Final Fantasy XV Royal Edition

Square Enix announces Final Fantasy XV Royal Edition and a PC Edition

Final Fantasy 15 was one of my favourite titles of last year and the PC release has long been awaited. So finally, on March 6th, 2018, PC gamers will be able to experience the latest instalment in one of the most engaging and long-standing franchises in history. The game will also include all the previously released DLC.

But PS4 and Xbox One gamers should not feel left out as Square Enix have also announced the release of the Royal Edition that will drop on March 6th, 2018 as well. It also comes alongside every single piece of additional content. So that’s the base game, the four DLC packs from the season pass and new DLC that launches contemporaneously with the PC edition. It also contains flashy new box art:

Final Fantasy XV Royal Edition

Additionally, instead of buying the game again, Square Enix will sell the Royal Pack which includes a new dungeon, boss fights and much more, such as the first-person mode.

Pricing for both the Royal Edition and Royal Pack are yet to be confirmed but look out for it on March 6th!

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Forged Battalion

Forged Battalion, from C&C veterans Petroglyph, rolls onto Steam Early Access

While not quite a new Command & Conquer game, (remember that series?) Forged Battalion aims to be a fresh take on the real-time strategy genre and it comes from C&C veterans Petroglyph. So it’s close. The better news: it’s out now on Steam Early Access.

Forged Battalion – Command & Conquer Returns?

In Forged Battalion you can build and customise different factions as they fight in a variety of skirmish, solo and multiplayer battles. You will also be able to create, customise, and develop the blueprints of emerging factions too.

Using resources gained from each battle (sadly we don’t believe harvester units are in it), you can unlock new options through the tech tree allowing you to choose the archetype, and an array of armours, locomotors, weapons, and special abilities such as stealth and regeneration.

Oh, and Frank Klepacki from C&C fame worked on the sound design, voice-over, and music for the game. Here’s that trailer you’ve been waiting for:

The Early Access period for Forged Battalion will run for several months if all goes to plan, during which there will be “regular content” updates and players are encouraged to give feedback to the developers.

“We want fans to truly help forge what the game becomes…” Chuck Kroegel, CEO of Petroglyph.

The Early Access launch content available now is as follows:

  • Campaign missions comprising the first act of a multi-act storyline
  • Skirmish maps supporting up to eight players
  • Multiple Skirmish game modes including HQ Destruction and Annihilation
  • Dedicated servers to support multiplayer
  • Five customisable archetypes of vehicles (infantry, light vehicle, heavy vehicle, air and turrets)
  • Resource management of tech tree points earned in tactical battles

You can try out the Team17 published Forged Battalion on Steam for £15.49 – there’s a 15% discount if you purchase it during launch week. You know, mankind has forgotten you, Kane…

Keatz: The Lonely Bird Review [PC] – Being Lonely Never Felt So Bad

Unforgiving and unpolished, Keatz: The Lonely Bird is a dreadful story about a flightless bird whose species has been banned from the ungrateful bird community of the fowl nation – Heavens. Feeling down in the dumps and desperate to seek vengeance on all those who toss aside anyone not up to par by their standards, Keatz embarks on a 2D platforming journey riddled with flaws and errors to the core; but if dissected carefully, shows promise of much greater future endeavors from the young indie developer – Anamik Majumdar.

After a rather heart-wrenching introduction, players take over as the flightless bird, Keatz, and begin firing away with the mysterious gun they obtained in a dream. Now flightless but deadly, Keatz is able to hop around the moderately sized platforming levels in search of a variety of different coloured gems, and that precious loot we all hunger for: money. Throughout these clunky platforming levels, players may take notice that they have no ending location. They’re simply over when the player has completed the objectives mentioned on the loading screen before the level starts.

Keatz: The Lonely Bird
Keatz: The Lonely Bird forces players to embark on a challenging 2D platformer, using a painful control scheme.

It’s easy to find the frustrations that leak through the cracks of Keatz: The Lonely Bird. The scavenger hunt to seek out all collectable items to end the level comes with its own share of miscues. Passing up important collectables only to be forced to backtrack across otherwise impossible one-way platforming obstacles is a rage-quit inducing tactic and happens frequently. The level design is unique and shows a decent amount of challenging traps and hazards, but still lacks the finishing touches to leave a positive impression.

Ouch, Those Controls Are Painful

The smooth controls in a platformer are key in creating a memorable and delightful experience for gamers. Both the keyboard and gamepad options feel clumsy, offering an unwelcome learning curve to manoeuvre around the sticky movements. When using a gamepad, the game forces players to use the left analogue stick to move left and right, but also using it to jump as well. The face buttons don’t exactly hinder the experience, but moving and hopping about the levels are often a wild beast that can be rather frustrating to tame.

Other than gems and cash to collect, there are also health packs, ammo crates and other similar useful items. Guarding many of these items are the enemy bird henchmen that fire away at Keatz on sight. Through a variety of different weapons, players will need to persevere through a relentless amount of trial and error to continue further in the campaign. There are a total of 20 levels to play through, both available in easy and hard modes. However, these difficulty settings don’t help with the obvious holes and clumsy mechanics featured in the game.

Keatz: The Lonely Bird
Across 20 different levels, players will find themselves in many different settings filled with a variety of deadly enemies and hazards.
Keatz: The Lonely Bird

There’s not much to the simple platformer in terms of story – a lonely bird cast out from an overruling government wants revenge. Yes really. The story seems to strike a chord of personal feelings from the developer as a positive message to not let someone’s unwelcome judgement anchor you down. It’s unfortunate, however, that the gameplay and mechanics themselves un-apologetically anchor the story down with glaring frustrations, issues and an overall unpolished feeling. Through all of the clunky moments and my rotten words towards the casual platformer, there’s still some dim light that shines through the ever-present cracks in Keatz: The Lonely Bird.

You can find Keatz: The Lonely Bird available for PC on Steam coming this January 2018.

Azkend 2: The World Beneath Review [Nintendo Switch] – A Refreshing, Fun Match Puzzle Game

It’s no secret that I’m a little tired of mobile games being ported over to the Switch (and every other console). If you missed it, please check out my review for Dustoff Heli Rescue II and read my thoughts on the matter. Once again, I‘m faced with a five-year-old game, previously released for everything from Windows to iOS and Steam, and I have mixed feelings. Azkend 2: The World Beneath by 10tons, is yet another match-three puzzler among a million, but even though it’s ported from a mobile version, I find myself slightly addicted to it. The game isn’t perfect, and a part of me would never have paid for it on mobile, but even I can admit when something is downright fun, polished, and a good time overall.

Azkend 2: The World Beneath
Azkend 2: The World Beneath

I’m going to start by laying out the story as I always do, but why this game needs one at all is beyond me. Mini-rant time! Why do puzzle games have a story? I never understood a developer’s need to justify simple match gameplay by writing a whole convoluted backstory behind it. It’s a PUZZLE GAME, not a swashbuckling adventure. With that said, Azkend 2 actually has a nifty backstory for players, even if it has no point to the actual game.

As the protagonist, you’re sailing from Liverpool to New York, when out of nowhere, your ship is pulled down to the unknown depths of the sea. Turns out, you’ve travelled to the centre of the earth, where ancient civilizations and wonders never before seen by man await you. If this were Tomb Raider or another one of Nathan Drake’s adventures, it would be awesome, but it’s not. It’s a match puzzle game, plain and simple.

Azkend 2: The World Beneath
Azkend 2: The World Beneath

As you navigate this mysterious world via cutscenes, you must seek out and find/fix objects needed to get home. In order to do this, you simply play the game. Each completed level yields a piece of object X, which when put together, can be used to aid in your quest. Each object has some kind of power or trait that can have an effect on the game board. For instance, the binoculars, when matched three or more, will cause random tiles to fall off the board (that’s a good thing), or matching three or more dynamite sticks will cause surrounding tiles to be blown away. Although I feel the story behind finding these objects is unnecessary, the actual usefulness and implementation of them is outstanding. The collectable power-ups add another dimension to the simple match puzzle premise.

Azkend 2: The World Beneath
Azkend 2: The World Beneath

In between rounds, players are treated to beautifully drawn cutscenes that propel the story further. While in these scenes, you get to take part in hidden object minigames. This aspect of Azkend isn’t overly sophisticated but definitely adds another layer to a tired genre. With over 60 levels in story mode alone (plus time trial and medal modes), 10tons has packed a lot into this little game.

Azkend 2: The World Beneath
Azkend 2: The World Beneath

Azkend 2 plays well using the Joy-Cons, but speed and accuracy do suffer slightly (levels are timed). Luckily, this is the Nintendo Switch, and with it, comes a nifty touchscreen. The game works even better in handheld mode, and using your finger on the touchscreen is incredibly more efficient than a controller. The game plays well when docked, but I personally loved the ease at which I could match tiles while using the touchscreen. I should also note, in docked mode, the subtitles (which can be turned off), appeared to stretch beyond the edges of my television. When I played it in handheld mode, the text was normal. Most likely, a port issue, but it has zero effect on the play mechanics.

The soundtrack is described as “cinematic” by the developers, and I actually agree. The incomparable Jonathan Greer (Owlboy OST, Sparkle, etc), recorded music that you’d normally find on an epic adventure game, and I really enjoyed it. There isn’t much in the way of visuals in match puzzle games, so the fact that we get a great original score fees like a treat. It’s a little thing but goes a long way in elevating the experience.

Azkend 2: The World Beneath
Azkend 2: The World Beneath

As I have said countless times with other mobile ports, this is an old game with an even older premise. Although 10tons does offer a slightly fresh take on the genre, players shouldn’t go into it thinking they’re getting anything unique. However, as I have also stated in the past, this is the Switch, so no matter how tired a concept may be, this little wonder console can breathe fresh air into things that have gone stale.