Articles tagged with ps4 review


 
 
Hue

08-04-17
Posted by Ben at 14:50

We could have reviewed Hue a while back, back on its PC release we were offered it, but we didnít have the time unfortunately. Itís nice then that going back to it, buying it with my own money, and playing it because I wanted to, has revealed Hue to be a fantastic little game.

Hue is a puzzle platformer, a 2d indie puzzle platformer if you can imagine such a thing. It tells the story of a young boy named Hue, his mum is a brilliant scientist who has discovered a colour beyond the visible spectrum, and has unfortunately lost herself within it. The story is told through letters that sheís left for Hue, and act pretty much as the beginning of chapters. The story is centred on her struggles as a scientist, her regrets, and her realisations. Itís a strange one, thanks to the superb soundtrack (itís really is a standout), the first half of the game feels morose, and I spent that period waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the tragedy to reveal itself. It never really happens, Hue is actually a charming game, relatively philosophical, but itís not as heavy as it initially appeared.

The gameplay is whatís important in Hue, and fortunately it more than stands up. As you progress through the world you systematically pick up colours. Hue can use these colours to change the world around him, meaning things hidden in a blue background will show up in another colour, obstacles or traps or one colour can be made to vanish if you match their colour. In simple terms, expect moments where you have to make a jump and while in midair switch the colour to provide you with a platform to land on. As you progress youíll encounter elements that alter the colour of objects, meaning you have to start thinking on multiple levels rather than just simple timing or block moving puzzles

And thatís Hueís strength, it keeps providing you with something new to think about. ITís very easy initially, instead forcing you to get to grips with switching colours on the move, but it doesnít dwell on a puzzle set for too long, nor does it repeat ideas all that often. The difficulty is pitched almost perfectly too. Thereís definitely a slightly turbulent feel to your progress, youíll be stuck on a taxing puzzle for a while, then race through the next few. Generally though very little of it seems unsolvable. Thereís no hint system, but, and maybe I got lucky, I never really needed it, playing about with the mechanics, trying and failing, would invariably reveal the next step.

It is a criticism I would level at Hue, up until fairly close to the end itís almost immaculately balanced, then it throws a couple of puzzles at you that involve mechanics that havenít been the focus up until then. Iím sure some people will race through the levels that had me stumped without a problem, then get stuck on the ones I tore through, everyoneís different after all, but it was a moment where I could have done with a hint within the game. Thereís a slight feeling that Hue outstays its welcome, actually maybe thatís unfair, more that the structured pacing of the game is discarded towards the end. Up until then youíve picked up a colour, then done a chunk of levels, before picking up another. It feels like the game should end 1 set of levels after picking up the final colour, but it continues well beyond that.

Not that Hue is a long game, maybe 4 hours or so, plus thereís some hidden items to find if thatís the sort of thing that motivates you. For the most part though I loved Hue, I wish the emotional connection I felt I should be having and the gameís narrative had managed to connect somewhere along the way, but aside from that Hue is a masterfully put together game, a real standout amongst itís indie-puzzle-platformer peers.
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Danganronpa
1 2 Reload
16-03-17
Posted by Ben at 18:09

For the uninitiated, Danganronpa 1 2 Reload is the PS4 port of the two mainline Vita Danganronpa games. In terms of how they play, youíre kind of looking at a visual novel, with some friendship building a la Persona, then some Phoenix Wright style investigation and trying to prove who the culprit is. If it seems like Iím rushing through the explanation itís because weíve got a bit to get through, and Iíd wager if youíre searching the internet for reviews of Danganronpa 1 2 Reload, youíve probably encountered the series before.

Danganronpa is dripping with character. Even just in terms of looks, itís colourful, vibrant, the characters all have something about them, some caricature element to them. I was going to use the word Ďstylisedí but I thought that might sound like a negative, itís not, all the characters stand out, theyíre all unique, across both games, and they all look great. The setup too, youíre one of a number of extremely talented school kids, so talented that they attend a school that only the Ďultimatesí, the very, very best, can attend. Unfortunately the school has been taken over by a malevolent robot bear, and heís declared that the only way anyone is getting out of there is for them to kill one of their classmates and get away with it

Itís the narrative, or narratives, that make the Danganronpa games, the whole premise is buried in mystery, with hints and teases dangled long before the reveal. Each case is unique, and genuinely quite gripping once they get going. The prelude can be a little arduous, it takes hours before the game feels like itís begun, Danganronpa 2 in particular. I found myself wincing when a case would end, not at regret for what had gone on before, more that I knew the preamble before the next case begins in earnest was going to drag.

Yísee, while Danganronpaís characters and narrative are probably its strongest points, they might also be its weakest. I think it might be a case of things being lost in translation, but often the jokes not only fall flat, they just donít really make sense. I get why the games have so much down time, you have to spend time with the other characters to form attachments to them, not in gameplay terms, just that if youíre supposed to feel sad or betrayed by what happens throughout the story, thatís not going to happen if you havenít lived in the world. And truth is I liked most of the characters in both games, Ďmostí being the key word as thereís a few I started to loathe. Not because theyíre bad people, more that the bombastic, over-the-top nature of the characters often translates in to their personality quirks being laboured to the point of tedium. That character whoís really clumsy, theyíre going to fall over every scene, that guy whoís obsessed with hope and despair, you better believe heís going to mention it every time heís on screen. Itís a shame, but for Danganronpa, sometimes, less would be more.

The mini-games that make up the trials are a bit of a mixed bag too. Iím not sure Iíd say I liked any of them as such, certainly not loved, but some of them do serve a purpose. Countering arguments by shooting words or phrases with a bullet made from a contradicting statement, itís not without its problems but it works to bring some pace and panic to Danganronpa. Itís presented in a way that makes you feel bamboozled and shellshocked, not unlike your character. The problem with it, and I think this is more of an issue with the PS4 version than it was on the Vita (from memory), is that, thanks to the size of the screen youíre playing on, it can be a little hard to take in whatís on the screen. Aside from that though the games work perfectly fine on the larger screen, even with the loss of the touch controls

The games upscale well enough to the higher resolution. Itís rare you see anything that looks especially rough or blurry, but there are instances, particularly when the camera zooms in on objects. There were also instances where I managed to walk through environment, nothing broke, but itís the sort of thing you mention in a review. Likewise I saw a few instances of untranslated text, both times it was during explanations of the trial mini games, although I suspect it was duplicate text, certainly it wasnít anything I needed to know. I did find some of the mini-games confusing at first, and, in the arguments at least, it sometimes feels like you donít know where to begin, but they all

work despite the loss of the touch screen. If youíve never played a Danganronpa game before then let me assure you, theyíre kind of great. Theyíre exhilarating, gripping, especially the trials, thereís always something you didnít see coming and itís rare it feels like a cheap shot. They never really settle in to a rut, when when you know the pattern of throwaway story, free time, murder investigation, trial, theyíll still mix things up by throwing in something about the overarching plot. Thereís an awful lot of game here too, while I suspect playing both games back to back (neither are short games), youíre certainly getting your moneyís worth. I suspect most will be picking them up because they never got around to finishing both games on the Vita, certainly that was the case for myself and the rest of Bitparadeís writers, so let me assure you that both games still hold up despite their relative age. Danganronpa 1 2 Reload may get lost in this unusually busy Q1, but if you do pick it up you wonít be disappointed with it.
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Torment: Tides of Numenera
Video Review
28-02-17
Posted by Ben at 03:01

Our review has just gone live for Torment: Tides of Numenera, and it's a good game. It's very much a story driven game though, so a video of it might not be that exciting

So it's with that dirtying of the water that I present our hour long gameplay review of the PS4 version of Torment: Tides of Numenera. This is recorded on the PS4 Pro, not that that really has any bearings on performance. As good as the game is there's a fair few technical problems, lot's of hitching, and the animation seems to run at a lower framerate from the camera.

Anyway, the footage is captured from a fair bit in the game, and I complete at least one side quest, so there are some slight spoilers, nothing too story heavy though. Still, bear that in mind before watching

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Torment:
Tides of Numenera
28-02-17
Posted by Ben at 02:47

The old-school Western RPG has had something of a resurgence over the last few years. Not that weíre falling over them now, but with the Shadowrun games, Wasteland 2, and Pillars of Eternity, weíre seeing about one a year. As much as Wasteland 2 had a weight on its shoulders so too does Torment: Tides of Numenera, acting as spiritual successor to Planetscape: Torment

I donít really have the space in this review to detail the plot of Torment: Tides of Numenera, but the brief outline is that someone figured out how to live forever, creating bodies to inhabit before jumping to the next one and abandoning the Ďcastoffí body to live on. These castoffs are often revered or loathed for their creators actions, you are one of these castoffs. Your ability to manipulate the ĎTidesí has drawn the attention of a creature called The Sorrow, it hunts you and you Ďfatherí through the physical and psychic worlds.

Torment: Tides of Numenera is dense with mechanics, but it starts to make sense as you progress. Initially the levelling up system, the cyphers (powerful items), and the stat pools are all a bit bewildering, but it does start to make sense. Torment: Tides of Numenera uses stat points for its various mechanics, in combat youíll use your pool of physical to increase the strength and chance of success for your attacks. If youíre trying to persuade someone in conversation youíll lose the indigo intelligence pool, the more points you spend the greater the chance of success. You need to be careful though, once these pools are spent theyíre gone until you refill them with items or rest

When I was planning the video review for Torment: Tides of Numenera I was struggling to pick a bit of gameplay that included combat. I was hours and hours in when I started to think about it and Iíd only had 1 fight, an easy one right at the start of the game. Iíd had opportunities for more, but Iíd managed to talk my way out of it, but itís not like I was tripping over offers. Truth is combat is often more trouble than itís worth, youíre not falling over health items, youíre often charged a small fortune to rest, and as well as eating all your health, chances are youíre going to burn all your stat points too.

Itís not that the combat is horrendously bad, but itís definitely the weakest part of the game, and itís difficult to spec for. This isnít Fallout, handing out a beating isnít often a solution, but even if it was the moveset isnít there to make it especially fun or interesting, you find yourself using the same moves, spending the same skill points because you donít really have a lot of options. Anyway, it took me a while to get it drilled in to my head, but itís really not what Torment: Tides of Numenera is about. While to claim that you never need to fight is maybe bending the truth, itís certainly not where the focus is. You can usually talk your way out of it, intimidate someone in to backing down, convincing them itís not in their best interest, or simply, just not taking on that side quest.

Youíll spend huge chunks of time in Torment: Tides of Numenera talking to people, reading their stories, learning about the world, its culture and its inhabitants. Thatís what the game is about, not endless combat. While some of the lore is, to me at least (sorry fans of Numenera), a bit nonsensical, some of the stories contained within are fantastic. The writing is uniformly superb, and itís hard to think of many games that can boast missions, and side missions, as interesting. A big part of it is that stories go beyond where youíd expect. In another game youíd be given a task, youíd go and find the thing, return, complete the quest. In Torment youíre given a task, have to speak to someone, do a task for them, they tell you to speak to someone else, at which point the narrative takes a turn, then you have to make a decision about how to act. Side quests and main missions are lengthy, you can spend hours making very little concrete progress, this is more of a plus than it sounds, so dense are they



The characters too are fantastically written, your character, the Last Castoff, is probably one of the weaker and least interesting youíll encounter. Your potential teammates all have distinct personalities, and while some of them are very typical, thereís some who reveal themselves to be more than they appear. They each have their own stories that play out as you progress through the game, again, some of them are great. I really like them as characters too, Erritis is definitely worth adding to your party, the heroic bastard. The NPCs and quest givers are generally fairly good too, thereís one or two where their characterisation means their message gets lost a bit, but given what weíre used to having a few misses is easily forgivable. Itís not all good news though, while the combat is a black mark against the game, itís worth mentioning the technical problems.

Without seeing the PC version for myself I canít say for sure that this isnít an engine issue. The game judders on PS4, thereís a framiness to the animations, itís not a fps issue as such, the game world seems to run at a higher framerate, it just isnít smooth. Thereís also a hitching that occurs sporadically. More than sporadically, itís not constant, and given the nature of the game itís not game-breaking, but it is regular. Itís probably most noticeable in the Sagus Cliffs area, itís not caused by having the view too zoomed out, itís not caused by too much going on on-screen, as it occurs in much smaller, quieter areas, and it occurs on both the Standard PS4 and the Playstation Pro. It may not be a huge problem, but itís enough to say that if you want Torment: Tides of Numenera and have access to a decent PC, thatís probably where you should play it.

Iíve had a few other bugs too, generally itís been small things like the health bars flickering, the sound disappearing for a bit, small things that donít really have any bearing on the game. I have though had items fail to appear in my inventory, itís only happened once, but given that you never really have an abundance of items it doesnít inspire confidence. Iíd have written it off as me imagining it, but I also had an issue where an item that should have allowed 5 uses vanished after one. It was a useful item too. Again, none of this really affected my enjoyment as such, but had I not noticed the missing items and saved, I may not have been able to finish a quest.

Iím not sure fixing those issues would all of a sudden turn Torment: Tides of Numenera into a classic, as good as the narratives can be there is something heavy going about the whole thing, or maybe thatís just personal taste. Still though, for the right person Torment: Tides of Numenera is going to be ideal, were the combat a little better Iíd say itíd be pretty much essential for fans of the genre, but either way I donít think it will disappoint too many people

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Yakuza 0

19-01-17
Posted by Ben at 11:59

One of the problems Sega seems to have had recreating the success the Yakuza series boasts in its native Japan, is that itís a continuing series. With a lot of fan noise Yakuza 3 and 4 both managed to get Western releases when many had given up hope, shining the spotlight on the series, Yakuza 5 even got a PS+ tie in, but for many the thought of joining the series midway through was enough to stop them from following through their interest in the series. Well, itís something Yakuza 0 puts right, and makes for a superb introduction to the Yakuza games

Yakuza 0, as the name might imply, is a prequel. Set while series stalwart Kazuma Kiryu is still learning the yakuza ropes, it opens with him beating a man senseless for a debt he owes a loan shark. Later that night the man is found dead, Kazuma is blamed for the killing and what follows is story of power struggles and land-grabs that involves Kazuma having to fight for his life and leave the yakuza behind. Itís a genuinely quality story, hammy at points for sure, but brilliantly well told, and a joy to watch unfold.


br> Kazumaís story is mirrored to some extent by Goro Majima, the gameís 2nd protagonist. Also cast out of the yakuza, Majima is doing everything he can to force his way back in. Thereís some great moments in Majimaís story, and the times where the two characterís stories intertwine are great, but all in all I found it less engaging. It think part of it is his character, more restrained than his usual larger than life self. Itís something that will bother newcomers less, and I suspect heís been toned down so that a narrative can be hung off him. I canít imagine the usual lunatic Majima bowing and taking the abuse he does. I suspect his environment doesnít help either, some of his side quests are fantastic, but the 2nd city is just less interesting, with less character, than Kazumaís Tokyo district.

One of the other smart things Yakuza 0 does to introduce both new and returning players is in how it staggers the content. Itís a little jarring, perhaps, having the serious crime story interrupted for some karaoke, to talk to pretty girls, to meet a foreigner whoís going to teach you new fighting moves, but it introduces mechanics to quickly dabble with, and then leaves you to decide whether you want to spend your time with them. Yakuza 0 holds back mechanics too, in the past it has felt like the Yakuza games will throw everything they have at you, occasionally (re)introducing them in a side-story or as part of the main story, but here theyíre doled out in a way that ensures youíre not overawed or swamped, every couple of chapters youíll get something new to think about, and that runs right in to the back half of the game.

There are a few areas of Yakuza 0 that have been freshened up over previous installments, the chief one is the combat. Both Kazuma and Majima have 3 different types of fighting styles at their disposal, each designed to cater to certain types of enemy. Generally speaking both characters have a standard jack-of-all-trades style as their default, theyíll pack a decent punch, have access to plenty of heat moves, and still be relatively quick. Theyíll have a more powerful moveset, weapon focused, slower, but able to attack through hits and deal large amounts of damage back. Then thereís a quicker style, flashier, littered with combos, but causing less damage per attack. Given the sheer amount of fighting youíll do in Yakuza 0, being able to easily mix things up and explore the combat system is a smart move.



Levelling up has also changed. Rather than grinding for experience, you spend money on yourself, buying your way around the skill tree. Fortunately enemies now spurt money when you slap them about, and the more flourish in your fighting the more youíll earn. It means you can fairly quickly turn both Kazuma and Majima in to solid fighters. The problem is the cost to unlock skills rises dramatically, and spending 30 million to unlock a skill you donít really want but is blocking the one you do want is a bitter pill to swallow. Itís where some of the side missions come in, Kazuma can earn a fortune through real estate if youíre willing to put the time in. Itís not a complicated system, although itís initially daunting, buy some properties when youíre out and about, pick a manager whoís going to have a positive effect on the economy, a security guard whoís less likely to attract trouble, then collect your share. Itís maybe a bit of a grind trying to amass a fortune all at once, perhaps an argument for the mechanic being introduced earlier than it is, but itís certainly quicker than fighting your way to the amounts needed.

One of the great charms of the Yakuza games are the side quests, and Yakuza 0 is no different. They can be a little run of the mill, and a lot of them will involve you just solving your problems by fighting more people, but some of them are smart, and brilliantly funny. Spending time doing the side quests doesnít net you experience anymore, but the characters can reward you in other ways, like working for you or joining you in battle. The downside to the side missions is that it can feel sometimes like youíre tripping over them. Thereís a few too many times where youíll be in the middle of a story mission and get stopped for a side mission to be introduced, even if you donít then follow it up. The same can be true of street fights that occur as youíre making your way around the city, they can get a little much.

Truth is though, Yakuza 0 is the best Yakuza game Iíve played. Itís hard to think how they could have made it more accessible to newcomers, yet thereís enough depth and familiarity for fans of the series to get hooked in to too. On a technical level the engine is showing its age, with shadows popping in, the game slowing you down (in terms of movement speed) during busy moments, and some angular geometry, but itís still a decent looking, and running, game. Yakuza 0 will be missed by many, and thatís their loss, because itís a superb, charming, well told, and joyfully violent game

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Mantis Burn
Racing
16-10-16
Posted by Ben at 16:13

It might surprise a few people that Mantis Burn Racing isnít a Playstation Pro launch game, undoubtedly it should get a 2nd wind when Sonyís upgraded console comes out but itís actually available now on standard PS4, Xbox One and PC, and itís a good game even without the novelty of 4K

Mantis Burn Racing is a top town, isometric racing game, reminiscent of Motorstorm RC from a few years back. Itís a more fully featured game than you might expect, with a levelling system, weight classes of cars, vehicle improvements you equip. The game boasts a lengthy career mode, definitely longer than I was expecting, with a number of different race types, online, and split screen multiplayer. It also looks better than I was expecting. I wasnít surprised by how sharp the game looks, but the quality of the textures and the particle effects do go beyond what I expected to see. The most important thing about Mantis Burn Racing though is how smooth it is, the high framerate allows for responsive controls, allowing you control the drifts and slides on the spongey ground.

The solid frame rate does drop occasionally. Iíve only seen it maybe 3 times, but if you get a fleet of cars bunched up at a corner, with dust and debris flying around, the game will drop frames. Itís rare though, and itís not simply caused by all the cars being in one places as you donít see it at the start of a race. One disappointing note on the presentation side is the sound. Thereís not enough engine noise, squealing brakes, screeching of tyres, it makes the races sound flat, itís reminiscent of a phone game.

Itís always a bit of a relief when youíre reviewing a game and itís clear what its strengths and weaknesses are, it makes it easier to criticise, and Mantis Burn Racing is definitely one of those games. Mantis Burn Racing is undoubtedly a good game, itís fluid, controls very well, and thereís some really enjoyable tracks. Itís the kind of racing game where when you make a mistake youíll want to hit the restart button, where youíll want to replay a track because you know you can climb the global leaderboard. Itís something the Ďgearsí system encourages, thereís requirements laid out before each race, winning the event is invariably one, but it may include hitting a certain speed or jumping a certain distance, these reward you with gears that are needed to finish a season, but arenít as strict as you might fear.

Itís a shame then that Mantis Burn Racing doesnít do more to enable this challenge mentality. If you want to find out if you climbed the global leaderboard on a track you have to finish it then restart the event. The game would be helped immensely if things like leaderboards were presented more readily, similarly what track youíre about to drive, a recognisable track image or something would go a long way. One of the main problems with this is that loading a track can take an age. A quick restart should be the default for a racing game like this, Iíve no doubt thereís very good reasons why it's not there, but messing up a lap early, recognising youíve lost the event, or even just wanting to play again all mean a lengthy load time.

Iím also not entirely sure about some of the design decisions around levelling up the cars. There are stats for the cars, but itís very difficult to tell if one car is actually worse than another or if youíre just not used to it. Because everything can be modded and improved often your lap times are as much tied to you making a better car than improving as a player. Itís hard to negate this with the way the game is structured so maybe thereís no complaint there, certainly in career mode, but it is a problem when you race online and can find yourself at a massive disadvantage simply because youíve spent less time with the game than your opponent. This is true in the weekly challenges too, itís arguable that Mantis Burn Racing might benefit from standardisation in some areas.

Still though, I really like Mantis Burn Racing. Itís got a lengthy career mode, a variety of different race types, and mini challenges thrown in to make things interesting.The tracks are invariably interesting, thereís shortcuts, plenty of room to overtake, even the occasional obstruction on the track. Theyíre fun to replay, nailing drifts and learning when not to be cautious, and a big part of that is the handling coupled with the frame rate. We wonít know how it handles on the Playstation Pro for another month, but certainly if youíre looking for a game that will then make use of the extra power, Mantis Burn Racing is a fun pickup
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Aegis of Earth:
Protonovus Assault
02-05-16
Posted by Ben at 15:19

Aegis of Earth, or Aegis of Earth Protonovus Assault to give it its full name, is that rarest of things; a tower defence game that gets a retail release. A decision Iíll happily admit I questioned; why would you release a tower defence game at retail? A sub-£10 download game sure, that makes sense, but whoís going to buy it for around the £30 mark for a PS4 tower defence game? What I hadn't realised was quite how big Aegis of Earth is.

The set up of Aegis of Earth is pretty simple. You control a city besieged by monsters, your disc shaped city is split in to rings, all of which move independently from each other. Each ring is made up of tiles, some of which are quarantined and canít be used, the rest are where you build your weapons. Once youíre happy with the set up with your city you head off on Ďstrikesí. Strikes are the battles, enemies head towards the city in vague lanes and you have to spin the rings of the city to line your guns up.

Generally speaking the strikes take it fairly easy on you. Thereís certain points where the 3 inner rings (the 4th outer ring is used for shields and the like) will line up perfectly, cannons, lasers, and gattling guns will combine when lined up perfectly to form more powerful forms, needed for the giant enemies that will appear later on. As a general rule when enemies attack down multiple lanes theyíll do so in line with these tiles. Itís not always true however, and when itís not thatís when youíll have to spin things around so the very inner ring is covering one area, the middle another, and the outer somewhere else. Itís a layer of panic that makes you realise the developers could really mess with you if they wanted to, Aegis of Earth isn't that cheap too often. It is in these moments though you realise the isometric camera does you no favours. Itís all too easy to misalign cannons because you canít muster the coordination to move the camera while spinning the discs.

Fighting in battles nets you a variety of rewards. The main benefit are the crystals, used as materials for new units, with each city specialising in different coloured crystals. The crystals can also be destroyed to make illuminite, a material used to upgrade units, something youíll have to do a lot. If you do well in the strikes youíll also have refugees requesting to move to your city, rather than a swing to the right this results in more money raised through taxes, again needed for upgrades and new units. Essentially, if you want to improve your city you have to fight, easy enough to understand.

What Iím less sure of are the various character levels that can be increased. When you take in refugees your city level increases, I donít think this increases anything, the only benefit I can see if that youíll be rewarded with items youíll rarely feel the need to use, and that unlockable units and city improvements require you to reach certain levels. Same with your own level, it increases after every strike, but apart from gaining you items and access to units, I'm not sure thereís any benefit. At least thereís that much though, you see you donít run the city alone, you have various attractive young people manning various tasks. In real terms this just means a different voice giving you information, but they each gain experience and I've no idea to what end.

Your team do require some management though, use them too much and theyíll become exhausted. Early on you donít have any alternatives so the only way to recover their stamina is to commend one of them on their performance, which also nets them some bonus xp. I'm not sure if youíre supposed to be able to pick out who actually performed well and who didn't but I've never managed to. The benefit to keeping people in is that their focus increases, meaning they can use special moves more often. Leave them out too much and their focus plummets, something that feels inevitable when you have 3 characters vying for one position.

I guess this is why Aegis of Earth manages to be so long, it has a wealth of meta games running through it, a host of systems that have to be addressed for no great reason beyond giving you something else to think about. That in and of itself isn't a problem, thatís most games after all, but it becomes an issue when you have to harvest crystals. Because different cities drop different crystals, youíll find yourself having to perform strike after strike in the same one to farm the crystals you need to fortify a different city altogether, while having to bounce out to different ones to keep their happiness up.

Aegis of Earth has a visual novel story running through it, nothing major, a host of characters having crisis of confidence then pulling together. Thatís not to knock it, itís perfectly functional and none of the characters are especially grating, I actually like a few of them, but itís not the reason to get the game.

I've been down on Aegis of Earth in this review because it does have problems. The soft upressed graphics can make things a little hard to pick out, the structure can get a little monotonous, and it is far too long. However, take it as absolutely commendable that for the 20+ hours I played I would never say I was bored. The core gameplay is sound, thereís a potential to the game I never quite saw realised, but Aegis of Earth is undoubtedly a good game. I doubt many people will see the end of it, but if youíre after a novel, and substantial, console tower defence game, I'm not sure thereís too much better out there
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Disgaea 5

24-11-15
Posted by Ben at 16:41

I don't have a huge history with the Disgaea games. I played the first game on the PS2, got so far, hit a wall, then stopped. I eventually rebought Disgaea on the DS, played it, enjoyed it, hit a wall, then stopped. There's a smattering of other moments, some games on shelves I'll never get around to. I like the series, but I've always stumbled over the depth of it. There's systems on top of systems, and every now and then they get in the way.

The most notable thing about Disgaea 5, right off the bat, is how sharp it looks. The art has always been good but the blown up sprites had started to show their age. There's a lot of character to the Disgaea series, and it's no different here. You worry that starting afresh with the characters every game will eventually catch them out, but Nippon Ichi have assembled another likable cast of characters (mostly), and a pretty good story. Void Dark is systematically taking over the numerous Netherworlds, killing their overlords and enslaving the populace. Serafina, overlord of the richest netherworld, is facing off against Dark Void's Lost army, a fight she's destined to lose, when Killia shows up and gets dragged into the fight. From there they form a rag-tag group of vengeful overthrown overlords, a rebel army that's slowly growing in strength.

One of Disgaea's great strengths is its humour. It's not always laugh out loud funny, sometimes it is, but it's a series packed with incidental moments, funny names, nonsense. I petitioned the council for something called 'lucky boards' in the pocket dimension (your hub world). I didn't know what lucky boards were, but I figured they sounded like a good thing. Now my game is full of rabbits and I need to petition the council to get rid of them. It's hard to dislike Disgaea 5, although some of the characters can "super" start to grate.

For the uninitiated, at its most basic, Disgaea is a turn based strategy rpg. You move your team around the grid levels, setting out your attacks, then hitting execute, before ending your turn. This is where the depth comes in, and where the systems start to show themselves. Chaining attacks increases their power, but as only the character who lands the killing blow gets the experience points, chaining is not without its costs. Using special moves will level them up, reducing their cost and potentially their range. It's where the game is at its strongest for me, a straight forward srpg.

The systems mostly exist outside the battlefield. There's the item world, where you pick an item to level up and with every floor you clear its stats improve. Items, weapons and armour all contain 'innocents', these traits can be removed and placed in something else to give it different attributes. You can capture prisoners from battles, interrogate them and then bring them in to the pocket dimension (and sometimes even recruit them). There's a bunch more too, layers to the combat like towers, layers to levelling characters, layers to getting the best items. It's what makes Disgaea Disgaea.

It's also where the game will start to push people away. I hit a spike, I started a new chapter with a sudden leap in enemy levels. That in and of itself wasn't a problem, the problem was the enemies on a high up platform that I couldn't reach with anyone except my spell caster. There is, it turns out, a solution within the level, revealed to me a couple of levels later, but my solution was less eloquent. I went and recruited more magic users,and levelled them up while improving them some armour in the item world, spamming their spells so they'd have the reach I needed. I had fun playing the game still, but it's the sort of labour that stopped me playing the original game, a difficulty spike can mean a lot of leg work.

This all being said, the story mode of Disgaea 5 acts as a tutorial, quite a lengthy one. Facets of the hub world will be locked away until you make progress in the main story, and occasionally the story missions will introduce mechanics, like the geo tiles. For series diehards this may make the game drag, but given how many systems Disgaea has, not throwing them all at you at once is very much the way to go. Disgaea 5 is easily my favourite exposure to the series, and while it can get in its own way sometimes, it's still one of the most fun games I've played this year.
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Blazblue Chronophantasma
Extend
02-11-15
Posted by Ben at 16:33

I've got to admit, I've been pleasantly surprised by Blazblue Chronophantasma Extend. I expected a mess of a game, unbalanced and clumsy, but it's much better than that. I'm always a little wary of fighting games than lean toward the absurd. It's not that I can't/don't enjoy them, I love Vampire Saviour, and I enjoyed Arcana Heart 3 Love Max! when I reviewed it recently, I just have my doubts about the balance of a fighting game where you're pitting a traditional Ryu or Terry style character against someone who uses a puppet as a shield or someone who can turn in to a werewolf. I'm not sure it's "tournament" quality, I'm not really qualified for that, but from playing the game in arcade mode, training, online, and the unexpectedly tough score attack mode, it's clear to see the scope of the game.

To explain this I probably need to start with the training mode. The training mode is great, aside from the buttons not being named after what they are on the controller (instead it's A, B, C and D) it's all very easy to understand, and designed to give advice to everyone. Sure, if you're reading this you probably don't need to be told how to dash or double-jump in a fighting game, but it's there for those that do need it. Nicely for the more complicated stuff, there's even a demonstration button so you can see what's expected of you. The reason I'm bringing this up is, while it is also still noteworthy to have a proper, good, training mode in a fighting game, it's a great way to see the depth of the systems on offer. The combo system is shown off in its most simple form (work your way up the attack buttons) and its most complex (bringing in crouches and diagonals). You're introduced to abandoning blocking in favour of ĎBarrierí charged blocks, and the dangers thereof. There's character specific tutorials to teach you some intricacies, handy when every character handles completely differently. There's also challenges, difficult high level combos that will be of real use to learn. When you go up against a practised human, or the higher level A.I. you'll start to see the importance of these techniques.

That all being said, I couldnít shake the feeling that Blazblue has too many systems bundled on top of each other. Iíve not played the earlier games to make this claim with any sort of validity, but it feels like itís become more complicated, like it used to be a much simpler game, and these additions have never been trimmed back in the name of refinement. They donít break the game, not that Iíve seen at least, but they are a bit overwhelming. Itís a problem exasperated by how different the characters play from each other. You canít bounce from one character to another on a whim because thereís a level of intricacy that comes with them. Itís not just the difference between a charge character and a shoto character, itís something more than that, thereís a wealth of moves you might never know exist. Itís why the tutorials are great, but also why I feel like another month with the game and Iíd have still barely scratched the surface. Commendable I guess, certainly I mean it as an observation rather than a criticism.

Itís hard not to compare Blazblue to Guilty Gear, partly because Guilty Gear is, currently at least, the high bar for fighting game graphics, but thereís also their shared lineage. Surprisingly Blazblue Chrono Phantasma Extend manages to hold its own in the looks department. Characters are slightly rough around the edges, but it really is nitpicking, and the stages are fantastic. The presentation is key here, as the fight starts the camera will sweep around from the back of the level to the front, showing off the work thatís been done in what would otherwise be an flat, forgettable stage. Itís a very nice touch. Itís not really tied to the looks, more the presentation I guess, but thereís some great moments of humour and character in the opening moments of the fights. Some of itís cool, some of itís nonsense, but it helped endear the game to me.

Slightly less endearing is the story mode. One for the fans is the phrase Iíd go for. From a newcomerís perspective, the story in the arcade mode is fine, typical fighting game stuff, but the full story mode is bewildering and endless. Youíve got hours of visual novel to get through, great if youíre in to the Blazblue fiction, and I donít mean that in anyway loaded, but there really is an abundance of it. Youíve got multiple angles on whatís already taken place through Blazblueís history, then different takes for this Extend edition, then some extra stuff and gag reels, plus an alternative history comedy thing. Itís a strange inclusion, partly because of the obvious amount of work thatís gone in to it, but mostly because, the very rare moment, thereís no gameplay tied in to it. Granted I might have zoned out and missed it, but I only had one fight during the entirety of the Extend story. Itís surreal that it exists, and Iím largely mentioning it because I feel like it absorbed a lot of my time with the game I could have spent elsewhere.

On that note, thereís plenty of game there. As mentioned the characters are all unique, and thereís a fair number of them, plus thereís a number of modes. Sure, itís all just fighting at the end of the day, but if you want something with more progression that the arcade mode thereís Abyss mode, score attack is surprisingly difficult, then thereís the challenging Unlimited Mars mode on top of that. Online still has people playing, although I didnít have much luck finding Europeans playing so itís a bit hard to gauge the lag.

All in all Blazblue Chronophantasma Extend surprised me. Itís a much, much better game than I expected, and perhaps had I been exposed to the series earlier the barriers stopping me from fully engaging with its systems would be removed, resulting in a slightly higher score below. As it stands itís the best fighting game Iíve played this year, and Iíve enjoyed a few this past 12 months. Well worth a look, and I dare say bordering on a must buy if youíre a fan
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Tower of Guns

19-04-15
Posted by Ben at 17:05

Tower of Guns doesn't leave the best first impression. The concept is pretty simple, Tower of Guns is a rogue-like fps, with kill rooms full of spawning guns, cannons and flying machines. You'll get drops to improve your weapon damage, refill your health etc, and also more meaningful perks adding improved, reduced, or unusual abilities.

The graphics resemble a patched together Borderlands, the starting weapons and perks are weak, and the story is buried. The game controls like Quake, which is usually a big plus, but the PS4 controller, well just about any controller, isn't really suited to a game that plays like Quake.

But then, after a few plays, you go on a good run. A playthrough that lasts a while, where you find a secret that gives you a great perk, or enough money to buy some perks, which improves your defence, increases your damage, maybe even drops the difficulty down. Then you realise youíre having fun, that Tower of Guns is in fact a good game, a dumb, fun game. Granted that will inevitably be followed by a run where you accidentally pick something up that decreases your damage, or you walk in to a room full of lava and explosions. Which is not necessarily a criticism of the game, more an observation, with all the perks in the world, things can go south fast. Plenty of times Iíve felt pretty confident about my lot, thinking that this time, finally, Iím going to beat that last level, only to get trapped in a corner, stuck in a situation where Iím constantly taking damage with no health around. Itís very much a rogue-like

Thereís a humour to Tower of Guns that starts to reveal itself too. The loading screen messages raised a smile, the hug bots and their level, the ridiculousness of some of the guns. Itís not a po-faced kind of a game. Even the story, which is buried, presenting it as text in the centre of the screen whilst youíre shooting things in the centre of the screen is a good way to make you blind to it, is commendable in that it changes every time you play. Iíve no idea how many different stories they wrote, but aside from the core concept of having to get to the top of the tower for some reason, the stories are wildly different

Tower of Guns is a little rough around the edges. The enemies feel a little hollow, like rather than the weighty chunks of metal and death they want to be, theyíre actually paper-mache, it means killing them isnít especially satisfying. The game also has a habit of bringing more enemies in to the world/room as you move across it. Iím not sure if itís entirely a design choice or engine related, but it can feel a little cheap when youíre suddenly surrounded in a room youíd just cleared out. The world feels shunted together, itís hardly in any way game breaking, but it takes some of the gloss off the game. Slightly more concerning, and a problem Tower of Guns shares with another recent roguelike CounterSpy, the procedure part of the procedurally generated levels shows a little too much. Youíll see rooms that are far too similar to those youíve already encountered, with secrets and enemy spawn points placed in exactly the same spots

I can see why someone might not like Tower of Guns, I did, but the 90ís fps feel itís going for is right in my nostalgia zone. Iíd also wager itís a much better game on pc, but again, for me fps games should be played with a mouse and keyboard. Maybe go in with your eyes open on this one, but all I can say was that I had a really good time with it
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