fbpx

Video Game Review

A Final Fantasy VII fans Final Fantasy VII Remake Review

By AAOG’s Community Manager Matt Turiano

So I finally finished Final Fantasy VII Remake, timely I know. Final Fantasy VII wasn’t my first Final Fantasy, that honor goes to 6 on the SNES but it was one of my first. 6 through 9 will always be the height of JRPGs to me the more simple graphics allowed for a focus on storytelling over HD graphics in a way that I feel like Final Fantasy has lost in the most recent games, 13 and its sequels being heavily on rails playable movies. And while I did enjoy 10 it suffered from a lot of the same, I came for the story but I want to explore the world not watch a 15 hour cutscene. But Final fantasy VII, oh just a few notes from Aerith’s Theme or the Main Theme is enough to bring a manly tear to my eye. So you can imagine I’m sure how I reacted to that tech demo recreation of the opening of Final Fantasy VII when the PS4 first dropped, of course that wasn’t planned to be a remake at the time but it got us thirsty for it again. When the actual Remake was announced oh man did I get excited.

I have put about 40 hours into completing Final Fantasy VII Remake so I feel like I have experienced most of what the game has to offer. I did miss a few missions in one of the chapters but it was mostly helping out around sector 5 so I don’t think I missed any story. So where to start?

Gameplay:Perhaps the biggest changes in this whole remake is how combat is done. Third person over the shoulder with some great touches to call back to the turn based roots. The new ATB system of building up charges to use actions and spells works great most of the time and the battles feel dynamic. It feels a bit like Kingdom Hearts sometimes which isn’t bad, Though I hope some of that influence goes back the other way because I would love to be able to switch control of characters in KH or at least tell Donald what to cast.

On a less positive note I don’t particularly love how enemies change their focus almost instantly onto who ever you have control of. It can make it very hard to to say switch to your healer to build up ATB. I know this is mostly intentional since the member with the most ATB is the highest threat, but the man wolping on you with a sword should be the higher threat. 

Another minor complaint is the game really wants you to stop and look at the thing it wants you too sometimes. There are these moments where they slow down your walk and lock your camera to get you looking in the right direction to see something or listen to a conversation. And personally I hate that, ether take full control of my character or let me move around normally. Please don’t frustrate me by giving me movement control but limiting it. 

Graphics: This game is gorgeous there really isn’t another way to put it. This is the best these characters have ever looked. Midgar in all its grungy glory is beautifully rendered, and seeing some of the scenes from the original game rendered in the new engine was really something special. I think part of the reason for changing parts of the story up did have to do with the high level of realism in the game, it’s one thing to see blocky polygon cloud do something impossible because your brain fills in the gaps, its harder to see a realistically rendered human doing some of the stunts from the original. 

Music: The music in Final Fantasy VII Remake is frankly amazing. Remixes and new recordings of classic songs from the old game. Around the world you will be able to collect music discs that have songs from the game as well as songs for areas of the game not included in this part of the Remake. Nobuo Uematsu knocked it out of the park the first time and he came back for this one and it shows.

Story(Spoiler Free):I’m gonna break the story section into two parts because it’s hard to talk about the things that were changed without spoiling other parts of the story. The remake tells the story of the first ¼ of Final Fantasy VII very well. There were things I knew were coming that still hit me hard because of the execution. And while things deviate from the original story at times with the exceptions of things closer to the end its mostly in the name of expanding the scope of the story. You spend a lot more time in the Sector 5 slums for example then you did the original, but this largely serves the purpose of endearing you to Aerith and making her feel like a more well rounded character, the same goes for sector 7 and Tifa and Avalanche. All around I really enjoyed the story of this game and I highly recommend it to new and old fans alike. 

Story(Spoilers): Alright let’s get into some of the things that were changed. In the game you encounter hooded figures that seem drawn to Aerith and later to the rest of your party, You later learn that these creatures are arbiters of fate there to make sure destiny isn’t changed. Which implies that something has changed history right? Game doesn’t explicitly tell you who, but there are two characters that seem like good candidates. For most of the game they are a weird thing that happens sometimes, and its not till the end that they really come into play. Some of the events in Shinra Tower play out a little differently, the version of Jenova you fight is different, the way the president dies is different, and the fact that your party encounters president Shinra alive at all is different. 

At the end of the game you face off with this arbiter of fate and defeat it, freeing the future of the remake series from having to follow the same story as the original. If I had to guess its still going to follow the main beats of the Final Fantasy 7 story but different. My fear is that this is going to get a little kingdom hearts when I think what was great about this game was how it was a grounded gritty fantasy story. I am curious to see where this goes and I can’t wait to play the second installment in 5 years. 

Matt’s Rules For Dark Souls

By: AAOG’S Community Manager Matt Turiano

Hi I’m Matt and I have played a lot of Dark Souls over the years, so I wanted to write out some of the wisdom I’ve gained over the decade or so these games have been coming out for new players. So in no particular order here are some of Matt’s rules for Dark Souls. I say some because I am absolutely going to think of others as soon as this goes up. 

You are going to die: This is the one everyone knows, hell prepare to die is the tagline of one of the games. But it’s true and bears repeating, you are going to die a lot, you will lose all your souls and you’re going to die again trying to get them back. Death is a setback, you are an undead, or unkindled, and that means you are to storm the fortresses of the games boss like an undying scourge. You will die and come back more knowledgeable than before, every death teaches you more about the game, about your enemies. Death to you is merely a setback.

Don’t get greedy: There will be times when you are sure that a boss or tough enemy has one last hit, and you will swing instead of blocking or dodging. And you will die for your greed, the enemy is going to start a combo and knock you out of your attack or a strong attack is going to deal way more damage then you thought. Don’t get greedy, take your time and be methodical. 

Anything Can (and will) Kill you: Never underestimate low level enemies, a group of low level hollows can take down an endgame character who isn’t paying attention. “Oh I’m just gonna run through this area and grab that item I missed,” wrong you’re going to get ganked by 10 hollows with broken swords. 

Find Every Item: This rule might be more about me than a dark souls rule but it’s my list so it goes on. Go out of your way to find every item, you never know what weapon or ring is going to introduce you to a new fun play style. Plus all the lore is on item descriptions, so if you really want to understand what’s going on with the game story better pick up every scrap of armor in the game. Or just do what I did and watch a lore video. 

Go places your not ready for: This rule breaks two of my rules and combines the other two. In the beginning of DS1 you have two opportunities to run into zones you are not ready for yet, and you can get some great gear early there. Why would I suggest this clearly greedy activity? Because you are going to die anyway, just make sure you don’t have a lot of unspent souls and run in and grab everything you can before you die. This can make the early game a lot easier, and is just part of my normal run.

Shields are Useful but…: Shields are great aren’t they, they block damage and save you from archers. But they can also lock you into a less fun play style, I encourage people to try two handed weapons or trying dual wielding in Dark Souls 2 and 3. Some of the most fun runs I’ve had are with dual wielding maces or Cestuses. 

Dark Souls is a Multiplayer game: This might feel silly to mention, but I think it’s easy to forget that when you play online you are playing with other people. Some players like to solo all the bosses in the game and more power to them. But to me Summoning is an intrinsic part of the game, there are whole covenants in the game based around helping other players fight bosses. There is also invading which isn’t my favorite part of the game, but if pvp is your bag their are plenty of builds and covenants for you as well. 

That’s all I’ve got for you today, so good luck, have fun, and Vereor Nox.

Best Single-Player Games on PS4 & Xbox One

The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are finally here. The upcoming weeks will offer a glimpse into the future of gaming. This also means that the games that highlighted the current generation of consoles will soon be considered retro. Before you dive into the world of next-gen, here are 15 single-player games to play on PS4 and Xbox One.

Grand Theft Auto V

Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
PS4/Xbox One

from RockstarGames.com

The latest addition to the controversial yet groundbreaking series, Grand Theft Auto V didn’t find its way to PS4 and Xbox One until over a year after its initial launch. Rockstar used that time to add improved graphics and a first-person mode to an already critically-acclaimed game. Upon release, GTAV was the most ambitious game ever and set the blueprint for open-world games going forward. It featured three playable characters with their own unique abilities and a chaotic story that spanned across a sprawling map of the fictional state of Los Santos. Seven years later, GTAV remains one of the gold standard games of its generation.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Konami
PS4/Xbox One

from Konami.com

Hideo Kojima’s ninth installment in the Metal Gear series was arguably the first masterpiece released on PS4 and Xbox One. Featuring a huge open world and an unparalleled sense of freedom, Metal Gear Solid V is the ultimate sandbox game. It stays true to the series’ stealth background but lets players approach missions however they desire. The game’s story is incredibly freeform, leaving the player to create a narrative and cinematics through their own decision-making. The Phantom Pain shines in letting players find inventive ways to approach situations and improvise their way out of danger. 

Bloodborne

Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
PS4 exclusive

from PlayStation.com

The Souls series may have made a name for Japanese studio FromSoftware, but many would argue that Bloodborne is their magnum opus. Sharing similarities to Souls, Bloodborne features faster combat that calls for a tantalizing mix of caution and aggression. Inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Bram Stoker, the game is set in a blood-stained world that is both morbid and gorgeous. Players must be prepared to learn from each death in order to slay a wide assortment of terrifyingly formidable enemies. The game’s difficulty is brutal and draining, but equally rewarding once finally conquered. 

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
PS4 exclusive

from PlayStation.com

If Uncharted 4 is truly the end to Nathan Drake’s saga, then fans couldn’t have asked for a better exit. A Thief’s End features all the climbing, puzzles, and eclectic mix of stealth and combat that the series is known for. The game’s visuals and cinematics combined with an epic story create an experience similar to a blockbuster film. The cast of characters brings the most important people in Drake’s life together, allowing his story to come full circle with a surprising amount of emotional depth. Uncharted 4 is a stellar single-player experience but is bolstered by underrated online modes that pit players against each other.

Dishonored 2

Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
PS4/Xbox One

from Bethesda.net

Quality first-person stealth games are a rare breed, and none have reached the heights of the Dishonored series. Set in a stunning steampunk city, Dishonored 2 offers the player the choice of controlling returning protagonist Corvo Attana or his daughter, Emily Kaldwin, for the entirety of the story. Corvo and Emily are equipped with different sets of abilities that cater to specific preferences. Players can choose to ruthlessly assassinate their way through the story or sneak around completely unseen. Dishonored 2 sees a sharp spike in difficulty from its predecessor, forcing players to be both meticulous and intuitive. 

Persona 5

Developer: P-Studio
Publisher: Atlus
PS4 exclusive

from Atlus.com

JRPG games have maintained success for decades, but Persona 5 set a new bar for the genre in 2016. Following the adventures of a student named Joker, the amount of content and activities available in Persona 5 is staggering. Players can spend their days doing menial activities like going to high school, hanging out at coffee shops, or shopping at the mall. Come nightfall, however, it’s time for Joker to save the world, which is where the series’ familiar turn-based battles come into the fold. On top of its gameplay, Persona 5’s beautiful artwork and exhilarating soundtrack solidify it as a masterpiece. 

Nier: Automata

Developer: PlatinumGames
Publisher: Square Enix
PS4/Xbox One

from Square-Enix-Games.com

Square Enix is known for the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series, but Nier: Automata is unequivocally the publisher’s best game of the past decade. A sequel to the 2010 cult classic Nier, Automata features a new setting and characters while retaining an enhanced version of the first game’s combat system. Gameplay ranges from hack-n-slash, side-scrolling shoot-’em-up, and platforming minigames, all engaging in their own ways. The game features three campaigns starring three different characters and a twist-filled story with an emotional climax. Nier: Automata may be the current gen’s best-kept secret, but has found popularity thanks to the android heroine 2B.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Developer: Guerilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
PS4 exclusive

from PlayStation.com

Speaking of hardened female protagonists, Horizon Zero Dawn’s Aloy is arguably the best controllable character of the current generation. Her incredible journey and realistic expressions of humanity are enough to make a great game, but Horizon delivers much more. Set in a world where civilization has been sent back to a futuristic stone age, the landscape has been overridden by mechanical monsters being controlled by a mysterious force. Aloy sets across a gorgeous open world armed with a customizable bow and sling that can accommodate different enemies. There are many machines to hunt in Horizon, but human enemies pose an equal threat to Aloy and her people.

Shadow of the Colossus

Developer: Bluepoint Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
PS4 exclusive

from PlayStation.com

The current generation saw the popularity of remakes and remastered games soar higher than ever. No game deserved such treatment more than 2005’s Shadow of the Colossus, considered to be the greatest video game ever. Brief and minimalistic, the story follows a young swordsman who must slay sixteen colossi to resurrect a girl afflicted by an evil entity. The colossi are towering golems that are a sight to behold and require vastly different tactics to defeat. The 2018 remake not only fixed a number of issues with the control scheme and mechanics but also revitalized the game’s beauty with more detailed visuals and crisper frame rates. 

Hollow Knight

Developer/Publisher: Team Cherry
PS4/Xbox One

from TeamCherry.com.au

2D platformers have also seen an unexpected resurgence in popularity, with titles like Celeste and Cuphead being worthy of mention. Few stand out more than indie studio Team Cherry’s Hollow Knight in terms of gameplay depth and sheer scale. The game follows an insectoid knight navigating his way through an underground world of arthropods armed with a nail and several spells. The nameless hero must traverse across numerous areas facing a wide array of challenging enemies and grueling boss fights. Though Hollow Knight involves a lot of dying and backtracking that can be exhausting, successful triumphs and a soothing soundtrack wash away moments of agony and anguish. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
PS4 exclusive

from PlayStation.com

Spider-Man has always held a heavy presence in video games, but it took Insomniac’s vision for gamers to feel a complete experience as the wall-crawler. Marvel’s Spider-Man offers fans plenty of comics lore (including a huge collection of suits) and a satisfyingly authentic feeling of being behind the mask. The emphasis on web attacks over melee and the implementation of a gadget wheel gives players more tools at Spidey’s disposal than ever before. Every confrontation encourages you to fight creatively and stylish while still requiring keen defensive maneuvers. Marvel’s Spider-Man excels in presentation, most notably seen while swinging across an uncanny recreation of New York City.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Developer: Rockstar Studios
Publisher: Rockstar Games
PS4/Xbox One

from RockstarGames.com

There was probably no game more highly anticipated this past generation than Red Dead Redemption 2. A prequel eight years in the making, RDR2 has revolutionized what was thought possible in game creation. Expanding upon GTAV’s sandbox formula, RDR2 hurls you into a sizable map of the American frontier created with painstaking detail. The environment feels naturally alive with wildlife, human NPCs, and is of course littered with shootouts and hazards that prove to be inevitable. The game’s story is superb, but its majesty lies within the freedom to create your own tales in the virtual Wild West. 

God of War

Developer: Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
PS4 exclusive

from PlayStation.com

Every console has a definitive game, and it is hard to argue against God of War for that title on the PS4. SIE Santa Monica created a brilliantly ambitious game that completely shifted from the series’ roots. Along with the switch from Greek to Norse mythology, God of War made the change from a platforming hack-n-slash to an over-the-shoulder third-person experience with a more intricate combat system. The most impactful alteration is the addition of Kratos’ son Atreus, who not only provides aid throughout the story but instills much needed emotional depth to Kratos as a character. This pioneering reboot manages to improve upon the original trilogy that could already be considered perfect.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: FromSoftware/Activision
PS4/Xbox One

from Activision.com

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was FromSoftware’s third AAA game release of the current generation. Set in sixteenth-century Japan, the story follows a shinobi named Wolf searching for the clan who kidnapped his young lord. Though it retains the harsh difficulty and intimidating bosses familiar in FromSoftware games, Sekiro incorporates stealth elements and a second life bar to give players the option of a more thoughtful approach. Wolf wields a katana, a grappling hook, and a number of spells and projectile weapons in his arsenal for a layered combat experience. Furthermore, Sekiro‘s story and character designs are perhaps the best in FromSoftware’s extensive library to date.

The Last of Us Part II

Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
PS4 exclusive

from PlayStation.com

With The Last of Us Remastered being one of the best games on PS4, there didn’t seem much need for a sequel. Nevertheless, The Last of Us Part II was announced in 2016 and immediately received much anticipation. Naughty Dog reportedly pushed the limits of the PS4’s performance to create a sequel that holds as much weight as the original if not more. Featuring a grim story with tense moments of horror and bloodshed, the intensity of the stealth and scramble gameplay was raised so that constant movement and quick thinking are necessary to avoid hectic confrontation. TLOU2 shines in areas like lighting and sound design that infuse the game with a powerful blend of atmosphere and emotion.

Are there any other games you felt were must-plays this past generation? Let us know in the comments!

Among Us

Among Us was created by game development studio InnerSloth and released in June 2018 to low popularity. During COVID-19 that all changed. If you are like me you first started seeing Among Us on TikTok and Twitter. I had no idea what it was but I kept seeing that game. I was intrigued and decided to download it for my iOS. The game at first appeared dull and boring but after awhile it grew on me. Among Us is a fun multiplayer social deduction game for iOS, Android and Windows. This review focuses mostly on the iOS version but are all the same for the most part.

A game of Among Us will consists of up to 10 players on a spaceship. You are a crewmate working on a set of tasks with three levels to choose from. The levels of Among Us are The Skeld, Mira HQ and Polus. The Skeld is the most popular level. If you and your team finish all of the tasks then you win the game. However, one of the players is the imposter. The imposter is assigned to a player at random in every new game. For me it usually took about six games as a crewmate until I was picked as the imposter.

The imposter is tasked with killing all of the players so that they do not finish the tasks. No one knows who the imposter is and looks just like an ordinary crewmate. The imposter is not assigned tasks like the crewmates but does have the option of faking tasks so that you don’t look like the imposter. All players are each a different color with the option of wearing a “hat” like a banana peel or plunger on your head. Anything can be a hat right?

Empty the garbage chute is one of the tasks on The Skeld.

The imposter has the option of hiding in vents as well as sabotaging the level through various ways like depleting the oxygen or turning off the lights. If the imposter sabotages then the players have to rush over to, for example, the oxygen panels to restore the oxygen. If the players do not restore the oxygen in the time frame given then the imposter wins.

The imposter has to kill the crewmates in secret so that no one sees him do it. When a crewmate is killed then another crewmate, when seeing the body, has the option of reporting it causing a discussion among all remaining crewmates that are alive. A chat room pops up allowing you to use your keyboard to chat to help decide who could of done it. Voice chat is currently not in Among Us and you would need to use third party apps like Discord to use one.

Players discussing who the imposter could be. The term sus means suspicious or suspect.

Who is the imposter? If you think one crewmate is the imposter and he gets enough votes then he is sent out to space. If you are wrong then it will tell you and you go back to doing your tasks. When a crewmate is dead they then become a ghost which can still perform task on the spaceship. However, as a ghost you cannot interact with the remaining crewmates that are alive nor can they see the ghost including in the chat room.

The imposter kills the white crewmate.

If you are like me you will perform only some of the tasks and then walk around looking for who the imposter is. You may see the imposter hop into the vent, which a normal crewmate cannot do, leading you to rush back to the emergency button to call an emergency meeting to discuss the imposter. Among Us is essentially The Thing except the imposter cannot infect anyone. There is the option to have two or three imposters in a game but I think it is better to have only one.

Among Us is fun, suspenseful and goofy which is all I want in an online multiplayer game.

4.5 out of 5 cats

🐈

Falling For Fall Guys

What we needed in these chaotic times was a game that consisted of little bean-like people with vivid colors, arms and legs, unintelligible voices and goofy costumes. These bean-like people are Fall Guys and they have become the next big online game. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout was released on August 4, 2020 for Playstation 4 and Microsoft Windows with critical success.

Fall Guys consists of 60 players that first start out in one of five rounds. The first round will have everyone in a race from one end of a level to the other. Up to around 43 players must first qualify by making it to the finish line at the end of the level to go on to the next round. If you do not qualify then you have to start all over with 60 new players. In the second round you will most likely again race to the end of the stage with a certain amount of players that must qualify to go on to the next round. After each round a certain amount of players are eliminated with the final round consisting of around 10 players. There are three main games which are race, survival and team.

The game Egg Scramble is one of the team games in Fall Guys.

The third round is when team games may appear. The team games is where Fall Guys suffers in play ability. The team games are based mainly on luck than pure skill. One team game has you playing capture the tail and the team with the most tails wins. Another team game has three teams grabbing the most eggs and retaining them at the end of the round. The only entertaining team game is having to push a giant ball from one end of the stage to another. The idea of having team games in Fall Guys is understandable but isn’t necessarily fun to play but merely hampers the overall game experience.

The final round has four potential games you will play with the last qualifying players. One common game is a race to the end of the stage where you have to press a button to grab onto the floating crown to win. Another final game has you running around on five stories of square platforms that disappear with each step. The final round is entertaining and nail-biting keeping you on the edge of your seat.

Fall Mountain is one of the four potential games you will play in the final round.

Winning each round awards you points and if you win all five games then you earn a crown. The points go toward your experience level as well as to use in the shop. You can customize your Fall Guy with goofy costumers like a chicken or hot dog costume. Preferably I like the chicken head with running shorts. To unlock different costumes as well as taunts you either use your points to purchase a costume, use your crown points to purchase a costume or play enough games to level up which awards you a free costume or taunt depending on the level. You have four different taunts to choose from if you have time during a round to use it. If I am one of the first to reach the end of the stage I will usually use the chicken taunt because you flap your arms and make chicken noises.

Some of the many costumes you can get.

Fall Guys is an entertaining online multiplayer game that has elements of the quirkiness of Fortnite but with little bean-like people that can keep you entertained for days on end.

4 out of 5 cats

Ghost of Tsushima – ACT I – My thoughts so far…

It’s been an interesting year for video games, to say the least. No one expected that we would be spending three whole months indoors while this pandemic tore through the world. One thing is for sure, video games proved to be one of the many things that kept everyone from going mad.

There were three games I was highly anticipating: The Last of Us Part 2, Resident Evil 3 Remake, and Final Fantasy VII Remake. Resident Evil 3 was a fun horror-action game that I got addicted playing for a whole three weeks. Even after S-ranking the game on all difficulties, I still found satisfaction in beating the game over and over again. However, despite the fun factor, Resident Evil 3 Remake didn’t really entice me as a gamer and a big fan of the franchise. (They did Nemesis dirty in this game, man…)

The Last of Us Part 2 came out, and was probably my most anticipated game of the year. And though, I enjoyed playing the game, I couldn’t help but feel that it left much to be desired. It was an error on my end, because I’ve set my expectations way too high for the game. When it didn’t live up to the hype, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed.

Check out my LAST OF US PART 2 Review here

Which leaves Final Fantasy VII Remake. I actually have not played it yet. Why? It’s a long-winded story about stubbornness, Amazon Prime mishaps, and my desire for an artbook, that turned out to be a big letdown. But we’ll get to that story some other day.

So out of the three games, I’ve played two. Out of the two, none really wowed me to Batman: Arkham levels of hype. Then from out of nowhere, Sucker Punch reminded me, that they had a game coming out this year also.

I am Vengeance. I am the Night…

Ghost of Tsushima is an open-world samurai action, adventure game developed by Sucker Punch, the same studio responsible for the action-packed superhero game, Infamous, on the PS3. Honestly, I forgot that this game was coming out this year. I thought it was delayed for another year due to the quarantine. But my brother reminded me that it existed and he offered to go half on buying the game when it came out. So, we agreed, and while he was killing Mongul invaders in the living room, I was killing Clickers in my room. Though the game looked promising, and I have love for the samurai genre in general, I was a bit skeptical on starting the game because it was a brand-new IP. And considering the last game I played from Sucker Punch was the lackluster Infamous: Second Son, I didn’t really have any expectations for this game.

I have not beaten the game in its entirety yet, but my God… I think this is going to win Game of the Year.

GAMEPLAY

This game probably has the best swordplay combat in any game I’ve played in a while. This game is not an over the top hack-and-slash along the lines of say, Devil May Cry or God of War, where every attack was super flashy and over-the-top. It could easily have gone in that direction. Unlike its contemporaries, Tsushima’s combat is reserved and refined, often favoring precise attacks over broad strikes, which fits its samurai aesthetic. The game doesn’t shy away from flashy moves, despite its more reserved gameplay. In fact, you are given four different stances to unlock, each with its own purpose:

-Stone Stance: effective against Swordsmen

-Water Stance: effective against Shielded Enemies

-Wind Stance: effective against Spears

-Moon Stance: effective against all Brutes, with either Swords, Shields, or Spears.

This isn’t even the complete skill tree.
You have three categories as shown on this image.
That’s crazy!

The cool thing about these stances is that you can switch between them mid-combat, like Dante’s style-switching from Devil May Cry. This allows the player to be creative with their combos and adapt to multiple enemies at any given time. Luckily, there is a dodge button, that helps the player get out of tight spaces and reposition themselves in an advantageous position; and also, a block button, which blocks enemy attacks. Enemies also have unblockable attacks which keeps the player on their toes, enforcing the idea that blocking can only get you so far. You have to fight strategically rather than hacking away mindlessly. Later on, you unlock the ability to Perfect Parry attacks which is the most satisfying thing when you execute it, even more so when you do it against boss characters. My brother asked me why I don’t just stealth kill enemies, and simply put, it’s cause of this perfect parry move. It is Jin Sakai’s version of Dante’s Royalguard Style.

Boss fights are a blast because you are forced to adapt to certain enemy attacks in quick succession. I found that switching stances during boss fights help even out the odds because each style had its unique advantages such as range and speed. If you love samurai films, you’d probably find comparisons from the duel in Harakiri.

One of the many reasons I love the combat in Tsushima is how akin it feels to fighting games. You can’t just go in and mashing buttons. I mean, you can. No one will stop you. But the sheer satisfaction of executing precise attacks and taking down enemies without taking a single hit is satisfying beyond belief. It makes you feel like a true swordsman.

I wanna be ninja…

I mentioned that you can stealth kill enemies in this game. Stealth is an option in this game, very much like in Uncharted, and The Last of Us, but what I like about the stealth combat in this game in particular is how it is connected to Jin’s code as a samurai. There are two ways to approach a group of enemies. The first is the Standoff—Jin challenges the enemy group’s strongest warrior (or whoever is the closest enemy) to fight a one on one battle. Jin waits for the enemy to attack before delivering one quick killing stroke. One strike, one kill. Then combat against the rest commences. It’s a straight up homage to Sanjuro and I love it. The second approach is the “Assassination” technique. It’s a skill that you unlock which allows you to stealth kill an enemy. Jin learns it from Yuna, who tells him that he needs to bend his moral code of facing your enemy head on, to prevent countless lives from being killed. In fact, in one mission, Jin gets a flashback of his uncle teaching him the ways of the samurai and how attacking someone from behind is against that code, after stealth killing an enemy. Both methods have their advantages, but stealth killing is the only method that questions you whether or not you are still a samurai.

STORY

Ghost of Tsushima follows the story of Jin Sakai, a samurai under the mentorship of his uncle, Lord Shimura. After fighting a losing battle against invading Mongol forces, Lord Shimura is taken prisoner, and Jin Sakai is left for dead. After being nursed back to health by a thief, named Yuna, Jin embarks on a journey to rescue his uncle. However, his honor as a samurai is challenged when he is forced to adapt and bend his honorable code to fight this new breed of enemy.

Ghenghis and Kublai eat your heart out.

The entire first act revolves around you gathering allies to storm the Mongol stronghold stationed at Castle Kaneda. You accomplish this by going on these side quests with their own contained story arcs. For example, you recruit Lady Masako by helping her look for her family’s killers. As the story progress, you realize that Mongols were not entirely responsible for their deaths, but traitors from Tsushima itself. One of the constant themes of the overall story is betrayal, whether it be a betrayal of trust, or betrayal of one’s belief or code.

What really helps the main story are the various random encounters with bandits and Mongols as you journey around the map. It is an open-world game and you can choose to get through the main story, or take your time exploring a majority of the first island helping those in need and discovering secret shrines and locations that help upgrade Jin’s arsenal, strength, and combat skill. As with any other open world game, I opted to go the slow route and discover as much as I can before progressing the story. A neat mechanic in the game is that your “legend” increases the more you accomplish side quests, and help random hostages you encounter on the main roads. This gives you skill points that you can use to unlock new moves and skills for Jin.

This game is obsessed with legends and tales, and has a great appreciation and respect for Japanese folklore. A good number of side-quests revolve around finding bards who tell stories about great warriors of the past and the mission would then be about looking for a legendary bow that can take on an army; a teacher who knows the legendary art of the sword; there’s so much to do and learn about this small Japanese island.

These watercolor inks just make it so much cooler…

There are locations that also progress character growth and share insight on Jin’s thoughts. For example, finding a hot spring would not only increase your health, but it will allow the player an option to “reflect on” certain topics such as his uncle’s teachings, philosophy, people he’s met, etc. There are hidden spots where you can compose haikus about grief, compassion, war. These brief moments of “ma” (a Japanese term for “emptiness” or “negative space”) become small windows to Jin’s character.

The story is Jin Sakai and his journey to self discovery. The game takes its time to build, like the many duels Sakai has been a part of.

KUROSAWA MODE

And action…

There is one more thing I want to talk about.

It’s the Kurosawa Mode.

Named after the legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, this special mode turns the game into a Kurosawa film. It is only fitting as you can definitely see the director’s influence on this game. Though Kurosawa was more than capable of creating surreal and expressionist images with color, it’s in black and white where he truly shines.

The game looks stunning. The vibrant colors create a nice contrast to the darkness that has befallen Tsushima in the form of a Mongol invasion, There has been real care put into developing the wind and how it affects the landscape. The lighting provides a serene atmosphere that feels like you’re living in a fantasy and mythic world.

Kurosawa Mode takes away all the color. It turns everything black and white. Film grains also give the illusion that you are watching an old film reel. It is nostalgic, to say the least. I found great joy in how faithful this mode is to Kurosawa’s films. I mentioned how the wind mechanics were particularly well crafted, and that’s because Kurosawa was a master at capturing smoke and wind in his films. The way that fog sluice across the screen doing slow and quiet moments in the game provide an air of mystery, and during stand-offs, creates another layer of tension.

Come on, uncle. There’s no such thing as color…

I think this is the mode that made me fall in love with this game. The first thing I did was turn this on, put the language in Japanese, and turned the difficulty to “Hard mode” (it was the hardest difficulty available when I started, they have since added “Lethal” mode). The Photo Mode provide you with tools to create Kurosawa-esque compositions and short tracking shots. It gives you options on how much smoke, fireflies, leaves– every particle you can think of– to use, and how they moved across the scene. Kurosawa would be tickled.

The only downside to Kurosawa mode is that it makes gameplay difficult even on normal difficulties, because a lot of combat uses color indicators to counter enemy attacks. There are side quests that rely on you to find specifically colored flowers. I would not recommend Kurosawa mode on hard difficulty unless you want a true samurai experience. Another small thing that bothered me about Kurosawa mode is how the characters’ mouths were not in sync with the Japanese voice actors. It seems that the character models are locked onto the English settings and the Japanese voice lines were dubbed over. It’s a bit of a pet peeve at times, but if you’ve watched old Asian films with bad English dub, I think you’ll get used to it quickly. (Sub v. Dub I guess…)

See that, Nobu? All the light touches… belongs to my uncle.
*Neigh*
Well, it doesn’t belong to me…

All in all, I think that this game is turning out to be my personal pick for Game of the Year. But, I still have much to do before I can say that with confidence. Act One ended with a big twist that I didn’t really see coming and looking back at it, it should have been obvious.

I have a feeling that this game will be the new golden standard when it comes to samurai games.

itch-Lit with Rohil: Beglitched

itch-Lit🔥 is a play journal by Rohil, exploring the ever-expanding collection of brilliantly bizarre indie darlings on itch.io  — published exclusively on All Ages of Geek!

Beglitched is the hacking-n-debugging puzzle epic from Hexecutable, a Brooklyn indie duo comprised of Jenny Jiao Hsia + AP Thomson. The game deals with feelings of insecurity or being compromised, and in that same thematic realm, connection. Magic & hacking, let’s go!

In Beglitched, you find a computer and assume the alias of its previous owner, the notorious Glitch Witch. You do their digital bidding, exploring a deep, intricate network of computers, clashing with rival hackers along the way.

Off the jump, I found myself overwhelmed. I adored everything presented, but fully grasping what I needed to do took a fair bit of time. The game is mechanically ambitious. 

You’ll cautiously navigate consoles, finding the path of least resistance through a network of computers. It feels like being in the tall grass of a Pokemon title while eliminating the tedium of encounters through variety of outcome. The risk is exciting and weighty, logging into a stranger’s computer, hoping to find collectibles and messages while avoiding some mines and network-scrambling eggs. 

For me, these navigation and collection sections are were the themes of online vulnerability and personal insecurity slap the most. We get some of those more personable elements in the boss encounters too.

Landing on a computer with a fellow hacker triggers the game’s battle sequence. A frantically-paced pattern recognition and strategy loop, riveting to play through. You enter a grid, with several different objects, and the enemy hidden. You’ll move objects of the same attribute either horizontally or vertically on the grid, allowing them to take effect. (Think: Bejeweled meets Battleships). 

Objects have a range of attributes. Lining up battery objects will give you more power to keep interacting with the grid. Lining up money objects gets you paid. Bomb objects are how you deal some damage. Compass objects point to the general direction of where the enemy is hidden. Every object is useful, and none of them feel duct-taped to artificially ramp up the complexity.

Encounters are fun, and those hits of dopamine when you line tokens up perfectly and connect with the enemy are… ohhh… baby… oh so good. The gameplay loop strikes a balance of cerebral and silly (silly in the best way)

Beglitched’s visual approach is superbly dynamic with a bubble-gum pop, bedroom punk aesthetic. The world is vibrant and alive in its assets’ animations, so perfectly responsive. Interacting with the UI is a treat, and the fluidity transitioning through the different phases of play is buttery-smooth. Everything is beautifully cohesive from the color palette to the font, the charming pixelated sprites, and UI-elements. It feels like I’m on a computer that a Digimon character would own. Of course, the glitch effects are top-tier. I’ve also now referenced both Pokemon and Digimon in the same article and would like to fight myself.

Lastly, the writing is thoroughly engaging and tightly worded. Dialogue and text prompts are snappy, charming, and form the backbone for the kawaii. The game’s writing builds the world tremendously and exhibits a rich personality.

I give Beglitched 2 🔮🔮 and 3 🧙🏾🧙🏾🧙🏾 out of 5. 

Play Beglitched

Halo Infinite: Beauty and the Brute

Let’s talk about that Halo gameplay. 

Even if you think the graphics are unpolished, or that the hairless Brute designs make them look more like skinned chickens than warmongering warriors, you can’t deny that what has been shown of Halo Infinite feels leagues more in line with what you’d expect from the Halo franchise than its last two main installments. 

It got a lot right. Like the one sang by viral choirs filmed out of boy’s bathrooms, a score in line with the traditional Halo theme rings triumphantly over the ring’s landscape. It evokes the same sense of wonder those playing Combat Evolve first felt when walking out onto an alien world. Generations of Halo players can agree that it’s hard to put into words what chords the soundtrack strikes within your consciousness. 343 has taken it back to Bungie’s roots, and it’s already paying off in only around nine minutes of gameplay.

If there’s a physical embodiment of that deep-rooted resonance, it’s John-117, and Infinite’s Master Chief strikes that visual representation perfectly. Chief himself dons an amalgam of some of his suits’ best features over the years and looks the part of a world-saving one-man army. With that sleek design comes a few new toys. 

The Banished are coming to Halo Infinite | Rock Paper Shotgun
Credit: Rock Paper Shotgun

Chief has hopped onto the grappling hook train in full force. Granting him the ability to sling pieces of the environment around and propel himself toward enemies, the tool blends surprisingly well with the gameplay. Any change to the original Halo formula — the walk-and-shoot nade fest that normalized the switch to thumbsticks for virtually every console FPS after it — is naturally always met with some controversy. But you can’t help but respect 343 for trying to push the franchise forward and take risks, as opposed to re-releasing the same game every few years. The grappling hook looks like an interesting and dynamic way to continue that push (or pull).

Halo Infinite: Why the Grappling Hook Could Redefine The Franchise
Credit: Game Rant

The weapon selection has also evolved. Weapons like the new VK78 Commando assault rifle and the three-round burst, energy-based Ravager look like they’ll offer variety to every engagement. There’s nothing too dissimilar from what we’ve seen in past games. When it comes to Halo’s notoriously clean gunplay, that’s not such a bad thing. 

The same holds true for the environment. As Chief skirts around on a conveniently placed Warthog — which looks as much a thrill to drive as ever — there’s plenty of space. For a game set at least in part on a sprawling ring floating through space, this shouldn’t be a huge deal. But when Prometheans and rival Spartan squads were introduced in Halo 4 and Guardians, missions seemed to become more…linear. The awe-inspiring expanse when first stumbling onto a Halo ring in Combat Evolved vanished. It’s back with the Banished. Each skirmish in the gameplay looked to have more than one way to be approached, from the stealthy to the splattery. Infinite also features a much more open world than previous installments, teased at with a tactical map that will allow players to choose which objectives to strike first, adding yet more user control. Infinite adds new elements where it needs to while sticking to its guns where the original Halo trilogy got it right.

Halo Infinite trailer gives first look at grappling hook and open world Halo  ring
Credit: 343 Industries

That innovative attitude has yielded some missteps since Halo 4. Some might call them quality of life improvements, some might call them crimes against the Forerunners, but features like hit markers and sprint (separate from the armor ability in Reach — we don’t talk about anything related to armor lock) have undoubtedly received backlash through the past couple of games. At least in Infinite’s campaign, they’re back — for better or for worse. The HUD itself is easy on the eyes and includes a shield regeneration sound satisfying enough to make you want to take damage, more than making up for hit markers. As the game leans more toward being open world, sprint can probably be looked past as well

The same can’t be said for the game’s graphics.

They’ve drawn comparisons to Mega Bloks and the like, with guns and armor looking a bit too smooth to the point of feeling more like plastic than military-grade, futuristic weaponry. This comes with some questionable redesigns, including a Phantom that would look more at home in a Power Rangers special, and chunks of the map that load shoddy textures right before your eyes. It’s gotten to the point where a screenshot of a particularly appalling Brute went viral. He was endearingly named Craig and has been recognized as Xbox’s new official mascot by Xbox head Phil Spencer on Twitter.

Meet Craig: Halo Infinite's Flat Graphics Are Already A Meme
Credit: Microsoft

Many in Halo‘s community are keeping a similarly lighthearted attitude, but they generally aren’t happy about the lackluster visuals. After all, this is supposed to be the premier launch title of the Xbox Series X, the alleged most powerful console on the planet, right? It’s true that the game has a few months until release, but players have a right to be worried. They’ve been left in the dark on this game for years and were hoping to be blown away with the first pieces of gameplay. Instead, many are being Flooded with mixed emotions.

There’s definitely work to do until Infinite hits shelves this Holiday season. So much of what has been shown looks great — we can only hope it was worth the wait.

itch-Lit with Rohil: Magic Trick

itch-Lit🔥 is a play journal by Rohil, exploring the ever-expanding collection of brilliantly bizarre indie darlings on itch.io  — published exclusively on All Ages of Geek!

Magic Trick is an in-development UCSC Senior Capstone Game, created by the L8r Sk8rs Team. The game is a brilliantly whimsical, warmhearted skateboarding adventure title — think Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater meets Animal Crossing. I’ve sunk many hours into the Tony Hawk series growing up, and even more time into busting my ass trying to land a kick-flip IRL — and despite my formal origins, this is probably one of my favorite pieces of skate-media. It doesn’t aim to be realistic, but the physics feel excellent, and provide a joyful, dynamic, and inquisitive play experience.

You play as Wiz-Kid, a skateboarder who can perform magic through stringing together nasty combos. You’ll explore a vibrant open-world, interact with its quirky anthropomorphic inhabitants, and find collectibles. Magic Trick is rich in personality, with a refreshing sense of humor. The game is mostly removed from contemporary skate-culture editorial, but it makes some fun references and engaging dialogue moments. The writing maintains a positive, reaffirming tone that incentivizes you to interact more with the world. You feel appreciated in the game’s world, and truthfully that is a rarity in most new titles. 

Here’s the creepiest possible way I could compliment the game’s aesthetic:

I want to eat everything in this game.  

All of the 3D-models are beyond adorable, and the color palette, which includes scintillating swashes of turquoise and hot pink, gives the world a bubbly cotton candy — candy store finish.

The world presents like stories in a house, with slippery slides linking you to each of its levels or platforms. The city’s architectural layout is placed thoughtfully to optimize flow and exploration. The design is tight for ramping up to roof-tops or simply avoiding the frustration of repetitively bumping into things unintentionally. This fine-tuned traversal of the world also means you can see most of its offerings in a reasonably quick time-frame, leaving you wishing there was more. I hope the map grows increasingly abundant, with more areas to hit fantastic otherworldly lines and talk to more townsfolk. 

Pulling off combos across the game’s map is intuitive — the controls make sense, with a pace oscillating between a slow-motion calm and thrilling high. The list of tricks in the game isn’t extensive, but for a small indie title, centered more on world-building and mood, a barebones move-set works well. That being said, the game handles jump mechanics and gravity in a fresh and unique way, allowing for visually stunning combos you won’t find in other skate releases — further complimenting the magical setting.

Relatable.

Again, this title is still in development. It shows immense potential and polish, and I had a ton of fun with it. I’m excited to see how this project progresses. 

I give Magic Trick 5 🛹🛹🛹🛹🛹 & 3 👟👟👟 out of 10. 

Play Magic Trick

itch-Lit with Rohil: Catlateral Damage

itch-Lit🔥 is a play journal by Rohil, exploring the ever-expanding collection of brilliantly bizarre indie darlings on itch.io  — published exclusively on All Ages of Geek!

Catlateral Damage is Manekoware’s first-person destructive cat simulator. You play as an adorable menace — a furball of sheer chaotic energy hurling your way through your surroundings, knocking as much stuff onto the ground as possible. 

I was mildly put off by the ironically-cringe, yet legitimately-cringe infomercial for the game, but the wholesome aesthetic was too powerful to dismiss. The play experience is delightful, assuming the role of rampaging kitty and smacking objects around is oddly cathartic and meditative. You hit a trance-like state through the flow of play, hopping from shelf to kitchen counter, swiping paws, and relieving stress. A favorite: Manekoware’s take on the typical first-person shooter reticle.

The controls are easy to pick up, and the physics work well, even with all the fun power-ups, including moon-jumping and speed boosts—also, a forcefield for maximum toppling power. Most of the power-ups are collected via “events” in which a power-up drops, or a mouse needs catching. There are also cat towers, and beds you can interact with to collect a power-up. 

There are a variety of objects you’ll get to knock over, and the 3D-modeling truly shines. The cell-shaded graphics are perfect, and the color palettes thoughtful and engaging throughout. I was especially fond of the game console models and the dinosaur skeleton in the museum stage. (Knowing the premise of the game and then finding out there’s a museum stage released all the goddamn serotonin in my body). 

Pushing off the single sheets of paper is surprisingly the most challenging element to deal with — it would have been great to rip ’em up instead, perhaps this is an ability I’ve yet to unlock. Stages are procedurally-generated, adding some replay value. I am fully invested in unlocking all the playable cats. Also, the 230 photos of real-life cats are a real treat.

There is no larger narrative to get lost within. The game is very much a sandbox, offering some fun interaction and opportunities to decompress through brief intervals of play.

I give this game two 🐱🐱 and a single 🍩 out of 5. 

Play Catlateral Damage

Epilepsy warning: Some in-game effects may be problematic for some players. These can be disabled under the “Audio/Visual” tab of the “Options” menu on the title screen.