Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Review: Dishonored

Based in a fictional setting of Dunwall, Dishonored tells us an interesting story of political corruption, betrayal, oppression and resistance, and of course lots and lots of death, whether it’s at the hands of the plague or the never-ending conflict that goes on. The immersive setting and nice story-telling are then assisted with gameplay that gives the player a chance to tackle every challenge in their own way.

What I greatly enjoyed about Dishonored is the diversity in which it allows you to approach its challenges. It’s a similar style of gameplay as the Deus Ex games. The player can go in with stealth, or they can go guns blazing, or maybe to try some diplomacy, or even to mix and match all of those. Even the primary targets can be handled in ways other than violence. That’s right – it is possible to complete the game without killing any major antagonist.

Depending on how the player handles each mission, they will acquire either high chaos or low chaos. Being merciful, using non-lethal ways of taking down regular enemies, and not triggering alarms all lead to low chaos, which in turn leads to a good ending. The opposite leads to high chaos and hence a bad ending. This greatly adds to the replayability of the game and makes it interesting to complete it at least twice.

Apart from standard weapons and equipment used in each mission, the player also learns supernatural powers throughout the gameplay. They can do so by acquiring special runes which are found in many areas of the game. Many of these powers are very interesting and provide excellent opportunities to try out new and creative ways of getting past a challenge at hand. Perhaps the most commonly used power is Blink, which allows the player to quickly teleport short distances from one cover to another, which is extremely useful for stealthy gameplay. There are several great powers to use, but the ones that stood out the most to me were Possession, which allows the protagonist to possess rats and other small animals and to get through small crawlspaces this way, Dark Vision, which allows the player to see nearby enemies through walls, and Bend Time, with which the player can temporarily slow, and with an upgrade completely stop, the time.

There are few minor things to criticise about Dishonored, like the lack of ways to take out the enemies non-lethally (sleep darts and upclose seem like the only ways), or how sometimes enemy AI and behaviour can be a bit unpredictable. The ending also felt a bit rushed, but once I got to the end of the game, I realised that it’s not so much the ending that’s important in games like these, but the journey itself. All those are just small drawbacks and were nothing compared to the unforgettable experience the game as a whole provided to me. A single playthrough may go for only 15-20 hours, but each minute of that playthrough keeps you fully immersed in the game’s rich and somewhat gloomy steampunk setting, not to mention its great replay value.

My score: 9.5/10

Monday, 20 January 2014

Review: Antichamber

A game that is surely likely to mess up with your mind. Antichamber can easily boast with its unique art style and rather mind-bending environments. It presents itself as one enormous labyrinth full of various puzzles. However, the puzzles often require you to think outside the box and a lot of the time do not follow standard rules of physics. You could end up in a never-ending corridor, or you could turn around and realise a completely different way has opened up than the one you came from. Sometimes you’d end up walking in circles, other times confronted with branching paths.

The style of presentation in Antichamber is definitely commendable, but is it really fun? The mind-bending environments are interesting at first, but the novelty wears off very quickly and instead you start wishing that the game would just stop misleading you all the time. The game has a very non-linear approach to it. A lot of the time if you’re stuck, you can simply return back to the ‘lobby’ area and pick a different path and solve the puzzles along that route. Eventually all routes are meant to be important, or at least that’s what I’ve gathered anyway.

One of the problems about this approach is that as you go on through the labyrinth, you will acquire certain devices that will allow you to pick up and place cubes of different colours in your environment and are meant to be used to solve some of the game’s puzzles. This means that at times you’ll be coming across puzzles that you can’t yet solve until you’ve gotten the right device, which can at times be annoying because there’s no way to tell whether a puzzle in front of you can or cannot be solved at the time. A lot of the game’s ‘rules’ don’t seem to make much logical sense and require a lot of random experimentation. For example, walking over some of the drops will create a path in front of you, or trying to pick up green cubes from the middle of the structure they’re in will cause its ends to disintegrate, leaving you with less cubes to work with.

Throughout the game there is also a number of philosophical quotes scattered about. However, most of those quotes don’t inspire much thought and instead are a collection of common sense mantras that you’re more likely to teach your kids. It’s stuff like ‘sometimes you’ve got to go backwards before you can go forwards’. As you go collecting each quote, they all compile on a huge screen in the lobby area. To what end I am not sure, because I didn’t collect them all, but it seems as though it tries to draw a diagram of a person’s life and some of the time they seem relevant to the puzzle in a nearby room.

Overall the game’s setting is way too abstract for my liking. I couldn’t get much satisfaction from solving the game’s puzzles, because every time I solved a tricky puzzle, the game would either take me back to where I’ve been already, or bring me to one of the puzzles that I cannot yet solve. The sense of progression is not felt and there is little to no incentive to keep going through the remainder of the labyrinth. After several hours in I got tired of coming back to the same puzzles over and over again, so I ended up giving up on the game. I think Antichamber is the kind of game that you either get it or you don’t. It stands out with its unique art style and unorthodox way of puzzle solving, but it’s hardly rewarding for the player and I couldn’t get much fun out of it.

My score: 6.5/10

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Review: DLC Quest

A game that parodies the gaming industry. DLC Quest is a very simple 2D platformer at its core whose main premise is to regularly deliver humour to the players in a form of various video game memes and parodies of questionable business practices of gaming corporations.

The game consists of a number of small locations which can only be reached once the player has collected a certain number of coins and then used those to purchase a fake DLC from the in-game shopkeeper. These fake in-game DLCs spoof the way many DLCs are done in the real world, such as offering access to certain areas, adding irrelevant content, and even allowing the player to use some of the core functions such as jumping and pausing the game.

The jokes in the game have given me plenty of laughs during the course of my playthrough, but the platforming itself is rather basic and can get kind of repetitive after a while. Most of the game simply requires the player to collect coins in various areas, some of which are harder to access than others, but apart from spikes in certain places, there aren’t really any enemies in the game that can hurt you.

The whole game consists of two story ‘campaigns’ and it took me about 2 hours to complete both (about 50 minutes on the first and the rest of the time on the second), so it is a very short game, but at the same time it hardly costs anything. I don’t really see it being very replayable and overall it’s probably the kind of game that’s more fun play in a group of friends where one plays and everyone else watches, since its key strength are the countless jokes and not really the gameplay itself.

My score for DLC Quest might not be overly high, but it’s not because I didn’t enjoy it. I did have a fair bit of fun going through it. I just wish there was more to it. It’s too simple and too short at the moment.

My score: 6.5/10

Friday, 22 November 2013

RM game review - Zendir 2: A World Reborn

Developer: Hotfirelegend

The next RPG maker game I am going to review is Zendir 2: A World Reborn. It takes place several years after the first game in a fantasy world called Zendir. The main character, Zaphilia, is now preparing to marry her close friend, Zane, but just as the wedding ceremony begins, a demon from the past emerges and captures Zane. Zaphilia unites with her friends in pursuit of the demon only to be transported several years to the past. Now she must make her decisions carefully not only to stop the demon, but also to make sure that her actions do not have adverse effects on the future.

Zendir 2 is generally an easy and enjoyable game to get through. It has a clear storyline and set of objectives. Unlike the first game, it does not feature an overworld map, which in my opinion was a good decision. It allows for a bit of exploration here and there, but for the most part it’s pretty linear and the players shouldn’t find themselves getting lost or confused as to where to go next. Most of the enemies and the challenges might be a little easy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it allows for many casual players to be able to get through the game and witness how it ends.

There are many differences present from the first game, as well as improvements. The pace and the flow of the story is much better and the gameplay is more balanced when it comes to the combat aspects of it, although towards late stages of the game it feels that many of the enemies are a little too high on health and act more like damage sponges than anything else. Also unlike the first game, the battles with enemies are now initiated on touch encounters – the monsters are visible on the map and the battle with them is triggered only if the player touches them. Usually this kind of game mechanic means it’s too easy to avoid these encounters. However, in Zendir 2, the enemies will start to approach the player themselves once the player gets close enough and dodging them becomes somewhat harder. When trying to do so among the mountain cliffs or inside caves, it’s very easy to get swarmed by 2 or more enemies at once, which is a good thing in my opinion and means that the players will have to get into some battles during their playthroughs.

Apart from the main story, the game also features a handful of sidequests and a few optional bosses that can usually be found if the player strays off the main path and searches deeper around the crypts and caves. There’s probably not a whole lot of optional stuff to satisfy the completionist type gamers, but then again, Zendir 2 is a story-centric game and hence I think it’s only right that it’s more linear in its approach.

Overall I found myself enjoying the game. It has some beautiful visuals, a nice soundtrack, and generally a well-executed story with some interesting characters. At times I felt that some characters needed a bit more development and a few story points were a little confusing, but the overall impression was good. The game should take roughly 3 hours to get through and has just enough of everything not to feel padded and leaves enough of the story to be explored in the next sequel.

You can find more info on the game and its download link HERE.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Central Impulse - another free game from me

Here's another game that I finished recently. Central Impulse is a sci-fi themed game with an all-robot cast. It mixes RPG gameplay with puzzle-solving elements and is relatively fast-paced and light-hearted.

General features:

- An all-robot cast
- About 3.5-4 hours in length
- A beautiful sci-fi setting aboard a massive space station
- Gameplay is equally balanced between puzzles/minigames and combat
- Floating pickups!
- Flexible gear customization: any playable character can equip any piece of gear in the game (providing they have a slot available) allowing the player to pick combat roles for the characters.

For more info and a download link, please GO HERE.
(A couple of things to note: at the moment it only works on the Windows operating systems, and also you need RPG maker RTP files to play, so if you don't have that, choose the RTP-inclusive download link)

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

RM game review - WOMB

Developer: iToken

Although WOMB was made in RPG maker, it tends to play more like a horror puzzle game in space. Your name is 36D and you wake up from cryo sleep on a dark spaceship all alone, trying to remember what your mission was and attempting to find everyone else aboard the ship. As you begin your search, you start hearing a female voice that’s guiding you along but also taunting you at the same time. Will you find your way back home and survive, or will you go insane and die?

As you progress through the game, you get to solve puzzles, uncover mysteries and strange phenomena, and view various flashbacks which provide insight on the backstory. The game doesn’t feature any battles with monsters or other enemies. It is more about simply uncovering the story bit by bit and it does so very well. Intense, dark atmosphere of isolation really adds to the whole mysterious feel that the game has going for it.

There are times when the game changes the pace a bit and introduces something new, like for example getting a chance to travel through space and mine planets for potential fuel with the help of a specialised robot.

Another feature that I really enjoyed and what I haven’t seen before in other RM games is a clever placement of various video clips. Those usually tend to play during flashbacks and key scenes and they give the game an extra bit of immersion. In addition to video clips, we also get to hear onboard computer voice in certain areas, which once again adds to the immersion and gives the game a more professional feel.

There are some drawbacks to the game, like some passability issues, the walking speed being too slow, and at times it simply being hard to know where to go next and what to do. Sometimes it can be because of the instructions not being too clear, other times it’s simply due to most areas being too dark and it can be easy to miss doorways and other vital elements.

However, all in all, WOMB has an interesting, well-developed story, and most of all an absolutely jawdropping conclusion that will stick with you once you’ve completed the game.

You can find more info on the game and its download link HERE.

Go HERE for the iToken's website.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

RM game review - Undeniably Sexy: A Thief's Tale

Developer: Chad Sexington

Here’s a review of another RPG maker game that I’ve played through recently. Undeniably Sexy: A Thief’s Tale is based off of the setting of Ultima Online and hence can be considered as a fan game. However, despite that, it follows its own storyline and has its own set of colourful characters. I personally have never played Ultima Online and could still get into the story of a Thief’s Tale very easily.

The central protagonist is Chad Sexington who appears to have a very light-hearted attitude to everything in life and simply seeks a prize behind anything he comes across. His greatest goal is to simply find the greatest treasure, and somehow as if brought together by fate, he bands with 6 other quirky characters, all of which embark on the same quest. This is perhaps one of the best parts of the storytelling in this game – there is a very well-developed and funny chemistry between the team members. Just when it seems the group grows closer to each other, they end up drifting apart, and just when you think they’ve grown apart, they come back together.

Another thing I enjoyed about the storytelling in this game is how unpredictable it can be at times, managing to maintain a great element of surprise and to keep you hooked to know what happens next. All this is spiced up with tonnes of silly jokes and other humourous moments.

Most locations look very beautiful and manage to convey a good sense of atmosphere, and the soundtrack is very fitting too. Although many of the tunes are from the RPG maker XP RTP, there are some new ones present as well, and I personally thought even the RTP tracks were well suited in the places they were put.

The entire game is split into 3 acts, and overall takes a linear approach until the late stages of 3rd act, when the player gets a chance to revisit previous locations as well as travel to some new optional ones for side adventures. The amount of optional content is very impressive and should satisfy the completionist type players. The game’s overall length is easily over 30 hours, not to mention that there is also a chance to go into a New Game +, where the player starts from the beginning but with all of the experience, skills, gold, and items transferred over. According to the developer, this feature was planned from the very beginning and is meant to drastically change the core gameplay, giving a more open-ended approach.

During the game we get to visit a lot of stunning-looking cities and a variety of dungeons of different themes. Many dungeons contain very interesting puzzles that require the player to think carefully in order to solve them. In fact even to progress through the story in many of the cities the player is required to do something, like to acquire a certain item or to play with the disguises in order to fool the guards. Oftentimes the hints are given in the in-game books or from the NPCs even. The overall level design of each location is great and every level is quite memorable in its own way.

The only major criticism really that I can give is that at times it is easy to get stuck because a solution to a puzzle at hand might not always be so obvious. However, the developer, Chad Sexington, has been making very frequent updates to the game and adding new hints at various points in order to guide the player along.

So to summarize, I’ve had a great time playing through a Thief’s Tale. With the huge amount of different skills and a variety of enemies and bosses, the gameplay is rich, puzzles are aplenty, and the overall feel of the story is light-hearted and fun.

You can find more info and download the game HERE.

Or you can simply visit its site right HERE, which also includes a video walkthrough.