Fate/EXTELLA
The Umbral Star
Jul 21
Posted by James at 04:19

We donít usually review ports, but the Switch is so energising for even the most familiar of games, and what could be more familiar than a Warriors-style action game? Indeed, Marvelous has served up a Switch port of Fate/Extella, throwing in all previously released DLC to boot. Itís also landing on PC via Steam within the same week.

First things first: Mark has already reviewed the original PS4 release, so head over here for a detailed rundown regarding the gameís narrative and how it fits in following on from PSP game Fate/Extra.

Done? Okay, well, the gist of how Fate/Extella plays is simple: Think of it like a Fate-flavoured take on Omega Forceís own Warriors games, where it uses its disassociation with that series to do enough to take it beyond its setting within the Fate universe.

Beyond the expectedly rhythmic but button mashing combat, Extella is a Warriors game that focuses more on territorial control. Each battlefield is divided into sectors: Claim enough land before your enemy does and you get a stab at battling their Servant commander.

Itís within these higher-level proceedings that the real battles are waged, as you constantly need to ensure that youíre not putting all your eggs in one basket and attacking one sector for too long.

Reclaiming a sector takes time Ė to claim back land you must wipe out a few Aggressors first, who are basically big baddies that happen to also be damage sponges. Meanwhile in faraway sectors youíll often notice that ďPlantsĒ Ė enemies with the capability of spawning more Aggressors Ė constantly try and undo your progress, sending the foes to sectors youíve reclaimed, and those where your own fighters are struggling.



Do you spend a few more minutes reclaiming this one sector or should you drop everything to rush to a sector where a Plant is sending more enemies elsewhere?

Itís in moments like these, when Extella constantly ups the anxiety and throws you into situations where you never feel quite so comfortable taking on cannon fodder, where the game is at its best. Youíll often need to adapt and find an optimal route to travel around the map too, as later stages pile on the pressure by introducing enemy ambushes in some sectors, leaving you with no choice but to waste a few minutes cleaning up before youíre allowed to advance.

Despite placing a large emphasis on territorial control and continuous travel, itís hard not to feel disappointed by Extellaís rather safe and uninspired level designs that reside within each battleground. While thereís a pleasing amount of variety and scale to the backdrops, each sector feels disconnected from surrounding ones.

As a result you almost have to depend on the minimap just to get simple bearings, as scenery and structures are repeated so often that everything quickly looks the same. While the game is still playable like this itís evident that something has been lost. Youíre almost too disconnected from the action that youíre orchestrating, and the battles themselves would certainly come off as more engaging and memorable if each map was designed to feel like an actual place, rather than a series of small, identikit areas.

Still, the way Fate/Extellaís fights flow from a higher level provides enough fun in spite of the gameís shallow combat, and it does a lot to compensate for its shallow combat. Each playable Servant has an ever-expanding combo tree, but new attacks rarely feel like substantial game-changers compared with their level and equipped skills. Specials, while satisfying to use, reveal all their tricks far too quickly. It bears to be repeated: The lower-level proceedings lack depth.



The technical chops behind the Switch port lie somewhere between what Marvelous originally delivered for Vita and what was upgraded for PS4. When the Switch is docked, instead of opting for a significantly higher rendering resolution over the handheld's display, the differences are more subtle: Characters gain cel-shaded outlines and thereís noticeably better edge smoothing (antialiasing). There is, however, a drop in framerate from the game's PS4 cousin to a locked 30 frames per second. While the Switch has no trouble hitting this target consistently, making everything more than playable, it's hard to shake the feeling that the gameís fast-paced combat isnít as deliciously fluid as it could have been.

Meanwhile, Marvelousí inclusion of all DLC (plus one exclusive item) grants access to a few dozen character costumes, each with their own accompanying character portraits. As with the lore-heavy narrative and story, Fate fans will probably find a lot more to appreciate there. The PC version does not include any DLC but itís worth noting itís slightly cheaper to compensate.

Fate/Extella is a game of two halves. On one side it plays a rather satisfying game of territorial control Ė if this is what you like about Warriors-style games youíll probably get a lot out of it, even if youíre not well versed in all things Fate. On the other hand, the combat is shallow, and the gameís ties with the Fate universe are more entrenched than they were with the PSPís Fate/Extra. While Fate/Extella can easily seen as a love letter to Fate fans, itís also more inviting to the uninitiated than you might expect.
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Jul
20
Posted by Ben at 16:31
When you think of Arc System Works you think of fighting games, beautiful and complicated fighting games, but every now and then they throw out something a bit left-field, and Boost Beast is one of those games

Pitched as a puzzle fighter, it doesn't look unlike Puzzle Fighter (or Zoo Keeper if you ant the better game). It's actually more of a defence game, a genre we've not seen a lot of over the last few years.

Not unlike something like Puzzle Quest, you match blocks to trigger attacks, or in this case warriors (dogs by the look of it) to face off against the on-rushing hordes.

It probably makes more sense if you watch the trailer below. It's out now on the Nintendo Switch store, whatever it's called, priced at £8.99, and it's something I might pick up myself when I get my Switch tomorrow

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Jul
20
Posted by Ben at 16:13
Rabi-Ribi looks like a stressful as hell, it does look kind of adorable and pretty good though, so who knows, maybe I'll pick it up. And if I do maybe I'll pick up the physical version, as PQube are putting an actual boxed copy of Rabi-Ribi out

Available on PS4 and PS Vita, although it looks like the Vita version is missing out on the physical release, understandably.

Rabi-Ribi will hit stores and PSN in Europe on September 1st

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Slime-San:
Blackbird's Kraken
Jul 20
Posted by Mark at 16:08

There's a lot to be said for the Expandalone.

It's a format that ticks a lot of boxes that the business side of gaming likes, but in a way that doesn't put players off. It lets the publisher make a Service Game and recieve the longer-term revenue stream associated with it, but by being more than simple DLC players feel so much like they're getting exploited, but less than a sequel meaning you avoid coming down with the relevant '-itis' and fatiguing the series.

On top of that, because the Expandalone isn't reliant on the presence of the original it can reach a new audience- a new entry point for people, rather than limiting yourself to people who already bought the main game. A good example would be Death of the Outsider, the expansion for Dishonored 2.

This is where Blackbird's Kraken comes in. An expansion to the now only two-and-a-half-month-old Slime-San, a precision platformer, much the same as Super Meat Boy. The objective is to fling your fragile protagonist from one end of the level to another, bouncing off walls and avoiding sawblades and projectiles as you go. In each of these levels, there's a bunch of bananas hidden somewhere, and if you can pick it up, you can use it to buy new characters with their own physics.

The gimmick Slime-San brings to the table is tied into its limited colour pallete. Everything is either white (and therefore just a platform), red (which kills you on contact) or the same colour as the protagonist, green- and by holding the left shoulder button, you can pass through these objects as if they weren't there- time even slows when you use it.

This is all paired with a double jump, as well as a mid-air dash.

If this sounds complicated, it is. The precision platformer really lives on its simplicity, and giving you two tools to use in the air, both of which are functionally very similar, overcomplicates things. If you couple this with inconsistent-feeling rules on how they can be used in tandem (sometimes you can use your second jump after you've dashed, sometimes you can't. Even then, if you'll pardon the pun, that can be all up in the air if you've walljumped) it can be challenging for the wrong reasons to traverse even relatively simple levels.

These abilities and the level design try to push together the speed of Meat Boy, but the puzzles of something closer to Switch- or die trying, and these things don't necessarily go together. Very often the reaction to landing a jump is a case of OHGODWHATDOIDONOW, rather than more instinctively feeling the character's intertia and rolling straight into the next one, and that's on the rare occasion that you don't feel like you've succeeded by accident.

Bafflingly, all the levels are bundled into batches of four, but your progress doesn't save until you've beaten them all. While the four levels tend to share some common theme, this save structure means that once you've bluffed the third one, if the fourth frustrates you into quitting out, you've got to do the first three again later. If you do subsequently bluff the fourth one, but miss the bananas in the second, then you have to go through all four again to have another go.

A short tutorial aside, Blackbird's Kraken drops you in at the deep end, and doesn't really give you a lot of time to get used to the mechanics. When the DLC was announced, much was made of the quirky way it's being released- as an Expandalone for a nominal fee, or as a free addition to people who already have the main game.

So unlike the Dishonored DLCs, which dial back a little bit and start you from zero again with a new storry and a new lead character- effectively a new, short game. Blackbird's Kraken is simply Slime-San's next hundred levels, and as such it's harder to see this as an Expandalone- if you've got the original game and you're prepared to overlook its flaws it's more and it's free and that's wonderful- alone, it's very hard to see the point.
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Jul
19
Posted by Mark at 13:50
So that's what the 'F' stood for.

Announced on the Bethesda Blog, all three DLC packs for last year's Doom reboot are being reduced to the low, low price of nil across all platforms.

The three packs- Unto The Evil, Hell Followed and Bloodfall- were all expansions to the multiplayer mode, which has also seen a number of tweak, notably around the previously random Unlock system now becoming more predictable, with specific level-ups and challenges now unlocking specific rewards.

Considering this, it's not known if the extra maps are free free, or if this is the start of sneaking microtransactions into the game, as we do know that the company are after someone to help them do that better.

Either way, if you've not already bought Doom and you're still unsure about it, there's a free weekend starting tomorrow for XBOne and PC players and PS4 players next weekend, before the game gets a permanent price drop.
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Jul
17
Posted by Mark at 17:18
Featuring characters from BlazBlue, Persona 4 Ultimate Arena, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH and RWBY, "BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle" is coming out next year on platforms to be confirmed. Here's a trailer:

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Jul
13
Posted by Mark at 16:18
A couple of days ago we mentioned that Slime-San, one of those precision platformers that are so popular amongst the indie developers, was getting a free expansion.

Blackbird's Kraken, as the expansion is called, is being release not only as low-price expandalone, but also as a free expansion to everyone who already owned the original game. The announcement also mentioned that there's a Switch port on the way, too.

It wasn't clear what the deal was with the DLC at the time, so we asked the publisher. They said this:
Slime-san's new free update (and stand-alone game for others) won't be included in the Switch version, but it will follow some day later on after we brought the game to Xbox One.
Now we know.
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Jul
13
Posted by Ben at 14:58
Bitparade has a bit of a history with legendary epilepsy-fest Polybius. Duane wronte an in-depth piece on Polybius many years ago.

As for the Nine Inch Nails link, Nine Inch Nails are fucking great and Trent Reznor's Quake soundtrack was superb

Given Trent Reznor's links to gaming I guess we shouldn't be too surprised that there's a videogame theme to Nine Inch Nail's new video, LESS THAN. It's maybe a bit of a surprise that said game is Polybius, Jeff Minter even gets his name featured!

The video is posted below, it's good, I'll join the people saying it sounds more 'The Fragile' than some of his more recent output, although the electronica of LESS THAN isn't miles off the more recent Hesitation Marks. The EP LESS THAN comes from is called ADD VIOLENCE, and it's out on the 21st July

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Toby
The Secret Mine
Jul 05
Posted by Mark at 17:15

A situation involving monsters, it seems, when combined with small, out-of-the-way villages, only really ever go one way. Towards the former kidnapping and hiding the residents of the latter- and that's exactly what's happened in Toby: The Secret Mine.

Toby, of course, decides he's not going to stand for this, and sets off to rescue his friends- following the paths of previous would-be rescuers, he heads into the nearby forest, where he discovers many of his neighbours are a long way from home.

We're in puzzle-platformer territory here, much the same as Limbo or Braid, but with slightly fewer pretentions of telling some ground-breaking, medium-redefining story- just getting straight into the platforming and the puzzling.

The platforming is quite simple, and early on, so are many of the puzzles, mostly equating to rubbing up against something that prevents your progession, then tracking back to find the hidden crate you'd walked past and then pushing it forwards, but it's not long before that changes, with later levels not only pushing your platforming skill but also creating increasingly complex puzzles.

In fact, Toby isn't shy about changing up its gameplay as you progress- discarding one type of puzzle for another well before you get bored of it.

The decision to stick to an art style where almost everything is flat black- as if the entire scene is being lit from behind, casting the foreground into shadow- allows the backgrounds to shine. Although, it can make it difficult to see different types of terrain or other traps before you're on top of them and on occasion it can be difficult to tell the difference between a usable platform and an object in the extreme foreground, which can lead to a lot of cheap deaths.

(Tellingly, there's a trophy for dying 100 times, but none for completing the game with a minimal number of deaths)

It also means that the game can over-rely on hiding objects and routes in blacked-out areas that only become visible when you enter them, which works for the hidden Friends you rescue as you go along (Just the 26 of them, which is a pleasing number of collectables for a game of this length), but can annoy when an important area is hidden this way.

These are minor issues, though- Toby keeps its gameplay varied, and doesn't outstay its welcome.
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Jul
03
Posted by Mark at 16:27
If you enjoyed precision platformer Slime-San- which Ben did, when he did a First Play- then you can look forward to a sort-of free, sort-of expansion!

Subtitled Blackbird's Kraken, the DLC features a short campaign of 25 levels replete with the obligatory collectables, as well as a house to customise, a submarine-based variant on the main game, and of all things, a mini-FPS.

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Interestingly, Blackbird's Kraken is going to be free on release for existing owners of Slime-San, but will be available on its own for $4- although there's been no word as to what happens if you buy the main Slime-San game after this date.

Incidentally, the Switch version is "nearly done", but they also don't say if that's just the base game or the expansion too.

Blackbird's Kraken will be available on PC from July 20th.

GALLERY:
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