Posted by Duane at 02:14

I've played a lot of Prison Architect on PC, watched it as it slowly became a fully fleshed out game throughout its Alpha and eventually be fully released. I've spent hours upon hours starting and restarting my own correctional facilities. So it made sense that I take on the mantle of covering the PlayStation 4 version that /Introversion recently released.

This genre is always at its best on PC, and after trying Tropico 5 on PS4 thanks to PlayStation Plus it does still seem to be pretty much the same as its always been, a controller is just too cumbersome for quick menu navigation and analogue sticks don't lend themselves too well to adding to the landscape upon which you're building. However, Prison Architect have gotten this right and Double Eleven (who handled this port) have done it in such a simple way too. First off, it was always going to be easier to move around the terrain and build thanks to the games 2D graphical style, it just makes life so much easier when you use such a viewpoint, allowing you to see absolutely everything. It also fits in with the tone of the game, giving you a blueprint kind of development of your prison. Everything you'd ever need to run your prison is then mapped to menu's access via the d-pad. Building tools are accessed by pressing left, reports report etc and you can still slow down or speed up time.

This release, and bare in mind its been a while since I did boot up the PC version admittedly, feels more gamelike than its big brother. You're still developing your prison using Grants, which give you a list of things you need to put into your prison, but the manner in which its all done feels a little more relaxed and streamlined and its far, far too easy to get lost in adding more and more to your facility and lose focus of actually running it. Thats always been Prison Architect's biggest problem, and its one thats transferred over with this port too. You're inmates needs and behaviours aren't always obvious. Sure the game has the means to tell you whats wrong and what has been happening, but the means by which to address them aren't always obvious or simple to achieve and it doesn't really feel satisfying when you manage to overcome these obstacles.

I guess thats why its named Prison Architect as the focus does appear to be on creating a prison, selling it at a profit, then making another prison and whilst the inmates all have names and back stories (some are really rather amusing whilst others are ridiculously dark) it doesn't really feel like you're providing the means to rehabilitate them.

Its now, however, I'd like to bring up Remote Play, something I do regularly when I cover PS4 games that I think will translate well to being played on Vita. Prison Architect is exceptional on the Vita, I've no idea if Introversion or Double Eleven plan on porting it over to the handheld properly, but as it stands now the Vita is a perfect partner to playing it on a big TV in your lounge. I was more than happy to switch over and lounge around on the sofa building more elements to my prisons and the text never felt difficult to read, and its this more than anything else in this port that enforces just how much time and care Double Eleven have put into this port of Prison Architect. Its praiseworthy to them that they have not only made the game feel at home on a console, but it feels at home being played on a much smaller screen too.
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Odin Sphere:
Posted by Duane at 03:30

Odin Sphere was one of those games that many completely missed out on right at the end of the crossover between the PlayStation 2's generation and the Xbox 360 coming out. Even though it was a bit of an oddity even then, its fair to argue that the gaming landscape has changed somewhat and it sticks out even more now, despite Sony's platforms (in particular the Vita which Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir has also been released on and Ben may comment on at a later date) generating a bit of a niche for “this sort of thing”. Before we go ahead tbough, I'd like to state that I won't be comparing Leifthrasir to its predecessor. I understand this is essentially a remaster of the original game, with some gameplay tweaks here and there, and whilst I owned Odin Sphere, I did so at a time that the PS2 had been moved to a different room and thus, aside from the opening couple of hours or so, it never really got the attention that I actually wanted to give it.

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is a little different from many games you will have access to on these shores, its essentially a hack and slash side scrolling RPG that looks as though every single bit of it has been hand painted. In stills its absolutely gorgeous to look at and, arguably, it stands up well to being animated too with small intricate little details like the flutter of Gwendolyn's skirt really standing out. But its all well and good looking stunning, if you don't have something under the hood then you'll get found out.

Luckily Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir packs this in spades. I mentioned before that it was “hack and slash” but that really does it a diservice and strips it back to its basic combat element. You see, whilst you'll get through chunks of the early game just bashing away at the attack button, you'll soon figure out that you need to combine stick movements and button timings, plus throwing in abilities using the circle button and you're inventory of alchemic potions all in order to get the better of the more difficult foes the game likes to throw at you. Thats before you consider how to counter and dodge and rack up large combo's. The controls are incredibly responsive and you the player never ever feels like a mistake is down to the systems put in place.

Which is a very good thing, what with there being 4 characters stories to play through (the aforementioned Gwendolyn; a Valkyrie and daughter of Odin is your introduction to the game wherein you'll also get to meet the rest of the playable cast before taking on their chapters). Each character has around 6 or 7 chapters each and they can take about an hour to an hour and a half each to play through, so despite looking limited, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir isn't a short game by any standards.

I touched on the alchemy before, which is a key area of the game. Here you will pick up items that you need to mix with materials in order to create healing potions, antidotes and all the normal things you'd expect in order to keep yourself alive. You can also create offensive potions to use in battle (and personally speaking I generally saved these for the bosses and mid-bosses). Theres also a cookery element, which works in the same way but cant be done at any time. Instead you have to call upon a chef when you're in Rest zone to cook the items for you and (usually, as there are a couple of exceptions) consume them right away. Almost everything you eat carries Experience too, including the fruit you grow using a combination of seeds that you find/are dropped by enemies and the life force (called Phozons) that seeps out of defeated foes as you progress. You simply plant the seed, expel the required Phozons and wait a few seconds for the fruit to grow. Some fruit give seeds back once eaten and the cycle continues. But the way in which you have to juggle creating fruit using Phozons and using said Phozons to upgrade your abilities adds just enough element of strategy to the game to make you consider what it is you are doing. Normally there is more than enough to go around and upgrades happen quickly enough for you to never feel too overwhelmed by your opponents, but there are times when one may have to suffer to work on the other.

Truthfully speaking, Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir has been a breath of fresh air. It may be an old game give (quite a bit from what I understand) of spit and polish, it might be very similar to Vanillaware's other games, but played on a big screen in the lounge its a an absolute feast and incredibly enjoyable to play.
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Grand Kingdom

Posted by Duane at 06:46

A few weeks back I joined in on the beta for Grand Kingdom, a turn-based online JRPG, and actually quite enjoyed it so have been really looking forward to its final release. Despite being released on both the PS4 and the Vita (NISA do seem to be keeping Sony's handheld ticking over in all territories...) I opted to play it on the former, the reason being is that I'm mostly housebound at the moment and dont tend to take handhelds out anymore anyway, so if I dont have access to the TV I can still play via Remote Play and enjoy it that way. So yes, I'm playing Grand Kingdom via PS4 but I honestly can't see there being all that much difference between the versions.

As already mentioned, Grand Kingdom is a turn-based strategy RPG, although it does things a bit differently to what many of us expect from the genre. Its a side on, almost PS1 era Final Fantasy-esque in battles, but still uses a rudimentary grid system, with you having an upper, middle or lower path that you can switch between/move along depending upon how full one of the many status bars is for each character. Once you've moved a character into position its time to give them an action, some of which can be combo-ed whilst others require you to have a certain range from your foe.

Grand Kingdom's focus is on a kind of “big picture”, it is, first and foremost, an online RPG. You enter into “wars” to which you contribute towards a chosen faction by achieving certain tasks, contributing resources and by defeating online opponents. There are single player, story driven chapters, but they're mostly designed to give you an idea of the world at large and introduce you to the games mechanics, there's also not a whole lot of them. Theres a few single player skirmish type quests too that are updated from time to time, fight of X number of enemies, get to the end of the map in Y number of moves, that kind of thing. But again, the meat of the game is its online integration.

The biggest problem with all of this is that it can be really overwhelming. The core of the game takes place either in the menu's that accompany your guild HQ or the four cities you can choose from to represent (you sign contracts for a number of wars and can change, if you wish to do so, at the end of said contract) or on a tile based map that you move a chess-like piece around to collect resources, take over fortresses or battle against other players/AI opponents. You're usually told that failure comes from exceeding the number of turns you have on a map, but from my experience its pretty hard to fail in this way and more common aspect of failure comes from being unable to continue a mission as your Troop (of which you can have six, of up to four characters) are unable to continue as they lack health, morale or TP (which on the maps allows you to use skills thaqt replenish the other two, TP is earned via winning battles).

I touched on the battles before, but they deserve a little more information. Mainly because the make-up of your Troop and the members within it can have a significant effect on battles. At the point of writing this my party is made up of a Blacksmith who wields a hammer and is really rather strong, her melee attacks are generally all assigned to the circle button and after some experimentation with the order of which attack appears after which button press in the combo she has a devastating juggle/ground smash system going on. I also have an Archer who is great for picking off Troop Leaders from afar and weakening my opponent for the rest of the battle, a mage of sorts deals out fire damage whilst I have a Witch that I have jumping between lanes to deal out healing potions (although these are heavily limited so its a good idea to teach all of your party members the Quick Heal ability). Jumping back to the mention of Troop Leaders, you'll assign your own from one of your 4 party members for each Troop, as will your opponent. If you focus your attacks on these at the beginning of a battle and succesfully take them out, it lowers your opponents Morale and thus their attack and defense also drops. Its a fairly simple tactic that comes in useful time and time again.

It's only really the overwhelming nature of everything thats in Grand Kingdom that would make it difficult to recommend, if you're into SRPG's you'll pick it all up with no problem, its just that theres a lot to remember and its not always streamlined enough to make particular things feel natural when you're playing. That said, its deeply interesting and thanks to its less than formulaic nature is a breath of fresh air. I know this review is pretty short, and the game probably deserves something much lengthier and in-depth, but theres such a lot of stuff going on here that Grand Kingdom is definetly one of those games that you have to experience to even begin to understand it
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Posted by Duane at 03:15
Blizzard patched Overwatch last night applied the McCree balancing they'd been discussing already. The developer has applied the measures they've already discussed in order to make the character less effective against the Tank characters.

Elsehwere in trhe patch Widowmaker has been tweaked. Her Scoped damage has been decreased but her headshot multiplier has increased.

McCree Peacekeeper Alternate Fire -Recovery time (i.e. the amount of time before McCree starts reloading) decreased from 0.75 seconds to 0.3 seconds -Bullet damage decreased from 70 to 45 Developer Comments: McCree was performing too well against all targets, making him feel like a must-pick in many situations. By reducing the damage of his alternate fire, McCree is now significantly weaker against tanks like Roadhog and Reinhardt, but still maintains his lethality against smaller targets like Tracer and Genji. Widowmaker Widow’s Kiss -Alternate Fire (Scoped Shot)Base damage decreased from 15 to 12Note: Scoped shot damage multiplier remains unchanged -Headshot damage multiplier increased from 2x to 2.5x -Players must now wait for the unscoping animation to completely finish before scoping Infra-Sight -Ultimate cost increased by 10% Developer Comments: In the right hands, Widowmaker can often feel unstoppable—even when just landing body shots instead of critical heads shots. The changes to her alternate fire weaken body shot damage while leaving her headshot damage unchanged. Additionally, we felt her Ultimate ability, Infra-Sight, was coming up a little too frequently, especially considering its impact on the game.

Lastly, check out this Overwatch Mythbuster video

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Posted by Duane at 02:55
IGN have uploaded nearly 9 minutes of footage from the Japanese version of Atlus' Persona 5 and it looks utterly brilliant. The video shows the series dai/night cycle and shows the main characters attending school, visiting the cinema and heading into whatever Atlus are calling the new version of Tarturus/TV World to battle and, more importantly, seemingly negotiate with new Persona in order to be able to use them.

Also, can we get a shout out for the soundtrack!? Hell yeah!.

Persona 5 will release on Valentines Day 2017 in the US but no date has been set for Europe yet.

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Lets Pick It Up
Posted by Duane at 03:49

Marks absent this week, I think its some form of internet installation issue, so I've picked up the mantle (the other option was James but he wanted a little more time witht he game he was going to discuss). This all means I'm gonna sing the praises of Overwatch this week.

I tend not to write about games I've bought for myself on here, I'd say its an element of trying to separate "work" from pleasure. But I'll make an exception for Overwatch. You've all probably seen its surge in popularity since its release just under a fortnight ago and for once, its not without merit.

So why am I a fan when historically I'm not the biggest player of shooters? Well, I feel useful regardless of who I'm playing with and how well I'm doing and the lack of upgrades to equipment and the whole Call of Duty mechanic of being rewarded for playing more of the game than everyone else means I can just pick it up and play it whenever I feel like, which happens to be a lot of the time. Seriously, I've not had a game that I've wanted to switch on when I get up in the morning for a long, long while. But Overwatch has done that to me.

That doesn't mean its perfect, although my frustrations are with the current player base more than anything else. Firstly I've pretty much exclusively played as one of the Support characters, Lucio. Now I love playing as Lucio, I like his ability to be useful in healing the party whilst also being able to attack our opponents. He's great for getting into and out of tricky situations too, thanks to his speed and his wall ride ability. But the past week or so (certainly since half-term last week) he's pretty much all I've played. This goes against the games core concept, which is to switch characters to try and overturn the battle. Using character X to counter character Z, that kind of thing. But with 90% of the people I end up playing with (randoms) choosing Bastion, Tracer or Soldier 76 (with a few Junk Rats or Hanzo's thrown in and the occasional Reinhardt) I'm limited to tanking (I usually go with Zarya for this) or Lucio. By my reckoning though theres no point going with a Tank if theres no one to heal said Tank and allow them to aggro. So Lucio it is.

Again, that's not a massive issue, I really like the character and the role he plays within a team, I'd just like to have the chance to try another character.
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Just a game of cards
Posted by Duane at 15:42

Thanks to the remote play functionality that exists on the Sony hardware I've found myself returning to Square-Enix's Final Fantasy XIV. I found GAME selling both A Realm Reborn and Heavensward cheap on PS4 and as I'd missed the chance to upgrade my PS3 ARR for free I took the chance to snap it up.

The problem I've mostly been having though is that my other half is sinking just as much time into the MMO that she plays, Lord of the Rings Online, that I have been FFXIV, but because hers is strictly tied to the PC I've been, as mentioned, using my Vita to go to Eorzea thanks to Remote Play.

I'm not actually all that fussed about this as, surprisingly enough, FFXIV features a hell of alot of single player content, its mostly fetch quests and the like but they're pleasent enough to play through on the handheld and the controls are mapped really rather well.

Where the game has sunk its teeth in most though is its version of Final Fantasy VII's Golden Saucer. Each day you can enter the "Mini Cactpot" lottery, essentially a scratch card. You can purchase 3 a day and this resets at 4pm, so I'll go over to the Golden Saucer, try and win a few extra MGP (which can only be spend at the Golden Saucer) via playing this and then maybe partake in a couple of the events that pop up and definetly get some Triple Triad going, the music to which I have engraved on my brain.

Its gotten to a point now that I have a seperate costume on my hotbar just for my trips to the Golden Saucer, its a cool tuxedo affair, minus the bottoms, which you can see in the image above.
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The Banner
Saga 2
Posted by Duane at 04:34

I've already covered Stoic's The Banner Saga 2 in a first play, but this is our meat feast topping article. Our Caravan is loaded with whatever supplies we can afford and we wander across the landscape, settlement to settlement attempting to flee the Dredge. Fortunately for you, dear reader, our review isn't even remotely as oppressive as the atmosphere in this heavily story driven Tactical RPG.

As with its predecessor, The Banner Saga 2 is all about survival. What we have here is essentially a survival horror SRPG, minus the guns, zombies and obtuse puzzles. It has that atmosphere that you have no choice but to keep going, keep pushing on, knowing that the equipment you carry probably is barely sufficient enough for you to progress. You're forced to feel incredibly vulnerable by the exhausting experiences that your small band of survivors are struggling to live through as the size of your caravan increases and decreases between settlements and other places that try and promise an element of respite but don't always succeed in doing so.

As before this is all played out against an utterly beautifully created backdrop, your troop treks across a canvas on which they are absolutely dwarfed by the scenery around them. Which, whilst these images would look absolutely stunning hung up on a wall, they only help drive home just how desperate your plight is as does the rather Game of Thrones-esque events of The Banner Saga 2's plot, with key people leaving your band at key points and the end of each narrative element.

As before this is all played out alongside an isometric turn based battle system, and whilst on the surface it looks like Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics, it really is anything but. As with the rest of the game you feel overwhelmed, your forces not as strong as the Dredge that pursue you and battles are en exercise in just surviving long enough to chip away at your foe, often resulting in you losing all but one or two of your forces. Stoic have introduced new elements like a class type that can buff other party members who are on their last legs, allowing them one last enhanced attack in order to try and turn the tide of the battle. There's a genuine sense that in order to progress your party needs to band together, treating them all as single units is tantamount to disaster and this is enforced through the relationship between Bolverk and Folka. Placing them nearby to each other provides a defensive boost to Bolverk, but this also opens up the risk of the latter being hurt by the swing of Bolverks second axe (which also has an equal chance of hitting your foe instead).

The fact that this overpowering element of being on the brink of failure during every aspect of the game, that any wrong choice during dialogue sequences, a wrong choice whilst buying supplies or equipment or the wrong manoeuvre on the battle field could all spell disaster, is always there can be a little too heavy for some and I think its fair to say that The Banner Saga 2 is best played in bursts of a settlement or two at a time. Which is easy to list as a negative, but I don't actually think it is, its not a game that you could feel too burnt out by and it certainly doesn't outstay its welcome, the wait between the first instalment and this one felt like an eternity on my part and that we now get to continue the tale is incredibly welcome, especially as The Banner Saga 2 stands as equal to its highly recommended predecessor.
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Nioh alpha demo

Posted by Duane at 12:55

Team Ninja/Tecmo Koei have released a demo of their attempt to take on the "Souls" series of games and I had a play of it earlier today.

I'm not entirely sold on it if I'm being honest, much like the publishers attempts to grab fans of the Monster Hunter games, Nioh appears to feel rather bland and lacks of the oppression of the series its trying to emulate. There's a feudal/Samurai Japan feel to it, as is usually the case with games by this publisher and that all feels authentic enough, so fans of the style of games from Tecmo Koei wont be left dissappointed.

However, the game doesnt seem to make you feel like you're in danger, even though its probably just as unapproachable as FROM Softwares mega hit. If you watch my video below you may notice that its far too easy to leave yourself open to attack and the punishment for expelling your stamina (or Ki) makes you incredibly vulnerable, but the quick nature of button inputs required for you to perform combo's makes it far too easy to make one attack too many, add to this that both the weapons I tried (and I admit I didn't make it particularly far...) felt rather weightless.

Thats not to say that there aren't positives, the key one for me is the inclusion of stances, which opens up a variety of ways to approach each weapon set and have their own combo's. Anyway, check me being absolutely atrocious at Nioh below:

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Get Me A Cuppa
Posted by Duane at 01:56

My gaming time over the past seven days has been a bit sporadic, even so I've mostly been giving my playthrough of Final Fantasy VII my attention. I hadn't touched it in a couple of weeks but have now returned and have been streaming my progress (yes thats 3 seperate links.

Im refusing to revert to using any kind of guide for this, I do actually own the original Brady Games guide and having played through the majority on the PlayStation more than once, I've decided to see how much I can remember, its surprising the information the brain can retain, especially mine with all the background chaos thats normally going on whilst I play games. So remembering which notes to press to play Tifa's piano in Nibelheim or the locations of the clues for the safe in Shinra Mansion came as a complete shock. Still didnt stop me forgetting to add Yuffie to my party, and in one of those videos you will see me spend some time in a forest in the hope that she will appear.
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