Tag Archives: Hack & Slash

SG88 Heavenly Sword Header

Heavenly Sword (PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Ninja Theory 

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director(s) – Nina Kristensen, Tameem Antoniades & Andy Serkis

Producer(s) – Matt Hart

PEGI – 16

Released in 2007 following a slew of questionable launch titles for the PlayStation 3, such as Lair and Genjo: Days of the Blade, Heavenly Sword was a game that helped to shed light on the appeal of the console early on and can be seen as an earlier example of how cinematic video games came to evolve into what they are today, excelling in the story and doing fairly well to impress in terms of gameplay at the same time. It received a mixed reaction from critics at the time, but in my opinion, whilst not being among the best titles on the system in the end, certainly does hold up well enough.

Graphics – 8.5/10

The game’s visuals, whilst not doing exceptionally well to stand out conceptually, certainly stood out technically at the time, and as such, it did an exceptional job of displaying what the PlayStation3 was capable of on the graphical level in the console’s infancy. Motion capture was used extensively on the project for each of the actors to interpret facial expressions as well as possible, including from the motion capture master Andy Serkis. For the number of enemies that also appear on the screen at any one given time, the developers took care to make sure the frame rate didn’t drop as dramatically as what players could’ve possibly come to expect. It doesn’t hinder gameplay too much.

Gameplay – 7/10

Speaking of gameplay, Heavenly Sword is a linear hack n’ slash game similar to games like God of War and Darksiders, complete with a variety in weapon types, special abilities, and quick-time events. Indeed, the game does require a certain degree of strategy to deal with different types of enemies, in that swift attacks must be used to best fight against agile enemies, and powerful attacks must be used to best fight slower and heavier enemies. The principle is prevalent throughout the entire game, especially in the boss fights. There are also instances in which the player controls an alternative character, who wields a bow, and they can use the PlayStation 3’s SixAxis controls to steer arrows toward enemies, which I particularly enjoyed. 

Controls – 10/10

Although the small drop in frame rate can hinder the game to a small extent, the game’s control scheme itself poses no problems. Again, it was quite impressive to me how the developers implemented the SixAxis controls as well as the conventional controls. Everything moves as fluently as needed and the controls pose no unnecessary complication either.

Lifespan – 5/10

Clocking at around 4 hours, the game’s lifespan falls short of even hack n’ slash games that had come and gone before it. The game excels in technical visuals, gameplay, and story, and these are the aspects in which the developers showed off the budget, but for me, it would’ve been better spent making sure the player had as much to do in the game possible for as long as possible as opposed to being left as what a linear and one-dimensional experience it turned out to be

Storyline – 8/10

The story of Heavenly Sword centers around Nariko, a young warrior of a small tribe fighting against the forces of a relentless ruler named King Bohan. Nariko’s weapon, the titular Heavenly Sword, is actually a divine relic and a form of sentient life which Nariko suffers from an inner conflict with that culminates as the game progresses, similar to how the ring of power works in Lord of the Rings. She makes it her resolve to master the sword and use it to liberate her clansmen and drive King Bohan back. The story blends together elements of comedy, tragedy, and drama, and makes for a particularly engrossing experience in this respect. Andy Serkis’s performance as King Bohan, in particular, is outstanding, with excellent acting and well-written dialogue to compliment him. Though his character is nowhere as conflicted as his portrayal as Monkey in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, the intentions of King Bohan are made clear from the start, and Andy Serkis flawlessly conveys it. 

Originality – 6.5/10

Though the game certainly stands out in terms of story, it fails to stand out to any great extent in the respect of either gameplay or conceptual design, and the experience suffers somewhat as a result. The main focus on a game should always be on the gameplay and making that stand out more than any other element of the game, and it’s evident that wasn’t the case with Heavenly Sword. It feels very much like the story was the primary concern of the developers, and although the gameplay is not terrible by any means, it could’ve been better given more of a focus.

However, for as many criticisms I have cited over the course of the review, Heavenly Sword is a game with a moderate amount of variety, and is still pretty enjoyable to play regardless. Its story is worth experiencing a single playthrough for, and it seemed to set the precedent for more games that were even more enthralling in terms of story on the PlayStation 3. 

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

SG88 SoulCalibur Header

SoulCalibur (Dreamcast & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Project Soul

Publisher(s) – Namco

Director(s) – Jin Okubo & Yoshitaka Tezuka

Producer(s) – Yasuhiro Noguchi & Hiroaki Yotoriyama

PEGI – 16

 

Released back in 1998 to widespread acclaim, to the point where it would be regarded as the second most critically acclaimed game of all time after The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, SoulCalibur was a fighting game series that spun off from the PlayStation game Soul Edge, improving on the former game in significant ways, and later going on to become one of the most recognizable fighting franchises in all of gaming. As a child, I spent an ungodly amount of time playing this game trying to unlock all the extras and secret characters, and to me, it still stands as one of the best games on the Dreamcast and one of the most definitive fighting games of all time. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

Seeing the game’s sixth-generation graphics on the Dreamcast whilst at around the half-way point of the fifth generation, the game in this respect was years ahead of its time. Everything from the character sprites to the stages is wonderfully polished and beautifully rendered; the attention to detail in this respect is staggering. It’s evident that this was as much of a labor of love as many of the best games released in 1998, such as Banjo Kazooie, Tekken 3, and Crash Bandicoot 3. The soundtrack to the first SoulCalibur may also be my favorite soundtrack to a fighting game ever; the intro to the game makes the very clear statement that all these characters have a purpose and that this is a fighting game unlike any other, and it certainly delivers.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Although it wasn’t the first fighting game to do this, SoulCalibur’s appeal is the ability to use weapons in combat as opposed to bare fist fighting as what is perpetuated in most fighting games. It also has a ton of unlockable content; the game is comparable to Super Smash Bros Melee in this respect. It has a load of characters and alternative costumes to unlock as well as artwork and beautifully told backstory, which whilst playing this game as a kid, did exceptionally well to endear me to this series to a greater extent than what I could’ve possibly imagined after having p[layed the like of Mortal Kombat and Tekken. 

 

Controls – 10/10

As well as there is no problems with this game in any other respect, the game’s control scheme is also flawless. Playing this game, was the first time I found myself being able to string proper moves together instead of merely button-bashing, which is what I’m normally used to doing whilst playing a fighting game. It made me feel like I had genuine skill playing it, and there’s never been another fighting game that’s made me feel that way since truth be told. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Though it did definitely perpetuate many ideas that had been adopted in fighting games long before it’s release, the developers took these elements and made it into their own fully cohesive concept in the respect of every element down to the fighters, the combat style, the range of locations and the mythology behind it all. It lay the foundations beautifully for what was to come, whilst also still holding up as an enjoyable game to play even after all these years.

 

Happii

Overall, the original SoulCalibur remains to me, one of the best fighting games I’ve ever played. There are other genres of gaming that I’ve taken to better than fighting games, but I still revisit certain titles within it including Tekken 2, Dead or Alive 4, Ready 2 Rumble, and my favorite game in the series, SoulCalibur IV; the first SoulCalibur still fits into that category for me. 

Score

34/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Metal Tales Overkill Header

Q&A With Zero Uno Games

In my search for more promising games seeking crowdfunding, I came across an upcoming title that caught my eye as an avid Brutal Legend Fan; Metal Tales: Overkill. Developed by an indie outfit from Span, Zero Uno Games, Metal Tales Overkill is a top-down action-adventure rogue-lite heavy on combat and heavy on metal. Players customize weapons by finding new guitar parts and modifying them to take advantage of new abilities and increased attack power, giving the game a plethora of variety. The game boasts 4 playable characters, 6 stages, 8 boss fights, local multiplayer, and a soundtrack consisting of various international heavy metal bands. Eager to find out more, I contacted Zero Uno Games and arranged a Q&A with co-founder Juan Cañete for more information on this exhilarating-looking new title. Here’s what Juan and the game’s publisher had to say about Metal Tales Overkill:

 

Metal Tales Overkill 1

What were the influences behind your game?

Brutal Legend, Binding of Isaac & Furi.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

It took over 15 months to have the game finished, and it’s taking like 6 months to do the ports, so it’s been complicated.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

We need to finish the ports to consoles, but the game is already done and working.

 

Metal Tales Overkill 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Being able to have real bands music and doing a rogue-lite game.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

The music part has been quite challenging, but it was worth it.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

Publisher: We think it has had a good reception. It got financed on Kickstarter in only 8 hours… and we are now on Indiegogo. We have to work hard to let the world know we are here.

 

Metal Tales Overkill 3

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC, PS4 & Switch.

 

Which heavy metal band’s songs have been included in the soundtrack?

Publisher: We have talked with Eclipse Records to add some interesting songs. Here’s a poster with the bands:

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked?

Yeah! a lot, starting with some bosses (we had designed a boss compounded by Twins) and some items. At the start, there was a more Guitar Hero-like approach to boss fights but it did fall through quickly.

 

As one heavy metal fan to a group of others, what are the team’s favorite metal bands and how did their music help to shape the game specifically?

Basically, in the team we had a metalhead which was the designer, He is more into death metal: Carcass, Entombed, Wormed, Avulsed. The lead programmer was more into power and progressive metal and also we had some people with other influences outside the metal world.

 

How have the company’s prior developing experiences helped to shape Metal Tales: Overkill?

We started with mobile games, and then we jumped into Metal Tales. Our prior experiences helped up working together as a team.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or any franchise, which would it be, and why?

We’d love to make a game for the band Ghost.

  

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

Play games and make games. Participate in gamejams to improve gameplay concepts and to challenge yourself trying to finish them.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

Zero Uno Games’ social media and Web Page, also on Kickstarter and Indiegogo:

Zero Uno Home Page

Kickstarter

IndieGoGo

Do you have anything else to add?

Thanks for the interview!

Massive thank you to Juan and Zero Uno Games for taking the time out to talk to me about this awesome-looking game. Personally, I’ve been waiting for a long time to play a new game inspired by Brutal Legend, as it one of my favourite games, as well as my favourite Tim Schafer title overall. Metal Tales Overkill looks to have taken the overall feel of Brutal Legend to bring gamers an entirely new gaming experience, and I can’t wait to get stuck into this game.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Gentlebros Header

Q&A With The Gentlebros

The eighth generation of gaming had seen a further influx of independently developed video game titles garnish mainstream success, with gamers being hungry for not AAA big-budget blockbuster games, but also titles that hearken back to the simpler times of the older generations before it; working for the plethora of gamers either wanting that sense of nostalgia from a 16-BIT rendered title like Blasphemous, or gamers wanting to try out new ideas perpetuated by indie developers, such as Scott Cawthon with the Five Nights at Freddy’s series. One such game studio that garnished the same level of success over the last four years is The Gentlebros.

Based in Singapore, The Gentlebros have since established Cat Quest; a series of open-world adventure RPGs set in a world governed by both cat and dogs, from the cat-ruled realm of Felingard to the dog-governed Lupus Empire. Both Cat Quest and Cat Quest II had been met with both commercial and critical acclaim from both gamers and reviewers alike and have since established themselves as one of the more successful indie development studios in recent years along with the likes of The Game Kitchen, Cellar Door Games, and Housemarque. wanting to know more about The Gentlebros, and what the future holds for the company, I got in touch with the studio’s CEO Desmond Wong to ask a few questions about what the developer’s prior experiences with games were and what they plan to do going into the ninth generation of gaming. Here’s what Desmond Wong had to say about The Gentlebros and the Cat Quest series:

 

Gentlebros Cat Quest 1

Where did the idea to make a series about cats and dogs originate from?

It actually started as a dancing game! Full story here: 

https://www.thegentlebros.com/blog/general/story-open-world-rpg-actually-started-dancing-game/

 

What was the most exciting aspect of developing the Cat Quest series?

I think the most exciting thing from a writing perspective was how we could cat-ify all our favorite RPG tropes and just have a lot of fun with it! Making Cat Quest has also enabled us to ‘fix a lot of the issues we had with open-world RPGs in recent years and give players a more streamlined and accessible experience.

 

Gentlebros Cat Quest 2

What was the most challenging aspect of developing the Cat Quest series?

I think the toughest part in both games has always been how to create a robust adventure with the limited resources we have. We’re just a three-man team, and making an RPG that lasts many hours with so many mini-stories and challenges, is a huge undertaking. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of reusing level layouts and quest designs, and I think we did a slightly better job of this in Cat Quest 2(than CQ1), but it still took a lot of creative use of existing mechanics and assets to create something new each time.

 

Has the idea been contemplated of making a Cat Quest III?

Absolutely. Although we can’t go into details, we did end CQ2 with a tease for CQ3. We know where the story will go, and can’t wait to eventually get to it.

 

Gentlebros Cat Quest 3

How rewarding has it been seeing Cat Quest garnish as much critical acclaim and popularity as it has over the years?

It truly has been a humbling experience and we never thought our game about cats would be played by so many people.

 

What were the team’s prior developmental experiences before The Gentlebros was formed, If any?

All three founders worked in Koei Tecmo, where we worked on games like Dynasty Warriors, Dead or Alive, and Fatal Frame.

 

What other types of games would the development team like to create in the future?

Personally, I would really like to design a game about traveling. I went on a road trip in Iceland a few years back, and the whole experience of just pushing onward, seeing new sights, finding places to sleep for the night, was just immensely fun. I would love to make an open-world game that focused less on completing side quests and just focused on traveling instead.

 

Had there been ideas scrapped from the Cat Quest series that you guys would’ve liked to have seen kept in?

Yes, we had so many ideas for weapons, enemy types, and abilities, but I think the one thing we would have liked to have kept into CQ2 was a relationship system where you could build friendships with certain NPCs in the game. It would have added so much to the theme of Unity for CQ2, and perhaps in the future, we could do something similar in another game.

 

What was the most important principle that was kept in mind by the studio as a collective whilst developing Cat Quest?

Accessibility, for sure. Our core design principle has always been how we can simplify and condense any mechanics to its essentials. Addition by subtraction is our mantra, and although some have found our games lacking depth because of this, seeing Cat Quest being enjoyed by kids, and even being able to bring non-gamers into the world of gaming, makes us believe our decision was worth it.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

Never give up.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Do follow us on our Facebook page and Twitter, or join our Discord if you want to chat with us!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gaming/catquestgame

Twitter: @TheGentlebros

Discord: https://discord.gg/AyUBfNfq

 

I’d like to take the opp-purr-tunity to thank meow, Desmond Wong for agreeing to do our Q&A and wish you and the rest of The Gentlebros the best of luck with the third Cat Quest game, as well as any new titles you decide to work on in the future. If you guys want to learn even more about The Gentlebros, check out their social meow-dia via the links above, or check out their main website here:

gentlebros.com

In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed learning about this paw-some and promising new development studio as much as I did. The Cat Quest series is a very promising new saga in gaming and I’m so much looking forward to what the third game has to offer.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Scouse Gamer 88 Blasphemous Header

Blasphemous (PC, PlayStation 4, Switch & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – The Game Kitchen

Publisher(s) – Team 17

PEGI – 16

 

Released back in 2019 to universal acclaim after an immensely successful Kickstarter campaign, Blasphemous is a Metroidvania title influenced by games such as Dark Souls and Resident Evil 4 combining wonderfully rendered visuals with intense and challenging combat sequences and precise platforming. After having gotten the chance to play this game myself, I was captivated from start to finish; it is most definitely one of the best Metroidvania titles released throughout the eighth generation of gaming, if not one of the best games in general released throughout the time. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

The game is set in the harsh and mostly dangerously desolate landscape of Cvstodia, which was inspired by religious art composed by classic Spanish artists such as Francisco Goya and Jusepe de Ribera. The developers also drew further inspiration from the religious iconography of their hometown of Seville, Spain with gothic architecture and the religious attire associated with it. 

The world of Cvstodia is also beautifully rendered in 16-bit pixel art reminiscent of titles of the fourth generation of gaming. The world of Cvstodia is as wonderfully captivating as it is dark and gritty; it features some of the best examples of video game conceptual design I’ve seen for some time. Everything from the landscape to the character design attests to how much of a labor of love this game truly is. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Playing out like a traditional Metroidvania title, the game is heavy on combat and character development as well as requiring precise and clever platforming to progress. Players must both subdue hordes of enemies and uncover new areas within by acquiring new abilities and improving their character’s stats. Two different endings are available to unlock depending on what items the player has acquired and how they are used or modified. 

Another particularly standout feature in this game, however, is the boss fights, which again give testament to the quality of the game’s conceptual design; bosses such as Ten Piedad, The Last Son of the Miracle, Our Lady of the Charred Visage, and my personal favorite, Exposito the Scion of Abjuration. The game is every bit as challenging as the titles it took influence from, but at the same time not inaccessible. It’s also an extremely satisfying experience to revisit locations far stronger than before with the acquiring of new abilities and more health and magic, but also equally as satisfying to defeat each boss. It does exceptionally well to make the player feel like this is their journey along with the player character, The Penitent One. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s controls are precise, responsive, and present the player with no necessary issues, which is desperately needed in a game like this. There’s nothing worse than when a developer tries to challenge a player with a tough game, and the controls aren’t right, like what I found with the original Mega Man. Fortunately, however, this issue is nonexistent in Blasphemous.

 

Lifespan – 7.5/10

To complete the game to 100%, along with the newly released free DLC package The Stir of Dawn, will take roughly 30 hours, which for a Metroidvania game is particularly impressive. It could possibly be made to last longer with the potential introduction of new DLC released somewhere down the lines (here’s hoping), but regardless, this game will have players investing in it for a particularly long time to come. There are plenty of collectibles to scout for and abilities to require to make Blasphemous last more than a meaningful amount of hours. 

 

Storyline – 9/10

The story of Blasphemous follows a mute lone soldier known only as The Penitent One, who is the sole survivor of an order known as The Brotherhood of the Silent Sorrow. The Penitent One embarks on a pilgrimage in the name of The Miracle, a god-like supernatural force that governs the land of Cvstodia and manifests itself in various twisted ways in the name of either mercy or punishment. 

The Penitent One seeks a holy relic named the Cradle of Affliction and is instructed by a narrator of the Miracle named Deogracias to carry out the three humiliations to gain access to the location where the Cradle of Affliction is housed. 

The game’s story is expertly structured and masterfully written with full voice acting and a plethora of lore and backstory to unearth throughout Cvstodia. It raises questions about the nature of godhood and everlasting life in a world where the desire for punishment or forgiveness comes at a heavy cost and what impact religious institutions can have on the world. Again, it was yet another element to this game that excited me from beginning to end. 

 

Originality – 9/10

Taking into account everything about this title, from its conceptual design to its combat system to its gripping story, it is definitely one of the most original titles I’ve ever played. In a gaming generation that has been arguably over-saturated with Metroidvania titles in recent years, it would have taken something particularly special to make another one stand out among so many others; but this game does that flawlessly; it tackles themes, gameplay mechanics and graphical features that have rarely been seen in gaming before and will go on to influence a plethora of games for years to come. 

 

Happii

In summary, Blasphemous is definitely one of the best games of the eighth generation. The influx of indie games over the last seven years has made this generation one of the most exciting in the history of gaming, but this title will be one that gamers will still be playing long after, with its wonderfully rendered visuals, intense combat, and boss fights, and a story that players will be talking about for many years after its release. 

Score

52.5/60

8.5/10 (Great)

Scouse Gamer 88 God of War II Header

God of War II (PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Santa Monica Studios

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director(s) – Cory Barlog & David Jaffe

Producer – Steve Caterson

PEGI – 18

 

Released back in 2007 when the seventh generation of gaming had just started out, and with many critics describing it as the swan song of the PlayStation 2 era, God of War II built on its predecessor continuing the story and adding many new combat features and mechanics required to solve new and more puzzles to progress through the game. Most reviews I’ve read seem to point to this game being far superior to its predecessor, but in my opinion, it’s about on par with the original God of War for a multitude of reasons. 

 

Graphics – 8.5/10

In terms of the technical aspect of the visuals, there isn’t a great deal of difference between this and the first game. In my opinion, there are no real improvements in the quality of the graphics, which in hindsight was to be expected to an extent, given the relatively short development cycle. That being said, however, in terms of conceptual design, there is a massive improvement in terms of diversity in scenery and level design, keeping the tableau of series fresh and distinguishable from the first God of War. The second game takes Kratos across an even bigger range of different landscapes than the first, which for the most part is confined to only a few different locations. There’s also a mixture of old and new enemies to fight, which also adds to the mythology of the series in a big way. 

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

The gameplay is so similar to that of the original God of War that it’s ostensibly like an extension to the original game. It’s heavy on combat and puzzle-solving, and has the additional elaborate boss fights to contend with; arguably even more elaborate than those of the first game. There are a number of new weapons and spells to cast to keep things diversified, but overall, it still offers the same amount of satisfaction to be had in upgrading weapons, learning new abilities, and of course, progressing through a new story. 

 

Controls – 10/10

With the seamless introduction of a few new mechanics, the game’s control scheme is identical to that of the first game; there are no issues, combat is fluent as what needs to be (especially on harder difficulties), and three are no needless complications to frustrate players. The context-sensitive sequences had been fractionally refined, but players will be able to go from the first game to the second without skipping a beat. 

 

Lifespan – 6/10

As with the first game, the second can take there around 6 to 7 hours to finish, which again in hindsight may have been expected in light of the development time, but still wasn’t any kind of decisive improvement over the first game. The best of the God of War series would be yet to come, and this game is good for the time it lasts, but I think a little more time needed to be spent on this game for it to be considered better than the first in every respect, including lifespan. 

 

Storyline – 9.5/10

The most decisive improvement God of War II made over the first, however, was in its story. Having now fallen out of favor with the gods of Olympus, Kratos now seeks revenge with the help of the banished titans from the Titanomachy. In order to defeat Zeus, he is instructed to find the Sisters of Fate, who are reputed to have the ability to grant great power to those deemed worthy. Playing out somewhat similar to Homer’s Odyssey, it doesn’t exactly play out like as much of a traditional Greek tragedy as what the first game does. Contrarily, it does better to perpetuate a strong sense of hope for Kratos and even to set a precedent for where the rest of the franchise goes from hereon.

 

Originality – 8/10

The concept of Greek Mythology in gaming was a relatively new idea at the time of the release of the second game anyway, but the developers managed to keep the whole God of War formula fresh with the introduction of a whole load of new elements in every respect, which is all the more impressive, given the fact that first game ended on a very strong note of finality. I was surprised when I first heard there was to be a sequel to the original God War after having played the first game back when it was released; I was also impressed in the fact that it didn’t fail to impressed in and of itself for a sequel that I had absolutely no idea of where it could’ve possibly gone. 

 

Happii

Overall, God of War II is every bit as great a game as its predecessor. The combat remains intense, the storyline has been kept fresh, and it paves the way nicely for the later games, which provided even further improvements that would later be made to this legendary franchise. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 God of War Header

God of War (PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Santa Monica Studios

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – David Jaffe

Producer – Shannon Studstill

PEGI – 18

 

Released back in 2005 to universal acclaim, the original God of War game introduced gamers to the exploits of the Spartan warrior Kratos, and the series has since become one of Sony’s flagship franchises alongside the likes of Little Big Planet, Uncharted, The Last of Us and Ratchet & Clank. The first game in the series won several Game of the Year awards for 2005 and is considered one of the better games on the PlayStation 2, and since playing it the first time, I have become an avid fan of the series, but this title provided a ground-breaking starting point for the franchise. 

 

Graphics – 8.5/10

The first game is primarily set in ancient Athens, but the game takes Kratos to a plethora of locations across the ancient Greek landscape like Pandora’s Temple and the depths of Hades; as such it is also littered with creatures, characters, and enemies that featured prominently throughout the medium, such as harpies, minotaurs, hydra, and gorgons. It presents players with a wonderfully dark and gritty take on the whole Greek mythos, which was quite a unique medium to take on at a time when a lot of games focused on other prominent mythological subjects like medieval fantasy, post-apocalyptic futures, or steampunk universes. On a technical level, it also did extremely well to showcase what the PlayStation 2 could do, as the sixth generation of gaming was a year or so away from drawing to a close; impressively, it play out at 60 frames per second, which for a game of its graphical quality, was outstanding at the time.

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

According to David Jaffe, the creator of the original game, he designed it in mind for the player to let their inner beat free, and go nuts, and this game certainly affords the opportunity to do that. Playing God of War is a wonderfully brutal experience from start to finish; definitely not for the faint of heart, who dislike violence, but a whole lot of fun for those who don’t mind it. As a hack and slash game, the objective is to cut through wave after wave of enemies as the game progresses, and with the more enemies thrown at the player over time, and more the violence is ramped up. The combat is intense to an unfathomable degree, and it gets progressively more so; not to mention the sheer quality and clever handling of the boss fights. One thing players will notice about this game, as well as every other game in the entire series, is that they always strive to leave a lasting first impression on players; and this game does that better than others in the series, with the first boss being a towering Hydra at sea. But besides which, there are also instances in the game, particularly later on, where combat is swapped out for elaborate puzzle-solving, which gives the game a fair amount of variety; again, something that would go on to become a staple of the series. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The God of War games has also become renowned throughout the industry for its clever implementation of game controls; most notably the context-sensitive sequences during puzzle-solving and boss fights. They would go on to become more elaborate with each installment, but even in the first game, they’re handled particularly well, leaving no room for unnecessary frustrations in a game designed to challenge players. 

 

Lifespan – 6/10

The biggest problem with the original game, which would eventually be something the developers would go on to address over time, is the lifespan, with the original game only being made to last there sound 6 hours in total. Jaffe also said in an interview that the original idea was to make a game like Onimusha, just set in Greek mythology; although they succeeded in terms of gameplay, it’s a pity they couldn’t have even made it last as long as the former, which didn’t have an overly impressive lifespan itself. I think there was definitely room for expansion on the idea, which of course was demonstrated in the sequels, but it would’ve been nice to see it in the original game. 

 

Storyline – 9/10

The story of God of War centers around Kratos, a former Spartan warlord championed by the gods as a divine warrior. He is tasked by Olympus to kill the god of war Ares, who has laid waste to the city of Athens in defiance of Zeus and Athena on the promise that if he succeeds, the gods absolve Kratos of his past sins that have tormented him for ten years. Throughout the story, Kratos’s extensive backstory is gradually revealed and the player will get more of a sense of the kind of character that he is, which all fits in perfectly with the tableau of a classic Greek tragedy. The story is expertly written and the dialogue never comes off as forced or comedic as what a lot of video games before this were prone to doing. It presents players with a fantasy world grounded in realism, as the themes like human mortality and moral conflict play significant parts in not only the original story, but throughout the series as well. 

 

Originality – 8.5/10

As I alluded to, the game presents players with a theme of Greek mythology; something that was uncommon in gaming at the time. It also helped to break the mold of there simply being plain good and evil, with no shades of grey to contend with. Nowadays, a lot of stories that are portrayed in fiction are gritty and morally ambiguous with no true sense of right and wrong; but this game was among a handful of others, such as those of the Legacy of Kain series, that tackled the subject before it became cool to do so; therefore it helped to make it stand out among many other titles of the sixth generation.

 

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Overall, God of War is a triumph in its own right, which later spawned one of the most recognizable and successful series in all of gaming. The original game did the job to establish the wonderful staples that the series would later adapt for future installments, but still, it remains a certified pleasure to play through every time. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

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Ori & The Will of the Wisps (PC & Xbox One)

Developer – Moon Studios

Publisher – Xbox Game Studios

Director – Thomas Mahler

Producer – Blazej Zywicyriski

PEGI – 7

 

Following on from the success of Austrian developer Moon Studios debut title Ori & The Blind Forest, Ori & The Will of the Wisps is another expansive Metroidvania title making use of wonderfully crafted hand-drawn visuals and adding new gameplay elements building on the concept perpetuated by the first game. Personally, I was hooked on this game from start to finish, and whilst I have my nitpicks to address, I was far from disappointed with it. 

 

Graphics – 10/10

The visual style of the game once again makes use of a hand-drawn art style, taking place in new forests separate from that of the first game called Niwen. Like the last game, it has a variety of different land biomes. Including snowy mountains, barren deserts and dark spider-infested caves. It once again also makes use of a traditional orchestral soundtrack; albeit each individual track does better than Blind Forest to suit the tableau of each different area. 

The game in terms of visual style is certainly a lot more varied than the first, as Blind Forest’s individual areas were mainly different sections of forest with some exceptions, such as Mount Horu. But in Ori & The Will Of The Wisps, there are areas like Luma Pool, Baur’s Reach, and Windswept Wastes that perpetuate far more of a sense of variety than in the original game.

 

Gameplay – 10/10

Another area where variety is a lot more prevalent than in the first game is in the gameplay. The combat system has been given a massive overhaul with Ori being given far more combat options than in Blind forest, including a sword for fast-paced combat and a hammer for players preferring power over speed. A lot of the older abilities acquired in the first game are also added for good measure, but they’re acquired earlier on to reacquaint players with classic mechanics in preparation for the introduction of new mechanics throughout the rest of the game. 

Another very welcome addition to the series with the second game is the inclusion of boss fights throughout; they present a level of challenge that wasn’t seen with Blind Forest and add even more depth to the gameplay that is more prevalent in and reminiscent of other Metroidvania titles such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Guacamelee. There are also various sidequests to be undertaken throughout, which is something else that was desperately needed for improvement over the first game. It all makes it even more enjoyable to play than Blind Forest and less of a criminally fleeting experience 

 

Controls – 10/10

Players will be able to move from the first game to the second without skipping a beat; the core mechanics are the same as what they were in Blind Forest, but even with the introduction of a plethora of new mechanics, the game’s control scheme presents no issues. In this game, it was even more vital for the developers to have gotten the control scheme right with the introduction of time trial sequences involving a lot of intricate platforming and the developers did a flawless job of getting the controls right. 

 

Lifespan – 6/10

To complete the game 100% takes slightly longer than its predecessor, clocking in at just over 15 hours of gameplay. Although there is the inclusion of so many new gameplay features, I think more of the same could#ve been added to pad out the game even further. But again, my biggest criticism of this game, as it was with Blind Forest, is that it doesn’t last anywhere near as long as it had the potential to do. Although it’s less of a fleeting experience than the first game, it’s still not long enough of an experience in my opinion. 

 

Storyline – 7.5/10

Picking up where the last game left off, Ori, Naru, and Gumo are now caring for Ku; the baby owl that hatched from Kuro’s last egg at the end of Blind Forest. After repairing Ku’s damaged wing with one of Kuro’s stray feathers, Ku flies with Ori on her back and the pair crashland into the forest of Niwen. Ori then becomes embroiled in a quest to restore balance to the forest of Niwel by seeking out forest spirits called wisps, whilst also confronting new threats, including a deformed and hateful owl named Shriek.

The story of Ori & The Will of the Wisps draws a great deal of comparison to that of its predecessor, with Ori Basically having to do the same thing as what she had to do in Blind Forest; just within another forest. Although the themes of loss and tragedy are present and are presented in different ways to the original, there are other elements that are a lot more straightforward than they are in the first game. There’s not much moral ambiguity involved in the second game like in Blind Forest; the player will know who the hero is and who the villain is; where Kuro was a much more sympathetic villain, Shriek, whilst having underlying reasons for being the way she is, is a lot harder to empathize with.

However, there are certain plot threads throughout the story, especially around the mid-way point, which contribute to the narrative in extremely positive ways, and whilst not being anywhere near as unique as the first, certainly makes for an enjoyable story overall. 

 

Originality – 7.5/10

The game originality was probably the hardest aspect of it for me to cover. In certain areas, it does stand out from other Metroidvania titles, such as its combat system and inclusion of sidequests. But in other aspects, it fell short of other aspects in which the first game excelled in; most notably the story. Overall it was a fairly unique game, but I can’t help but feel that there is still a lot more untapped potential for this series overall. Without spoiling any details in regards to the ending, all the signs seem to point to there being a third game sometime in the future, and I think that there is still room for improvement in both the first and second games. 

 

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In summation, however, regardless of the amount of criticism I’ve given Ori & The Will Of The Wisps, I still think that it is fractionally better than Ori & The Blind Forest. The one aspect that it excels in compared to its predecessor is the gameplay, which is, after all, the most important aspect of any game. Its story is unoriginal compared to Blind Forest and it’s relatively short lifespan can still leave players wanting more at the end of it, but that’s not to say that it isn’t worth playing through from beginning to end.; it certainly is. 

50/60

8/10

(Very Good)

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Zombie Vikings (PlayStation 4 & PC)

Developer(s) – Zoink Games

PEGI – 12

Following the immense success of their adventure puzzle game Stick It To the Man, Zoink games followed up with an adventure beat ‘em up title name Zombie Vikings, but was met with unjustifiably mixed reviews, at least as of now, garnishing an average Metacritic score of just 61. Personally, I found it to be much better than the former game for a variety of different reasons, and hope that other review sites that haven’t yet provided a review see the game for its many different qualities.

 

Graphics – 8/10

The general design of the game is extremely similar to Stick It To the Man, with characters and scenery hearkening back to the 2D hand-drawn style of the previous game. However, the conceptual design of the game is drastically different, taking place in a world inspired by Norse mythology as opposed to a world inspired by the trappings and intricacies of modern life. Even despite how weird and wonderfully outlandish their previous title was, this one is just as magnificently strange; if not more so. The game may not run on 60 frames per second like the former, but to me, that’s semantics.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Taking a drastic departure from Stick It To the Man, Zombie Vikings presents players with a wonderfully varied linear beat ‘em up game reminiscent of the like of Streets of Rage or Final Fight, and packed with variety in weapons, abilities, character choices, and even side quests thrown in for good measure; something I’ve personally rarely seen in games of this kind, which after playing this, make this game seem as if a trick has been missed for many years. It all makes for a wonderfully fulfilling and addicting gaming experience, which in my opinion is much more satisfying to play through than Stick It To the Man.

 

Controls – 9/10

The game is a 2D side-scrolling beat ‘em up, so by default, I would have problems with its control scheme to a certain extent; but much to my pleasant surprise, nowhere near as much of a problem as I have found with many of the games of its kind that many other gamers consider to be classics. The main reason for this is that movement is infinitely more varied, and players can not only run but can dodge enemy attacks by rolling in different directions, which certainly helps to alleviate many previous frustrations I have personally had with other games of its kind in the past.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

As well as being bigger and better than Stick It To the Man, Zombie Vikings is also a much longer gaming experience, which always goes down well with me personally. Although the main story can take around the same amount of time to complete as the former, the increased amount of gameplay variety by proxy gives this title much more replay value, and of course, there’s also the multiplayer to indulge in afterward, which can make for many more hours of entertainment.

 

Storyline – 8.5/10

The story of Zombie Vikings revolves around four zombie Viking warriors who have been summoned by the thunder god Odin to retrieve his stolen eye from the trickster god Loki. The basic of the game’s story seems simplistic, yet outrageously abnormal in scope at first glance, but it is also made enormously interesting throughout with its references to modern life, breaking of the fourth wall, and quirky sense of humor. I was personally delighted to see that the developers had incorporated these same elements as they did in Stick It To the Man, and to witness them having built upon it. The game also excels in storytelling as well as gameplay, which is a market saturated with AAA games seemingly focusing on one and not the other, is always a breath of fresh air to me.

 

Originality – 8/10

This title is wonderfully unique in every single respect, from its wonderfully weird visuals to its staggering amount of gameplay variety to its coming together of many different ideas, which all form its own fully cohesive concept in terms of story. Ever since the start of the influx of indie games throughout the last two generations, it’s been fantastic to see so much depth and imagination implemented in the majority of these kinds of titles coming from many vastly creative developers, and this game is yet another excellent example of this.

 

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In summation, Zombie Vikings are most definitely one of the best indie games I’ve played through 2015, and I would highly recommend it. It’s a vast improvement on what was a similar-looking yet exemplary game in its own right, and it makes me excited for what Zoink has in store in the future.

Score

48.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

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Warframe (PC & PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) –Digital Extremes

Publisher(s) – Digital Extremes

Artist – Michael “Mynki” Brennan

PEGI – 18

 

Warframe is an online free-to-play third-person shooter, made in roughly the same vein as Metal Gear Rising, but with considerably less swordplay involved, and more detailed graphics. At first, I had skepticism that this game would prove to be pretty straightforward and generic, but after playing, I was proven somewhat wrong, since there elements of it that seemed to have influenced some of the biggest games to have come out in the eighth generation so far.

 

Graphics – 7/10

The visuals are pretty well done for a game developed by a third party, that came out upon the release of a new console; the level of detail is particularly impressive, and the conceptual design also has its strong points. For example, the wide variety of different warframes (the game’s variant on futuristic suits of armor), is extremely well thought out, made even better with the facility of customization. There are a few issues with the loading of textures, but for the most part, I was impressed with how well the game looks overall.

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The gameplay in Warframe is also surprisingly varied, with a combat system consisting of not only third-person shooting but of swordplay, leveling up, and the use of special abilities unique to each fighting class. The main thing I will criticize it for is its lack of side quests since even games as linear as this have at least one of them; games like Gears of War and Uncharted. Nevertheless, the combat system is pretty addictive, and each level is quite varied in terms of how many main objectives there are to do in each one.

 

Controls – 7/10

Unfortunately, there are a few issues with the game’s control scheme. One of which, and the most standout one, in my opinion, is that the climbing mechanism seems to have been handled quite clumsily since there are some climbs players will probably think should be made, and aren’t, creating issues of inconsistency. Another gripe I have is that it can be unnecessarily difficult to effectively execute certain special moves, including the Slash Dash, as it’s overly easy for CPU enemies to move out of the way. Another big problem I have with the game’s controls is that from time to time, the game’s main antagonist can pop up with voice messages, but with time, the holographic image of his head takes up almost half the screen. I get that the developers did this to try and impose a level of fear within gamers, but for me, it’s much more of a hindrance than the developers intended. Otherwise, however, the game plays out smoothly enough.

 

Lifespan – 5.5/10

Taking all missions into account, including alert missions, the game can last up to 8-10 maximum. Even compared to games such as Gears of War and Uncharted (which though are among some of my favorite games of all time, are far too short), this is an incredibly underwhelming amount of time for a game of its kind to last. Even if it is free, there are other games on both the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade free not only to paying subscribers but to anyone with an account, that can be made to last much longer.

 

Storyline – 6/10

The story behind Warframe is that the Tenno, a race of ancient warriors awoken from years of stasis, is plunged into war with three other races; the Grineers, the Corpus, and the Infested. It’s particularly standard for a science fiction game, and there’s not a great deal present to differentiate it from the likes of Gears of War or Halo. The only strong point I can highlight bout it is that the character of Captain Vor is very well brought to life by his respective voice actor, Kol Crosbie, and the character of Ordis does provide some basis in comic relief. It’s actually quite interesting to consider how similar both Ordis and the ghost from Destiny are; though Ordis provides a lot more personality in my opinion.

 

Originality – 6/10

There aren’t a lot of games made in this manner that present such varied combat, but in terms of story and inclusion side missions, I think Warframe does fall short of how unique a game it could have been if there had been more added to it. At the time of the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it would have been considered just a game to tide people over before greater and varied releases would come out, but for the people who chose to align with it beyond that point, I believe more could have been done to accommodate for them.

 

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In summation, Warframe is a better game than I expected it would be at first, but I’m still able to express too many concerns about it for me to consider it a classic, or even one of the better games on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One so far. There are a few hours of enjoyment to be had out of it, but after that, there’s not much cause for players to pick it up again, except maybe to play it on a harder difficulty.

Score

38.5/60

6/10 (Average)