The Walking Dead: The Final Season PS4 Review

The Walking Dead: The Final Season “Suffer The Children” Review [PS4] – Abandon Hope?

For the first time in a very long time, I don’t know how to start a review. Do I continue as usual? Do I start with explaining what happened? I guess pretty much everyone knows by now.

Telltale Games went bankrupt. I don’t think you could’ve missed it. Some grabbed the opportunity to yell out “I told you so!”, some responded with anger for them not being able to finish one project before jumping onto another, and some responded with sadness and apathy.

I didn’t really realise just how much these news upset me when I first read about it. But the fact is, I am truly upset about it. To me, Telltale Games wasn’t just a game company. It’s someone I have followed from the beginning, someone who inspired me to pursue my passion for games. And to see them basically vaporise like that was…. bizarre, to say the least. But it’s not a new phenomenon.

Fear not, my friends. Ask, and ye shall receive. The creator of The Walking Dead universe Robert Kirkman’s game company Skybound announced that they will be picking up the pieces left by the ruins of Telltale, to see The Final Season through to the end. Even though this is beyond great news, I’ll personally believe the series will have an end when I see it in front of me on my TV-screen.

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Like these two, I’ll be waiting.

If you look away from the business and economic aspect of the video game industry, Suffer The Children is all-in-all a very good episode. I will, like the review of the last episode, try and create a spoiler-free review as much as possible.

Episode 2 takes us back to the school and the group of teens we met in the previous episode. There can never be enough drama in one episode, so needless to say there are some things Clementine and AJ have to take responsibility for. As a consequence, they are thrown out of their safe haven.

Unfortunately, they don’t get very far before a group of raiders catch them. This is where we meet a familiar character whose face we haven’t seen since season one. However, this face wasn’t friendly then, and is sure isn’t friendly now, either. This person has become the leader of this horrific group, and they don’t hesitate to threaten Clementine as they give a clear message of what they want; the children at the school.

We learn that there is a small war going on; there is a feud between two groups of people, and the group that catches Clementine and AJ is kidnapping (or as they call it, “recruiting”) children to make them fight for them. Yep, that’s messed up.

However, hope is never lost; with the help of a kind stranger, we manage to make our great escape. If the series would go on, I’m sure we would form an even stronger friendship with this character at some point. The kindness of this stranger teaches us about strengthening the right bonds, and we learn that most people react a certain way for a certain reason, and by learning that reason we understand what makes them tick. 

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It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

Technically speaking, I noticed that the loading screens could, at times, be incredibly long. In addition, the controls felt a little off sometimes. The combat system was very unforgiving, and the game’s own tutorials kept feeding me the wrong controls. Yet, an analysis of the controls in this episode feels like missing the bigger picture.

All things considered, the ending of this approximately 2 ½ hours long episode feels like the biggest cliffhanger ever. When I finished the episode the news of Skybound taking over hadn’t come out yet, and I felt betrayed. Now, there might be hope. Some light at the end of the tunnel. We are in the middle of a story, and the threads are starting to unfold.

I thought I was ending this review feeling sad and frustrated. Even though Telltale as a company may be over, the talented people behind the name are still out there. And some of them will most probably be joining Skybound and create a proper ending to the series, completing an important chapter in video game narrative history.

In the meantime, I’ll be waiting. Patiently.

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Life Is Strange 2 - Episode 1: Roads Review

Life Is Strange 2, Episode 1: ‘Roads’ Review [PS4] – We’re Going On An Adventure!

It’s been 3 years since the very first season of Life is Strange came out – and it gave us so much in terms of storytelling, where they explored how to deal with sensitive issues through the eyes of a teenager.

In the meantime, we were served Life is Strange: Before The Storm and The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. In my opinion, they’ve only gotten better at it.

If you played the approximately 2 hour long adventures of young Chris Eriksen and his alter ego Captain Spirit (which is 100% worth your time by the way), then the decisions you made there will somehow carry over in Life Is Strange 2. I probably should have made a review on Captain Spirit, because that was truly an unforgettable experience. As usual, my final verdict for the series will be given at the very last episode.

Now, Dontnod Entertainment and Square Enix are back with Life Is Strange 2 – with brand new characters, location, and storyline. We meet Sean and Daniel Diaz from Seattle in Washington, age 16 and 9 respectively. They are seemingly normal boys – Sean has a crush on a girl which he plans to hit on at an upcoming party, and Daniel is a boy who loves candy and to play with his toys.

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Playful big brother Sean.

That is, of course, before everything is destined to go down the drain in a fashionable Life is Strange-style. A supernatural occurrence takes place in their home, forcing the two brothers to escape, and wandering on the United States’ roads on their way to Puerto Lobos, a place in Mexico their father once called paradise. The boys live in a community where their background sadly plays a factor – which is evidently why they are on the run. The news reports them missing, and the cops are looking for them.

Based on the small amount of money they carry – it is not going to take long before they run out. This, eventually, leads to them having to beg other people for food.

Gameplay has improved, and the game looks much smoother now than it has before. As always, the soundtrack of the game is an experience in itself. You can always expect the Life Is Strange-series to contain excellent music that adds to the widely immersive world.

A theme that turns out to become an important aspect of the game is racial discrimination. Even though they have, from their father, clear roots in Mexico, they still identify themselves as Americans. However, when they start to feel exiled from the States, they cling to their Mexican roots. One thing is witnessing it on a general basis – another is witnessing it happening to these young boys. Defenceless and innocent, they become the victims of violence, both verbally and physically.

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Brotherly love.

To put it mildly, these incidents are hard to watch. It’s a bold move from the developers, but at the same time, I feel like they are doing the right thing. As a consequence of the tragic event, Sean has to take on a parenting role for Daniel. As a 16-year old, he is still too young to be Daniel’s substitute parent, but it’s what they have.

Taking on this parenting role is of course not fitting for Sean. He has to keep his mask on for Daniel all the way until they finally meet a kind soul who sees them for what they are; kids just trying to survive. This stranger briefly becomes a guardian for the two boys, giving them what they need to keep on going. We, as adults, take on the role of a child in crisis. It’s an unfair and difficult situation, but I think it is an important subject to discuss. A 16-year old is never supposed to be set in that position. Sadly, that is the reality of many.

Life is Strange 2 takes on a more serious note than the other seasons. I’m predicting that this season will be an adventure like no other. We watch them as they grow up, joining them on their ups and downs. Because there will be plenty of them. As usual, Life is Strange creates a moving story about these two boys that I felt an instant connection to. I’m looking forward to seeing where this is going.

Life Is Strange 2 is available on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Victor Vran: Overkill Edition Review [Nintendo Switch] – Medieval Duke Nukem

I was confused when I first loaded up Victor Vran. Not because I didn’t know what I was doing, more that I didn’t know what I was playing. The reason? Titular monster-hunter come demon-slayer Victor Vran is voiced by Doug Cockle who many will instantly recognise as the voice behind iconic Witcher, Geralt.

Now if you told me I was playing a spin-off of the Witcher series, I would have believed you. Let’s look at that facts; the game is set in an alternate past where monsters, demons and other nasties have started running riot and it’s your job to pursue and end them. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s what I thought, hence the confusion.

Haemimont Games, having worked on past titles such as the Tropico series, bring Victor Vran in its complete form to the Switch – full to the brim with extra content. More on that later, first of all, let’s take a look at what Victor Vran is in more detail.

Victor Vran: Overkill Edition Review Switch
Victor Vran: Overkill Edition Review Switch

Like I mentioned, you play as Vran and it is your job to liberate the cursed city of Zagoravia from all manner of evil. Set as a top-down RPG, you begin to understand that this isn’t your average top-down adventure game. You choose how you want to play with outfits giving you different abilities, weapons granting different advantages and disadvantages and a levelling system that doesn’t force you down one particular route.

For instance, you can wield a shotgun running around like a crazy medieval Duke Nukem (which I did) or you can wield a sword or hammer and get up close and personal to your foes. Added to which a sharp fedora-topped outfit allows your demon powers to recharge slowly over time or a hunters outfit will charge your powers whenever you get hit. Using your demon powers on a large group of monsters is also very satisfying, especially splatting a swarm of spiders with a meteor shower! To top it off, each new level allows you to boost a given attribute such as ranged damage, health points or to get a loot chest – of which the content is random.

It’s little things like this that allow you to tailor the game around how you like to play and tackle each mission differently. Each level/area will also have challenges for you to complete which will grant bonus experience points, gold or other boosts to help you on your way.

Now whilst Victor Vran won’t set the genre alight, more likely sit amongst other great top-down titles, it does prove a massive point. That being that these sort of games can work and thrive on the Switch, which it does. Throughout testing, I played in handheld mode and the whole thing ran smoothly and rather quickly. Navigation wasn’t hard, nor was controlling Vran or the camera which made it so easy to play that I just kept going. One area would lead to another and I easily found myself losing a couple of hours at a time taking out skeletons, spiders and other ghostly beings.

The combat is quite intense too and doesn’t allow you to pause for breath for very long. If you stay stationary for too long you can quickly find yourself surrounded so staying mobile is always advisable, finding a brief respite where you can. This is one of the things which will keep you going as each fight is unique, requiring a different tactic each time.

Victor Vran: Overkill Edition Review Switch
Victor Vran: Overkill Edition Review Switch

In this, the Overkill Edition, Victor Vran comes with a host of extra content for you to tackle. Upon starting out you are given the choice of playing the base campaign, a campaign which is inspired by and revolves around the band Motorhead (paying tribute to the late metal legend, Lemmy) and finally the Fractured Worlds mode where everything takes an even more chaotic turn. Considering that the game can also be played online, there are many different things to play and ways in which to do so making this a great outing and addition to the Switch’s ever-expanding list of titles.

My only worry is over the pricing as this sits at £34.99 meaning it’s competing with the bigger and stronger titles out there, including Nintendo’s own strong first-party outings. Would people buy it at this price? It’s unlikely. Would I recommend buying it at this price? I don’t think so, maybe if it was more like half of that, which is a shame, as it may get overlooked until a price drop further down the line. If that does happen, however, I would recommend playing Victor Vran as I’m sure you’ll enjoy this charming adventure through Zagoravia.

Past Blast: Chase The Express – Staying Above 50mph

What to say about the 90’s? Take That, Shell suits, Cassettes, the rave culture, Brit-pop, The X-files, The Outer-Limits, Steps, Strange but True, Sony PlayStation, VHS, Eclipse clothing, tramlines, the ear stud, Pokémon, Nintendo vs. Sega, Eerie Indiana and the Hollywood Blockbuster action movie.

In the 90’s, TV, clothing, music, brands and movies were events; they meant something. One burst out of nowhere, full of high octane action and was all thrill; that movie was the legendary ‘Speed’ starring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper. An action movie that defined a generation with cheesy dialogue, a simple plot and a 1 hour and 56 minutes adrenaline rush.

I imagine any youth of today may laugh at the above comments on Speed, yet, I’m not kidding. Speed was the must-see movie that even had its own simulator. Speed later influenced one of gaming’s beloved franchises: Metal Gear Solid. With the first Metal Gear Solid soundtrack ripping off the Speed soundtrack (seriously, someone should have been sued) and Metal Gear Solid 2’s Fat Man being inspired by Dennis Hopper’s character.

But there was one game that feels like Speed the game just without the staying above 50mph, being on a bus and Sandra Bullock – that game is Chase the Express.

Covert Ops: Nuclear Dawn (let’s be honest, that title sounds like a prog album) in America, was developed by Sugar and Rockets, and published by Sony Computer Entertainment in Japan/Europe and Activision in America. It was released in the dawn of the new Millennium for the PlayStation.

You play as Jack Morton (maybe I’m reading into it too much but the main character from Speed is called Jack) a NATO officer sent to board the Blue Harvest, a train carrying the Ambassador that’s been hijacked by the KGB who now have access to nuclear bombs.

You are the sole survivor of your team after missiles strike your helicopter, nevertheless, you’ll see many characters on the way, Christina Wayborn – one the ambassador’s special police, Philip Mason – the ambassador’s secretary.  As Jack, your job is to stop the terrorists and ensure none of the nuclear bombs are detonated.

Ok, but what about the gameplay? I hear you say that – I was going to tell you if you calm down and listen. Patience is a good thing.

Chase the Express is a third-person action game with puzzle elements and item management. It features the obligatory tank controls suited for the fixed camera angles you’d expect from a game of the genre and time; however, the environments are modelled in 3D meaning you can slightly alter the camera angle.

The puzzles are your typical ‘find item, and place item in said obvious place’. Firearm combat auto aims at an enemy with a ring that will appear around them – changing to a darker colour, it indicates you can deal more damage and if you run out of ammo you always have your fists.

Stealth mainly consists of you walking to one of the side cabin, waiting for a geezer to walk past, and walking out while his back is turned. Another option is popping out of cover with an action roll or dodging certain attacks; you Souls veterans will feel right at home. The game does it’s best to mix the gameplay up with controlling the speed of a train to match another train, multiple scenarios/endings and a bomb disposal section where the wirecutter is the slowest machine I’ve had the pleasure of enduring.

The highlight of this game is by far the dialogue, writing and voice acting; it’s so terrible in that PlayStation 1 way that it provides the game entertainment and lots of charm. The lines are delivered vacantly with no emotion and are disjointed. The writing – there is a section where you speak to a character about how to disarm some missiles, his reply is just “Screwdriver”. Screwdriver… Genius.

That’s the joy of this game, it doesn’t try to be something spectacular because it knows it isn’t, the gameplay doesn’t try to wow you with some special mechanic because it’s all a poorly done version of something else, the writing and acting isn’t going to blow your mind and they know it.

What the game is, is entertainment, time out of your life for 4-5 hours. In that very 90’s way, it knows what it is and what its goal is, to entertain; not too much, but enough –  it doesn’t swallow your life in the process. If this was a 90’s movie, it would come in a triple VHS with ‘Money Train’ and/or ‘Daylight’; it’s that calibre of video game.

It cost me three pounds. If there is any PlayStation one fans/collectors who haven’t played this game and they want something they can hammer out in a day or two – give it a blast. I’ll be back soon.

A Way Out

A Way Out Review [PS4] – A Criminally Good Co-Op Adventure

As they say, there’s no “I” in “team.” From the man who has believed in this mantra since his previous game Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Josef Fares is the director of the co-op exclusive A Way Out. Made by Hazelight Studios and published by Electronic Arts, this is a game I have been looking forward to ever since it was announced on E3 in 2017.

A Way Out is a textbook action-adventure game, but it’s unique in so many ways. As mentioned, there is no single-player option. You can play either local co-op, with a traditional split-screen style, or you can play online with another player. I chose to play the game in local co-op, so I can’t comment on how the game works online. From my experience with Fares’ previous game, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, I knew local co-op would not be a problem, as Brothers offered an amazing co-op experience.

A Way Out Review

At the beginning of the game, each player has to assign a character, which can be described in these short terms:

  • Meet Vincent Moretti. Smart and strategic, Vincent prefers the stealthy route when it comes to handling situations and is not one to be underestimated. Vincent is convicted of murder, and the game opens with him being lead into prison. Outside the prison, Vincent is in a somewhat rocky place with his very pregnant wife.
  • Meet Leo Caruso. Tough, honest, and never afraid to do things the hard way, Leo is a stubborn man who is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Leo is already an inmate when Vincent entered the prison and was convicted of grand theft. Outside the bars, Leo’s faithful girlfriend and their beloved son are waiting for him.

While the two men have each taken a very different path in life up until this very moment, Leo and Vincent’s unique stories are connected into one fantastic storyline. As they slowly get to know each other, they find out about a common enemy, a con man named Harvey – the sole reason for them being in prison in the first place. Queue revenge-plot!

Prison is a dangerous place to be and escaping it isn’t easy. Leo and Vincent are determined to get out. How else are they going to get their revenge? So, walk around the prison, do your chores, and make discreet conversation with the other inmates to gather information on security, how the prison is built, its weaknesses, etc. Do everything you can to make the prison break more manageable, without letting anyone else know what you’re planning.

A Way Out
Take a break from the “escaped convict” life, and play a round or two of tic-tac-toe with your partner!

There are bound to be some fights in prison and this is no different. The fighting scenes are well-made, and in the very first one Leo and Vincent must work together in a ‘fighting circle’. The fights are badass, smoothly shifting from Leo’s perspective to Vincent’s – and it works really well. The quick-time events are terrific and so much fun. Three words: slow-motion scenes. However, there are also stealth-missions while inside the prison; one is the distraction, the other does the dirty work. The reliance on both of you to do your job is exciting and serves for some very refreshing gameplay.

The question on everyone’s mind is; how did they get there in the first place? The storyline moves back and forth between past and present, giving the player a right amount of story both before and after their escape from prison. And yeah, that is not a spoiler, by the way. The majority of the game does not actually surround itself with after prison; it surrounds itself with what happens after their escape. Leo and Vincent’s reunion with the world is not necessarily easy, as they finally must encounter the problems that have been waiting for them outside the bars.

What I really like is how A Way Out integrates the co-op factor into every single aspect of the game – with masterful success. Upon completing a task, such as opening heavy doors and climbing certain obstacles, you are dependent on your partner to help you. That’s just the minor things. The game is extremely interesting in how it presents a variety of different ways of getting through multiple situations.

The two escaped convicts have their own methods: while Leo prefers brute force, Vincent wants more stealth. Most importantly, the players actually have to agree on the choice. And let me tell you, that can definitely create some tension on each side of the couch. This also creates some great replay value – I would like to find out if the story unfolded differently if I had made other choices.

A Way Out
The nice pacing of the game makes each moment all the more engaging.

When it comes to dialogue and script, there is an excellent synergy between Leo and Vincent and it is well-written, intriguing and thrilling. The voice-acting was good, and the synergy between the voice-actors was just as good as the characters in-game. The emotions change quickly from witty commentary that made both me and my partner laugh out loud, to severe conversations that created a pit in our stomach.

Visually, A Way Out is a stunning action-game with perfect pacing. Like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, the game knows that it has beautiful scenery, and gives the player plenty of chances to slow down and observe, before throwing out a fast-paced challenge. As Leo and Vincent naturally must spend a lot of time outside, the game really gets a chance to show off incredible lighting and with perfect corresponding ambience.

The more I think about it, the more I realize the different nuances implemented within. In different instances of the game, the perspective changes. Some parts use the classic GTA top-down style, others it’s a Tekken/Street Fighter style. Josef Fares has made some bold decisions by adding a lot of variety, but somehow it just works perfectly and feels refreshing.

There is also a distinct change in audio when each character has separate conversations. If the players are exploring on different sides of a scenario, then the one who started to speak first will have the highest audio or the ‘focus‘ of the conversations. When one of the characters encounters a critical discussion, the game will automatically focus more on that. It’s an excellent way to focus on the essential things, and even though it was a bit confusing at first, it worked surprisingly well.

It wasn’t until I played A Way Out that I realized how much I’ve missed classic split-screen co-op. Nothing beats it. Where have all the good ones gone anyway? Because if I had to find a flaw in this game, I would say that I wished it was just a little bit longer… I wanted more, and though I know that wishes like that are often a double-edged sword, A Way Out is so much more than a get-out-of-prison game.

[There’s a huge twist at the end, a true turning point of the story; if you’re playing with someone in the same room, there might or might not be a problem. And that’s all I am going to say about that].

Little Nightmares Episode 3: The Residence Review

Little Nightmares – Secrets Of The Maw Episode 3: The Residence Review [PS4] – Is This The End?

Never-ending darkness. The only safety is from a small ray of light coming from your tiny flashlight. A creaking sound comes from behind you. You turn around, but of course, there’s nothing there. Your heart skips a few beats as you hear a child laughing in the distance. They’re watching you. Then, you start to hear small steps. Slow. But then the pause between each step becomes shorter. Someone’s coming…

The last and final episode of the Little Nightmares’ DLC is out, at last, and is titled The Residence. As the world of Six and The Runaway Kid has unfolded, we have eventually gotten more horrifying insight into what might exist in the Maw. However, there is one character left that has yet to tell her story; the Geisha.

Some say that a person’s home describes a lot about their personality. We get to explore the residence of the Geisha, who surrounds herself with creepy-looking dolls and plenty of books. What exactly this says about her we never fully know, but I am sure that there are several possible theories to why she’s so interested in literature and porcelain figures. All I can do is make an educated guess and say that there must be a quite uncomfortable and scary story behind her character.

Little Nightmares Episode 3 Review
Hello?… Hi. Nice place you got here.

The episode starts out eerily silent, but it doesn’t take long before you hear a song coming from a small music box. The song fades away as we explore further into the house, and the player eventually encounters a new enemy: small, dark apparitions with small masks. What makes them even more creepy is the fact that they have the look and laugh that resembles children. The only way to attack them is to shine at them with your flashlight, so hold on to that thing, because it is going to save your life. With that said, the mechanic instantly reminded me of Alan Wake, where you have to focus your flashlight on the ghosts to weaken them.

In contrast to the previous episodes in the DLC, The Residence gives you a greater illusion of a more open-world. We are much more free to explore, as there is not necessarily a given way to go. The puzzles don’t have to be solved in a certain order, and they feel more intricate and detailed. Roughly, The Kid has to find dolls that are scattered around the Geisha’s residence and put them in their proper place.

While this might seem simple at first, the complexity of finding each doll easily swallows the time. There is also a stronger action element, which is interesting and refreshing compared to the previous episodes in this DLC. As if my stress levels weren’t high enough playing this game!

Looking at the episode from the puzzle side of things, The Residence was definitely one of the more challenging ones. It is also the shortest, where I used up approximately 2 hours at a relatively slow pace. However, in those two short hours, we discover the terrible fate of all those who have suffered the wrath of the Geisha – with a pretty huge twist at the end… well, of course, I’m not going to reveal this now… play it for yourself and find out!

Little Nightmares Episode 3 Review
The eye sees everything.

What Little Nightmares masters is the continuous suspense of not knowing what is in the next room. It gets really intense at times, and I love it: I had to remember to stop once in a while and take a breather. However, this universe’s definite greatest strength is its take on the concept of fear. As we have seen before in various shapes and forms, The Residence wants to see our reaction to darkness, masks, and creepy inanimate objects such as mannequins.

The Little Nightmares universe will always hold a special place for me. I followed the game when the working title was “Hunger,” and I remember going to a lecture where the narrative writer of the game told the audience how the game would play on people’s nightmares, and I thought, “There’s no way that I’m going to miss out on this game!” The borderline between horror, thriller, and uncanny valley is unique, and I have yet to see games that use these elements the same way that Little Nightmares do.

At the end of the episode, I got an achievement that said: “we’ll meet again.” And I cannot help but wonder; is this a suggestion that it might not be the last of Little Nightmares? Are we truly finished? There might not be anything special behind it, but it certainly peaked my curiosity. Even with all these questions, I don’t know if we will ever receive an answer.

The Runaway Kid’s story has come to an end. With beautiful scenery and masterful storytelling, this has been a memorable experience. What the Little Nightmares universe is so good at doing, is to tell my brain to be ready to hit the emergency panic button, and then cranking my anxiety up to the maximum. It starts out in uncomfortable silence before increasing to a horrifying crescendo.

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review [PS4] – Episode 3: ‘Hell Is Empty’

“You’re the only one in the world I can trust.”

Ladies and gentlemen, here we are. Each ending requires collecting the loose threads.

We have experienced the quandaries of teenage life with Chloe and Rachel, and now the time has come to end an amazing journey. Before you continue reading, I should mention that this review probably contains some spoilers, because I feel it would be difficult to express my opinions to the fullest without mentioning some important factors in the game. However, I will try and keep the spoilers to a minimum. Also, this will be a longer review, as I will comment on the final episode, as well as the entire season as a whole. Are you ready?

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review

The third and final episode, titled “Hell is Empty,” picks right up where it left off in the previous episode “Brave New World, where we learn that the wife of Rachel’s father is not, in fact, her real mother. As my jaw dropped, the episode ended, so I was more than eager to continue on the final episode. The story of Rachel’s mother is long, dark, and sad – but in short, she got involved with drugs, and continually making bad decisions in life evidently leads to her losing custody over Rachel. Bad parenting is a reoccurring factor in the Life Is Strange-series, and their choices as parents clearly reflect the choices of the teenagers. Chloe and Rachel’s parents have made some bad choices in life, and making amends might be harder than one might think. We get to see several sides of the story as we learn about Rachel’s rough past.

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review
Sometimes you have to lie in order to protect someone you love.

The episode starts out in confusion, sadness and anger. As a consequence of the reveal of her biological mother, Rachel becomes obsessed with the idea of meeting her. After playing detective, Chloe finds out that this is not necessarily a good idea… But because she is a good (girl)friend, she wants to support Rachel in her decisions; whether they are good or bad. At the end of the road, you are faced with a solid dilemma, where you have to decide what is best for Rachel, and how you can do your best to protect her. The “power” that Chloe has – using words to persuade others in her favor – becomes even more important in this episode, as the outcome of these “verbal battles” decide whether we have to take the easy or the hard way to achieve what we want. Talking about things that one might go great lengths to avoid, is also an important aspect of this universe. Perhaps we might learn a thing or two from Chloe?

I’ve come to learn that when life gets hard for other people, you can count on Chloe to be there for you. Chloe is many things, but she is a damn good friend. Yet sometimes, a good friend can be taken advantage of. Slowly but surely, the player is made aware of all the things Chloe keeps doing for Rachel, without receiving anything in return. As such, the relationship between Chloe and Rachel is, in my opinion, highly romanticized. It doesn’t feel 100% believable, but it is nevertheless a beautiful and strong relationship that I guess everyone would aspire to have. The worst part of it is that it breaks my heart to see them now because I know how the relationship – unwillingly – comes to an end. The beauty of friendship and love seeps through the cracks of the dull and dismal surface, making the hard stuff a little easier to deal with, which I can appreciate. It doesn’t make the issues too heavy, just heavy enough to make the right amount of impact on the player.

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review
“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality…”

Doing and dealing drugs are some of the issues that our teenagers encounter – which often include violence, and this time around is unfortunately no exception. However, as the drama escalates quickly in this episode, we can always rely on a whole new round of Dungeons & Dragons as a nice change of pace. This sequence is even longer now than it was in the first episode, but you’re not going to see me complain about it. This scene made Chloe forget all the grief, despair, and anger that she was going through, if only just for a few moments. And realizing that she had more friends than she thought might have given her the shove she needed.

And one simply cannot make A Life Is Strange review without commenting on the soundtrack. For this season, the developers chose to cooperate with the London trio neo-folk band Daughter to compose the music for this season. They even released an individual album with the songs on their Spotify. The sound of the music has a lot of character that blends beautifully in with the theme of the game, and I have found myself coming back to it repeatedly – the band truly did a great job with the soundtrack, so kudos to them. And if you have only played the first season of Life Is Strange, and you, for some reason, find yourself reading this review, I can promise you that the music aspect of the game will not disappoint you.

Even though this journey is a fulfilling one, I cannot help but feel a little disappointed. The game decided to give me a happy-ever-after ending, which I feel was unsatisfactory. Rachel’s fate is far from happy, and I think that the ending of this episode should have reflected that more than it did. I do sometimes enjoy when games give us the opportunity to create theories about what happens, but “Hell Is Empty” rather gave us too much to be interpreted.

The game left a gap storywise between the end of season 2 and season 1, whereas I hoped that the gap would be much smaller. When does Rachel meet the teacher that will inevitably murder her? What happens between Chloe and Rachel in between these events? All we know is what we learn from the first game, which is just bits and pieces told from a broken Chloe. Even though if you wait until after the credits have rolled, you do get to see a disturbing nod towards Rachel’s terrible fate. I just think it wasn’t enough. The second episode was by far the best one, because it had a fantastic build-up, with an amazing plot twist at the end. This was a fairly short episode of approximately 2-3 hours, whereas the previous episode was about 4 hours long.

I also found it interesting that the first half of the series is more about Chloe, but then the spotlight shifts to Rachel. All in all, I love this series, and if you are a fan of narrative-heavy games, I will highly recommend that you play this game. Just remember to play the other one, too.

Iconoclasts Review

Iconoclasts Review [PS4] – Enjoyable, Challenging and Varied

When reading about indie games it used to be that the bar was set a little bit lower for the small teams that made them. We used to be more forgiving if a title didn’t have quite the sheen that you’d see out of an ‘AAA’ studio. I mean, what do you expect when you’ve only got a team of 5 people working on a game?

Iconoclasts Review

This isn’t the case anymore. Nowadays smaller teams are measured on the same scale as anyone else. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed by Iconoclasts’ development story. This is because Iconoclasts is a smart, challenging and gorgeous ‘puzzle-action platformer’ that was made by one person. The music, the programming, the writing and the visuals – everything.

So maybe you’ve read the term ‘action-puzzle platformer’ before or maybe it’s a new term I’ve just made up. Who’s to say? In simple terms, Iconoclasts has you playing as Robin, who’s a mechanic with a spanner and a stun gun. This means you jump from platform to platform, using your wrench to fix things, move platforms around and solve puzzles. You’ll also use your stun gun to shoot at the numerous nasties that litter the levels too.

Iconoclasts Review

Yes, I could have said ‘this is a game similar to Metroid’ but that would be lazy of me, wouldn’t it? Also, whilst there is some backtracking to do, as you upgrade your moves, your wrench and your gun, there’s not as much as you’d find in a Metroid game.

The puzzles and platforming challenges are well-designed and leave you feeling clever rather than frustrated. The puzzle elements are smartly paced and placed. You’ll rarely encounter something that you ‘need to come back to’ and it’s often fairly clear what you need to do, with the challenge coming from figuring out how to do it. Some of the puzzles require a little too much controller dexterity, as you’ll need to be fairly quick on your feet to do what needs to be done.

Iconoclasts Review

What will also require some dexterous button pressing is the fighting and, particularly, the boss battles. Much like the puzzles, most of these are great and ask you to put into practice the skills that you’ve already honed throughout the last area you’ve just spent time in. Sadly, two or three aren’t that fun and introduce unique gameplay elements that don’t appear anywhere else in the game. One boss has you switching characters, which would be fun if you knew how the character controlled. Sadly, the first time you play as this new character and get to try out her entirely bespoke control scheme is during the middle of a hectic boss fight.

Another element that doesn’t always work is the story. I think the fact that I’m even going to talk about the story in a game of this type is pretty astounding, but Iconoclasts has a story that is worth talking about, is better developed than most ‘narrative-driven’ games and will engage mostly everyone.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers but it’s safe to say that Iconoclasts has a story that is full of character and covers some heavy topics. It’s a story about religion, challenging authority of any type and it wants you to question the things you’ve been told by your teachers, preachers and parents. It has a heavily atheist tone, which people that have strong religious beliefs may find off-putting, but it’s brave to see what looks like a simple platformer contain such a fleshed out story, setting and cast.

Iconoclasts Review

It’s not perfect though. Some of the dialogue goes into ‘anime’ territory for me. There are some overbearing monologues delivered throughout the game and there is a new vocabulary to learn along the way. You’ll have to pay attention and piece together just what the game is talking about when it drops in some of its unique jargon. Personally, I found it worth the effort as Iconoclasts delivered a tale that was much more dramatic and darker than its bright and breezy visuals would suggest.

Speaking of which, it’s time I address the well-drawn elephant in the room. Yes – Iconoclasts has some beautiful pixel art.

Everything you get to see throughout the game is brilliantly animated and I can think of no higher praise than to say that quality of the art reminds me of Metal Slug. Enemies bounce, sway and have a real kinetic energy to them that means you can’t keep your eyes off the screen. I may have mentioned how the varied locations are great because they’re well-designed areas to puzzle and platform through, but they’re also really nice to look at and visually varied.

Iconoclasts Review

What’s also incredibly wide-ranging is the music. From cheery upbeat numbers to dourer ambient pieces, it’s really impressive to think this was done by one person. Sure, it took this one person 8 years, but you can see where the time has gone and that none of it was wasted!

I Fell From Grace Review

I Fell From Grace Review [PC] – Commendable, But Disappointing

I always like to stay positive when it comes to reviews. This is because making a game is so very, very difficult (trust me, I know!) that I feel like a bit of an unappreciative grump when all I do is moan about said game I just got to play for free.

With this in mind, let me say that I Fell From Grace, from developer Deep Taiga, is unique. It’s brave in its decision to try something different with its writing style, has some very moody visuals and music that help the game have an overall oppressive and somewhat uneasy tone.

With the intro done, let me put my critical hat on. I Fell From Grace is really not much fun to play, has a writing style that is tiring to read and ineffective at producing an emotion other than frustration, and the game has a story that thinks it’s got a lot to say but ultimately fails to say much of anything at all.

I Fell From Grace Review

At its most basic level, I Fell From Grace is an adventure game where you walk from left to right, from screen to screen, solving puzzles. It’s listed as a ‘point and click’ adventure, but the controls are more direct, as you control the main character (Henry). There’s not much to comment on when it comes to gameplay as all you do is move left and right, occasionally you’ll have to use an item from your inventory, make a dialogue choice and the rest of the time you’ll be pressing the ‘E’ button a whole lot to interact with everyone and everything.

I Fell From Grace Review – Falling At The First Hurdle

This wouldn’t be too bad if the game had interesting puzzles like you get in classic point and click adventures, but it doesn’t. All of the roadblocks are incredibly simplistic and unsatisfying to overcome. Something you need is stuck in a tree? Find a ladder and use the ladder. Need to see what’s happening on the other side of a vent? Find the camera and use the camera. There are no ‘Aha’ moments here so the ‘game’ itself is really not much fun to play.

The atmosphere is pretty great though. It’s always raining, everyone’s miserable, your boss is mean and heading into town means you’re greeted by homeless drug addicts huddled around flaming barrels outside failing businesses. This won’t be a setting that’s for everyone but for those of us that really appreciate a really downbeat vibe, I Fell From Grace has sorrow in spades.

I Fell From Grace Review

The story itself appears as if it should be interesting enough and has a strong enough premise. Henry, who you play as works for some big pharmaceutical company and has a wife that is very ill. As with every character in the game, Henry and his wife are having some tough times and have dealt with some catastrophic moments in their past. I don’t want to spoil anything but let’s say that Henry and his wife suffer a tragic loss.

Henry has now become a workaholic and is determined to cure his wife, even to the detriment of actually, you know, being there for her and looking after her. It’s clear that he’s become obsessed and in his pursuit of ‘doing what’s right’ he might make some poor decisions and… fall from grace. *puts on shades*

Not Fooling Me

So what I’m saying is that this is a narrative driven game and instead of worrying about engaging puzzles, the developers have decided to focus all of their attention on telling a compelling narrative, right? Sadly, no. This is another area that I Fell From Grace fails in because the fact is that the story soon descends into meaninglessness.

What starts as a fairly engaging journey into one man’s descent into obsession is soon littered with pointless segues into events that have no bearing on the story or some which simply don’t resolve. It may be the case that playing the game over and over again could help you tie up some of these loose ends, but I’m not convinced this is the case having finished it twice. When a plot involves nightmarish warnings about ‘black spots on the ceiling’ only for you to have the credits roll without a single encounter with a ceiling-based black blotch, you have to wonder if there is any meaning behind the game’s words or actions. It all seems to think that it’s smarter than it actually is.

This is no more apparent than in the decision to make every. Single. Line. Of. Dialogue. Rhyme.

Every.

It’s hard to say why this was decided, what exactly this writing style was meant to evoke but all I can say is I grew tired of it within five minutes.

I Fell From Grace Review

No Time To Rhyme

So I’m sorry to be such a downer on this game. As I said at the start, I really do want to enjoy the time I spend playing games and I do want to encourage developers to try new things and ultimately create great pieces of work that push the boundaries of what we think games are and can be. Sadly, I also have a duty to the game players who need to know that this is simply a failed attempt at something unique.

To surmise:

 

When reading the dialogue becomes such a chore,

it’s hard not to grow tired and start to snore.

The puzzles aren’t fun and they’re not very clever,

the same goes for the story as it’s not much better.

The graphics are nice and they help set the mood,

it’s a shame everything else just comes off as crude.

I commend you for trying something new, I Fall From Grace,

sadly you failed and fell flat on your face.

Finding Paradise Review [PC] – A Fulfilled Life?

Six years ago, a game that would forever change the way I view storytelling in games was published. To The Moon was an emotional rollercoaster, with incredible narrative and musical elements. Now, the time has come for its sequel – Finding Paradise. Kan Gao and the team behind Freebird Games has returned to continue the journey of reflecting upon memories, brilliant life philosophy, and last but certainly not least; putting us in an emotional imbalance.

If you’re familiar with both of these games, you might also have encountered A Bird Story, a short narrative about a boy and a bird with broken wings. We learn that his name is Colin Reeds, and in Finding Paradise, he has come to the point where his time on earth is coming to an end. A dying old man, he becomes the patient of Dr Eva Rosalene and Dr Neil Watts, two lovable scientists who work for the Sigmund Corporation, a peculiar organization that helps dying people fulfil their lifelong wish. However, not literally. They travel through the memories of a person’s mind in order to make them think that their wish is fulfilled. The task of fulfilling Colin’s wish will turn out to be much more difficult for Dr Rosalene and Dr Watts than they first expected.

The scientists are what they call Memory Traversal Specialists – they travel through a person’s memories ranging from early childhood to late adulthood, to alter them and make them think that they have fulfilled this wish. Through altering the memories, they are able to nudge the person in the right direction, helping them to make decisions that will make their wish come true. With that said, the scientists are on a tight schedule – the patient might pass away at any moment. The clock is an important as well as a recurring symbol, as time is truly of the essence.

Finding Paradise Review
“Some stories aren’t meant to be told… they are meant to be kept.”

Colin feels that he hasn’t lived a fulfilled life, but desiring what you cannot have is perhaps something the majority of us will inevitably encounter during a lifetime. However, in Finding Paradise, one can change that. But only to a certain degree. Consequently, fulfilling one’s desire will ultimately replace another. Questioning the morality behind these patient’s decisions, the game explores both sides of the coin. What if the person you love actually desired a future that didn’t necessarily include you?

To The Moon, A Bird Story, and Finding Paradise all exist within the same universe. Therefore, some of the scenery might seem familiar if you’ve played the previous games. This is a really nice way of connecting the stories and shows good attention to detail. As I started the game, I immediately felt just how much I had missed these two scientists. The brilliant synergy between Dr Rosalene and Dr Watts are as funny and on point as in To The Moon. The dialogue is so incredibly well written, with puns and jokes filled with references to various movies and games. I absolutely love it. Finding Paradise had some hilarious moments where I sat laughing out loud. The two characters become a very nice counterweight to the heavy atmosphere of the game. As we delve deeper and deeper into the mind of Colin Reeds, the turn of events are as absurd and abrupt as the thinking mind itself.

Finding Paradise Review
How are we to live our lives?

“With the right accompaniment… anything can be a melody.” One cannot simply talk about Finding Paradise without talking about the incredible music that embraces this world. Like in all of Gao’s creations, the games are always complemented by a song that becomes a recurring theme. The song and the music compliment the characters in a really special way, and I can’t describe it further unless you have played the previous games because then you know what I’m talking about. Kan Gao’s musical creations are masterpieces that fit perfectly with the games. As a nice way of really implementing it into the universe, some of the characters (except for the scientists) each play their own instrument, and in a nice way, each theme is introduced by the characters themselves. The trailer shows you an example of the music, and when I watched this again, all the emotions I experienced when playing came rushing back to me:

In the end, I think it is also important to take from this that people never really know what they want at any given time. We all want to live a fulfilled life; but how can we define that, when each individual may want something different? The definition of a fulfilled life has faded in Finding Paradise, as we reflect on the fact that we are all dealt different cards in life. The important part is making the best out of what you have, and who you are.

Need for Speed Payback Review [PS4 Pro] – Bringing Down The House

The Need for Speed franchise has driven players all over fictional cityscapes, mountain passes, smokey forests and desert stretches. Need for Speed Payback doesn’t change any of that, but substitutes the realistically rendered cutscenes from the 2015 entry, back to the animated cast and arcade style racing. Tyler, Mac and Jess team up and partake in a variety of heated events from classic arcade street and drag racing, to off-road and drifting trials, all to take down the boss who runs the city of Fortune Valley, The House.

In the wide-open world of Fortune Valley, Tyler Morgan reigns supreme as the “best racer in the city”. His two close partners, Jess – the cops smashing, escape artist, and Mac – the off-road, thrill-seeking Brit, team up and find themselves stacked against the odds when facing off against The House – an Organized crime syndicate that secretly runs Fortune Valley, the trio is betrayed by the top street racer of the criminal organization, Lina Navarro.

Fueled by revenge, Tyler rounds up his crew and begin to infiltrate the underground racing scene n Fortune Valley. In hopes of getting closer to The House and Navarro, the skilled trio of racers will take down local street racing gangs all across the widespread map. Earn your spot in the streets, juice up your collection of powerful street machines and race your way to earn the ultimate payback on The House.

The vast world of Fortune Valley has more than just casinos and deserts to drive through.

The huge map featured in Payback drives the player across busy Las Vegas-styled city streets, red canyons mixed with desert landscapes, rich mountains and lush valleys. Race events like time trials, sprint and circuit races, drags, arcade-style checkpoints and police chases will fill the county of Fortune Valley in no time. The map is riddled with various objectives for Speed Runs, Speed Traps and high-soaring stunt jumps. Other locations like tune-up shops, gas stations and car dealers will also unlock the more you explore, or the more money you earn.

Sliding from side-to-side

The car handling in Payback is driven towards the arcade style of the racing spectrum, featuring easy-to manoeuvre drifts, slides and hard turns. Though unrealistic, there’s plenty of entertainment and exciting thrills that come in almost each and every race. The cars are broken down into a handful of classes which act as the main portion of the difference in handling and overall driving. Drag, street race, off-road, drift and runner are the five categories to which you can equip your selected car with.

Races are the primary category, using the most of every performance part available, from high-speed to blurring acceleration, on the dime handling and quick-acting braking. Taking players through circuit races around various parts of the map, sprint races from point A to point B, and even high-speed pursuits to escape from law enforcement. Tyler is in charge of these events, as well as top speed drag races in Fortune Valley.

Sliding and drifting around turns is as easy as they come and serves as a crucial form of taking hard corners.

Drag races have been tweaked in almost every Need for Speed title since they first made their appearance in the 2003 Underground title. Still focusing majorly on the car’s tachometer and manually shifting gears, quick reflexes are required to achieve a perfect shift. However, the race countdown before the race has players revving their engines in an attempt to place the needle for a perfect launch on the green. Once the throttle is engaged, cars burn tread, lifting their front ends up into the air. Perfect shifts and well-timed nitrous bursts will have players screaming past busy streets, civilian vehicles and opponent racers.

Taking the racing off-road

The quick-hitting drag races and adrenaline-inducing street racing events bring the heart and soul of the long-running racing franchise. Drifting and off-road races have been included in a healthy amount of NFS titles in previous years, most notably the focus on car sliding drift competitions. Taking the wheel as Mac, the high-speed cornering of drift events feel slick and easy to navigate, but virtually no change between vehicles. Sliding through turns, ripping the e-brake and guiding the nose of your ride around the inside curve feels comfortable and never giving the player a lack of control. This may sound great in writing but comes off slightly diluted and unimpressive as far as diversity in vehicle manoeuvrability.

Drag racing to drifting to off-road hill hopping makes for a diverse racing experience.

In the off-road events, players will tune a 4×4 vehicle, which could range from a smooth and flashy Subaru WRX to the hulking Ford F-150 Raptor. Dirt roads and huge jumps line the racing course with excessive airtime and rough rally style racing. These events are hectic and require skill to manoeuvre across the deep valleys and rocky terrain. Cutting across the course, finding the fastest way to the finish and smashing into your opponents serves as a nice change from the tight cornering and high speeds of street racing.

Building your derelict cars from the ground up

Aside from drifting, off-roading and drag racing across the vast map of Fortune Valley, there are also collectable poker tokens and the more valuable derelict car parts. Upon defeating a leader of each street racing gang, you’re rewarded with the first of five clues to a secret derelict car. The first clue reveals what car you’re investigating, as well as adds four more clues required to complete the build of the vehicle. Clues are small circled areas on the map to which the player needs to discover the location and unveil the hidden part by approaching the derelict item. After all of the clues are found, players may then select the derelict cars and categorize them to one of the five racing categories.

Many different derelict car parts can be found all over Fortune Valley, collecting them all will grant you a new car.

Upon receiving derelict cars or purchasing a new ride, players will then be inclined to improve its performance and upgrade their racer. The obvious choice is to spend hard-earned cash and improve your car by purchasing speed cards. The tune-up shops update randomly about every 10 minutes and a diverse selection of speed cards is available, from new exhaust and headers to enhanced turbos and brakes. Each card alongside its performance part also has one of 5 brands (or the stock part), and some also come with a performance bonus attachment. The brands act as a bonus when three or all six performance parts are equipped with matching brands.

After each race or event players are also rewarded with a mystery speed card which is revealed after the selection. Equipping, selling for cash or trading it in for coveted part tokens are your three options with what to do with every part you’re not using. Part tokens are another interesting way to receive other, sometimes more powerful speed cards through a “slot machine” style mini-game. With three wheels across the board, each one is labelled with a brand, performance part and bonus stat. Players will spend three-part tokens and select one of the three wheels on the selected part, brand or bonus, roll the other two wheels at random, and thus the gamble begins giving you a shiny new speed card.

Adding performance parts to your ride is done by equipping randomly generated Speed Cards which are loaded with extra bonuses.
A familiar NFS experience

The open world and diverse racing events in Need for Speed Payback are relentless in providing a thrilling experience. The story is brash and full of tiresome, predictable characters. The racing is tilted closer to the arcade side of the spectrum, leaving a controllable drifting, jumping and high-speed racing. Upgrading your car selection via speed cards is nifty and keeps things a little more randomized when visiting tune-up shops. Derelict cars provide a unique spin on the series with search-and-find missions and reward players with collectable cars. All-in-all Need for Speed Payback brings another familiar racing experience delivered by Ghost Games, with slight tweaks and enhancements for an exciting racing experience.

Assassin’s Creed Origins Review [PS4 Pro] – A Fine Piece of Ancient History

The Assassin’s Creed series has covered a broad array of historical time periods, numerous revolutionizing civilizations and provided fans with plenty of towering platforms plunging you headfirst into shallow haystacks. Year after year, Ubisoft released the next entry in the series for the past decade, only acquiring a small number of stand out titles from the Assassin’s franchise. After a year off from the constant barrage of AC titles, Assassin’s Creed Origins relieves fans from the drought with a massive world to explore, set in the earliest days of the brotherhood.

Discover ancient Egypt through the eyes of a Medjay

Our newest (or shall I say earliest) assassin goes by the name of Bayek and dons the presence of a Medjay – a sort of royal officer serving the majority of the populace found in Egypt. Acting as protectors not only of the people but of Pharaohs as well – often looked upon as hired mercenaries – Medjay listen to the people and help bring peace and safety to the lands of ancient Egypt. Soon, the death of his son enrages Bayek to chase down the masked ones responsible, in turn learning more about the ancient lands then he may have anticipated.

The world of ancient Egypt is sprawling with enemy hideouts, dozens of viewpoints and tons of sidequests.

The arid scenery of the desert landscape is stunning, and the vastness of the map is daunting, to say the least. The open lands run through countless villages, ancient prospering cities and boundless desert climates reach as far as one can see. It’s no secret the team from Ubisoft took their time on Origins, but the sheer level of detail put into the living and breathing world is far greater than anything we’ve seen from the series. To say the vibrant world of ancient Egypt looks astonishing is nothing short of an understatement. Origins lives and breathes with the ebb and flow of life surrounding the civilization it so graciously clings to and does so brilliantly.

As you run through Egypt and its many territories found in Origins, many new features will begin to surface. The parkour technique has been simplified to one button, while the “marionette” style of character control scheme AC had so faithfully made claim to a decade ago has been completely abandoned altogether. But the true difference from the series doesn’t sit at the controls of Bayek outside of combat but is found in the overhauled mechanics during combat.

Big steps forward in revamping the combat system

To say the Assassin’s Creed new and improved combat system may have been influenced by outside sources beyond Ubisoft headquarters may become evident to most who have played other titles with similar combat experiences. Ditching the relentless style of attack where assassins would bounce between a dozen or so enemies, parrying each attack one after another in a flashy, ultra-bloody finish. Instead, Origins has the player focusing more on one enemy at a time with combat similar to that of The Witcher 3, or perhaps the Dark Souls series.

The revamped combat system brings a brand new approach to brawling with enemies.

Striking with either a light attack or heavy attack, blocking with your shield, using ranged attacks from a variety of different bows and, of course, pulling off stealth assassinations with the elusive hidden blade; the weapon to which made the assassin brotherhood so deadly. The combat in Origins will have you dodging around your enemy blows while counterattacking with one of many melee weapons to choose from. Be it mace, club, sword or spear, tons of thrilling weapons can be found in the massive world of Egypt.

While older systems and battle mechanics had players swinging their weapons at the perfect time to execute precise and deadly counterattacks, the combat would become stale quickly. Over and over we saw the same enemies, with the same predictable attacks, timing our counterattacks just right to squeeze off as many finishers as possible. Though the system saw tweaks here and there throughout the series, this is the first time it has actually been completely overhauled. And, while it takes away from one of the few aspects that separated the Assassin’s series from other titles in the dense genre, it fits well with the new mould the franchise has taken.

A hint of RPG elements

Skills that Bayek can learn throughout Origins are divided into a three-part skill tree. After each level up through gaining experience points, Bayek is granted one ability point to spend on one of the many enhanced skills and abilities. Becoming a stronger warrior with fierce, new attacks, discovering new skills for the helpful companion, Senu or acquiring various bombs equipped from Bayek’s tool belt are just a few examples of useful skills found from the skill tree in Origins.

A dash of other useful RPG elements have been added to the game’s weapons system, now with tons of options from heavy, blunt weapons to ferocious attacking swords. No longer must players discard favourite weapons simply because they’re out-levelled and weaker compared to newer finds with the help of the weapon upgrading system. Upgrading your weapons at local blacksmith shops, be it melee or bows, will bring the weapon to Bayek’s current level, for a fee of course. In some cases where players may discover a particular weapon, they’re comfortable using, instead of replacing it down the road, the upgrading system allows them to continue using it effectively at higher levels.

Tons of weapons, upgrades, unique skills and abilities are discovered, rewarded or learned in the massive world of Origins.

Though, in many instances, it may be wise to switch to newer weapons. Coming in three different colours of rarity (similar to the colour coding found in other RPGs, i.e. Borderlands, Diablo, etc.) weapons will be labelled blue if they’re common, purple if rare and gold if legendary. There are tons of different weapons, each with various stat boosts, and all may be dismantled for precious crafting supplies.

While crafting, Bayek is able to enhance various pieces of equipment, which in turn upgrade important stats permanently. There are a total of six different items to enhance through crafting, including the bracer for stronger melee attacks, the breast-plate which raises Bayek’s health or the quiver which increases the number of arrows one can hold. Other pieces raise range attacks, the amount of bombs or other tools held and the power of Bayek’s hidden blade. Each piece of equipment requires a certain amount of crafting materials, typically found through hunting wildlife, or grabbing loot off of enemies. Finding the loot would be rather difficult if Bayek did not have the help of the scouting eagle, Senu.

Scout the endless skies with Senu

Using Senu is another big change in the series, replacing the eagle vision from previous AC games. Additionally, while flying with Senu, the map icons appear, as well as icons for any nearby crafting supplies, within a certain proximity of your soaring eagle’s sight. Senu has an unlimited distance to scout, and the more viewpoints synchronized, Senu’s sight range is slightly expanded. Aside from pointing out various activities, loot, side quests and crafting materials, Senu is also helpful to provide the player with guard activity and numbers when raiding enemy hideouts.

Explore the skies as Senu and scout for additional quests, important events and necessary items like crafting materials.

Throughout the enormous map that makes up Origins, plenty of side tasks and extra content lay at the feet of Bayek. With the addition of actual side quests, and tossing out the unoriginal and repetitive objective challenges from all of the other releases in the series, Origins stands as the most unique and rewarding Assassin’s title to date. Each sidequest – and there are tons – has a different and interesting storyline, which most are based on real-life instances, legends or myths from the ancient Egyptian era. Many may have players performing simple, and sometimes similar tasks, but all have unique backstories, and plenty of surprises to help ease the gameplay from becoming the same, worn-out cycle of events.

Overview

The massive lands of ancient Egypt sprawl past any other Assassin’s Creed title that has graced the gaming community since its debut in 2007. With a storyline that includes yet another rage-driven protagonist fueled by vengeance and hatred towards Templar forces, the start of the Brotherhood of Assassins is an impressive one. Gorgeous visuals compliment the astounding world of the mysterious Egyptian civilization.

With tiresome gameplay mechanics stripped away and replaced with new and exciting features that show Ubisoft is paying attention to what fans of the series want, Origins gives a lot more than it takes away. The all-new combat system is a delight to master, and gives players a true sense of accomplishment. The crafting and hunting system is an excellent way to continue to strengthen Bayek, on top of the expansive skill tree rewarded through experience points.