All posts by Jason Flick

Started my gaming life with a NES and copy of Mario at a young age. Since then I've found a love for all gaming things dealing with adventure, roleplaying and first person shooters across all systems, handhelds and PC. Joined up with Game Chronicles years ago to write about the games I love to play.

Edge Of Eternity Review – PC

When it comes to JRPGs, it’s hard to not honor some of the biggest franchises that have graced the world. It’s no secret that there also have been so many that have tried to capture some of that grandiose scale and wonder as well. As an avid fan of JRPGs in general I was recently intrigued by a rather promising JRPG that surprisingly comes from a very small studio. It’s apparent that Midgar Studio clearly has a fond love that a lot of us share for Final Fantasy so when I sat down to play Edge of Eternity for PC I couldn’t wait to see what was in store.

The story of Edge of Eternity follows the conflicts between an invading robotic alien force and the native inhabitants of Heryon. As the war raged on the invaders struck Heryon with a fatal disease called the Corrosion. After the opening act, our protagonists and siblings Daryon and Selene seek out the rumored cure that could save Heryon and its afflicted inhabitants. There is something about the whole devastating alien robots versus folks with magic and swords premise that comes off as an underdog story but it’s an age old classic and one many a RPG is founded on.

While Heryon is quite beautiful visually there are the underlying realities of war where young women and men are conscripted in a desperate attempt to win by numbers. Our idealistic Daryon has decided to change his fate and seek out another in a world that desperately needs a miracle. Of course there’s bound to be some opposition so what better way to do that with some strategy based combat.

Edge of Eternity utilizes hexagonal grids with rather large cells to accommodate a varying degree of enemy types including towering robotic ones. At first I thought that they were oddly oversized until I found out that you can have more than one party member in a cell at a time. Usually you can’t do this as the battle grids are made of much smaller grid patterns allowing for a single character. It was actually nice to see a different approach from a strategy RPG. One such reason for sharing a space is to get out of the way of an uninterruptible attack made known in advance with a lock icon on their ATB (or Active Time Battle) bar.

A majority of your party’s attacks will happen very fast with the only delay coming from when their turn comes around. However certain attacks such as spells like ones you see very early on take time to cast. On the opposite side of the attack coin some of these are interruptible which resets their casting time. This means that character positioning in Edge of Eternity is equally if not more important than what attacks to use and when. Attacking your foes from different angles like from behind can give you that much needed edge.

Unlike most strategy RPGs though I found that each battle did take a degree of strategy and you aren’t going to be burning though each fight in a desire to boost, not only your party member’s levels, but those of their weapons. While any given weapon’s levels by no means hits Disgaea’s meteoric proportions there is a bit of depth there as well. Each weapon is complete with their own skill trees which gain you skills and even spells. By placing different crystals, something that Heryon seems to be in no shortage of, you can gain different effects and bonuses to damages for instance. For those that really dig the finer details of damage output and resistances there’s room to play there.

Considering the roots behind Edge of Eternity’s creation, I’m really impressed with the level of detail found in Heryon’s world. When not in combat you get to explore the various locations that make up this world.  You will encounter various enemy wildlife patrols as well as you explore them on foot or with your fluffy steed. The inevitable glowing resources from the world are key to the somewhat interesting crafting system. Full disclosure though, as crafting has never been my finest endeavors in the RPG genre as a whole but it varies from title to title. One small detail that I absolutely loved is that outside of chests you can pick-up any resource while still mounted on a Nekaroo. I know that’s a seemingly small feature but it’s a major one for someone like me who’s harvested their fair share of materials in MMOs.

Despite my mixed success at the crafting mechanics there were some issues such as lip sync and some awkward running/stepping in place animations that are noticeable even from the early acts of the story. That said it’s impossible to not love the Nekaroo, one of the cutest mounts I’ve ever seen this side of a Chocobo, and that’s saying something from someone that’s spent a LOT of time with MMOs over the years.

For me the RPG genre is full of stories to be experienced and Edge of Eternity definitely is full of mystery, charm and prophecy to fill an RPG fans checklist. This is a story of war, sickness and inevitably death but along the way you fall in love with the beautiful locales, the heart of its characters and the great score. The love that Midgar has for their inspirations shows and despite being a small studio has created something that is full of heart and well worth Nekaroo ride.

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Lust from Beyond Review – PC

It’s not often you come across a game that raises a brow by its mere suggestive name. For me it wasn’t just because of the title, but rather my intrigue of its promise of darker things in the veins of Beksiński, Giger and Lovecraft. As horror stylings go those are some rather big names to draw inspiration from so I couldn’t wait to see what Lust from Beyond on PC had in store for me.

It should be said that Lust from Beyond, like its predecessor Lust for Darkness, should not be considered for the viewers under the age of 18 so fair warning. You are actually given an option to censor anything considered sexual into pixilation every time you load up the game but that takes away from the intended vision in my opinion.

As luck would have it I’d already experienced Darkness prior to playing this new adventure so I had some idea of what to expect. Though I have to say that the gameplay experience I engaged in with Lust from Beyond was quite a bit improved since Darkness’s release in 2018. It’s clear that the developers really dove deeper to polish their crafted vision here as you assume the role of Victor Holloway.

You see Victor, when not apparently hunting down desired treasures and artifacts, is haunted by dreams of a dark and twisted world whose denizens seek to harm him. One of these nightmarescapes causes him to panic and lash out against someone he cares about. It seems that Victor has a few issues and rather reluctantly seeks out the help of a Doctor Austerlitz at love interest Lily’s suggestion. Of course this means traveling to the beyond creepy town of Bleakmoor which despite the name looks like a very suggestively themed hotspot version of New Orleans. While this isn’t Innsmouth there is still something very off behind the façade of neon.

Even this Lovecraftian creepy town is nothing compared to the alien world of Lusst’ghaa which is inspired in a wonderful mix of both the late Giger and Beksinski works. The wonderfully created worlds here in Lust From Beyond capture the organic alien look so well I’d almost say Giger had a hand in this too if it were possible. It was also oddly pleasing to see how much of Polish artist Beksiński’s style was found throughout many of the statues and other elements throughout my adventure.

You’ll be able to better appreciate the polish found in Lust from Beyond as it is presented in a first person perspective much like Darkness was. As you spend much of your time going back and forth from Bleakmoor to Lusst’ghaa you’ll be interacting with the world much like in any modern adventure title. Beyond uses a rather fluid mouse click hold and drag interface to interact with items like doors, drawers and levers which worked pretty well. The one minor issue I had was with the quick time events as I felt they were a little unclear on their purposed input requirement.

The rest of the time you will go into pure adventure mode as you click on everything of interest when close enough. While you can actually interact and inspect a fair bit of items many are there for show, adding a bit of personality and depth to the world. Any item of significance can be added to your inventory some which are interestingly questionable. In true adventure fashion there are a mix of puzzles that you have to progress. While some of the solutions are practically handed to you nearby others will take a little digging, as you are only presented with a partial solution. These later puzzles offered me the most enjoyment as a fan of adventure games growing up. I also rather enjoyed the “essence” mechanic used to aid you in subverting your enemy’s attempts to keep you from your goals. You can use essence by creating light beacons and even path across otherwise unpassable pits to draw them far enough away to complete whatever your goal is especially if you lack means of defense.

You are actually told early on that stealth or straight up running from your enemies are your best chances for survival especially in Lusst’ghaa. Lust from Beyond however doesn’t leave you completely defenseless though as you gain access to a knife and even a revolver throughout the adventure. Of course the latter option has a limited ammo supply so while it’s often enough to get rid of your problems easily you’ll want to save it for when you really need it. One such need for it is the bosses that you will encounter throughout the story. I was actually surprised at this discovery as it added moments of more serious danger compared to the more manageable entities. You can actually take damage throughout the game with few means to restore health such as daises found in key locations.

There is another type of damage you can sustain in Lust from Beyond though that plays to Lovecraftian strengths. At certain events and cues present themselves Victor will take a hit to his sanity meter. There are pills you can take if you’ve found any that will restore this meter a little at a time. However taking in too much horror will have devastating effects including making you disoriented, messing with your controls or worse. Several of Lovecraft’s mainstay elements are in place pretty much from the very start including a primeval deity and occultism.

While Giger and Beksiński’s inspirational presence in Lust from Beyond is a visceral visual presentation it takes Lovecraftian influence to showcase the horrific side to carnal desire and ecstasy. It does so in a real and cosmic sense in the well scripted narrative. That’s an even more twisted thought considering Lovecraft’s aversion to anything sexual in his actual works. Yet despite considering that knowledge, Lust from Beyond manages to elevate itself above its predecessor with a deeper crafted narrative, more detailed environments and refined gameplay that I thoroughly enjoyed.

That’s a good thing too as there is incentive enough to play it again to see the repercussions of the other choices you didn’t make throughout this tale. Of course I couldn’t pass up another opportunity to take in the visuals and sound work that went into crafting the environments and atmosphere as the real world was often just as creepy as the twisted landscape of Lusst’ghaa. If you love the works of Giger, Beksiński and Lovecraft then you have to check out this beautifully crafted dark tale of erotic desire, fear and horror with Lust from Beyond available now on PC.

 

The Protagonist: EX-1 Early Access Review – PC

This is an Early Access Review and as such opinions and scores 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.

I’ve thoroughly enjoy the science fiction genre over the years no matter the medium. While books led the way for many of my favorite Sci-Fi movies and games, there is always something about getting right into the action that makes games a lot more enjoyable at times. One such sci-fi adventure puts you in a conflict with alien invaders in an all new early access turned based strategy game called The Protagonist: EX-1 for PC.

I got the chance to check out the first few levels of this tactical adventure featuring an elite strike team aboard a giant alien station. The story starts after a brief introduction detailing the disastrous first encounter between the Terrans and a hostile synthetic race. You assume the lead role of Angel, an amnesiac special agent highly skilled in martial arts, after waking up in an infirmary aboard the station. At of its current release you will gain access to 3 other playable characters that will work alongside Angel to neutralize the threat to your world.

I’ll admit that despite having played quite a few strategy RPGs over the years, I was intrigued by the use of marital arts as a primary means of combat in a science fiction game. It’s not often you get the chance to punch an alien race in its…optics so I didn’t know what to expect. From the start The Protagonist: EX-1 starts out in pretty standard fare with its directive, complete with an optional guidance line, as you explore and search for the rest of your team. With little but your skills and the guidance of Pilot you set out to complete your mission.

Sooner than later you with engage in your first battle which reveals several cool mechanics. As mentioned before, Angel is diverse and deadly with her advanced martial arts. What sets the combat here apart from other tactical RPGs is that after you typically move your character you can choose from various abilities to execute in a deeper way than I’m used to. Upon selecting Angel’s martial abilities you then get to select what attacks you string together based upon how many Action Points (AP) you have at the time.

Each attack in the form of punch, elbow, knee and kick uses up a bit of AP. But in an interesting design choice you don’t simply click the action to add it to the attack chain. You actually have to drag it into an attack line above the available attacks to slot it. Personally while this method is completely achievable with a mouse I can’t help but feel that they designed this system with the future thought of making it mobile friendly with touch controls as well. Once you slot those attacks though you get to hopefully watch your character deliver some beatdowns on your enemies. OF course there is always that chance you will whiff completely but we don’t speak of these things. As you attack though with marital skills you will slowly fill a special attack gauge that is as fun to watch as it is to trigger when you need it badly.

Angel however is not only just quite gifted in martial arts but leadership and hacking the latter of which is quite useful in combat. Along with giving the synthetics plenty of bruises you can even hack enemies turning them on their allies or infecting them dealing out damage over turns. As I quickly found out hacking them and controlling them to fight each other is a small life saver at times especially early on when you’re pretty outnumbered. Your leadership skills with prove useful as you gain more allies yourself allowing to assign roles to basic units besides the interesting main cast including Radical and Taka that you with find as you play. Each brings a set role to table like Radical’s melee abilities and his love of knives. You also can lay down some heavy fire with Taka when ranged combat is more advantageous.

Much like one of my favorite sci-fi franchises, you’ll be tasked with various choices both in and out of combat. While combat is a means of survival you’ll still have to make narrative choices with The Protagonist’s dynamic dialogue system. Your choices can and will have consequences for better or worse including the opening of side missions and effects on the story itself.

Like any good tactical RPG, you’ll also get to customize your characters abilities as you earn skill points. You’ll need these skills to solve many of the game’s puzzles along the way as you explore your surrounds. Exploration itself not only serves as means to progress the story but also for the collection of data (collectibles) and more importantly scrap. Scrap is used in the crafting system which is vital if you want to get very far in this game. You also need to have the desired blueprint available to craft things like armor and weapons. I also enjoyed that you can even upgrade crafted items if your skill is high enough to do so.

With any good sci-fi game you have to have the right atmospheric style, sound and level design to pull players in. I have to say that The Protagonist: EX-1 does a pretty good job of this so far with its use of futuristic machines, neon lighting effects and holograms throughout the levels I had access to. The other thing that I really love is how fluid the inputs and camera controls are as this title is presented in an isometric view. It makes a big difference when you’re exploring and watching out for hidden interaction points or enemy battles just around the corner.

The characters models are pretty good and more importantly their attacks animations were really smooth even with the martial arts. I was pleasantly surprised that there is some pretty decent voice acting present from the likes of Tony Todd and Temuera Morrison among its roster. Musically The Protagonist: EX-1 has a nice soundtrack that fits each level well while still giving players that nice otherworldly sci-fi vibe. If you pick up this title in early access via Steam you will also get access to the 4-track soundtrack for free which I really enjoyed.

While there is still more to be released including new characters, environments and narrative levels, I found The Protagonist: EX-1 to pretty enjoyable so far. The menu system in combat particularly at first threw me a bit but after a little practice I got the hang of it pretty well. While I was playing this on PC I can definitely see some potential for touch based controls but that’s still to be seen. I did encounter at least one bug when saving but if you’re like me I like to make use of multiple saves for just such an occasion. The martial arts combat is what really sets this title apart from your usual tactical RPG. So if you enjoy tactical RPGs and sci-fi settings then you should definitely check out The Protagonist: EX-1, available now on PC for Early Access via Steam.

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Yaga Review – PC

If anything can be said about the past year is that we’ve all been dealt varying degrees of fortune or misfortune. But as many press on through these times, we find ways to move on and make choices that keep up safe right now. Well it so happens I had the pleasure to experience a game where choices can change the very story of Ivan, the one-handed blacksmith with incredibly bad luck, in the Slavic inspired action adventure Yaga for PC.

Yaga right off the bat has a storybook feel to it similar to Grimm especially when you start controlling Ivan as he recants his tale of how he loses his arm to Likho. For those unfamiliar to Slavic mythology, Likho is the embodiment of evil fate and misfortune and in this case is the source of Ivan’s bad luck. His only saving grace was the intervention of another classic Slavic legend, Baba Yaga. Yes the titular supernatural being herself is up to her own schemes with Ivan being the center of it after being slighted by the Tzar.

After that you are sent away to find Strength beyond Measure by the Tzar to keep him far away from his kingdom. This is to avoid having his kingdom ruined as he can’t outright kill Ivan himself according to Yaga’s curse. I love how much of the spoken story narrative is in part told in charming rhymes. Conversation and more importantly your choices do play into how Ivan’s personality and reputation is seen. This even plays into what happens in Ivan’s story and the upgrades you can choose throughout.

While you don’t have a lot of options at first you will soon earn materials like ore, enhancements and runes along other blueprints to make things along the way. Breadcrumbs did a great job of making this crafting feature not only easy to use but also a very important aspect of the game. I’m normally not one for crafting in games in general but here it’s actually fun to create and experiment with the different combinations to suit your needs and playstyle. This also where you will create new weapons and tools when you’re others break and they will.

But crafting is only part of the adventure as you’ll be fighting your way through much of the story, or not depending on choices, along the way. The basic combat formula is here with the left mouse click acting as your primary attack and the right click is used to throw your hammer like Thor himself. If Thor was a blacksmith that is. The combat is pretty limited but it is solid with just enough strategy to still be fun.

When you create tools like the Cartwheel shield from random items in the world you can then use them with the Shift key to block enemy attacks and even parry them if your timing is right. One of my favorites is the chain and pitchfork that you combine to create a grappling hook. Not only is it useful and needed for getting to out-of-reach places but it’s great for avoiding enemy attacks like bosses.

The combat animations as well as Ivan’s normal movements fit right into the humble, if out of his league, hero as he sort of haphazardly roams through many of the locales.  It kind of tells that Ivan knows he’s been given an unlikely achievable goal but damn if he isn’t going to try. It’s charming and somehow fits right into the absolutely unexpected banger of a soundtrack done by Romanian hip-hop group Subcarpati. I have to say if you’re going to roaming around procedurally generated maps while attempting to complete quests there is no better music than folklore inspired music such as this. You can actually buy the soundtrack and game together or separately if you choose which is nice because I like the music a lot.

Just like with the music Yaga features a lot of detail when it comes to the world as a whole. Each location you visit is unique with its own elements that make you want to explore. I love that while this story is largely based upon Slavic folklore there are other cultures sprinkled throughout like the Maneki-neko inspired cat that Ivan’s babushka carries around. Speaking of details I heavily enjoy the effect that choices have on the game as a whole.

When leaving for mission areas you not only get to choose were you’re going if multiple quests are in progress but what day it is when you head there. Each day choice carries with it a modifier of sorts such as increased fortune or attack damage. If you fall in battle however and wish to retry the area the map is reset and that day option is removed from the options. You also suffer a penalty such as lost items which hurts if you happen to lose your strongest gear.

That’s why crafting is so important in Yaga. You may have to craft more gear whenever you find a forge to do so. This does give you the opportunity to plan ahead a little to craft better weapons and even tools to better suit the occasion such as weapons that inflict more damage to unclean foes. In a nice touch the materials you use also change the look of Ivan’s hammer to signify the effect they are imbued with like the above example makes your hammer look like a Crusader Cross of sorts.

Yaga is not without its challenges despite a fairly simple combat system. This is largely due to the Bad Luck mechanic at the heart of the story. For the most part it’s a pretty manageable feature depending on your choices of course. But at times if things get bad Likho can straight bugger things up for you including stealing your money, disarming you (your weapons only this time) and even breaking your weapons in the middle of a fight. To say the least this can be frustrating and almost unfair particularly in endgame. But that’s the whole point really. You define the story based on your choices and outside of certain moments it all comes down to YOUR actions no matter what difficulty you choose to embark on.

Even with that in mind Yaga was an absolute blast to play. I love games that take choices and make them have a real impact on a story or the character or in case both. For me a lot of little pieces clicked for me from the awesome score right down to the storybook elements and the spoken dialogue. So if you like folklore, storybook adventures and choices that matter you have to check out Yaga available now for PC.

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Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype Definitive Edition Review – PlayStation 4

When it comes to PlayStation, I’ve found that I’ve become accustomed to a multitude of ports over the years. While many are mainstream staples that make their usual appearance, I like to be surprised with the ones that I never really knew about before. Such is the case of Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype Definitive Edition for the PlayStation 4. Originally released back on PS3, this horizontal shoot’em up follows up classic action shooter titles like R-Type.

Since I’d never played its original release I got to enter this with fresh eyes, which for me was a blast. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge that comes with facing waves of foes all while avoiding a hell storm of pink bullets. While I am no expert at these shoot’em ups, I do find a good deal of pleasure from the created chaos that is this genre. The story behind Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype is that you are a part of an interplanetary alliance among the ranks of an elite squad of fighters after the events of the original game Söldner-X: Himmelsstürmer.

Every sci-fi story has to have an opposing force and FPDE is no different as you face off against waves of the technologically superior D’aarg. After that bit of backstory you select from one of two Starfighter ships (from an eventual three) and take to the skies to make your way through each of the levels. Like any good bullet hell you’ll face off against various enemies all the while avoiding enemy fire using each ships unique weapon configurations. Defeating enemies gives you the chance to earn powerups and even secret keys that you’ll need to make it to the story’s true end.

While Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype Definitive Edition looks like your standard horizontal shooter at first I quickly learned there is so much more to it than I expected. For starters, each ship has two main weapons that can be switched between on the fly. The Mexxus II’s Magma Cannon is extremely useful for concentrated fire on bosses. To fight bullets with bullets as it were the Bullet Gun delivers a fantastic spread across the screen. That said Thor’s Bounce Laser is nothing to scoff at as I found out against the tight quarters against the submarine’s armaments in the Turady Deep Sea level.

To add more firepower to the mix you will find yourself picking up a third weapon throughout combat like my personal favorite, the Spread Beam. This Tesla coil style weapon will arc towards multiple enemies at once delivering damage. This third weapon can be swapped out by picking up a different weapon so caution is recommended if you want to keep it. Much like the traditional “P” powerups that increase your current weapons strength you can pick up more of the same weapon to boost its strength.

You’ll need every bit of that firepower and some fast reflexes if you plan to make it through each level though. A large reason for this outside of being supped up for the various boss encounters is the dynamic difficulty system. The better you do at defeating enemies quickly without getting taken out the higher your rank will increase to as well as your high scores. Along with it you also increase a score multiplier and your enemy’s strength which makes things intensely more interesting. On a few occasions I found myself in the zone managing an x10 multiplier which is good for me as I often range in the 6-8 multiplier range depending on the rank. Players can find themselves anywhere between G at your lowest to S at your best.

The lower your rank the less enemies and bullets you will encounter but that also limits your ability to earn higher scores to place yourself against the world’s best players. No matter what rank you find yourself in during your combat there is always that chance that you will take on way more damage than you planned to. Of course FPDE has your back with Berserker mode to give you a fighting chance with reduced damage from enemies and restored health if you can manage to not get hit. This makes Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype Definitive Edition a lot more accessible to newcomers as it a bit more forgiving than other games in this same genre.

As a new player myself I was blown away by how smoothly and crisp Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype Definitive Edition looks and plays in this pinnacle version. The biggest thing that I love is how smoothly this game runs at 60fps on my PS4 Pro which is a must for all the bullets, explosions and shifting locales you’ll be fighting your way through. Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype Definitive Edition is presented in a semi 2.5D style that for the most part looks great. I loved the level designs and more importantly the boss designs because lets be real this is where the real fun is. The music and audio for the game really rounds out the experience with awesome electronic music and sound effects including voiceover work.

There is plenty of replay value to keep you playing Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype Definitive Edition including the leaderboards for all of you with a competitive streak. There are plenty of weapon and special unlocks you can earn as well as challenges to complete. You’ll also need to hunt down the secret keys as I mentioned to unlock the rest of the stages for a total of 10 stages. So if you love horizontal side-scrolling shoot’em ups then you’ve got to check out Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype Definitive Edition for the PlayStation 4 today.

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Supraland Review – PlayStation 4

Childhood can be one of the greatest times in a person’s life. It’s a time when imagination and wonder can blossom into crazy ideas and epic stories as you use what you have at hand no matter your walk of life. As I dove into Supraland for the PlayStation 4 I couldn’t help but get some childhood vibes as I explored this first-person sandbox adventure. Plus when you market this game’s design inspiration from the like of Metroidvania, Portal and Zelda what could possibly be better than that?

You play as the child of the King of the Red Kingdom who is called to solve your side’s water shortage problem caused by the people of Blue Ville. What is most interesting is that your world is found within the literal sandbox of a real child. Supraland at its heart is definitely an adventure that encourages exploration as I quickly discovered.  Which means you’re going be spending a lot of time searching every nook and cranny to find every coin, ability, powerup and tool.

For starters there are 6 Golden Barrels hidden throughout the earlier area of the game. Most of these will reward you with the ability to purchase mandatory tools and essential character upgrades like the Force Cube and a Double Jump. The catch is that you have to use the coins that you collect to purchase these upgrades. That even includes the upgrade ability to carry more coins to purchase upgrades that will cost more than you currently can. As a fan of Metroidvania style games this way of character progression makes things interesting. With each new ability and tool you can go back and reach previously inaccessible heights and depths in each of the areas.

You’ll find yourself climbing, crouching and flinging yourself across zones as you traverse many household items such as erasers, levels, swigs and even plastic building blocks. To your tiny character these items become bridges, platforms and giant towers as well as obstructions like doors and walls. Much of my enjoyment with Supraland comes from its cleverly created puzzles which you’ll need to solve to get past timed mechanics like doors or launch pads. It’s the environmental puzzles that I liked most though as you use the Force Cube not only as solution to pressure plates but a way to a little extra altitude to access some of the trickier locations.

Speaking of tricky, one thing to I constantly had to remember at first is that as you can’t jump very high being so tiny yourself so jumping up on the Force Cube from the ground is out. That means you have to spawn the Cube underneath you as long as space allows. The other thing that I loved to do is drop it on the heads of enemies when timed correctly. Sure you a sword and other ranged weapons but there’s something hilarious about dropping skeletons with a purple box. Another thing that I found a bit tricky is the controls at times is your character’s movement especially when in midair.

Once you get the ability to double jump and triple jump you can actually jump around obstacles. The touchy part is that while changing directions in midair is cool the controls are a little looser than I’d like. This makes it incredibly easy to overshoot platforms and narrowly suspended pathways. Luckily in many situations there are shortcuts that can be activated to shorten your commute should you misstep. Messing up is a part of any game involving puzzle and Supraland is no different. There were multiple times where a puzzle solution was seemingly out of my reach until it dawned on me. That moment of “aha” is something that I’ve always enjoyed and there are plenty of those to be found in Supraland.

Another thing that you’ll find plenty of is the enemies that spawn in the various zones of the game. While it’s simple skeletons at first they will start to throw tougher armored ones at you as well as ranged mages. This seemed to happen as I gained more health as I found powerups in various chests or for purchase in the starting village. If you are like me you will find yourself back in that village a lot as you earn enough coins to purchase those upgrades previously just out of reach. The enemies give Supraland a sense of fantasy danger as well as being a source of money. They do tend to pop up at bad times though often skewing your attempts to solve puzzles. There is however an upgrade that deals with this little issue so it’s only a minor inconvenience.

What I found most interesting is that this whole adventure spanning some 25+ hours was created almost solely by David Münnich which is impressive. The world designs are impressive yet very colorful giving it a great fantasy feel that fans of Zelda young and old will love. I had a lot of fun and found myself constantly marveling at all the nooks and crannies that I found throughout my adventure. There are even several real-world pop-culture references and some awkward real life ones found throughout but many of them brought a smile to my face. The puzzles and even the little side quests that teach you the ropes of the various tools are well done. Though late in the game you’ll have to use a little thought utilizing the mechanics of other tools to figure out their usage.

In the end Supraland was a blast to explore its creatively designed environments with just a few tools to give players the edge they need to figure out their next steps and each new puzzle. The combat while not a primary focus is still interesting and varied as is the enemies that you encounter with even a boss fight or two. This is a great little adventure that doesn’t focus on collectibles but rather exploration that anyone who like a little puzzle solving thrown in will enjoy. Be sure to check out Supraland for the PlayStation 4 for a literal sandbox adventure.

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Clea Review – Switch

Sometimes the best horror games are the kinds that unnerve you though sound alone. I’ve always been a firm believer that atmosphere when used properly can create wonderful tension, dread and suspense. The trouble with horror games is that it’s far too easy to go for the jump-scares. While the original RE2 still to this day gets me every time, there are more to horror games than just the quick scares. So that’s why I jumped at the chance to check out the “jump scare free” survival horror adventure Clea for the Nintendo Switch.

The story of Clea picks up after an interrupted birthday, you’re told to stay put while the maid goes off to investigate the Chaos Servants that have somehow broken free of their confinements. These Chaos Servants will be your main source of enemy as you make your way throughout each part of the mansion. These creepy looking robe wearing servants with grinning faces are the experimented on monsters by Clea’s parents so naturally they want revenge right?

But who really listens to their betters as you quickly decide to investigate yourself with your little brother Ed. The beauty of Clea is that progressing requires puzzle solving, exploration, patience and an acute awareness to your surroundings. Nearly right from the start you are given a bit of foreshadowing to Clea herself as you interact with one of the various objects throughout your creepy adventure.  The catch is that much of the backstory behind Clea’s family secrets must sought after as you try and escape the mansion.

Actually doing this is easier said than done however even taking the game’s overall short length into consideration. The norm for most horror games is that you either have the means in which to protect yourself or you don’t with fleeing as your only recourse. Clea finds itself quite firmly in the latter with only one indirect means of temporary solace in the form of arcane candles. As with any good adventure game you have an inventory system to keep the things you will pick up along the way including said candles. You will even need to combine items together to solve some puzzles. If you find yourself trapped in a room or hall these will cause the Chaos Servants to flee the area. They only last until you switch rooms or floors so it’s best to rely on them as little as possible.

Instead it’s what you see and more importantly what you hear that will help you along the way. Clea is presented in a 2D visual presentation that when not truly evil looking draws you in with its doll like characters. That is unless you’re absolutely terrified of dolls. I have to say that I love the art style as it gives off a Victorian era vibe with the way everyone is dressed especially Clea which goes well with the horror genre. The use of candles for lighting and the darkened halls further increase the mood for the adventure and support the Victorian feel.

One of the mechanics that players can utilize as Clea is the ability to pan left and right of her current position to keep an eye out for the various types of roaming Servants. You can even look under a door while standing in front of it to see what on the other side to avoid being seen. Sight however takes a backseat to the true mechanic of sound in Clea. Sound is not only used to cast dread into your heart but as a means of survival in Clea. Everything you hear and the sounds you make yourself are critical to your chances.

Thanks to Clea’s clodhopper choice of shoes your footfalls resound throughout halls and rooms alike; so much so that Chaos Servants can figure out where you are pretty easily and quickly in some cases. Running is both an option to flee them as well as quickly move through an area but even that’s a double edged sword. Doing so makes even more noise and increases your chances of being caught quicker. However you can make use of closets as your only real place of safety. If you are caught you are toast as its game over or at least until back until your last save point after a single touch of an enemy.

The biggest advantage you have is that you can hear everything as well especially if you are playing with headphones on thanks to the use of 3D sound. It’s extremely useful as you can hear the Servants opening and closing doors as well as coming for you even on other floors. Yeah you aren’t even safe between floors as they will go out of their way to find you. The do give off a feral tell when they are nearby as well as a resounding quickened heartbeat when really close to your position. They however aren’t quite the smartest bunch as they don’t check closets and in a few cases didn’t see me at all in a few terrifying moments of door navigation.

But as unnerving as Clea’s story and gameplay is does it actually live up to its claim of a non-prescript jump scare adventure. Well while I did spook myself on a few occasions, I can happily say that the claims are true. The only scares you’ll likely encounter will be directly tied to your actions and your skillful navigation of the mansion. As you successfully complete each portion of the game you are presented with cutscenes that showcase Clea’s own personal issues which added another layer of morbid intrigue for me. The hardest decision I had playing Clea was if I wanted to play it on my television to better show off the game or to immerse myself deeper with headphones in handheld mode. I’d honestly recommend playing with headphones as it would be a shame to miss out on the great use of 3D sound.

As someone that really enjoys horror games, I love to see all the different ways that developers can instill new life into the genre. 2D games like Clea certainly show there is still plenty of creativity to be utilized and it doesn’t always have to be splashy and visceral to do it. Sound be it music, sound effects and/or ambience when used properly can and will have a lasting impression on a title with me. For Clea I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it even going so far as to try for the challenges of not using closets or being seen at all. If you love to curl up with a creepy game on a dark night with the lights off then check out Clea for the Nintendo Switch.

Vampire’s Fall: Origins Review – Xbox One

The eternal masters of darkness are seemingly on the rise again in the gaming industry with various gaming genres seeking to get a fanged bite of the action this year. While I have my heart set on one franchise in particular, I’ll sadly have to wait a bit longer. Luckily another developer by the name of Early Morning Studio is here to deliver some vampire goodness with the release of Vampire’s Fall: Origins for the Xbox One.

Many of my favorite vampire games are the kind where you find yourself afflicted with a taste for blood after a tragic or unforeseen event. Such is the case of Vampire’s Fall, as you are recruited to help defend the village of Vamp’Ire from the oncoming evil army led by the Witchmaster years after the death of the last King. Right off the bat I got a sense of foreboding as the village warden sends you out to deal with various issues as a form of training which is all you’ll get in the way of a tutorial. Then in a complete railroad move you are sent to face the Witchmaster one-on-one where you are completely decimated.

You wake up in the ruins of the village with a need to feed as your new nature takes hold. You’ll find yourself given the choice to feed on a rat or one of the human bodies lying around you. This is one of the first story choices on your path to becoming a hero or a scourge like the Witchmaster. Before your meal choice and everything else though you have to customize your character with the handful of options across categories like hair, complexion, and eye color as well as gender.

The option I liked most during the customization was the ability to choose a human lineage from the four options: Nosferatu, Magistrav, Ranjeni and Equides. Not only does it give a little roleplaying backstory to your character’s story but also a stat bonus in the form of drops or boons like items or XP gain. Equides was my first pick as it helps out with leveling up as you’ll find out you’ll be doing a fair bit of grinding to progress through this game. Once you get make your way out of the ruins of Vamp’Ire that was your past life you’re new nature is given the name Vampire by the unsettling healer outside as you set out to find your place in the world for better or worse.

The world of Vampire’s Fall: Origins is interesting and fairly straightforward with its design. This largely comes from the fact that this title was originally a mobile game brought to your television. What this means for the console player is that you won’t find yourself sitting and waiting for load screens outside of loading up your save file. Everywhere you go in Origins can be seen from the map screen as you uncover more and more of it. Shop NPCs and quest givers are always outside so you’re able to progress your quests fairly easy as well as buy and sell quickly.

Traversing the world is fairly smooth with the left analog stick in a Diablo-style manner as it is presented in an isometric design. You’re able to roam freely though you will come across random enemy encounters while outside of towns similar to early Final Fantasy games. Along with the main quest to seek your vengeance on the Witchmaster you’ll come across various side quests that usually send you off to dispatch some foe or another. While that part is pretty standard fare the quest dialogue itself make up for much of the repetition that you’ll encounter. Some of their reasons for being in their current predicaments as well as you’re responses are amusing to say the least. Even the default name of your character is a humorous nod to much older vampire media.

If there is anything that takes some getting used to in Vampire’s Fall: Origins it is in the controls when it comes to conversations, menus, map interaction and more importantly combat. Perhaps my biggest issue is the map screen which I use often to check quest locations. You move the cursor around the map with the right analog stick to pan around the map which is fine. The trouble comes when trying to zoom in and out on the map as you have to press down on the same right stick while moving up or down on it which makes for an awkward option.

When it comes to menus they are pretty decent primarily utilizing the bumpers and triggers to quickly navigate them with little issue after a while. There is one menu and feature that I found interesting which is mapped to the right trigger. By pressing RT you can choose from various health potions accompanied by timers. What you won’t find out until you use this feature is that the higher the timer the stronger the potion is on replenishment as it doesn’t tell you that until after it’s crafted. You can however drink the potion immediately from the RT menu or stow it for later in an available potion slot. Interestingly enough you cannot use potions will in combat so you’re in for some intense battles ahead.

Combat itself is presented in an old school turn-based style where you take turns attacking each other. You have the three categories of Control, Instinct and Weapons to select from. These categories contain the abilities that you will unlock over time as you play the game and spend upgrade points that you earn when leveling up. Weapons are pretty straightforward and the quickest way to deal damage. You can turn the tides however with either the Control or Instinct categories, as they can give you a needed buff or cause some damage over time with some your vampiric abilities.

The balance is that all of these choices consume Focus. You get a certain amount of Focus at the beginning of each battle and you’ll regen a smaller amount at each turn. Every three turns however you get the chance to dish out some serious damage chaining together different attacks and abilities as long as your Focus allows which is cool. What took some time to get a hang of was that your choices in each category are all mapped to the D-pad. While it makes for quick inputs it’s quite a bit different than what I’ve been used to.

Sometimes trying something familiar a different way can be fun though. While Vampire’s Fall: Origins started its life as a mobile game it still works quite well on the Xbox One as well. There are ways to customize your character even more with the use of in-game gold but you’ll have to wait a while as all of them cost quite a bit. While there may have been micro transactions before, they are not found here so you’ll gain a sense of achievement when you earn enough gold for that flashy pair of wings or helmet.

I enjoyed the mix of the dark Diablo-esque visual presentation with turn-based combat systems of my youth. While it has a few questionable control mapping issues the game is quite functional. The written dialogue and music was enjoyable enough to keep me interested between fights as well as the choices you get to make. If you like vampires and old-school RPGs then you’ll want to check out Vampire’s Fall: Origins for the Xbox One.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning Review – Xbox One

The year was 2012 and I had my eyes set on two wildly different titles early that year. One was the conclusive chapter in a spacefaring saga and the other was what sounded like an epic fantasy RPG that I couldn’t wait to play. Fast forward eight years and that rather enjoyable RPG has returned under new ownership with the release of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning for the Xbox One. This remastered version of the Xbox 360 title promised improvements on what is still one of my favorite titles from that generation.

But before I dig into those improvements, a little backstory is owed to any potential newcomers to the world of Amalur. Set in the Faelands of Amalur, you find that you kicked the bucket sometime before the start of the game. You’ll get to choose your race after a brief cutscene from one of the four available: noble humans Almain and nomadic humans Varani as well as the Ljosalfar (Light) and Dokkalfar (Dark) elves. Like any traditional RPG each one has various racial bonuses to levy into your decision.

Having left this mortal coil, you are brought back to life through an experiment at the gnomish Well of Souls. You have no memory of who you were before as you wake up in a pile of corpses. Soon after the main enemies of the game, the Tuatha Deohn, show up having found the Well of Souls by some means. As its only success you have to flee in a tutorial style romp through its depths to reach Fomorous Hugues and your way out into the world. By this time you should have accrued just enough XP to earn your first level with skill and ability points in tow.

This is one of the things that I liked most about this game is its lack of the use of a traditional class system. While the groundwork for the staples of warrior, mage and rogue do exist within Re-Reckoning’s Destiny system you are not beholden to those classes. At the “Fateless One” your choices for the game are ultimately your own to make including being able to allocate earned points into the Might, Sorcery and Finesse ability trees. By allocating enough points into one, two or all three trees and you will unlock new Destinies with their own bonuses to utilize. If you think you messed up or want to try other Destinies then you can reset your points at a Fateweaver for a cost.

As being a being unburdened with an eventual fate, you can change the very lives of all those around you. This goes even beyond hard quest choices or the morality of stealing everything in sight. Everything you do or don’t do has a consequence even if you decide to off almost everyone in the game. Some folk like main quest givers and various others cannot be killed as it would break the main focus of the adventure. If you do choose to take that path, you can and will fail or completely miss out on side quests that you could have done otherwise.

With a title that revolves around the idea of fates, one question does remain. Did the improvements they made revitalize this originally flawed gem or is it fated to repeat itself? As someone pretty familiar with the original release, I definitely noticed some much desired improvements. For starters they fixed the sound mixing issue where spoken dialogue was too low resulting in having to turn up the volume. All too often my ears would start ringing as soon as I initiated combat having forgot to turn it back down. That luckily is fixed as everything is now balanced out with the audio.

Visually this remaster looks a fair bit more detailed than before. There are moments where it does show its age in various cutscenes like the first one as well as some environmental ones. That said there is a new level of vibrancy in the world and its characters with better looking shadows, cleaner edges and textures on armors and weapons and sharper detail on foliage. This is a nice improvement because the fantasy art style of Amalur was already pretty good in the first place thanks to Todd McFarlane’s direction.

As with the original, Re-Reckoning also has the same weird camera angles when talking to people. At first it made sense since you were talking to gnomes who are of course shorter than the other races. But it still doesn’t stop there as you appear to be looking down on people who are the same height as you. It doesn’t happen all the time but enough that it’s noticeable. It isn’t a dead breaker but still something that’s continued to bother me. The menu system is also unchanged from the original version which is something I wish was refined. It may take newcomers a bit to get accustomed to its methodology as its still tricky as it was before with cascading categories within menus as you’ll find out.

Combat at first appeared to be untouched aside from a smoother framerate during combat. For me the combat was like riding a bike again after years without as I was able to effortlessly jump right back in. Certain weapons do take a little while to get used to especially when you start unlocking new combos and abilities. As I learned the hard way years ago you can use pretty much almost any weapon but some you will find are suited for each of the three ability trees. While I really dug the animation and combat of the Chakrams, I found out that they favor the Sorcery line over the Rogue that I find myself going with. What I did enjoy was that they did add the ability to now slot eight abilities with the use of the triggers instead of the original four. This made using the various abilities you unlock a lot more flexible in combat.

Flexibility is nice so while there are some limitations to certain armors and weapons based on your choices in the Might, Finesse and Sorcery trees there are 9 different weapon types to try throughout Amalur. Depending on which race and subsequent skills you choose you can even forge new equipment or repair existing ones through blacksmithing. You can take that gear up a notch by utilizing Sagecraft to socket gems into them to gain new bonuses that are to your liking.

You won’t have to dive into that aspect of the game right away though as there is a slew of armor and weapons waiting for you in the first town of Gorhart. It’s here that you will find all of weapons that were released at various times during the original’s release. Yes that even includes the crossover armor set and weapons inspired by Mass Effect originally earned by playing the demos prior to release. You also get all the DLC in the form of The Legend of Dead Kel and the Teeth of Naros at the heart of it all. Both of these story DLC feature the inability to travel back to the main game until after a certain point in their story. They do however offer players new weapons, armor, items and even new Twists of Fates for the Destiny system.

During this new trip down memory lane, I have to say that they did a good job breathing new life into it. It’s not without its pre-exiting issues that carried over from the last generation like load times but it may not appeal to newcomers used to snappier transitions. I did encounter a bit of framerate issues at times but nothing that hindered anything drastically during my playthrough. Speaking of new life there is even a new expansion called Fatesworn slated to release in 2021 continuing your story even further.

What this will mean for the longevity of a game that I’ve wanted a follow up to is yet to be revealed but until then I’m pretty happy with this remaster. With the amount of content at your fingertips, returning fans can dive back in and try something new like choosing new combat paths or story choices and newcomers can just enjoy this adventure for the first time. If you enjoy titles like the early Fable games or just good old fantasy RPGs then you have to check out Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning for the Xbox One today.

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