All posts by Josh Coffman

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Review – Switch

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) has made itself at home with the Nintendo Switch. It is not the highly anticipated remake or remaster everyone is looking for, but the port of Bioware’s 2003 classic. While little has changed, it’s still a welcome feeling to revisit this fantastic game on an entirely new platform! It’s not a perfect game port, but overall, KOTOR looks and plays well on the handheld system. The question is can KOTOR hold its own weight in a modern era. The answer is yes!

For those who have never played or haven’t played in a while, the narrative of KOTOR is set over 4,000 years before the events of the Star Wars movies. Following the Mandalorian Wars, conflict has broken out between the Sith and the Galactic Republic, and the player character is caught up in the middle of this war. Collecting an assortment of characters to help in their fight, the player travels from world to world, like Tatooine and Kashyyyk, within the Star Wars universe. The story stands the test of time and even still has one of the greatest plot twists in history. Of course, it was also expertly written and the dialogue still shows that Bioware put a lot of love into it.

The visuals are outdated especially when compared to newer Star Wars titles like Battlefront and The Fallen Order. However, the cinematics have held up well over the years and even received a slight boost in resolution on the newer hardware. Character portraits haven’t fared quite as well. All have visual artifacts, either as a result of compression or upscaling. KOTOR looks great while playing in mobile mode. The colors are vibrant and the user interface is easy to navigate, with the menus fitting well to the size of the screen. Some of the font sizes can be difficult to read on a small screen, but it does not take away from the experience.

In terms of sound, everything is as good as it is in the original. The sound effects and soundtrack are still awesome and really drive home that you’re playing a Star Wars game. Even the sound effects for blasters and lightsabers hold up decently.

The controls for the Switch handle great. The active and paused combat work effortlessly on the Switch hardware, especially when compared to the Xbox and PC (I own and have played both). Aspyr did a great job with making the transition to the Switch, but some may be upset that you cannot utilize the motion controllers, but it really does not affect gameplay. Otherwise, the gameplay is the same as all other versions. You can still even use the same manipulations and glitches.

Knights of the Old Republic is as solid of a Switch port as any. The only few issues I came across were the camera movement, dip in frames, and playing in dock mode. Even after 18 years, the camera movement can be stiff with no options to remedy it. While in dock mode, the ratio seems off and causes everything to be stretched and seem fuzzy. For example, if you pause the game, icons have fuzzy gaps between each other. The dip in frames was not often. Only in areas with alot going on like the tutorial and large fights.

With Knights of the Old Republic being built from the ground up, Aspyr will want to honor the original game; it’s unclear what changes will be made to the story or gameplay in the remake. Aspyr is aiming to recreate the experience of the original game, so having experienced the first game will alter perceptions of the remake. With that being said, it’s definitely worthwhile to play such an influential game, and KOTOR is certainly an important part of gaming history.

Thankfully, the Switch version makes this easy and accessible, and the other ports of the game are still available to play, too. The visuals may not look as polished as modern titles, but the superb writing and great narrative are what help drive KOTOR into being one of the best games of all time. I would recommend buying and playing this classic if you already don’t own one of the other ports.

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Forgive Me Father Early Access Review – PC

This is an Early Access Review and as such opinions are based solely on the state of the game at the time of review and subject to change as development progresses leading up to final release.

Forgive Me Father is a fantastic first-person shooter that pays homage to classics like Doom and Quake. Combining Lovecraft life mythos and a dark graphic novel visual style makes Forgive Me Father feel like a great shooter. It is currently in early access with only 12 levels, one of two characters, and a lot of gore. It’s launching with 12 out of 25 levels, with the remainder being released throughout its road mapped early access. It’s set to get more weapons, skills, bosses, and a second playable character along the way. It currently has lots to do and will continue to improve itself as it progresses.

In Forgive Me Father, you currently control a priest fighting against the forces of evil. The narrative is currently jumbled up and not a forefront for the gameplay. But what more of a story do you need when you are a priest who beats down the damned. As soon as you press start, you are dropped right in a world filled with pieces of info that are related to the narrative. For gameplay, it is structured like a 90’s classic shooter like Quake or Doom. Each level tasks you with finding keys and killing different types of hordes to progress through several doors and make it to the end. Depending on which difficulty you pick, you will have to do everything you can to survive like finding level secrets for boost in ammunition and health, or by carefully using explosive barrels for crowd control and resource hoarding.

The shooting in Forgive Me Father is simple point and click. Once you get used to the action and each enemy, you begin to grasp ways to clear foes out faster. In the beginning you’re mostly fighting zombies that are melee enemies who are easily dispatched with Headshots. Headshots do more damage, and will insta-kill most enemies unless it’s holding a second head, at which point it replaces the destroyed head on its neck and continues the assault. Killing enemies can be oddly satisfying as you clear rooms of bodies and begin to paint the walls and halls with their blood. As you are painting, you have to be careful of your surroundings as you can easily be ambushed and put into a death corner even by the simplest of enemies like Zombies.

Once you have gotten adjusted to the few variants of Zombies, Forgive Me Father starts throwing projectile-based enemies at you. These enemies take more than just headshots to kill and can drain you of resources and health with ease. Especially in a hoard situation, you must learn to strafe and clear hoards by utilizing accuracy and barrels to clear them out. I learned as I played the different difficulties, the Forgive Me Father can be brutal. The easy difficulty is still harder than most similar games on normal. To counter the difficulty scale, you are able to gain experience and use it to upgrade skills. Killing enemies is how you gain experience, more if you go for their weakness like a zombie’s head. Once you level up you get a skill point that can be used on any number of skills. For example, skills can change a weapon into a better one with different attributes or alter some other ability, such as the amount of ammo you can carry.

Forgive Me Father is one of the toughest first person shooters to be seen in a while. You can only save at the beginning of levels or at save points located in the middle of each level. You start with your trusty knife and pistol in the beginning, and as you progress through the game you find weapons like the shotgun and the machine gun. Although you find more weapons, you learn that you must balance between each one as ammo can be scarce and make the hoards harder to mow down if you only have the knife. The waves of enemies can be extremely difficult to handle. I played on the hardest difficulty and had to play through certain sections several times before I could finally claim victory. Even with all of the frustration and difficulty, I enjoyed every moment of it.

The visuals in Forgive Me Father are beautiful. The enemies are all 2D with great detail. The only issue I had with this is that enemies like to hide behind objects, making it easy to lose health if you are not paying attention or haven’t learned the layout. Enemies also like to wait in shadowy areas, which makes it extremely hard to see them. There’s a mechanic called “madness” that increases your attack and defense for every kill you rack up, allowing you to enjoy the dark, eerie world around you. Overall, I say Forgive Me Father is worth it in Early Access. Giving tribute to the FPS genre of the 90’s with a hint of Lovecraft making it worthwhile with plenty of content still to come and a short roadmap to the final product.

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Hermitage: Strange Case Files Review – PC

If you are someone who enjoys visual novels like Ace Attorney and have an interest in H.P. Lovecraft, you will feel right at home around Hermitage: Strange Case Files. The world of Hermitage is covered in unknowable horrors and tentacled beasts. It even mentions everyone’s favorite creature, Cthulhu. The phenomenal narrative and the dialogues that follow make the story flow smoothly, leaving you wanting more. Hermitage might feel like an investigation game, but it relies on its narrative and visuals to breathe life into the world.

You play as an unnamed Store Manager who runs Hermitage, a bookstore known for its collection of odd and rare books. The story begins with Cecile, a quiet schoolgirl, visiting the bookstore looking for a particular book that can help her understand the weird dreams she has been having. The Store Manager questions her intentions for wanting such a book and discovers that she believes her dreams to be premonitions of her best friend dying. As you progress further into each of the 6 chapters, the mysteries of the events happening throughout the game become more dark and twisted due to the supernatural beings that surround them. You even become aware of the fact that the Store Manager cannot even leave the store, adding to suspense relaying on the people and items around you to solve these bizarre mysteries. The characters in Hermitage vary in development. For example, the Store Manager can seem dull at times, but gets fleshed out with each interaction he has with each character. The uniqueness of the characters helped set the atmosphere and cause you to rethink your actions as they falter and begin to question as well.

Hermitage’s gameplay is pretty simple. Gather evidence through many means and piece it all together to come to a conclusion. During the day, you gather information by talking to other characters and by exploring the unique books in the store. As you progress further, new books become available and give more insight into the world. At night, you watch tv, send text messages to other characters, and use an internet forum to gather additional details.  The forums and tv programs update and give smaller details that tie into the main story. Although there is a substantial amount of information you gather, the game is nice and highlights the important parts in red. This makes it easy to not get overwhelmed and help organize data. With lots of information comes a lot of choices. I say this because each chapter has two endings. The good, which is the intended and hard to miss story, and the other is the bad, which shows a more darker and suspenseful side to the world of Hermitage. This gives you the opportunity to find not only an interesting narrative, but allows you to see the pure Lovecraftian Mythos the developers were going for.

The overall visuals for the game are simply breathtaking and show remnants of the Persona series. The still shot photos that appear throughout the game are beautiful and were handled with care. The artists showed much love in each picture. Part of me wanted that care given to the characters. The character designs can sometimes look plain, but when combined with the backgrounds, helps add to the dark grit it is going for. The backgrounds are great by showing off the unique details that get updated throughout the story. The first couple of chapters use robust 3D backgrounds. The backgrounds seem to look a little worse as you progress further into the game, but they still try to be unique.

There weren’t many issues that Hermitage suffered from. With it being localized from Chinese to English, it has lots of typos and can sometimes be a little wordy due. This does not harm the gameplay or the story much, but can dull your sense of suspense as you try to dive into it. The backgrounds were used a lot and can leave you wanting more. The difference in inner monologue and narrative is none existent. Meaning you cannot tell the difference between the store manager’s thinking and a description of what is currently happening. When you are using the deduction part it doesn’t feel like you are solving the case yourself. However, the game always explains everything in detail afterward, saving you time. Otherwise, I had a great experience overall.

Exploring Hermitage was exciting and suspenseful. The combination of a well-crafted story and stunning visuals definitely make it a recent favorite in the visual novel genre.  The several nods for Lovecraft also make it much more interesting and helps build a ghastly world filled with mythos. Only suffering from a few minor issues and being a largely text based game. I would recommend buying Hermitage if you love visual novels.

UNSIGHTED Review – PC

Unsighted is a unique game that merges a fantastic premise with exploration and well developed combat. You play as Alma, an amnesiac automaton who awakes in a war torn world looking to discover her past and to protect her friends from becoming the devolved machines known as the Unsighted. You begin to learn more about the city and how the loss of anima, the source of energy that gives all automaton their free will, has been extinguished from the world.

The premise isn’t just for show either. As you meet the diverse cast of characters throughout Arcadia, you see a timer letting you know how much time they have left before they change. Even Alma has a timer that ticks away in real game time. Once their time is up, you have to put them to rest. Meaning you could miss out on valuable items and quests that can give you better abilities or even the means to stave off devolution. You must quickly gather five meteor shards spread across the multi-level city of Arcadia to save them all.

This requires you to manage your time wisely as each puzzle, dungeon, or chest may not even be necessarily worth your time unless it is for meteor dust or the meteor shards. Meteor dust allows you to extend the time for you or any of your friends who may need that extra day. It also helps grow your relationship with them, amounting in discounts or even upgrades not available anywhere else. It is only optional to give away meteor dust. You could even hoard it for yourself for more time or to increase the number of syringes you can hold.

The combat style has elements of a Souls game. You can dual wield weapons ranging from melee to firearms, use syringes to heal yourself, and use consoles to recharge and to teleport once they are activated. A unique feature in Unsighted is a combo system that allows you to multiply the amount of money you can earn and how much damage you can do based on how you dispatch your enemies. Another unique feature is upgrading Alma with ability granting chips. These chips include increased stamina and running with no cost to stamina. Cogs can complement your chip build with temporary effects such as instant revive or increased attack. Alma can also upgrade her weapon’s attack, stamina cost, and/or magazine size with various materials found throughout the city.

I had so much fun exploring the empty and vast city as I looked for various shortcuts and upgrades. Each dungeon is well designed and has its own well thought of item. For example, the aquarium requires you to have the ice grenade to traverse through it. Even some of the earlier items like the spinner allow you to travel across the city faster and discover hidden sections of the map previously unavailable. The puzzles are well done, even if some are designed to have you go back and forth to complete them.

Although Unsighted is a grand experience and has plenty of praise from borrowing from other great games, it has a few hiccups. The soundtrack does leave a little more being desired as I felt like some of the boss battles would have been a little more epic if the right soundtrack was guiding the flow of battle. Another issue I came across was that difficulty was never consistent. Sometimes I would clear a path as if I was walking in a field of bubbles and others I would be closer to death before I could make it past a room or two. As long as you come in with an open mind, I still believe those few flaws do not even throttle how amazing Unsighted is.

Once you finish the game, the replayability is endless. You unlock a new harder game mode to see if you are up for the challenge, a new game plus mode that allows you to keep everything you have and play in a new way for a different ending, a boss rush mode, and a dungeon raid mode. Not only is there a ton to do, but you can also do it with a friend in co-op mode from the couch or through remote play.

Unsighted is a hidden indie gem buried under AAA titles.  Studio Pixel Punk really outdid themselves with their first title. Unsighted is a result of love and dedication to the games of the past. It allows players to adventure in their own way and in more ways than one. The combat is flexible and well crafted, the environments are developed into a beautiful landscape that’s always a thrill to travel through, and the story delivers a cast of diverse characters and a well-deserved payoff at the end.