Tag Archives: Hack & Slash

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

Developer – Moon Studios

Publisher – Xbox Game Studios

Director – Thomas Mahler

Producer – Blazej Zywicyriski

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 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 what 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 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 it’s 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. 

 

Happii

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)

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 help 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 in 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 it’s coming together of many different ideas, which all form it’s 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.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Zombie Vikings is 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 have in store in the future.

Score

48.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

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 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, they 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 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 it 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.

Niiutral

Niiutral

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)

Ryse: Son of Rome (Xbox One & PC)

Developer(s) – Crytek Frankfurt

Publisher(s) – Microsoft Studios

Director – Cavat Yerli

Producer – Vidanjor Niyazi

PEGI – 18

Originally released as a launch title for the Xbox One, Ryse: Son of Rome was designed to showcase what the Xbox One was capable of at the earliest stage of its shelf life; however, in the long term, the most interesting thing about this game has been the history behind its development and beyond. Phil Spencer of Microsoft claimed that it certainly wouldn’t be compatible with the Kinect peripheral, which could potentially throw many gamers for a loop, since not only was it originally meant to have been compatible, but it defeated the object of bundling the console with the sensor, to begin with. After the development and release of the game, relations between Crytek and Microsoft soured, as a dispute over the ownership of the Ryse IP would lead to the cancellation of a planned sequel. But in my opinion, I think this was for the best since I believe very little in the prospect of it turning into a prolific series of games, as I thought very little of the game overall.

Graphics – 9/10

The best aspect of the title as expected, or perhaps as per intended, is the visuals. Looking better than most other Xbox 360 games on a technical level, it gave gamers an extremely good idea of the kind of graphics they could expect to see throughout the beginning of the eighth generation, and how they could possibly be improved upon in the near future. The conceptual design is also fairly diverse, with the game taking place in several different kinds of locations, as opposed to it just taking place in the typical Roman coliseum or great cities as most gamers would have initially expected.

Gameplay – 5/10

The gameplay, whilst easy enough to master after a time, unfortunately, becomes extremely repetitious extremely quickly. It relies heavily on combat, mixing mechanics of both God of War and Assassin’s Creed, albeit presenting gamers with a much more linear experience than both of the aforementioned examples. There are only a few side quests to go back and do, giving it a small bit of replay value, but like other launch titles of the time like Knack, they offer little in the way of incentive for playing it again.

Controls – 10/10

Though the control scheme of this game was inspired by many other seventh-generation games and therefore lacks uniqueness in this respect, it does the things that it does more than well enough, and there are no unnecessary complications with it. The context-sensitive finishing moves than can be executed are actually a nice touch, making combat somewhat interesting.

Lifespan – 2/10

Unforgivably, one playthrough of this game can be made to last around 2 to 3 hours, which for a game that had as big a budget as it did, and for a game that had at least a few side quests, is pathetic. The Xbox One’s announcement and launch periods seemed to me like a catalog of errors, and in hindsight, it’s no wonder to me that they failed to hit the ground running, or catch up with the PlayStation 4 in terms of sales figures.

Storyline – 7/10

Though I don’t think it could be described as a saving grace, the game’s story isn’t too bad. It involves a Roman soldier named Marius Titus, as he works his way through the ranks of the Roman army, along the way, uncovers the truth behind the murder of his family. The story draws inspiration from both God of War and the film Gladiator, though whilst there is a fair bit of depth to it, it falls very short of either one of those inspirations.

Originality – 0/10

To me, this game follows too many pre-existing tropes used in video games countless times before it for me to call it unique. If Crytek truly wanted to create a franchise from this one game, then major adjustments would have to have been made, and every aspect drastically improved upon. There may be scope for them to do this if they decide to in the future. They could even most probably set it in an entirely different period in history, or a bigger in-game world if they so desired. In any case, it wouldn’t take much effort to top the original.

Angrii

Angrii

In summation, Ryse: Son of Rome is one of the weaker launch titles I have come across. The gameplay is bland, it lasts too short an amount of time, even for a linear AAA game and it fails to stand out in the long term.

Score

33/60

5.5/10 (Below Average)

No More Heroes (Wii)

Developer(s) – Grasshopper Manufacture

Publisher(s) – Marvellous Entertainment, Ubisoft & Rising Star Games

Designer – Goichi Suda

PEGI – 16

Developed as a social commentary to a certain extent, and tame by Suda51’s standards, though still pretty violent, No More Heroes is a hack and slash semi-open world game, which many critics and fans of the game regarded as being one of the better third party video games on the Wii. Whilst I personally think that’s true, and I did spend a lot of time playing this game at the point, I did have a few issues with it.

Graphics – 8/10

Making use of cel-shaded visuals popularised by many games released on Nintendo’s previous console, the GameCube, No More Heroes takes place in an open world somewhat reminiscent of Vice City called Santa Destroy. Although the setting doesn’t stand out among many other games, the many different characters certainly do, with opponents such as Bad Girl, Destroyman, Holly Summers, and Dr. Peace. In conjunction with the comic book-like art style, the characters are very reminiscent of either classic heroes or classic villains throughout comic book history, but they all have a twisted sense of uniqueness about them.

Gameplay – 7/10

I think the best way to describe this game is what would happen if Grand Theft Auto met God of War. The game thrives on intense, violent and at times context-sensitive combat, with a fair amount of challenging boss fights thrown in for good measure. But at the same time, exploration is encouraged to a degree, with side quests available to players, which they must complete in order to advance to each subsequent stage of the game. I did find it quite satisfying to play through, but for the size of the in-game world, I felt as if more could have been added to fill a lot of dead space.

Controls – 8/10

At this point, the Wii was a relatively new console, and early into its shelf life, so motion controls will have still been a question of trial and error to a certain extent. However, there are a select few fundamentals that this game didn’t get right. The bike riding mechanics, for example, are pretty difficult to get to grips with, and even when the basics of it are mastered, a lot of time will still be spent crashing into cars and walls. Aside from that, the remote and nunchuck can also prove to be unresponsive at times during context-sensitive combat sequences. Otherwise, there are no other issues to address, and basic combat is handled quite well.

Lifespan – 6/10

To complete the game to 100% the first time around, players can generally send about 20 to 25 hours doing it, which whilst not unforgivable, is still a little bit underwhelming for a game of its size and potential. There is replay value to be had since there is an extended ending to unlock after completing the game on hard mode, but that also makes it inaccessible to a certain extent, since now every gamer will be comfortable with taking to playing the game at a higher difficulty in order to unlock something offering no real incentive.

Storyline – 8/10

The story of No More Heroes follows a stereotypical otaku named Travis Touchdown, who for purposes unknown to the gamer for the longest time, is competing within the United Assassin’s Association to become their foremost ranked assassin. The story does unfold into something much more interesting and convoluted than it seems at first glance, I think it’s marred down severely by Travis’ persona, as I think he is one of the most annoying video game protagonists of all time. His persona gradually changes for the better in the second game, but throughout the first installment, I couldn’t help but get a sense of dramatic irony, since it is particularly obvious that Travis is being manipulated to suit somebody else’s needs and the fact that he couldn’t seem to realize it sooner was cringe-worthy in my opinion.

Originality – 7/10

Though there had been a fair few games made in the same vein before this effort, I do have a fair bit of respect for Goichi Suda’s ability to come up with many different and twisted concepts and designs for his video games, and this is no exception. In terms of gameplay, I have criticized a few of his efforts, such as Killer is Dead and Shadows of the Damned, but what they’ve all had in common is that they have had no problem standing out among other video games in terms of visual presentation.

Happii

Happii

Overall, No more Heroes is indeed definitely one of the better third-party experiences on the Wii despite its faults, and I would recommend it to anyone who may be in the mindset that the console is solely for playing party games. Though the second game would make some drastic improvements, that’s not to discount the first by any stretch of the imagination.

Score

46/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Killer is Dead (Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Grasshopper Manufacture

Publisher(s) – Deep Silver

Director – Hideyuki Shin

Producer(s) – Yoshimi Yasuda & Shuji Ishikawa

PEGI – 18

Killer is Dead was launched at the back end of 2013 and was released to mixed reviews in different countries. In Japan, its country of origin, it was released to mostly positive reviews, whilst the western world was far more critical of the game, citing it’s alleged nonsensical story and repetitive gameplay. Ray Carsillo of Electronic Gaming Monthly even went as far as to say that Killer is Dead had “the most ridiculous, nonsensical plot yet”. I was torn between reviewing this and Batman: Arkham Origins for the sake of the week’s subject of games influenced by comic book culture. But although there are a few things I pointed out wrong with Arkham Origins, I found that there are many more flaws in Killer is Dead to point out; including in the storyline.

Graphics – 8/10

As with many games I’ve reviewed up to this point in the blog, the best thing about it is how good it looks. There is a great deal of very decent use of cel-shaded graphics in this game. The game’s style is pretty compelling and the settings are exceptional, with many segments of the game transpiring in maze-like houses and even in a mansion on the moon. Although there are a few glitches here and there, they’re barely noticeable. What players will be concentrating on most is the very effective use of lighting. This adds a very prominent sense of grittiness to the overall feel of the game, as the plot has gritty elements to it with plenty of violence to accompany it. Blood sprays out in comic book-like geysers, similar to other cel-shaded games like Madworld and No More Heroes. Some of the characters, including the main character, also have robotic limbs similar to Deus Ex, which make for a few unique character designs too, albeit amidst some fairly generic-looking characters.

Gameplay – 5.5/10

After the first three hours or so, I found myself getting particularly bored with this game. It’s an action hack and slash game very similar to DMC: Devil May Cry, but just a lot more linear with equally unrefined combat. The game is set out in stages requiring players to essentially get from point A to point B with a boss at the end of it. Although some of the boss fights at the end of each stage were pretty well thought out and some of them even fascinatingly disturbing (particularly the boss fight with Alice around the beginning of the game), they weren’t enough to save it overall, in my opinion. There is only one side quest, which involves the main character working as a gigolo and wooing clients into bed by giving them presents and having players taking suggestive snapshots of them. More explicit content is shown with every time a player successfully woos one particular woman into bed, which in my opinion is a particularly cheap way to get people to continue playing the game, as there doesn’t seem to be much more incentive to players other than gaining new weapons. The game for me lacks substance overall. Particularly, in chapter 5, there is not much to do rather than walk around a strange moonlit landscape in slow motion, watch a few cutscenes, and kill a boss at the end of it. That chapter was clearly added as filler the way I see it.

Controls – 9.5/10

Apart from the one minor flaw of it sometimes being difficult to hit breakable objects, which hold in-game items, there’s nothing at all else to complain about in terms of controls. Although the combat system is pretty bland and unelaborated on, that’s down to gameplay.

Lifespan – 6/10

If the cutscenes are skipped, which is a good idea given how ridiculous the game’s story indeed truly is, this game can be easily completed within ten hours. For me, the incentive to play through the side quests was far too cheap, and the main gameplay can become far too monotonous to keep players engrossed in it for any extended amount of time anyway. There are much better and longer hack and slash games that were released last year, including God of War: Ascension.

Storyline – 3/10

The game’s story centers on an assassin called Mondo Zappa, who carries out assassination missions for the Bryan Execution Firm along with his infinitely annoying and dim-witted assistant, Mika. They’re both tasked by their boss, Bryan Roses, to kill dangerous criminals all around the globe. Like Heart of Darkness, which I reviewed last week, there are certain elements of the story, which make it overall seem very farfetched, and makes it seem like a lot of stuff was randomly put together in order to create a fully cohesive concept, and for me, it fell apart very quickly. It doesn’t help that there is some pretty bad voice acting in it as well. In particular, the character Mika is without a doubt one of the worst characters I’ve ever seen in a video game. She throws tantrums, cries a lot, and becomes far too childishly enthusiastic about her situation for me to be able to take her seriously. I don’t even think the main character Mondo can be taken seriously, like his catchphrase “The job… killer is dead” makes little to no sense.

Originality – 6/10

In terms of conceptual design, this game was always going to be able to stand out visually, as there are some unique settings and character designs, but no uniqueness lies in gameplay, which for me, lessens it way too much for me to be able to call it a decent game. But with no standout personalities and a few fairly good boss fights, the overall feel of the game can get boring after a while.

Niiutral

Niiutral

To summarize, Killer is Dead is playable, but shouldn’t be considered a classic by any means. There are other games of its kind that I would more highly recommend than this. I may have found a few decent games released in 2013 following my initial skepticism, but I think this is definitely one to steer clear from.

Score

36/60

6/10 (Average)

Hyrule Warriors (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Omega Force & Team Ninja

Publisher(s) – Nintendo & Koei Tecmo

Director – Masaki Furusawa

Producer(s) – Hisashi Koinuma, Yosuki Hayashi & Eiji Aonuma

PEGI – 12

Hyrule Warriors is a title that combines elements from both the hack and slash gameplay from the Dynasty Warriors series and the world of Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series; as well as its many RPG aspects. Going into this title, I was instinctively skeptical, since the Zelda series is one of my favorites and I saw the entire joint venture as a huge gamble on Nintendo’s part. However, I was quite surprised to find how good a game it actually is.

Graphics – 6.5/10

In lieu of the Zelda tradition, the game is conceptually diverse. It incorporates not only a plethora of different elements from different games in the series but a lot of the different visual styles of the different games too. The in-game visuals are very reminiscent of the likes of Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, and some of the cutscenes take on a style more akin to a cartoon, similar to Wind Waker. There are also a lot of nice-looking FMV sequences throughout the game to accompany all this. It makes me wonder why Nintendo has Scarcely approved of the use of FMVs in their games. After all, they also worked pretty well in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze too. Some of the new characters do a good job of keeping the series fairly free too. The best example of that to me is Volga; an enemy character based on the boss of the Fire Temple in Ocarina of Time; Volvagia. The issues I have with the graphics stem from the technical side of things. I have spotted a good few glitches while playing, and sometimes the frame rate can drop when enough enemies are on the screen, which makes me question the hardware capabilities of the Wii U.

Gameplay – 7.5/10

Despite the fact that the game is very repetitive, as the main objective is to simply dispatch everything in sight until each enemy base is taken, its also very addictive. Omega Force has had a lot of experience developing games in the hack and slash genre l, and they are good at what they do. The popularity of Dynasty Warriors in Japan, as well as its spin-offs, speaks volumes. There are multiple game modes to choose from, giving players plenty to do throughout, and a great amount of in-game incentive for doing it, including new weapons, items, and characters. The fact that there is also a substantial amount of playable characters also gives the game a fair bit of variety. I think Team Ninja has made a much better job of collaborating with Nintendo this time around than what they did during the development of Metroid: Other M, anyway. Hyrule Warriors is much easier to enjoy to me, because not only is it much easier to get to grips with than Metroid: Other M, but because it doesn’t feel like too radical a departure from the main series; as indeed was one of the biggest concerns I had before playing it.

Controls – 8/10

The quality of the controls depends largely on what peripheral is used. Playing the game on the Wii U GamePad, as per the developer’s primary intention, does come with its limitations. Not only do the GamePad’s facilities not truly add much to the gameplay, with the exception of displaying previous progress notifications and players being able to use the touchpad to select secondary items, but after a while, playing the game with the GamePad can end up causing pain in the hands if players aren’t careful. I feel as if it is important that I address this issue to anyone who is looking to play the game but may only have the Wii U GamePad to play it on. Since the gameplay in Hyrule Warriors is very intense and action-packed, players may end up tensing their hands across the side of the GamePad, and doing this can cause quite a bit of pain after a good few hours. My advice to players would be to make sure that they try and keep their hands relaxed, and be careful to not tense them up around the GamePad regularly. Most game controllers are designed for players to naturally wrap their hands around, but the Wii U GamePad’s design makes doing this considerably harder. All that being said, however, there are no issues with the actual control scheme of the game itself, and since it centers mainly on button-mashing, I find, mastering the basics won’t be too much of a problem.

Lifespan – 8/10

Though gameplay remains the same throughout, there are still enough things to do to warrant around 30 to 40 hours of playing; maybe even longer if players wish to achieve 100%. There is enough intense and action-packed combat, as well as there being both a strong RPG presence and enough in the way of having to level up each individual character and gaining new weapons and abilities, to keep players interested for an extraordinarily long time for a game of its kind. Out of all the elements of the Legend of Zelda series present in Hyrule Warriors, a delightfully long lifespan is one that I am particularly happy to see attained by the developers.

Storyline – 6/10

Taking place outside of the official Zelda timeline, the events of the story follow Link, who with the aid of several other characters from across the series such as Impa and Sheik, must work to eliminate a new threat headed by the sorceress Cia, who intends to revive Gannondorf in order for him to lay waste to the land of Hyrule and usurp the throne from Princess Zelda. The game works better for fans of the series in a lot of different ways. But no truer is this than in the narrative. It helps to move the plot forward if players already know who everybody in the game already is, as they all come from several different games in the series. If not, some characters will inevitably come off negatively compared to how they were portrayed in previous games. For example, the character Agitha had a fairly subtle role in Twilight Princess, but in Hyrule Warriors, she comes off as considerably less subtle and more unintelligent; and series newcomers will not understand the references to her character in Twilight Princess that are present in Hyrule Warriors. I won’t give away exactly what happens, but one thing that won’t work quite so well for fans of the series is that one in particular plot thread is repeated from another game, and thus discounts one fairly major plot twist. However, having addressed all these issues, I didn’t find the game’s plot to be terrible by any means. Although it still follows the same basic premise that the series has done for almost 30 years now, all the different elements from different Zelda games have been brought together nicely to make for a fairly well written new story. It goes to show at least, that Nintendo is indeed willing to break traditions and take their franchises in new and different directions.

Originality – 6/10

Though for the most part this game draws is heavily influenced by pre-existing elements from 2 different video game franchises, I found that both of these concepts have been taken into fair consideration by the developers, and the result is something, which is somewhat unique in its own right. It may not be the most original end result to spawn from Nintendo collaborating with another developer, but I think if either party had strayed too far from either concept, the game may not have turned out to be as good as it is.

Happii

Happii

To summarise, Hyrule Warriors, despite its flaws, is a very addictive game and is most certainly worth investing a good few hours in. Even in spite of the many times that Nintendo has either teamed up with or handed over some of their longest-running series’ to other developers, I was worried that something terrible may have come of this in a particular endeavor. But much to my delight, I was proven wrong.

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)

(Written for http://darkzero.co.uk/)

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Ninja Theory

Publisher(s) – Namco Bandai Games

Writer – Alex Garland

PEGI – 16

Released in the holiday season of 2010, amidst many mainstream releases, Enslaved was one of a handful of games that fell through the cracks within one of the most critically successful years in video gaming in my opinion. Unlike Vanquish, which was released around the same time, I believe Enslaved was a very unfairly overlooked game since it was one of the best to have been released during the 2010 Christmas period, easily surpassing the quality of such as games Call of Duty: Black Ops, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II and even Fallout: New Vegas.

Graphics – 8/10

Among some of the game’s greatest strengths are not only in the technical side of the visuals, which were rendered with the help of motion capture technology, similar to Ninja Theory’s previous effort Heavenly Sword but also in its extremely rich conceptual design, which is particularly varied, ranging from crashing ships to city ruins overgrown with moss and murky swampland. Looking at the game, it’s clear to see that the developers this time chose to put more of their time and effort into the conceptual design as opposed to the technical design, and because of that, I think it looks ten times better than Heavenly Sword.

Gameplay – 8/10

Another way in which this game is ten times better than Heavenly Sword is in the gameplay. Playing out more similarly to God of War, it involves hack and slash combat, along with a certain degree of exploration, encouraging players to look around for the many secret items and collectibles that can be found throughout each level. The combat was extremely well-executed, and there is also some basis in puzzle solving too, which can become particularly elaborate at times. The only thing I wish the developers would have added was more wide-open spaces like some of the places that encourage the player to ride around on the portable skateboard since I think that would have added a lot more basis in variety; especially if there were more situations that utilized that particular mechanic.

Controls – 10/10

Since this kind of game had been done before a fair few times prior to this, there shouldn’t have been any real issues, and so there are none. In fact, Heavenly Sword plays out similarly to this, but in this case, the combat has been handled a lot better, and thus feels more intense and exciting than the latter. The movement and puzzle-solving in the game also give it somewhat of an Assassin’s Creed feel, which more a hack and slash title, was particularly interesting too.

Lifespan – 6/10

The biggest gripe I have with this game, however, is the fact that it lasts so short when I believe it could easily have been made to last many times longer than it does, which is around 5 to 6 hours. I can’t help but feel that if the portable skateboard mechanic had been used to engage the player a lot more, and that the journey in the game could have been a bit more drawn out, it could easily have lasted 20, maybe 30 hours.

Storyline – 9/10

A re-imagining of Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West, and set 150 years in a post-apocalyptic Earth, two slaves called Monkey and Trip escape a slave vessel and are rendered unconscious after a fall. When Monkey awakes, he finds that Trip has fitted him with a slave headband, which she can use to control him. This also means that their lives are symbiotically bound, meaning that if one dies, so does the other. Monkey and Trip soon learn that they are both dependants on one another to survive their journey riddled with hostile mechs, and they soon develop a strong bond between each other. People talk to me about The Last of Us, saying that it is one of the most powerful stories in video gaming, but in all honesty, I believe this is even better.

Originality – 7/10

Though there’s not a great of uniqueness about the overall structure of gameplay, or even the puzzle-solving elements, there aren’t many games released in this day and age-based that cover the same themes and issues that Enslaved does, and not in such a realistic manner in the process. The gameplay is varied enough to differentiate it from others to a good enough extent, but I believe the developers could have done so much more with it and could do so much more with it if they ever decide to develop a sequel.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West to me, is one of the most impressive titles of the seventh generation of gaming, and nowadays, an overlooked diamond in the rough. I think it will only be a few short years before this game becomes particularly hard to find, so I would advocate that anyone with an Xbox 360 or PlayStation should most definitely pick this title up.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Darksiders (PC, Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Vigil Games

Publisher(s) – THQ

Director(s) – David Adams & Joe Madureira

Producer – Timothy Bell

PEGI – 18

Part of the legacy of the now-defunct Vigil Games, Darksiders garnished an unprecedented amount of critical acclaim upon release, including a perfect score from UK publication Play Magazine. Combining elements of God of War, Devil May Cry, and The Legend of Zelda series’, it was most definitely another one of the greatest titles of the seventh generation in my opinion, and a key reason why I was sorry to see Vigil Games disbanded.

Graphics – 9/10

Like another big-name hack and slash game that came out in the same year, God of War III, this game made an extremely explosive and intense first impression on gamers; in terms of gameplay, but also in terms of its impressive visuals. There is an incredibly detailed FMV sequence to start off with, depicting the coming of the apocalypse and the arrival of the game’s main character, the horseman War. But aside from this, the conceptual design throughout the rest of the game is nothing short of spectacular. Combining a post-apocalyptic Earth with elements of Christian mythology and gothic architecture, it all gives the game an insanely unique and wonderfully dark atmosphere.

Gameplay – 9/10

Playing out very much like a combination of both God of War and Ocarina of Time, it was inevitable that I would personally enjoy this game from start to finish. The combat system is extremely fluent, working on largely the same principles as Ocarina of Time, but aside from that, there is also a fair amount of side quests to keep players busy in between undertaking the main story segments, and even elements of different kinds of games to keep things diverse. For example, the game also has mechanics extremely to Portal, which must be used to solve various puzzles, and even beat one of the game’s fascinating boss fights. The first boss in the game in particular, Straga, is on my personal list of top ten favorite boss fights.

Controls – 10/10

The core control scheme would have been simple enough to have gotten right, but aside from this, what is most impressive is how the developers managed to incorporate a plethora of additional gameplay mechanics such as portal-traversing, horse riding, platforming, even third-person shooting, and make the entire experience extremely simple to get to grips with. It may all seem over-complicated at first, but it’s delightfully surprising how quickly players will be able to adapt to it all.

Lifespan – 6/10

Clocking in at about 10 to 15 hours, it’s a fairly impressive lifespan for a game of it’s kind, since God of War games only tends to last for around 5 to 6 hours, but after playing it for the first time 5 years ago, I couldn’t help but think that there could have been so much added to it to give it even a small amount more longevity than it ended up having. Luckily, the sequel would arrive and address this issue flawlessly, ultimately making for an even better game than the first in my opinion, but the original game was obviously a way to simply test the waters, and see how much the developers could add to a game like this.

Storyline – 9/10

Aside from there being great visuals, great gameplay, and wonderfully executed control mechanics, the game also has an exceptional story attached to it. As the apocalypse falls upon humanity, as prophesized, the horseman War is summoned, but the other three, Strife, Fury, and Death, are strangely absent from the battlefield in the midst of the war between Heaven and Hell. It soon comes to light that the seventh seal has not been broken, and the horsemen’s governing body, the Charred Council, accuses War of disrupting the balance by bringing about the apocalypse prematurely. War asserts his innocence and asks the Charred Council for a chance to be returned to Earth to find the one who is truly behind this. The Council agrees, and War is set on his path, bound by another servant of theirs called the Watcher, who has the power to kill War if he strays from his objective. The story is filled with a plethora of twists and turns before the end, and features voice talent from some of the best in the industry, including Troy Baker as Abaddon, and even Mark Hamill as the Watcher, who delivers one of the most interesting performances I’ve seen in any video game.

Originality – 7/10

Combining elements from many different games can simply be considered as unoriginal, and if not done effectively enough, can lead to a game going disastrously wrong, and not working at all. This game, however, does it both right, and in an extremely effective manner, as all the mechanics influenced by many other games to have been released throughout the years come together with flawless to provide players with a surprisingly cohesive concept. It’s a compelling blend of both old and new video game elements, which all work together, forming a truly fantastic and unique title.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Darksiders is an amazing gaming experience, and I would highly recommend it as a must-have for anyone with a seventh-generation console. The sequel would go on to blow the original game out of the water, but that’s not to say that this game should be skipped; even if they do both take place in the same time frame story-wise.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Dante’s Inferno (Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Visceral Games

Publisher(s) – Electronic Arts

Director(s) – Jonathan Knight & Stephan Barry

Producer(s) – Jonathan Knight & Justin Lambros

PEGI – 18

Based on the renowned poem The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, Dante’s Inferno is a hack and slash adventure game, which like Darksiders, did more than provide gamers with experience to tide them over before God of War III was released the same year. To me, it is one of the most overlooked video games of the seventh generation and worth a lot more attention. However, it’s not for the faint of heart.

Graphics – 9/10

As well as featuring some particularly impressive-looking FMVs throughout, including some short animated scenes depicting Dante’s back-story, it was said by the developers of the game that Hell itself was the star of the show; and I believe that couldn’t be closer to the truth. The majority of the game takes place in the nine circles of Hell, which all take on different visual aspects, and ring true to the sin that they represent. For example, the circle of greed is made from eternally trapped souls suffering in smelting gold, and the circle of violence has three distinctive stages differentiating from violence against others, violence against themselves and violence against God.

Gameplay – 8/10

At first glance, the game does seem like a simple hack and slash with less variety than God of War. But the more players delve into the game, the more variety they will inevitably discover. It also does something rather unique; it blends in morality mechanics with the combat, so players can choose to gain either divine powers or satanic powers, depending on the actions they may take, which involve either absolving or punishing enemies accordingly. Not only is it extremely entertaining, but it also provides a decent level of challenge; especially towards the end.

Controls – 10/10

As it plays out very much like any game in the God of War series, the gameplay formula had since been perfected, and consequently, there were no problems with the game’s control scheme. With games like these, an issue that often seems to crop u is that camera angles can at times be awkward, since the camera follows the player throughout, and is at times obstructed by the surrounding scenery. But that problem doesn’t exist in this game at all.

Lifespan – 5/10

In my opinion, the worst thing about this game is how criminally short it is. One playthrough can last about five and a half hours, and though it can be played through again, in order to gain the opposite set of powers to what was gained in the first playthrough, and to collect any items that may have been missed the first time around, it can still feel too short. Though it would have required more effort on the developer’s part to think of new concepts for different areas of the game, I think it could have been done; or at least existing areas could have been stretched a bit thinner to allow for more gameplay time.

Storyline – 10/10

The story of the game follows a young Templar named Dante, who is killed in battle, only to cheat death by killing the Grim Reaper and taking is a scythe. He then returns home to Florence to find his father and lover Beatrice dead. He then witnesses Lucifer carrying Beatrice’s soul to Hell, and thus resolves to follow them and get her back. Dante is confronted by his various sins throughout, and also resolves to atone and absolve himself. The story is engrossing from start to finish, and like the poem, it deals with many different themes and problems with humanity in general.

Originality – 7/10

In the seventh generation of gaming, there were a few games that stood out as being proficient in gameplay, as well as decent storytelling. Dante’s Inferno is one of them, alongside the likes of BioShock, Borderlands, and Brutal Legend. I wish there would have been a bit more longevity attached to it than what there was, beyond both the main story and the survival mode, but the game’s story alone makes it adequately unique. There haven’t been many decent video games come along to have been adapted straight from a book, but this was a solid effort.

Happii

Happii

In all, Dante’s Inferno is in danger of becoming a forgotten gem these days, but for any hack and slash fan with a strong stomach and an appreciation for a good story, this is a must-have. It’s one of the stronger gaming experiences of the seventh generation, and worth at least one playthrough.

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)