For the past couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure of finally playing Hollow Knight and up until now if heard nothing but wonderful things about it and after quite a bit of time, I’ve come to the conclusion that the praise it has received is well warranted. Falling into the Metroidvania style of game, Hollow Knight is every bit as challenging that you would think it would be, and at times even harder than that. Essentially the story revolves around exploring a long dead city in habited by bugs and other nasties, no it isn’t as nasty as it sounds, it’s simply the nature of the world. Throughout the adventure you face off against monstrous entities and tainted creatures all while exploring this dead city and uncovering its secrets.
Before I played it, Hollow Knight received an outrageous amount of praise and rightly so. The story itself is fantastic and detailed in several different ways, with random relics and runes to read all of which flesh out the story and paint a dire picture of a once great city that has fallen from grace. Aside from story there is of course the art style itself, hand drawn and simply beautiful, I mean seriously I honestly can’t get over how beautiful this game looks with so many varied locales and each with their own distinct style it never gets boring to look at.
There is one thing that I really need to mention even more than the art style and that’s the music, yes, I love it, but not like I love maybe the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack, or Castlevania Symphony of the Night. No, I love this soundtrack because while it is good, it’s understated, it fits, it’s organic. Every section of this game has its own mood and sound and that is what makes it a perfect fit and it’s why I love it, because not every soundtrack has to be standout and recognizable. Don’t get me wrong it does stand on its own and I could easily see me vegging out to it but in the context of the game itself it blends into the environment and brings it all to life in an intense way.
In the end I do love playing Hollow Knight, then again at times I hate playing it as well. It’s a beautiful and frustrating game that brings back memories of the 16-bit era (and the horrors involved) while breathing new life into modern gaming, at least in my own opinion. It’s addicting and freeing in its explorations, but also rage quit inducing when it comes to many bosses and even just random enemies. Yes, like just about anyone else I would recommend it hands down, for whatever my opinion may be worth, and anyone who enjoys the pleasures a Metroidvania style would find a great deal to love here as well.
I’m not sure where to start here, if you don’t know anything about Jurassic World Evolution it’s basically a Jurassic Park version of Planet Zoo, which is the zoological version of Planet Coaster…wow that was deep, sort of. Essentially, it’s a city builder/tycoon style game which ranks it pretty high on my favorite genre list and while I wanted to get Planet Zoo first, this one was much more in my price range at the time of this writing. Now to be fair, since it was Jurassic Park I had planned on getting it eventually anyway, I’ve always loved the movies or at least a few of them plus the idea of running a park specifically designed to showcase dinosaurs is a pretty sweet deal too.
To start, the game is beautiful, no question about it, they took a great deal of care in bringing dinosaurs and the environment to life in an amazing way, but this game is far more than just its visuals that’s for sure. For starters it’s very easy to get in to as well as easy to play which when it comes to a tycoon style game is fairly important in my book. After that there is of course the voice acting which, while the smaller characters are well acted, the real gold for me is simply having Jeff Goldblum reprising his role (again) as Dr. Malcom. Now granted he’s not the only one to make an appearance but certainly my favorite reason.
Okay enough filler, let’s really talk about this game, and I want to start off with what would be my biggest gripe about it from what I’ve seen. It has several different modes, but my favorite of any Tycoon/City Builder style game is sandbox mode because I just want to build and manage, and this has that with what seems a major catch. See from what I can tell, in order to actually use sandbox mode, you have to finish an island in campaign mode which is somewhat frustrating and rather annoying. To be completely honest though I’m also not surprised, as much as I enjoy this game as well as Planet Coaster, sandbox mode is the most annoying. Between Jurassic World Evolution where you have to essentially earn the right to play in sandbox mode and Planet Coaster where the mode is basically giving you everything, taking away the concept of researching rides, they haven’t found a right mix when handling the mode.
All of that being said however, that is really the only complaint I have about the game, it’s incredibly addicting and easy to play but just challenging enough to keep it interesting. Voice acting is excellent, and visuals are beautiful and quite honestly the only reason not to like this is if you aren’t a fan of dinosaurs and even then, it’s kind of iffy because it’s still an immensely enjoyable game. I will add that in addition to essentially creating a Jurassic zoo, you also get to research and hatch dinosaurs, sending teams out to find fossils and learning about them adds a little bit extra for me.
I’m sure this isn’t as interesting as any previous post but there isn’t a lot to say, well there is and there isn’t. At the game’s core it’s your basic tycoon game but the dino doggo’s make it an extra level of interesting and well worth giving it a go though I can’t honestly say I would pay full price for it. It’s good on so many levels but definitely one worth waiting for a sale.
Today I have a real treat, thanks to a good friend I’m able to talk about a game that I loved in its original form and have been aching to have since it was essentially remade recently. By now I’m hoping thanks to the title you’ve figured out I’m talking about Resident Evil 2, if not, well…I’m talking about Resident Evil 2. I’ll be honest though; I don’t ever recall beating the original on the PS1 without the help of a GameShark though I will say I have no regrets in that either but that’s a subject for another day. Circling back to RE2, the newer that is, I haven’t gotten very far in I admit but almost immediately the differences are obvious and I’m not talking about just the visuals either.
I know, by now everyone has played it so going over it is pointless…well guess what I’m gonna do anyways, that’s right, let’s go through some of this starting with the biggest difference. In the past you started up after the crash where Leon and Claire separate and go off to survive, well here we start at a convenience story which in my opinion is actually better, it gives a little more context and a little more of a connection between the two. At this point though I should point out that for me the game is rather laggy at times, in fact there are moments when action starts happening is when it starts to get a little choppy and I think that’s partly due to my PC specs. Mind you now my PC isn’t exactly a lightweight but some of the parts are a bit old and could do with some upgrading, so it forces me to play on the medium side of quality as opposed to the highest setting.
Outside of the problems I’ve laid out above, and I use the word problem very loosely in this instance as the problems are on my end, there is so far nothing about this game that I do not love…even the frustration of Mr. X though I will say that Mr. X is the one thing I could most definitely do without but that’s just me I suppose. To be quite honest I prefer is more subtle use in the original vs the stalking, “nemesis” of the remake and I’ll explain why too. You see for me, games like this give me higher levels of anxiety for various reasons and not necessarily because they are scary, no, it’s the concept of dying in the game that ups the blood pressure and anxiety.
Now a lot of this stems from a very unfortunate incident involving a multi-page PS1 memory card (if you remember what those are), Final Fantasy VII, about 50 hours of playtime, and a wiped save file as a result. So imagine investing all that time in a story and now know you’ll have to repeat it all because of data loss, my fear in this case is because I have such a short attention span that I’ll just toss the game aside for years before trying again, hoping I’ll have forgotten the story enough that it will still feel new to me in a sense. All of that being said RE2 shoots all of that through the roof because Mr. X on his own creeps me the hell right out and adding that level of anxiety on top of it pushes me back to playing from save point to save point…roughly five or ten minutes at a time, before I’m somewhat forced to call it quits for a few hours or a few days.
You would think with all of that I would hate the game but to the contrary I love it, maybe even more because of it. Yes, it frustrates me at times, and reduces my play time in a sense but I don’t honestly think I would have it any other way. In the end, the RE2 remake not only does justice to the original in many ways but it reinvents the game as well with it’s modern look and updated systems. For a while Capcom seemed to be somewhat out of it in a sense, not really seeming to care much about their fanbase, and then Monster Hunter World hit, then RE2, now RE3 remakes which to me are the biggest games they’ve had in a long while and all have helped them in several ways. A better image, a more inviting modern game library, and just as bright of a future as the 80s and 90s and I honestly hope they continue this momentum.
As I write this it had been approximately two years since I’d last visited Final Fantasy XIV (and perhaps longer than that even) and to be completely honest I had stopped because I didn’t have the time nor the money to commit to another MMO. Fast forward to Christmas of 2019 and when asked what I wanted as a present one of the first things that leapt to mind was a time card so that I could come back and I will be completely honest, I’m happy on many levels that I asked and received exactly what I asked for.
So just a little background I suppose, up until I tried World of Warcraft around the time of the Burning Crusade expansion, I had never played an MMO before. At the very least I had never played one seriously before WoW took hold that’s for sure. I dabbled with Final Fantasy XI and it was most definitely beyond my skill set so I never truly felt a desire to go back up until I heard of FFXIV.
We all know the problems with the original release, or at least most of us do, broken and almost completely unplayable on so many levels to the point that Square-Enix made a rather bold decision in not only pulling the plug but also rebuilding the game from the ground up delivering us “A Realm Reborn”. Now when I first ventured into the rebuilt game I was amazed at what I saw, I had no idea what I was doing and was completely confused but I loved it, it felt like a Final Fantasy game should in an online world and I was most definitely not disappointed.
Now since the relaunch of FFXIV I haven’t been able to play it much if at all, my current state of existence doesn’t leave much extra room for a monthly subscription to MMOs so I’m a bit restricted to time cards when I’m able to get them and like I said thanks to receiving one recently for Christmas I was ecstatic to jump back in. I’ve missed the thrill that an MMO can provide though granted I never truly missed playing alongside other people, but I’ll get to that later. The world looks amazing and the gameplay feels just right, not too terribly confusing though it does have it’s moments, and it’s been easy (for good or bad) to slip into some old habits of playing far longer than I should and I have absolutely no regrets about that.
Now before you think that I’m some super fanboy of the game let me reassure you that as much as I enjoy it, and as amazing of a feeling that I get when it do, it’s not without its faults. Now while I applaud the fact that Square-Enix have tried to create a way of helping players by way of an online resource it can sometimes be confusing and feel incomplete, in addition some of the things that you can do in game do carry with them certain requirements which the game itself makes no mention of (riding mounts for instance leaps to mind). All of that aside though there is one thing that I really do dislike, there are often times when you are forced to group up for a quest to advance the story, including getting a mount if I understand things correctly.
Hold your tongues for a moment, I know a lot of people are thinking “but it’s an MMO the whole point is to play with other people!!!!!” you sir or madame, are completely correct however let me explain myself if I may. Over the years the one thing that I’ve always loved about MMOs is that you can play them your way, how you choose to do so and while I understand and accept the fact that these quests are done intentionally to foster a sense of teamwork and community, when you’re a massive introvert even in the online world those quests can actually induce a level of anxiety.
I’m not even joking when I say that having to group up with people in an MMO messes with me in the worst of ways, I’m terrified on so many levels. I know I don’t know the dungeon or whatever we may be doing, I’m not always completely confident that I know how to play my character, I’m constantly feeling judged because we may be struggling and I’m fairly certain that it’s my fault. In short I understand why it’s done in MMOs to a point, I just wish that in this instance it wasn’t necessary just to get to something so necessary, having to complete a few dungeons in a row just to continue on to the point of being able to get a mount to travel around easier. Now I could be wrong that I need to complete these dungeons to get to the quest I need, but every bit of info I’ve seen says I have to so it’s delayed me advancing by a lot, though that’s not to say I stopped playing, if anything there are plenty of things to do in the meantime.
One of the one things that I actually love (as a result of being terrified to group up) is the fact that you are not bound to just one class, you can explore every class and every profession with one character, eliminating the need for multiples characters which is something I can greatly appreciate for sure. So while I manage to get through being forced to group up with people I’ve never met and in some cases really do not want to, I can spend my time perfecting a multitude of crafts. Really though, in the end, and even forced grouping aside, I love it. I’ve gotten more enjoyment in a few weeks of being back than I have in years of other MMO. So long as I’m able to get a time card here and there I’ll be back again and again.
We all know that God of War has been a staple series for Sony since its introduction in 2005 on the PS2 and since then it’s enjoyed several successful sequels. From my own personal standpoint I’ve not played many of them, I played the original and could never beat it but always loved it because it was something new and fresh (though all those damn quick time events thoroughly pissed me off to no end), and I played the second for sure, possibly the third, and definitely a little of the PSP version and while not all of them really excited me I could always appreciate the series for what it was…plus the whole mythology aspect was awesome as well.
When I first heard about the latest installment at first I wasn’t sure how to take it, I mean it made sense branching out to a different mythological set and I’ve always loved Norse mythology slightly more than Greek or Roman if I’m being completely honest, but on the flip-side it felt weird that it was leaving behind its roots as well. While I was unsure as to whether or not I’d like the new direction I knew I still wanted to try it and now that I’ve finally had the chance to do so I can say that I both love this installment, and dislike it at the same time (notice, however, I did not say I hated it…that’s very important here).
I will say this, it’s an incredibly beautiful game, no question there at all, and I really love the open world aspect to it but that’s one of the biggest things I dislike about it as well. Now to be fair I always have a hard time finishing open world games of any variety because it’s far too easy to get distracted and I end up never finishing the game, but the reason I dislike the open world aspect is that because of those distractions I end up getting myself in trouble, I’ll explain. I don’t know if it’s because the world opens up to you a little too early (at least in my opinion) because it seems any time I want to explore and try to do extra things I’m always met with monsters that are far higher in level than I am and the breaking point was being stuck having just hit an autosave point in an area with too high level monsters and constantly taken out almost instantly. In that case I stepped back from the game for a bit and game back and was lucky enough that there was a save just far enough back that I didn’t have to do a lot of backtracking but it was also disappointing because it was a reminder that I was nowhere near ready to explore this amazing landscape and completely frustrating as well.
I will say this though, as frustrating as this game can be I still love it, and ended up loving it far more than I thought I would, the battles are challenging, the setting is magical, the story is not only impressive, but gets progressively more intense the more you follow it. Quite honestly, and despite my early misgivings, I can’t imagine not playing this game several times over. If nothing else God of War illustrates with epic clarity that story driven games are still loved and enjoyed and are a style that should never truly go away because as much fun as it may be to destroy your friends in an online match, nothing will compare with taking an active role in a story as it’s protagonist and seeing it through to the end. Fighting through the frustration and challenges makes even the smallest accomplishments seem epic and it’s one of the things that make gaming so inspiring for me personally, as someone that over the years has constantly let themselves down, being the hero in a game can give that feeling of accomplishment but also inspire the desire to be greater than a one already is and that’s why I’ll always come back to gaming and God of War was a great reminder of what made me fall in love with gaming in the first place.
Good evening, day, morning, friends! I’d like to take a moment or three to talk about a game that up until now I hadn’t given the love it deserves and this past weekend I decided to change that. UnEpic is the simple, heartwarming tale of one man’s journey home…just kidding, it’s about a crude guy who in the middle of a D&D like gaming session gets transported to a fantasy world and possessed by an evil spirit in an attempt to defeat the lord of the castle and find a way home. I’ll admit when I first played it I had a hard time with it, though at the time I think it was because I was trying to use an old and stiff Xbox 360 controller and since that was frustrating I switched to keyboard and mouse and that just made my arms and hands hurt. In the end the game sat dormant for a bit, okay a lot, but once I got my new controller and a new bit of motivation to take on my Steam list, I decided to start off with this one and boy am I glad I did!
Like I said, you play as Daniel (well I didn’t say his name), he’s a gamer, in to fantasy and tabletop RPGs, and is fond of going to the bathroom…okay last part is a little gross but it sets up the rest perfectly. See as he’s going during a break in gaming with his buddies the lights go out, confused and slightly damp he wanders out only to find that he’s in a castle and almost immediately he is confronted by a spirit being that guards the castle. Unfortunately for the spirit, Daniel really can’t be controlled so the two set off on an adventure of life, love, and the desire to be separated from each other. The story is simple in nature but it’s the writing that really sells it for sure, filled with movie, game, and general pop culture references, and the back and forth between Daniel and his spirit passenger is completely priceless. If for no other reason UnEpic is worth playing just for the story and dialog, sometimes it feels like it goes on longer than it should but I think part of that is just when I try to stream it and I feel awkward sitting there while the conversation goes on, waiting for it to finish before I can talk again.
Metroidvania, a term I hadn’t heard until Axiom Verge came out, and I never truly understood it until I played this game right here though this is definitely more Castlevania than Metroid and not just the fact that it’s more fantasy based, the over all feel is very much in line with Symphony of the Night which really boosts it in my opinion. The similarities are so close that on face value you could almost confuse the two games though from a graphics standpoint it’s a step below Castlevania and that most definitely is not a bad thing, but I’ll talk about that later. As far as gameplay is concerned though, the castle you’re in is sectioned off into different areas that you have to explore, a guardian to find, and a boss to beat but each section needs a key so you are somewhat guided in where you go in a more obvious fashion but it isn’t a terrible feeling either as you don’t feel constrained in where you can go because each area is a decent size to explore. Other gameplay things to note is a full-fledged character sheet that you’d find in just about any tabletop game, full inventory and equipment, spells, crafting, all in all full RPG mode and even a map! Let’s not forget a bunch of side quests and even a few grinding quests thrown in there because why not, and to be honest the only thing I’m not a fan of is the fact that some of the menus that you can use (though don’t necessarily need to use) have to be used with the keyboard in conjunction with the controller but fortunately it’s not a major issue. One last thought on gameplay though, and it’s one of my favorites oddly enough, every room has a set number of candles and/or torches for you to light to help illuminate the area and once you light all the ones in the room there is usually a secret that opens up for you to access. It doesn’t always happen but every once in a while you’ll completely light up a room and a hidden ladder will appear or a chest and it’s just a good feeling…plus it’s one of the achievements to light all the lamps so of course I’m gonna try to light them all.
I know I’m a little out of order, I’ve gotten this far and usually I’ve already talked about the graphics but screw it, let’s talk about them now. I mentioned before that the graphics sit just below Castlevania Symphony of the Night and I stand by that but it’s not a bad thing. To be fair this looks more in line with the 16-bit era of gaming versus the 32-bit era which would explain the drop down there but in the grand scheme of things it looks phenomenal, well to me at least. Every section of the castle has its own theme and look to it, from the sewers to the library it all has a distinctive feel and it all flows so well. Now I won’t lie, as beautiful as the game is, the thing that I thought was the best to see was when Daniel walked behind a pillar, yes a lot of 2D games create the illusion of depth with their backgrounds in a layered way but actually having things in the foreground that your character can walk behind brings it up a level for sure and I’m loving it.
Let’s talk music, my favorite subject, now overall the music and general sound design is perfect, but it’s subdued. I mean I love how the game sounds, but the music doesn’t really stand out to me or at least there isn’t a lot of the music that sticks in my mind after I turn off the game. Now just because the music doesn’t stand out after the fact, like I’m not thinking about the music hours later, but the music is just right for the moment your in the game and really fleshes it out which when your playing that’s exactly what you want. I will concede though that there is enough substance to the soundtrack that I would like to buy it and just sit and listen someday if I get the extra money to do so. Aside from the music, the voice acting is up there for favorite because it flows so well and the way the characters play off each other is great though I should warn (finally) it’s certainly a rated R game on dialog along in many cases. From swearing to full on sexual innuendo it’s all in there, it’s hilarious and well written, but it’s all in there so just a fair warning there.
Finally let’s bring it all together with the replay value and RPGs don’t naturally have much of that, obviously exceptions apply, for instance if you really love it you’ll come back to it or if it’s one that happens to have multiple endings that may bring you back in as well. UnEpic is like any other RPG in that regard, you’re either going to love it enough to keep coming back to it or you won’t, now there are some challenges that you have to do across multiple playthroughs which somewhat brings you back but over all it’s still the same story so if you do come back to it more than likely it will be because you love how it plays and listening to the banter. For me personally I’ll load it up again and again because it’s a fun game to play and sometimes you just want to run around swinging a sword.
My final thoughts? Easy, lately I can’t even shut up about this game because it’s so much fun. It his all the right spots from nostalgia to solid gameplay and design. Overall, I don’t know if it’s gotten the love it deserves, I personally don’t think it has because I don’t see or haven’t seen a lot of people ever really talking about it and that’s very unfortunate because it deserves so much more. If you haven’t tried it and you like Metroidvania style games, then this is one you shouldn’t let slip away especially since it’s normally reasonably priced, as of this writing on Steam it’s listed at $12.99 and personally I think it’s a decent price. If you’re on the fence I have no doubt it would go on sale and for the size of the game I would have gone about to $20 before waiting for a sale. Either way, take a look, you can see my stream on it on Twitch and YouTube if you’re still not sure.
So, anyone that knows me knows that simulation and city building games are among my favorite types of games to play. Don’t get me wrong I love a lot of type of games, but this is definitely one of my favorite go-to genre (or genres as the case may be) and it’s a love that started way back with the original Sim City on the SNES. Over the year’s I’ve played a lot of games that fall into these two genres such as the SimCity reboot (hey…it wasn’t all bad, just mostly bad), Cities Skylines (the game SimCity should have been) and many, many games both before and since. Naturally I was going to try Surviving Mars, I mean there really wasn’t any chance of me not trying it eventually and yes before you say it, I know it’s old now by game standards but I write them as I’m able to get them and being on a budget not a lot of new games are flying around the Aingeal home.
Now before I get too deep into this, I should probably offer a refresher and/or an explanation about how I review games. I’ve always felt that games from a review standpoint fall into five separate categories; graphics, gameplay, story, music/sound design, and replay value and yes I know that technically music and sound design would fall into two sperate categories but it’s my writing so…”sticks tongue out and blows a raspberry”. I don’t do scores or things like that, mostly I talk about each of these aspects separately and wrap it up at the end with a final thought or two.
Okay I’ve stalled long enough, time to talk about this here game.
No better way to jump in than to talk about the graphics and I must say they are amazing. Obviously, nothing is without its flaws and while I think the game looks beautiful, from the design of the buildings and machinery to the Martian landscape, I’ve also noticed that on occasion when zoomed as far in as the game will allow you start to see some pixilation on the ground and dirt. Now to be fair part of that may be my settings, then again it may not be as well but either way I’m not going to really complain about it either because as a whole, it looks fantastic especially these little guys:
From a gameplay standpoint it can drag, yes there are buttons to make the game go faster, but I don’t like using them because I know I’ll end up forgetting about something and screw up everything I’m working on. As for me personally, I still get confused on how some things work in the game such as the production facilities as well as the domes for life and yet not completely understanding how to use it all just makes me want to play more. My own ignorance makes the game more enjoyable because I’m learning and figuring it out on my own even though there are tutorials scattered about to help. Other than that, you have a campaign or story mode that serves as a more in-depth tutorial, scenarios, and of course my favorite a sandbox mode and that is really where I have all of my fun because there is no real pressure. Best part of the sandbox mode is the modifiers you can throw into that make it as hard or as easy as you want it.
Moving to story, Surviving Mars does have a story/campaign mode and I must admit I don’t play it. I did a little for the sake of trying it and to give me a little more credibility when writing but to be honest I don’t play games like this for a story I play them for the calming effect that building a city, colony, empire, what have you, has on me. Now that’s not to discount the story mode here either, it’s actually decent to play and like I said before it’s in a way more of a tutorial than anything else only on a larger scale.
Now on to my favorite subject and I’m pretty sure I say that same line with every review I write but I don’t care. I love music, I love sound, I love it all but music especially because the right music can hit you right in your soul and that’s what I really love. Now the music here isn’t going to make the earth move for me but what it does do is equally important to me, it fits. It fits the scenario; it fits the feel of the game and that makes or breaks a game in some cases. Everything else works so well too, like every bit of the sound design is near perfect and it really pulls it all together. Back to the music, what stands out the most is the fact that it’s a nice calming bit of audio, it’s one of the things that makes it easy to just slip into the game and not realize just how much time is passing and it’s one of the biggest reasons why I love it.
Last but not least, replay value, and a game like this usually is chock full of it and a big reason for that is the fact that it is a simulation/city builder, there isn’t a lot of emphasis on completing goals other than the ones for creating a livable outpost on Mars. For this reason, it’s a game I know I personally will come back to again and again, it’s a nice time waster, it’s relaxing, no pressure, so it’s always easy to jump back in now and again. Surviving Mars is on par with Civilization V as far as play time (or eventual playtime as I still have not owned it for very long), I can see me investing hundreds of hours into it and having absolutely no regrets about it too.
For the final word, well my final word on the matter, should you play it? Most definitely! Especially if you enjoy simulation and city building games. At it’s core there isn’t a lot new other than the setting but admittedly it’s hard to come up with “new” ideas in this day and age and the most we can hope for is an enjoyable experience and this delivers exactly that in spades plus if you enjoyed City Skylines then you’ll definitely love it since the two are very similar at their core.