Author - Judgeman

SnowRunner – A Review (PC)

I like driving games, I really do.  I have great memories of playing Gran Turismo 2 for hours on the original Playstation.  I’ve played pretty much every version of the Colin McCray DiRT series as well.  Whether is racing head to head to beat your opponents, or the challenge of knocking off a few seconds from your best time, the challenge of these racing games is completely different then the rest of my game collection.  Then came along SnowRunner, by Saber Interactive and Focus Home Interactive.  SnowRunner isn’t a racing game at all – it’s a driving simulator, so I wasn’t sure even if I was interested in playing it or not.  If not assigned to me for this review, SnowRunner would have completely gone under my radar.  I am kind of glad that it didn’t.

Story

Well, SnowRunner doesn’t have any type of story to speak of.  There isn’t any character progression, conflict, or resolution.  Just you, various vehicles, and various challenges set across three large landscapes.  You begin the game in Michigan, then move onto Alaska, and finally end up in Taymyr, Russia.  Each time the landscape shifts, your challenges and driving difficulty ramps up as you need to deal with different terrains.  As the game progresses, you will collect and store various vehicles in your garage.  All of the vehicles can be upgraded and customized as you either earn money from your jobs or find parts along the way.

Beginning the game in Michigan, you start off with a small 4wd truck and the first challenge; drive to the next location and get your GMC flatbed truck to deliver materials to finish a bridge.  Seems simple enough, right?  Drive truck from A to B, except that the road is out just down the road from where you start.  This is your first introduction to how the game really plays.  You are given seemingly two options at this point, take the off road detour up into the hills and around the closed road, or slide just passed the barrier and continue down the road.  I decided to just slide around the barrier and immediately got stuck in the mud just off of the side of the road.  It took me far longer to get myself unstuck and going again, then it would have just to head down the detour and drive around the barrier.

SnowRunner is hard and challenging.  This isn’t Dark Souls hard, where you need perfect timing or memorization of an opponent’s attacks.  No, this is “long lasting patience” hard, as in, you better have the patience to take it slow and spend a massive amount of time to get to where you want to go.  This goes against every ounce of how my brain is wired!  I found it extremely difficult to kick the truck into 4wd and low gear, then crawl up a mountain to avoid a obstacle in the road.  I just wanted to drive super fast over the dirt road, drift around corners, and get to my objective quickly, just as I had done a million times in DiRT.  SnowRunner will punish you for these thoughts.  This is a slow down and chill style of game, and you had better get that straight quickly or you will spend most of your time digging out your trucks.

Game Play

Since there is no story in SnowRunner, I’ve already hit on some game play elements in the above section.  So here, I’m going to focus on the nitty gritty game play elements that make up the rest of the game.  First, make sure you have yourself a game pad for this one.  I started playing SnowRunner using a mouse and keyboard, since I had no idea where my game pad was.  Within the first 15 minutes, I was digging through boxes looking for my game pad.  This game is tough to begin with, and even tougher with a mouse and keyboard.

The controls are fairly simple, but do vary depending on the vehicle your driving.  Driving controls are pretty much what you would expect with some variation.  You have controls for your gas and break, like every other driving game out there, but you will also need to control your gear shift and 4wd option as you are moving through the maps.  These two controls will be what you use most of the time to get through the difficult terrain, along with the winch that you have attached to the front of your vehicles.  If you get your car really stuck and the winch can’t help you, you can switch to another vehicle you have in your collection to drive out and pull your first vehicle out of the mud, snow, river, or where ever you got it stuck.

The challenges are mostly delivery in concept, but you need to consider the type of delivery and match the correct vehicle to the job.  Showing up to a job with the wrong truck will significantly increase the difficulty of the challenge and make it take much longer than it needed to.  With how long it takes to go from point A to point B in some of these challenges, you do not want to make two or three runs.  You could pour 20 to 40 hours of time into SnowRunner fairly easily.

One negative with SnowRunner is how some of the vehicles actually control, especially the smaller trucks.  I was expecting the vehicles to control worse the larger the vehicle, but I found that the smaller truck was harder to keep on the road then the larger ones especially in first person.  The controls were definitely calibrated for larger, slower vehicles.  I found myself over correcting with my turns in the smaller truck, even at one point sliding off the road and hitting a tree.  This would make perfect sense if I was in Alaska with the ice on the road, but I was driving down the street in Michigan with no obstacles.  Since damage to your vehicle will impair it’s abilities, maintaining control is pretty important.

Aesthetics

SnowRunner is a very beautiful game, but not in the way you would expect.  Sure, the graphics are nice and solid, but it isn’t at the level of other games on the market currently.  Where the beauty of SnowRunner comes in is the environment and lighting.  You are traveling through some gorgeous countryside and the lighting effects change as the day progresses.  When night comes, you need to turn on your headlights to see where you are going, because out in the woods there isn’t any streetlights.  This beauty is needed since you will literally spend hours just crawling through it to get to your next objective.

However, as gorgeous as the world is, it is empty.  There is no other life in this world but you.  No other humans or animals exist in SnowRunner, at least from what I have seen.  There are rumors of people seeing wolves or dogs in the woods, but like Sasquatch, these may just be rumors or legends.  One one hand, having no other traffic in SnowRunner means that you have one less thing to worry about while you are trucking down the street with an extremely large truck.  You can take up as much road as you want!  However, it does feel like you are running deliveries in a post apocalyptic world where you are the only survivor.  While not a game breaking criticism, it definitely was noticeable during my play through.

Final Thoughts

SnowRunner is a far better game then I was expecting.  I was not prepared for how good this game was or how much I would enjoy it.  This game is the perfect game to sit back, relax, and just chill to without skimping out on the challenge.  Most chill games are fairly easy, that’s why they are chill.  SnowRunner keeps up the difficulty and will punish you for making a bad choice, while taking things slow and steady in a beautiful, but empty, world.  SnowRunner is available through Epic Games in two different versions: base game is $39.99 while the Premium Edition with Season Pass is $59.99.  Both are available now.

Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls – A Review (PC)

Ah yes, another game review that will make me feel very, very old.  The last Wizardry game I played was Wizardry IV: The Return of Werdna back in 1987 on my old Apple II.  While I did like that game, it was quickly replaced when Ultima V  and The Bard’s Tale III: The Thief of Fate were both released the following year.  I was a bigger fan of both the Ultima and The Bard’s Tale series then I was of Wizardry,  I had always felt that Wizardry was missing some key ingredients to make it a great game, especially during the golden age of rpgs.

So fast forward to 2020, and I am sitting down to write a review for Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls developed by Acquire and published by XSeed Games.  This is the first Wizardry game that I have played in over 30 years and the first Wizardry game released in North America since 2013.  Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls was originally released back in 2011 for the Playstation 2, and this is essentially just a PC port of that game that has been delayed due to IP issues.  So, how does a 40 year old franchise and a 9 year old port hold up to 2020 standards?  Let’s find out with our review.

Story

Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is set in the land of Athals, during the age of Athals.  There was peace in the land, until dangerous creatures, that were once believed to have been locked away by angels, began to roam the land.  These creatures also brought the “Elder Ones”, powerful demons that turned their attention to the land of Athals.  The sages of the land began to tell stories of the prison that the “Elder Ones” were once constrained in has lost its power and that the balance in the world is beginning to collapse.  Darkness continues to arise over the horizon, as adventurers begin to come forth to battle the rising tide of evil.

Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls begins with a pretty heavy expository dump, which I pretty much summed up in the preceding paragraph.  Ultimately, evil has come to the land and your party of adventurers needs to destroy the evil and bring peace to the land.  It is fantasy story development 101 and as cliche as it could be.  There isn’t anything major in terms of character development or story narrative, so if you are looking for a rich, deep story then I would point you elsewhere, like the Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale remake that came out a little bit ago.

Game Play

Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is a retro rpg through and through.  You are going to do a lot of work for very little reward in this game, but if you love retro rpgs then this game is for you.  You begin by creating your character, with very little in terms of information or tutorial.  However, you can figure most of this out if you have played rpgs before.  There are five races to choose from, and multiple classes for each race.  Only one race, porklu, isn’t a generic fantasy race that you have seen before.  Stats are pretty generic for the most part, however there isn’t any game terms on how these stats affect your character in terms of hit points, damage, or chance to hit.  Once you finish your avatar, you are placed into the city of Aitox.

Aitox is represented by a static painting of a bustling city and a menu.  You don’t get to explore the city at all, you just choose your destinations from the menu.  While I can forgive the generic story setting and the unintuitive character creation, not allowing me to explore a city and experience it is strike one against Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls.  The menu allows you to visit the Inn, Shop, Guild, Temple, or Dungeons.  Most of these are self explanatory.  You will need to recruit the rest of your party and outfit them with weapons and armor before heading into the Dungeons, so that should be your first step.  You do need to watch the alignment of your party, which is interesting.  For a while I could not figure out why I couldn’t have the Thief and the Cleric in my party at the same time, until I looked at their alignments.  Good aligned party members will not travel with evil aligned members, or at least the Cleric wouldn’t.

Once you have gotten your party ready, then off to the Dungeons you go.  You can select two Dungeons to explore, and are treated to some first person, 3D environments that look like they haven’t been touched since 2011.  The dungeon looks repetitive and dull, and the monsters you fight are static 2D representations, like what you ran into in the city.  You step one space at a time in the dungeon and will need to map your way through, just like the old days of PC rpgs.  That is, unless you thought to buy a map at the Shop, then it will act as an automap.  So you will need to decide to put in gold, which is scarce in the beginning, into either an upgraded weapon or armor, or to see where the hell you are going in the Dungeon.  Tough choice….

The monsters you encounter are very interesting, which is very nice.  There is a great variety from the fantasy mundane to the unique.  Combat, however, is dull and repetitive.  I had characters that could only defend most of the time since they did not have anything ranged to use and they were in the back line.  Spells are great, but are limited use before they run out and you need to rest to regain them.  I just found myself clicking the same buttons over and over, hoping that my armor and health would hold out while I did enough damage to kill my enemies.

Aesthetics

Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls has a solid game at its core, but it’s wrapped up in a dull and generic aesthetic, that doesn’t make the most sense sometimes.  For instance, male dwarves are taller than male humans, but female dwarves are the height that you would expect.  While I would never begrudge a developer to try something new that breaks fantasy stereotypes, dwarves are kinda supposed to be small, I mean it’s even implied in the name since they are “dwarfed” by other races.

As I said earlier, there is very little actually animated in Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls.  Most of everything is a static painting, which all has a very generice, japanese anime look and feel to it.  The actual graphics look like they weren’t updated from the 2011 Playstation 2 release, and the music sounds like it could almost be 8 bit.  The music is as generic as the rest of the aesthetic in Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls.

Final Thoughts

Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is a tough game to review.  At its core, Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is great at replicating that vintage and classic rpg feel that used to be king during the 1980’s.  However, we have come to expect much, much more from our games these days.  While I am a member of the “graphics aren’t everything” camp, they do need to be updated and interesting.  Making Aitox not explorable was also a huge misstep and made the game feel much, much smaller than it should have felt.  Honestly, I just found myself wanting to play Legend of Grimrock while I was playing this game, and that shouldn’t happen.  Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls  just reminded me of other, better games that are available on the market today.  However, for the $14.99 price tag on Steam, it’s worth the risk if you are looking for a retro rpg that you haven’t played before.  Ultimately, it was generic and bland enough to be forgettable, but not offensive.  Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is available now on Steam.

Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition – A Review (Xbox One)

Leading contender to win the “Longest Game Title of the Year” award, Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition has finally come to the home console world.  Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition is a port of a remake of two of the greatest Dungeons and Dragons games ever made.  Originally created in 1999 and 2000 respectively, Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition was remade by Beamdog in 2014 (Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition) and 2017 (Planescape: Torment Enhanced Edition) for mobile platforms.  Finally, in 2019, Skybound Games has taken those remakes and ported them to the console in one glorious, old school package of Dungeons and Dragons Classics.

A couple of notes before getting into this review, in case you haven’t noticed already I love these games.  I played the originals back in college when they were first released and loved every second of them.  I have played Dungeons and Dragons since 1984 and played many of the video games that Strategic Simulations, Inc. put out during the 80’s and 90’s to get my D & D fix.  While I wasn’t a massive fan of the World of Faerun, I did love the new content that was produced in Planescape for the rpg.  Planescape: Torment is easily in my top 20 video games of all time.

Story

To say that you have hundreds of hours of gameplay available to you in Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition is not an exaggeration.  Both games offer a rich story line that will just eat away at the hours that you have to play these games.  The stories told in these games are vastly different, but no less engaging.

In Planescape: Torment, you are the Nameless One and have awoken in a mortuary.  You are immediately approached by a floating skull, named Morte, who offers advice as to how to escape your immediate imprisonment.  Morte reads the tattoos that are inscribed on the body of the Nameless One, and discovers that they need to find someone named Pharod, somewhere in their current city of Pharod.  Planescape: Torment’s story is one of discovery of your past lives and the purpose that you are supposed to fulfill.  The world of Planescape was introduced to the rpg in 1994 and even though it was released to critical acclaim, did not seem to capture the minds of the rpg players as the Forgotten Realms world did.  Planescape: Torment is a wonderful example of the Planescape world and the rich storytelling that could occur in that setting.  For me, this is the better of the two games in this package.

In Icewind Dale, you lead a party of adventurers resting in the town of Easthaven, far to the north in Faerun.  Hired intillay to discover what had happened to a messenger, the party of adventurers is quickly drawn into investigating a great evil that is kidnapping townsfolk from Easthaven.  This leads the party into combating ancient demons and becoming the protectors of Easthaven.  Unlike Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale is much more of a traditional rpg for this time period.  You are leading a party of adventures, not just a single individual, through a story of battling ancient evil and protecting the innocent.  However, the story of Icewind Dale is no less engrossing, even if it is much more classic and traditional in nature.  This edition also contains the expansions Heart of Winter and Trials of the Luremaster.  The World of Faerun is much more popular of the two worlds that you will visit in this package.  If you have played any type of Dungeons and Dragons video game, board game, or rpg within the last five years, you are familiar with this setting.

Gameplay

In an attempt not to make this review twice as long as it needs to be, I’m going to summarize the major components of boths games’ gameplay in this section.  Both games have a very similar base to them, but also vastly differ in other areas.  Both games have similar isometric views that will show you the world around you, but also utilize the “fog of war” on areas that you haven’t explored yet.  Both games also use the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition rules set, so newer players to Dungeons and Dragons will see familiar rules, but will need to familiarize themselves with an older edition of the game.  Both games also have a similar inventory system, where you will place items directly into their proper slots on your characters and both games allow for different dialogue options during conversations.  But the differences between Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale are pretty drastic.

To begin with, Icewind Dale allows the player to change the difficulty of the game.  Accessibility wasn’t a concern back in the late 90’s.  Either you knew how to play, or you learned to “git gud” very quickly.  Both Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale are difficult at their original settings, but only Icewind Dale allows you to turn on Story Mode.  Story Mode is a way for new players to enjoy the story without worrying about death, as your characters cannot die in this mode.  Icewind Dale also allows the player to create their own party of adventurers based on the 2nd Edition rules set, whereas Planescape: Torment you do not have this feature.  You only work with customizing the Nameless One to fit your play style and not a whole party of adventurers.

The controls for both games has been optimized to better fit the console systems.  It did take me awhile to get used to this, being more of a PC rpg player.  Having played both original versions of these games, I have to say that the gameplay feels exactly as I remember, with the exception of the controller versus keyboard.

Aesthetics

While the graphics on Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition has been converted to high definition, both games’ graphics still look old and worn out, compared to today’s standards.  Yes, these games were designed and created 20 years ago, so of course the graphics would be dated, but it is still something that I had to get over.  My memory of how good these games looked did not match up to the reality that, like me, these games are getting older and older.

Voice acting is fantastic in both games.  While your party and characters are not voiced, the characters you will meet will have some voice acting attached to their dialogue.  These conversations are not fully voiced, but are voiced enough to give you a better sense of the world around you.  Planescape: Torment gets a special mention for the voice acting of Morte, who really helps drive the tone of the game.

Final Thoughts

Wow, this review was a lot more difficult to write than I had originally thought.  Not only trying to balance and hit all the points for both Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale, but also managing my nostalgia for both games.  Ultimately, this is a great set of games to buy if you are interested in the history of Dungeons and Dragons games.  These are modern classics of the rpg genre.  If you are someone who originally played these games back in the late 90s, you will get to replay two of the greatest rpg games of that time period, even though they do look like they came from that time period.  Sometimes, what we remember does not translate to reality all that well.  If you are new to these games, I cannot recommend Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition enough, especially to current Dungeons and Dragons players who would like to see what 2nd Edition was all about.  Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition is a solid port of a solid remake of classic games.  Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition is available now for the Xbox One for $49.99.

 

NASCAR Heat 4 Review (Xbox One)

Everyone has certain game types that they are drawn to.  A game that they can work with for hours on end to develop their skills on and become better and better at.  Racing games is not that type of game for me, never has been.  I like a good racing game, but I don’t stress over every little detail of tuning on my car before each race.  I like to jump in, hit the gas, and maybe throw a red shell or two.  But there are those of you that are out there that have oil running in your veins, that stress over how fast your tires are wearing out, and love finding that perfect entry into a tight corner.  704Games has released  NASCAR Heat 4 for that latter group.  NASCAR Heat 4 is a vast improvement over last year’s NASCAR Heat 3 in many ways, while still having some imperfections that keep it from being the perfect NASCAR racing game.  Let’s take a deeper look with our review of NASCAR Heat 4.

Story

NASCAR Heat 4’s story mode is simply their Career Mode.  You will create a driver and a car and begin racing through the ranks, starting off as a dirt track racer.  The customization options for NASCAR Heat 4 are pretty robust.  You are still limited to how you can customize your car or truck, but NASCAR Heat 4 has definetly expanded it’s options over last year’s version of the game.  Once you have your driver and car ready, you will hit the track with the first set of races.  Racing is broken down into three stages:  Practice, Qualifying, and the Race.  In practice, you will drive around the track to get a feel for how your car will handle and how the track will affect your driving.  You will have a target time you are aiming to hit during these practice runs.  You will then need to qualify to determine your pole position, then finally race against the rest of the A.I. drivers.  During these stages, you will be able to fine tune your vehicle based on what you learned during practice and qualifications.

After each race, you will be awarded your race money.  This money will go towards improving your car, buying a new car, or hiring more employees.  Between races you will also have to manage your pit crew and staff’s skills.  Also, depending on how you raced, this will affect your relationship with the other racers in the series.  You will get a feeling for how the other racers feel about you through little Tweets that you can respond to by either complementing or insulting the racer, further changing your relationship with them.  As you get better, you will earn more money and get different sponsors, and this will allow you to continue to improve your car.

NASCAR Heat 4’s career mode plays like a typical sports game career mode would.  It really focuses on the actual racing rather than developing any type of story around your character.  The segments in between the races aren’t even animated or voiced over, you just get text boxes from your agent as he explains the next steps in your career.  This is nothing like FIFA 17, there isn’t any drama or character development here.  The only narrative here is what you what to get out of it. This is not to say that NASCAR Heat 4’s career mode isn’t deep, but it is really made for the hardcore racers out there.

Game Play

To start things off, there are many ways to play NASCAR Heat 4.  Besides the Career mode, you have Challenges, Quick Race, Championship, Online Multiplayer, and Split Screen.  It was great seeing NASCAR Heat 4 with a Split Screen option, literally being the second game I’ve played this week that allows this option still (the other being Borderlands 3).  Each game type being exactly what you would think it would be.  The bread and butter of NASCAR Heat 4, in my opinion, is really the Career Mode.  The rest of the game types are fun, but have issues all their own.  For instance, multiplayer will be able to host 40 players online, but there is absolutely no guarantee that they won’t be complete jerks and just try to ruin a good race.

The biggest change in this year’s NASCAR Heat 4 is the tuning.  If you had your cars on lock down last year, you will need to redo all of your tuning for this year’s version.  In preparing to write this review, I listened and watched some other verteren players go through some of the races and how they were talking about how hard it is to control the cars NASCAR Heat 4’s A.I.  Some were talking about the rubber banding issue, where cars would catch up with the player to pass them, but they would also notice that these cars would then seem to slow down so the player wouldn’t fall that far behind either.  It seems that 704Games is trying to fine tune the A.I. to make it challenging without being frustrating, which I appreciate.  But I had a hard enough time trying to get around a dirt track in the time that the pit crew set.  I could never find the right line that would get me around fast enough but still in control.  This did eventually get better with better tuning and staff, but it was hard in the beginning.  You won’t win your first game, or your second, or even your tenth, but keep at it and you will get better.

Aesthetics

When it comes to aesthetics of NASCAR Heat 4, functional is the best word I can use to describe them.  The visuals are good, not great.  The people, the cars, the tracks, and the weather all look decent enough to do the job without wowing the player.  The same goes with the sound design.  The roar of the engines is exactly as it should be, while your spotter will constantly give you directions through your radio.  The music is pretty generic, mostly generic rock or generic country.  I didn’t recognize any of the tunes that played during game play or the intros.  The aesthetics does the job that it needs to, nothing more and nothing less.

Final Thoughts

NASCAR Heat 4 is, hands down, the best NASCAR game I have ever played, but it also is one of the unfriendliest when it comes to people that don’t know what they really are doing.  If you are a NASCAR fan and are looking for the best video game representation of NASCAR, then NASCAR Heat 4 is for you.  If you are like me, more of a casual racing fan, then you might be better off sticking with something else, but you can still appreciate the finesse and complexity that NASCAR Heat 4 can bring.  NASCAR Heat 4 is available now for the Xbox One for $49.99.

Daymare 1998 – A Review (PC)

While this is a review of Daymare: 1998, one must explain how this game came into being… One of my favorite games of the 90’s is Resident Evil.  I knew absolutely nothing about the game when I bought it in 1996, it just sounded like a good game to get into.  Aside from bad dialogue writing (“master of unlocking”?) and the horrible static camera, Resident Evil was a huge hit on the original Playstation, setting the foundation for a series of sequels, spin offs, and remakes.  Lately, Capcom has been remaking their original games, with Resident Evil 2 just being released early this year.  Prior to Capcom developing this remake, Invader Studios was developing a fan-made remake of Resident Evil 2 that was canceled.  Instead of trashing their game engine, Invader Studios created their own homage to the Resident Evil franchise, called Daymare: 1998.  

Story

Daymare: 1998 is set in Keen Sight, Idaho in the year 1998 (it was the year that Resident Evil 2 was released).  You begin the game as Liev, a member of H.A.D.E.S. which stands for Hexacore Advanced Division for Extraction and Research, en route to a research and development center that has encountered a viral outbreak.  Within moments of entering the facility, we quickly realize that Liev is not a nice guy and that H.A.D.E.S. are not there to rescue any survivors, but to quickly recover the canisters and any data relating to this virus.  The facility is in shambles, and the virus has turned some of the survivors into zombies.  As you proceed with your mission, you encounter more information as to what was going on at this facility,  but continue to complete the mission objectives as ordered.  As the team extracts the containers from the facility, there is an altercation, which causes the helicopter and the containers to crash into a small town near by.  This damages the containers and floods the town with the same virus that infected the facility, turning the residents into zombies as well.  This is where we are introduced to our second playable character, Samuel.

In Daymare: 1998 you will be playing as 3 characters; Liev, Samuel, and Raven.  Each character will play the same, but will have different story elements that are driving their motivation.  For instance, Liev is driven by duty to H.A.D.E.S., while Samuel is driven by revenge and is influenced by hallucinations.  Each character offers different viewpoints of the same events, like it did in Resident Evil 2, and will give you the whole picture once you have played through the entire game.  Unlike Resident Evil 2, however, is that you must play through each characters campaigns, so this will lessen the amount of replayability that Resident Evil 2 had right out of the package.

The story for Daymare: 1998 is right out of Capcom during the 1990s, down to the cheesy dialogue as well.  I’m not sure if Invader Studios expertly crafted the cheesy dialogue to make Daymare: 1998 feel like a Resident Evil game, or if it was just bad writing and it feels right due to the focus of the game.  In either case, this feels like it’s a Resident Evil storyline, which means it’s just as confusing in parts as it is tense.  Expect a faithful recreation of a 90’s Capcom story and you will not be dissapointed.

Game Play

The game play for Daymare: 1998 feels very modern, while the rest of the game feels like it was made in the 1990s (more on that later).  Daymare: 1998  is a third person game, so the camera will hover just off of whatever shoulder you feel comfortable with.  I played Daymare: 1998 with only a mouse and keyboard (didn’t want to dig out the controller) and the controls felt very responsive and tight even without a controller.  Your character and walk, jog, and run, with running draining a stamina bar that is only used for running.  Bringing out a weapon puts the reticle on the screen, and by holding the right button you can aim the weapon, focusing the reticle to be smaller and more accurate.

Each character will have a wrist computer that will serve as the games HUD.  This computer will show you your health status and inventory, as well as objectives.  Your inventory is very limited, and you will need to manually reload your spent magazines to keep your weapon full.  This really matters!  You can reload your gun one of two ways; quick reload and long reload.  A quick reload will swap out a spent magazine for a full one, but will drop the spent magazine on the floor.  A long reload will do the same thing, but the spent magazine will go into your inventory.  You begin the game with only the one magazine in your weapon, so managing this will be vital.  Ammo is not plentiful and so you will need to watch your shots and decide when to run.

There are a few puzzles in the game, this wouldn’t be a Resident Evil style game without them.  However, Invader Studios made many of the puzzles feel more like something a person would run into in the real world, instead of what we saw in the old Resident Evil games.  The first puzzle you come across is dividing the current energy available for the facility into the rooms that are needed to open a door, while the second one has to do with raising and lowering temperature gauges to open a cryo pod.  They require some brain power to work through them, but they do make sense.  Then there was the Greek password puzzle for the director’s office.  Yeah, good luck with that one, that one sucked.

The game play for Daymare: 1998 is the true gem here.  While the game feels like a 90’s homage to video games, it does not play like it.  Gone is the horrible camera, you will see exactly what is eating you.  The first mini boss was a good example of how tight the controls are, even on a mouse and keyboard.  You need to kite the boss around, quickly turn and get a few shots off before running again.  I was able to do this without feeling like I was getting stuck on anything, or that I was fighting the controls the entire time.  Daymare: 1998 should feel like a 90’s game, but shouldn’t play like one.

Aesthetics

Annnnnnd here’s where Daymare: 1998 begins to fall flat for me.  There are certain aspects of the aesthetics for Daymare: 1998 that look and sound just fine, but where Daymare: 1998 falls flat, it hits hard.  Let’s take the visuals first.  The environments looks great.  The atmosphere is proper creepy, and the lighting does a great job of hinting but not showing.  There was some lower quality graphics when you start off in the forest with Samuel, but I felt that the facility and the town looked great. The ambient sound and sound effects also were done very well.  The zombies made enough noise to be creepy and certain sound effect cues did the job of startling the player.  But the bad ended up being, well, bad.

The character models are down right ugly.  I’m not sure if they are supposed to be stylized or not, but there was just something about the humans in this game that I found even more creepy then the monsters and zombies.  I think it had to do with the way the eyes were rendered.  They seem to be too far apart and don’t blink enough.  It’s not a deal breaker, but it was something that I did notice.  I also mentioned before about the bad dialogue, well the actors give that dialogue the treatment that it deserves.  Everyone in the game delivers their lines with the same flat, disinteresting tone of voice.  Again, not sure if this was on purpose to fit the original feel of Resident Evil 2 or if it was what just came out due to the actors that were hired, but it was noticeable.  Again, not a deal breaker, but it will either make you feel like you are playing a 90’s Capcom game, or you will be playing with the sound off and subtitles on.

Final Thoughts

Daymare: 1998 is a fun, good game.  It delivers on the promise of giving the player that Capcom 1998 experience, but with the modern game play so you won’t want to toss your computer out of a window.  Where Daymare: 1998 falls flat, it’s hard to tell if this was a purposeful design decision to mimic that 1998 experience, or if the developers actually fell short of their goal.  The game play is fun and very tight feeling, the environments are mostly well done, but the voice acting, dialogue, and character models all fall short compared to other games out today (or perfectly replicate that 1998 feeling, depending on what you are comparing them to).  Overall, I absolutely recommend this game to anyone that is a fan of the original Resident Evil games, but not if you are a fan of the newer games.  Daymare: 1998 is all about nostalgia, and you need to have that desire or experience of playing a Capcom game in the 90’s to get the most out of Daymare: 1998.  Daymare: 1998 will be available through Steam on September 17th.  As of this writing, I could not locate the final price for Daymare: 1998.

Iratus: Lord of the Dead – A Review (PC)

Iratus:  Lord of the Dead is a Kickstarter funded game, brought to us by Unfrozen in Russia.  Raising $23,316 of it’s @$20,000 goal, Iratus:  Lord of the Dead is in Early Access on Steam and we got to get our grubby little hands on it early.  If you are looking for the quick version of this review, Iratus:  Lord of the Dead is like Darkest Dungeon but you are the villain.  If that simple statement gets you all excited and on board, then I have done my job!  If you need further convincing that Iratus:  Lord of the Dead is a fun game, especially if you missed out on the hidden gem that is Darkest Dungeon, then read on fine individual!  Read on!

Story

So, to briefly sum up the story of Iratus:  Lord of the Dead, it truly is like Darkest Dungeon but you are the bad guy.  The game begins with you playing as Iratus, a long dead necromancer, reviving and aiming to break out of the dungeon that you have been imprisoned in.  With the help of your minions, you will defeat your enemies to free yourself of the prison, established a new base to conduct your villany from, and you will need to protect that base from the good guys.

Iratus:  Lord of the Dead isn’t going to win any awards for storyline or character development, this isn’t that type of game.  Similar to Darkest Dungeon, you can’t get attached to your heroes because they will be dead within the next few levels anyway.  While Iratus is a consistent within the story, he briefly has things to say between events that helps push the story along, and your monsters are never meant to have any type of character, they are disposable like good evil minions should be.  Also, while the story line may make it seem like there is some progression, you pretty much are just crawling through dungeons with your monsters and eradicating heroes, while building up your necropolis between battles.  Not every game needs to be an Oscar Award Winner when it comes to story, so this isn’t a deal breaker.  Just not as refined or as polished as I normally like.

Game Play

Iratus:  Lord of the Dead is a 2D, turn based, side on dungeon crawler where you play as the villain instead of the hero.  You begin the game with a set of minions that you can create.  Then you move along a map and select battles, or items, or make choices based on the icon on the map.  You will battle against different heroes, each with their own weaknesses and strengths to counter your minions own weaknesses and strengths. If you defeat the heroes, then you move along the map.  If, however, you are defeated, then you will need to create a new set of minions and try again.  As these minions die, you can make more by harvesting body parts, weapons , and armor from the heroes you have killed.  Once you are out of minions and can’t make any more, however, the game is over.  So maintaining your minions becomes the essential part of Iratus:  Lord of the Dead.  

You will be able to level up your minions as well.  You get items that allow to you level up your monsters abilities, which will increase a particular stat.  I was very impressed at the large amount of options that I had to choose from whenever I leveled up someone.  Each minion has a set number of skills that can be leveled up, and each skill has two options.  Each option will level up the skill in a particular way, while increasing a different state.  Your sword swing may be leveled up to do more damage and increase your health, or it may be leveled up to hit an extra target and increase your damage resistance, for instance.  You can also outfit your minions with a couple of items that can be looted from corpses.

Iratus can also be outfitted with items between battles, which will give you access to special spells and powers during the next battle.  Each spell uses mana, and some of the spells have limited charges.  Most of your energy will be in outfitting and leveling up your minions, since they do most of the grunt work.  Iratus, you see, does not like to get his hands dirty with combat.  You will also rebuild your necropolis between battles, giving you the ability to create bigger and badder minions, or recover health, or other perks that you will need the deeper you go in the dungeon.

The worst thing I could possibly say about Iratus:  Lord of the Dead is that there isn’t anything new here.  You’ve played it all before.  Games like Darkest Dungeon or Dungeon Keeper have done this same bit, but Iratus:  Lord of the Dead puts it all together into a different shell that I still played for hours and hours.  I did really like Darkest Dungeon so getting more of that wasn’t such a bad thing for me.

Aesthetics

Iratus:  Lord of the Dead graphic design is somewhere just short of a BDSM party at Blizzard’s HQ.  You will swear that you see the Lich King hanging out with a couple of banshees in Iratus:  Lord of the Dead, but he’s just got a few more leather straps and buckles on this time around.  Iratus:  Lord of the Dead did mimic some of Darkest Dungeons aesthetics, but did not go with the heavier ink lines that we see in the later game.  Still, while the graphics are simple in terms of actual technology, the aesthetics are solid and they do the job they need to do.

Audio and soundtrack in Iratus:  Lord of the Dead is fairly forgettable, unfortunately.  Iratus is fully voiced and takes the place of the narrator from Darkest Dungeon.  Iratus will make comments during the battle, and then tell little bits of story in between battles, but nothing fantastic.  While I am sitting here typing this review up, I cannot recall a single piece of music that came from the game.  So the music will do the job it needs to, but you won’t be humming it at work the next day.

Final Thoughts

Iratus:  Lord of the Dead is a solid game that does nothing new.  This review has been about a thousand words, and really the entire review could be summed up with what I said in the intro, “It’s like Darkest Dungeon but you are the villain”.  If you liked Darkest Dungeon, put this on your list to get, it’s more of the same goodness that you have played before.  If you didn’t like Darkest Dungeon, well move along, there isn’t anything for you here.  If you didn’t play Darkest Dungeon, I would recommend giving that one a shot first before playing Iratus:  Lord of the Dead.  It would feel weird to recommend the game where you play the villain before playing a game where you get to be the hero.  Still, at the end of the day, I played the heck out of Iratus:  Lord of the Dead and will continue to do so even after this review.  There is something fun and satisfying about Iratus:  Lord of the Dead that makes me what to recommend it, but really only if you are looking for more Darkest Dungeon.  Iratus:  Lord of the Dead is available now on Steam Early Access for $24.99.

Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don’t Dry – A Review (PC)

I haven’t played a Leisure Suit Larry game since 1987 when I tricked my mom into buying Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards for me at age thirteen.  Honestly, I’m not sure why I didn’t play any of the rest, but when Leisure Suit Larry:  Wet Dreams Don’t Dry came across my desk I immediately jumped on it.  Why this one?  Mostly because it felt like a homage back to the very first Leisure Suit Larry game, and I was in the mood for a slower paced adventure game.  Developer CrazyBunch is behind this new version of Leisure Suit Larry, our first new game in over 5 years for the franchise.  So, does Leisure Suit Larry:  Wet Dreams Don’t Dry get lucky or does it go home alone and depressed?  Find out with our full review!

Story

The story for Leisure Suit Larry:  Wet Dreams Don’t Dry begins with Larry Laffer waking up in a dark hole.  You don’t remember much about the night before or where you are currently at.  Larry struggles to find a way out, and finds himself in front of Lefty’s Bar in the city of Lost Wages.  When Larry heads into the bar, he discovers that he has been gone for over 30 years and is now in the 21st century.  Larry is taken aback slightly by this news, but then sets out to chase as many women as he can in this new age.

The actual story takes off once Larry finds a PiPhone in Lefty’s bathroom.  The PiPhone is a prototype with a new artificial intelligence, and it needs to be taken back to Prune headquarters right away.  At Prune headquarters, Larry meets Prune CEO Bill Jobs and his assistant Faith.  Larry attempts to hit on Faith, but she tells Larry that she will only date someone who has a Timber score of 90.  Larry, now outfitted with a new PiPhone that he was given for turning in the prototype, sets out into Lost Wages to meet and date as many people as he can to get a Timber score of 90.  His ultimate goal:  a date with Faith!

From the start, just by reading the previous paragraph, you can tell which direction CrazyBunch went with their story for Leisure Suit Larry:  Wet Dreams Don’t Dry.  This game really pokes fun at both Microsoft and Apple, but mostly Apple, and the pervasive nature of technology in today’s culture.  Most of the humor that CrazyBunch went with is seeing an out-of-time person like Larry Laffer dealing with today’s culture.  The very first girl Larry meets is a woman obsessed with her Instacrap account and gaining as many followers as possible.  He also meets a woman who is a camgirl on the internet, who is trying to make it big as a stripper.

There is a lot of positives and negatives here when it comes to Leisure Suit Larry:  Wet Dreams Don’t Dry’s story line.  I did like how the story pretends that none of the other games for the last thirty years in the Leisure Suit Larry franchise exists and that this game is a direct sequel to Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards.  However, while some of the jokes about today’s culture and society were funny, most of it felt forced or stereotypical.  The story is very cynical when it comes to the current status of Tinder dating, the people you met in the dating scene, and Apple products and business practices.  I also felt that the story ended fairly abruptly and without closure.  I know this sounds mostly negative, but the storyline falls somewhere between mediocre and decent for me.

Game Play

Leisure Suit Larry:  Wet Dreams Don’t Dry plays like a modern day point and click adventure game, very similar to the original game back in 1987.  You use your cursor to look at and interact with the world around you.  By left clicking on an item or person, you look at that item or person.  By right clicking on the same item or person, you will then interact with them, based on what the person or item is.  In some cases, this could lead to death.  Death in Leisure Suit Larry:  Wet Dreams Don’t Dry isn’t horrible, you get a cut scene explaining why you screwed up and then just get sent back to the moment when you entered an area.

Items you pick up will show up in your inventory screen.  At first, this is represented by a notepad in the bottom right corner of your screen, but gets moved to an app on your PiPhone once you unlock that.  Items can be examined in your inventory, and combined to create other items to solve puzzles.  The puzzles in the game come in a variety of difficulty, but can all be solved with some thought and trial and error.  Many puzzles have you traveling from location to location in order to complete tasks or pick up needed items to complete a quest.  There is no quest tracker, so you will need to remember what everyone needs at any given time.

Your PiPhone becomes your means of interaction with most of the world in Leisure Suit Larry:  Wet Dreams Don’t Dry.  You can travel via the map and the Unter app, this replaces the taxi system in the first game, and will be able to check on your Timber score and other matches through that app.  Not all of your Timber matches can be interacted with, only the ones you can interact with will appear on your map.  The others just becomes a series of Tinder jokes.

Overall, the game play is exactly what I would expect from an adventure game.  If you are a fan of point and click adventure games, then Leisure Suit Larry:  Wet Dreams Don’t Dry hits all the right marks.  Nothing new or innovative here, but it all works solidly for what it needs to do.

Aesthetics

Leisure Suit Larry:  Wet Dreams Don’t Dry won’t win any awards for graphics, but it isn’t hideous either.  The visuals are all done in a very cartoon-like style, reminiscent of other point and click adventure games on the market today.  The areas that Larry can head to are all pretty 2 dimensional and limit where Larry can go.  The design of the locations are all stylized and over the top.  Prune’s store looks like a parody of an Apple store.  Even Prune’s logo looks like a stylized vagina that could pass as an apple, which leads to a funny solution to a puzzle later in the game.  There is a sex shop, a gym, a hipster bar, a pier and even a version of Cancun, Mexico.

What works better than the visuals is the voice acting.  Larry sounds exactly as I would imagine him to sound, and this carries over to everyone you meet.  The voice actors did a hell of a job making each character come alive.  Yes, some of this includes acting out the stereotypes that the character represents, but the voice actor nails the tone of each character.  The music is absolutely forgettable.  I actually had to force myself to listen to it for this review, and it is just very generic background music to cover over the silence between character dialogue.  In other words, it works for its purpose but you won’t remember any of it.

Final Thoughts

Leisure Suit Larry:  Wet Dreams Don’t Dry  is a good game.  It is a very solid point and click adventure game and is also a very solid entry into the Leisure Suit Larry franchise.  Taking the nostalgia factor out for a second, Leisure Suit Larry:  Wet Dreams Don’t Dry ticks off all the right boxes to be a successful point and click game:  the humor is decent, the game play is solid, the story line is mediocre to decent, and the graphics and voice acting to a good job in bringing the world to life.  If you only have ever played the first Leisure Suit Larry game, then this game is perfect for you, since it forgets the other 8 games that are out on the market.  If you are a fan of the series, then this game is already on your Steam library.  Leisure Suit Larry:  Wet Dreams Don’t Dry is available now via Steam for $29.99.

Mortal Kombat 11 – A Preview (Xbox One)

This past weekend, NetherRealm released their beta for the upcoming Mortal Kombat 11 and we were able to take it for a spin on the Xbox One.  I was very excited to get my hands on Mortal Kombat 11, as I have played every game in the series since it first came out in arcades back in 1992.  The Mortal Kombat series hit prominence mostly on it’s over the top gore and being the first fighting game to offer up Fatalities, end of match methods of killing your opponent.  Mortal Kombat 11 is technically the 19th release in the series from Netherrealm and continues the story of the Mortal Kombat Tournament where Mortal Kombat X left off.  Let’s take a look at how Mortal Kombat 11 is shaping up.

There wasn’t much accessible in the beta for Mortal Kombat 11, but there was enough to give me the impression of the type of game that Mortal Kombat 11 is shaping up to be.  We were able to access five characters (Baraka, Jade, Kabal, Scorpion, and Skarlet) in three areas of the game:  Solo Ladder, Online, and Customization.  Everything else was offline for the beta, so we didn’t get to see anything of the story line, the Krypt, or the gear system.  The Customization was the biggest change in the MK franchise from the last game, so let’s start there.

Customization

Mortal Kombat 11 will offer different ways to customize your fighter, from the merely cosmetic, to what special moves your character has.  While not everything was unlocked during the beta, what I got to see what exciting in itself.  We had four slots in the beta per character to customize the look, the intros, the outros, and some of the special abilities.  You have three item slots per character that can be augmented during the full release of the game.  For Scorpion, you could change his face mask, his swords, and his spear to different aesthetics.  You can also change the overall look of the character and the color of the costume, but these selections were connected.  You could change Jade’s skin color from dead to alive by changing the base costume she was in.

You then got to change the intro and the outro of your character for each match, along with some of the special abilities that your character had.  For the abilities, you have three slots in which to fill.  Some of these abilities will take one slot, some will need two slots, and some had conflicts so they couldn’t be chosen together since they used the same button input.  Scorpion, for instance, would always have his spear and teleport moves, but you could add in a hellfire breath or amplify a move that is already attached to the character.  This level of customization meant that, even if you were in a mirror match, you had no idea what extra powers or amplifications that your opponent had.  Each character felt and looked unique.  I was really impressed with the depth and ease of this system. Honestly, this system that NetherRealm has devised so far for Mortal Kombat 11 has me very excited to explore and play with.

Game Play

While we only had two options in the beta, either Solo Ladder or Online, I was able to get a great feeling for the upcoming game play of Mortal Kombat 11.  The matches will feel very similar to what they did in Mortal Kombat X, but with little tweaks.  The biggest changes center around the removal of the X Ray System and the introduction of both Fatal Blows and Crushing Blows.  Fatal Blows are the closest thing that Mortal Kombat 11 has to the X Ray System.  A Fatal Blow is triggered when your health hits the 30% mark and can be unleashed by pressing both triggers simultaneously.  This will unleash a combo that, once it hits, is unblockable and will do a significant amount of damage.  Unlike the X Ray Moves, which needed to be charged up by filling the meter, Fatal Blows are used to give the underdog the means to try to level the playing field.  Fatal Blows occur anytime you hit that 30% mark, so you can use them each round if need be.

Crushing Blows, on the other hand, you need to be much more strategic in their use.  A Crushing Blow is a normal move that does additional damage with the addition of a close up shot of the damage that it is doing to your opponent.  This looks similar to the X Ray moves, but only occurs as a one hit combo and does not lead into a series of damaging blows, like the X Ray or Fatal Blows do.  The biggest draw back of the Crushing Blows are that they can only be used once per match, so their use must be very strategic.  Do you use your Crushing Blows to set up a big combo to put away your opponent for good, or do you hold onto them for the next round in case you need to set up a massive come back?

The rest of Mortal Kombat 11 feels very similar to Mortal Kombat X.  The stages all have interaction elements that allow you to shove your opponents face into a cactus, or pick up a speak to impale your opponent with.  Each character can amplify their moves set by using their amplify meter.  You start with two bars that you can use to empower your moves to through in an extra attack or a little extra damage.  The combo system is the same from the last few games, so that will feel very familiar to you.

Fatalities and Brutalities are back and stronger than ever.  Each character has access to 2 Fatalities and 2 Brutalities in the beta.  Honestly, nothing has changed here since the last game.  Fatalities are still pulled off at the end of the match by using a series of directional presses and button presses.  Brutalities can occur when using certain moves when your opponent is near death, and this leads directly to the end of the round by killing your opponent in some gruesome fashion.  As of right now, there were no Animalities or Friendships in the beta, so I have no idea if these are not going to make the final cut, will be unlockable in the Krypt, or hidden by some other means.

The Solo Ladder system is the traditional Mortal Kombat style of solo play.  In the beta, there was the five characters, stacked vertically in a tower and you must face off against each one in order.  You can alter your difficulty before starting the ladder, and could swap out your character between matches.  Online matches were very straight forward as well.  Once you selected the Online match, you were matched up fairly quickly, told to pick a character and a load out, chose a stage and the match begun.  The matches I fought in felt quick and easy to access, without any significant delay or issues in game play.  At the end of the match you had a few options to choose from, like Character Select, Rematch, or Leave.

Looking Forward

Mortal Kombat 11 is shaping up to be a solid game in terms of game play and customization.  The new tweaks to game play feel right and needed, while I really love the customization options that we are getting for the characters.  Mortal Kombat 11 looks great visually as well.  While there are new features that will change the way you approached the matches from Mortal Kombat X, I feel that these changes are for the better and have made the game much more balanced.  By making the Fatal Blow trigger when your opponent is at 30 % health means that you still have to treat them with caution, like a wounded wolf.  This makes matches that may be one sided, still winnable by the underdog.  Keep this game on your radar folks, it’s building up to be a good one.  Mortal Kombat 11 releases on April 23rd.

Dead or Alive 6 – A Review (Playstation 4)

The Dead or Alive franchise has always had an….interesting place in video gaming culture.  While the game play of the series has been top notch, Team Ninja’s oversexualized designs has received more and more criticism over the years.  Just a few months ago, Evo Japan decided to shut down the Dead or Alive 6 Championship stream due to misuse of the game’s replay camera, and models trying to mimic the infamous “jiggle physics” of the series.  It’s hard to talk about Dead or Alive 6 without bringing up this aspect of the game, so I will tackle this in the Aesthetics section of the review and what Team Ninja has done to try to minimize this viewpoint of their games.  But first we have to get through the Story and the Game Play of Dead or Alive 6 by Team Ninja for the Playstation 4.

Story

Fighting games have always had a strange approach to storylines.  It’s hard to make a game about a bunch of characters beating the hell out of each other about character development.  Most games early in the fighting genre history didn’t even try to have a story during game play, you usually just got something at the end of the game when you beat the last boss.  This was built for the arcade systems, but today fighting games must have a single player story mode to reach the largest section of it’s audience.

Dead or Alive 6 picks up where Dead or Alive 5 left off.  Kasumi has abandoned her clan to live as a hermit in the mountains and Helena begins to investigate the appearance of a being with strange powers.  Helena sends out various characters to investigate this new being, while setting up a new Dead or Alive tournament as a test to see how powerful this being is.

The story line is fairly straightforward once again.  Reason pops up for a new tournament to begin, someone sets up tournament and gathers fighters for various agendas and purposes, fighters um….fight, and then the story line wraps up.  What’s different about Dead or Alive 6 is how it is presented to the player.  You now participate in a story grid.  You begin by looking in on Helena and Marie Rose hearing about the new fighter and Helena sending Marie Rose out to befriend this new individual.  Then the player has a choice to follow three new story points, some that follow Marie Rose, another that focuses on Tina and Zack, while the third staying on Helena.  Not all story points end up in a fight, some are just cut scenes that move the story along that path.

While this approach is unique and new, it offers up a very disjointed story to the player.  You will go from scenes of high drama and tragedy to one that is comical in nature, depending on the choice of scenes you select.  You cannot just follow one path to its conclusion either, you can only unlock the next level once certain scenes have been completed.  Being able to follow one characters story line at a time would have been preferable to this mess.  Dead or Alive 6 does offer up two new characters to play as and follow during the story; Diego and NiCO.  Both are decent additions to the already large roster (if you purchased this game, more on this later) but nothing game breaking or overly interesting.

Game Play

While Dead or Alive 6 has major issues in both the story and the public relations department, the gameplay is outstanding and simplified without making it too casual.  At the core of the game is it’s triangle system.  Think Paper, Rock, Scissors but with more pain.  Strikes will beat Throws, Throws beat Holds, and Holds beat Strikes.  The game will prioritize the greater attack over the lesser attack, so the players will need to keep their repertoire of moves varied to prevent their opponent from guessing their next attack.

Dead or Alive 6 also adds in two new systems:  Break Gauge and Fatal Rush.  The Break Gauge is a two segment bar underneath your health that can be used to buff up some of your attacks.  You can do a Break Blow, which will simultaneously parry your opponent and attach for a huge hit, or a Break Hold, the ultimate hold that will take priority over any attack.  The Fatal Rush is an auto combo that can be done when both your segments of your Break Gauge are filled.  Simply by pressing one button four times, your character will perform a massive combo that will push the opponent into stage hazards.  Both of these new systems are designed to make Dead or Alive 6 more accessible to the casual fan, but it does not take anything away from higher level competition.  If anything, it gives us more opponents in online matches because the accessibility has been greatly increased.  Dead or Alive 6 also has a very solid tutorial and practice mode to help all newcomers to the series.

Speaking of Online play, Dead or Alive 6 missed the mark here as well.  Online play is a simple set of options really, which is great for someone looking for a fast fight.  You select Ranked Play and then find someone who has a connection strength similar to yours, join the fight, then either rematch or quit, then move to the next fight.  There isn’t a way to search through fights, and no lobby system if you wanted to hang out and play with a certain group of friends for an hour or two.  Quality of connection was ok for me, the fights felt somewhat sluggish versus offline, but not as bad as some other games out there.

The last thing I wanted to mention about Dead or Alive 6 is the DOA Quest Mode.  This is another single player mode, but you must complete certain objectives set in front of each match to earn costume parts.  DOA Quest is a great way to improve your skills in Dead or Alive 6 by focusing on objectives that are more than just bashing a few buttons, however, the end result is incredibly frustrating.  Once you finish a match, you will earn costume parts, but these parts are for a specific character and a specific costume and are generated randomly.  You could get parts for a character you don’t even own yet.  This is Team Ninja at its worst in Dead or Alive 6, essentially making it so difficult to earn alternative costumes that you would choose to buy the costumes instead.  In fact, their first announced DLC content is for two new fighters and over 80 costumes at a ridiculous $93 season pass.

Aesthetics

Dead or Alive 6 is a gorgeous game, but is still plagued by some aesthetic choices that will make this game work for you or not.  First, let’s talk bounce.  Yes, the “jiggle physics” is back for Dead or Alive 6, but is said to have been reduced due to Sony’s new policy on oversexualization of content.  Honestly, I didn’t see much of a reduction with this, but there is an option to turn off these physics if you so choose.  Many of the costumes have been toned down a bit as well, but you will still have some costumes that are highly questionable as a bathing suit, let alone to wear in a fighting tournament.  Then there is the camera mode.  After certain fights, the game will end with you in control of the camera and it will allow you to free cam around your character and take pictures.  You can also do this during an offline match, but it’s forced on you after certain game modes. It’s annoying at best, but when the camera automatically starts zoomed into a character’s breasts, it can become uncomfortable for some.  This is a rated M game, so know before you buy.

Optional Difficult Discussion Here:  I have been a gamer for many, many years.  I had Pong, so that should tell you how ancient I am.  However, I am also an Historian and an Anthropologist who has watched culture and society change over the years.  When the DOA franchise began, it needed something to set it aside from the other fighting games on the market, and skimpy clothes with bouncing breasts was a great way to go.  Hell, I even bought DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball so I am just as guilty as enjoying this as anyone else is.  However, culture and society change.  Team Ninja is finding it harder and harder to sell these games in the United States and Europe.  This is why there isn’t a release of DOA Xtreme 3 here in the States and why Evo Japan had to stop its Twitch livestream due to the behavior of its announcers and models.  I am seeing Team Ninja make changes to Dead or Alive 6 to address these concerns, but the game still has a lot going on that makes it a bit cringe worthy in today’s world.  I won’t tell you if this game is for you or not, that’s up to you to decide on this issue, and honestly others should either.  I’m interested to see what the future holds for this franchise and with Sony’s new content requirements.

Resuming Your Regularly Scheduled Review Here:  The stages are just as gorgeous and are well designed with some stage hazards, like electrified ropes or pterodactyls.  The new damage system is just weird to me.  Bits of clothing will fall off in weird ways or expose certain areas of the fighter’s body.  I’m not sure if this really adds anything to the game or not.  It just seemed silly to me.

Sound and music also were top notch in production.  However, I just have issues with the voice acting.  It’s similar to other fighting games on the market where the voice actors just feel like they are going for the cheesiest version of a certain voice from a particular country.  The French accent is just over the top French, while many of the female fighters sound like they are 12 years old.  But, if the worst part of the game is the voice acting, I guess Dead or Alive 6 is doing just fine.

Final Thoughts

Well, there is a lot to chew on this one.  Putting aside the optional discussion on the aesthetics, Dead or Alive 6 is probably one of the best fighting games on the market today for both casual and serious gamers.  Dead or Alive 6 offers deep game play and an even deeper fighting system that is very casual friendly, and no I don’t believe that is a bad thing.  The single player system offers hours and hours of content, though some of it is convoluted and muddled.  The game is gorgeous, it really is.  If you are ok with the aesthetic design choices of Team Ninja in both “jiggle physics” and costume choice, then you have a lot to play here.  If you aren’t ok with those decisions, you can choose to turn the physics off and stay in certain costumes and still have a great game to play.  Dead or Alive 6 is available for the Playstation 4 for $59.99 with all 23 characters, but you can also download the Core Fighters game for free if you want to try before you buy.

Trials Rising Review (PC)

No other game gets me leaning on my couch like a good Trials game. Whenever I play a Trials game I find myself physically moving as if I was actually riding the bike, just to get that extra inch to make it over a barrier or to clear a huge canyon. I have played every game in the series and always look forward to the challenges that the next edition will bring. It took a few years, but RedLynx and Ubisoft Kiev have finally come through with a new version of Trials with Trials Rising. Let’s take a deeper look into Trials Rising to see what has changed in this 19-year-old franchise.

Story

Trials games don’t usually come with a story, Trials of the Blood Dragon being the one notable exception, so there isn’t much to go over here except how the game is laid out. In the single player mode, you begin in North America with the easiest tracks to complete. After completing a few of these earlier tracks, you unlock the Trials University. Trials University is a prolonged tutorial that helps newer riders discover the intricacies of the Trials franchise. The levels in Trials University will unlock as your rider gains levels, this will mean that the skills you learn in Trials University will be fresh in your mind when you need them.

Progressing through the continent will also unlock the Stadium Finals and Sponsorship Contracts. The Stadium Finals are races where you race against 3 other players’ ghosts to see who can reach the finish line first with the fewest faults. The Sponsorship Contracts are generally fun and will help unlock cosmetic items for your rider and your bike.

Unlocking everything in the beginning was extremely easy. Completing the trails at the gold level was easy for me since I have played Trials in the past, but unlocking new stages isn’t based on the level that you completed the previous stage but your rider’s level. You could have reached gold on every race, but if you do not meet the level requirement then you cannot progress until you do. This change, for me, is Trials Rising’s biggest misstep.

Gameplay

The game play of Trials Rising hasn’t changed much at all from the last game. Trials Rising is still a game of using the right amount of forward momentum with the right amount of weight shifting and balance. I used an Xbox controller to play Trials Rising on the PC and it felt like returning to an old friend. The entire game is played using the right trigger for gas and the left stick for weight balance. The new levels in Trials Rising are incredibly imaginative and look gorgeous on the PC.

Trials Rising does introduce a new test to your friendship with the new tandem bike. With the tandem bike, two players can play locally on the stages and each player controls half of the bike’s momentum and balance. This mode is a great addition to the series and brings a whole new look to the stages. Trying to get two people to work together on one bike isn’t easy, but when you complete a harder stage the feeling is great.

What isn’t so great is the loot box system and some of the custom items that you can get. As you level up, you gain loot boxes like what you would find in Overwatch or Apex Legends. A loot box will get you 3 items, which can be an item for your rider, your bike, a sticker, or a pose that will show up on the loading screens. For my first pose, I got the infamous butt-slapping taunt which wore out it’s welcome within the first hour due to the change in music. I like getting items to customize my rider and make it different then the other riders on the screen, but loot boxes have always felt cheap to me and they feel cheap here too.

Aesthetics

Trials Rising looks fantastic on the PC. The levels are interesting, both game play wise and visually stunning. I found myself enjoying the lighting effects as the sun poked through the trees near the track, or the way the Eiffel Tower looked as you slowly climbed up it’s massive girders. The lighting effects on the PC make Trials Rising really pop.

Sound effects and music are exactly what you would expect for a Trials game. The music is fairly solid for the most part, featuring artists such as Anthrax, Motorhead, Stone Temple Pilots and Jurassic 5. There was a lot more artists on the soundtrack that I had never heard of, but that’s not to say that the music was bad. I still remember playing games like Tony Hawk Pro Skater where I loved almost every song and artist on the soundtrack. There are some hits here, for certain, but also some misses.

Final Thoughts

Trials Rising hits all the right marks to make it another great Trials game in the series. While I may complain a little bit about the rider level making the second part of the game a huge grind to unlock stages, the overall game play of Trails Rising is exactly what we need in another Trails game. The addition of the tandem bike is a great way for two people to get into a brawl on their couch, arguing over who it was that wasn’t leaning the right way. The stages are some of the best designed that has come out for the entire franchise, and that is saying something. If you can look past a sizable grind to unlock some of the stages, then I would highly recommend Trials Rising, especially on the PC. Trials Rising is available now on Seam for $29.99.