Category Archives: Game Reviews

Re:Turn 2 – Runaway Review – PC

Okay, before I start the review there is something I should mention immediately for transparency. Re:Turn 2 – Runaway is very much a sequel. It picks up immediately from where the previous game ended and as such, if you go in without the context the previous game provides you will be missing a lot of story flow. This isn’t like, say… Resident Evil 8, FNaF: Sister Location, or Mario Kart 7 where you can go in without having played the previous games. You will be confused.

Trust me, I speak from experience.

The game does its best to fill you in, but it’s obvious there’s some stuff you’ll be missing if you go in blind. This review is coming from the perspective of someone who has done that. Keep that in mind going forward!

Now, that being said, let’s get into it.

Re:Turn 2 – Runaway is the story of a woman called Saki and her husband-to-be, Sen. In the previous game, they made the fatal mistake of going camping in a horror game with a bunch of their friends and are now being harassed by a spooky ghost girl in an evil haunted train. All of Saki’s friends are dead but Sen is still alive, but there’s the caveat that he is pretty thoroughly “whammied”, a term I use to mean “driven mad, possessed, or otherwise mentally acting out of sorts due to external supernatural influence”.  At least I assume he’s been whammied. Otherwise, he just seems like a terrible choice for a S.O.

So, your fiancé’s gone bonkers, your friends are dead, and you’re the only one who wants to get off the train due to the aforementioned whammied boyfriend. There’s also a spooky shadow monster patrolling the halls of the train that wants to murder you in the gut.  The gameplay is pretty straightforward. 2D, run back and forth, find items, use them on things to learn more about why you’re stuck here, solve puzzles, don’t die. A single hit from a monster will kill you, but luckily you can run and hide and do a dodge roll to avoid attacks.

The inventory has vague Resident Evil vibes but is more puzzle than management. You can pick up and combine items, but there’s no resources or finite space to manage. Death comes pretty fast sometimes but save points are pretty liberally placed so that’s not a huge problem if you save frequently.

The story intrigued me, honestly! There are a few chapters where you flashback to an earlier time and get a better idea of what made the whole place go all evil and you gt to see the train in all of its glory, which were really some pretty good sections, and gives some good opportunities to show off the fancy pixel art.

That’s something else I should mention though. This game looks and sounds pretty darn good. Cutscenes are animated and look great, every line in the game is fully voice acted, there’s even this effect where if you turn off your flashlight your character’s eyes adjust to what light is in the area you’re in, so you can kind of see stuff around you instead of seeing whatever’s directly in front of you with great detail.  There’s a lot of care put into this game.

That being said, there’s a few weird issues that stuck out to me.   The most noticeable ones were the fact that the mouse doesn’t disappear when you play the game. You can always just hide it offscreen, but the cursor doesn’t seem to be programmed to do anything, not even navigate through menus. Additionally, when doing things like scrolling through the inventory, only the left arrow key seems to do anything. WASD works fine, but the arrow keys do not. I thought this was an issue that could be fixed with keyboard rebinding but there’s no key rebinding available.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that the achievements do spoil a couple major plot events. I suppose these could also double as content warnings if you want to take a look, so I will leave those up to you at your discretion.

The game also has some slightly obtuse puzzles and interactions. It’s not a huge issue to try and use everything on every other available thing just to see if there’s an interaction you missed, but it can be a little frustrating when you, for example, use a rock hammer on a bit of flavor description of a tree and this somehow produces a diary page. I will say this is only the most memorable instance, others are less bad.

There’s also the fact that, for some reason, your sprint meter is only 75% as useful as it shows. When you get down to 25% sprint, your speed will actually decrease if you try sprinting past that point. It’s not a huge issue to work around it, it’s just kind of extremely puzzling of a choice in my opinion.

Despite these quirks, I found the game enjoyable. Good visuals, interesting plot, lots of care put into things like voice acting. And also, most importantly, you can pet the cat.

This War of Mine: Final Cut Review – PlayStation 5

Everyone knows that stories are powerful, but stories that you co-create seem to stick to your bones and walk with you throughout your day. This War of Mine: Final Cut is a feature-complete version of the 2014 critically acclaimed survival sim that puts you in control of a small group of survivors in a besieged city. The artwork is grim, the decisions you make are desperate, and with each scenario, you lose a bit more hope that tomorrow will be better than today. The experience is so potent that the Prime Minister of Poland added This War of Mine to the official reading list for high schoolers in 2020 and 2021. What exactly is the constellation of systems and mechanics that makes this game so effective?

You are not a super soldier, instead, you manage three civilians in the standard mode who are tasked with surviving until the siege ends in their city. This Final Cut version also includes other curated story modes which have the 3 previously released DLC curated narratives. Far and away the best is The Last Broadcast. However, I preferred the standard mode as it let me make my own story. Each scenario starts with a brief setup via a text block that explains the current situation and who is living in the house that you now control. The goal is to survive as many days as it takes for the conflict to end and for the higher forms of government to bring back stability to civilization. In the meantime, you will forge, build, steal, and survive until hope once again breaks through your bleak circumstances.

Each day is split into two parts, daytime and nighttime. During the daytime you’ll eat, nap, construct new workstations that unlock more sophisticated items and try to sustain your small troop of survivors. Occasionally you’ll be visited by people looking to trade or asking for help. A word to the wise is to always utilize the traders as you won’t be able to construct high level gear without their help. After you’ve prepared and maintained your shelter, you can either time-skip to the nighttime or a clock will reach sunset.

Nighttime is when burglars can come, and you can go steal or forage from others. You’ll select one person to go on a raid and post the other two to either sleep or guard the house. Even if you post a guard, it doesn’t mean you won’t be raided, and they run the risk of getting injured. It’s the nighttime raids that put you in high-intensity situations. Shortly after breaking into a house, I was seen by an old man who begged me to leave or at least leave his wife’s medicine. I had already stolen it and I was afraid he was going to attack me, so I ran away.

The second instance that stuck with me was looting at a school. I had two sick survivors back at my base. We desperately needed more food and bandages when a man started chasing me through the building. I wasn’t sure if he had a weapon, but I turned and stabbed him before he could attack. After running back to my base, I felt such a sense of weight as I considered how my house would eat at the expense of others. It’s such a profound game full of split-second decisions that haunt you in a good way.

You will interact with the world from the “ant-colony” view of a dissected house. My only complaint is that when daytime is ticking by, and I am trying to select the oven, it became difficult to wrestle with the controls until I executed what I was intending to interact with. It pains me to say, but a touch screen interface would be better in some cases.

From just one screenshot you can see the art design of a bombed-out city with buildings on their last legs houses hiding alcoves of resources and survivors. It’s a clean and effective visual that is accented by the soundtrack of a lone guitar and a somber symphony.

This War of Mine sat in my backlog for years, and I’m sad I hadn’t dusted it off until now. While the studio seems to keep updating and releasing the game, it’s safe to say that now is a timely point in history to play a game about a besieged city in this region of the world. I will never forget some of the split-second decisions I made and regret. I would argue that it’s more than a hidden gem hiding in your backlog, it’s one of the best stories you’ve yet to participate in. If you are ready to have your heart broken in the best possible way, This War of Mine Final Cut is waiting to show you the real face of war.

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Decision: Red Daze Review – PC

Ever since Night of The Living Dead, zombies in pop culture has been a relevant topic, especially in gaming, where players have seen numerous variations of zombie outbreaks and the virus’ that cause them, all done differently from the way they play to the way they look. Nevertheless, only a few like The Last of Us stand out as the top dog when it comes down to it. Decision: Red Daze is the next title to take a crack at the formula in an attempt to take the crown as the top zombie outbreak RPG.

The plot is something everyone has heard of in most zombie outbreak stories. The player plays as an unnamed character who works through quests to overcome the outbreak by recruiting members, building defenses, and looting for much-needed equipment like food and first aid. One of the more unique aspects of the game is the transmitter, which creates a defensive field around your bases and can have varying effects but mainly protects the base from the red mist. Otherwise, a very generic zombie RPG title that is truly nonlinear and rewards the player for trying new paths.

Red Daze combat isn’t difficult to master. You have your melee weapons for close combat and your firearms for distance. Each has their own stats and the player can become proficient with each use of said weapon. The stamina bar is what players use to continuously use to attack, run, and search for loot. The player can use food to regain stamina or sleep to become rested which helps regain stamina. Players also have to watch for the exhaustion bar which dictates how quickly you regain stamina and affects the stats of the controlled character.

The people you recruit as you explore the wasteland have a lot of benefits. Each character has their own primary job like engineer or soldier. Once recruited, the player has two options. The first option is to take them to a base to help maintain and defend. The other option is to have them tag along and make a squad of elite scavengers, as the player reclaims the wasteland. The AI is not the best, as they tend to run out of their way to fight hordes of the undead and lag behind by several meters, sometimes even standing still as the numbers of the undead multiplied.

The base building and gameplay is the highlight feature of Red Daze. Once the player has established a base they are required to build up its defenses. Turrets defend the perimeter and the transmitter keeps the red mist at bay. The player then uses crafting tables and med bays to build needed supplies to help the upkeep of the base like food and meds. Other characters help defend and up the bases as you recruit them, which breathes life into the ever endless world. As the bases buzz with life, players learn that they must also defend them from waves of enemies at times, similar to Fallout 4.

Red Daze leaves a lot to be desired in the graphics department, but they still have a sense of purpose. The environments blend in after a while, but that is not a bad thing. It brings an empty dystopia and makes the surroundings feel truly endless and even uneasy at times. This helps create a gritty and dark atmosphere. While the music and sound effects could still use some work, the voice acting is quite good with the quality of each performance varied from ok to great and overall was fantastic.

There are a lot of issues plaguing the game currently. One big issue is that stamina needs a big workover. Players can run only a few meters away or get into a small fight and would already need to eat or rest. On top of that, sleeping is required so that the characters can recover energy or not be affected by negative stats. The problem with that is, even after resting several times back to back, the bars can barely move or not move at all. Another issue players will run into is finding recruits and leading them around, they tend to fall behind or make terrible decisions like attacking a mob of zombies just to be surrounded.

Decision: Red Daze leaves a lot to be desired. Plagued with bugs and issues on every front, the game can seem unplayable at times. The AI’s need a few tweaks as well as the stamina system. The base system is one of the most functional parts and helps keep the current state of the game afloat. Once they work on the above issues, I believe Red Daze will be a welcoming contribution to everyone’s library.

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Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit Review – PC

Having worked many years in the video game industry including stints at Sierra Online and LucasArts, I can safely say that Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit is a refreshing return to the glory days of point-and-click adventure games.  Telltale did an admirable job at keeping the genre afloat for nearly a decade, but developer, Tag of Joy really nails the essence of 3D adventure gaming in looks, story, puzzles, and overall atmosphere, and they totally commit to the point-and-click by only supporting mouse and keyboard.

The story is pretty basic, almost cliché at this point, where we meet up with Milda who lives in Chicago, but after inheriting an old house in Lithuania, sets off to Europe to claim her new home and triggers a surprising epic adventure.  Her grandfather’s house is loaded with clues all leading to some 15th century relic that will have you exploring all sorts of real-world European locales, solving puzzles, and avoiding a dangerous foe.

As with any game of this type, the basic loop is to enter a scene, interact with everything you can, take everything you can, and exhaust any conversation trees with any characters that happen to be around.  While most of the puzzles are fairly straightforward several are quite specific in their solution, often to the point of defying logic.  One of the early puzzles had me trying to silence a guy playing the trumpet in the park.  The obvious solution was to put some chewing gum in the instrument after distracting him (there is even a hint about him “blowing bubbles”), and while that is certainly a valid tactic, the game wants you to jump through about ten more steps to solve this puzzle with a much more complicated solution buried in layers of conversation.  The pacing of the gameplay often stumbles in certain points where you are either presented with puzzles with no hints at solving them or these more elaborate situations with very linear solutions you must stumble upon to solve.

Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit is visually pleasing with some fantastic art and a storybook presentation.  For most of the game you are exploring static screens or areas you can walk around and move the cursor until it indicates something you can interact with, or you can tap the spacebar and all hotspots will be revealed.  I’ve personally outgrown these pixel-hunt games, so the hotspot reveal is a great feature for me to simply experience the game at a comfortable pace.  Most spots allow multiple interactions such as examine, use, or take, and you will find yourself with a nice inventory of items that mostly serve a purpose either alone or after being combined with something else.   The art and animation is simplistic and fun with some great detail in the scenery and great use of color blending, lighting, shadows, and some fun animation tricks with scrolling backgrounds.  The audio is also outstanding with some great voice acting, fun sound and environmental effects, and an amazing soundtrack written by Daniel Pharos.

The adventure genre has a lot of competition on Steam, but Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit manages to standout, even against some of the bigger titles like the new Syberia game.  Expect about 6-8 hours to complete this adventure, which is clearly setting up the obligatory sequel.  I did find the pacing a bit off in the final act where, after a nice leisurely adventure, things started to seem rushed.  The Lithuanian setting was an interesting and unique choice, and I may have unintentionally learned a few things about the country and the lore; meanwhile the characters all provided their own unique elements that added to the immersion.  Even simple character stuff like Milda choosing the right outfit from my closet to get a job was fun.

There is definitely a lot of adventurous fun waiting for you with Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit.  With its engaging story told through gorgeous hand-painted art, interesting characters, and some top-quality voice acting, this is one adventure you won’t want to miss out on.

If you’d like to see the game in action we have the first two hours of gameplay available on our YouTube channel complete with commentary and spoilers.  Enjoy!

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No Place Like Home Review – PC

With farm simulators like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon, competition has a hard time keeping up. No Place Like Home is the next one to challenge the top dogs and it brings a lot to the table. It is not perfect but can be a great addition for those waiting for the next DLC or title to come out. There is plenty of mystery included with this one as well.

No Place Like Home has the player step into the shoes of Ellen, who before leaving Mars, wanted to visit her grandfather’s farm one last time. Earth has become full of pollution and trash which has forced mankind to leave the Earth. Once Ellen makes it to the farm, she realizes it is abandoned and in ruin. She finds Cornelius, a talking chicken, who explains that her grandfather is out on a mysterious quest. Ellen decides she needs to find out what happened and help clean up the farm as well. As Ellen cleans up more and finds more characters hidden behind all the trash, she begins to get bits of information about her grandfather.

The tutorial is one of the best to be seen for a while. The player follows a straight road and is instructed by the road signs that easily explain what and how to do things. One of the best tutorials played as it keeps things short and simple but does a great job helping the player absorb the information. The gameplay is similar to Subnautica and Stardew Valley. Use the environment around you to build and create useful items that allow for longer and further exploration. The player will use an environmental vacuum called the suck-o-matic to absorb the garbage out of you and to craft items and building materials. The vacuum is used to combat enemies as well and can be upgraded to better its stats. The player also has an inventory belt to quickly swap between objects and a sack to contain a large portion of the player’s inventory.

Planting is easy and I was (unfortunately) happy that I didn’t have to tend to them every day, as I could just hose them down with ungodly amounts of water (I was so sad to see the animation for watered plants!) and be on my way until an indeterminate amount of time later when I’d notice they had grown. Planting seeds and watering can be a little awkward at times. Sometimes you will try to plant seeds in one spot but end up accidentally planting them in another, while with watering, you can overwater and have the seeds not need any additional watering for the long haul.

If players do not want to work through the progression of the quests or item unlocking, there is also a creative mode. Creative mode removes the quest, unlocks everything, and makes all items accessible. This allows players to try different things and get an idea of what they would like to do in their main playthrough. Otherwise, if players want to wait until they have completed all quests and unlocked everything, then they can have a fun second playthrough with no strings attached in creative mode.

Quests are mainly used for two things, interacting with NPCs and progressing the story. Interacting with NPCs for quests are the only interaction you really have with all the NPCs. NPCs otherwise just stand in the same spot for all of eternity. Players can befriend animals which helps fill in the world as it seems cold and empty. That does not mean there is not plenty to do, and the world has no love. The world has been stained by games like Stardew Valley, where players want to maximize interactions with NPCs and max out friendships with a unique system. No Place Like Home makes the player realize that it is about the gameplay and manipulating your environment in your own way.

There are a few issues with No Place Like Home players will run into. The sleeping action just turns the screen from night to day with a large wake up hitting the player. There are glitches everywhere that make the player unable to move or teleport them across the map into the unknown. Lots of typos and misspellings, and no sound to certain actions like opening a door are a few the player may encounter. These, of course, do not make the game unplayable and can be easily fixed with a few patches. Otherwise, it can still be played even if there are no fixes anytime soon.

There is a ton to love about No Place Like Home for an Indie title. The suck-o-matic gives a great twist to the farm/survival genre. Not being required to sleep can be beneficial in some aspects as well. It does come with a few glitches that over time will be a distant memory as you enjoy breathing life into the farm. After some much-needed TLC, No Place Like Home will surely be a great addition to the genre.

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Ghost on the Shore Review – PC

Ghost on the Shore is yet another walking simulator masquerading as an adventure game that puts you in the shipwrecked shoes of Riley, stranded on an island loaded with lore, secrets, and hidden history waiting to be uncovered.  Along for the ride is Josh, a disembodied ghost that provides some delightful conversation and banter along with some useful historical facts about the island and its former inhabitants.Similar to games like Gone Home and Firewatch, Ghost on the Shore basically has you walking around all sorts of creative locations searching for anything that glitters indicating something you can interact with, rotate, examine, or maybe just a picture to look at or a document to read.  Riley will even get to showcase her own artistic talents by frequently sketching specific locations in the world and adding her own creative touches.

Riley will get to shape her journey mostly through her interactions with Josh, and those decisions can lead to various outcomes for the game.  The conversation flow between Riley and Josh is actually quite special thanks to some wonderful voice acting by the two leads.  As you get further into the game, you’ll start to learn about both of the main characters, their pasts, and their motivation moving forward.  Dialogue choices are delightfully subtle at times with no way to predict the outcome of your choices, and you only get one shot at any given response, so choose your words carefully.

Eventually the game will diverge into one of four possible branches based on your relationship with Josh at the moment.  These all lead to four unique endings which, despite a lot of overlap in early gameplay, adds some replayability to the game if you want to see all possible endings.  A single casual pass through the game is 4-5 hours, but the way the branching works you cannot start from a save to see the other endings.  You have to replay and make difference choices.  Ghost on the Shore has an auto-save and no chapter saves, so if you miss something you really can’t go back for missed items.

Visually, Ghost on the Shore has a distinct artistic style that reminded me of early Borderlands; lots of low-poly models, flat shaded textures, and large swatches of landscape tiles dotted with various structures to explore.  Controls are simply and a controller works just as good as a mouse and keyboard for moving around and interacting with the world.  There is a lot of reading and a lot of listening, and I was annoyed that the game locks you into place while listening to recordings, many of which can go on for minutes.

Ghost on the Shore offers a very leisurely adventure game experience with limited inventory and virtually no puzzle-solving.  It’s a big world of discovery and enlightenment and a bit of relationship building with Josh.  For me, the whole Riley/Josh dynamic was what held my interest; especially when it became clear just how much a part of the island Josh was becoming.  This is definitely one of those games where you can sit back and relax and enjoy some interactive fiction.  There’s not a lot to tax your brain when it comes to actual gameplay, but there is a solid emotional drama waiting to be uncovered if you choose to explore the world of Ghost on the Shore.

You can see Ghost on the Shore in action in our first look video along with commentary.

Lumote: The Mastermote Chronicles Review – PC

Man, the ocean is kind of terrifying. I mean, sure it starts out all fine for the first few dozen feet or so, but have you ever just thought about what’s down there? How much of it there is? And how much of that water is just full of… nothing? How things get weirder and weirder the deeper you go? I mean, yes, sometimes you see beautiful things like jellyfish, or a pretty glowy speck in front of you, but then you remember how dangerous jellyfish can be, or that the speck in front of you is the lure of a female anglerfish and the rest of them resemble less of a fish and more the head of the robots from Five Nights at Freddy’s 4.

Regardless, there are some delightful and weird creatures living in the depths of the ocean. Take, for example, the sea angel, or nudibranches, both of whom are very squishy wonderful little guys. Not to mention the numerous glow-in-the-dark creatures that don’t look like they were designed by Scott Cawthon. Some nudibranches even look like bunnies!

Luckily, the world design of Lumote: The Mastermote Chronicles is based more on the latter category than the former. In the game, you play as Lumote, a small squishy thing that looks like a sea cucumber and sounds like a small child. The world they live in, normally a nice shade of blue, has turned into a dangerous looking shade of red controlled by an entity known as the Mastermote. And as every game in the history of ever has taught us, red things are bad, so you’ve got to go fix it (At least that’s what I could glean from the website and Steam page; the story in this game really isn’t super important).

Your controls are simple: you can run. You can jump. You can double jump. And you can sit on things. This last one is where the game’s mechanics really start to come into play. The various levels are dotted with purple patches of flowers. When Lumote sits on one, things happen! Generally, this means that blue energy (which will now be referred to as simply capital-B Blue) radiates out from you along the paths in the level and interfaces with things, powering things up, chasing away the Scary Red Energy (which likewise will now be called Red) and eventually power the exit so you can continue to the next area.

Of course, if you stop sitting on flowers, you will no longer be powering them. So you need to find a way to make the things stay powered and chase the Red away. Luckily, these cube-like creatures called Dumbats, one of many other inhabitants of the world, will hold a charge when you sit on their flower, and emit it into any flower they themselves are sitting on. There’s also these platforms that are actually bioluminescent colonies of worms that stretch when exposed to Blue or Red, although if they are Red they will shy away from you or anything else charged with Blue.

It’s a puzzle game, so experimenting with how these various props and tools interact with each other is the main gameplay loop. Your goal in each stage is to figure out how to open the flower gate that will let you progress. This is always done by making sure the plant in front of it is charged completely with Blue and no Red, but getting to that point is the tricky part, and explaining it in text is perhaps even more difficult.

Gameplaywise, it works pretty darn well, I think. The game introduces new mechanics and creatures gradually and slowly, for the most part, doing a good job of helping you figure out one way to use a given creature’s abilities and habits with experimentation. There’s not a whole lot of tricky platforming or anything, meaning most of the game’s difficulty comes from the puzzles. And they’re good puzzles! They feel quite satisfying to solve, and each time you do you get to see the Blue flow through the level and push the Red into retreat.

I’m about 25% through the game, and there’s not really enemies or health, although you do die if you fall off the level or accidentally crush yourself, which resets the puzzle you’re on. This is only a brief setback, and in my experience only happens by mistake than the developers explicitly trying to kill you. No restarting a level dozens of times so you can make that perfect jump or anything. I would also like to mention how the game, despite being 3D, feels casual and easy to pick up whenever you just want to vibe and solve some puzzles. The controls feel responsive, and puzzles only take a few minutes to solve each, so playing it doesn’t feel like a huge time commitment. Kinda reminded me of a game called A Monster’s Expedition Through Puzzling Exhibitions in that way.

Also, in case it wasn’t clear from the screenshots: the game is beautiful. It’s themed around the various squishy colorful glowy creatures in the ocean, as previously mentioned, and I want to hug all of them. There’s also an element of the Tron aesthetic of “dark primary colors with glowy blue or red accents” which is always a fun palette, even more so on squishy organic things instead of smooth electronic ones.

There’s also the fact that the game is one long winding path in a single massive room. You can look up or down at any point to see all the blue areas you’ve already completed above you, and all the scary red ones beneath you that are yet to come. It’s really fun just to look around and see all that progress splayed out around you, twisting into the abyss. The game even has a built in photo mode that you can use to look around and fully appreciate the environment.

The whole thing is set to this vaguely watery synthy ambient music. It changes slightly based on your surroundings, and creatures will add little noises and chimes to it as you go about Blueing things, although the Red creatures tend to make more harsh electromechanical “your hard drive’s days are numbered” noises than the smooth ones they make when Blue.

For those of you who like to find secrets, there’s even a series of little collectible relics. As far as I can tell, there’s a little golden statuette tucked away in each level. You can view them in a little gallery in the pause menu. Each statue depicts one of the creatures in the game, and if you collect, say, every dumbat relic, the little golden statue in the pause menu will change to a full colorful 3d model of the creature going about its business. Not to mention each one you collect makes Lumote say “Wooooah…!” in an adorable, hushed voice, which is pretty pleasing of a noise.

There’s a few little complaints I have about this game though. Nothing too major, for the most part it’s thoroughly enjoyable. But right now, I haven’t seen any method available for going back and collecting missed relics. There could be one later in the game, I suppose, but right now I’m just trying very hard not to miss any. Additionally, relic hunters would do well to find each stage’s relic before going to the work of running around and puzzle solving. Some of them are hidden in out of the way locations under the level, and although relics that you collect will stay collected after you die, doing so will still reset the puzzle, and should that happen it can be a bit annoying.

Now onto the minor nitpicky stuff. I just got to a part where they introduced about three new kinds of creatures at once in a single stage. It took me a good few minutes to figure out that this place was actually a mini hub level of sorts that was also introducing teleporting flowers to lead you to off-routes so you could learn how to use each of the things. It’s not something they introduced before and is a bit jarring compared to the rest of the game’s methods of introducing new mechanics.

Additionally, this area has these three large beams that lead off into the distance that you look like you should be able to walk on. It’s not even a huge problem to jump up to them. However, if you travel very far out you simply encounter a kill trigger and die immediately. Like I said, these two are very minor nitpicky issues. I don’t even know if most people would notice or care about either of them.

I’ve been playing for about 2.5 hours, and I think I’m about 25% through, so I estimate it’d take about 8-12 hours to finish, a bit more if you want to go for all the hidden relics. $20 may seem like a bit of a steep price point, perhaps, but there’s a lot of heart put into this game. The puzzles are fun and pretty and all feel really satisfying to solve. It’s a game that’s easy to pick up and put down again and won’t try to skinnerbox you into continuing to play it. That’s $20 going to indie developers instead of letting some billionaire somewhere buy a third yacht. There’s far, far worse ways to spend that $20.

If any of this sounds interesting, I highly suggest you check out the Steam page for more info. It’s got a demo too, in case you want to try it for yourself. Lumote: the Mastermote Chronicles is an overlooked gem, definitely worth the time and money.

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Godfall Ultimate Edition Review – Xbox Series X

Released back in November of 2020 as a PS5 and PC Epic Game Store exclusive, Godfall was met with mixed reviews by gamers and critics alike.  It was an ambitious project to be sure, in scope, scale, and artistic vision, and with great risk comes the potential for great failure – just ask the guys over at Anthem – so when Godfall was met with a tepid response it seemed that, yet another game had extended beyond its reach…or perhaps it was just ahead of its time.  Business analysis aside, it was a bit ridiculous to limit this new release to only one console and one PC delivery service – the wrong one if you ask a few million Steam gamers.  If you have a new product and you want to get it “out there” you don’t limit yourself to the least available console in gaming history nor do you tell thousands of PC gamers that they’ll have to wait over a year to play your game – especially a game with a focus on online co-op.

Regardless of its limited and rocky launch Godfall has finally arrived for the Xbox (and PC Steam) with its new Ultimate Edition, and for those who have been waiting for this day to come your wait may have paid off.  This fully loaded Ultimate Edition comes packed with all the previously released DLC, cosmetic packs, and all the content from the new Exalted Update.  This is the definitive edition of the game that all newcomers should be looking for…assuming you are looking at all.

Keep in mind a lot of the bad social press for this game has been generated by those who couldn’t play the game for the past year.  I dabbled with Godfall when it released on PS5, and I even played around with the PC version.  The game was entertaining enough as far as melee combat games go but lacking any personal motivation to play outside of messing around on friends’ systems I never had the urge to buy or play further.  Now that I am reviewing the Xbox version I found the urge to take a deep dive into all this game has to offer.

I’ve played dozens of third-person brawlers over the years, and none have reached the visual fidelity of Godfall, a game that is all about the lighting and textures and sparkly effects that swirl around treasure and decaying bodies.  The HDR combined with stunning surface detail in both indoor and outdoor locations is definitely a showcase for the power of the Xbox.  Camera work can be tricky in combat; especially if there are multiple opponents, but you can target lock to help maintain focus.  The music, speech, and sound effects all combine to create a thrilling cinematic experience, even in the smaller battles.

This game has so many rules and systems that I will only touch on a few of the most basic.  A flashy intro movie sets up the world and the main conflict that has you, Orin, working out of a central hub known as the Seventh Sanctum.   From here you will assemble customized armors known as Valorplates.  There are twelve such armors, each with passive abilities and your own customized set of skills and weapons.  You can then test your setups in the trailing area before embarking on missions to save the realm from the evil Macros.

Godfall features a massive world map where a variety of story and side missions will pop-up as icons, and most areas can be revisited for grinding out loot and crafting materials.  Whether you are advancing the story or enhancing your character, the main game loop is you merely exploring the land, following waypoints if you want, and engaging in lots and lot of combat.  Combat is actually pretty cool with a growing assortment of attacks and combos all based around the light/heavy attack scheme.  These attacks and their combos are always changing depending on your Valorplate as well as your currently wielded weapon.  I was very impressed with the variety of combat styles and animations based on single-handed weapons versus great swords or even polearms.

Orin is also a master with the shield, able to block and counter attacks if you learn the timing.  Some attacks can’t be blocked and you must simply tumble out of their way.  You can also throw your shield periodically to strike down smaller enemies and stun mid-sized foes, allowing you to rush in and perform a critical hit.  This shield throw is on a cooldown timer so you can’t spam it, but there are numerous upgrades in the skill tree to turn this defensive item into a powerful weapon.

Speaking of skill trees, Godfall has a nice one with actual useful skills and passive upgrades that you can slowly work from all four corners of the page, with each activated skill unlocking those next to it.  When you aren’t mastering new skills there are many deep menus systems in place for tinkering with your Valorplates’ gear, augments, abilities, and even cosmetics.   Primary stats deal with attributes like Might, Spirit, and Vitality which factor in weapons and just about any object you possess.  You’re constantly balancing this three-slice pie into whatever percentages you enjoy as a player and a character.

Sorting through the weapons and ammo can get cumbersome, although you can sort by numerous parameters such as level, DPS, etc. and you have easy access to comparisons with currently equipped gear.  There is also an easy way to mark undesirable items as salvage then clean house with a single button tap.  Honestly, the whole thing comes off feeling like a Diablo game presented from ground level.  You have all the color coded loot for common, uncommon, rare, epic, legendary, etc. and plenty of inventory management.

There are epic amounts of loot in Godfall coming out of dead bodies, opened chests, or smashed jars.  Sadly, the game opts for the more traditional presentation of loot as simple colored orbs with the size and color determining their rarity and worth.  You’ll also collect thousands of Morphstones and hundreds of Valorplate Shards along with other components used for crafting new Valorplates.  Godfall quickly devolves into the simple loop of casual encounters, arena combat and the occasional mid or end-level boss fight.  Between all these encounters you pop into inventory to see if any new items are better than what you have and equip or salvage to make room for fresh loot.  Waypoint markers keep you on track, but you are always free to explore and discover all sorts of new encounters and treasure in these open world maps.

While Godfall does offer up a three-player PvE mode, not unlike Destiny, I found the game entirely enjoyable as a solo experience.  I didn’t know anyone else with the game, so I was forced to join up with randos for the few online sessions I did participate in.  It wasn’t that much fun, as the people I was playing with clearly new where to go and what to do and were in it for the fast grind.  I was still admiring the scenery and trying to figure out the intricacies of squad mechanics – spoiler…there are none; at least with the people I played with.  Everybody is clearly out for themselves, so if you do want to play co-op then make sure to go in with a pre-established party of friends.

There are some interesting and even odd choices in Godfall.  Not being able to jump comes to mind, and instead you have a single button vault command to ascend designated ledges, or you can use the teleport crystals that hover around the map to instantly zip to that location like a certain neighborhood spider.  These travel nodes are great for not only getting around quickly but zipping around a battle arena to gain strategic position.  Spirit Vision is also a useful visual augment that reveals key items.

Godfall is massive and now in this Ultimate Edition it’s even larger with all of the previously released expansions like Fire & Darkness and updates like the recently released Exalted Update.  Being able to experience all of this content as any of 12 unique warriors with custom armor, weapons, gear, and skills creates almost unlimited potential for gameplay as does sharing the adventure with one or two friends in PvE co-op.  The new Exalted Update is a game-changer with new content and collectibles as well as new story content and cutscenes plus a new six-player PvE mode called Spirit Realms.

Despite all the negativity over the past year and a half that seems to be continuing into this fresh launch on new formats, I found no major flaws with Godfall Ultimate Edition other than it can get a bit tedious if played for too long.  Dying has no consequence, as you are merely respawned nearby to try again.  Godfall truly is like Diablo and Destiny spawned their own looter-slasher baby only they swapped the guns for swords, axes, hammers, shields, and staffs.  If you are a fan of either of those games or just looking for a slow-burn, third-person, melee action-RPG, then look no further than Godfall Ultimate Edition.

Lindsey Stirling Music Pack for Synth Riders Review – PC

After four attempts to create some video content for the Lindsey Stirling Music Pack for Synth Riders I’m giving up.  Neither YouTube nor any of the record labels working with Lindsey Stirling’s music seem to acknowledge the concept of “fair use”.  It’s a shame really because to see this game in action totally makes you want to play it, but I will try my best to describe this awesomeness with mere words…and this fancy trailer.

Simply put, Lindsey Stirling’s music is the peanut butter to Synth Riders’ chocolate.  The very nature of her chosen instrument along with her chosen style of music is the perfect fit with Synth Riders virtual body interactions.  Moving your hands and swirling your arms just seems so naturally in-sync; something the game has been praised for previously, but it has achieved a new peak of greatness with this expansion.  Immerse yourself in five of Lindsey’s best tracks:

  • Underground + Experience
  • Shatter Me (feat. Lzzy Hale)
  • First Light
  • Mirage (feat. Raja Kumari)
  • Shadows

I was disappointed that you couldn’t use the visual “experience” on any song other than Underground.  You’re likely to start with that song and get spoiled really fast with not only an amazing song choice but this whole new virtual world dedicated to Lindsey.  It’s like getting to perform in one of her own music videos.  I was impressed with the difficulty, which can provide a good challenge even on the Normal setting, throwing in some unexpected body panels to dodge, then scales sharply with the addition of new notes/beats and more complicated trail designs.  You’ll get a major workout trying to keep up with Lindsey in this virtual tour.

If you are a fan of Synth Riders then you owe it to yourself to get this song pack, and if you are a fan of Lindsey Stirling’s music then I’d say this track pack is also reason enough to purchase the core game just to experience her music in an entirely new way.   I’ve been playing Synth Riders since it launched, and I have played all of the extra tracks and music packs that have released since, and I can honestly say, this is the best song pack to date.  But music is subjective, and I may be a bit biased when it comes to Lindsey.