory as well as the character screen?  Why can we craft but not dismantle at the same station- why can we only dismantle from the personal inventory station?

     As the hub where players go to (which is for some reason in 3rd person instead of the isometric view the entire rest of the game is) is confusing already, they really need to clean it up.  Why aren't all the varied menu consoles consolidated?  Put the weapons/items, materials, and character screen all lumped into one?  We are forced to craft weapons in at one console, but equip that to the weapon in another.  Or, why aren't the mission control and multiplayer ones merged?  As of right now you have to enter a mission select, choose the mission, then leave to go to another console to select a player ready.  These should be streamlined for sure, and really, they might want to think about shifting the entire player hub to the same isometric view as the rest of the game while reducing the number of terminals players have to interact with.

GAMEPLAY

     The first major combat irritation is how enemies spawn.  Sometimes they appear far enough away that players have time to react with moving or shooting, but at other times 5 enemies will spawn surrounding you leaving you nowhere to go and guaranteeing you will take heavy damage and likely die.  This is insanely annoying in the early game when you try and do a mission "search" (holding the E button for way too long) enemies will consistently spawn nearby and interrupt you.  This might not be as frustrating if you were playing multiplayer (or why can you not bring in AI support characters of the classes you are not playing as?).

     Even more frustratingly, if you fail a level (after 3 deaths), EVERYTHING you did is lost in it, items you found are gone.  I had a level where I spent 20 minutes slowly making my way through, completing all the tasks, the end of every level is a timed rush to get to an extraction point.  This part is an absolute MUST change part of the game- players are swarmed with overwhelming hordes of enemies.  I got completely buried in enemies with ZERO way of avoiding instant damage and died immediately after each respawn literally lost all that effort within seconds.  It is easily the worst design decision in the game.  That run to the extraction point should, first off, not have a timer.  And it should be balanced to how many characters are playing.  If you are stuck playing solo (I had only a single time being able to actually play a level with another player, all other attempts we could match up, but our levels were 2 or 3 off and we couldn't play together (why would you allow players to match together, but then not allow them to actually play a level together?!?).  Why would you spawn 40 enemies on a solo player that has no hope of fending that many off, especially in the early levels?  By changing this singular thing, ZCREW would be instantly better.  Perhaps giving players far more health (and get rid of the run button, make the base speed the run speed- enemies can easily catch you even when you run), and have the absurd enemy damage reduced, and it might help balance things out a bit.

FINAL VERDICT

     There's a myriad of small problems (remapping a controller for Steam winds up a mess), some general control issues (running away while firing backwards at enemies will shoot a few first shots/grenade the direction you are running and NOT the direction you are aiming), and oddities in player numbers to enemy numbers (both sheer numbers, as well in health and damage).  If the developers keep at it, they have a truly good gem here, it'll just take a lot of hard work and balancing to get it to make it into a great one.

     With all that said, ZCREW actually does have a solid foundation and is generally enjoyable (outside of the aforementioned frustrations).  There are numerous irritations and problems with the game, but I don't want to dissuade anyone from actually playing the game.  I did actually enjoy it quite a bit, and will be playing more as the developers continue to improve the game.  I believe they have a tremendous base to build upon.  There's a lot to like and I look forward to seeing how ZCREW: The Last Legion shapes up over time.


*A review copy was provided, thank you!

8.25.2020

Borderlands 3: Psycho Krieg and the Fantastic Fustercluck Official Reveal Trailer

     The new Borderlands 3 DLC full trailer has released and it is a doozy!  The Psycho Krieg and the Fantastic Fustercluck trailer starts with my two favorite characters, Tannis and Krieg, and gives us a glimpse of the jaunt into the bonkers mind of everybody's favorite murderous meat machine.




     This appears to be the exact DLC that has the potential to renew my passion for the series, as it has been waning since the launch of Borderlands 3.  It just didn't have the great writing that the previous games had- but this looks to remedy that with a warped reality of a mind torn apart through Hyperion experimentation.  
     Which makes me wonder... where's Krieg's soft voice at?  Will we see his rationale mind's personification in this game mode?  I certainly hope so.  I also hope it gives us a story that is as moving and on par with the hilarious and heartbreaking Tiny Tina's Bunkers & Badasses DLC Assault on Dragon Keep.  I mean, we do get a slight tease at Krieg's infatuation with Maya, so there's hope this could be great.

     Borderlands 3: Psycho Krieg and the Fantastic Fustercluck arrives Sept. 10th.

     For related posts [ Borderlands ]

8.20.2020

Borderlands 3: Campaign DLC 4 Teaser Featuring... KRIEG!!!

     It's been a long time since I've written about Borderlands.  I was an early adopter of the first game, and blogged incessantly about the sequel and Pre-Sequel, as well as a lot of the tie-in materials (comics, toys, etc), and a whole lot of self-made Borderlands memes, but Borderlands 3 just didn't capture the magic of 1 or 2.  The story wasn't nearly as well written, but the gameplay was still greatly improved.

     Well, this teaser for Borderlands 3's 4th Campaign DLC has got me hooked again.  It features my favorite playable character in the entire series, Krieg, and I'm eager to see what's become of him


          The full reveal for this DLC will arrive on August 25th. I'll be eagerly awaiting it.

          For related posts [ Borderlands ]

8.10.2020

The NeverEnding Story: The Original Dark Souls: The NeverEnding Souls Meme

   

      It's been quite a while since I posted on my own sites, and even longer since I made any kind of memes.  Well, I've been on a Dark Souls kick recently, and going over old movies for reference material for a project I've been working on.  In doing so I came across a long-time favorite film from my childhood- The NeverEnding Story.

     In re-watching the film I realized that Dark Souls has a LOT in common, and a lot of parallels with the film (and I suppose the book it's based on).  I mean, right off the bat, Fantasia is being destroyed by an infection of darkness called The Nothing- whereas Lordran is being devoured by consuming dark called The Abyss.  There's the great wolf Gmork and the great wolf Sif, and so on.  There's the multiple gates on the way to finding a way to solve the problem besetting the land. I'm genuinely curious to know if Hidetaka Miyazaki has ever seen this and unconsciously drew any inspiration from the film.

     I'd actually like to recommend people just watch the film again anyways, due to the tremendously meta work of the story itself- and in even more surprising recommendations, I recall the book being less impressive than the film- which is quite rare for me to say.  Anyways, I laughed watching this scene and picturing this exact moment as if I were playing the game and experiencing it like this.

     Have a laugh and enjoy.  #NeverEndingSouls

11.13.2019

Infected Shelter: Short Review: An Oddly Fun Zombeat-em-up (Available NOW!)

     Sometimes you find a game that looks kind of silly, and kind of dumb, but you go and give it a shot anyway.  And sometimes those games turn out to be truly unexpected gems.  Developer Dark Blue Games' Infected Shelter happens to be exactly that type of game.


     Infected Shelter is a simple at first glance a randomly generated, post-apocalyptic, beat-em-up, rogue-lite.  I say simple at first glance because playing it somehow sucks you in.  There's something special at the core of the game that just clicks.  It hits the right buttons for fans of the previously mentioned genres.

     The graphics have their own style- they're a cartoony, almost paper cut-out style- and there's a threadbare story, but the music and gameplay are absolutely intuitive and on point.  Controls are easy to grasp and quite fluid (though the really early access version had a small lag at some points, the full release version feels much tighter and responsive).  I'd highly recommend using a controller over a mouse and keyboard, but once you are dropped into the action things become truly fun.

     The game lets you choose whether or not you want to begin with a short tutorial or not, with one of four selectable characters- a one-legged soldier, a guitarist, a builder, and my personal and hilarious favorite a girl that swings her wheelchair-bound grandfather around as a weapon.  Characters can do special move finishers that made me laugh every time, and now with the full release players can jump in with up to 3 other players via co-op to share in the zombie-slaughtering amusement.
     The difficulty curve starts out a bit steep, but turns around relatively fast as you collect new items, new clothes (which alter how the characters special stats change, like the nurse costume adds healing, and so on), and blueprints for a ton of new weapons.  Sure, players will be dying a lot, but in this game it never feels like a bad thing, because you can easily mow through waves and hordes of zombies over and over again after obtaining new items.  That may seem monotonous, but Infected Shelter has a certain allure that kept drawing me back in for another try, so it never reached that point.

     It's not often I find games like Infected Shelter that I can hop on and enjoy for 5 minutes or 5 hours at a time.  The game is filled with a gloriously gory hilarity.  Infected Shelter is for fans of things like Castle Crashers or Dead Cells.  It may not have the depth of many triple A games, but it has more than enough heart to make up for it.  In a way Infected Shelter is the equivalent of a video game candy bar, sugary-sweet entertainment, while the major triple A titles would be nutritious full meals that take a lot of time to eat and digest.  It may not be for everybody, but it can damn well hit the right spot when the craving hits, and I highly recommend it.  On the whole, Infected Shelter is a simple and engaging rogue-lite beat-em-up to occupy fans of either genre for hours on end.

     Infected Shelter on [ Steam ] for $9.99, but is 10% off until Nov. 18th.

*An early access review copy was provided by the developer. Thank you!

9.16.2019

Slaughter 3: The Rebels Has Arrived on Mobile!

     Long time readers will know I've been a fan of the wonderful mobile 3rd person shooter game Slaughter since it launched.  I gave it a glowing review over at Droidgamers, and when the sequel hit- I was equally hyped and impressed as I was with the first game- and a while after that I even did a small interview with the developer Ray "Venomized Art" Spark.
     Over the last year, I've been eagerly following the small updates of the game's status on the official Facebook page, and watching all the developer Youtube videos


     The game is available right now, and Mr. Spark has once again outdone himself on every front.  The game is bigger, has more weapons, larger levels, improved visuals and controls, and a much, MUCH more expanded story.  If you like mobile 3rd person action games, this is another genuine treat to play and I highly recommend it.

     For more information and to follow the developer [ Venomized Art ]

     Slaughter 3: The Rebels is $2.99 on [ Google Play ] and $1.99 on [ iOS ]

     The original Slaughter is $2.49 on [ Google Play ] and $0.99 on [ iOS ]

     Slaughter 2: Prison Assault is $2.49 on [ Google Play ] and $0.99 on [ iOS ]

    For transparency's sake, I have to say I've been helping a little with translation and localization for the game (which will be completed and added in a future update patch).  I've received no pay or benefits and I bought my own copy of the game.  I support it because it is good, not for any kind of compensation.

6.05.2019

Borderlands 3: NEW DLC for Borderlands 2: Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary

     As has been speculated for the last year or so, it looks as if there will be an absolutely new story DLC for Borderlands 2 coming.  It's been almost 7 years since the game originally launched and this appears to be a bridge between the last game and its highly anticipated sequel.


     According to a post on ResetEra, Twitter user @RobotBrush had spotted the Steam page leak.  Some of the details included things like a level cap raise to 80, new enemies, vehicle skins, rainbow rarity weapons, a major new villain, and a wonderful little fact that it'll be 100% free.  The Steam page has since been taken down but not before having things been screencapped, saved, and noted.

     The leaked description reads:
     "Return to the award winning shooter-looter for a new adventure that sets the stage for the upcoming Borderlands 3. Sanctuary is under siege, the Vault's map has been stolen and a toxic gas is poisoning Pandora. Fight new bosses, explore new zones, get new loot (including an entirely new tier beyond Legendary) and join up with Lilith and the Crimson Raiders to take on a deranged villain hell-bent on ruling the planet. 
     Returning players can pursue an increased level cap of 80, while newcomers can automatically boost to level 30 and dive straight into the action."
     With the HD remasters, new Borderlands 2 DLC, and Borderlands 3 all hitting this year- it's truly the year of the Borderlands.  Now we can only wait and see what other goodies Gearbox might be cooking up for fans.  Personally I hope we get a mobile tie in game, and a plethora of entertainment merchandise like comics and toys.

     And probably the best part of the leak is that...

       ...it claims that Commander Lilith & The Fight for Sanctuary drops June 9th!

     Proof of Steam redaction [ Here ]

     Borderlands 3 launches on Sept. 13th.

     Related posts [ Borderlands ]

5.30.2019

Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered Coming Later this Year!

     #JoinTheGhostbusters!

     It looks like Ghostbusters fans are in for quite a treat.  This year marks both the 35th anniversary of the franchise and the 10th anniversary of The Video Game itself.
     In recent years there's been a plethora of Ghostbusters mobile games and a few console games, but none of them have truly captured the spirit of the franchise so special in the first place, and this fact is made so much more obvious as when playing Ghostbusters: The Video Game.


     According to the official Saber Interactive announcement:
     Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered delivers a unique story from Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis that captures the supernatural comedic fun and fright fans love from the franchise, which celebrates the 35th anniversary of Ghostbusters this year. 
     As the new rookie on the Ghostbusters crew, you’ll team up with your favorite characters from the films, reunited by the voices of Aykroyd, Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson as Stantz, Spengler, Venkman and Zeddemore, alongside Annie Potts, Brian Doyle-Murray, William Atherton, and Max von Sydow. Manhattan is overrun once more by ghosts, demons, and other paranormal creatures unleashed by a mysterious force, and only the Ghostbusters can drive this evil back to whatever dimension it crawled from and save the Big Apple. 
     Hunt, fight and trap a variety of new and familiar ghouls and phantasms, all remastered in HD resolution. Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered equips you with cool gadgets and upgradeable weapons to play with in huge boss fights and destructible environments. Scan and analyze targets with the P.K.E. Meter and Paragoggles, then strap on your Proton Pack to wear ghosts down with the blast stream before wrangling them with the capture stream.
     There's a reason many fans consider The Video Game as third film despite it being removed from official canon.  It plays well, it's got a great story, and it was made by the original crew.
     The 2016 Ghostbusters game was a mere reskin of 2011's Sanctum of Slime, the Ghostbusters: Lego Dimensions game is the standard LEGO game kind of fun, there's a generic puzzle game Ghostbusters: Puzzle Fighter, for a time the small side-scrolling, gem of a platformer titled Little Ghostbusters was available, and a low key kids game PLAYMOBIL Ghostbusters, then there was the mediocre Ghostbusters: Slime City, as well as the strange augmented reality game Ghostbusters: Paranormal Blast which was essentially remade by a better company into Ghostbusters World.  There's even an augmented reality VR game by Sony Interactive called Ghostbusters: Now Hiring, which is yet another mundane game for mobile devices.  In addition there was a bunch of content added to the Respawnables from the Ghostbusters franchise that was surprisingly well done.

     Sadly, the best game the franchise has ever produced was Ghostbusters: The Video Game, and now we get it as a wonderful remaster by Saber Interactive.  We can only hope that as we close in on Jason Reitman's new Ghostbusters film (slated to release on July 10th, 2020) we might see some new games, mobile or otherwise, that are up to the high quality of The Video Game.

Good news Ray, the Remaster is staring right at me.
     Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered is coming to PS4, XBox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via the Epic Game Store later this year.

     The official site [ Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered ]

     Related Posts [ Ghostbusters ]

5.22.2019

Slaughter 3: Closing in on a Release Date

     The day of release for the third installment of the badass mobile 3rd person shooter game Slaughter is nearing.  I was a massive fan of the first game, and an even bigger fan over the sequel which introduced a number of drastic improvements over the first.  It had better graphics, better gameplay, an arena mode, and even a 1st person mode for those that might dislike the 3rd person version.
     Recently developer Ray Spark has posted more new images for the upcoming Slaughter 3 featuring a great leap in graphical quality and environmental details.  Check out the images below. 


     The chain link fence in the sewer looks amazing, the dusky sky and street light are phenomenal, and the texture work on the rubble ground is damned fine.  It should be noted that Spark says the icons are currently only placeholders, and there's currently a lot of "unnecessary elements in the levels."  Regardless, they look awesome so far.


     According to his Facebook page, the story is almost done and the game's final polishing will begin relatively soon.  I for one, am greatly anticipating Slaughter 3's release date when it arrives.  The exact date has not yet been officially announced.


     All I can say for now is go check out the first two Slaughter games, and give them a chance as they are fun as hell.  They've got action, humor, and a pretty damned decent story.

     For an interview with the developer I did back in Dec. 17 [ Link ]

     Slaughter is $2.49 on Google Play ] and $0.99 on [ iOS ]

     Slaughter 2: Prison Assault is $2.49 on [ Google Play ] and $0.99 on [ iOS ]

     Source [ Venomized Art ]