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Action

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    The Surge
    Developed by: Deck13
    Published by: Focus Home Interactive
    Release date: May 15, 2017
    Available on: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Action RPG
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for blood, gore, intense violence, strong language
    Price: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Focus Home Interactive for sending us this game and the Walk in the Park DLC!

    It’s your first day on the job at Creo, a huge company with a vision to fix the world from the bad things that humans have done to it. Their goal is to provide a better life for everyone and one of the draws of working there is that they have the technology to make your wheelchair-bound character, Warren, walk again. After selecting the class of Field Technician or Heavy Operator, the implant surgery commences. Without the expected anesthetic. There’s something wrong with the machines! Warren’s day starts off bloody and painful and only gets worse from there.

    Although he can walk again, the system deems Warren a failure and discards him in the junkyard. It’s there that he’ll learn the basic attacking and blocking techniques needed to survive in this company that’s overrun with corrupt machinery and cybernetic zombies. Many of the enemies have a weak spot that can be targeted to take them down more efficiently. If you pay attention, you’ll also discover attack patterns that will be necessary to learn to sustain minimal damage.

    As enemies are defeated, you may acquire schematics for their equipment and scrap metal to forge your own versions of them. Scrap is also needed to level up your rig which opens up more upgrade slots and the ability to overcharge various circuits to unlock loot and new areas to explore.

    The Surge
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Action-packed story with challenging enemies and bosses; neat upgrade abilities and the drone is very useful 
    Weak Points: Although it does copy the Dark Souls game style, it doesn’t improve upon the formula; keyboard controls are easier to use than a gamepad
    Moral Warnings: Lots of violence and gore and you rip limbs off of enemies;  every cuss word is used and blaspheming is shown with a lowercase “g”; there’s a pinup of a woman in a bikini

    It doesn’t take long to discover the first medical operations building that heals Warren and replenishes the injectable healing vaccines. It’s in this area that weapons and armor can be upgraded and implants installed. Unfortunately, after healing, all of the previously defeated enemies are once again revived. Because of this mechanic, you’ll need to go easy on the healing injections and perfect your fighting techniques if you wish to survive in this harsh environment. Some areas have a healing station that will replenish your health and injections without reviving the enemies. Take advantage of those!

    The main story is told via audio logs left behind and your goal is to save the remaining normal people left in the facility. An employee named Sally communicates with you via a hologram messaging system and will give you some basic objectives, but all of the heavy lifting is on you.

    As you explore your surroundings, you’ll find various upgrades lying around. The good ones are usually guarded and off the beaten path so keep your eyes open for them. Some of the implants lower the energy or stamina usage needed for attacks, increase your health or allow you to regenerate it, grant you the ability to breathe toxic air without losing health, or increase you attack power. Later in the game, you’ll get a drone which comes in handy for shielding you in battle or attacking on your behalf from a distance. I highly recommend installing the implants for increasing the drone’s damage. Don’t rely too heavily on the drone though as it’s unavailable for some of the boss battles. Like the game levels, the bosses in this title are huge and intimidating.

    The Surge
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 47%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The levels are easy to get lost in, but you know you’re on the right track when you unlock a new and faster way to get back to the operations/healing center. Another good sign is discovering a circuit that doesn’t require too much power to override it. Higher-level overrides generally yield nice loot instead of story progression.

    If you purchase the Walk in the Park DLC, you can access it from a train station in Central Production B which requires multiple visits throughout the game’s main story. Another way to enter Creo World is through the Research and Development level. Like the main facility, Creo World has experienced serious destruction and the park’s mechanical mascots have gone haywire and are violent. Much of the park’s landscape is sunken and access to the various attractions is limited. Until you reach the Operations facility, there are no humans to interact with. The guy there is part of a rescue team, but he needs your help in restoring the power, networking, and locating the rest of his team who crashed nearby. There’s plenty of action, enemies, and Steam achievements to be had if you purchase this $14.99 DLC.

    If you enjoy challenging action RPGs, The Surge will scratch that itch. Due to the fighting, you can expect lots of blood, violence, and limbs being torn off (especially during the finishing moves). Language is another moral concern since every cuss word including the F-bomb is heard in the audio logs. God’s name is also thrown around casually and is not capitalized either. Lastly, there’s a pinup up of a woman in a bikini on one of the office walls.

    In the end, I found out that this game style isn’t my cup of tea, but I did find the story fascinating and wanted to see what caused this company’s collapse. I also grew to like the country song that always play in the healing facility and got it stuck in my head on multiple occasions. There are multiple endings and a new game plus mode to explore after you finish the main story. If you’re a fan of Dark Souls-style games then you’ll enjoy The Surge.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    The Surge 2
    Developed by: Deck13
    Published by: Focus Home Intereactive
    Release Date: September 24, 2019
    Available on: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Action RPG
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for blood and gore, strong language, drug references
    Price: $49.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Focus Home Interactive for sending us this game to review!

    The Surge 2 takes place after the destruction from the first game. The city of Jericho has been evacuated and a large wall has been erected to keep those infected with a techno-nanite disease isolated from the rest of the world. Your character (who can be a male or female) crash lands in this city and is one of two survivors. The other surviving passenger is a young girl named Athena who is related to the president of Creo Institute of Technology.

    As you explore the town and battle the hostile cyber-humans, you’ll come across audio logs which tell most of the game’s story. The children in this city have been experimented on and Athena has been captured by the same group of scientists. When you arrive in certain areas, you’ll see a memory flashback regarding what happened to her there. Along with figuring out why you two are linked, you’ll have to save Athena before it’s too late.

    When it comes to battles, you’ll have to perfect your timing for dodging and using your various attacks. Many of the enemies equip a shield that can only be bypassed with a charged attack. Naturally, the enemies won’t wait around for you to kick their butt. The ability to target specific areas comes in handy, especially during boss battles. Targeting unarmored body parts makes taking down foes easier, but you’ll get better loot if you attack fortified areas.

    The Surge 2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Action-packed story with challenging enemies and bosses; neat upgrade abilities and the drone is very useful; online graffiti is helpful
    Weak Points: The game may crash repeatedly if your graphics card drivers are not current
    Moral Warnings: Lots of violence and gore and you rip limbs off of enemies;  strong language is used along with blaspheming; there’s a group of drug addicted religious zealots; there's an audio log that talks about sex before marriage

    Chances are you’ll take damage and you can heal by using an injectable health kit (limited qualities), a med station (the best way but there’s not many of them), or a med bay. Alternatively, there are implants available that will replenish your stats for you as you battle so keep an eye out for those. The three attributes you can increase are health, stamina, and battery power.

    The med bays serve as respawn points and are essential for leveling up and upgrading/crafting gear. Unfortunately, after a med bay visit all of the previously defeated enemies are once again revived. As enemies are defeated, you may acquire schematics for their equipment and scrap metal to forge your own versions of them. Scrap is also needed to level up your rig which opens up more upgrade slots allowing you to equip more implants.

    Your drone has several functions and comes in handy during battle. You can have the drone scout for loot, attack from a distance, unlock doors, and spray paint graffiti. If you have the online mode enabled you can see graffiti left behind by other players. Often times the graffiti is merely cosmetic, but there are many instances where it can point out a stash of goodies that you may have missed otherwise.

    The levels are easy to get lost in, but there are a fair number of maps available to keep your bearings. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to quick travel to the various destinations. As you progress in the game, you’ll unlock abilities like using a zip line, lift, and opening magnetic locks. Once acquired, you can use the abilities to enter areas in the map that were not accessible previously.

    The Surge 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - --/20
    Graphics - --/10
    Sound - --/10
    Stability - -/5
    Controls - -/5

    Morality Score - 46%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - -010
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Visually, The Surge 2 looks great with highly detailed maps, characters, and intimidating bosses. Due to the fighting, you can expect lots of blood, violence, and limbs being torn off (especially during the finishing moves). Decapitation happens often during a battle's finishing move. For the most part this game ran fine on my RTX 2080 Ti video card. However, I did experience several game crashes in a row that were not resolved until I updated my drivers to the most recent version.

    The sound is top notch in this title and at a particular med bay, the catchy song from the previous game is reprised. The voice acting is well done and brings the characters to life. Language is another moral concern since many curse words are heard in the dialogue and audio logs. One of the audio logs is an advertisement for a consensual relationship. God’s name is also thrown around casually. Religion is not shown in a positive light as there is a group of zealots that partake in drugs regularly.

    With the gory violence, drug use, and language, The Surge 2 definitely earns its “Mature” rating. If you enjoyed the original game and the Dark Souls genre, you’ll want to pick this one up. I enjoyed it more than the original.

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    Throw Anything
    Developed by: Visual light
    Published by: Visual light
    Release date: July 26, 2018
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $11.99

    Thank you Visual light for sending us this game to review!

    “Scientist X” has spread a zombie virus around the world by using a powerful cube he invented. Five scientists that opposed his plan have divided the cube into five pieces and scattered them across the world. In retaliation, Scientist X has sent his zombie horde out to look for the missing pieces. As part of the Secret Delivery Agency, you must protect the guardians of the cube pieces from the zombies climbing up and into their skyscraper locations.

    There are six different stages and they unlock after the previous one is cleared. Each level has three difficulties: easy, normal, and hard. In total, there are forty-four Steam achievements and you can get almost half of them by clearing each stage on every difficulty setting. Other Steam achievements can be earned by killing zombies in certain ways or by using specific (and powerful!) weapons.

    Throw Anything
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun concept; multiple difficulty levels
    Weak Points: The NPCs shouting “No!” every time you throw something of theirs gets annoying; even on easy the game is pretty fast paced and challenging
    Moral Warnings: You have to kill zombies but there is no blood or gore; you can remove some clothes off of one of the bosses

    Each level has you starting out in front of a large window and it doesn’t take long before zombies begin scaling the walls in an attempt to retrieve the cube piece and kill anything in their way. You’re not equipped with any weapons, but you have free reign to break apart tables and cabinets to hurl the pieces down at the zombies climbing toward you. Anything on the walls, tables, and floors is fair game. However, the NPCs in the room will shout at you telling you to stop and it gets rather old fast. Out of frustration, I threw the first level’s NPC at the zombies and he came back with a broken arm. After a couple of more throws, he too became a zombie. There’s a Steam achievement for killing an NPC but more achievements can be earned for keeping them all alive.

    Every level has a different theme and throwable objects at your disposal. For example, the kitchen level has a bunch of food items and a giant freezer that you can fill up and freeze to make them more effective. Several times during most of the levels a delivery robot will drop off a package that often comes with handy or powerful weapons inside. The delivery robot is pretty good fodder to throw at the zombies. Another lesson I learned was not to touch the delivery box with the freezing gloves equipped. While a frozen box makes a decent weapon, it’s no longer openable.

    Throw Anything
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 83%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Zombies climbing up the walls are not the only threat. Some levels have zombie birds that are rather annoying and deadly if not dealt with fast enough. In later levels, zombies come at you from behind, so you’ll have to stay on your guard. Each level has a mini-boss and a final boss. Though there’s not much variety in the zombies and the mini-bosses, the final bosses are all unique. There’s a Steam achievement called Pervert for removing the clothes off of one of the bosses. I haven’t done that and didn’t see anything questionable in the bosses I faced.

    Throw Anything is pretty family friendly and is more about silliness than violence. There isn’t any blood but there are plenty of explosions. Along with bombs and grenades, you can take out zombies with crossbows and guns of all shapes and sizes. Whenever a zombie is hit with a projectile, an orange impact explosion is shown.

    Other than the annoying voiceovers, Throw Anything is a pretty fun experience overall. Initially it was released with one difficulty level and many felt that it was too challenging. Even the easy difficulty can take many attempts before clearing a level. It’s nice to see that the developer is listening to feedback and I look forward to more silly and family friendly titles from Visual light.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Tokyo Xanadu eX+
    Developed By: Nihon Falcom/Ghostlight (PC Port only)
    Published By: Aksys Games
    Release Date: December 8, 2017 (June 30, 2017 for Vita version)
    Available On: Windows, PS4, PS Vita (non-eX+ version only)
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Drug Reference, Fantasy Violence, Language, Suggestive Themes
    Genre: Action Role Playing Game
    Mode: Single Player
    MSRP: $59.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Ghostlight for allowing me to participate in the PC version beta!

    Ever since playing my first Ys game, I have been following Falcom's works with great interest. Every game so far has been one that I have enjoyed immensely. Having played most of their western releases by now, Toyko Xanadu ended up being not quite what I expected, and mostly in a good way.

    I think it has to be said that if you are familiar with previous games with 'Xanadu' in the title, like Faxanadu or Xanadu Next (which is an excellent game that we reviewed here), then go ahead and ignore any expectations that this game is related in any way but name. Xanadu Next was a proper sequel to the classic games; Tokyo Xanadu is very much its own thing – but certainly a product of modern Falcom and the kinds of games they make these days, though with a notably different feel.

    Tokyo Xanadu takes place in a fictional suburb of modern (2015, to be exact) Tokyo where the protagonist, Kou, is a second year student at Morimiya High School. While the setting is quite different than the typical fantasy Falcom game, there is still a rather uncanny resemblance to another Falcom series called Trails of Cold Steel with its graphics and high school setting, as well as some Persona thrown in for good measure. While the first chapter or two felt a bit too close to Trails, it wasn't too long before the feel of the game grew on me and begun to really feel like its own thing.

    Like both Trails and Persona, there is a city/town mode, where you explore the school, and eventually much of Morimiya, and get to talk to NPCs, solve quests, and spend affinity shards (similar to bonding points) to get to know your close friends better (at the cost of some of your other friends). This is also the time to buy equipment, power up your characters, do your part time job, and other things which then lead to an episode in the Eclipse.

    The Eclipse is an alternate dimension that only spiritually sensitive people, as well as select others, know exist. It's filled with demon-like creatures called greeds, and the seemingly random openings have been happening with more and more frequency, which eventually happens to our happy protagonist, as well as his soon to be partner, Asuka. While she is not happy having to tell another about what is going on, she soon resigns to her fate as he manifests a spirit weapon which he is able to wield to assist her. Others eventually join you as the scale of the conflict grows, and as usual, a bunch of (mostly) high school kids are tasked with saving everyone.

    Tokyo Xanadu eX+
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent story and characters; very entertaining action; a ton of content and decent replay value
    Weak Points: Some translation text issues remain, especially late game; minor bugs remain in the PC version
    Moral Warnings: Action violence; magic is used by the player and enemies; there is a hidden spiritual world that only a small number of people can see; quite a bit of foul language, with words like 'd*mn', 'h*ll', 'b*tch', '*ss', and 'sh*t', with some faux words like 'effin'; God's name in vain used (God, god, Jesus) as well as some references to Cthulhu; local religions described, including a slightly altered version of Christianity (they call it quasi-polytheistic); tarot cards present, and some references to Ouija boards; some sexual references, with discussions of breasts, porn stashes, and similar things; swimsuit DLC is extremely revealing with massive cleavage; a couple of homosexual non-player characters; fake drug discussed and used (not by the player); alcohol and tobacco present and used on screen (not by the player)

    Entering and exiting the Eclipse manifests in the form of spirit gates, which eventually open in many places throughout the city. They often have a dark and foreboding aura about them, with hexagrams and other symbols swarming on them. Once you enter, inside is where the vast majority of the combat takes place. This game, unlike Trails but like Ys (and Xanadu and Zwei, which are also Falcom action RPGs), has battle that takes place in real time, where you slash up enemies with your weapons. You can also do a power attack, a ranged attack, and a flying attack. These utilize a combination of the attack, special attack, and jump buttons to do their thing.

    Combat is very fast paced, not unlike an Ys game (though not quite a fluid as one). Standard attacks are basically 'free' to use as you like, but power attacks, ranged attacks, and flying attacks use a quickly regenerating meter that goes up as you move around and perform normal attacks. These do much more damage, sometimes many times more, depending on the character and load out. Like always, there are ways to spec out your characters to optimize for various kinds of damage.

    One of the ways that the game keeps things fresh is by giving enemies specific elemental strengths and weaknesses. This not only makes you keep switching characters, but certain master cores, which is how you assign elements to a character, also grant bonuses, which can help tweak your character. Kou can use any element, while everyone else is locked to one of two elements. At the beginning of each dungeon, you can see what the elemental weaknesses of each upcoming greed is, so you can properly plan your party. And, you can switch out character with the press of a button, so you can easily kill one enemy with one party member, and switch out to hit the next one instantly.

    Bosses are very fun and genuinely challenging. There is a bit of an uneven difficulty curve early on in the game, but by chapter three that is mostly all sorted out. Each tends to take place in a rectangular or circular arena, and you can run, jump, or dodge your way to avoid getting stomped. Dodging grants you a small invincibility frame, which can really come in handy, though there is nothing like Ys' enemy stun mechanic. It's otherwise very similar.

    While I hate to mention other Falcom games so often during this review, it's really hard to avoid it, because the game itself does so. For example, Kou's weapon is called a 'Raging Gear', which is almost a direct rip from Zwei II's Anchor Gear. It even moves in the same way. Towa is a clear allusion to one of the same name from Trails of Cold Steel (though her last name is different). Several other Trails characters, like Rean, Alisa, Fie, and others have cameos in various in-universe anime, manga, video games, and action figures. Adol from Ys is visible on posters and signs. Gurumin and other Zwei II characters and trinkets are littered around the toy stores and other places. To point out every reference to other Falcom games could easily be a novel unto itself.

    Despite this, Tokyo Xanadu eX+ manages to set itself apart in ways that makes it truly special. To start with, the characters each experience growth, and you come to love them all. Kou is one of my favorite protagonists now, with his combination of realism and genuine selfless spirit that is truly endearing. Asuka goes from closed and reserved to truly caring and kind. Each of the other characters are so well written that you truly come to care about each and every one. The storytelling is also excellent. The endings (there are three different kinds of endings) are all great and heart-felt.

    The eX+ additions is another highlight. Not only does it add a solid 30-40% more content, but it's great. Early on the flow does seem a bit disrupted, as the first chapter side story introduces things without explanation that the main game has not yet, and the boss is a massive difficulty spike for that point in the game. Overall though, it's great, as it really helps you get to know the other characters much better. And the post game content, in particular the After Story, is really great. Tying up loose ends in such a wonderful way, and then leaving room for a sequel as it does brought me much joy as good endings do.

    Despite all of this, no game is without its flaws, and this is no exception. For one, the localization, while mostly well done and with plenty of character, does still have the occasional issue, especially late game. A few of the interface icons were left in Japanese, which only was a real issue with Kou's character stats, as you have no idea what they mean unless you refer to the built-in help. Of course, anyone who plays this game for any amount of time will notice how so many characters sure do love to *chortle*.

    Tokyo Xanadu eX+
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10-/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 61%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 4/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    I noticed a bug in the PC version where if a scene uses one of the non-level musics, it will not start over the next time it is called upon. This is mostly not a big deal, but when I played through two different endings without exiting the game first, it was jarring hearing one ending without any music to accompany it. Also, borderless window display mode works well enough, but the frame pacing is noticeably worse than than exclusive fullscreen mode.

    On the moral front, there is plenty to talk about. The requisite fantasy violence is present here as it often is. It's not unusually bloody or gory. Most PG-13 curse words are used fairly often, which includes words like 'd*mn', 'h*ll', 'b*tch', '*ss', and 'sh*t', with some faux words like 'effin'. There is also plenty of uses of God's name in vain, saying things like 'god', 'God', and 'Jesus', including combinations with the above curse words. Curse word use is common, though not to the point where it feels out of place. The occasional reference to Cthulhu did feel out of place, however.

    There is plenty of occult spiritual content to go over. The entire concept of a spiritual underworld that only the specially gifted can see is obviously occult-like. The gates between worlds are dark and menacing, with hexagrams littering them. One of the characters uses hexagrams to cast his spells. There are references to local religions, including temples to said religions. Ancient animist gods are also referenced, and noted to have power. Christianity is actually shown in a reasonably positive light, with Christian characters, but it's referred to as a 'quasi-polytheistic' religion, which is likely a sin of ignorance rather than intentional blasphemy. Tarot cards are present, as is a reference to Ouija boards.

    One of the plotlines revolves around a fictitious drug, and its distribution and effects. Alcohol is served to adults in your presence, and you take a part-time job as a bartender. Another character is shown smoking tobacco. One woman is a hostess. You also become on good terms with the local Yakuza (though Kou never really feels completely comfortable around them).

    From the sexual content perspective, there is also much to talk about, though they in many ways did exercise restraint. For one, there are no explicit sexual relationships of any kind. Kou is a gentleman through and through (almost to a hardheaded fault), though a friend of his is a bit more forward in that respect. The girls are wearing appropriate clothes almost all of the time, unless you buy the swimsuit DLC, in which case very little is left to the imagination (including massive cleavage). I was happy about how, despite every opportunity to do otherwise, they did a great job keeping most of the girls' underwear hidden, even when doing somersaults right in front of the camera while wearing skirts. (The only exception to this rule is Rion where underwear is briefly visible.) There is the occasional midriff visible, and enemies with lots of visible cleavage.

    But that is not to say that there is nothing to be concerned about. There is a clearly effeminate male homosexual character in the town, and most men are clearly bothered by his presence. He makes statements that can definitely have at least some sexual overtones. Also, one of the girls in the school has a clear lesbian crush on several of the more attractive girls at school. There is also anime-trope level breast size discussions among the girls while visiting the hot springs.

    Tokyo Xanadu eX+ really snuck up on me. I knew that I would enjoy it, as I tend to do with Falcom games, but if 2017 wasn't one of the best years of modern gaming in recent memory, it could have easily been my personal game of the year. Instead, it lives in the same year as Persona 5, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Ys VIII. Nevertheless, it's a fantastic adventure that should not be missed, despite some roughness around the edges, and of course appropriateness issues that should always be considered carefully before any purchase.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity
    Developed By: Ankake Supa
    Published By: XSEED Games
    Release Date: September 20, 2016 (PS4), July 11, 2018 (Windows)
    Available On: PS4, Windows
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Violence, Blood, Mild Language
    Genre: Action RPG
    Mode: Single Player
    MSRP: $19.99 (PS4), $14.99 (Steam)
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you XSEED Games for sending us this game for review!

    The Touhou game universe is based off of a very popular set of "bullet hell" shooters developed primarily by one person, who calls his company Team Shanghai Alice. Rather than tightly control his intellectual property (IP) and characters, he instead allows fans to create other media based on his work. This has led to an explosion of various types of media set in this world, including this game. This fan media is called doujinshi (or doujin) in Japan.

    Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is one of those fan made games. Originally released for Windows in Japan in 2014, it soon qualified for a Sony platform called Play, Doujin!, where it was re-released on PlayStation 4 in February 2016. And just a few months later, it was brought to English speaking audiences with the help of XSEED Games. And a couple of years after that, XSEED Games has now brought it back to PC, with the latest release on Steam.

    While there are many doujin games that XSEED could have chosen to bring over, there is little doubt that this one was chosen because of a passing resemblance to Ys. Unlike most Touhou games, this one is an action RPG, rather than a "bullet hell" shooter. You have a third person view of the action, seeing your character fight against her opponents from an angle up above. You have direct control of her, with normal and special attacks as well as jumps at her disposal. You can choose either the vampire Remilia Scarlet, or her human servant Sakuya Izayoi. After that choice at the start, you are locked to her for the rest of the game.

    While just being a fast-paced third person action RPG itself shares a fair amount with Ys, it borrows other things as well. The main steals, as I see it, are in the combo system. Like Ys: The Oath in Felghana and Ys Origin, when you attack an enemy, a combo meter begins. As you rack up hits and kills, the rate you gain experience goes up, as does damage done. Though, unlike Ys, the combo counter is extremely generous, as you have quite a few seconds to hit another enemy or even item to keep the combo counter going. I have seen combos north of 150 during my time with this game.

    Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun, lighthearted action adventure; decent character progression and loot system; great music
    Weak Points: No voice acting; the plot is very barebones and hardly drives the game forward; occasional frame rate drops; locked camera
    Moral Warnings: Animated violence; fights start with no good reason – the characters are bored and want something to do; blood in the environment in a small number of dungeons; words a*s and hell used; magic spells are used by the character and enemies; some spells are in the shape of hexagrams or pentagrams; most characters are mystical creatures of some kind, like fairies or vampires

    Another difference is that there is a quasi-random loot generation system. Items can boost a variety of stats, including HP, skill points and regeneration rate, base attack, critical power and chance, and the rather odd drop rate. How this stat actually works is unclear, since I had it well over 300% and enemies still did not drop items every time, but when I had it over 800% during a few moments, they sure did drop stuff like crazy (but still not every single enemy). Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, sometimes optimizing equipment for certain use cases can really pay off. For example, there are items that greatly increase drop rate at the cost of power or hit points. While this would never be appropriate for bosses, it can really help when fighting regular mobs, as often better equipment can result. Since both drops and treasure chests are mostly random, it can really pay off if you are very lucky.

    There are also skills and spells that you can earn as you gain levels, and equip at will. Some skills are useful to clear out enemies, while others do lots of damage or some combination of both. All skills require a certain amount of skill points, which recharge quickly, so they can be spammed fairly often if used carefully. Spells are extremely powerful, but require a lot of hitting your enemies to recharge. It's a great way to do serious damage to a boss though.

    If you are hoping for a deep plot to push you from area to area to fight off the next derelict of justice, you most certainly will be disappointed. The plot is completely forgettable. To summarize, Remilia, the 500 year old powerful vampire, is bored, so she decides to go look for something to do and beats up some rabble. Most boss battles involve some form of 'Hey, I'm bored; let's fight!' Her house ends up being damaged by an unknown assailant, and she does pursue this, but the plot is never deep or interesting enough to hold your attention. The reason to play this game is more for the gameplay than the storyline.

    And it is fun to play. The many enemies to beat up in each level, along with bosses that present a good challenge, continue to keep things interesting. If you enjoy beat 'em ups, then I suspect you'd like this too. Bosses take a bit more of their inspiration from the main Touhou games, with bosses that use "bullet hell"-like attacks, and various spells and such. They are definitely the highlight, though I found few of them challenging until pretty late into the game, especially in the post game bonus dungeon.

    The other main draw is the well established joy of collecting loot. It's not nearly as deep or interesting as other games with this mechanic, but hoping to find a new weapon or armor still has plenty of draw. It's also neat that there are a few rare items, particularly in the post game, which can give you special skills that can only be used when they are equipped. Some of them are pretty powerful, which can make the ever-present challenge of attack power vs. critical rate vs. other useful stats or skills even more difficult.

    Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 70%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 4/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Graphically, Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is quite pleasant. It has a nice animated art style, and some of the scenery is quite pretty. It's not super detailed, nor will it win any awards, but it doesn't have to. I also noticed the occasional frame rate drop. One other complaint is that sometimes the camera occludes our heroes with trees and such, but since it's always fixed, there's nothing you can do. Otherwise, the music is quite good. Not 'have to own the soundtrack' good, but very nice overall. The sound effects also do their jobs well enough. There is no voice acting of any kind, which would be nice, but is completely understandable given it's a fan made game.

    The PC version is, for all intents and purposes, virtually identical to the PS4 version. There is one added difficulty setting, called "Bullet Hell" mode. Also, you can choose your resolution and graphical effects, with 4K resolutions officially supported. I found the very highest settings to cause minor and occasional stutter on my NVIDIA GTX 1070, which really surprised me. Turning it down to high eliminated them. Surprisingly, it also scales down really well, as I was able to play the game perfectly with virtually no frame drops on my GPD Win 2 at 720p on medium detail. The game looks great that way. "Bullet Hell" difficulty adds some extra enemies and damage, and probably more bullets on the screen in boss battles. I found it really fun and challenging; my skills from previously beating it on PS4 definitely came in handy. It also helps that more enemies means more experience and levels, which helps offset the increased difficulty somewhat.

    From an appropriateness standpoint, there are a few things wrong. Of course there is violence, and much of it is pointless, for what it's worth. A small number of dungeons have blood in the environment. There are very minor curse words, like 'a*s' and 'hell'. There is plenty of magic use, by both the player and enemies. Some spells that Remilia can cast use hexagrams, while at least one late game boss uses pentagrams in her spells.

    Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is a flawed but fun game. If you like beat 'em ups, or enjoy Ys games and are looking for something to pass the time before the next release, I can recommend this game, assuming you understand its flaws and appropriateness issues. If you are looking for a highly polished action adventure RPG to keep you locked to your seat, you should probably look elsewhere. Even so, it was nice to revisit again on PC - it's usually a good sign when you play a game again years later, and still enjoy every minute of it. And the price is even better now, so it's certainly worth a look.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Transistor
    Developed by: Supergiant Games
    Published by: Supergiant Games
    Release date: May 20, 2014
    Available on: iOS, macOS, Linux, PS4, tvOS, Windows
    Genre: Action RPG
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for mild language and violence
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Vagrant for gifting this game to us to review!

    Supergiant Games is well known as the creators of Bastion. After producing such a smash hit, it’s hard to follow-up with a game just as good if not better. Transistor meets and exceeds many of the expectations for gamers who enjoy action RPGs.

    The atmosphere in Transistor is futuristic and cyberpunk in nature. Your character, Red, is a famous singer who narrowly survives an assassination attempt. Not only does she survive the attack from a group known as the Camerata, Red comes in contact with a mysterious talking sword-like weapon called the Transistor. The voice of the Transistor is from the man whom the weapon was retrieved from. Red’s voice is absorbed into the sword as well.

    The Transistor guides Red and teaches her some basic attack techniques. The robotic enemies can be attacked in real time by right clicking on them, or you can enter the Turn() mode and plan your attacks and then execute them at the cost of requiring a recharge before attacking again. There are a wide variety of enemies and dispatching them takes both brains and brawn. A few of the enemies will be shielded from attacks until you take out the one protecting them. Bosses often have multiple stages and lots of health points.

    Transistor
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Beautiful visuals; great music and voice acting; fun and challenging combat system
    Weak Points: Linear and short gameplay
    Moral Warnings: Mild language (d*mn); robotic violence and suicide is shown; homosexuality is hinted at

    While exploring the city of Cloudbank, you’ll come across terminals that you can interact with. You can order yourself a meal or read the news about the city’s attack and destruction from the Process. The story of the origin of the Transistor and the Process unfolds as you play through this game which can be completed in less than five hours. After finishing the main story, you can play through it again in a New Game+ mode to further upgrade your character and fight tougher enemies.

    As you level up, you can upgrade Red’s memory, cache, and permissions. Along with the Transistor, Red can fight with various functions she accumulates throughout the game. In order for the functions to be loaded into the primary, secondary, or passive slots, you need to have enough free memory. When leveling up, you’re given several choices of functions and upgrade options. Increasing the memory is always a good choice to make if given the option.

    One of my favorite functions was a dog that I could summon and it would attack enemies for me. This came in handy for the final boss as well. Other handy functions include ones that have area of effect damage or the ability to temporarily convert an enemy to attack foes on your behalf. By experimenting with and changing your function loadouts you can unlock some character backstories. You can also equip limiters that make battles a bit more challenging but in turn will increase the experience earned and allow you to level up faster.

    Transistor
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 79%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Along with an option to freshen up in the ladies' room, Red can visit backdoor areas which have various mini-games and challenges to complete. The stability test is a survival mini-game where Red has to withstand attacks for over a minute without dying. The practice is a great place to try new and different function configurations and see which combination is the most powerful. The planning test requires that a certain number of foes are eliminated in only one turn. Steam achievements can be earned by completing all of these challenges.

    Transistor is a well-polished game and the artistic style and artwork is top notch. The voice acting and background music is exceptional as well. The soundtrack is available as DLC for $9.99. I may consider picking it up on a Steam sale one day.

    Morally, Transistor does warrant its Teen rating for the violence and mild language. Though most of the enemies you fight are robots, there are some human characters who need to be dealt with as well. Some of them wind up taking their own lives too. While not completely obvious, one can assume that the male couple that took their lives were homosexual. The swearing was pretty infrequent, but I do recall hearing d*mn at least once.

    In the end Transistor is a short, but exceptional game. The $19.99 asking price is a bit steep for a game that can be completed in five hours, but it does have some replay value with the New Game+ mode. If you see this title on sale and haven’t played it yet, it’s certainly worth adding to your game library.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Tyler: Model 005
    Developer: Reversed Interactive
    Publisher: Maximum Games
    Released: August 20, 2018
    Available on: Windows, Xbox One
    Number of Players: Single player
    Genre: 3D-action puzzle platformer
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ for Fantasy Violence
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Reversed Interactive and Maximum Games for sending us this game to review!

    Tyler: Model 005 is a very well-polished single player 3D-action puzzle-platform game that can be enjoyed on either Xbox One or Windows. You play as Tyler, a miniature robot accidentally powered on in a thunderstorm in 1955. In this game you progress through a series of story-based puzzles that may help reveal the mysteries of the robot(s) around you, the environment, and your creation.

    To solve these puzzles, since you are but a miniature robot, it can be difficult to do certain things and reach certain heights such as the top of the stairs or the bookshelf. And since you can only restore your battery from light sources and the occasional “restore battery” item (which don’t appear too often) it makes things even more challenging. However, trying to figure out the answer (which can be different in the Windows version vs. the Xbox One version) will allow you to explore the environment and possibly find memories. Once you find a memory (what looks to be a blue orb), you will have the option to restore it. Once you do, you’ll see the words on the screen that Tyler is saying and he (you) will remember something about the past that relates to what you’re doing.

    Tyler: Model 005
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good graphics; challenging, fun gameplay 
    Weak Points: Asks for language preference each time you launch; no way to find out controls in the main menu; challenging 
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    This is not true for all of the puzzles, but for some you may have to solve them in a certain order or find certain things before others.

    It is guaranteed that as you are trying to solve these puzzles you will encounter enemies. These enemies are different, however, to those you would see in other games. In order to complete one of the puzzles I had to fight an auto vacuum. More common pests, though, are ones such as spiders, wasps, beetles, ants, and rats.

    In almost every room in the house you are in, you will find tools that will allow you to customize your character’s looks and abilities. When customizing Tyler’s looks to your preference, you can change the head, face, accessories, hands, foot, paint job, and weapon to your liking. As for changing abilities, you just go up to the portal and exchange bolts for things like having more light exerted from yourself when your battery is full and how fast you move.

    The controls for this game are sterling both using keyboard and mouse and the gamepad, though with the gamepad more so. With keyboard and mouse you use WASD to move, both left and right-click on the mouse are melee attacks, and you can use C to draw your sword. Tab is to reverse time, which can be useful in some maneuvers. Double tap W to roll, F to interact with certain objects such as turning lights on or making a music box play, B to roll, and R to pick stuff up, for you can hold certain items such as coffee mugs and pencils. As for Xbox One/gamepad controls, use the left stick to move, right stick to move the camera, A to jump, right trigger to throw a cherry bomb (cherry bombs are very helpful when fighting bugs), and all of the other triggers are for melee attacks, but you can draw your sword with Y so that the triggers, except RB, will allow you to swing your blade at the enemies you encounter.

    Tyler: Model 005
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls/Interface - 3/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    While focusing on the puzzles in the game, you barely notice the music. But when it gets to its climax, it can be quite charming and complimentary to the gameplay. Which, in fact, is pretty good. Even when I had to turn to YouTube walkthroughs for help, I still found the game to be very entertaining.

    The graphics, in every way, are superb. Everything, once you launch the title, is shown in great detail and color. If your monitor cannot support the highest of resolutions, you can adjust that of the game. The animation, too, was without bugs or lag. I found that the astounding graphics genuinely complimented the gameplay and story.

    Tyler: Model 005 has great gameplay, controls, sound, graphics, and a lovely story that made me tear up at the end. When you are hurt by an enemy, the edges of the screen go red for a moment, but that’s just about as far as moral warnings go. I very much recommend this title for anyone even if they aren’t looking for a 3D-action puzzle game like this one. I look forward to future games from this developer.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Valkyria Chronicles 4
    Developer:Sega CS3
    Publisher:Sega
    Release Date: September 25, 2018
    Platform: PlayStation 4, Windows, Switch, Xbox One
    Number of players:1
    Genre: Role Playing, Action, Strategy
    ESRB Rating: T for Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence, Blood
    Price: $59.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you to Sega for the review code!

    World War II is one of the most popular settings for a war story. It makes sense; with so many fronts, political movements, and people in the war, there is opportunity everywhere for a story to be told. Most of all, it seems that the story of the people of Allied Europe and Charles de Gaulle’s French Resistance are told again and again. There’s something tragic, yet inspiring about people putting their lives on the line in a hopeless fight against the Third Reich that immortalizes the story in media. Sega’s take on WWII is expanded upon in Valkyria Chronicles 4, which runs parallel to the events of the original game. The love and care put into this title leads to a remarkable, though familiar, game.

    In the year 1935, war is rampant across Europa. The Imperial Alliance has begun an invasion of the small country of Gallia, forcing the Atlantic Federation to defend the small state. The story of Welkin and the Federation’s heroic defense is nothing new, however. That’s the objective in the first Valkyria Chronicles game. A decade later, the perspective shifts northward, and focuses on Claude Wallace and Operation Northern Cross. Claude and the rest of Squad E enlisted in the Federation army after their hometown, Hafen, was razed by the Alliance. After a successful defense of a Federation town, the group is sent to help push through the Empire and attack the capital in order to end the war quickly. Taking part in the largest military movement in history, Squad E begins a journey that will have many unexpected turns and show the atrocities of war.

    Valkyria Chronicles 4 wastes no time getting the player into the action. A brief cutscene introduces the world, before the player is dropped into their first battle. Much of the background information is doled out as the game progresses. While I like not knowing anything early on, I did feel that this leads to an uneven distribution of information. Some chapters would introduce a pivotal plot point, new characters, and give insight to a character’s past, while others wouldn’t have half the depth. Luckily, the former was more common, but it does make a few of the lighter chapters seem out of place. The story itself isn’t bad, as I often found myself in suspense, always wanting to play one more chapter. There were a few turning points that seemed unbelievable, such as (minor spoilers ahead!) when the Alliance is reported to be in the retreat, then manages to send a large force to attack the Federation’s base of operations. For the most part, the story is believable, but the plot points occasionally strain my credulity. This isn’t a bad thing, as it made Valkyria Chronicles 4 distinct from other war stories that try to always paint a bleak image with no sign of change. However, the biggest story improvement, and what makes it better than other titles in the series to me, is the focus on relationships.

    One notable thing about the story is that it always focuses on Squad E. Sure, some cutscenes show the events across Europa, but the player commands Squad E through the entire game. This allows for every character to develop, even the seemingly throwaway grunts. The introductory conversation with each character isn’t throwaway text; every character has an opportunity to be characterized since so much time is spent with Squad E. I don’t just mean simple traits, like “Viola is hardworking”, or “Nico is soft”. Everything in relation to the character, whether it be their sayings in combat, facial expressions, or potentials, helps further the understanding of their motivations, backstory, and hopes. What’s more, many characters have unlockable Squad Stories, which are unlockable side missions that feature cutscenes with the soldiers in question, and a battle. I was encouraged to use many different characters during my playthrough in order to understand a bit about their life and potentially unlock a Squad Story, even if I wasn’t going to use them for the majority of the game. When I first began playing Valkyria Chronicles 4, I assumed most characters wouldn’t develop beyond their initial dialogue. Now, I see that the assumption was completely incorrect, as I am attached to many members of the diverse cast. Every character is uniquely written, even those meant to fit a certain archetype.

    Valkyria Chronicles 4
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Complex, strategic gameplay with a beautiful visual style, great characters, and lovely soundtrack
    Weak Points: There are many cheap strategies that become very enticing as the game progresses
    Moral Warnings: Language (D*mn, a**, sh*t, h*ll), beach DLC, violence, and some themes of rebellion

    There isn’t a character I truly despise among the cast, which I found surprising, considering how many members there are. Some of my personal favorites include Aulard, a mechanic with an obsession of tanks, Godwin, an ex-war profiteer forced into the military to pay for his crimes, and Aladdin, an egotistical, narcissistic sniper. I think that many of these side characters managed to compete with the main cast in terms of memorability. Everyone has a page on their story, showing the effort the writers put into these characters. On a related note, there is a page on almost everything in Valkyria Chronicles 4, so voracious readers like myself will be satisfied by the large glossary available. My only complaint about the character development is that a few of the characters available from the beginning don’t receive much development until one of the later flashbacks. Now, this wouldn’t be a negative in any other form of media, but video games must be approached differently. A character who died early on might become extremely remarkable 10 chapters later, but by then, it’s too late. Luckily, this circumstance felt like the exception, not the rule. The lovable characters of Valkyria Chronicles 4 are not just strengthening the story; the bonds created with these characters make gameplay much more intense and emotional.

    Valkyria Chronicles 4‘s core gameplay combines both tactical and action elements into one great package. Battles take place in many types of settings, ranging from flourishing pastures and bustling towns to frigid, remote cliffs. Before battle, one can deploy up to 10 units, and arrange them around the provided slots. A large map shows the pathways and barriers for the stage, your units, enemy units visible to player units, and the last known location of enemies that have escaped the eyes of allies. Like Fire Emblem or Disgaea, battles are turn based. On the player’s turn, a certain amount of Combat Points is provided, which are used for a variety of purposes. CP can buff player units with orders, radio a ship command, call reinforcements, and most importantly, move deployed units. Once a unit has been selected, the game shifts to a 3D perspective with the camera set in 3rd person behind the controlled unit. Each unit has Action Points, which dictates how much they can move when selected. The unit can interact with the environment, disarming mines or climbing stairs, and use an action once per CP. This puts the unit in targeting mode, where they can shoot or use one of the many items, like first aid, a vehicle repair kit, or a grenade. After the action, the unit can use any leftover AP, before ending their movement and returning to the map view. CP can be distributed however the player wishes, meaning that one character could potentially be the only one moved the entire turn if the player desires. Max AP decreases each time they are moved, but is fully restored at the start of the next turn. One thing I wish I could do is get an exact measurement of AP usage. Sure, estimation did the trick most of the time, but there were a few moments when I had a strategy thought out for the next turn, only for it to all fall apart since a shocktrooper needed an extra 3 steps in order to capture a camp or duck behind a sandbag (Though, it did lead to an interesting story when I detonated a grenade at my foot in order to launch myself into the grass for cover). During the enemy turn, certain player classes will provide interception fire as the enemy does all the aforementioned things. At its core, the gameplay is unique, satisfying, strategic, and most importantly, simply fun.

    While Valkyria Chronicles 4 is sometimes viewed as an action game and RPG working in tangent, it is really much more of an RPG. One instance of this is the class system. There are 6 infantry classes in the game, each with their own strengths and weaknesses: Scouts, Shocktroopers, Snipers, Engineers, Lancers, and the latest addition, the Grenadier. The Scout is a relatively fragile unit that has the most AP and can be deadly in close range engagements. The Shocktrooper carries a machine gun with low accuracy but high damage and a large magazine. They’re the typical soldier, being a great all around choice, especially for interception fire and breaking through an enemy encampment. The Sniper, as the name suggests, uses a sniper rifle and normally can’t provide interception fire. Engineers have slightly lower stats than scouts, but make it up by having better healing for themselves and allies, as well as being able to repair tanks. They, the Scouts, and the Shocktroopers can also use a limited amount of grenades. The Lancer fires a spear shaped missile for anti-tank uses. They are bulkier, as they are meant to come face to face with a tank. Finally, the new class, Grenadier, can shoot mortar shells from a distance, dealing area damage and slowing enemies during interception fire.

    The last effect is especially important, as it is one of the new changes meant to discourage the classic strategy of “Scout Rushing." One design problem that the developers have faced with the Valkyria Chronicles series is how to discourage “cheap” strategies. A prevalent one in early titles was strengthening a Scout with the Order system, before using the now practically invulnerable Scout’s high AP to run through the enemy lines and capture their base. Since ranking is based solely on turn count, this strategy proved itself to be very viable in previous titles, in conjunction with the fact that most missions were “Capture the enemy base to win." There are many changes, some noticeable, some neglectable, that are meant to stop this maneuver. Luckily, I think that this did the trick. While a few missions can still be rushed, most levels are designed to encourage slower, strategic play. Whether it be by placing the multiple objectives in certain positions that made solo rushes no longer feasible, a few grenadiers defending certain chokepoints, or by designing the terrain to favor certain units, it’s clear that the design team learned from their past mistakes by encouraging different types of play instead of boring, repetitive methods.

    Valkyria Chronicles 4
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 73%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 6.5/10
    Sexual Content - 5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 11/10
    Shows the importance of family values

    Of course, it wouldn’t be a Valkyria Chronicles game if nothing felt a degree above the rest, and this time, it’s anti-tank shells. The extensive R&D system for each class means that there are many ways to customize a unit. Tanks have weak points on their radiators, which are usually placed on the back. Before, an infantry unit or player tank would have to attack from behind, which wasn’t feasible in certain situations. One shell that can be unlocked has anti tank effects, just like a Lancer. Instead of risking a flank, I could just bombard the tanks from a safe position with the Grenadiers. It doesn’t feel as powerful as the original Scout Rush, but it did outclass Lancers in many situations. I refrained from using strategies I considered to be cheap as long as I could, but it became hard to resist when Elite troopers appeared. At times, these soldiers with inflated stats felt like an excuse for difficulty as opposed to clever stage design, though the latter was more common. Of course, imbalances are to be expected when adding a revolutionary new class like the Grenadier is added, which I expect will be countered by a new overpowered class in Valkyria Chronicles 5.

    I’ve mentioned the characters of Valkyria Chronicles 4, and that’s because I believe they truly enhance the experience. Running through the hail of mortar shells and rain of bullets as a beloved person feels much different than the same action with a nameless grunt. The bonds created with these characters help convey one of the harshest realities of war: the loss of friends. I believe that creating these tragic feelings also creates moments of elation; surviving a sniper shot by a hair leads to jubilation as a character who you have grown to love over the past few hours of gameplay lives another day. Rushing over to a fallen comrade before the turn limit is reached or an enemy finishes them off is exhilarating and creates memories that will remain in my mind for quite some time. The character’s nature also manifests itself in combat abilities. The potential system makes every unit unique in a way other than pure stats. Even if the character has little to no development, which is rare in itself, the potentials will always tell a story. For example, one character can’t focus around his sister, and another gains a defense boost when near a tank. Many of the negative potentials also are improved as the character in question develops, which is a great way of showing development without blatantly stating it. The characters truly are the highlights of Valkyria Chronicles 4, and the gameplay would have suffered if less work was done on them.

    Of course, a JRPG isn’t the same without an upgrade system. Luckily, Valkyria Chronicles 4 excels in that regard as well. In the headquarters, units can be leveled up and new weapons can be researched. Each system requires its own type of experience, which is gained in battle. When a class levels up, everyone in the class improves, no matter how much they are used. Sometimes, a level up simply boosts stats, but there are many instances in which everyone in the class learns a new potential or Claude learns a new order. While I leveled up my units without thinking, I personally don’t feel that it matters as much as skillful play. Personally, I believe this is for the best, as it highlights the strong tactical system in the game. This is the main use for EXP, but it is also used to learn a few specialized orders, like instant aid or medic support. The R&D department is quite extensive, having upgrade paths for every infantry weapon as well as tank upgrades. Every main infantry weapon has at least two upgrade paths: a standard boost and paths specializing in specific stats, like anti-tank, accuracy, or magazine size. These are mass produced, and can be applied to units in whatever way you want. While Valkyria Chronicles 4 doesn’t have all of Valkyria Chronicles 3‘s specialized classes, many weapon types create a close replication, which helps diversify the uses of a class even more. For example, I had two favorite grenadiers, Connor and Riley. While Riley has high damage mortar shells, I would outfit Connor to serve a different purpose, like anti-tank or further range. These add an extra layer of strategy, as I have to choose the right unit for the job among the entire class. Tank upgrades work slightly differently. While there are standard upgrades that always are in effect, many specialized upgrades weren’t passive. Instead, they were assigned a block which has to be arranged on a grid to fit with other upgrades. A universal analogy to this would be Tetris, but it’s practically identical to Kid Icarus Uprising‘s power system, so it may be familiar to some. The tank, weapon, and unit upgrades in Valkyria Chronicles 4 added an extra layer of depth to an already deep strategy game, which isn’t necessary, but I loved.

    I love Valkyria Chronicles 4‘s presentation. The entire story is told as a flashback, based off of the diary Claude is seen writing throughout the game. As such, the game has a beautiful sketchbook style. The entire game looks like a beautiful drawing, with lines along the characters, watercolor buildings, and all the little atmospheric particles. I love that the palette always reflected the mood of the game, as it is how Claude’s diary would be illustrated. I feel the game looks a bit too similar to the first game, but that’s not a bad thing. The first game has aged beautifully, but I think the developers could have made it a bit prettier if they wanted to. The soundtrack isn’t bad either. I love the many battle and cutscene themes, as they were all wonderfully composed, with the perfect balance and mood of an orchestra. Generally, the sentiments of Claude determines the piece for each stage, which leads to the “confidence” theme being played a bit too much in the beginning, before practically disappearing by the end. If there were multiple themes per mood, I wouldn’t have had a problem, but it is a bit too repetitive right now. However, the entire package of presentation was wonderful, and I look forward to the future of it.

    As a war story, Valkyria Chronicles 4 has some rather risqué themes. Naturally, there is violence in the game, as characters shoot guns and detonate grenades against other humans. There isn't anything graphic, as characters simply collapse when they die. There is quite a bit of foul language, which I expected from a game that focuses on the people. Words like a**, d*mn, sh*t and h*ll are sprinkled in the dialogue, though only to further character development or emphasize the stress of a situation. Still, it's frequent enough to be quite noticeable. There is also the occasional sexual joke. While the clothing is generally modest throughout the game, there is an upcoming beach DLC that will feature many of the characters in bathing suits. There is an occasional act of insubordination in the game, but generally it's for the greater good. The story of Kai and Leena has themes of rebellion, but also promotes strong family bonds. Many parts of the story also tell a strong moral lesson. There are many poor moral aspects of Valkyria Chronicles 4, but there are also many good parts.

    Valkyria Chronicles 4 is one of my favorite games of 2018. The story is emotional, with deep characters that are impossible not to love by the end. Gameplay, while a bit superfluous at times, combines the calm nature of strategy with the hectic nature of action games perfectly. The new grenadier class is an excellent addition to the classic 5, and opens up many new strategies that were impossible before. As always, there are a few tactics that felt unbalanced, but it’s not as much of a problem as before. The amazing presentation also bolsters the atmosphere of the game, which, in tangent with the characters, led to a world I care deeply for. Valkyria Chronicles 4 may have come out a decade after the original, but the time has led to a refined product that will be loved by all.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Valkyria Revolution
    Developed by: Media.Vision
    Published by: SEGA
    Release date: June 27, 2017
    Available on: PS4, Vita, Xbox One
    Genre: Action RPG
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Blood, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence
    Price: $29.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you SEGA for sending us this game to review!

    Not long ago I had the pleasure of reviewing Valkyria Chronicles Remastered on PS4. This classic is the first in the series and worthy of the retouching done to it. I hadn’t played the other games in the series until now. While Valkyria Revolution has a gripping story, it does have other glaring issues that may deter many from experiencing it.

    The game begins at the grave of the five traitors. A student is researching their history and asks the nearby teacher to help fill in the holes to their historical records. It just so happens that the teacher, Richelle Caudrup, has inside knowledge that was not recorded in the history books. As she retells their story, you’ll learn about each of the five traitors and their role in the war.

    The traitors are childhood friends who lived at an orphanage that was burned down by the emperor of the Ruzi empire. In the fire, they lost many of their friends and the lady who ran the orphanage was kidnapped and never seen again. Each of the children were eventually adopted and all lived in Jutland which was being blockaded by surrounding territories and was on the verge of economic collapse.

    Valkyria Revolution
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Intriguing story about five friends who have started a war for their personal revenge and were branded as traitors for their actions
    Weak Points: Lots of loading time between story sequences; repetitive battles; annoying boss fights that can last over an hour long each; game crashed on me once
    Moral Warnings: The story revolves around revenge; violence; language (hell, d*mn, sh*t, *ss, b*stard) and blasphemy; drunkenness, sexual references and cleavage shown

    Solomon was a member of Jutland’s parliament and proposed going to war with Ruz to ease the blockade that was in place. The diplomat between Ruz and Jutland was against the war from the start but was outvoted by the majority who were in favor of liberating Jutland and other nearby territories. Solomon’s dedication, scheming and military tactics were key in the traitors getting their way and the revenge that they desired.

    Fritte was a newspaper columnist who often wrote political stories to sway the opinion of the masses. He would put a positive spin on all of Jutland’s battles even if they were defeated. Thankfully, with Amleth’s leadership as an army captain, the losses were minimal. Most of the game is shown through Amleth’s perspective.

    Basil was a businessman who helped his adopted father run his ragnite factory. While Basil is flashy and likable, he’s got a crude tongue and cusses the most out of all the characters in the game. Thanks to his connections, the anti-valkyria squad always had the most technologically advanced weapons available. Research of secondary weapons, grenades, and character upgrades can all be done at Basil’s factory.

    The last traitor is Violette who gathered military intelligence by seducing enemy officers. Her outfits were rather revealing in the chest area. Violette isn’t the only character to flaunt her “assets” in this game. The female valkyria is crazy endowed, so much so that she probably doesn’t require a tray table and could get away with using her chest to rest her dinner plate. The valkyria talks about pain, suffering and agony and with having such a disproportionate and unrealistic body shape, I can see why she suffers so much.

    The story sequences are good but often short and disrupted by loading screens every couple of minutes. I’m not sure if the PS4 or Xbox versions are any better in this regard. The Vita did run the game admirably though it stuttered occasionally during some of the intense boss battles.


    Valkyria Revolution

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 11/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 48%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 2.5/10
    Sexual Content - 3.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 6.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    A typical military mission is not timed, and you have to secure enemy bases to claim victory. Some of the missions have you take control of two different squads to secure multiple points simultaneously (story wise). A couple of the missions are timed and you have to complete all of the objectives in ten minutes or less. For the timed missions I often found my characters under-leveled and had to play a couple of the free missions to make their attacks stronger.

    Ragnite is the mineral that everyone is fighting over in this universe. With ragnite you can level up your character’s affinity towards it and make their attacks more powerful as a result. Alchemy attacks are elemental based and each of the enemies and bosses have an elemental affinity/weakness. Each character has a battle palette that lets you equip a few ragnite attacks along with access to secondary weapons and grenades. Make sure you have all of the elements represented because it’s not fun facing a boss that you don’t have a counter elemental attack for.

    Even with my potentially under-leveled characters, many of the boss battles were overly long and drawn out in my opinion. A couple of the battles took me over an hour to beat due to the boss’s health regeneration. There’s a dual headed mechanical snake tank that has one head vulnerable to physical attacks while the other is weak to fire alchemy. If you’re not fast enough in disabling both heads, the boss regenerates a third of its health. Besides the heads, you can disable a couple of the middle sections too, but I discovered too late that the heads are the main parts you have to focus on.

    Most of the time you get to save before a big boss battle. However, there was one boss in the finale that one-hit killed my entire party and I had to repeat a 3-part mission to get the “honor” of fighting him again. In total, there are ten chapters and a finale in this title.

    Overall, my experience with this game is mixed. The action RPG elements are merely okay and the boss battles were unpleasant at times. Despite the flaws, I did enjoy the story and suffered through long battles and loading screens to see it to completion. Due to the violence, language, and sexual references, this game does earn its Teen rating from the ESRB. I have seen PS4 and Xbox One versions of Valkyria Revolution on sale for less than $15 on Amazon and for that price it’s worth considering. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to complete the boss battles. The convenience of powering off and resuming battles on the Vita was a life saver so portability is worth it for this game in my opinion.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    VRobot
    Developed by: Luden.io
    Published by: Nival
    Release Date: April 20, 2017 (Early Access)
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Luden.io for sending us an Early Access code for the game!

    As a kid, I enjoyed the Rampage arcade games and have fond memories playing it on my Atari 7800. Like Rampage, VRobot awards you points for demolishing different locales. There isn’t much of a story behind it; you just have to smash apart as many buildings as possible before the time run out. If you break apart the flashing buildings, you’ll earn more points.

    To make things interesting, you’ll unlock various demolition tools as you make your way through the (currently) fifteen levels. While the robotic fists get the job done, they’re not nearly as fun as throwing Thor’s Hammer through several buildings and having it return back to you unscathed. Besides the hammer, you’ll get to use a tractor beam, a sword, and control a tornado.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Nice variety in tools of destruction
    Weak Points: Game crashed on me once; doesn’t take long to complete all of the (current) levels
    Moral Warnings: Senseless violence and destruction; along with churches, you can destroy gentlemen’s clubs

    The visuals are pretty good and the weapon detail and effects look great. The buildings and structures are not too complex, but they break apart pretty well. When I first completed a level, I wasn’t sure how to exit so I pressed the escape key on the keyboard. After the time runs out, a big green exit door will appear and you can leave by grabbing onto it. Alternatively, you can keep playing and finish demolishing the city.

    On the audio front, the sound effects are pretty good. If you pick up a robot inhabitant they’ll say some funny phrases. My favorite is “This is not the droid you’re looking for.” As of this preview, there is no background music in this game.

    Though many buildings will crumble and fall, you don’t have to worry about any virtual lives being lost since the cities are inhabited by robots. Apparently, the robots have libidos since I saw a gentlemen’s club among the various structures. There must be religious robots as well since I saw churches too.

    There’s a Halloween themed level where you get to quickly demolish huge jack-o'-lanterns. A couple of the levels have a giant robot competitor who is trying to lay waste to the same city you’re residing in. If you land a punch on the robot, you’ll unlock a Steam achievement.

    VRobot
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 87%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10


    Since the levels are only a couple of minutes long, it doesn’t take long to complete this game. I used Steam to launch the game on my first playthrough and completed half of the game. On my second session I launched the game via Oculus’ software and finished the game. Unfortunately, when launching VRobot through Oculus’s interface Steam achievements are not tracked.

    I have no doubts that my kids will unlock the achievements that I missed out on. Currently, there are twenty-eight achievements available. This game is family friendly and people of all ages can enjoy this one.

    VRobot ran well for the most part, but I did experience one crash to desktop. I look forward to more patches and updates for this title.

    The asking price is a reasonable $14.99, but there’s a demo to try if you’re not sure about this one. If you just want to virtually destroy stuff, this game has you covered. If you’re looking for an in-depth story and purpose, you may want to look elsewhere.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    War Ender
    Developed by: Infinite Level
    Published by: Infinite Level
    Released: July 26, 2018
    Available on: Windows
    Number of Players: Single player
    Genre: Action platformer
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you Infinite Level for sending us a review code!

    War Ender is an action-platfomer game made and published by Infinite Level. You play as Red, part of an organization created to eliminate the group of villains who took peace away from the city. Your motivation to go out and fight is found when you happen upon your friends lying dead at the side of the road. You figure out that these villains who removed the city from its peaceful state were the ones who killed your friends, so you end up tracking them down. Every time you launch the game, it shows you the story, but you have the option to skip it.

    In War Ender, you play through many different levels and worlds (three levels per world) and defeat many different kinds of enemies. These enemies include green turrets (shoot in a straight line, limited range), red turrets (bullets follow you, limited range), gunner humans (shoot in a straight line, limited range), robots (carry no arms but hurt you on contact while running around), mines (hurt you when stepped on), and much more.

    Throughout each level, along with various enemies to fight off, there are checkpoints to respawn at when you die. When you get to a checkpoint flag, your health is fully restored. Often nearby these checkpoints are health-up packs, which may not fully restore your health as a checkpoint would, but they significantly refill it. There will normally be around three or four checkpoints in each level, and the fourth will likely be the flag that signifies the end of the level.

    War Ender
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay; challenging; supportive of both keyboard and gamepad
    Weak Points: Low-quality graphics; challenging  
    Moral Warnings: Violence 

    Though a tutorial is provided, the controls are still worth going over. When playing with a keyboard and mouse, you use A and D to run left and right, and the arrow keys are to shoot in different directions including under you if you are in midair, which can help you maneuver the level and get to otherwise unreachable places. Use the space bar to jump, S to fall through thin surfaces to get to lower areas, and press the L shift and R shift to dodge left or right. If you are playing War Ender with a gamepad, use the left stick to move and A to jump. You can use either the right stick or X, Y, and B to shoot in different directions. Press the left trigger to dodge left and the right trigger to dodge right.

    The graphics in the game are nothing special, for they are rather colorful but very simplistic. They are not detailed, nor realistic. Not many things in the game, if any, have a round shape to them, or slightly rounded corners even. Most things you see in the game are rectangular; the graphics are not very detailed.

    At almost all times while playing War Ender, you will be hearing music of some sort. It is normally an imitation of heavy metal, minus the words. The audio is fitting, though; it compliments the style of the game and the fighting and all that. It might not be the best of quality, however it does seem to go well with the game, and I appreciate the accompaniment as I fight the bad guys.

    War Ender
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Fighting bad guys with a gun in your hand is considered to be cartoon violence, however, some parts of this game go beyond the cartoon boundary. Especially considering that at the very introduction of the story, it is mentioned that you find your friends dead on the street.

    War Ender is a really fun game, even if I got frustrated at some of the levels. However, I did find a few bugs, or at least I do not think they were intentional. There are many platforms that assist your maneuvering through the levels, and some of them make you bounce upward when you jump onto them. I found that if you bounce on one of these platforms and press the space bar, you will shoot downward.

    Even if you don’t use these platforms, I found some issues with shooting downward. In order to shoot in this direction, you must first jump up, and then press the down arrow key. However, if you hold the space bar and try to fire down at the enemies below you, you won’t be able to fire. It will not allow you to shoot.

    While I was fighting a boss in the second world, when it was almost defeated, I approached the boss and the screen centered around the right of the boss, making it harder to fight it, because only its right half was showing. Later in the battle, it re-centered to where I could see the whole thing and easily destroy it. This happened every time I respawned to try to complete the third phase of the battle. I do not think that it was intentional.

    Albeit there were some times in which I was frustrated at the game, and even though I did find a few bugs, I found War Ender to be a really fun title. I enjoyed playing it and would recommend it to anyone who likes this style of game and story.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Martyr
    Published by: NeocoreGames
    Developed by: NeocoreGames
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood and Gore, Violence
    Available on: Windows PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
    Release Date: June 5, 2018
    Genre: Action Role-playing
    Number of Players: 1 - 2 players local, up to 4 online
    MSRP: $49.99 (PC), $59.99 (PS4, Xbox One)
    (Humble Store/Amazon Affiliate Links)

    Many thanks to NeocoreGames for the review copy!

    Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Martyr is a top-down action game similar to Diablo III, set in the Warhammer: 40,000 universe.

    Most video games these days that are set in the Warhammer: 40,000 universe focus on the most well-known element in that setting: Space Marines. This is not one of those. The player takes on the role of an Imperial Inquisitor: an agent of the Imperium of Man tasked with hunting down and destroying heretics, aliens, mutants, unsanctioned psykers and traitors. Inquisitors have nigh-unlimited authority and power, and are supported by various Inquisitorial orders of the Imperium.

    The campaign story begins with the Inquisitor boarding a derelict Imperial Starship, the Martyr, which has been found adrift in space. The first few missions take place aboard the ship before the action switches to various worlds and space stations as the Inquisitor follows a trail of clues to solve the mystery. Along the way, he gains allies, upgrades and information as he purges the enemies of the Imperium.

    As is often the case with licensed Games Workshop titles, great care has been taken to faithfully reproduce the feel and tone of the 40K universe. That means grimdark, gothic design and plenty of violence. The Martyr is an Imperial ship, and as such is styled to resemble Gothic architecture of the sort found on European cathedrals and the like. I'd give the game developers an A- on the accuracy of 40K. Yes, there are a few minor nitpicky things that only a true 40K fan would notice, such as depictions of the Imperial Aquila having both eyes or the way "Gellar Fields" is pronounced, but only someone as obsessive over these details as I am will be distracted by them.

    There are plenty of in-game tutorials to help the player get used to the various features, which is very handy since the game gets a bit complex. Between various weapons loadouts, special abilities, special equipment and so on, there's plenty going on.

    The various chapters in the story are told in the form of missions along with dialogue to move the plot. Mission length is about 10-20 minutes depending on how thorough the player is in searching the mission maps, or how long the fights take. Tactics, special equipment and weapons choice have a big effect here. Pick the wrong loadout and you'll be here awhile. Pick the right one and the game feels like it's perpetually in easy mode.

    The player can choose to do only the campaign missions, but doesn't have to. There are plenty of side missions that can be done to gather more loot, gain more experience for leveling and just have more fun. Beware: The side quests are more challenging than the campaign missions, and if you fail, you don't get another chance at that particular side quest. Not to worry, they're procedurally generated so it isn't like you'll be missing important story content. You do only get three lives for one of these, so be careful. Fortunately, the difficulty rating of the missions are displayed and can be compared to the Inquisitor's power level so the player can make an informed decision about whether to attempt the mission. The Inquisitor's power level is the total power of all of his equipment.

    Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Martyr
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good campaign story, simple UI and smooth combat
    Weak Points: Repetitive missions; not playable offline
    Moral Warnings: Very violent and bloody; mild language

    Loot drops are plentiful, and can easily keep the Inquisitor up to speed on what he needs to complete the missions. Additionally, the Inquisitor can purchase gear from the Rogue Trader whose ship he has commandeered. Excess equipment can also be sold.

    There are plenty of options for customizing the Inquisitor. Not only is there a basic class/level system, there is a skill tree, perks, attributes and of course, equipment. The player gets two separate loadouts that can be easily swapped during gameplay. For example, I used one weapon set for melee action, and the other for ranged combat. Swapping weapon sets is done by either clicking the swap button in the UI or by hitting the tab key.

    Between missions, the Inquisitor can buy/sell equipment, store gear in a storage unit (called a stasis casket) as well as advance the story by talking to various characters.

    The game control setup is straightforward, with all the available special attacks for the current weapon set along the bottom of the screen. Right and left clicking the mouse button on an enemy activates the first two special attacks, but the others are activated by hitting the number buttons on the keyboard. With the way the special attacks available are arranged on screen, it feels like they should have been buttons, but aren't. They show the cooldown for each attack and what keyboard number (or mouse button) activates them, but that's it. As a veteran MMORPG player I kept trying to click them to activate the abilities. Moving the Inquisitor around the map is done by pointing and clicking with the mouse. Overall the controls and UI are simple and easy to use.

    Combat is straightforward with the Inquisitor normally operating alone but sometimes NPCs will join him during the course of a mission. There are usually units of Imperial Guard (ok, Astra Militarum nowadays) or Space Marines (did you think there could be a 40K game without them entirely?). Environments are destructible so taking cover is a wise but temporary solution to being under heavy fire. But look at the bright side: The enemy's cover is destructible too. The mouse wheel zooms in and out and pressing the center button allows the player to rotate the camera.

    Inquisitor - Martyr is a game with very heavy emphasis on community. There are leaderboards that track players' success with a Glory meter that resets each week. There's also multiplayer, with the option to play in either PvP or co-op mode. The community feel is complete with an in-game messaging system that functions like e-mail. The downside to this is that the game cannot be played offline. This is a pet peeve of mine personally.

    The game difficulty overall is not very high. When I play games I generally leave them at the default difficulty setting and at that level I could play this game with about the same level of concentration as a game of Spider Solitaire... Which is to say that it was fun and engaging, but I didn't have to stop playing in order to have a conversation with someone. I think part of the problem is that the missions get fairly repetitive and while they have lots of variety in a narrative sense, the actual gameplay doesn't offer much variety. When choosing mission options I quickly found that I didn't need to think too much about my choices. It always boiled down to "run through the maze, kill everything that moves, take the loot, and click the thingies (or stand next to them and hold the 'F' key) that represent mission objectives." That isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially if you like a casual game experience. It just made it a little bit harder to care about all the great detail and options they built into the game.

    Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Martyr
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 74%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 9/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

    The graphics are pretty smooth and high quality. I experienced no lag or issues running on a custom-built Windows 10 machine with an AMD Ryzen 5 1600 6 Core 3.20 GHz Processor, 16 GB of RAM and an ASUS Dual-GTX1060 6GB GPU. (No tweaks or boost to the GPU.) I did experience only one glitch, which was that after a mission on my first time playing the end mission summary screen got stuck and I had to quit the game and try again. The issue didn't come back.

    The sound is great and the background music is suitably moody and depressing. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, though there are captions provided onscreen in case you have to play muted.

    Yes, I know I say this with every 40K game I review, but it's still true and needs mentioning yet again because it's always been true and probably always will be. This is a game set in the grimdark universe of Warhammer 40,000, which means it's violent, bloody and brutal. When enemies are slain they tend to instagib (fly apart in a bloody mess) unless they're larger, in which case they just bleed a lot. All in all, fairly on par for a 40K title.

    On the upside, the 40K setting has never been one for any kind of nudity or significant sexual content, and I didn't see any in this game either. Language was very mild, with the occasional words that would be unsurprising on broadcast television (such as the 'd' word), but even that was rare.

    Again, as is common in the 40K universe, there are occult themes in the form of human psykers (people who can use psychic abilities) and the Chaos Gods. Also, the Inquisitors revere the Emperor of Mankind almost at a godlike level.

    Ethically, this game can be problematic mainly in what an Inquisitor is. An Inquisitor in 40K is not someone who shows mercy, or who would hesitate to wipe out entire populations if he believes that's what it takes to destroy the threats to the Imperium. An Inquisitor is at best an antihero, and at worst, an extreme pragmatist with zero compunction about destroying the innocent to get at the guilty. Whether depicted that way in this particular game or not, that's what a 40K Inquisitor is, and players who know the setting will have that in mind when playing this game. Yes, the Inquisitor is out to destroy evils like Chaos, but the phrase "the ends justify the means" may as well be stamped on their foreheads.

    Here's the thing about 40K that I think is troubling to my Christian mind, despite how much I love the games and the setting... Despite the vaguely Christian trappings in use by the Imperium (especially Catholic in theme), there is absolutely nothing whatsoever in common between any type of Christianity and the Imperium. When an Inquisitor (or Space Marine, or any other agent of the Imperium) is dispatched to deal with an enemy, there is absolutely zero room for compassion, forgiveness, redemption or anything else that comes out of the New Testament. The theme of the Imperium is to take the more brutal elements of the medieval church to an extreme. 40K is generally not a spiritually uplifting setting.

    Are the quasi-religious elements used in 40K disrespectful to Christians? Well, that's a subjective question. I honestly do not believe the intent is to be disrespectful as such, though it's easy to interpret the setting as being somewhat satirical toward the Roman Church of the Middle Ages through the Renaissance. The Inquisitors do mirror the infamous Spanish Inquisition. The style and iconography is meant to mirror Gothic cathedrals, and the official language of the Imperium is "High Gothic," which sounds and reads like pseudo-Latin. I do not personally find these elements troubling, but I could definitely understand where a Catholic might.

    I enjoyed this game. It gave me exactly what I expected in that the game developers competently created a game that plays smoothly and simply, and can be easily played in a short session to bang out a mission or two. I recommend it to anyone who liked the gameplay of Diablo, or who is into Warhammer 40,000 in general. This game isn't for the little kids, or those who are squeamish about violence.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Warhammer Chaosbane
    Released: June 4, 2019
    Published By: BigBen Interactive
    Developed By: Eko Software
    ESRB Rating: Not Yet Rated (M)
    Reviewed On: Windows 10 PC
    Available On: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, XBox One
    Genre: Action, RPG
    Number of Players: Up to four
    Price: $49.99

    Many thanks to HomeRunPR and BigBen for the review copy!

    Chaosbane is an adventure game set in the Warhammer Old World. That's right, pre-Cataclysm, Pre-Age of Sigmar. The player can choose to go as one of four possible characters: A Wood Elf Scout, a Human Soldier, a Dwarf Berserker or a High Elf Mage. The game begins in Nuln, an Imperial city experiencing an attack by creatures that appear to be coming from Nurgle, chaos god of plague.

    The player reports to Teclis, a well-known High Elf character from the Warhammer lore who functions as the quest giver in the main tower, which is the "home base" the player starts each quest from. Once a quest is given, the player heads over to the quest area by running through the appropriate illuminated archway. New archways unlock as the player progresses through the game.

    The game is played form an orthographic point of view. Movement is controlled by clicking the mouse button which will cause the character to move to the spot pointed to by the cursor. Clicking on items or enemies will cause the character to interact with them - attacking enemies and barrels, opening chests or picking up items. The player clears each map of enemies, picking up treasure and items along the way. At the end of the quest, the player goes through an exit doorway to return to the tower.

    As the character levels, new attacks and abilities are unlocked, and are unique to the character class chosen.  For example, the Scout can fire a spread of arrows that covers a wide area, while the Soldier gets a shield bash that can cause damage and push enemies back, even at a short distance.  It takes energy to use these special attacks, however, and the energy reserve depletes quickly.  It can be replenished by using normal attacks to slay enemies.

    Warhammer Chaosbane
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Quick to learn; good graphics quality
    Weak Points: Not very original
    Moral Warnings: Lots of combat and bloodshed; occult themes

    I found that gameplay wasn't very different between a melee class and a ranged class. In either case, enemies close in on you so quickly that you can't kill all of them before they're in melee anyway. The Scout seems to be equally effective in both ranged and melee which makes it feel more powerful than say, the Soldier, which has almost exclusively melee attacks. Again, since the enemies close in so quickly it's not a huge advantage, but it does feel more restrictive.

    The character can also find items to upgrade, such as weapons, armor talismans, etc. These are normally found in crates and barrels that can be broken in the various quests. Breaking barrels also frequently rewards the player with small amounts of gold.

    Game difficulty is set by a slider, which I found to be an interesting way to go. By default, it's on the light end of medium difficulty, which I found to be incredibly easy. I mean effortlessly easy. Early in the tutorial you have to drink a healing potion whether you need it or not, and I felt like it was a waste because my health was still completely full.

    There is a multiplayer component to the game, though I never seemed to pick a time when others were playing so I could try it out. This is still in beta testing, however, so that isn't too surprising.

    Chaosbane is currently in beta so there are a few minor technical issues that still need attention. I'll list my observations here in the hopes that the development team finds them useful.

    If you click beyond an obstacle the character will run up to the obstacle and run in place as he or she tries to reach the point clicked on. The 'use potion' key seems to be mislabeled in the UI (It says 'Q' whereas the tutorial tells you to use 'A.' The tutorial is correct.) None of these problems hampered the ability to play the game, however.

    The load times are a bit long for a game in 2019, especially one that doesn't seem to need a huge amount of system resources.

    The game does play smoothly and I didn't notice any graphical glitches, though it would benefit from having the gamma bumped up a bit. Some of the breakable barrels in the sewer were hard to see. The same would be true of the enemies, though they're highlighted in red to help with that.

    Warhammer Chaosbane
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 78%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    The sound effects are good enough to convey the point, and the music supports the gloomy feel of a Warhammer game. I do think the voice acting could use some work, particularly the Wood Elf. Her lines and tone would actually be perfect if the tone of the game itself were more lighthearted. More on that later.

    Moral warnings here are the usual ones expected from a Warhammer game. It's a high fantasy setting, so there will be magic, monsters and plenty of action. Most of what you fight are different types of monsters, but there are humanoid enemies too and there's plenty of blood splatter from hits. There was no profanity that I observed, and no sexual content of any kind. The Warhammer world does have the idea of gods and goddesses, both benevolent and evil, though there is no playable class that would have the player interacting directly with any of that.

    Morally, the game does better than most licensed Warhammer titles. The character is always of one of the "good guy" factions and is working to destroy evil. Some may be uncomfortable with the mage class, however, since it means the direct use of magic spells.

    So this is a game in which you play as one of four archetypes, get quests from a wizard in a tower, and clear hordes of monsters from mazes. Does any of this sound familiar? It should, if you've ever played Gauntlet: Dark Legacy. It's essentially the same game. You get a choice of (initially) 4 possible characters consisting of an elf, a wizard, a warrior or a valkyrie, and off you go, working your way through the mazes as hordes of enemies attack you. There are breakable barrels with loot items and gold, and a powerful wizard in a tower sends you on the quests.

    Is that meant as a criticism? Well, yes and no. Chaosbane is not the most original game concept ever, but people who played Gauntlet: Dark Legacy remember it fondly for the good time they had with friends, playing a whimsical game and just having fun. If you'd like to play a game like that again but aren't looking to get an old GameCube or PS2, this might just scratch the itch. The problem is, it would still have to be played over Steam, as opposed to everybody being together on the sofa. The only other problem is this isn't Gauntlet, this is Warhammer. So there isn't much of a whimsical element in this game. Old Warhammer, like from the 80s and 90s, had a light, silly tone to some of it and I really think this game would benefit from reaching back and incorporating that tone. That would have made it much more fun. Instead, it has more of a "modern" Warhammer feel which is more grim, depressing and dark.

    My beloved Bretonnia does not appear in the game, much to my sadness.

    So is this a good game? Yes, I would recommend it to Warhammer fans and to fans of games like Gauntlet: Dark Legacy or Diablo. It's fast, it's smooth and can be a lot of fun with friends as well. It isn't going to blow any minds but it's a solid game.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Watch Dogs 2
    Developed by: Ubisoft 
    Published by: Ubisoft
    Release date: November 15, 2016
    Available on:  PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Number of players: Single-player with multiplayer capabilities
    Genre: Third person open world action/adventure
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs
    Price: $59.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Ubisoft for sending us this game to review!

    Following Chicago’s footsteps, California implements the latest ctOS (Central Operating System) that connects everyone to everything via facial recognition and unregulated data collection.  A hacker named Marcus is digitally smeared and Watch Dogs 2 begins with him breaking into a data warehouse to clean his record of crimes that he didn’t commit.  Watching his every move is an elite hacker group called DedSec that will let him into their group if he can clear his name.

    Watch Dogs 2 is an visually impressive open world game that lets you explore and do whatever missions you want, whenever you want to.    The first mission is to buy Marcus a new pair of pants since his are misplaced after a party.  Since I didn’t want to go too far in magenta boxers, I was happy to discover the quick travel feature that warped Marcus to the nearest clothes store to customize his attire.  Other ways to travel include walking, running, or "borrowing" vehicles and boats. 

    Besides clothes, Marcus can buy 3D printed weaponry and hacking gadgets.  Ammunition can be purchased at the pawn store, which is also a great place to unload questionably acquired items.  Money can be earned by becoming a taxi for hire, uncovering money stashes, or by wiring it to your account from people’s cellphones.  

    Watch Dogs 2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: All the thrills of hacking without needing a computer science degree; stunning visuals; great voice acting and character development
    Weak Points: Timed puzzles; multiplayer is cool, but it can be distracting at times to have people hop onto my game and start downloading my data while I’m in the middle of a mission; the game crashed on me once
    Moral Warnings: Breaking the law and stealing from others is required to progress in this game; lethal and non-lethal violence; all sorts of language and blaspheming; drinking and drug use; religion is shown in a negative light; sexual references and nudity; LGBT characters

    Hacking cameras and people’s cellphones is done by simply selecting and activating them.  Cameras allow you to remotely open doors and unlock computers if you have the access key.  The password/access key is often carried by a person who is easily identified by using the Nethack mode.  In this mode, you can see the threat levels of NPCs and can follow nodes to make sure they are all connected to complete the circuits required to unlock doors.  Often times you’ll have to rotate sections of the circuits to align them.  Usually there isn’t a time limit, but some of these circuit puzzles are timed and are very nerve-wracking.

    The Nethack mode also lets you access signals from enemy hackers which trigger various side quests.  One of my favorite side quests was checking an ATM exploit and messing with people’s banking experiences.  The bank customers got pretty upset when they involuntarily donated to a charity, received their withdrawal in foreign currency, or had their account and all the money in it removed from the bank’s system.  Not surprisingly, many colorful words and blaspheming statements are uttered throughout this game.  

    There are plenty of laws broken in this title as you’re trying to restore privacy and free will back to the people.  Violence is unavoidable, but non-lethal measures can be taken to knock out enemies instead of killing them. Many confrontations can be avoided by deploying your remote controlled jumper/car instead of hacking things in person.  Despite avoiding violent situations, some deaths are messy and unavoidable.  Many missions are revenge based as DedSec makes enemies with gangs, corrupt cops, and a cult religious organization.

    During my gameplay sexual situations are alluded to, but nothing was explicitly shown other than a couple of dogs going at it in a park.  When Watch Dogs 2 was first released, it was possible to see genitalia of the characters, but that ability has since been patched out.  Despite the patch, I did spot a completely topless female at a desert party that included drug and alcohol consumption.

    Watch Dogs 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 94%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 25%
    Violence - 2.5/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 0/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 0/10

    The graphics in this game are incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed the high resolution texture pack option.  To take advantage of the texture pack you'll need a beefy computer.  This game did crash on me once, but I was not able to reproduce it or confirm that it was heat related.  While I haven’t been to California, the level of detail in the various counties is breathtaking.  Even some of the gay friendly towns are represented with rainbow streets and one of the main story missions takes place in a gay bar.  One of your informants used to be a male and still looks very masculine despite having a gender re-assignment operation.  

    Religion is shown in a negative light as DedSec helps rescue a beloved actor from a cult that seems quite similar to Scientology.  The holy relics that few followers are worthy to see are discovered to be fake by Marcus and are exposed as such online.  In another side quest, a Christian church gets graffitied to spread awareness of DedSec.

    There are lots of quests and even after completing the game you can go back and find more stuff to do.  Between the numerous single-player quests and multiplayer connectivity Watch Dogs 2 has a lot to offer and it’s much more fun than the original title that inspired it.  Both games have significant moral issues to consider before playing them and neither of them should be played around younger children.  

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Worms W.M.D
    Developed By: Team17 Digital Ltd
    Published By: Team17 Digital Ltd
    Released: Aug 23, 2016
    Available On: Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
    Genre: Action, Strategy
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ (Cartoon Violence, Crude Humor, Language)
    Number of Players: Single player with local and online multiplayer
    MSRP: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Team 17 for sending us this game to review.

    Worms W.M.D is the latest installment of the 22 year old Worms series. It has been a mainstay in PC gaming since the late '90s. Instead of iterating on a long running series they decided to simplify things and return to the Worms Armageddon format. This is a classic worms game where you control a team of subterranean soldiers to do battle across creative 2D maps. All of the classic weapons and environmental hazards are there and new vehicles are added. There's a crafting system that's been added so you can craft weapons on another player's turn. Although a story mode is lacking there are plenty of missions and challenges to blast your way through.

    The graphics and artstyle remain as they have always been. The cartoony worms are bright and expressive. The maps and backgrounds are colorful and creative. There's a big variety in the types of maps and themes. You can even customize your maps and import pictures into the backgrounds. Upbeat music, whimsical explosions, and grunting worms are all present. The voice acting is limited to one liners due to the lack of story mode, but there's an impressive number of sets that you can unlock from playing the game.

    One new feature in this game is that you can now go inside buildings and collect materials for crafting. When inside a building, you see the inside. When outside a building, you see the outside. Even if another player damages one of your worms hiding in a building you'll only see the damage numbers pop up.

    Worms W.M.D.
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Iconic strategic gameplay; Vehicles; Able to craft weapons
    Weak Points: Lack of story mode; AI turns take too long
    Moral Warnings: Foul language; Weapons used by player; Christian imagery used for violence

    There's a lot of single player content in the game. The campaign mode and challenges offer a good number of missions, each with additional objectives and achievements. There's also tutorials and advanced tutorials to really test your mastery of a specific weapon. Let's not forget custom games to play with other people or AI. I don't know if they were trying to make the AI more like a human player or what but the AI controlled worms will take their sweet time before moving to their location, awkwardly targeting, and then snapping into perfect position to hit you from across the map.

    The biggest addition to this game is the crafting system. Here you can scrounge the map for materials (or get them in supply drops) and then craft any weapon you have materials for. You can craft during your enemy's turn, which is great because I found AI turns to take entirely too long. Along with crafting the standard weapons, you can also craft variants of weapons. The game shows you this feature exists and then moves on but, once I actually delved into the weapon variants I was impressed. There are a lot of fun killing machines to be created in there.

    Vehicles were also added to the game and I absolutely love them. They add a great dimension to the game and are just fun to control. Their high power is balanced by the fact that someone can jump in and steal it after your turn is over. The Mech and Helicopter are my favorites; they can both fly and have powerful weapons.

    Worms W.M.D.
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 81%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    The online play is both functional and active. Both of those traits together are somewhat rare for a year old, niche game. At the time of writing I was able to join a few 4-player games rather quickly and I got thoroughly annihilated. The vehicles really add a lot to this as well. I thought that matches would devolve into swapping vehicles back and forth but that doesn't really happen as people tend to move the vehicles to remote locations. Also the people I played against were incredibly accurate with the bazooka.

    Worms W.M.D, like the previous games in the series, are extremely violent games wrapped up in a cute, cartoony veneer. There's no blood or gore but when worms run out of health they commit suicide, usually by explosion, and leave a gravestone. Some of the one-liners that the worms spout contain foul language and sexual humor. One of the weapons is the holy hand grenade, which is a yellow and white grenade with a cross on it. It's meant as a reference to a Monty Python sketch, but it's still a Christian symbol used for killing.

    Worms W.M.D is an excellent return to form for the series. It's clear that Team 17 listened to their fans and went back to a classic entry. While I'm happy they chose this route, I just wish they hadn't jettisoned a story mode and more involved voice acting along the way. The additions of crafting and vehicles really add to the overall gameplay. If you like classic Worms games from the start of the series, you'll love this title.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Yakuza 0
    Developed by: Sega
    Published by: Sega
    Release date: January 24, 2017
    Available on: PS4
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: Up to two 
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol
    Price: $59.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Sega for sending us a review code for this game!

    Yakuza 0 is a prequel to the series with its story taking place in 1988 and begins with a young Kazuma Kiryu who is beating the snot out of a man to collect an unpaid debt. This takes place in an abandoned lot where this guy’s body is later found.  Although Kiryu is a yazuka, he hasn’t killed anybody and is framed for this man’s death.  This murder causes all sorts of trouble for the yakuza and their plans to acquire this lot to revamp the city of Kamurocho.  This setback is costing the Dojima clan billions and they are out for Kiryu’s blood as payment.  Kiryu must clear his name and also protect his imprisoned mentor, Kazama Shintarō in the process.  

    While all of this is going down, the twenty-four year old Goro Majima is the manager of a popular ritzy cabaret club.  Though he appears to have everything (except a left eye), he’s under constant surveillance until he brings in enough money to get back into the good graces of the Tojo clan.   To speed up the reconciliation process, Majima accepts a job of killing someone.  Majima has yet to kill anyone and this job turns out to be way more difficult than he anticipated.

    To avoid spoiling any of the fantastic story, the rest of this review will focus on the gameplay.  True to the previous Yakuza games, this is an open world action game where you’ll be jumped on the street and will be forced to teach various thugs, yakuza members, and bikers a lesson or two.  Depending on which character you’re playing, you’ll have different fighting styles available and can switch between them mid-battle.  For Kiryu I preferred the balanced brawler mode, but the ability to use motorcycles and other heavy objects as weapons in the beast mode is fun too.  When I was playing as Majima I enjoyed using the slugger mode, which let me smack people around with a metal baseball bat.   No matter which style you choose, money comes flying out of people when you take them down.  Fighting is a significant source of income for you in this game.

    As you can imagine the fights can get bloody, fortunately there is an option to tone down the gore in the game settings.  This does not impact the gruesome cutscenes where you get to witness people losing their pinky finger, an eye, or getting their toes and head smashed in with a sledge hammer.  Naturally, with the pain and excitement there is a ton of language that should not be read or repeated by younger children.

    Yakuza 0
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fantastic story and fun mini-games; great fighting mechanics with a good amount of variety and techniques to learn
    Weak Points: Would love to have heard this game in English, but the Japanese voice acting is well done
    Moral Warnings: Extreme violence, though it can be toned down in the game settings; foul language and blaspheming; sexual situations and references to masturbation; plenty of drinking and smoking; prejudice; gambling

    True to any mafia game or movie, you can expect to see lots of smoking, drinking, and using woman as trophies or sex objects.  Throughout the city, you can find phone cards, which let you watch erotic videos of the girls whose cards you have found.  While the girls are wearing bikinis in the video, they are still suggestive with their positions and actions.  After the video finishes the game focuses on a box of tissues and the main character gives out a sigh of relief.  There is one male character nicknamed Mr. Libido who can be found throughout the city wearing only his underwear.  As his name suggests he has a lot of stamina and uses different expressions for taking care of his needs on his own.

    Mr. Libido isn’t the only unusual character you’ll run into.  There’s also Mr. Shakedown who will beat you up and take away all of your money if you lose to him.  Though if you do win against him, you can make millions.  Don’t bother attempting until you have mastered techniques by literally spending millions of yen on yourself.  

    Each fighting style has techniques that become available once you spend money to unlock them.   Some of the abilities are unique to that fighting style while others apply to all of them.  For example, when you increase your health it benefits all of the styles.

    As you walk around the streets, you’ll run into people you can rescue from muggings or rape and they will repay you with items if you intervene for them.   There are also various side quests where you help people by teaching them skills or by rescuing them from bad situations.  I was able to rescue one woman’s daughter from a religious cult and I also helped a high schooler get out of being forced to sell her panties and bras on the street.  While it feels good to help people out of those situations, it has other benefits as well during the mini-games.

    Each character has a different mini-game that can help them earn good money.  Kiryu can buy up real estate and collect profits if he can protect them.  Majima can help a fledgling cabaret club regain its customers and shut down the brutal competition.  In order for each business to succeed you need to hire good staff, and many of the people you help out in the side missions are available to hire for these tasks.

    Yakuza 0
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 29%
    Violence - 1/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 3.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 0/10

    Besides the main story and mini-games there are micro-games in this title.  You can do all sorts of stuff to kill time including going fishing, singing karaoke, disco dancing, batting cages, shooting pool, throwing darts, and going bowling to name a few.  At the arcades, you can play the claw game or the Sega classic, Space Harrier.  

    While the visuals in Space Harrier won’t impress you, the graphics in Yakuza 0 are extremely detailed.  You can see the pores on the character’s skin and the city streets are quite lively with all of the people and animals going about their daily routines. I was amazed at the glamorous clubs and how stark the comparison was between them and the run down employee areas. You could definitely tell which parts of town were safer than others.     

    The audio is just as well done with great Japanese voice acting.  Though most of the Yakuza games don't offer it, I wonder how it would sound in my native language.  Thankfully, the majority of the dialogue is subtitled, but there are times when the camera shows a sign that isn’t translated and I’m left wondering what it meant.   The background music and sound effects are great, especially during the fighting scenes. 

    If you really enjoy fighting, the unlocked climax battles are worth looking into.  Each battle has a challenging victory condition that must be met to complete it.  For example, you’ll have to punch out a certain amount of money before the time limit.   You can also replay the story and boss battles just in case kicking somebody’s butt once wasn’t enough.  If you like the gambling micro-games you can challenge people online to see who is better at them.  Last but not least, you can play some of the micro-games like darts, bowling, and disco dancing against a friend or family member.

    Overall, Yakuza 0 has plenty to offer to keep you entertained for quite some time.  There’s a great story and excellent character development that hooks you in and gives you insight into yakuza lifestyle.  Granted this lifestyle goes against many Christian values so please take that into consideration before embarking on this adventure.  If you enjoyed the previous Yakuza entries, you’re bound to like this low-tech version as well.  Grab onto your pager and buckle in for the ride of your life!

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
    Developed by: SEGA
    Published by: SEGA
    Release date: April 17, 2018
    Available on: PS4
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: Single-player (some mini-games support two players)
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol
    Price: $59.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you SEGA for sending us this game to review!

    Yakuza 6: The Song of Life was originally released in Japan in December of 2016 and became available to PS4 owners worldwide in April of 2018. The story takes place shortly after the fifth installment with Haruka retiring from her Pop Idol stardom to spend more time with her orphanage family. During her final performance, Kiryu Kazuma was beaten severely and required hospitalization. While in the hospital, Kiryu was arrested and didn’t resist serving three years in prison in hopes of living in peace at the Sunshine Orphanage afterward.

    While in prison, Kiryu was visited by Haruka and she disappeared without a trace until after his prison term was served. In 2016, Kiryu is a free man and now that phone booths are a thing of the past, this game entry allows you to manually save on top of the generous frequency of autosaves. The story sequences are long, but engaging and worth paying attention to.

    Kiryu’s first stop after prison is to the orphanage where he quickly finds out that Haruka has gone missing. Once on her trail, he discovers that she was involved in a severe hit and run and is fighting for her life. On top of that shock, Kiryu also finds out that she has an infant son that she was protecting named Haruto. A majority of this game is spent determining if the car accident was intentional or not and who the father of Haruka’s child is.

    Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Engaging story; likeable characters and funny dialogue; intense battles
    Weak Points: Main story can be completed in less than fifteen hours
    Moral Warnings: Although the violence can be minimized, this game is still pretty gruesome; lots of language and blaspheming with every word possible used; prostitution and sex outside of marriage is shown as positive; partial nudity with men shown in underwear or pants revealing their butt; ghosts can be interacted with; offerings can be made to Jizo statues; smoking, drinking, and drunkenness are shown

    While he was in prison, things changed for the worse in Kamurocho. The Chinese Triad are taking over and many of the Tojo clan members are laying low and hiding to survive. The Stardust Host Club is under new management and doesn’t hold back on fulfilling their patrons’ every desire. Some yakuza don’t hide the fact that they employ the service of prostitutes. Drinking, drunkenness, and smoking are seen as well.
    Though some females are openly groped, more skin is shown by men in this game. One of Kiryu’s battles is against a yakuza wearing only his underwear. Another battle is with a man whose pants don’t cover his backside whatsoever. Kiryu can partake in female stripping webcam sessions, but nothing is shown.

    Besides online chat sessions, there are many mini-games to partake in. Kiryu can stop by arcades featuring two-player enabled games like Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, Puyo Puyo, Out Run, Super Hang-On, Space Harrier, and Fantasy Zone. Later in the game, Kiryu can start his own anti-gang clan and do some RTS style street battles. Baseball is another way to take a break from getting jumped in the streets every few minutes.

    Thankfully, Kiryu can hold his own in battles despite being nearly fifty years old. He looks pretty darn good for his age, but that doesn’t stop people from referring to him as an old man and a fossil. Some of the close ups of Kiryu show a few grey strands of hair but otherwise he’s in tip-top shape. The visuals in this game are incredible and you can see the pores on the skin of the characters. The scenery is wonderful as well. While enjoying the view, many street punks will challenge Kiryu to battle and he can take them all down with little effort. Sometimes he’ll have allies fighting along with him.

    Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 27%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 3/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 3.5/10

    Though you can minimize the blood, it won’t make any difference in the cutscenes. The battles are still pretty brutal as you can grab nearby items like bikes, cinder blocks, and pottery and beat people to a pulp with them. Some unavoidable and gruesome deaths/suicides are shown throughout the game. The foul language and blaspheming can’t be avoided either. Though the (excellent) voice acting is in Japanese, the subtitles reveal what is said. This is not a game that should be played anywhere near young children.

    If the violence won’t frighten them, the fights with pirate ghosts may give them a good fright. Like previous Yakuza games, there are several side quests available to extend the gameplay. If you enjoy helping people, you will find the Troublr app useful for notifying you when people are in danger. Through the Troublr app I had to locate a bomb, give medicine to someone in pain, and stop a bunch of gang related crimes.

    Without finishing too many side quests, I was able to complete the main story in less than fifteen hours. A new game plus becomes unlocked along with 1M yen for the next playthrough. There is plenty to do if you enjoy the side quests and earning various achievements. Hopefully, the demo will be available again for those who are curious about the Yakuza games. Since the characters are re-introduced for those new to the series, you can start with this title if the violent yakuza lifestyle doesn’t turn your stomach.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Yakuza Kiwami
    Developed by: Sega
    Published by: Sega
    Release date: August 29, 2017
    Available on: PS3, PS4
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: up to two
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol
    Price: $29.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Sega for sending us this game to review!

    Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the original Yakuza game which was released in Japan in 2005 on the PS2. A year later, it became available worldwide. Kiwami first arrived in Japan on the PS3 and PS4 systems; however, the worldwide release is for PS4 only. The story remains the same in this remake and this game has been recreated from the ground up with improved visuals and re-recorded audio. Along with some new cutscenes and substories, the biggest addition is the “Majima Everywhere” fighting system, which is quite entertaining.

    The story takes place in October of 1995 with the murder of a yakuza boss who attempted to rape Kiryu’s childhood friend and love interest. Yumi’s ring that he worked so hard to get for her was found at the crime scene and Kiryu takes the blame for the murder and is sent to prison. Upon his release ten years later, Kiryu finds out that ten billion yen is missing from his clan and everyone is trying to get to it for the reward of a promotion. On top of that drama, Yumi has gone missing and Kiryu sets out to find her. Along his journey, he meets an orphan named Haruka who is looking for her too.

    Like other Yakuza games, this is an open world action game where you’ll be jumped on the street and will be forced to teach various gang bangers and yakuza members a lesson or two. You’ll have different fighting styles available and can switch between them mid-battle. I preferred the balanced brawler mode, but the ability to use motorcycles and other heavy objects as weapons in the beast mode is fun too. As Kiryu is forced to fight (the questionably sane) Majima on numerous occasions he’ll relearn the Dragon of Dojima fighting style.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great remake that adds some nice new features; excellent story, visuals, and voice acting
    Weak Points: Not as long as other Yakuza titles, but it’s not as expensive either
    Moral Warnings: Lots of intense violence though some of it can be disabled; plenty of cursing and blaspheming with no words left out; prostitution and organ trafficking are shown; drinking and smoking is seen throughout the game 

    Each fighting style has techniques that become available once you spend experience points to unlock them. Some of the abilities are unique to that fighting style while others apply to all of them. For example, when you increase your health and attack power it benefits all of the styles.
    As you can imagine the fights can get bloody; fortunately there is an option to tone down the gore in the game settings. This does not impact the gruesome cutscenes where you get to witness people getting tortured or shot at close range. Naturally, with the pain and excitement there is a ton of language that should not be read or repeated by younger children.

    Like any mafia game or movie, you can expect to see lots of smoking, drinking, and prostitution. Throughout the city, you can find game cards with women wearing skimpy insect themed bikinis. If you go into the arcade, you can play this Rock, Paper, Scissors themed battle game to watch the insect women wrestle. Surprisingly, this card game is marketed toward children in the game. I certainly would not let my kids play this!

    As you walk around the streets, you’ll run into people you can rescue from muggings or rape and they will repay you with items if you intervene for them. There are also numerous side quests where you can uncover various con-artists and help scammed people get their possessions or money back. One set of scammers turned out to be crossdressers.

    Besides the main story and mini-games there are micro-games in this title. You can do all sorts of stuff to kill time including singing karaoke, batting cages, shooting pool, throwing darts, and going bowling to name a few. At the arcades, you can play the claw game and one of the side stories has you trying to win a particular item for a desperate father. If you enjoy the micro-games, you can play them against a second player from the game’s main menu.

    Yakuza Kiwami
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 29%
    Violence - 1/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 3.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 0/10

    I haven’t played the original Yakuza game, but the graphics in Kiwami are extremely detailed. You can see the pores on the character’s skin and the city streets are quite lively with all of the people going about their daily routines. I was amazed at the glamorous clubs and how stark the comparison was between them and the run down homeless park. You could definitely tell which parts of town were safer than others.

    The audio is just as well done with great Japanese voice acting that expresses a lot of emotion. Though most of the Yakuza games don't offer it, I wonder how it would sound in my native language. The background music and sound effects are great, especially during the fighting scenes.

    If you really enjoy fighting, the unlocked climax battles are worth looking into. Each battle has a challenging victory condition that must be met to complete it. For example, you’ll have to defeat a bunch of foes without getting knocked down once. You can also replay the story and boss battles just in case kicking somebody’s butt once wasn’t enough.

    If you haven’t played the original Yakuza or any of them in the series, Kiwami is a great place to start. It is shorter than other Yakuza entries, but it’s also half the cost with an asking price of $30. Since the Yakuza lifestyle goes against many Christian values, be sure to take that into consideration before embarking on this adventure.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Yakuza Kiwami 2
    Developed by: Sega, Amusement Vision
    Published by: Sega
    Release date: August 28, 2018
    Available on: PlayStation 4
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: Up to two in versus mode
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol
    Price: $49.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Sega for sending us this game to review!

    Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a remake of Yakuza 2 and picks up one year after the first game, Kiwami left off. The Tojo clan is in shambles and on the brink of collapse unless Kiryu can save it along with the city of Kamurocho. The game begins with a flashback from twenty-six years ago where the Tojo clan had a deadly shootout with a Korean mafia known as the Jungweon. They haven’t forgotten about that massacre and are planning on carrying out their long awaited revenge on the city and the vulnerable Tojo clan.

    While it’s a gamble, Kiryu carries out the fifth chairman’s request for proposing a truce with the Omi Alliance. Although the chairman is on board, many of his other officers, including his son, Ryuji Goda, would rather start a war than make peace. Both Ryuji and Kiryu have dragon tattoos on their backs and ultimately conclude that there can only be one dragon in town. Until Kiryu and Ryuji face off in a final battle, there’s plenty for Kiryu to see, eat, and do in Kamurocho and Sotenbori.

    New to Kiwami 2 are three chapters of Goro Majima’s backstory.  I highly recommend completing those as they unlock instead of saving them for afterward like I did.  Not only do his chapters fill in some story holes, he can send Kiryu helpful weapons/gifts in the main story which is sixteen chapters long.  

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great story; fun combat; excellent visuals and voice acting
    Weak Points: Cannot skip heat attack scenes 
    Moral Warnings:Intense violence with lots of unavoidable blood and gore; extreme language and blasphemy; alcohol and tobacco use; drunkenness; prostitution and a side mission that has Kiryu voice acting a homosexual encounter for a video game; transvestite character; gambling

    Kiryu is rarely alone in this game as he’s either accompanied by the 10-year-old Haruka, former Tojo clan members he’s trying to re-recruit, or the cute officer Kauro Sayama who is placing him under “protective custody.” Kauro is known for bringing down Yakuza members and is trying to use Kiryu to gather more information on the Tojo clan for personal reasons. As she digs deeper, her backstory gets revealed throughout the game despite Kiryu warning her that some past secrets are best kept hidden.

    No matter where Kiryu or Goro go in town, they are bound to get jumped by thugs, assassins, yakuza, or delinquents. While you can outrun them, stopping to deal with them does have its rewards. Not only do they drop money and valuables, you’ll also earn experience which can be used for increasing your base stats (health, defense, heat, strength) and learning new abilities. Kiryu can grab nearby weapons and objects to use them in battle while Majima always has his handy knife on him that never wears down or breaks. Kiryu’s weapons are only good for a fixed number of uses.

    As Kiryu and Goro fight, their heat meter will rise and when it’s full they can unleash heat attacks that do a lot of damage and even more so with an equipped item. While powerful, Majima’s heat influenced knife attack is drawn out and repetitive. Kiryu’s moves change with each weapon he’s holding. My favorite is when he’s using a pole-like weapon and rams it where the sun doesn’t shine and then kicks it up there even more afterward. Despite being fully clothed in this scenario I can imagine the enemies having a hard time siting down for some time after an attack like this.

    The pole attack isn’t the only funny thing about this game. There are some goofy side quests to embark on as well. One of the more memorable ones is where Kiryu agrees to do the voice acting for a new video game coming out. What he doesn’t realize is that this game is an erotic love story between two boys. Some of the other side quests are heartwarming while others involve violence to resolve.

    Yakuza Kiwami 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 37%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 3/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5.5/10

    While Kiwami 2 isn’t as gruesome as previous entries, it still has lots of bloodshed and close ups of yakuza members’ bullet wounds. Along with the violence you can expect to find every curse word in the book used along with some blaspheming. There are some red light districts and a bar in town that is run by a transvestite that goes by “Mama.” At the bars you can expect to find liquor and drunken patrons. Smoking is pretty commonplace in this title as well.

    There are many gambling mini-games and for the most part they can be avoided but some of the side quests require you to gamble a little bit. One of the side quests involve playing Virtua Fighter 2.1 at the arcade. While the main story can be completed in roughly fifteen hours, the gameplay can be extended significantly if you complete all of the side quests and play the various mini-games available. There’s a two player versus mode that can be launched from the main menu.

    As you play through the story you can unlock the cutscenes to watch later from the main menu. Like the other Yakuza games I have played, the graphics are top notch in this title. The characters look realistic and you can see the pores on their skin. The maps are very detailed and you get to explore them more in the main story than Majima’s chapters. Majima’s chapters are linear and many of the roads are blocked off.

    The voice acting is top notch as usual and I’m thankful for the subtitles since my Japanese comprehension is very limited. I’ve picked up a few words from playing these games but due to the strong language and violence, I wouldn’t recommend playing this game in front of kids, especially ones who can read.

    If you haven’t played Yakuza 2 and don’t mind the moral issues, I highly recommend picking up this game. While it does have some helpful flashbacks, I recommend playing the previous one first. If you’re not fond of excessive language and violence, you may want to consider another series.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Ys Seven
    Developed By: Nihon Falcom/XSEED Games/Hyde, Inc.
    Published By: XSEED Games
    Release Date: August 30, 2017 (PC); August 17, 2010 (PSP)
    Available On: Windows (reviewed), PSP, PS Vita
    Genre: Action Role-Playing Game
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated (PSP: T for Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language)
    MSRP: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you XSEED Games for sending us this game to review!

    Ys Seven was an important turning point for the Ys franchise when it was released, as it was the first PSP only release, and it was also the basis of the game engine that would come to define Ys ever since. Before Seven, Adol was always alone in his adventures. Here, he has a party, where up to three members at a time each lend a hand, and they can help not only as additional life bars if Adol gets low, but they also attack with different types, like slash, strike, or pierce. This system continued in the next Ys game, Memories of Celceta. It is also the first title where everything in the game is 3D rendered; previous to this, the characters were all 2D sprites in a 3D rendered world, or completely 2D in the case of Ys I & II.

    What makes this release unique is that, previous to Ys Seven, all Ys games (with the exception of a couple of SNES releases) were all on PC. Today, you can buy all but one Ys game that was released in the west on Windows PC, as they were originally meant to run there. That includes Ys I & II, Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, and Ys Origin. And now, that list also includes Ys Seven. Ys VIII: The Lacrimosa of Dana is scheduled to be released soon on PlayStation and Windows, and so that only leaves Ys: Memories of Celceta as not having a western PC release. (Yet?) Also, this is the first PSP port to PC from XSEED Games, which opens up the opportunity for more ports in the future, as they have brought us a lot of great PSP games in the past.

    Ys Seven takes place in Altago, where Adol and his buddy Dogi arrive relatively unscathed (a rare successful boat ride, which Dogi is faithful to point out). Shortly after arriving, they get into some trouble, though Adol is quite famous by this point in his life. The king ends up taking an interest in him, and asks him to investigate some local disturbances. As is often the case, it doesn't take long before Adol finds himself tightly wrapped up in some local crisis, which he gladly takes upon himself to solve. Every one of the locals gives him several opportunities to back out, but Adol is nothing if not an eternal do-gooder for those in need, and assists them enthusiastically.

    Before long he is then chosen to be a hero for the people, which surprises everyone but Dogi; this isn't the first time such a thing has happened. It has to be said that Dogi's writing is excellent and quite funny at times. Really all of the localization is great; XSEED nails it as always. Though one of the women in town is called a 'vulgar woman', and indeed she is; most of the curse words spoken in the game are done by her.

    Ys Seven
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun, standalone Ys adventure of a good length; likable characters; excellent soundtrack; great first Ys game for series newcomers, since it's not as challenging; great boss battles; interesting skill system; sixty frames per second gameplay feels great; nice graphics options; great performance, even on lower end hardware
    Weak Points: No resolutions above 1920x1080; graphics feel dated at times
    Moral Warnings: Action violence; some scenes include blood; alcohol use mentioned; a few female characters wear revealing clothing; some curse words like '*ss', 'd*mn', 'h*ll', 'b*tch', and 'b*st*rd'; magic use; various deities are worshiped, including the tritheism church, as well as other local gods

    In case you are not familiar, Ys is a top down action role playing game (RPG), where you attack various enemies with your sword, or similar melee weapons for non-Adol characters. The action is very swift and fluid, which has always been a highlight of the Ys series. There are up to seven different characters that you can have in your party at any one time, though only three can be active. In each case, two use slash attacks, two strike, and two pierce, while Adol is primarily slash, though later on he can use other kinds as well, so any party can be viable. Pierce is probably my favorite because of how fast you can attack, though some enemies are completely resistant to it, which is a shame. Nothing is completely resistant to slash, though it does a whole lot less damage in resistant cases. It's pretty important to have some representation of each attack type, though bosses are rarely strong or weak to anything, so you can usually bring your favorites.

    Characters can be switched out at the press of a button, which can really come in handy when someone is about to die, or you need another attack type available. Each weapon has a skill embedded in it, and can be leveled up by repeated use. Once you reach level one, you can keep it equipped and use any weapon you like. Skills cost SP, and that meter increases fairly quickly, especially if you use charged regular attacks or special items which make it full up more quickly.

    There are also Extra skills, which are very powerful attacks with an equivalently long charge up time. Typically, I found myself holding off on using them except for on bosses, because it takes several minutes for the skills to recharge. Each character has their own skills and Extra skill, which can make deciding who to choose important to your success or play style. These Extra skills have their own meter, which is charged up by using normal skills.

    The highlight of any Ys game has always been the boss battles, which is no exception here. Falcom seems to be a master at this point of making large, intimidating bosses, with appropriately excellent music to go with them. While I found the bosses a bit easier than some other entries, it was by no means a walk in the park; if you want a real challenge, discipline yourself to not use items. That'll set you straight.

    Having played all of the modern western releases of Ys games at this point, it's become fairly obvious how Seven really changed things up quite a bit. As previously mentioned, it's the first true 3D entry, and it's the first entry where you fight as a team. But it's also the first of the more story heavy entries in the series. With the possible exception of Ys Origin (which is the only game not to star Adol), most Ys games are light on exposition and heavy on gameplay. This is also true here, but there are many more cut scenes and character interactions which makes this a much more story driven experience. It's also much longer, as it took me over forty hours, which is about double what the other PC Ys games took me to beat for the first time. The only bummer is that there is no Boss Rush mode or New Game+, though to be fair, only Celceta has a New Game+ mode, which was released after Seven. Boss Rush is a much more noticeable absence.

    Ys Seven
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 67%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    Comparing the PC to the PSP release, I would say that the PC one is noticeably superior. I purchased the PSP version a few years ago on sale, and I had never gotten around to playing it, so I was happy to review this new PC release. And I'm glad I did, as it is objectively the definitive version of the game. Content wise it's identical – there are no new quests or modes. The art is very close as well, though in some cases they had access to higher resolution art, while in others they did not, so it can be a bit inconsistent at times. The frame rate is the real winner here – sixty frames per second is such a huge upgrade over thirty in an action game like this that the game just feels wonderful. While the textures are sometimes a bit lackluster, you do get used to it, and the game is worth the visual fidelity sacrifice.

    I have noticed a few bugs that hopefully get sorted out soon. For the best experience, make sure that your desktop and monitor is set to a supported resolution, like 1080p, and play the game in borderless window mode. Using fullscreen mode, I noticed significant frame rate inconsistencies, and disabling v-sync crashes the game for some reason. Changing the graphical settings in game rather than through the launcher can also cause crashes. The game does not recognize the gamepad if it isn't started with it connected, which is not an uncommon issue, but something to be aware of.

    Outside of those things, it has been an extremely stable and enjoyable experience. As long as you use borderless window mode performance is excellent, even on my vastly underpowered GPD Win with an Atom processor inside. Just be sure to check your settings each time you switch PCs, as Steam Cloud seems to include graphical settings along with the save data. (I reported all of these issues to XSEED Games; hopefully they get resolved, as they are historically very responsive to bug reports.)

    As is often the case with Falcom games, the soundtrack is wonderful. The town theme had me whistling along (much to my wife's dismay), and the battle themes had me moving in my seat. While I am not ready to declare a ranking of the various Ys soundtracks at this point (as they are all so good), this one definitely delivers, and if nothing else, is consistently good. There are no stinkers here.

    Like many action RPGs, there is fantasy violence, where enemies fade away when defeated. There is a scene with blood on the ground after a violent act, and there is a red splash when enemies are defeated, but no blood or gore. Alcohol use is mentioned, but there are no drunk characters. Some females wear fairly skimpy outfits, though most of the time it is not easily discernible because the 3D models have a rather low polygon count. The 2D portraits portray it clearly though. One character, an executioner named Ursa, wears a skimpy leather outfit with exposed parts of her breasts. She also has a strong liking for whips and torture, and some of the male NPCs appreciate that about her. Curse words like '*ss', 'd*mn', 'h*ll', 'b*tch', and 'b*st*rd' are used.

    Magic is used in this game, mostly by the enemies, with some used by player characters as well. There are two sets of gods; the first one is the official church of Altago, which is called Tritheism. They worships gods of the earth, sky, and sea. *spoiler* The other set are the gods that created the region, the five dragons of Altago. These are worshiped by the locals in the rural areas, and are the 'real' gods of the region that Adol receives power from. *end spoiler*

    Ys Seven is another excellent entry is one of my favorite action RPG series. The combat is fun, the music is fantastic, the characters are all likable, and the other systems are very enjoyable also. Even the story is interesting. And of course another adventure, another girl left behind, though she takes it pretty well. I really enjoyed my time with Ys Seven, and as long as the content is age appropriate, is an easy recommendation.

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About Us:

Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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