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Developer Team Ninja has issued warnings via Twitter for a game-breaking bug in the recently released Dead or Alive 5 Last Round. The bug in question occurs in Tutorial Mode Lesson 40.8 and 40.9, where it freezes the game and corrupts save data.
WARNING (1/3): DOA5 Last Round (All platforms). Pls DO NOT play Tutorial Mode Lesson 40.8 and 40.9 #DOA5LR pic.twitter.com/89xaFo5V5a— Team NINJA (@TeamNINJAStudio) February 23, 2015
The issue affects the German, Spanish, French, and Italian versions of the game. The Japanese, English, traditional Chinese, and Korean versions of the game remain unaffected. The developer apologised and stated that it was trying to "fix it ASAP."
Dead or Alive 5 Last Round was released for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 in North America on February 17, and Europe on February 20. The PC version was delayed to March 30, but won't include online multiplayer at launch.
Dragon Ball XenoVerse kaioken attacks on to multiple platforms at Australian retailers this week. The game will launch on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One on February 26. A PC version will be released on February 27.
Xenoverse was originally scheduled to launch earlier, but according to publisher Bandai Namco the game was delayed to "ensure the highest possible gameplay experience" for players. Xenoverse is developed by Dimps, who also worked on the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai series and co-developed Street Fighter IV. Xenoverse will feature a custom character creator, with players able to choose from a variety of races including Saiyans, Namekians, Earthlings, and Majins.
The story in Xenoverse centres on that of a malevolent force who is messing with time, changing the outcome of events in the past. With the help of Trunks, the player must step into the series' history and correct the timeline back to what it originally was.
If you prefer to go further back in time, Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires will launch for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 this week. The game will feature 83 warriors to choose from and new customisation options, should you want to create your own original warrior.
For those who haven't picked up Dying Light digitally, the game is available at retailers this week. An open-world survival game, Dying Light contains elements of parkour and is set in a zombie-infested city. The game was praised in GameSpot's review for its movement and combat, but criticized for poorly designed missions. For more details on games out this week, check the list below.
February 24, 2015
Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires (PS4, Xbox One)
February 25, 2015
Under Night In-Birth EXE: Late (PS3)
February 26, 2015
Dragon Ball XenoVerse (PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360)
February 27, 2015
Dying Light (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
European Ship Simulator (PC)
The crowdfunding campaign for PC space sim Star Citizen has now reached $73 million, up by $1 million in a little over two weeks. If funding continues at this pace, the game could eventually raise $100 as its creator Chris Roberts' hoped it will.
At the time of writing, funding stands at $73.4 million from more than 760,000 backers. Star Citizen is already the most successful crowdfunded project, of any kind, in history.
All additional funds raised for Star Citizen will towards expanding the scope of the game.
In other Star Citizen news, developer Cloud Imperium Games has recently detailed the game's incredibly deep mining occupation, explaining how players will be able to make money by searching for and mining valuable materials in the deep reaches of space.
For more on Star Citizen and Roberts himself, check out part one and part two of GameSpot's interview with the legendary designer.
To assess Grow Home in a vacuum is to trip over the compliments that spill forth. The game's colorful island, cute creatures, and the planet's ambient sounds are immediately charming. You explore this world as BUD, a robot on a quest to retrieve seeds for a plant that can re-oxygenate his home world. To do this, BUD climbs the giant "Star Plant" stalk, occasionally taking control of its quick-growing branches and driving them head first into the glowing islands in the sky. The Star Plant sucks out the green glow, and then grows a little bigger. It's all very cute (and a little, uh, phallic).Make sure to imagine BUD’s worried chirps for the full effect.
Grow Home is a strikingly beautiful game, especially in motion. Everything hums with bright, colorful life. Through its use of cel-shading, low-polygon models, and subtle environmental animation, Grow Home builds a gorgeous, minimalistic style. And then, as the stalk and its branches sprout up through the sky, Grow Home sets that minimalism against overwhelming scale. Beauty is everywhere: You can let your sight linger on the butterflies, or you can look upwards, to the towering Star Plant reaching into the upper atmosphere.
While the environments shine, BUD is the real star attraction. His bobbing head, wide smile, and eager chirps make him lovable, but it's the way he moves through the world that makes controlling him such a joy. BUD's animation is procedural: instead of having the frames of his movement handcrafted by an animator, the developers programmed a system for BUD's limbs to animate according to the player's input. You direct BUD around the world with the left analog stick, using the left and right triggers to control his hands, which can grip anything they touch.
As you try to deal with the quirks of BUD's unpredictable movement, the result, at first, is a sort of comedic flailing. This was never frustrating for me, but I can see how it might be for others. Maybe you misjudge the amount of momentum BUD will have as he lands on one of the "branches" of the massive stalk, and wind up flinging him thousands of feet down to his demise. Or you might think you've got a firm grip on the cliff face, only to find that you've actually grabbed onto a loose boulder. Whoops. You can supplement your control of BUD with some environmental tools: springy plants give you a way to boost BUD's jumping power, while flowers and leaves work as parachutes and hang gliders. But these often lead to other stumbles. Pro tip: if you crash into anything while floating around with that leaf, you lose hold of it and go into a headfirst dive. Whoops, again.For such a small game, Grow Home sure knows how to use scale.
This is all reminiscent of games like Octodad and Sumotori Dreams, both of which leverage uncontrollable bodies for the sake of humor. But unlike these games, there comes a point in Grow Home where you attain a sense of control that feels both elegant and exuberant. BUD's body never becomes Ezio Auditore's--it always bounces and leans in unpredictable ways. But Grow Home isn't a game about laughing at atypical bodies. Instead, it's a game that lets you become familiar with limbs that don't quite work like your own do, and it teaches you to take joy in using tools to augment your natural abilities.
I invoked the name of Ezio because the second way I experienced Grow Home was in the context of Ubisoft's recent offerings. For Ubisoft, 2014 was a year of too safe (and often too broken) output. Watch Dogs and Assassin's Creed: Unity were technical disappointments, and, worse, failed to mix up the increasingly tired open-world formula common to Ubi's tent-pole releases. The Crew tried to apply that formula to a whole new genre, and in doing so missed a chance to do something really special. And while Far Cry 4 was well received, the common refrain was "It's more Far Cry 3." It's easy to imagine how Grow Home's vision of climbing-and-collecting might fit into the familiar open-world Ubisoft blueprint. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if a version of this new climbing model eventually finds its way into an Assassin's Creed sequel. But Grow Home never falls into the design traps that show up in other recent Ubisoft titles. Yes, you do search for collectible crystals, but these aren't carelessly scattered by the hundreds across the environment. They're placed carefully, to encourage exploration and to challenge you to understand how BUD moves. And yes, these crystals unlock new abilities (such as a jetpack!), but these upgrades aren't doled out along a carefully scheduled arc to maximize your attachment to the game.
If you prefer the sensory overload of those aforementioned games, you might find yourself disappointed with Grow Home's lack of density. Sometimes you spend a few minutes plotting a course across the sky to a hovering island in the distance, only to find it empty but for a hidden crystal and a small collection of plants. Grow Home does not provide you a screen filled with side objectives and a constant stream of narrative reinforcement: It is happy to let you take your time, to meander, to move at your own pace for the few hours it takes to finish it. And while you might see its "short" length as a negative, it's Grow Home's brevity that lets it shine.Night time is perfect for hunting down glowing crystals… or for gently gliding around in the moonlight.
No game exists in a vacuum, and sometimes it's hard to confront the contexts that color our experiences, especially when they make us second guess ourselves. Is Grow Home a charming game that's worth your time? Yes. Do I believe this because Grow Home contrasts so sharply with Ubisoft's recent output? Also yes. Yet no matter how prone to cynicism you may be, you shouldn’t let this surprising gem go unnoticed.
"Boring" is the best word to describe The Order in general, actually. That this third-person action game turns a parade of steampunk imagery and Arthurian legends into a dull stew of modern games' most tiresome cliches is quite a feat, though hardly one worth celebrating. It is (as you probably guessed) 1886, and you are Grayson, otherwise known as Galahad, one of the Knights of the Round Table. It is a time of trouble: common citizens have begun to rebel against the gentry, possibly allying with a race of werewolves the game alternately refers to as lycans and half-breeds. It's a brilliant setup, ripe with possibilities. You look to the sky and see zeppelins hovering overhead; you look to the armory, and you find a young Nikola Tesla ready to introduce you to clever armaments. That such a world could be so lifeless is unfathomable.Ah yes, those black bars. The Order: 1886 really, really wants to be a movie.
Yet The Order turns the mystical into the mundane. You face lycans early on, leaping out of the way and shooting them down before killing them off for good by plunging a knife into them. And then they are cast aside for hours until the half-breeds are barely a memory. The Order pulls them out of hiding a few more times, though the circumstances are highly controlled, and conclude with the kind of anticlimax that becomes the game's calling card. The most dramatic of these few battles end with quick-time focused snoozes that betray the very idea of confronting such beasts. As for the nature of the lycans--where they come from, what their presence has meant for humanity, how humans could ally with such creatures--most of that is left to your imagination. Developer Ready at Dawn doesn't address the most interesting aspects of its own ideas.
Instead, the story focuses on its stale protagonists, who sit and argue at the round table every so often while getting to the bottom of the rebel plot. What a shame that interesting supernatural and social elements would be sidelined in favor of boardroom shenanigans, particularly given the light character development. I applaud the cast: the voice acting is brilliant, far better than the material deserved, and it is the acting talent alone that invested me in the characters' fates. The soundtrack, thick with cellos and violas, also rises above the blandness, but by the time the finale and its predictable quick-time events arrive, it is too late to squeeze emotion from this dry turnip. The credits roll after the button press that serves as an ending, and vital story threads are left dangling in the wind. Perhaps the Order: 1886 means to hint at a sequel, but whether or not that was Ready at Dawn's intention, it's a disrespectful end to a plodding story. This may have been a fine close to the second act of a three-act story, but it's a rude sendoff to anyone hoping for explanation or reason.The easiest way to identify the male Knights is by the style of facial hair.
How bizarre, then, that The Order is so focused on its narrative. During the initial sequences, you may assume that it is more Heavy Rain than Uncharted: you respond to threats by pressing the right buttons when prompted. As it happens, The Order is divided more or less equally into four disparate pieces: cutscenes, QTEs, walking around, and shooting. In time, the game strings these features into poorly-paced sequences that have no sense of rhythm. It is the modern action game personified: This is the part where I walk for three minutes, and now comes the short bit where I have to pick a bunch of things up and look at them, and then comes the brief shooting part that practically ends before it begins.
Walking, looking, and shooting aren't bad on their own, of course. What makes such basic mechanics so predictable and rote in The Order is how they are used. When the game forces you to holster your weapon and walk at a snail's pace, you may expect it to build tension or to develop its characters. Instead, The Order becomes an exposition machine, dropping basic plot points until you either open the door that leads to the next ultra-linear stage of the ultra-linear level, or another character does it for you.
The sequences in which you examine your surroundings looking for clues are even more tedious. You trudge about a room, picking up objects and looking at them, perhaps even turning them over in your hands before setting them down. In a few instances, the game might identify a detail of interest, and you have to press a button to continue, though the overall goal is typically to pick up everything in the vicinity until you trigger the next event--and in at least one case, you aren't even the one to discover the pertinent information, making all of that monotonous strolling aggravatingly pointless. A few weapons aside, you're rarely looking at anything of interest: old photographs of characters you barely know (if at all), letters that provide the tiniest morsel of backstory, and so forth. That The Order is so in love with its own object models is almost laughable: You pick up minor knick-knacks and lovingly rotate them as if you have discovered the Holy Grail. Yes, this model ship is lovely, but was the self-congratulatory time-padder necessary?If you turn it around in your hand long enough, the game will eventually let you put it down.
I presume that The Order: 1886 wishes to build its world by demanding you admire the details, but Ready at Dawn needn't have tried so hard to point out how pretty their art is: it is simply pretty, full stop. The game has a few of the standard tricks up its sleeve to gloss over the occasional flaws: motion blur, a subtle film grain effect, overzealous depth-of-field effects, and the such. It's difficult to overlook The Order's tonally consistent aesthetics, however: It is fully committed to its style. From a bridge's vantage point, you wield an electrically charged cannon while gazing upon a smoky Victorian London. The bridge is dotted with iron carriages, some still sturdy, and some ravaged by the ongoing firefight. Rococo flourishes adorn the Knights' chamber: walls decorated with gold leaf, floors embellished with Latin script, flickering candles embedded within serpentine sconces. The Knights' weathered faces aren't quite beautiful, but they are remarkably human; Each of the Lord Chancellor's grimaces and squints betray a soul-crushing history you wish you could have partaken in.
The action is almost an afterthought, given all the talking, the walking, and the quick-time events, few of which complement onscreen motion in the manner of Telltale Games' best QTEs. It's a shame that The Order evokes Heavy Rain so early in its six-hour play time, because the comparison does not work in this game's favor. The Order clearly has cinematic aspirations, regardless: The loose camera hews close behind you, to the point where you can not often see much of the battlefield once you have taken cover. The game is at its best when it allows itself to be a shooter, which is what makes its failings all the more disheartening. The thermite rifle is one of the most interesting weapons in recent memory, letting you fire a round of magnesium ammo and then ignite it with a rush of air. What a blast it is to mess with such a unique firearm--and what a heartbreaker to have such grossly limited use of it. The same is true of the previously mentioned cannon: It is ripped from your hands all too quickly and replaced with less-interesting pistols and carbine rifles.Too many levels have you trapped in sniping position. Too few levels give you the really good guns.
Those weapons function just fine, at least. The level design is functional, too, but uninspired. You know a turkey shoot is about to begin as you enter an area and see all the obvious cover spots--and then the turkeys appear, right on schedule, ready to die at your hands. Expectedly, such predictability breeds apathy. Grenade-lobbing supersoldiers aside, it's all too easy to mow down the opposition, making the blacksight mechanic, which allows you to temporarily slow down time and pelt foes with bullets, all but unnecessary on medium difficulty. There's a system in place for recovering if you are downed in combat, but it, too, is superfluous: should you fall, a rebel soldier almost always lands a killing shot.
All of these gameplay tropes are then shoved together into herky-jerky levels that end just when you think they might gain momentum. The only individual sequence lengthy enough to find a rhythm is a later stealth level, though it's far too simple to inspire wishes for more sneaky sections. What, then, to make of The Order: 1886? It is, at best, perfectly playable, and lovely to look at and listen to. But it is also the face of mediocrity and missed opportunities. A bad game can make a case for itself. A boring one is harder to forgive.
In many ways, Legend of Candlewind is even more primitive than games like Eye of the Beholder and other late 1980s and early 1990s dungeon crawls like Dungeon Master, which sold a whole lot of Atari STs in their day. The game opens with a lengthy text blurb about the fantasy realm around the town of Candlewind and the need to venture off to ominous Blackwood Forest to deal with some rogues. So, no cutscenes or animations here, though the font looks kind of nice and Tolkien-esque, at least. From there, you get dumped right into a dungeon labyrinth (uh, what happened to that forest?) with four adventurers ready to go. This gang consists of the standard tanks up front and mages in the back. There are no options to create your own characters or do any sort of customizing.The Legend of Candlewind lures you in with promises of Eye of the Beholder-styled role-playing, but turns you off with, well, everything it really is.
I generally don't mind being stuck with pre-rolled heroes. Nevertheless, I have to admit to being annoyed here, if only because of ridiculous names like Garrison Hiffs and Shailee Frostflower. Even worse, all the character profile pics are of the same scraggly haired guy who looks like he might have been hauling gear for Deep Purple circa 1973. All are given minor alterations with the less-than-creative application of facial hair and a helmet, although the attempt to make the members of this gang of four look different from one another is so half-hearted that it's laughable. And yes, even poor Shailee gets this treatment, which leaves her looking more like a third-rate groupie hanging out with the roadies backstage than "the daughter of a forest witch."
Game mechanics are even more irritating. There are no frills here--absolutely none. The game doesn't have keyboard shortcuts, which leaves you doing everything with the mouse. There are no proper tool-tips, even for the usual items, like spells. The developers also seem to have gone out of their way to create the most cumbersome interface possible. You need to hold down the left mouse button and open up a menu just to select and move objects in your inventory. The whole system is ridiculously obtuse. It took me 10 minutes to figure out how to shoot an arrow, because you have to actually pick arrows, divide them, and then manually load one onto a bow.Hope you like stone walls and text boxes.
Adventuring is boring and repetitive. All you do is trudge through the stone-walled chambers of a labyrinth, stopping only to kill the same handful of unconvincing monsters in exhausting turn-based battles. Creatures like goblins, rogues, and, uh, goblins and rogues are static models that simply blink their way closer and closer to your position. Actual combat is depicted by these models leaping up in the air, in an effect akin to somebody waving a paper cutout at you. Only single creatures are shown. Attacks by groups of goons happen, but their numbers are depicted via icons at the bottom of the screen, as they line up and go at you single file.
Successful attacks in Legend of Candlewind aren't shown by any sort of swinging sword, but by the enemy in question flashing red and occasionally spitting out a few drops of blood. Spells come with rudimentary pyrotechnics: I've thrown cherry bombs more impressive than the game's Fireball. The only sort-of presentation plus is the musical score, which features enough flute to sound like Jethro Tull on a bad day. That said, this score is a single looping song, and it vanishes completely after just a couple of minutes of play, never to return. Oh, and the sound effects consist of thuds and louder thuds.
All you do is trudge through the stone-walled chambers of a labyrinth, stopping only to kill the same handful of unconvincing monsters in exhausting turn-based battles.
As for combat strategizing, there isn't any. Once an enemy appears, everything gets locked down. You can't access your inventory during scraps at all, so forget about swapping weapons, taking a potion, or using some sort of magical gizmo. The lack of access to cool gear doesn't mean much, though, because the dungeon isn't exactly rich with treasure. Vanquished monsters don't leave behind loot drops. You're about as likely to walk out your front door right now and spot Bigfoot as you are to find a treasure chest in this game. Even when you do spot one, it's always stuffed with useless items like apples, loaves of bread, arrows, a rare gold coin or two, and the odd potion of healing or magic. Weapons and armor are virtually impossible to find. I spent most of the game with the same pathetic gear (the lead fighter is equipped with nothing but torches and a shield) that I received at the start of the game. These clowns come off more like wandering vagrants than the usual RPG heroes swinging swords and rocking plate mail.
Difficulty almost immediately soars off the charts. If you push ahead into the labyrinth, you quickly run into murderous opponents who simply cannot be slain. You can't rest, either. Your only option when it comes to restoring health or mana is to quaff potions or cast spells, although the former is in short supply and mana points can be quickly exhausted by throwing around just a few incantations. The only way to get anywhere is by grinding out levels, courtesy of the game's handy "Wait for Monster" button that summons up random encounters. This is as exciting as it sounds. And very slow. Just a handful of experience points are earned in each battle. Arriving at last at the second level is cause to pop some corks.Didn't I just kill that thing?
Doors with obvious locks are scattered throughout the dungeon. Click on them, and you get a message about the door being opened with a key. Only there aren't any keys, and most of the doors are actually unlocked. It took me an hour to figure this out, and that was only because I accidentally clicked to move forward one too many times and wound up going right through a door. Even without these fake-out doors, nothing about the dungeon seems real. Encounters with friendly characters are not shown on-screen. Wandering traders, folks who need a hand, and other characters are shown solely with text descriptions and boxes you click to select actions.
No matter how starved you might be for old-timey role-playing, give The Legend of Candlewind a wide berth. This is a terrible, aggravating experience bound to disappoint you no matter how much you might want to relive the glory days of Eye of the Beholder.
Canvas Curse innovated a new way to move Kirby around, but Rainbow Curse has squandered most of its charm. Despite the beautiful claymation art style and eye-candy coloring, the game is dull. Kirby's movement and abilities have been oversimplified to the point that getting Kirby actually to do what you want is a gamble. This, coupled with a watery story mode and unexciting bonus modes, makes Rainbow Curse feel soulless, disconnected from a franchise that has made some strong decisions in past iterations.In case you were wondering, Kirby's still adorable.
Movement in Rainbow Curse is minimalistic. Gameplay takes place entirely on the GamePad. To move Kirby forward, you tap him with the stylus, and he rolls. To switch directions, you draw a rainbow line in front of him, which he bumps into and then rolls the opposite way. Rolling him into certain types of blocks breaks them, and rolling onto an enemy's head kills it. To move Kirby up and through the air, you draw rainbow lines for him to roll along. Scattered through the environments are gold stars, and if Kirby collects 100, holding the stylus to the screen will charge him up for a more powerful attack that breaks metal and stone and damages larger enemies. He follows his lines dutifully, so draw them carefully.
Early levels are a breeze, but in later stages, Kirby's Jello-y physics makes them more difficult to complete. Stages are all slightly-different variants on each other, offering the same obstacles, just in different places. Sand and water you have to manipulate using lines, boxes you have to ram into, keys you have to collect to unlock the next area--some form of this was in every puzzle in every level, making things monotonous. I could expect at least one door to unlock in every first or second stage level. I knew Kirby would be a plane or tank come the last level before the boss fight. This pattern became familiar by the third stage, so I always knew what to expect and how to get around the pile of boxes in the room or collect the key. There isn't much variety to Rainbow Curse's stages of puzzle-solving.
Some puzzles and boss battles require quick reflexes, calling for a fast flick of the brush to paint a path to safety or change directions to bump a projectile back into an enemy's face. Guiding Kirby out of harm's way can prove difficult; he's a little slippery. Rainbow lines must be drawn quickly and strategically to roll him away, and sometimes even then, it's not enough to get the bugger. Kirby will roll along the top or bottom of a line depending on which side he touches, and if you're rolling on a line's underside and hit a wall, you're stuck, even if the line arcs over it and away. With this method, it's easy to back Kirby into corners, especially when the level includes a screen-moving component that means instant death if Kirby falls out of frame. More than once I drew lines hoping to bounce Kirby to safety but instead painted him into a corner. Kirby himself has also been granted some floaty physics this time around, making it feel like you're batting a bouncy cotton ball around the screen.It's a tank!It's a sub!It's a plane!
Every action besides drawing lines relies on tapping the GamePad--you never use the face buttons or triggers--and with everything mapped to a tap, navigation gets sticky quickly. In some levels, Kirby is transformed into a tiny plane, tiny tank, or tiny submarine. As the former, Kirby relies absolutely on the player to draw rainbow lines to guide him. When he's a tank or submarine, you tap to both move Kirby and shoot projectiles at the same time. Submarine missiles, however, need those rainbow lines to guide them to targets; otherwise, they will shoot straight ahead. It's monotonous and deeply frustrating to have both moves mapped to the one command. If Kirby is in the middle of the screen and you want to shoot enemies below you and move to the left to collect a star, you need to tap to Kirby's left and also draw rainbow lines to guide the missiles towards the bad guys. The submarine-Kirby and tank-Kirby levels are also constantly, slowly scrolling along, meaning you need to keep in frame to stay alive.
The game has an infuriating learning curve. Being bound to a one-directional line is limiting, and the game demands early mastery without giving you time to adapt. When Kirby is forced to become a plane or tank, it limits movement even further. Fine control is difficult in many instances, especially when Kirby is in these vehicle forms. Plane Kirby is particularly unwieldy, and many times I went to draw a line only to accidentally tap on Kirby and have him speed away from the desired direction. And in one late-game boss battle, Kirby spent most of the time hovering on the screen's edges, where I couldn't reach him with the stylus and where the rainbow lines refused to appear to guide him. He was in a corner I couldn't get him out of. The general line-drawing takes some getting used to, but even after becoming moderately comfortable, after seven whole words and 28 stages, I still never felt like I had proper control of Kirby due to his flighty nature.
Also, those rainbow lines? Your paint can run out, and you'll need to wait for a quick two- or three-second recharge before you can use it again. This adds a bit of resource management when crossing wide chasms and dealing with loads of projectile-shooting enemies, forcing you to keep an eye on your reserves. The challenge in Rainbow Curse lies in mastering drawing these lines, but frustration can reach an all-time high depending on how committed you are to getting it right.Better together.
Kirby typically feels floaty, because you inflate him to fly over obstacles and earn new powers by inhaling enemies. But you do neither of these things in Rainbow Curse. But Kirby feels useless here because the delicate physics don't quite sync with the mechanics. He can only roll into enemies or power up and roll into enemies, and if you roll into the enemy from the wrong angle--such as from the side or on top of its giant spiky head--you lose life. Some enemies jump or throw spears, and it's difficult to time how long it will take you to roll along a line and slam down on their heads before they sneak a hit in. Your only option is roll into them, though, so it's all you can do.
One way to get through the game is by literally babysitting Kirby, adding one to three other local players as his companion Waddle Dee to cover him to the finish line. Each Waddle Dee can jump, hover for a few moments, and slash enemies, totally free of the exasperating rainbow lines. I played with a friend as Waddle Dee, and he was able to do nearly everything without me; Kirby is needed to draw rainbow lines over un-jumpable spaces, and Waddle Dee took care of everything else solo. I played through several levels with my colleagues and nearly all of them preferred to grab Waddle Dee. It feels odd that the co-op character should be more powerful than the main hero.
There are a few more bells and whistles in Rainbow Curse that add content, but nothing incredibly interesting. Completing levels can unlock an additional stage that is accessible in Challenge mode. Each stage includes four small rooms packed with obstacles you've seen before; there's nothing here that isn't already offered somewhere in story mode. You must maneuver Kirby through each small room to a treasure chest. You only have 15 seconds to succeed in each room, and if you fail, you lose the challenge. These tiny contained challenges have no incentive to them, since they repeat ideas from the main campaign that have already been repeated umpteen times.Narrow escape.
You can also use Amiibo with Rainbow Curse with some restrictions. Tapping a Kirby, Dedede, or MetaKnight Amiibo to the GamePad will grant you a power-up; Kirby lets you use his dash ability whenever you want, Dedede gives you two extra health bars, and MetaKnight makes Kirby more powerful. But you can only use one Amiibo once a day, and if you die just once, you lose the power-up and have to wait a day to use it again. Since losing life is an inevitability in Rainbow Curse, it's disappointing that the Amiibo bonus is something you can't hold on to for your entire playtime.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a tiring game. It's taxing without being rewarding, like doing a mile on a stationary bike and discovering that you only burned away calories from one bite of your lunch burrito. The game gets frustrating quickly due to repetitive obstacles and there's not much incentive to dig into a game that won't give you that agency. It's a mediocre romp through a gorgeously detailed world that doesn't give you the control you need as a player, which ultimately dulls its shine.
Set aside the aforementioned caveats for a moment, though, and note that this revamped HOMM III is mostly like the fantastic original game. As the title indicates, Heroes of Might & Magic III HD is the same 16-year-old game with a facelift to satisfy modern tastes for high-resolution graphics. The gameplay is fundamentally identical: You take on the role of fantasy heroes in campaign scenarios, some 50 individual scenarios (most with stories and settings that make them play like mini-campaigns), and a number of local and online multiplayer modes of play.The best part of HOMM III is exploring the richly detailed world maps.
Activities are split between the three components of play: exploring, building cities, and engaging in combat. Exploring the world maps representing regions of the fantasy realm of Erathia is probably the most enjoyable part of HOMM III HD. There are an incredible number of goodies to be discovered, including resource pits, treasure piles, magical artifacts, wandering monsters, and even goofy treats like leprechauns with pots of gold. The intricate nature of these maps has long been a hallmark of the HOMM franchise. It's all a little ridiculous--you can't go five feet into the wilderness without tripping over a bunch of gems or running into a murderous pack of halberdiers--but the style perfectly brings to life a colorful, much-missed fantasy atmosphere that went out of vogue about the same time that Erol Otus stopped drawing the covers of D&D modules.
Combat runs a close second. Armies are fronted by heroes who level up and gain skills with might and magic as in any traditional Gygaxian RPG, but their ranks are filled with warriors, wizards, monsters, and more drawn from factions based on D&D archetypes. Castle comes with knights and angels, Inferno features imps and demons, Necropolis boasts wights and liches, Rampart is home to elves and unicorns, and so forth. Battles themselves are turn-based affairs taking place on hex maps, either out in the open or in sieges before city walls. The great variety of the units gives these scraps some real tactical texture. Armies need to be built smartly, with a real balance between melee and ranged units, or you'll inevitably get chewed up and spit out. Magic is also crucial. Your hero needs a reasonably thick spell book to be able to deal with larger battles, as the assistance of a well-timed fireball can mean the difference between victory and being vanquished.Conquering and building cities are an integral part of every HOMM III scenario.
Finally, you have to spend time conquering and then building up towns specific to each faction. Conquest is a big part of every scenario, as you need access to new cities on the maps to increase production levels, vary the types of troops you can create, and just generally creep your way to victory. This can get a little grind-happy after a while. The selection of buildings and upgrades is fairly limited. You max out buildings fairly quickly with your first city, then do it again, then do it again. There are also few meaningful differences between the cities of the factions. So basically, there is a lot of rinse, lather, and repeat going on here while you're cranking out streams of troops.
Even after the passage of going on two decades, HOMM III remains one a sprawling, immersive experience that can take over your life. Time hasn't had much impact on one of the biggest (you could easily play the game for hundreds of hours between the campaign scenarios, the skirmish maps, and online multiplayer) and best titles from the golden age of PC gaming. It actually is a bit shocking today by comparison with modern games. The sheer size and intricacy of the maps, the diversity of the units, and the challenge presented by the AI even on the easy difficulty setting is like stepping into an ice-cold shower first thing in the morning.
Your hero needs a reasonably thick spell book to be able to deal with larger battles.
I am particularly taken aback by how tough the game is in the beginning. I had to restart my opening campaign four times before I got back into the groove and figured out the proper pace. HOMM III always forced you to maintain a tricky balancing act. Hole up in your cities to build up sizable numbers of troops, and you give away the goodies on the map to adventurous opponents. Expand too soon, and your troops wind up spread too thin, opening the way for enemy armies to sneak behind you and capture your cities without a struggle. It's still impressive just how thin a line you have to walk in order to succeed. In addition, the artificial intelligence is formidable when playing solo. It cheats a little, as enemy forces always know your weaknesses and notice when you make dumb moves like leaving a city wide open. Suffice it to say, the bad guys here are never pushovers.
So HOMM III is just where you left it. That's good. And that's also bad, because publisher Ubisoft could have been more generous. First of all, HOMM III HD doesn't include the two expansion packs released for the original game, apparently due to the loss of the source code. Regardless of the reason, this HD edition is not the entire HOMM III package. That causes some concerns about pricing, as $14.99 for this game via Steam arguably gets you less than the HOMM III Complete version with both expansions selling for $9.99 at GOG.com. Granted, this cheaper edition is the unadorned original game in all of its pixelated glory. But seeing as you can apply a free--and quite good--high-definition mod to that original game, the differences suddenly become a lot less significant.The lumpy blobs of old have been turned into veritable wargame miniatures.
And the HD aspects of this re-release don't really amount to much. Yes, the game looks better, particularly in the combat screens, thanks to support for higher modern resolutions and widescreen monitors. Unit art has been dramatically upscaled, to the point where creatures look like little cartoons instead of the old-school colored blobs where you had to squint to make out a dragon's tail. But the animations are still rudimentary. Units just shrug when they rip off spells or swing swords. There are no frills whatsoever, so don't expect any snazzy cutscenes showing an ice bolt spell taking down a horde of skeletons. And some miscues spoil the presentation a little bit, mainly the way that map features like castle walls and other units in close combat frequently block key information like the number of units in a stack.
The main adventure map has some problems. While it is clearer than it was before, it still isn't actually clear--not even close. I had to constantly peer at the screen like an old man checking labels at the grocery store. Is that a gang of demons? Or is that an artifact? Is that odd-looking lump of grass just an odd-looking lump of grass, or is it something I can activate to grab some goodies? This map is also finicky when it comes to clicking, often demanding three and four tries to choose points of interest due to the game demanding that you select very precise spots before activating encounters. All in all, the "Huh?" factor is strong with this one, which can be frustrating in a turn-based game where wasting even the slightest bit of unit movement can kill you.
The sheer size and intricacy of the maps, the diversity of the units, and the challenge presented by the AI even on the easy difficulty setting is like stepping into an ice-cold shower first thing in the morning.
Even given the greatness at the heart of HOMM III, it is impossible to fully recommend the HD edition. Making such a legendary game accessible to a modern audience is always a good thing, but Ubisoft just didn't do enough here to set this refurbished version apart from the original and its free high-definition mod. More effort could have--and should have--been made to ensure that this would be the definitive and complete HOMM III that all fans of the series would have to have. As much as I loved this trip back in time, I would recommend that anyone else interested in the same sort of journey book it with a different and cheaper travel agent.
The peculiar narrative does little to contextualize the near-nudity and hyper-sexualized moments. You find yourself deep in the bowels of Hell as the game opens, greeted by an officious warden who tasks you with taking care of a medley of sinful souls. These female delinquents have been damned to a life in Hades, but if they can pass the Redemption Program and overcome the challenges ahead, their sins will be forgiven. Of course, each of the seven unique characters has been banished and disregarded for a reason, so it takes time to gain their trust and convince them to actually earn the right to be redeemed.Welcome to Cell Block NC-17.
Relationships among the girls are built and then tested as you climb out of Hell, but one of the keys to unlocking special skills and stat boosts is through individual motivation. After gaining the universal currency through battles and treasure chests, you can choose the Motivate option at any save point to whip, drip liquids on, or tickle any of the delinquents. During these sequences--which become more involved as your character progresses--your girl of choice either sheepishly or aggressively questions your intentions as she dons an outfit that ranges from risqué to borderline pornographic. If you want your party to reach its full potential, your participation in these shameless sequences is necessary.
And surprisingly, these scenes were even more explicit in Japan. This is a touched-up edition of a PSP game released in 2010, with the motivation scenes being edited so that pink steam obfuscates portions of the screen before eventually dissipating at your touch. Moans and groans have also been removed, but somehow, the silence is even more unsettling.If you really want to be turned on, porn without pink haze is free on the Internet.
The whole process is vulgar and unnecessary. The basic dialogue that litters your journey can be crude, drawing attention to one of the character’s breasts or bottom. But going from cheap sexual jokes to rubbing a stripped-down teenager on your Vita screen is a thematic leap that’s not only jarring but repellent. The story isn’t stellar by any means, but any emotional connection you build with these characters from dungeon to dungeon is immediately snapped once you throw them into such compromising positions.
It’d be easy just to disregard Criminal Girls: Invite Only if the surrounding elements were just as tasteless. However, the actual video game part, where you battle monsters and raise levels, is fun, and pretty novelbesides. Instead of controlling the action of all four party members in a given turn, you pick just one of four options. One girl might feel bold and want to do a solo attack, while another decides that an elemental ability is the best course of action. As your characters grow closer and learn new abilities, new provisional avenues appear. By the end, it’s common to see all four girls working together to dole out damage as a team or maybe even combine for a special duo ability dealing triple damage.
These combat quirks add a healthy dose of diversity to the moment-to-moment action. You have to scroll through your options and pick the proper technique for the given situation rather than simply hammer away at the X button until you’ve earned a victory jingle. The many useful offensive and defensive skills that become available make each of the seven characters useful, meaning that you likely won’t pigeonhole yourself to a specific combination of characters.The combat is Criminal Girls' saving grace.
Surprisingly, the combat stays mostly fresh even in the face of innumerable random battles. There’s a medley of monsters waiting to greet you after every few feet, and the story often asks you to retrace your steps over and over again. If the environments were interesting, this wouldn’t be a major problem. Unfortunately, trudging up and down a featureless bend isn’t fun or exciting, and doing so just to make the bustiest member of your crew sweat through her top to grab the attention of a carnal boss isn’t a good enough excuse. It’s just a poor way to pad out an already lengthy experience.
You can escape from battles, but it’s not a wise decision if you hope to progress. Each floor of this dungeon crawler presents stronger enemies, so you’ll have to grind early and often to pass the later trials. I spent hours strengthening my party before attempting major battles but still found myself struggling because most of the late-game bosses use frequent healing techniques to make most of your offensive efforts toothless.In this game, crime and punishment are one and the same.
The turn-based action might be fun, but every other element of Criminal Girls: Invite Only does its best to stamp out its only saving grace. When it’s not pushing discomforting images of barely dressed teens in your face, Criminal Girls is leading you back and forth across a lifeless dungeon just so you can thumb through lines of dull dialogue. There’s enjoyment to be found within the game’s combat, but it’s just not worth stomaching the tedious design and perverse activities to find the pearl inside.
The sudden flurry of activity is a welcome change of pace to Fermor, a 20th-century student with wanderlust. Probably less so to the Quadi and the Marcomanni. But someone playing Total War: Attila has more in common with the former--there's no fun in watching civilizations, to hear Paddy put it, "float about as lonely as clouds, expanding across the map as imperceptibly as damp or mildew." And so in that limited sense, the Huns are a welcome arrival to Total War's late antiquity. Finally, something to upend the dreary peace!In the beginning, there was "interface." And it was just OK.
Total War: Attila is centered on its turn-based Grand Campaign, a broad representation of the military situation Europe found itself in around 400 A.D. The Roman Empire is in its death throes, bloated and harried even after being cleaved into Eastern and Western halves. To the north and northeast, perennial all-barbarian first-teamers the Vandals and Visigoths flee from the Huns' onslaught--straight into Roman territory. To the east, the comparatively recumbent Sassanians lie within striking distance of Constantinopolis. A litany of small but active tribes occupy the interstitial spaces, cannibalizing each other and nipping impishly at the heels of the larger factions. All eyes are drawn to the eastern steppes, however, when Attila enters the world stage, providing a not-so-subtle cue to start getting your affairs in order.
Lest there be any confusion about the stakes, Total War: Attila's cutscenes and campaign descriptions regularly invoke the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. But Death himself can be slow coming, depending on your chosen faction--Attila still has to grow up before the gears of the Hunnic war machine really start to turn, so it can be some time before he makes his presence known to those in the far corners of the map. In the meantime, Famine proves to be a more immediate concern, as does Disease, both of which need to be mitigated through the construction of relevant buildings in one's home cities. A waterworks system, for example, confers sanitation +2, public order +1, while a sheep pen does as much for statistics like food surplus and wealth.
War, for his part, is an old hand by now. The series' battle engine is set in its ways; save a few new wrinkles in the siege system or the way fire spreads, it's mostly content to demonstrate mastery of those skills it already possessed. As opposed to the turn-by-turn politicizing, battles take place in real time, across fields or along castle ramparts, between collected armies that are, if not a one-to-one representation of the thousands of soldiers present, close enough in abstraction to dissuade you from counting. Your units engage the enemy's automatically when the two collide, leaving you to concern yourself with formations.
Lest there be any confusion about the stakes, Total War: Attila regularly analogizes the Horde to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
If that sounds simplistic, it's because you haven't seen how many formations there are to choose from--to say nothing of the stances and abilities that can be toggled on each individual unit, or the passive qualities like morale or fatigue that themselves hinge on dozens of other factors. If there were any doubts, let it be known that Total War: Attila retains the series' depth of strategic offerings. But for the uninitiated and leery, it's entirely possible to play par golf on normal difficulty armed only with an understanding of the series' now-familiar unit rock-paper-scissors. Swords beat spears, spears beat cavalry, cavalry beat swords. And generally speaking, everyone hates having arrows lobbed at their heads. Once armies clash, you never concern yourself with any individual soldier. Instead, you command armies as the Sorcerer's Apprentice commanded waves and lighting, pointing out what you want done and watching a wave of spearmen break off in that direction like a tributary branching from a roaring river.
Most of the quirks of Total War's artificial intelligence have been ironed out by now: it properly diverts forces to prevent dead runs at the main capture point of its bases, and those old instances of units spinning aimlessly have yet to rear their heads. But Attila is not without its idiosyncrasies. Battles can occur at sea, but naval skirmishes remain a mess of sails and hulls, a paltry imitation of their counterparts on land. Back on terra firma, units occasionally show their displeasure with your commands by sprinting headlong in the wrong direction, particularly when you try to send them up a siege ladder. Then there's the curious case of the Vandal general at Ad Decimum, who will refuse to break his tidy formation to chase off a single unit of horse archers sent out to pester him.
You don't need a field manual to beat an enemy like that, but for what it's worth, Total War: Attila's tutorial prologue is comprehensive, and a good precursor to the Grand Campaign. It has its limitations, though--perhaps inevitable when you've got an interface that's as complex as Photoshop and half as intuitive. Information like, say, the cost of unit upkeep, is lost among the icons and numbers that are tucked into each of the screen's corners.The camera can be swung in for a close up of the balancing act between scale and fidelity.
Speaking of too much information: every member of your chosen faction's royal family has a set of qualities that affect his or her statistics, and let's just note that “flaccid” is one of them and continue on. There are wives that affect stats, companions who affect stats, even random little trinkets like necklaces and scrolls that affect stats. Imagine, if the scales of rebellion truly tipped on some statesman getting a particularly shiny bracelet! Absent that hyperspecificity, the returning familial power system is welcome. Family members and statesmen accrue influence, which can be leveraged into political actions. Influence needs to be wielded to avoid losing control of your faction, so running low can mean ceding a percentage of your control every time the game springs a political event on you, like a power play from a rival or an inopportune marriage. Neglect your influence, and each time it'll be another -2% control, -2% control...death by thrown shade.
That granularity flows into all of Total War: Attila's historical representations--here, it's not Istanbul, it's Constantinopolis. This a game that's got its Latin roots in mind when it suggests that you might need to "decimate" your troops to deal with failing integrity. It certainly seems to put a tax on the in-game encyclopedia, which regularly fails to load properly (though it should be noted that the review copy's encyclopedia is online-only). The whole game regularly seems to struggle under the weight of its own persnickety attention to detail, stuttering when the map is panned even when graphical settings are tuned down. It's uncanny to watch the seabirds that float above the game world's coasts sputter out and stall whenever you click "end turn."
Each of those turns represents quite a bit of data: each one a season, each season a time to specify constructions or appointments, or expend a unit's action points towards movement, raids, or out-and-out battle. Scale translates well on the world map, generally speaking: forests allow concealment, and distinctive masses like the great Arabian Desert represent near-impassable natural barriers. Total War does stoop to representing armies on the world map with single avatars, a rare moment of generalization.Cities now reflect damage done to them during a siege on the world map.
It's a beautiful map, really. Its deciduous trees have a lovely, fungal sort of grunginess to them, like anything viewed through an electron microscope (though they do turn a bit fractal when viewed from directly overhead). Sand looks like it was cascaded over real rock and dirt. Select a settlement, and it’s illuminated by god rays. Waves sound along the coast, sometimes pierced by a shout from a unit that's been set to raid a nearby trade route. This never fails to sound like a bunch of people pranked their fellow soldier with the old “let's tell Maximus that we're all going to yell “HRUAGGGH” at the count of three then totally not do anything” gag.
Raiding isn't considered an act of war, strangely enough. So you can sue for peace with a neighbor, then promptly start pillaging your way across their country. They're unable to retaliate lest they suffer the betrayal penalty for all other factions. There are a few other tics of note here, too. Sometimes messages need to be clicked twice to confirm them. The "show/hide deceased" toggle in the family tree menu doesn't appear to work. More egregiously, if you assign a statesman to a provincial governing slot, the decision appears to immediately and irrevocably transport him across the thousands of miles to his destination--try to recall him, and you'll be told that he needs to travel back. It's the one time when I wish the game would ask me to click twice to confirm.
On the world map, the opponent empire AI seems cautious by nature, rarely pressing an offensive. Enemies are not sleepwalking, though--if they catch you trying to send an ambush force deep into their empire they'll crush it with overpowering force. Other than that, though, they seem mostly content to maintain their border wherever it lies at the time. Newly introduced puppet states hold up their end of the bargain, though: on more than one occasion they've chased separatist fighters away from my besieged cities, and they regularly seem to harry enemy forces. They're a little too eager to use the new ability to raze cities, though, so it’s probably best to step in before they go and annihilate a city you'd been eying.Naval battles are an unmanageable mess of sails.
Unless you're playing as the Huns, that is. Then you'll probably want to do the razing yourself. They're fast, dangerous with bows, and packing a fear-inducing bonus against Christian factions. They--and the Vandals and Goths--eschew stationary living for slightly different pick-up-and-go versions of the same structures the other factions build. Don't expect to be the dominant force right out of the gate, however: the nomads and migrating tribes of Total War: Attila face the steepest initial difficulty. You might begin not with a city to rest in, but only with your nomadic units themselves, playing mouse to other factions' cats until you come to terms with the wandering life and learn to make a home wherever the heart and Horde are. These factions are fun to play as, highly mobile and free from some of the fussier portions of the game's political realm, carrying their culture in their saddlebags, driving the "civilized" world before them like a flock of sheep.
As the Huns, you upend the status quo, even if Total War: Attila itself doesn't represent a major disruption. Austere writing, along with campaigns that come to a close rather quickly compared to many games of this ilk, come as a surprise given battles of such enormous scale, and given systems that allow you to poke and prod at so many fine details. At least the production values fulfill the promise of historical grandiosity, including a militant musical score that brilliantly anchors the game's atmosphere. "Everything starts changing place at full speed!" it calls out. "Chaos!" it cries, echoing the mighty Huns as they raze the landscape. Attila is more of the same and a little bit extra, then, not as convincingly realized as the best Total Wars, but strong enough to keep you clicking until the inevitable patches and expansions trickle in.
I am a prisoner no longer; I am an escapist.
If history and Hollywood have taught us anything, it's that breaking out of prison isn't exactly a cakewalk. And though it won't take you 19 years of tunneling through a wall with a rock hammer, The Escapists, a game about escaping prison, doesn't make the monumental task all that easy, either. Much like the bygone era of video games from which it derives its colorful, pixelated aesthetic, The Escapists is tough and refuses to hold your hand, leading to many hours of trial-and-error experiments as you test the walls of your confines. But like a beam of hope shining through the damp dirt of an escape tunnel, the tribulation is worth it in the end. The Escapists is challenging and tense, but also engaging and deeply enjoyable. It will take you hours to figure out how to escape your first prison, but if you're tough enough and clever enough to breach the walls, the feeling of triumph accompanying your newfound freedom will completely wash away all the blood, sweat, and tears that paved the way.The guards of HMP Irongate wield short tempers and electric prods.
In The Escapists, your task as an inmate is to plot an escape route, all while under the watchful eyes of ever-suspicious prison guards. You enter a life ruled by routine. From the moment the early morning sun touches the prison walls, until it leaves the sky, you are shuffled into your daily stations: roll call, breakfast, work, exercise block, shower, evening meal--all of which, save for roll calls and meals, vary between the game's six prisons. Deviating from your rigid schedule, getting into fights, or getting caught snooping around another inmate's cell quickly earns the ire of the guards. "Get to it, Cam!" they shouted at me the moment I was caught meandering through the halls. "Stations, Cam!" The more you push their buttons, the higher the on-screen heat meter rises. If it reaches 90 percent or more, guards rush you at first sight, batons swinging, rewarding your tangential behavior with some bruises and a swift visit to the infirmary. But investigate you must, as every historic breakout needs to start with a plan and a keen understanding of your new home.
Escaping requires cunning, strategy, and proper equipment, and staying at least five steps ahead of your pursuers is essential to securing your freedom. The beauty of The Escapists, however, is that there is no wrong way to go about it. You could swipe plastic spoons and forks from the canteen and use them to dig a tunnel out of your cell. Or perhaps, as you walk the grounds during your work station as a gardener, you notice that if you take the job of the tailor (another inmate), you will gain access to a room that shares a wall with an enclosed, empty space. Disrupting him on his way to work gets him fired, allowing you to take the job, bust down the wall, and replace it with a poster. And just like that, you have an area to store tools and other materials, or even to start a tunnel, safe and secure from prying eyes. Completing favors for inmates earns you some extra dough to line your pockets with, and--along with handing out gifts or cash—also raises their opinion of you. If they like you enough, you can recruit them and create your very own chain gang to terrorize both prisoners and guards alike. Gain enough followers, and it’s possible to take over a prison. I haven't done it yet myself, but it can be accomplished, as the developer notes, with "a lot of rope."Taking favors earns you cash and puts you in a fellow inmate’s good graces.
And there are so many other possibilities. You can knock out guards and use a putty mold to copy a key, shimmy down walls with a grappling hook, or even impersonate a guard. Whatever steps you choose to take feel personal and never scripted. It's a surprisingly deep and complex system that I didn't expect but quickly fell in love with. It's highly malleable and widely varied, allowing you to make every trip to the Big House a different experience, while staving off dull repetition.
Along the way you spend time developing the game's light RPG attributes: strength, speed, and intellect. The former two go toward your proficiency in fights, with strength pulling double duty by adding to your overall health. Intellect, however, is the most paramount of the bunch, as it requires a level of smarts to craft certain items. In other words, you can be weak and slow, but it's nigh unto improbable for a dumb criminal to manage a breakout. Skill progression requires that you spend some extra time sweating in an exercise area for strength and speed, while you gather more intellect by popping open a book in the library or browsing the Internet on a computer, though you will need to take a break during these activities to decrease your mounting fatigue. Points added to your abilities slowly decrease over time, making it necessary to boost them back up every so often.It’s fortunate to have a cellmate who's a deep sleeper.
At times, fellow inmates--indicated by a flashing gold bag above their head--will offer items to purchase. What goods are available is completely random, and their usefulness to you pivots on what you need to make your escape. Sometimes you'll find hot items such as duct tape, (which is worth its weight in gold), a screwdriver, or nail files; but on other occasions, only soap or a packet of mints. The suppliers, as well as the items being sold, change randomly throughout a given day, so you need to stay on top of who is selling, and what. Rifling through the desks of other inmates, as well as the pockets of unconscious prisoners following one of the many prison fights, may also yield materials. But again, what you find is random.
Materials purchased or "borrowed" from your fellow inmates are used to craft tools and other items. Throughout the game, you gather an eclectic mishmash of components such as wires, a bottle of bleach, a piece of timber, a bar of chocolate, a plastic comb, and much more. All of which, believe it or not, can be vital pieces in your escape--yes, even the chocolate, but you'll need to find a lighter and a small blue cup first. You can throw up to three items into the crafting menu and hope that you will create something of use, but you're probably better off finding or purchasing crafting recipes as you go along. The best tools are those fit for the job, so if you're keen on digging your way to freedom, creating a shovel is your best bet. Or, if you're feeling sneaky, you can fashion a makeshift guard uniform using a tub of bleach, prison clothes, and some blue ink. There are dozens of craftable items, including a pickaxe, wire cutters, zip lines, and more, all of which play a role in many escape plans.Prisons range from the standard fair to POW camps.
It is, however, equally important to remember that these items are contraband. Distinguishable by a red name, contraband is confiscated if you're caught. Mistakes are costly, and one slip-up leaves you with nothing to show for your troubles other than bruised pride and a trip to solitary confinement. Failure in The Escapists can be downright heartbreaking. An error can be simple, such as forgetting to replace a vent cover or carelessly leaving tunnel dirt in a place where it can be discovered and traced back to you. Once, a tunnel filled with tools I had built and collected was discovered, and I lost everything, putting my progress back about six hours. More difficult prisons are dotted with contraband detectors, and if you pass through one with something prohibited in your pocket, the heat meter rises to 99 percent, causing any nearby guard to make a beeline straight to you.
Beyond getting caught, there are other things that can go wrong, but they’re mostly on a technical level. The game has bugs, the most innocent of which are times when you can see the name of an item hidden in a tunnel below by hovering your mouse pointer over an item one floor above. Worse, however, are issues that can hinder an escape, such as a bug that turned a fake fence I installed into a real one, and I didn't notice the error until it was too late--this happened more than once. And then were the several times I couldn't break through the dirt in order to leave a tunnel. Other problems are merely irritating, such as overlapping text when completing the same favor for two different people. At times, items disappear from the pockets of unconscious prisoners. I could never tell if it was the guards that found and took them, but I do recall moments when items would vanish into the ether without anyone else being close enough to touch the body. Also, I can't understand the logic behind the heat meter refusing to decrease after I fall asleep. And I'm not a fan of the fact that the first thing I eat in the morning is a club sandwich (well, more like a “baton,” but the joke doesn't work that way).It’s hard to get some quiet time, even during breakfast.
Despite its foibles, The Escapists is a gratifying game that provides dozens of hours of entertainment. Planning an escape and watching it unfold is endlessly satisfying, and a successful breakout leaves you feeling jubilant. Even after you master the game's six prisons, there are three extras waiting to be challenged. The Escapists will have even more to show as time goes on, according to the developer, which is currently working on a free standalone application that will allow you to create and share your own prisons. You might not want to live in one of The Escapists' prisons, but you will definitely enjoy the visit.
Sure enough, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate isn't without its challenges, but there's a fantastically compelling game at the heart of it all, if you can see past its steep learning curve. For those who don't know, the Monster Hunter games are action-RPGs, where you do battle against dozens of giant monsters, take their body parts, and use them to fashion new weapons and armour with which to do battle against more giant monsters--except it is much more complicated than it sounds, which is why it’s such a brilliant series is so brilliant, and also why so many people struggle with it.
Clearly, this is something Capcom's concerned with, too. Some of the previous games in the series threw you in at the deep end, but gave you separate, optional tutorials to play through, which was a little clumsy. Now the approach is more elegant; tutorials are extended and disguised as part of the main campaign. It's an approach that might irritate veterans (though they are given the option to skip some of the tutorial text early on), but it makes things far easier for newcomers.
That said, you still have to do some research outside of the game if you want to master its intricacies. Short tutorials for each of the game's 14 weapon types are present and correct, but a full tutorial for any one of them could run to the same length as this entire review. Each weapon type not only features its own array of attacks, but also its own unique mechanics, giving you numerous options in how you approach combat. The new Insect Glaive, for example, is a bladed staff paired with a giant insect that lives on your arm. You throw the insect at monsters in order to extract juice from them. The insect then feeds the juice into the staff to improve your abilities in various ways, depending on the type of extract. Then there's the Hunting Horn, a giant musical instrument that requires you to learn specific three-note sequences in order to provide your hunting party with status buffs.
Monsters are far from your typical video-game fodder. Each one is an incredibly intricate set of abilities, behaviours, and quirks that need to be observed and understood before you can reliably take them down.
It's well worth studying up on your weapons, though. Enter a fight unprepared and what could have been an exciting yet efficient hunt quickly turns into a multi-hour showdown, with a very high chance of failure at the end. These monsters are far from your typical video-game fodder. Each one is an incredibly intricate set of abilities, behaviours, and quirks that need to be observed and understood before you can reliably take them down.
With each deftly placed dodge, and with each eager swipe of your sword, you get a little wiser and a little closer to taking down the most imposing of beasts. These battles are Monster Hunter's bread and butter, and they remain as enthralling as ever. Sure, everything the monsters do is predictable once you learn to spot the various hints that give away their next move--and you might well face off against the same monsters dozens of times--but it's a testament to the game's depth that this rarely gets stale. Until you're deftly avoiding every single attack, there's still something to learn.
New players often complain that the combat feels stiff, and it's not hard to see why. Certain attacks lock your character in place while he swishes his sword around in thin-air, making it all too easy for an adversary to come at you from the side and take a third of your health off. It's a perfectly understandable frustration--every Monster Hunter player, from amateur to pro, will have been through the exact same thing at one point--but with some experience you begin to learn that the game simply wants you to take your movement and positioning seriously.
Every single button press has a real weight to it, because if you don’t know how your next attack will make you move, where it will make you stand, and how long it'll be before you can do something else, you're likely to get your face torn off. The moment-to-moment thought processes and constant split-second decisions you’re forced to make will be more familiar to anyone well versed in beat-'em-ups than your typical action-RPG, perhaps--and that's a wonderful thing indeed in a game that demands so much of your time in battle. That said, those who've previously struggled with this aspect of the series will find little to convert them here.
In addition to the two new weapon types, there are monsters you can mount in order to deal significant damage, or sometimes to break off rare parts. However, you can't actually jump, but instead must rely on using the terrain to position yourself above the monster and then hop down onto it from above. It's tricky to pull off--and certainly easier in multiplayer, where you can coordinate your aerial attack with your chums--but it’s satisfying as hell when it works. If you're having trouble, there's always the Insect Glaive's ability to pole-vault around at will. Expect to see plenty of people using that online.
That said, the mounting is a little disappointing when stacked up against the likes of Capcom stablemate Dragon's Dogma, which allowed you to grab an enemy from any given point and climb around on it, Shadow of the Colossus-style. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, on the other hand, simply triggers a cutscene where you land on the monster's back and then play a short minigame where you alternate between hacking it to death and holding on for dear life. It's fun, but Capcom can clearly do better.
There's been some noise about Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate being released alongside the New 3DS, because it features sharper textures, faster loading times and, of course, proper camera control with the C-stick on the new handheld. But if you're on a crusty old regular 3DS and don't feel like upgrading, I wouldn't worry--the game looks, runs, and plays well without any of these benefits. Even the camera control is less of an issue than it was in the past, thanks to the complete removal of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate's frustrating underwater combat. The standard lock-on camera is much more sufficient now that you don’t have do any scuba-diving, and the old 'claw hand' technique that many players adopted to play the game on PSP and 3DS mostly isn't necessary here.
An interesting addition is Expedition mode, a superb feature for players who feel a bit directionless and just want to get into a ruck with some prehistoric beasts. Upon starting an expedition, you're left to explore a randomly picked series of pre-built areas, populated with random monsters that you've met elsewhere. You don't have to kill them, but acquiring the proof that you've tussled with one of them (by cutting off its tail, for example) and bringing it to the end of the expedition yields rewards. It's a really neat idea if you just fancy throwing yourself into a fight without the preparation that a typical hunt entails.
The campaign itself is structured slightly differently from previous entries in the series. Rather than being one village's designated hunter, instead you travel around with a caravan, solving the problems of the various towns you find yourself in. This gives the game a very welcome boost in pace compared with previous entries in the series. Another nice touch is that you now get quests by actually having conversations with people, rather than simply by picking them from a list, which gives the game's brilliantly localised and genuinely funny dialogue more chance to shine.
Those quests aren't all terrifying battles with giant monsters, either. As a way of maintaining your supply of items, you spend a fair amount of time going on harvest tours--wandering around hunting grounds, picking flowers, or going fishing. Every consumable item, from healing items to poo-bombs that you throw at monsters to make them go away (not a joke), is made from stuff you can find lying around in the world. Sometimes it's really nice to hunt a few defenceless herbivores, take their meaty flanks to the nearest scenic cliff, whip out a barbecue, and cook up a few stamina-replenishing steaks like some kind of genuine sociopath.
That said, it's likely you'll spend most of your time playing online, this time without first having to link your 3DS to a Wii U. As great as the single-player experience is, taking your skills and knowledge and using them when you’re part of a team is something else entirely. Progression through the multiplayer missions runs entirely separately from the single-player campaign, despite following a similar tier system where later missions are closed off until a certain number of earlier ones are cleared, and you use the same character throughout. However, the difficulty of multiplayer missions scales considerably to take extra players into account. Just because you've taken down a Great Jaggi in single-player without breaking a sweat doesn't mean you can slack off when hunting one as a team.
Previous entries in the series also did this, but scaled the difficulty up for a full team of four at all times, making it incredibly difficult to hunt with just one or two friends. MH4 Ultimate, on the other hand, seems to scale depending on the number of players in the group. I've spent a good few evenings hunting with just one other player, and the difficulty level was spot-on. Finding your friends is also a breeze, because the game seamlessly hooks into your 3DS friends list and allows you to instantly join any of your contacts who are currently playing online. The drama of a good hunt is definitely best shared with friends, and hearing everyone roar in unison upon taking down a particularly ferocious beast is one of the finest experiences videogames have to offer. Unfortunately, to hear those roars you have to use a third-party service like Skype, due to the curious omission of voice chat.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate manages to expand upon the things that people love about the series, while simultaneously making concessions to those getting involved for the first time. It's an absolutely astonishing time-sink, but it rarely feels like a grind; when the game gets its hooks into you, you can expect to find yourself engrossed for at least 80 hours. Those who become truly invested can expect to find their in-game clock running into the hundreds of hours. Sure, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate isn't without some of the series' time-honoured idiosyncrasies, but it's the most streamlined and accessible game yet, and one that's hard not to truly obsess over.
That stylistic introduction is honestly more than Raven's Cry, the pirate-themed adventure role-playing game from Two Worlds developer Reality Pumps Studio, could ever deserve. In an age where shaky launches have become a sad norm, Raven's Cry makes most buggy games seem as polished as the floors of Versailles. The game is playable in the barest sense of the word in those moments where it's not hard-crashing your computer, and the game's writing is so tone-deaf and offensive and mean-spirited that playing the game for more than a couple of hours at a time can begin to take an emotional toll. It's the type of game where the only moments that you don't hate yourself for continuing to play it are those where it's merely tedious instead of utterly broken.Maria sounds more like a creepy eye-monster than a madame, based on this line.
In Raven's Cry, you take the reins of Christopher Raven, a sneering and loathsome pirate in the 1700s. Christopher's story begins when a job turns sour, and the Spanish navy nearly burns down an entire Caribbean town to get to him. Christopher sets out to get revenge against the Spaniard who betrayed him, but it isn't long in your adventure before you come across the wreckage of a ship left by Christopher's arch-nemesis, a man who raped and murdered Christopher's mother when he was a boy. And, thus, Christopher begins to sail across the breadth of the Caribbean in search of that man's former crew so he can murder one of the few people in this game's universe who is more horrible than he is.
If that story seems like the traditional revenge fare that has become increasingly popular in recent years, "stale" is an adjective that Raven's Cry wishes could be used to describe itself. Out of the gates, Raven's Cry gives the impression that large chunks of story and writing were left on the cutting-room floor. Characters, motivations, and places appear without context or explanation but with a strange assumption that the player can follow who these figures are. And bland incomprehensibility is the game's strong suit.
When Raven's Cry writing is memorable, it becomes so for all the wrong reasons. Though it has seemingly been patched out since launch, the "barks" of your ship's crew mostly consist of gendered and homophobic slurs. I haven't heard the male iteration of the "c" word this often since Deadwood (and with none of David Milch's redemptive style). And don't worry. The female "c" word pops up just as often as well. Christopher openly insults black people in the face of his black first mate--who disappears for seemingly no reason early in the game. And, also early in the game, Christopher physically assaults a sex worker to gain information for a quest. Villains casually joke about rape. Tribal natives are treated as mindless cannibal savages that you slaughter in high numbers. The game has the cultural sensitivity of Birth of a Nation, and I needed a bath to wash away the grime of this game's world every time I stopped playing.
"Stale" is an adjective that Raven's Cry wishes could be used to describe itself.
The actual gameplay is broken into two primary segments: ship-to-ship combat and on-foot exploration/combat. Neither works well, although the ship combat is the least broken of the two. Ship combat plays out similarly to that of Assassin's Creed III (specifically before Black Flag updated those systems), where you line up broadside to systematically take out enemy ship hulls and sails (and the crew if you wish to board). Precision is relegated to set increments for the height of your shots, so if a ship is in a frustrating grey area between two shot levels, you're out of luck.
At the beginning of Raven's Cry, it's not uncommon to think that ship combat is simply impossible. Raven's Cry opens up the entire world map almost right out of the gates, it gives you little information about which combat engagements you have any hope of surviving, and it never informs you that fleeing from a ship battle is a potential option--and a necessity at the beginning of the game. The world of Raven's Cry's is enormous, and you may find yourself wanting to sail off--through an entirely abstracted menu experience--to the farthest isles of the Caribbean only to find your puny schooner up against frigates, galleons, and men of war. It took me literally hours to get even the most basic feel for the ship combat, and even then, one-on-one battles with another schooner mostly come down to luck and patience until you get your first couple of upgrades. Ship warfare becomes much more bearable after you get the second ship, but it's never enjoyable.
Ground combat is swordplay without much play. The game offers you ways to block and dodge and a meter that you can fill up to perform one-hit kills, but attempting to get fancy with your rapier is both a waste of time and a surefire way to end up dead. Raven's Cry suffers from awful input delay when it isn't just ignoring your button presses altogether. The simple act of opening a door requires multiple presses of the "X" button if you're playing on a gamepad, and trying to block with that system will get you cut to shreds. It's much more efficient to mindlessly mash the attack button until everyone around you is dead and--if necessary--open the menu to use a health potion. The game's collision detection is impressively variable, failing to recognize some clear and direct hits while also occasionally letting you kill enemies when your blade is meters away from anything.Combat is both frustrating and boring. It's the deadliest of combinations.
Land exploration is as frustrating as land combat. Christopher can barely walk in a straight line because the camera swings around worse than a drunken sailor. That isn't always a pain, but on the rare occasions when the game requires you to navigate a tight path without rails or sides, it's too easy and too common to fall over the edge to your death or to water. Christopher can't even walk over ankle-high obstacles that aren't explicitly stairs--and occasionally he can't even walk over those--without having to rely on his awkward and uncontrollable jumping skill. The towns and islands in the game offer an impressive scale and sense of verticality, but Christopher can jump about as well as the Monstars from Space Jam before they steal Charles Barkley's powers, so don't hold out any hope of climbing around these sometimes huge spaces.
The presentation of Raven's Cry is as shoddy as its writing and mechanics. You may have to turn every single graphical option to its lowest setting or off to get the frame rate of Raven's Cry to a playable state. The frame rate still stuttered and chugged during sea battles or any time there was rain (which is often in this game), but it was usable. It did leave the environments in Raven's Cry looking like something out of a late-period PlayStation 2 game, though, with character models that were only slightly better.
There are elements of the presentation that aren't broken simply because they aren't finished. Large chunks of the dialogue in Raven's Cry are missing. Characters will be having a voiced conversation when suddenly a character's lips will keep moving but no sounds come out and subtitles appear at the bottom of the screen when they weren't there before. The first time it happened, I was sure it was a strange glitch, but it happened again and again and again. Honestly, the game should have abandoned voice acting altogether because the performances that do exist consist of stilted and soporific line readings that make off-Broadway theater feel like Laurence Olivier doing Shakespeare at the Globe. There's a pirate you meet early in the game that I'm still convinced recorded his lines while hung over or half asleep. Audio glitches abound in regular play, too, with sounds fading in and out of existence seemingly at random, giving Raven's Cry the unintentional sound design of a nightmarish Lynch-ian fever dream.'Twas a dark and stormy sea.
All of the other complaints that can be levied against Raven's Cry are legion, but you can force yourself to soldier through them if you really want to, although I pity anyone who voluntarily spends any time with this game. What truly puts Raven's Cry in the pantheon of the worst games of all time is that story progression can easily become totally impossible. After slugging through 17 hours of the game, a bug in a story portion of the game--where there was only one way back to the overworld out of the labyrinthine temple I'd been exploring--crashed my computer over and over again at the same point. I turned the game off, came back a couple of hours later, and tried again. The game crashed again. And I'd had enough.
It's not hard to say whether it's worse that Raven's Cry is so broken or that it's full of so much offensive material; the offensive material is worse. But the fact is that either of these things is more than enough for a rational person to avoid playing it. The game is unfinished, a chore when you can play it, and full of disgusting vitriol aimed at women and people of color. Buy a ticket for a different ship.