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4.1 heures en tout
Horror has always been something that is particular to every reader, viewer, and player. Since no two people fear quite the same things, in quite the same ways, that leaves the most terrifying creations as those which best capture and express the fears of their creators. Indie horror is a fertile (if crowded) field for such creations to blossom, and so we celebrate every new title that can bring us closer to those primal terrors. The Dread X Collection is one of the most exciting recent efforts, bringing together some absolute luminaries of the genre to thrill and chill players in their own ways. As with any anthology there are highs and lows, but the highs are so high and the lows are so few, it’ll be well-worth any horror fan’s time.

Dread X is a collection of ten mini-horror games, each created in seven days by a different indie developers. The minds behind such titles as Dusk, Faith, and Northbury Grove contributed to this project, which challenged them to create a prototype for the horror game of their dreams. It’s all tied together with a slick interface and moody voiceover that sets the grim tone for the anthology. Each game has its own scope and challenge, of course, but all together the collection will take you about four to five hours to experience fully. I won’t spoil what any of the individual pieces do, but we can talk about the many things that worked and the few that didn’t for me.

The biggest hits of this collection are the most unique, and chief among them is SUMMER NIGHT. This one is posed as one of those old LCD handheld games, and displays some absolutely masterful command of tension and expectations. Another gem is Shatter, a truly remarkable vision of a future wasteland ruled over by digital gods. Hand of Doom is my choice to round out a top three, hearkening back to the days of 2.5D dungeon crawlers and coupling it with a charming incantation system. Don’t Go Out and Carthanc are two more titles that are certainly unique in their execution, but your mileage may vary based on how you find their difficulty tuned.

This isn’t to say the remaining titles in Dread X are bad, only that they might not have hit the same high notes for me. The Pony Factory is a very effective blend of first-person action and horror, for example, but the pacing did drag for me near the end. Mr. Bucket Told Me To was mostly worth it for the ending, being a bit rough in its execution, but still covered a very compelling concept with its horror. Outsiders is a familiar sort of explore-the-house horror sim that I imagine many people love, but I personally am very much not a fan of. As for the last two games to mention, The Pay Is Nice is more a proof-of-concept than anything as it ends right when it seems real gameplay is starting, and Rotgut was a bit of a technical mess for me that really hurt what creepy potential it had.

Even if only half the games in this collection hit the mark for you, though, they’re going to be very solid hits. The heights of Dread X as found in SUMMER NIGHT or Shatter are absolutely stellar, offering deeply affecting frights and glimpses into brilliant alien worlds. And as I said, the lows I found won’t be lows for everyone, and aren’t even what I would call bad games on their own. You can’t expect consistent quality from any anthology, and even with that in mind this is one of the most consistently satisfying ones you’re likely to find on Steam. Not only did I have a blast playing through the whole thing, I’m thrilled to see what these developers come up with next, based on these tantalizing glimpses of their nightmares I’ve had.

Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Posté le 3 juin.
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4.0 heures en tout
How do you feel about learning curves? Do you need steady progression through a game to stay engaged, or are you willing to chip away at parts before you can proceed? If you’re not okay with the latter, I don’t think you’re going to like One Step From Eden very much. This unique mix of deckbuilding and fast-paced strategy is mentally taxing on a whole new level, and the roguelike structure means lots and lots and lots of runs before you finally grasp how it all works. In truth, I’m still in the learning phases of this one, but it does enough right that I’m more than willing to say it’s worth putting the work into.

Don’t expect a whole lot of story here: you’re on your way to Eden, last bastion of civilization in a ruined world, and a bunch of nasty things want to stop you. Borrowing a page from the Slay the Spire handbook, you proceed down different paths in each area featuring battles, shops, camps, elite foes, and a boss at the end. Your route will determine what opportunities you have to grow your character, between experience towards leveling up and new cards from battles, artifacts from elites and treasures, and all manner of goods and services at shops. Hopefully your journey will make your deck powerful enough to face the bosses who wield mighty abilities of their own, but even a typical battle can end your run if things go very, very badly.

One Step From Eden borrows more than just a page from Slay the Spire, honestly. Not only are areas laid out similarly, managing your deck and artifacts and even some of the strategic concerns are the same. It’s the combat itself that sets this one apart, choosing to cast all the way back to the heady days of Mega Man Battle Network for real-time grid-based battles for you to sling your cards around in. Your deck becomes a list of spells that you cycle through two at a time, aimed at different parts of the opponent’s field. There are some obvious powers like calling down lighting, flinging ice shards, and setting down turrets, along with some clever tactical options like breaking grid tiles and forming reflective barriers. Synergy between spells is important, with some schools of magic being built around concepts like Trinity and Flow.

The real-time aspect of this system is what I think you should focus on, because that’s what makes One Step From Eden so imposing to learn. You have a vast deck of spells to manage, each with its own targeting rules, mana cost, synergies, and so on. You’ll also have passive effects from any artifacts you’ve found and from your character choice to consider. Then there are the enemy types, which are wonderfully varied and pack their own devastating spells and gimmicks. Lining up ideal plays while avoiding damage would be a challenge even in a turn-based setting (as Slay the Spire is happy to remind you), but here you have to do all of this with seconds to consider. Your foes are moving, timers are running down, attacks are incoming, and you’ve still got to line up your shots and think about how to chain spells together. To say this is overwhelming at first blush would be a huge understatement.

But it won’t be forever! Wits and reflexes are a necessity here but the strategy will eventually gel into something you can snap off quickly, while responding to threats on the board. It’s just going to take you hours to get there, and I can’t say for certain how long that’ll be for each person. Like I said, I’m still internalizing the flow of battles, and experimenting with different decks. There’s a surprising number of ways you can go with your spells, spread across ten different schools, and further magnified by the strengths of each character. It’s a smart call for the game, really, giving players a huge variety of cards and styles to experiment with as they go through the many, many runs it’ll take to master the frenetic combat. Also worth noting are the high health pools for most characters and wealth of defensive options, meaning you can make plenty of mistakes and keep on chugging.

I am by no means an expert on One Step From Eden, but I can see it’s a very gratifying game to seek expertise in. With enormous variety and tactical depth, each run can play out in entirely different ways. And that’s important, considering how many runs it will take to get comfortable with the complex real-time battles. It may take even longer to learn about what artifacts to take, what spells to upgrade, what to spend your money on, and so on. But all these details and considerations are what make this a game worth working at, instead of one to pass by. Coupled with charming pixel art and an excellent soundtrack, One Step From Eden is a challenging but ultimately gratifying addition to the expanding deckbuilding genre.

Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Posté le 29 mai.
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I’ve fallen a bit out of love with the Far Cry series over the years. Since the heights of the second one (yes Far Cry 2 is the best), the franchise has calcified more and more into a set open-world shooter collect-a-thon mold. Even the kooky side games like Blood Dragon haven’t split much from the format, and Far Cry Primal isn’t really an exception to the rule either. You’re still going to have the same plot missions rescuing people or assassinating commanders, emergent missions saving or assassinating random people, and hundreds of collectibles, pelts, and rocks to gather up. But there are important differences here, owing to the setting, that give Far Cry a much needed shake-up away from the familiar gunplay and plot points.

Thousands of years before bullets, gyrocopters, and awkward sex scenes, the land of Oros was a vast, untamed wilderness full of promise. Your people, the Wenja, traveled to Oros in search of better lives. What they found instead were the brutal, cannibalistic Udam and the crazed, pyromaniacal Izila. Scattered and hunted, the Wenja need a hero to unite them and show them how to survive in the face of such threats. Fortunately, you are Takkar, a gruff, no-nonsense warrior ready to learn all there is to know about Oros and lead your people to victory. From the humble beginnings of your cave and first scattered huts, you’ll build your tribe a thriving village, take the fight to your enemies, and tame the land itself in search of peace and prosperity.

“Far Cry minus guns” is surely an intriguing premise, but what this Stone Age setup really does is refocus the combat. Your main weapons are clubs, spears, and bows, with bows mostly following how they work in the other games and the other weapons providing awkward melee options and still being throwable for big damage. There are some neat interactions like lighting your weapons ablaze to illuminate caves, scare off animals, and torch obstructions, and some of the supporting gear adds additional options like harrying foes with bees or turning them against each other. It’s a creative if limited arsenal, and it’s still in service of traditional Far Cry gameplay of creeping around and murking dudes before shooting it out with the alerted survivors, but it’s enough of a change to feel fresher than the other titles.

There are two notable differences here from other Far Crys, and the first is your menagerie of deadly critters. Takkar is christened the Beast Master early on in your adventure, granting you the option of taming wolves, jaguars, lions, bears, and more to accompany you. You can have one beast out at a time, each with its own little perk like tagging enemies or warding off wild aggressors, and it can be ordered to attack enemies at will. Having an animal companion is honestly a game-changer, seeing as how they can take down enemies and other animals for you instead of you needing to hunt down every single thing that needs to be dead. The larger ones like saber-tooth tigers and bears can obliterate whole packs of foes, making all-out frontal assaults even more feasible than ever before. Oh, and you get a neat little owl buddy that can scout and tag for you, and eventually pick off enemies and drop bombs on them.

If the animal companions are a much-needed punch-up to the combat, the story is a much-needed retreat from the usual Far Cry slog. Really this series has never had a story that could carry the game anywhere, often vacillating between the forgettable drama of 4 and the tonal trainwreck of 3. Primal seems to understand this and pulls away from any big, over-arching narrative to focus on rebuilding your tribe. There are great character moments with your named tribesmen, and a few cutscene encounters with the two villains, but no time is wasted on awkwardly emotional beats or ham-fisted symbolism. Your tribe needs you, and you will kick ♥♥♥ and skin goats until they are triumphant.

And no, you’re never really all out of goats, either. Far Cry Primal leans heavily on the crafting introduced in previous entries for everything, including your healing, your weapons, your tools, and expanding your village. You will absolutely need to go on hunting trips for yaks or elk or bears to grow your character, and you can’t skip out on hoovering up rocks and reeds for huts, either. It’s not really an impediment to gameplay, and often becomes a nice diversion between sacking Udam camps and spelunking. At least the crafting system has many uses here, feeling less like a vestigial system added by committee and more like an integral part of the experience. The same goes for the many kinds of collectibles to find, including cave paintings, totems, and lost bracelets. There’s not a huge amount of variety to missions but they’re spread out enough that they too can become welcome diversions from the hunting and foraging you do for much of the game.

I can’t get away from the fact that this is still very much a Far Cry-♥♥♥ Far Cry, down to the map indicators and first-person mantling animations. If you’ve played a Far Cry since 3 then you’ve seen what this game has to offer, but to its credit it works pretty hard to put a new coat of paint on it. Taming wild beasts and letting action take over for the story are both very welcome additions here, and the whole package does a great job of selling the Stone Age struggles of your people. Maybe it’s the setting, maybe it’s seeing a village spring up from nothing, or maybe it’s having a saber-tooth tiger I can ride, but something about this one has hooked me more than any of the recent Far Crys have. Whatever it is, I hope they keep putting it in because the series needs more unique entries like Primal.

Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Posté le 27 mai.
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3.6 heures en tout
I bring up difficulty in a lot of reviews, but I don’t think I’ve ever talked about why a game should be difficult. Obviously games shouldn’t be difficult in ways that frustrate the player, and conversely they shouldn’t be so easy that they become tedious or boring. But ZeroRanger understands that posing a fair challenge, a steep but ultimately surmountable challenge, can give a player more inspiration to keep at it than some of the best narratives or systems. This is not an easy game, and I haven’t even seen all the ways it can challenge me, but I’ve had such a blast getting this far that I can definitely call it one of the better shmups on Steam.

The bizarre alien craft Green Orange has arrived to annihilate humanity, and only two ships remain to save what’s left. Blasting off from the ruins of civilization, your battle will take you deep beneath the planet’s surface, into outer space, and to the very heart of whatever Green Orange is. Along the way you’ll acquire new weapons to aid in your fight, as well as a powerful new ability as you close in on your target. But the path to victory is not as clear as it might first appear, and simply destroying your foes may not lead to your salvation. Only by understanding the nature of the threat and the fight you face will you reach true enlightenment here.

There’s a lot I can’t tell you about ZeroRanger, honestly. The plot very clearly takes cues from all sorts of old-school anime and aspires to be much more than a straight clash of good and evil. Ultimately your battle is not entirely what it seems, and taking new approaches to parts of the game can yield surprising results. The store page only advertises four levels which is not entirely accurate, and even though they’re quite lengthy and challenging you can expect plenty more than what you encounter there. A huge part of the game’s appeal is reaching not just the next stage of the game, but the next stage of understanding of what you’re working towards. It’s a very clever story with some genuinely emotional moments, and some fantastic payoffs for your efforts.

Getting there is going to take plenty of effort, too. As a shmup, ZeroRanger is up there with the likes of Ikaruga and Mars Matrix for how brutal it can be. The system itself is incredibly simple, just three fire buttons and a fourth for a later ability. No shields, no bombs, no gimmicks, just you versus hordes of enemies and bullets. You do have a combo meter to keep up, which can earn you extra lives very rapidly and keep you in prolonged fights, since you don’t return to the last checkpoint until you use a continue. The whole continue system is also score-based and fairly mysterious, so it’s not just the story you’ll have to work to understand.

Your foes are a wonderfully entertaining spread of ships, mechs, and squishier things, and it’s a ton of fun to see how the opposition changes as you draw closer to the source. Some of these designs are wildly creative, and are presented with fantastic flair and an incredible soundtrack to accompany them. They’re all a fair challenge, but grow steeper and steeper as you progress until you surely hit something of a brick wall. There’s no avoiding it, ZeroRanger is the kind of game you must learn and practice to improve at, because some of these fights are brutally uncompromising. On the plus side, you can start at any level you’ve reached with any ships and weapons you want, so practicing tricky parts isn’t the issue. The issue is overcoming that wall at all, which is extremely worthwhile here but not something everyone is going to be willing to do.

For my part, I’m stuck on what appears to be the true final boss who has a ridiculously challenging gimmick different from all the rest. I know I can beat it eventually, but I can’t say how long it’ll take or how frustrated I might become getting there. What I can say is that I’ve had a ton of fun getting to that point and learning the secrets of this game, and even if I never overcome him I’ll likely keep at the game anyway because it’s such an awesome spectacle. There’s a part in the fourth stage where you’ve just beaten something huge and terrifying, blasted your way into an unknown area, and this incredible song starts blasting as you speed down these enemy-filled corridors. I get an absolute thrill every time I hit that part, which is something that I hope more people can experience because ZeroRanger is definitely special in the land of shmups.

Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Posté le 22 mai.
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7.3 heures en tout
It can be tempting to offer players a vast world to explore and master, but this only makes it harder to design. Rarely is it enough to create a world and leave people to their own devices in it, because of how important direction is to both learning the rules and finding purpose. Direction, or lack thereof, is the only thing really holding me back in Horizon’s Gate. I’ve figured out how to make money, build my fleet, grow my prestige, and lay my enemies low, but less so what to do with my skills and resources. Fortunately, there’s plenty to do in this lush world besides advance the plot

As a commodore of the island nation of Dominio, your star was on the rise. A single fateful night was enough to blot it out, though, leaving you with only a tiny boat and a long-time friend to start over. But start over you can, building your reputation as a trader, explorer, or mercenary, allying with another of the world’s nations, and gathering the ships and crew to become a formidable force yourself. Hidden somewhere on the vast oceans are the clues to what happened on that terrible night, and following them may lead you to uncover even worse secrets about your lost home.

There’s a lot more to find besides that, though. Horizon’s Gate is a mash-up of turn-based tactical RPG combat and free-roaming sailing, like if the world map in Final Fantasy Tactics were replaced with Sid Meier’s Pirates. Once you get through the plot-driven tutorial, you’re left at a remote port town with a ship, a basic crew, and a few leads to follow up. Surely the first thing you’ll want to do is sail the world, discovering new ports, meeting new characters, and learning about the many trade goods available. Trading is perhaps the easiest system of all to grasp, and significantly easier than most full trading sims, because the price you buy trade goods at is always the lowest possible and your profit is determined by how far away from the source you sell it. You can also earn money for how much of the world map you’ve filled in, which goes a long way towards encouraging exploration.

You’ll find caves, forests, and other points of interest to put ashore at as well, which is where top-down JRPG wandering and turn-based tactics take over. You can take four of your crew with you on adventures, each with their own equipment, stats, and two classes selected from an extensive job system. Battles commence right there on the same map you’re exploring, and turn into large brawls between your group and sometimes two or three other squads of enemies that might also be battling each other. In addition to the basic attacks of your equipped weapons, each character can also have around a dozen active skills taken from their two job classes. Skills can range from powerful spells and area attacks to pushes and repositioning, so your strategies will very wildly depending on your party composition. What won’t change is the constant shuffle of flanking and back-stabbing characters, since facing rules are very much in full effect here.

Sea battles with pirates, beasts, or unfortunate merchants works in a similar turn-based fashion, but it can be very difficult to tell what fights your vessel is actually ready for. That’s true of all the odd little stops and dungeons you find in your travels, really. Some may contain a small bandit group you can easily dispatch, while others could be packed to the gills with spiny horrors. It’s part of the game’s open nature, that you can easily head off in a direction or make port at a location that you’re completely out of your depth for. The little quests the storyline leaves for you don’t help much in this regard, suggesting you build your fame with a nation by doing odd jobs for them or exploring general areas. I can’t even find the channel the main plot is wanting me to check, despite being a very simple direction from a capital city.

Ultimately I don’t think the story is going to be the main draw here, and it doesn’t really need to be. There are hours of gratifying adventure to be had here, growing wealthy from trading and powerful from exploring. Combat is complicated and there’s tons to learn about the game, but the unique alternate-fantasy setting and vast array of secrets to turn up leave plenty of hooks to keep players invested. One of my favorite features is a Look function that can be used on literally every item and scenery object in the game, adding it to your journal and earning you money based on how rare the discovery is. It’s a feature that alone can keep me coming back to Horizon’s Gate, and with that kind of attention to detail and gameplay, I can easily suggest that others give it a try.

Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Posté le 20 mai.
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7.2 heures en tout
Do you remember your first FPS? I get the feeling that your original experience with the genre colors your perceptions of it, for good or for ill. Dark Forces was my first FPS, and as both an avid gamer youth and a massive Star Wars fan, it was like living a dream. To be dropped right into the Star Wars universe in such a visceral way, exploring Nar Shadda and Coruscant while trading blaster fire with stormtroopers and bounty hunters, was enough to fuel my imagination for years. I’m much older now, more experienced with the FPS genre and less enamored with Star Wars, but honestly that only makes it easier to see why Dark Forces is such an enduring classic.

Long before Rogue One, Kyle Katarn was the Rebellion’s go-to guy for black ops work. After proving himself by stealing the original Death Star plans, Mon Mothma entrusts Kyle with what could be an even more pressing assignment. A general within the Imperial ranks has developed a new kind of automated stormtrooper that can destroy a Rebel base within minutes. The production facilities and deployment methods are a mystery, precisely the mystery that Kyle is brought on to unravel. Partnered with the resourceful Jan Ors, he’ll search the galaxy for clues to defeating this new threat, stopping by several notable locales and stocking up on powerful weaponry to waste the enormous opposition he meets. By the end of the campaign you’ll strike deep into the heart of the Empire, and face off against some of the nastiest characters in Star Wars.

Dark Forces was the first Star Wars FPS, dating back to the heady days of Doom and Duke Nukem 3D. It ran on its own special engine, which allowed its fourteen massive levels to be packed with sliding doors, rotating plates, precipitous cliffs, bridges, and even animated ships zipping around some of the areas. These elements are used to incredible effect to sell the player on the sense of infiltrating massive Imperial facilities, blasting through the decks of star destroyers, and exploring futuristic cities with their scale and detail. Levels truly do feel straight out of the original trilogy films themselves, with familiar structures, iconic foes like stormtroopers and probe droids, and chaotic shootouts that would make impressive movie moments on their own. It’s all tied together with moody music selections and perfect effect work for a game set in the Star Wars universe.

Being immersed in such a storied setting is a great accomplishment, but the gameplay manages to impress all on its own. Dark Forces apes much of what made the original Doom great, such as making the player incredibly mobile and deadly and pitting them against hordes of foes that must be outwitted. Imperial soldiers of varying ranks are your usual opposition, posed in such numbers that quick reflexes and a quicker trigger finger will be key to survival. Even your most basic weapons dispatch them in two or three blasts, so their numbers are what make them deadly. Another wise decision was having only one type of enemy with a hitscan weapon late in the game, meaning you’ll be trading blaster bolts with stormtroopers and always have the option of juking or diving for cover. Further into the game you’ll encounter a wide variety of Star Wars denizens, including bounty hunters with lobbed explosives, deadly self-destructing probe droids, and terrifying sewer monsters.

The combination of detailed, immersive levels, many kinds of alien foes, and an overall dark and moody atmosphere makes Dark Forces an intense and thrilling experience that often sits between fully action-packed FPSes and more horror-focused titles. One level filled with tentacled beasts still manages to frighten me as an adult, and the dark streets of a seedy spaceport lend themselves way more tension than a game from 1995 normally would. It can be challenging at times as well, though the three difficulty levels do a lot to even out the curve for players of any skill level. Some enemies are incredibly deadly if you don’t handle them carefully, and some traps are downright insidious. The only element I genuinely dislike are the enemy land mines, which get tucked away in more and more awkward spots as you progress and can seriously mess up your health situation.

In truth, that’s about the only complaint I can level at the game at all. It’s dated, of course, and hasn’t benefited from the glut of source ports Doom has or the remakes Duke3D got. There’s nothing approaching modern display resolutions, and vertical mouselook (which is pretty important here) is only possible through a fan patch released in the last few weeks. But whatever technical troubles you’ll have to overcome are more than worth this singular experience. Few games, even into recent years, have so thoroughly captured the feeling of adventuring through the Star Wars universe. And even fewer have offered such solid, thrilling gameplay to enjoy as you venture forth into that galaxy far, far away.

Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Posté le 13 mai.
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3.9 heures en tout
I love narrative-driven games, but they might be one of the hardest kinds of games to get right. If you’re relying on the story to carry players through your title, that story needs to be one of the most compelling and well-written tales in gaming, and everything that supports the story has to be on point. I’m sure that’s what Cloudpunk is aiming for, but between the writing and the voice acting, it absolutely does not hit the mark. And what gameplay there is could almost carry the experience in lieu of the story, except for how sparse and lacking that side is as well.

Rania is a newcomer to the towering city of Nivalis, a nigh-infinite sprawl of super-skyscrapers, suspended walkways, and searing neon. It’s her first night working for Cloudpunk, a courier service that requires her to personally ferry packages across the massive metropolis. But in a city built on secrets, forgotten technology, and crushed dreams, even a single night can be a life-changing experience. Rania will meet a bewildering number of the city’s inhabitants and face some tough choices in how she approaches them and her job. She’ll also find some cracks in the foundations of Nivalis that could reveal much about the origins and nature of the grim place she now calls home.

I have no doubt you found this game the same way I did, led here by the incredible screenshots and promises of a rain-slicked dystopia of misty towers. And it does feel pretty incredible to putter around the city in your floating HOVA, weaving between traffic and spires to locate the nestled neighborhoods where your deliveries take place. The voxel art helps all the characters and locales pop with its chunky charm, though the mix of voxel sizes you start noticing close up does detract a bit from the aesthetics. Nevertheless, atmosphere is probably the thing Cloudpunk does best, because it’s about as close as you get to piloting a spinner in Blade Runner.

That appeal starts to wear a bit thin once you get a better idea of how the game is structured, though. Nivalis is a series of large connected regions of towers and highways, and tucked between them are areas where you can park and walk around on foot. These are clearly marked on your map, along with any shops, NPCs, and collectibles you can find there. It turns out the wonderfully atmospheric driving of the game just exists to ferry you between these nests of catwalks and footpaths, where you’ll actually spend most of your time walking around and talking to NPCs. There seem to be no real secrets to find in Nivalis, as all parking locations and items are right there on your map. Two of the regions you’ll head to are pretty unique and especially atmospheric to travel through, but the rest of the city loses its charm as you travel back and forth and back and forth and back past the same beautiful but purely cosmetic buildings.

So that very much leaves the story to carry the game, which might be the weakest part of the whole package. Rania’s tale is of an outsider coming to a city of miserable insiders, of discovering the pitfalls and excesses of decaying capitalist society, and of plumbing the secrets of a fallen future. This is all fertile ground for narratives to sprout from, and a delivery driver touching so many lives in a single night is a great way to explore that. The problem is that the writing does not keep up with those lofty goals at all, mucking around in surface-level metaphors and political commentary more suited for Twitter takes than an engaging narrative. Characters in Nivalis are parodies of cyberpunk tropes, like the guy who sold his body for a chance to live in finery as a service robot, or the elevator with megalomaniacal airs. All of the themes and takeaways are the most obvious suspects of the cyberpunk genre, offering nothing new to dig into or ponder as you tool about the static city. And the poison icing on this cake is the voice acting, which is so dire that it saps any sympathy or interest you might have in any of the characters, especially with their hilariously mismatched dialects and mispronunciations of common terms.

Games like Cloudpunk are the biggest tragedies, the games with the ideal looks and feels that you want so very much to be good. But then you get into them, explore their stories and systems past that honeymoon period, and find nothing left to grab you. Nivalis is absolutely a city I would love to explore in detail, to climb the decaying towers, question the motivations of its residents, and call my dystopian hell home away from home. But I can’t do any of that here. I can cruise around the city, scoop up collectibles in designated walking spaces, and suffer through painfully sophomoric writing and dialogue. I don’t want to do any of those things, and so I leave this towering, shimmering city of such possibilities to fade into memory. Perhaps someday there will be a more thoughtful exploration of its mysteries, but until then, I’m content to wait.

Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Posté le 6 mai.
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75.7 heures en tout (49.1 heure(s) au moment de l'évaluation)
Minecraft certainly has its faults, but it’s obviously done something right to persist in popularity across the years. It gets harder and harder to see how as new games come out that improve on its designs, and Dragon Quest Builders 2 makes one of the strongest cases for an alternative. There are so many things I can do in this game that I will miss dearly if I try to return to Minecraft, enough that it really just makes more sense to remain in this colorful, adorable world. It’s not like I’ll be done with the story or the building anytime soon, and the more time I spend on both, the more enraptured I become with them.

Years ago, a legendary builder roamed the world and taught people the joys of creation. Since those halcyon days, though, the Children of Hargon have swept the land and undone nearly all of the work that lost hero did. Preaching destruction and subservience, the Children allow no building to stand and no spark of creativity to flourish in their presence. But you don’t care about that, because you’re a bright-eyed builder with the world at their fingertips! Left shipwrecked after a strange storm with the mysterious Malroth and the impetuous Lulu, it’s up to you to build shelters and services, brainstorm crafty solutions to problems, and befriend the forlorn people of the world to restore their long-lost hope. The Children of Hargon won’t just let you ply your trade without question, of course, but you may find yourself surprised where some of them fall on your works.

The story of Dragon Quest Builders 2 is built out of the framework of the original Dragon Quest 2, imagining a world where the original three heroes never came together and Hargon’s minions were able to run amok. While the monsters and music will be immediately recognizable to fans of the classic RPG, the story is very much its own thing and offers plenty of surprises, especially if you recognize the name Malroth. Story is also one of the biggest strengths this game has over its peers in the free-form building and survival genres, because it is very much full JRPG fare across five huge plot-driven islands. You’ll meet all manner of eclectic characters, brought to life with charming animations and top-notch localization, and complete quests that are mostly focused on building things and finding resources, rather than battling. The main story is easily a 60-80-hour engagement even if you focus solely on progression, with plenty of heartwarming moments and cute twists.

Cute is absolutely the keyword for this one, and one glance at the screenshots should show you that much. The modern Dragon Quest style of round, colorful Toriyama art gives the entire game a friendly, inviting feel, and the writing absolutely follows this lead. You’ll still have moments of drama, but the tone is always quick to bounce back with some snappy lines. This dovetails nicely with the pace of the gameplay as well, which is loaded with clear directions for simple tasks that have really no time constraints whatsoever. You’ll always know exactly what you need to do for a quest, with absolutely no pressure to do it until you feel like it. And that fact that you’re raising barns and growing crops for these quests grant them an entirely wholesome feel that never fades.

The constructing is the cornerstone of the gameplay, and is another place where DQB2 outshines many of its peers. At the core of the experience are hundreds of blocks, decorations, and tools to make convincing fantasy towns and castles, all easily sortable in your massive, massive inventory. Placement and interaction distances are generous, especially in first-person mode. Your tools are incredibly powerful for constructing and demolishing, including a hammer that can clear up to five-by-five cubes of space and a trowel that can swap blocks in a flash. On the plot islands you’ll need to harvest the resources you need but back at your hub island, you can embark on scavenger hunts to randomly-generated islands to unlock unlimited basic resources like wood and stone. This above all else really streamlines the creative process as you progress, and encourages massive amounts of creativity when customizing your home island.

Questing and building provide rock-solid pillars for this whole game to stand on, leaving little to really complain about. Probably the biggest limitation to note, especially for folks coming in from Minecraft, is that you’re not building in a limitless world. Your hub island is where you’ll really do all your free building, and even that comes with quests to guide you. You can certainly build on the plot islands but you’ll be even more constrained by plot concerns and limited resources. Building specific room and structure types, defined by size and decor, can also be difficult because they requirements are often obscured until you stumble across them. Some require unlocks from later in the story as well, and considering you’ll be unlocking new blocks, decoration, and even abilities across the entire game, it can be hard to tell when it’s safe to buckle down and build the city of your dreams.

Really these are gripes borne from how massive and robust an adventure this is. It’s an ideal marriage of building, survival, and RPG elements, and comes with important evolutions of each aspect. The building has so many options and conveniences I don’t know how I could ever go back to Minecraft, honestly. And whenever I get tired of building bars and aqueducts, there’s always more charming story to sink back into. Everything is so cute and inviting that I’ll never grow frustrated with any of it, and there are few games that I feel so relaxed with. Fans of Dragon Quest and building games alike will not be disappointed with Dragon Quest Builders 2, and it’s polished enough that newcomers to either will surely be pleased here.

Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Posté le 1 mai.
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8 personnes ont trouvé cette évaluation utile
3.1 heures en tout
Review copy provided by developer via Curator Connect

When a series loses its way, I’m always eager to see if the developers learn from their mistakes. I was incredibly eager to see this after Hero of the Kingdom III, because even with the love I bear for the first two games, the third was a massive disappointment for me. I’m not sure if that feeling was the consensus, and after finishing The Lost Tales here, it seems that the developers might not have felt they needed to change much since last time. There are enough improvements to get me through this bite-sized adventure, but not enough to give me confidence that the Hero of the Kingdom series will remain a favorite of mine.

You are a lone wanderer, emerging from the wilderness for the first time in god knows how long only to discover a town in the grip of fear. A dragon has been terrorizing the lands, burning homes to ash and devouring livestock. A young orphan named Brent has dreams of felling the beast and earning his place among the people, but all these dreams earn him is ridicule. With nothing better to do, you set about helping Brent on his quest, and in doing so help the people of town with their many, many, many problems. You’re also sure to turn up some dark secrets in your journey, and perhaps find that the villain of this story is not who you think.

It’s true, there’s a neat little twist near the end of this tale, but for the most part it’s a perfectly boilerplate quest to slay a dragon. The other Hero of the Kingdom games got by with generic quests to save family by inserting lots of fun twists and turns along the way, and also by varying up the many, many, many problems you have to solve through trading. That’s not the case with The Lost Tales, sadly, because the plot remains almost perfectly predictable, and your chores never extend past the most common of fantasy tasks. Gone are the quests to settle unquiet ghosts or construct your own tallship, leaving you to farm crops, mend fences, and kill many, many, many critters.

This was the big thing that killed the third game for me, the absolutely inexorable grind of monsters between you and anything of any interest. The Lost Tales gets frightfully close to a similar grind, but doesn’t really pitch towards it near the last quarter and still breaks it up a bit with other tasks. You’re also not on such razor-sharp margins of resources here, meaning you can stock up heavily on potions and power-restoring food to make barreling through a cave of spiders or a marsh of crocodiles go that much faster. One welcome improvement in this installment is a wider variety of ways to get common resources, such as alternate crafting routes in addition to centrally-placed vendors.

It’s also easy to keep track of all the NPCs and services here, because the world you have to explore is really, really small. This will no doubt be a disappointment to fans of the other games, but The Lost Tales is very noticeably smaller than its predecessors, barely clocking in at 3 hours for a 100% clear. I’ll admit this does help keep the monster grinds from wearing out their welcome, but it does make the generic quests and lack of variety sting that much more. You’d think with a game of such limited scope they might take the story or mechanics in new, more interesting directions, but this is easily the most uninspired of the series, as well as the smallest.

If it sounds like I’m not really selling The Lost Tales here, then I’ve pretty much gotten across how I feel about it. After two fantastically fun and chill experiences in the first two games and a huge disappointment in the third, this one kinda lands with a big, unremarkable thud. That being said, I’m not going to recommend against it. I got through it, and I enjoyed it a bit, which is more than I can say for the last game. But really The Lost Tales is here for people who absolutely need more Hero of the Kingdom right now, and don’t expect much for their trouble. If this is the where the series is going, then the first two games might be more happy accidents than marks of something great. I can only hope that the developers are aspiring to more with whatever follows.

Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Posté le 29 avril. Dernière modification le 29 avril.
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1 personne a trouvé cette évaluation amusante
7.5 heures en tout
I love a good murder mystery, but a murder mystery where you can fix the murders is a new one to me. It’s an interesting twist when finding the cause of death is only the beginning, and tracing the trail of no-longer-bodies back to the source is the ultimate goal. But The Sexy Brutale gets by on more than just a simple gameplay twist and a killer title. These murders you’ve got to undo are wrapped up in a twisting plot, an arsenal of mystical powers, and some incredibly charming presentation. It may not be the total package in terms of gameplay, but the heart that this one has is more than enough reason to get caught up in its mysteries.

The Sexy Brutale is an opulent mansion-slash-casino owned and operated by the shadowy Marquis. He’s invited a crowd of his closest friends and associates to join him for an evening of entertaining diversions, and also death. Turns out none of the guests are destined to survive their visit, and the ominously-masked staff are more than happy to help usher their charges on to the afterlife. But one of the guests, Lafcadio Boone, is informed of the situation by a distressingly sanguine woman and given the tools needed to save everyone. You must guide Boone through the halls and chambers of The Sexy Brutale to undo the many grisly murders about to take place there, and luckily for you, you have plenty of time.

After a brief intro chapter that fills you in on the details of your circumstances, you start your mission at noon on the day of the murders. Events proceed all across The Sexy Brutale as they are destined to do, with guests and staff moving about, talking with each other, and being horribly killed. Boone’s special position in the drama does not allow him to interact directly with anyone; the strange masks that everyone wears react very unkindly to his presence in the same room, unless he is hidden. But what Boone can do is peek through doors, hide in closets, watch cameras, and otherwise spy on the events of the mansion to piece together exactly what is going on. All of the character locations and important details are marked on your map, along with a time slider that helpfully keeps track of when things happen where.

This is of key importance, because at the stroke of midnight, everyone is dead and the drama ends. To avoid this, Boone has a helpful pocketwatch that rewinds time back to the start of the day. Therein lies your gameplay loop: figuring out how each murder takes place, and what indirect actions you can take to stay death’s hand. You’ll take on the murders in linear fashion, due to the new powers you get from each solved scenario and the almost metroidvania layout of the mansion. This also leaves the mansion cleanly divided into areas that mostly keep all the clues and relevant tools together. It’s a fun place to explore regardless, due to the chunky, colorful art style, detailed descriptions, and diorama-style presentation of rooms. Plus there are loads of secrets to find, like playing cards and invitations, that help fill in the story cracks.

There are a LOT of story cracks to fill in, mind you. The tale that unfolds as you follow the trail of murders is an intriguing one, but never dips very deeply into the lives of any of the victims. Only the last murder reveals anything about the overall story, and I must admit it’s one of my least favorite narrative twists but it works fine here in retrospect. Picking up the secrets is almost mandatory to reach any deeper connection with the story, but honestly I found the gameplay and core mystery interesting enough to keep me hooked on their own. The early murders are quite easy to solve (I solved the second one entirely by accident, before knowing the causes of death even), but they do get more complex and more dependent on using your time powers and additional abilities smartly by the end.

I didn’t expect to get so wrapped up in The Sexy Brutale, but once I started I was compelled to see it all the way through. I do think a lot of it is the striking presentation and art style, and just as much of it is in the little world you have to explore here. You’re limited in the first hour or two but once you start finding the secret passages and additional powers, the mansion opens up and plumbing its mysteries becomes a whole new level of compelling. Stronger storytelling would have helped in what’s ostensibly an adventure game, but I’m still quite happy with what’s there. I daresay fans of puzzles and mysteries will be pleased with The Sexy Brutale, especially once the mansion’s true eccentricities reveal themselves.

Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Posté le 22 avril.
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