5 Reasons Why Players Should Check Out Night In The Woods

night in the woods banner

Night In The Woods

Platform: PC, PS4 Digital

Release Date: February 21st 2017

I have been playing a lot of story intense games over the last few weeks. 2017 has been churning out some real winners at the start of this year. Tales of Berseria has tugged at my heart strings and so has the critical and commercial darling, Horizon Zero Dawn. However, the game that I want to talk about today may have flown under the radar since so many great games have arrived. That game is called Night in the Woods and I present to you 5 things you should know about before you start.

Night in the Woods Is An Adventure Game

Night in the woods adventure
Image Caption: http://www.nightinthewoods.com/

Not an adventure game like Horizon is an adventure game. More like how Broken Age is an adventure game. It’s a side scroll game that has player take the main protagonist Mae through her hick town. Just about everything can be interacted with but may only open up once you reach certain parts of the story. It has been great searching around the town to see what new things you can reach. I make sure to travel everywhere before I make any major commitments to see what pieces of dialogue I may uncover. Mae is able to climb on wires and roofs of buildings so make sure to look around.

It’s a Grown Up Zootopia

night in the woods dialogue
Image Caption: http://www.nightinthewoods.com/

Or Daria for the new millennium whichever you prefer. Even though the characters are animals the commentary is surely not cutesy at all. The dialogue tackles some serious issues like being a college drop out, failing to meet parental expectations, bad break ups etc. You name it and its in here. The dialogue is smart, witty and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Even if all the plot points don’t resonate with you I’m sure someone in town will.

There Is Also Rhythm Game Play Involved

night in the woods mini game
image credit: http://kotaku.com/night-in-the-woods-rhythm-game-is-on-point-1792633078

Did I mention that the Mae was in a band before she came back from school? Well she was and her friends are psyched to bring her back into the fold. I wasn’t prepared to be thrown into a rhythm game where you needed to coordinate 3 buttons. And unfortunately I don’t believe the difficulty can be adjusted for it. There is no real penalty for failing but I’m sure there is a trophy for being successful.

The Possum Springs Is A Town Is Full of Personality

night in the woods town
Image Caption: http://www.nightinthewoods.com/

I’m not from a small town but I could imagine if I was everyone would know your name. In this town everyone does know your character which is refreshing because of their dialogue. They also have distinct personalities so u may find yourself liking the townsfolk better than Bea. I especially enjoy the bear who writes poems or the penguin right next to her that has nothing but asshole stuff to say to you every day. Mae also has a computer that you can use to interact with your friends which gives a real sense of immersion.

There Is A Mystery Afoot

night in the woods mystery
Image Caption: http://www.nightinthewoods.com/

From the very beginning of the game there is an a sense that before Mae left something went down. Some of the towns people mention it but they don’t ignore you because of it. The main character herself makes it seems like it’s something that shouldn’t be talked about it. At some point this comes to the forefront so you will be thrust into that part of the adventure as well.

I am totally in love with this game and cannot wait to see how it all ends and the relationships I build. Have you checked out this game? What have you discovered? Do you play adventure games? Let us know in the comments below.

Video Games With Unique and Innovative Gameplay Mechanics

With the beautiful games being released this past few weeks, we can’t help but wonder if they will also capture us with their gameplay or detach us from the immersion that the game’s graphics or story gives us. Most of these upcoming games are overly hyped and we don’t want another, for a lack of better word, disappointment. No man wants to see a sky of unfulfilled promises – I know, not the best wordplay out there. Heads up! Minimal spoilers ahead. I did my best to keep all the spoilers to the least while keeping the integrity of the explanation about the video games with innovative – or unique – gameplay. Here are video games that got us hooked with their gameplay. These games are not rated on which is the best; this is an unsorted list. *wink* Enjoy!

Superhot

Unique Gameplay. Simplicity truly is beauty
Simplicity truly is beauty

Minimalist graphics? Check. Challenging levels? Check. Innovative and easy-to-learn gameplay? You guessed it – Check. Meet Piotr Iwanicki, the game designer of one of the best examples of indie-done-right video games. And, no, I will not try to pronounce his name. Superhot started out as an entry in a 7-Day First Person Shooter game jam back in August 2013. It was then greeted with a lot of praise from gamers and critics alike. Finally, released into a full-blown game back in 2016, thanks to crowd-funding and a lot of great publicity.

The gameplay can be explained in one sentence and the developers did just that stating that, “SUPERHOT is the first person shooter where time moves only when you move.” – You can’t explain it any simpler than that. Yes, time stops when you do; you can see the bullets mid-air, you can stop playing and go do something else, and you can smack people in the head then take their weapons, which you can also see fly up in the air as the enemy falls to the ground. This unique gameplay truly makes you feel like Rambo or Jack Bauer, a hero to save the day. Well, not in 24 hours or less, because you will be playing this game for dayz just to get through the challenges.

Papers, Please

It's fun, you have my word.
It’s fun, you have my word.

Have you experienced travelling to another country? Did you ever wonder how the immigration officers do their jobs? If the thought crossed your mind, I suggest grabbing a copy of Papers, Please, a game made by Lucas Pope. He was a developer from Naughty Dog, the studio behind the award-winning video game series, Uncharted. He made this game with a thought in his mind that video games are a form of art.

In Papers, Please, you get to play as an immigration officer and you’ll get to experience how to stand on the other side of the window in the immigration office. The graphics for the game is simple, but the gameplay is unique. It starts simple, some basic rules will be laid out for you to follow. And these rules will be the basis  whether an applicant can pass through or not. Then as each day in the game progresses, new rules or requirements will be presented: additional paperworks will need to be verified, new tools will be introduced in order to asses the immigrant, and other additional actions which is very similar to how immigration really works. After playing this, you might think twice before unleashing your rage in the immigration office.

Monument Valley

The title doesn't spell "Challenging", right? Wrong.
The title doesn’t spell “Challenging”, right? Wrong.

Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles. We all thought that video game puzzles will always be the same: you will encounter an obstacle, then you’ll be asked to find certain objects or pieces then place them in or on a specific place, you’ll be asked to draw a line going from a point around the obstacle and to a certain end point, et cetera. Then Monument Valley came into the picture and it came in with a bang. With multiple awards, citations, commendations, and praises, this video game sets a mark for the next generation of more challenging and innovative puzzle games.

I’m pretty sure you’ve seen or at least heard of impossible objects. Those objects that we perceive as physically impossible or, at least, bothering. Monument Valley used it as the main gameplay mechanic of the game. The players are asked to control a silent protagonist, a princess named Ida through  various levels of optical illusions. You might be thinking that it’s simple, you just need to get through the whole “illusion” of the stage. Nope. There will also be tiny objectives like, activators, bridges, pathwalks, etc. that you need to activate and manipulate in order to get through the stage. If you’re the type of gamer who likes some excruciating mental challenge, you might want to give this one a shot. Thank me later.

The Elegy for a Dead World

Oh, writing. The act of materializing the wonders of the human mind – the adventures, wishes, dreams, visions, and other abstract or philosophical constructs of the human mind. This is what Dejobaan Games, the developers of the Elegy for a Dead World, used as their main gameplay mechanic.

You are a traveler whose ship was broken and who is tasked to record the history of the planets around you. The gameplay is pretty simple, you get to choose from three planets where you want to write about first. Then, you can start with a certain premise of the world or you can go wild with your imagination with the free writing option. This video game is now being used as a tool for teaching English as a second language or ESL in various schools and universities around the world. This shows that video games can be more than just a ‘game’.

Valkyria Chronicles

You will cry. Trust me.
The 7th platoon of the Gallian Militia

This video game is one of the games I’ve played (and anime I’ve watched) that delivers great story with astonishing twists, relatable characters, and an immersive gameplay. Valkyria Chronicles is brought to you by the developers of Sonic. Yes, that’s right – Sega.

Like most RPG/JRPG, character development is embedded in the core gameplay of Valkyria Chronicles. But, what makes this game unique is its turn-based battle system called BLiTZ or Battle of Live Tactical Zones. I know, sounds awesome, right? Well, that’s because it is. This battle system is composed of three parts or modes. The Command Mode, the Action Mode, and the Target Mode.

The first one puts you in an overhead map of the battlefield. This is the time when you can learn of the enemies’ whereabouts and plan where to position your units and where to strike. Then, you can select a unit to control, which brings the player to Action Mode. While in the Action Mode, you can control your character like a normal third-person shooter. Movement costs Action Points which varies for each of your units on the field. Lastly, when you’re finished positioning your units, you can enter the Target Mode. In this mode, the player has control of the unit’s aim, but you can’t move. This allows for headshots and other awesome kills.

During the player’s turn, each action – whether the control of multiple units or the same unit consecutively – depletes his/her Command Points. There are also different classes of characters to experiment with. The environment also affects the flow of the combat. Snipers can take the higher grounds for a vantage point, tanks can knock down walls, and many more.

This game is truly worth the try. But, I suggest watching the anime first.

Other Video Games with Unique Gameplay

  • Patapon – because of using different notes and rhythms for attack, defend, run, etc.
  • Her Story – because of using video footages of a real person
  • Portal – Handheld Portal Device
  • Eternal Darkness – due to the Sanity meter
  • Shadow of Mordor – Nemesis System, enemies remember you and yes – creepy.
  • Katamari – cute anarchy

These are just some of the games that I’ve played that I think has an innovative gameplay. How about you? Have you played a video game with a very unique gameplay that got you immersed for hours? Tell us in the comments down below. We like to hear more games that exhibits innovation.

Show, Don’t Tell: Horizon: Zero Dawn vs. Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Horizon Zero Dawn Logo

Zero Dawn vs. Zelda

I’m having a lot of fun with Horizon: Zero Dawn, and I am also a big fan of game narrative, but sometimes there are just too many words. Today I’m going to compare the design styles of the new Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the aforementioned Horizon. Specifically, how they use (or don’t use) voiced narration to lead the player.

In the first few minutes of Horizon: Zero Dawn’s gameplay, the protagonist, Aloy, points out what’s going on in the environment. Verbally. Even though there’s no one around to hear her. You could argue that you’re hearing her “thoughts,” or that she’s talking to herself because she’s scared, but neither case is a good excuse.

The player simply doesn’t need to hear it

Horizon Zero Dawn game
Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/32545636372/

Aloy will describe her surroundings, talk about what she should be doing next, talk about what she just did, and ultimately treats the player like a blind person with short-term memory loss. It’s as though the writer wrote a book and adapted it verbatim for the game, cutting out the he-saids and she-saids and leaving everything else.

Again, I love game narrative. I think games are a powerful storytelling medium. But just because a game can have more words written or lines spoken, certainly doesn’t mean it should. Ideally, the player should be able to play the game with the volume and subtitles off, using only art and design cues to figure out what to do next.

Look at Breath of the Wild. While it’s a longstanding tradition for Link to not speak, many Zelda games since Ocarina of Time gave the player a talking companion who points out everything you need to know. Navi, Midna, the… blue person from Skyward Sword whose name I forget. They all helped lead the player without needing Link to speak a word.

But in Breath of the Wild, like the original Zelda games of yore, has no quest-long companion jabbering in Link’s pointy ear. The game simply trusts the player to figure things out on their own.

This is the ideal design

Image retrieved from Nintendo.com

The ironic part is that Zelda is a game for kids and adults alike on a Nintendo platform that facilitates new gamers. Horizon: Zero Dawn is rated T for teen, and requires the player to use a PS4 controller and its dual-analog configuration that new gamers struggle with.

In essence, Horizon: Zero Dawn holds the player’s hand despite there being very little chance that the player is someone new at games, while Breath of the Wild trusts the player to figure things out without someone yapping at them the whole time.

It’s easy to look at games like Horizon: Zero Dawn as the way of the future and games like Zelda to be relics of the past. But with these two game releases, both at nearly the same time, the “relic” has shown itself to be much more comfortable as a game. And future designers—especially narrative designers—should take note.

Good For The Culture? NieR Automata Allows For Players To Buy PSN Trophies

PSN Trophies

NieR Automata is only a few more weeks away and it seems like there is always something not game play related about it in the news. It was recently reported that players could get a trophy for upskirting the main protagonist 2B among other things. Over the past few days there have been rumblings that something else was going to go on with the trophies for the game. That something was allowing for players to buy their way to a platinum trophy. The question is will that decision be good for the culture of gaming?

How Does “Buying” Trophies Work?

Since this game is not “pay to win”, players cannot buy gold packages outside of the game and must earn it in game by playing.

nier logo
image credit: http://www.gamespot.com/videos/nier-automata-debut-gameplay-trailer/2300-6427948/

According to reports, a reddit user has uncovered that in Japan players can buy trophies using in game currency. Since this game is not “pay to win”, players cannot buy gold packages outside of the game and must earn it in game by playing. The other caveat is that players must also be on their third play through of the game before being able to buy trophies at all. The game boast having multiple endings so for many players getting to a 3rd replay is a possible option.

What Could It Mean For Gaming Culture?

Gaming Culture trophies

We know that gamers are older so trophy hunting is more a battle of time and attrition. If you check PSN profiles and see some of the “seemingly” impossible trophies that players earn one can only stand in awe. Since the inception of trophies, or achievements on Xbox, it was evident that with every platinum that these players were going above and beyond the call of duty. See what I did there?

Will the game have a trophy that let’s other players know you “brought” your way to a platinum?

My concern is that the ability to buy your way to a platinum can start a disturbing trend. Could trophy buying be something adopted by a lot of games including main stream games? Will it call into question every platinum that is earned for this game? Should the game have a trophy that let’s other players know you “brought” your way to a platinum? I checked Playstation Profiles and according to their list there is no such trophy for the game.

Go Platinum or Go Home

Trophies
Image Credit: http://www.nextgenupdate.com/forums/ps3-trophies-game-saves/730149-900-ps3-platinum-trophy-folders-free-cfw-ps3-required.html

Full disclosure, I do not go for platinum trophies. I have one on my PSN profile that I was not actively trying to get. I stumbled across it by accident when I was playing a game that most might not consider worth a platinum. If the trophy doesn’t come during a regular play through then 9/10 I’m not going to have it. That doesn’t stop me from admiring those players that put their time and effort into beating content. Some may think it is more fair for the working/tired adult but it seems to undermine the challenge.

What do you think about “buying” trophies? Do you think it’s fair if players are on subsequent play through? Are you a trophy hunter and have thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below.

Twitch The Place to Stream Games And Soon To Buy?

Twitch Logo

I was reading my Twitter feed a few days ago when a streamer announced that viewers could download Banner Saga for free. Since I’m a console gamer, I had a feeling that this initiative would not apply to me but to PC gamers. I was sad to see that I wouldn’t be included in this deal but a part of me wondered how and why they were doing such a promotion. Fast forward a few days later, the news breaks that Twitch will allow for viewers to purchase games straight off the stream. This is a shocking turn of events! Let’s get into the logistics of how Twitch is now becoming a place to stream and buy games.

To Buy On Twitch Or Not To Buy On Twitch?

“Said streamer will get five percent of the sale, with the buyer netting themselves RANDOMIZED Twitch Crates which include exclusive emotes and chat badges among other things.”

Twitch Buy Button
Image Caption: http://www.pcgamer.com/twitch-to-sell-games-in-streamer-supported-initiative-this-spring/

In an article by PC Gamer the “whys” of the Twitch initiative became clear. This new program was being introduced as a way to “support” streamers trying to make their Twitch career goals come true. Sometime this spring, no concrete dates were given, a “Buy Now” button will appear below a stream allowing for viewers to purchase the game they are viewing. PC Gamer reports “Said streamer will get five percent of the sale, with the buyer netting themselves randomized Twitch Crates which include exclusive emotes and chat badges among other things.” Or in other words, player loot boxes ala Overwatch or MOBAs.

How will the players get the games? Not through game keys but through existing services that will be linked to the viewers Twitch account. There is already a partnership with Twitch Prime that allows for players to receive free promotional games so it will probably work through that. There are also several developers on board for this initiative like Ubisoft, Telltale Games and Double Fine. The notable absences are Riot and Valve which, if you frequent Twitch know, dominate the directory with League of Legends and Dota 2 respectively.

Better For The Streamer Or Consumer?

On the other hand, as I understand this is a business, streamers already ask for follows and subscribers so this seems like another thing to “sell” to viewers while watching.

games on TwitchSo this is where my thoughts come into the mix. On one hand, if viewers were thinking of buying the game anyway this is probably a good thing. This would be a one stop shop to get everything you want without needing to change too many tabs and help out a streamers you many like. On the other hand, streamers already ask for follows and subscribers so this seems like another thing to “sell” to viewers while watching. At times I just want to hear the streamer talk about the game or gauge their reactions not feel like I’m watching QVC. Hopefully they will be able to find a balance.

What do you guys think? Is buying your games on Twitch something you never knew you wanted? Is this a bad idea? Let us know in the comments section below.

5 Star-Crossed Lovers in Video Games

Zack and Aerith

Star-Crossed

Video Games – some of them have great and immersive stories and more often than not, there are lovers in these video games that we envy or love; and they earn a special place in our hearts. Not to sound cheesy but, one way or the other, they remind us that love is such a powerful force. Unfortunately, not all love stories have happy endings filled with flowers and dancing-in-the-rain sort of romance. As usual, there are spoilers. So if you read the characters of a game and you know you haven’t played it yet, play them first then come back. I believe that these stories will have more effect if you’ve built a strong relationship with the characters. Without further ado, Here are some of the star-crossed Romeo’s and Juliet’s in video games. Enjoy.

Max Caulfield and Chloe Price

That look : Chloe looking at Max
That look : Chloe looking at Max

Probably one of the most memorable games I’ve played in recent years, Life is Strange. It tells the story of Maxine Caulfield, who discovered that she has the ability to turn back time after seeing her childhood friend, Chloe Price, killed by her annoying spoiled classmate, Nathan from the influential Prescott family. After saving Chloe – through Max’s newly discovered ability – Max opened her powers to Chloe and the pair decided to use it for good. Starting there, the player is brought to a series of breaking in various areas, solving puzzles, and of course, time-reversing moments. All to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Chloe’s friend, Rachel Amber. I won’t reveal who the perpetrator is and jump right to the ending.

Because of Max’s playing around with time, she brought a huge tornado closing in to Arcadia Bay, a fictional coastal city in Oregon. And the only way to save the town is to reverse time to when it all started. At the bathroom where Max saved Chloe using her new ability. It is then the player’s choice to save Arcadia Bay by letting Chloe die or to sacrifice the town to allow Chloe to live.

Life is Strange Max and Chloe
Whichever you path you choose, the pain will still be there…

Remember that philosophical question about which train track would you pass a train: a track with the one you love tied on the path or the other track with multiple people tied on the path? That was how I felt making that decision.

Master Chief and Cortana

Master Chief and Cortana
Master Chief and Cortana

Imagine yourself as a super space soldier, so powerful that even alien species know your name; then, imagine yourself accompanied by a caring, intelligent, and gorgeous woman who is slowly dying. What would you feel? Would the feeling be the same if I told you she’s an Artificial Intelligence?

Meet John-117 aka Master Chief, a Spartan-class commando of the United Nations Space Command, and Cortana, an AI tasked with assisting the Chief through his missions. Playing Halo for all these years, we develop a bond between the two and the player. Which made the events of Halo 4 devastating for the players out there. We can feel Cortana’s feelings for the Chief during the intro and ending of the live-action film, Forward Unto Dawn, which also acted as an introduction to Halo 4. What hurt more was when Cortana, despite ‘decaying’, harnessed all her remaining power to appear as a human-sized version of herself just to feel and kiss Master Chief. Also that part where Cortana sacrificed herself to save the Chief; I don’t know about you but, that hurt like hell.

Cortana confesses
I’ve waited so long to do that…

Ellie and Riley

Ellie and Riley
Ellie and Riley

Oh, Last of Us, we are going to talk about you again. But this time, we will talk about the DLC, Left Behind. It tells the story about Ellie’s flashbacks as she was looking after Joel after he fell on a piece of metal that pierced his flesh during the course of the main game.

Ellie’s flashbacks showed us the story of how she and her best friend, Riley, worked together and survived the harsh world filled with hordes of infected. Along the course of the DLC, we become attached to the pair. They laughed together, helped each other when in danger, but it all reached the climax when Ellie suddenly kissed Riley – Out. Of. Nowhere. Even I was shocked despite anticipating such a reveal. Despite, their sweetness and joy together, the universe didn’t agree. During their struggles in the mall, both of them were bitten and we all know what happens when you’re bitten by an infected. You turn. You become infected yourself. That just what happened.

That's the look when you know it's all going to end...
That’s the look when you know it’s all going to end…

Then, they just decided to just wait it out Instead of committing suicide – enjoy the little time they had together. But, things can get worse. Only Riley turned. Yes, Ellie discovered that she was immune and now she is – incoming pun – left behind. Without Riley…what an ending. Thank you Naughty Dog. Neil Druckman, you…you’re awesome.

Squall Leonhart and Rinoa Heartilly

The graduation ball. Isn't she cute?
The graduation ball. Isn’t she cute?

You must be like, “Final Fantasy…Why am I not surprised?”. Well, unsurprisingly for us, Final Fantasy have some favorable couples in their series. But, we are only going to talk about one pair in particular. If you want to add Ramza and Delita here, be my guest. I was considering them when I was writing this article. *Hysterical laugh* Oh, Ramza. Seriously now, we are going to talk about Squall Leonhart and Rinoa Heartilly from Final Fantasy VIII.

This is probably one of the entries in the franchise that has quite a complicated story that only Whovians can understand right then and there during their first playthrough. Still, we all remember that sweet dance they had during their graduation ball which reminded us of our own Junior Senior Promenades, right? Plus the soundtrack; who didn’t feel something move in their chest every time they hear Eyes on Me play?

Squall and Rinoa
Squall and Rinoa

Even though the couple didn’t exchange I Love You’s, their love for each other is obvious. They even talked in private on where to meet if they lose their way during their last mission against Ultimecia during the big wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff that is the Time Compression Spell. Rinoa also brought out the “sweet and caring” side of Squall who is very serious, introverted, and cold prior to falling for Rinoa.

Wander and Mono

Wander with Mono on the altar
Wander with Mono on the altar

When I first saw the cover and the gameplay video for the Shadow of the Colossus, I prepared myself for the action and the challenge that was waiting for me. What I didn’t expect was the plot twist that was lurking at the end of the game. I did have mixed feelings when confronting the giant creature guardians dwelling in the world; a mixture of “Do I really need to kill these guys?” and “Meh, let the challenge begin, down you go, big fella!”. Little did I know – honestly, I didn’t really know, no idea at all – that I was releasing a demon with each colossus that I defeat. All I knew when I was playing through the game is that, I was reviving my love that I left on the altar at the beginning of the game.

Then, down goes the last colossus. I just released a demon and I acted as a conduit for the big guy. Yes, I did revive my love but, I fell into the depths of darkness.

Wander struggling
Wander struggling

Consumed by what I have been slowly releasing through the course of the game. Unable to at least touch a strand of my love’s hair, hold just a shadow of her now-alive beauty, or hear her angelic soothing voice once more. What struck me then was that the game broke my anticipated happy ending and caught me off-guard with a dramatic ending. You can feel Wander’s desire to be by the sides of her love at the ending when you’re controlling him as he struggle against the darkness that was pulling him away from Mono. And then you’ll feel it was all for naught and a same time feel good for the guy. Whether he knew what he was doing or not, it doesn’t really matter. What we all know is that Wander was willing to do everything to bring Mono back.

There are other star-crossed lovers in a lot of video games out there and these are just some of them. How about you? What video game broke your heart after falling for the couple in the game? Which video game couple made you feel what it’s like to love and be loved? Share with us in the comment section below and let’s talk about love and pain.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor was More, and Less, than Meets the Eye (of Sauron)

Shadow of Mordor

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor was an arcade-style beat-‘em-up in the guise of an open-world adventure game.

The 2014 game, which will be getting a sequel soon, boasted the unique “Nemesis System”, which allowed the game’s orcs to have power struggles, comment on the player’s previous actions, and allow for personalized game experiences.

With the Nemesis System, orcs levelled up with the player. They began at the bottom of the food chain, and as the player advanced time (usually through death), the orcs would beat each other up to gain status and new abilities. If the player were to be killed by an orc and fight them again later, the orc might say, “Didn’t I already kill you?” Or if the player “killed” an orc in a particular battle, the supposedly-dead orc might reappear with a scar or burn mark, ready to take revenge.

Nobody stayed dead in that game, apparently. I mean, the protagonist dies at the beginning. But it’s okay because he’s got a ghost possessing him? But the ghost is an elf? I don’t really remember the details. Anyway.

It was a well-praised system that ultimately acted as window dressing for killing scores of orcs, which, in most games of this type, would all look exactly the same. Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System gave personality and history to the orcs and their respective clans, driving the player to more meaningful encounters.

Here’s the thing. Shadow of Mordor wasn’t a very deep game.

It had a beautiful, if mostly bland, open world, and some requisite collectibles scattered around. It had some fun with the Lord of the Rings universe, but never reached the heights of the books. It didn’t have a smorgasbord of minigames or filler quests, like an Assassin’s Creed. And it didn’t have a huge cast of fun characters, like the Arkham Games.

If it were a book genre, it would be sword and sorcery, rather than high fantasy. And as a game, I’d sooner call it an arcadey action game rather than an epic adventure game. And that’s great.

Shadow of Mordor came out at the very end of September, 2014. The previous big game was Destiny, which came out at the very beginning of the month. And the next major release wouldn’t be until November, when all the typical AAA releases came out. In short, it was a fairly dry time of the year (assuming you wanted a break from Destiny). Shadow of Mordor was a snack between big meals.

Shadow of War
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/15939671592/

And I think there’s a market for that.

A “good enough” game, released in a slow season, to tide players over until the full-course AAAs can come out to play. Shadow of Mordor was a tight game, with fun action, that didn’t try to be more than it needed to.

Not every game needs world-ending stakes and gigantic set pieces and NPCs with filler quests to pad out the game length. I preferred the lean focus of Shadow of Mordor over the bloated Arkham Knight and the stretched-too-thin Assassin’s Creed: Unity. And I could still enjoy the open adventure format that games like Bayonetta didn’t deliver.

With all this said, I’m open for a bigger and better version of this game with Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. Maybe it’ll be the Assassin’s Creed 2 to Shadow Mordor’s Assassin’s Creed 1. Or it’ll just be more arcadey orc-killin’, which would be fine with me. I just really, really hate orcs. Maybe I should talk to someone about that…

Resident Evil 7: Chris Redfield Is Back!

Chris Redfield's new face

Chris Redfield Is Back

Yep, you read the headline right. Chris Redfield is back in the game. Players can once again shoot the zombies on their knees and rush in for a backhand or a haymaker right in the face! Resident Evil 7, the top selling game of last January, will be having its new downloadable content entitled, ‘Not a Hero’. Oh, and heads up! There will be spoilers here. So, if you have not finished the main storyline of the video game yet, please finish it first. Remember, you have been warned. Enjoy!

Meet the new Chris Redfield

After all the released downloadable contents from Capcom that gave us a glimpse of the life of the Bakers, Capcom twitted the following in their official twitter account:

…and they finally answered the question that people has been asking after finishing the main storyline, “Was that really Chris Redfield in the ending of the main game (Resident Evil 7)?”

Still, many of us are still begging for an answer for this one question, how did Chris transform from this:

Chris Redfield before the magical transformation or illness that we are unaware of
Chris Redfield before the magical transformation or illness that we are unaware of

…to this:

Chris Redfield after refusing to continue going to the gym
Chris Redfield after refusing to continue going to the gym

Did he refuse to eat and sleep or did he eat mama Marguerite’s special meal?

Chris Redfield's WTF face
“Do you seriously think I’ll eat Marguerite’s soup of God-knows-what? Dude…”

Chris Redfield will be starring in Resident Evil 7’s latest downloadable content entitled, ‘Not a Hero’. Yep, he will probably have that Solid Snake vibe saying, “I’m no hero, never was”; saying that he’s only hired to do some job. This downloadable content will be out this coming Spring. So, watch out for it, mark your calendars and prepare for more Chris Redfield.

"I'm no hero...never was."
“I’m no hero…never was.”

What will the new DLC be about?

Umbrella helicopter
Yeah, this was a bummer…tell me you were like, “Wait…what?”, just like I was.

There are a lot of speculations as to what the whole downloadable content will be about. Especially now that Capcom hinted in their tweet that Chris will be chasing someone or something. One of the speculations is that, the DLC will feature Chris and his hunt for our beloved Lucas Baker. Yep, the one and only trap-and-party-loving-psychopath-that-blew-a-freaking-cake-for-fun Lucas. A lot of people speculated this because he is the only survivor of the Baker family and Umbrella might want something from him. Which brings us to one more speculation, the DLC will answer the question on how our beloved Chris Redfield become an Umbrella agent. Yes, Umbrella, that pharmaceutical and medical company-slash-organization that started the whole virus thing? I am sure you have heard of them.

The last speculation is the former two combined. Some say that the latest DLC will start from how Chris Redfield became an agent of Umbrella Corporation, to him ending up saving Ethan – and Mia, depending on the player’s choices – from the Bakers, and end with Chris confronting Lucas Baker. If so, we may be subject to another ‘game’ by that crazy, yet brilliant, psychopath.

Mad Chris is Mad
“Get me out of here, Lucas! I swear if I get to you…You piece of – “

Are you excited for “Not a Hero” DLC?

These are just speculations and we can not wait for the release of the downloadable content. Is Chris Redfield now an Umbrella operative? Will Lucas Baker make a grand comeback? What do you think is the significance of the label “Not a Hero”? Tell us what you think in the comments down below and let’s talk.

 

The Smallest Co-op Feature Made These RPGs Amazing

Co-op RPGs

The Smallest Co-op Feature

There aren’t a lot of co-op RPGs out there. I’m not talking about hack-and-slash RPGs or (God forbid) MMOs. I’m talking about games like the old Final Fantasy series—character-driven, turn-based JRPG-style games. But there are two games that will forever spring to mind for me when the subject of co-op RPGs is brought up.

Eternal Sonata and Final Fantasy IX.

Eternal Sonata Co-op RPG
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tadeuviniciusgames/5800392578/

You’ve likely heard of the latter, but Eternal Sonata flew under the radar. Probably for good reason. I mean, the whole thing took place in Chopin’s anime Lolita fantasy fever dream. Yes, that Chopin. And no, I’m not kidding.

For what it was worth, the battle system was intriguing. It was still turn-based, but during the player’s turn, they could control a character and run around the battlefield freely, attacking and casting spells in live action—for a couple seconds, and then it would be the enemy’s turn to run around and attack.

At first glance, Eternal Sonata and Final Fantasy IX might look very different (you know, other than the big heads and insane character designs). But there was one tiny feature that connected them.

The ability to choose a controller for each character.

That one feature turned these typically single-player games into incredible co-op RPG experiences—at least for my friends and me.

Eternal Sonata Co-op RPG Battle
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/unscripted360/968966575/

You could have a separate controller for each of a battle’s three player characters in Eternal Sonata. Yes, you’d still have one player controlling all the running around the world and buying items, but there was enough battle to make everyone sitting down for the whole game worthwhile. And given how batshit loco Eternal Sonata was, you pretty much have to be pulling a Mystery Science Theater on the cutscenes to be able to stomach it. And the best way to do that is through co-op play, so every player is invested in the characters they control.

I didn’t discover that Final Fantasy IX shared the same feature until later.  I already loved the game. But one summer, my roommate and I popped the FFIX PS1 disc into my backwards-compatible PS3. We split the characters between the two of us, and had an absolute blast playing through it.

Solitary experience

RPGs are usually a solitary experience. You absorb the story, fall in love with the characters, and feel a personal connection to the game world. They’re more like books than movies. But playing through Eternal Sonata and FFIX co-op, even if it was just the battles, was a gaming experience I’ll never forget.

FFIX Co-Oop
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alduinx/16558079596/

And it all had to do with one simple feature: allowing you to switch controller inputs for different characters.

Sure, if you wanted, you could pass the controller around. But it’s not the same, is it? It’s not co-op—it’s taking turns in the driver’s seat.

Turn-based RPGs make the feature easy to implement. After all, you’re not actively controlling multiple characters at a time. There is little difference to the game system to have the controller inputs switch for different characters. Especially when you can only control one character at a time anyway.

Indie developers and JRPG remaster…ers take note: adding that tiny feature to turn a single-player RPG into a co-op one makes a big difference to anyone who still enjoys a good couch co-op experience.

Working As Intended? Tabata’s Final Fantasy 15 Decision May Disappoint Fans Of The Game

Final Fantasy 15

Final Fantasy 15

I’ve covered a lot of Final Fantasy in the last few weeks much to my joy and dismay. At the risk of inundating the audience with more news, something came out today that could not be ignored. The news was regarding Final Fantasy 15 and the story decisions. If you have not read a review of the game it can be summed up rather quickly. Most reviewers praise the game for the open world and battle system but take away points due to the obvious missing story elements. The most glaring issues coming via Chapter 13 for reasons I won’t spoil here. The team behind the game have already planned to release DLC to address this. However, the way the story is presented may be working as intended and this decision may disappoint fans of the Final Fantasy 15.

Does Story Telling Really Matter?

Most reviewers praise the game for the open world and battle system but take away points due to the obvious missing story elements.

According to the game’s director, Hajime Tabata, the unexplained nature of the story was intentional. In an interview with Game Informer cited via Novacrystallis, Tabata states that “We didn’t want to create a comprehensive and perfectly balanced story in this game. Instead, we placed importance on the main characters and for the player and Noctis to share the same experience when we tell the story.” If that doesn’t sound like a retcon then I don’t know what does.

Elsewhere in the article he mentions the time and money constraints by the latter half of the game but that doesn’t matter. I’m a long time Final Fantasy fan and this statement alone is egregious. What he just said was that even though the Final Fantasy franchise is known for their deep an intricate story telling that isn’t how I wanted to tell the story. That could have been excusable if the story was or felt complete.

Player’s Don’t Get Exposition For… Reasons?

What he just said was that even though the Final Fantasy franchise is known for their deep an intricate story telling that isn’t how I wanted to tell the story.

The main issue with things happening off screen is that it doesn’t give the players context for the events happening in the actual game. There are moments where if one of the bros are saying something important it got stopped when a battle is engaged. Did that conversation start back up once the battle concluded? No. That meant the player may have missed an important part of exposition that they didn’t realize. That’s not experiencing the game through Noctis’s eyes, that is poor story telling period.

In Final Fantasy games its not unusual to find books or documents that expand on the lore and motivations of characters. It’s not okay that the ONLY way players discover why “X” thing happened is to look in the supplementary documents scattered across the world. The game doesn’t even have a story recap that would keep track of things that may have missed by players. Some of the lore can only be found in the ancillary projects like Brotherhood, Kingsglaive and items in the collector’s edition.

Will This Be The New Direction For Final Fantasy?

I further thought that Final Fantasy would be safe because, regardless of how convoluted the stories can get at times, the stories for all the games were complete.

I have long grown weary of game developers not giving players a complete game and regulating it to DLC. JRPGs should have been safe from this phenomenon because the basis of the genre is story telling. I further thought that Final Fantasy would be safe because, regardless of how convoluted the stories can get at times, the stories for all the games were complete. If this is the trend that SquareEnix wants to start then I want no parts of the “new” Final Fantasy.

What do you think about this news about Final Fantasy 15? Does this news impact your enjoyment of the game? Do you think this direction of story telling is effective? Could this writer be overreacting? All points are valid in this conversation so let us know in the comments below.