Tag Archives: Stealth

Scouse Gamer 88 Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver Header

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (PC, PlayStation & Dreamcast)

Developer(s) – Crystal Dynamics & Rixxes Software

Publisher(s) – Eidos Interactive

Director – Amy Hennig

Producer(s) – Amy Hennig, Andrew Bennett & Rosaura Sandoval

PEGI – 16

 

Developed and released by Crystal Dynamics following a lengthy legal battle with original creators of the Legacy of Kain series, Silicon Knights, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, like Blood Omen, was also met wide widespread critical acclaim in what was considered an ideal time, as it coincided with the release of several horror films, such as The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project. It went on to be considered the best game in the series by most critics, and whilst I don’t agree with that assessment, (by far I think the best game in the series is Soul Reaver 2), the original Soul Reaver is still to me, a classic of the fifth generation and still an absolute joy to play through.

 

Graphics – 7/10

Soul Reaver easily has one the darkest approaches taken to conceptual design out of most games I’ve played throughout my lifetime. It takes the players back into the fictional dark fantasy land of Nosgoth, but in a post-apocalyptic state. There are new locations added to Nosgoth’s landscape, as well as the ruins of some of the previous locations found in Blood Omen, such as The Pillars of Nosgoth and Nupraptor’s Retreat. It also has the player alternating between the underworld and the physical world in order to gain access to new areas, or areas otherwise impassable in the opposite. Gamers may argue that in terms of the technical aspect of the game, it hasn’t aged particularly well, and with that, I would agree to a certain extent, but the conceptual design more than makes up for that in my opinion. For the best version of the game, I would recommend the Dreamcast port, which runs at 60 frames per second and has the most polish to it. The Dreamcast version actually makes it look far more like a sixth-generation game than a fifth.  Both planes of existence within the game are as dark as the other, with a wonderfully horrifying soundtrack to accompany the game. 

 

Gameplay – 7.5/10

Somewhat similar to Blood Omen, Soul Reaver plays out more like a 3D platformer than a top-down RPG, but combat is still at the heart of the game’s design, with players having to subdue abominable enemies throughout and being able to learn new abilities and increase their health and magic capacities to use these abilities more efficiently and frequently. Although the main combat system is not as diverse as Blood Omen, it does make up for that by challenging players to strategize in accordance with their surroundings, as the enemies are only killed in a handful of specific ways, at least in the physical world. The boss fights, though fewer, are also far more creative than in Blood Omen; again requiring specific actions to take in order to best each one. Like in Blood Omen, there is also a fast travel system and a plethora of hidden items and abilities to discover along the way.

 

Controls – 10/10

Even when 3D gaming was pretty much in its infancy during the fifth generation, there were some games like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon that handled their control schemes extremely fluently; Soul Reaver is one such example; there are no issues with the controls whilst playing with a joypad, and it also handles stealth combat in a very fluent manner as well, which at the time, was a relatively new concept. 

One thing I would advise, however, is this; avoid the Steam version like the plague. Controller support is not officially part of it with players having to rely on keyboard commands, and keyboard mapping doesn’t currently work for some unknown reason. The same also goes for every other Legacy of Kain game ported to Steam. No one at Valve, Square Enix, or Crystal Dynamics has ever seen fit to rectify this, and it’s a great shame. Again, the best way to play this game is on the Dreamcast; in every respect.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last for a total of around 25 hours, which was relatively impressive at the time. The one thing I would say is that, although there are a good few collectibles to obtain throughout the game, the game’s world is still a bit too bare for how big it is, and more could have been added to it, in turn, add to the substance of the game. Nevertheless, there is enough in it to make it last for a fairly impressive amount of time. 

 

Storyline – 10/10

The story continues over 100 years following the events of Blood Omen. Having condemned Nosgoth to an eternity of decay by refusing the sacrifice of his own life, Kain has since established his own vampiric empire out of his own contempt for humanity. However, things change after his first-born lieutenant, Raziel, surpasses Kain in terms of vampiric evolution by growing a pair of wings. In anger, Kain tears off Raziel’s wings and condemns him to death by throwing him into The Lake of the Dead. Burnt by the acidic touch of the lake’s waters, Raziel is then resurrected by a god-like entity, known only as The Elder God, as a wraith, endowed with the hunger for souls and other supernatural abilities, unlike any vampire. Raziel then resolves to destroy Kain and his vampiric brothers and consume their souls returning them to the wheel of fate. 

Like Blood Omen, the story of this game, as well as the dialogue were masterfully executed. The voice acting of Simon Templeman, Michael Bell, and Tony Jay help to truly bring this title to life in a story centered around the nature of death and immortality and the price of power. To me, The Legacy of Kain easily has the best story ever told in all of gaming, and it’s that more impressive considering how much of a strong note of finality there is to the original Blood Omen. To have picked up where Blood Omen left off and evolved the series into what it would become in terms of story, was truly an impressive feat of video game narrative and helped to establish Amy Hennig as one of the greatest storytellers in the medium, as she would later go on to establish the stories of Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed.

 

Originality – 9/10

In terms of gameplay, as well as the story, it’s also impressive to think of how the developers took the concept of Blood Omen, made something drastically different from the former, and make work and work well, is also extremely impressive; especially given how young the concept of 3D gaming was at the time and how risky it would have inevitably been to make that transition. Some people have even cited this as an early example of a 3D Metroidvania, predating Metroid Prime by a full three years, which although I don’t think you can consider it a 3D Metroidvania, as it plays out more like a 3D platformer than anything, it’s still interesting to think about, and it all still works to separate this title from most not only released at the time, but most games released since.

 

Happii

Overall, the original Soul Reaver remains a classic to this day, and if anyone can pick up a copy of it on either the original PlayStation or the Dreamcast, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a game with terrific combat, a plethora of gameplay variety, additional sidequests, and a level of storytelling, which in my opinion, has never been topped within the medium of gaming since. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Aveliana Header

Q&A With Romain Dupuis

Whilst once again on the lookout for new indie games on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, I today came across a new Kickstarter campaign with a style of play unconventional to most represented within the indie development scene. Aveliana, described as an infiltration action-adventure game, is a 2.5D title whereby players must find their own route through the game’s world based on the enemy’s AI and detection patterns. Players can choose to find alternate routes and secret areas through the game depending on their choices or what style of play they wish to implement; new abilities are unlocked over time to provide players with more options as the game progresses. Designed with lush 8-BIT scenery and varying atmosphere, the story follows the young titular character Aveliana wandering the land in a bid to bring back someone she has lost. Eager to know more about this game, I contracted its lead programmer, French indie developer Romain, who shared with me a great deal about the title, and where he plans to take it upon its final release. Here’s what Romain had to say about Aveliana:

 

Aveliana 1

What were the influences behind your game?

A source of inspiration for the gameplay is the game Commandos, which is an old game where you have to infiltrate a base. In Aveliana you control a single character so the game is more dynamic and less tactical compared to Commandos. I’m also inspired a lot by physics (because I am a physicist) for the detection and attack patterns. I am inspired by the game Gris, Children of Morta, Celeste, Cuphead, Rayman, and many others! Other arts also inspire me such as painting, poetry, music, and anime (in particular I love the work of Miyazaki).

 

What has the developmental process been like?

Since it is my first project, it is something completely new and I didn’t know what to expect because I got the idea to start this project suddenly. I have never been passionate about something before! The whole journey is really exceptional, and I think part of this is due to the support I receive when I share about Aveliana on social media.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

The developer version is at a very advanced stage: the IA is done and optimized for all existing enemies, most of the levels are drafted or finished, I have drawn half of the cutscenes and written the story. But the polishing of the game development will take time! I plan to release it at the end of 2021. There is already a playable demo at:

gamejolt.com/games/aveliana/500900

 

Aveliana 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

I really love Implementing new gameplay mechanics, thinking about how rewarding they will be and how risky it is for the player. I love games and I find it exciting to see players try the demo and see how they adapt to the mechanics I have thought about and how they play around it.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

The most challenging thing for me is optimization. I know it is just a 2D game but I am always trying to make it as optimized as I can and this isn’t something easy for someone with no background in game development and game coding.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

The feedback is just incredible! I have started to publish very early tests on my Insta feed in March and I got about 1K followers in the first month. People really appreciate the art style and tell me they immediately recognize it. The actors of the game industry also supported the game very early. Aveliana was invited to a showcase at The escapist game showcase last fall and it has been featured on the platform where I host my builds (gamejolt). I’m also very happy to receive very often fanarts of the game!

 

Aveliana 3

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

I am planning to release it first on Steam. There is already a Steam page where you can wishlist the game! Depending on how the game is received I could make a console version in the future.

 

You mentioned on your Kickstarter that gaming genres like Metroidvania and roguelike are overrepresented within the indie development scene. Are there any genres of gaming that you think are underrepresented?

It is difficult to say because I would have to think about uncommon genres (or non-existing mixes) but I think as indie game developers, I need to do all I can to be creative and invent new things. When I tried to categorize Aveliana to publish the Steam page, it wasn’t that easy to find the correct keywords and that’s something I’m proud of. Maybe I can think of city builders or RTS that is not often developed by indie developers. There is a lot of room for trying new ideas and there are already some ideas I would like to try myself.

 

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

So far, I haven’t removed any features but I have reworked a few times some monsters that were not really fun to play with. For instance, before, there was a kind of toad in the dark woods but it was too complicated to notice and it was too large for the narrow paths of this region. I have replaced it with a flock of little flying machines that fit much better and are easy to catch with the eye. I also have reworked some visual effects that I wasn’t able to do when I started the project because I didn’t have the knowledge for it.

 

You also mentioned that the works of Hayao Miyazaki were a major influence on this game. Which films are best represented in the game, would you say?

I am clearly inspired by Ghibli’s work! I am not a fan properly because I haven’t seen the movies many times but the one I love the most is Spirited Away (le voyage de Chihiro in French). I have a friendly monster in the game which looks like a shadow and is inspired by that movie. You can hide in it and hide from other monsters but it will deal damage over time.

 

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

I would prefer to develop my own little company and franchise if Aveliana is a success. Otherwise, I would like to join an indie group with few people, but I haven’t thought about that yet.

 

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

I think the advice for aspiring developers is to correctly set the scope of their projects. And to always be creative and original! I think it’s also important to have a good background in coding or start with small projects.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

People can reach me on Instagram @thefrenchdev, on Twitter @thefrenchdev_ and they can also discuss on my subreddit /r/Aveliana  and I have a Steam page for wishlists:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1426740/Aveliana/

I often do drawing challenges for people who like to draw.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

An important piece of news is that the Kickstarter campaign has started today and it will be up for a month! (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/aveliana/aveliana) Someone already pledged for the maximum reward in the first two hours but feel free to contribute for what makes you comfortable! I really need your support to make the game as good as possible!

 

I’d also like to thank Romain for taking the time out of developing the game to talk to me about what Aveliana will have in store for backers and players; if you’re interested in backing Aveliana, be sure to check out the Kickstarter campaign and the Steam page, as well as Romain’s social media pages via the links in the Q&A. I for one, am very much looking forward to seeing what the final game has to offer and I hope you enjoyed learning more about it as the Kickstarter campaign progresses.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Ancient Tree Header

Q&A With Max Indie Game

The first full week of 2021 has seen an influx of new Kickstarter projects underway; many of which have been successfully funded even at this early stage. Another project on the platform that I came across this week is another Metroidvania title to add to the explosion in popularity of the genre garnished within the last gaming generation. Ancient Tree, under development by a pixel artist from Singapore operating under the pseudonym Max Indie Game, is a traditional Metroidvania title boasting intense combat, a vast 2D open world to explore complete with mysterious ruins and lush greenery (somewhat similar to the conceptual design of Shadow of the Colossus), and a foray of hidden combat abilities to unlock making the player character stronger over time. Wanting to know more about this project, I got in touch with Max and asked a question about the game in its early stages of development. Here’s what Max Indie Game had to say about Ancient Tree.

 

Ancient Tree 1

What were the influences behind your game?

Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

Seems as I work on this project solo, I do not have a solid process like a big company. I usually take notes or sketch down my idea in a sketchbook before I implement pixel art using Aseprite and Unity. Every time I’ve implemented something on Unity, I will test it to catch bugs, fix them, and continue.

 

You mentioned on your Kickstarter page that your previous experience with the software was not video game-related. What made you want to go into gaming?

Ever since I was young I’ve always loved to play video games, I have played many JRPG games up to now. I always had a dream to develop my own game someday during my school time.

 

Ancient Tree 2

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Currently, the development for stage 1 is still in progress and is not near finish yet. There are about 7 stages in the game and there’s still a way to go before it’s finished. Apart from that I also have a day job and family.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Having fun with writing code, drawing pixel art, learning, and trying something new.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Creating pixel art and animation before I start creating it in Aseprite, I will sketch down my idea first. As you can see the process of creating assets requires time and patience but is worth it and I’m happy with my outcome. Solving tricky bugs takes some time to research or think about a solution but I feel accomplished when I’ve solved the issue.

 

Ancient Tree 3

You also mention on your page you have ideas for a lot of new features to be implemented. Can you share anything about that?

Here are some ideas that I have in mind (although it is not a new concept or idea when many games already have it). For example. storyline, inventory, Map, hidden skill.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Currently, My plan is to bring it to Steam and Nintendo Switch.

 

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

Not considering any as of now, as currently I just work as a solo indie dev.

 

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

Never give up on your dream, one day we can make it.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

– Twitter: https://twitter.com/maxindiegame

– Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/user/maxindiegame

– Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maxindiegame/

– FacebooK: https://www.facebook.com/maxindiegame

 

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Max for taking the time out to talk about Ancient Tree and to give gamers a better idea of what to expect from the final build. Ancient Tree is currently on Kickstarter, so if anyone reading thinks they may want to back Max’s project, the link is below:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/724290214/ancient-tree

Until the project is successfully back, I hope you guys are looking forward to Ancient Tree, and that I hope you enjoyed learning about the game from Max as much as I did talking to him.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

SG88 Untitled Goose Game Header

Untitled Goose Game (PC, Switch, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – House House

Publisher(s) – Panic

Designer(s) – Stuart Gillespie-Cook, Nico Disseldorp, Michael McMaster & Jacob Strasser

PEGI – 3

 

Released by Melbourne-based developer House House back in 2019 on PC after much anticipation from gamers, and later ported to several home consoles, Untitled Goose Game is an adventure stealth game whereby player take control of a goose that must travel around a village and relentlessly annoy as many of the villagers as possible in as many ways as possible. It was very well received by critics and gamers alike and maintains a perfect 10/10 score on Steam. Whilst I found flaws with the game whilst playing, I found it overall to be a delightfully challenging, yet uproariously funny experience at the same time. 

 

Graphics – 7/10

Set in an idyllic British village, the game makes use of cel-shaded visual design and a vibrant color palette perpetuated by lush, green landscapes and traditional village scenery and buildings such as gardens, pubs, and markets. The game’s soundtrack also flawlessly adds to the game’s atmosphere, constantly changing depending on what situation the player finds themself in; be that when they’re simply walking around, when they’re about to sneak up on someone or when forced to run away from villagers. It’s always a pleasure to experience a game like this, whilst may not look as visually original as others, still present variety in a number of different, and even more subtle kinds of ways. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The player takes control of a mischievous goose roaming around a peaceful village. The player must undertake specific tasks given to them via a to-do list, all with the sole purpose of causing as much chaos around the village as possible. For example, the first sequence of the game has the player having to torment an unsuspecting groundskeeper by stealing the keys to his garden gate, putting his rake in a nearby pool, and stealing various other items in his garden in order to create a picnic nearby. Although the visuals aren’t particularly unique by today’s standards, the gameplay concept definitely is. The idea came from a very unlikely source; it came about when one of the staff at House House emailed the creative team a stock photograph of a goose, which led to a series of brainstorming sessions. For a seemingly finite concept that came virtually out of nowhere, it’s quite impressive to me how the development team was able to make as much of it as they did and create a game like this.

 

Controls – 10/10

Because there are an unprecedented amount of commands to have to use in Untitled Goose Game, getting used to controls and style of movement may take some time initially; but once mastered, it presents no problems, which is always impressive to think about when it comes to a new idea involving a new style of gameplay. I’ve come across a few indie games over the years, which have failed to impress in terms of controls, such as Octodad: Dadliest Catch and Aaru’s Awakening, but thankfully there are no issues with this game’s control scheme. 

 

Lifespan – 4/10

The most disappointing aspect of this game is the short time it can be made to last for. To complete the game 100% takes about 5 hours, and I think there was definitely room for expansion in this respect. Though I said I was impressed with the development team’s ability to come up with the overall concept with having little to no ideas to go on initially, there are certainly a great number of ways in which the initial concept could have been built on for more objectives and side quests; and I for one would’ve been willing to wait a little bit longer to play it if it meant it could’ve been made to last longer. 

 

Storyline – 6/10

The game’s premise, as I described early, is also the game’s story; but what stops it from making the story nonexistent is a variety of different things. The soundtrack adds to the game’s atmosphere as I pointed out before, but the goose’s journey is filled with hectic moments as well as drama and comedy; playing this game made me burst out laughing on several occasions. But there is also a nice little reveal at the end, which really epitomizes what this game set out to do and makes it feel like everything comes full circle in its own way.

 

Originality – 8/10

As I said, although the visual style and the conceptual design of the game aren’t particularly unique, what does make this game promptly stand out from the crowd is the concept of the gameplay itself. I love it when I come across a video game that seems basic at first glance, but ostensibly offers gamers an experience unlike any other without it being overly complicated and having a somewhat simplistic feel to it at the same time. There’s a simultaneous feel of tranquility and urgency to be had whilst playing this game and it makes for a very enjoyable experience.

 

Happii

Overall, Untitled Goose Game is a very good title for the short time that it lasts and it is certainly worth one playthrough at a minimum. It’s a simplistically designed game visually, yet has its own unique charm to it that separates it even from some of the most ambitiously designed indie titles of the eighth generation of gaming. 

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)

Scouse Gamer 88 Horizon: Zero Dawn Header

Horizon: Zero Dawn (PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – Guerrilla Games

Publisher(s) – Sony Interactive Entertainment

Director(s) – Mathis de Jonge

Producer(s) – Lambert Wolterbeek Muller

PEGI – 16

 

Developed by Guerrilla Games and being six years in the making, Horizon: Zero Dawn is an open-world action-adventure game, which relies heavily on creativity in battle and presents a very stern challenge similar to games of the same ilk like Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Assassin’s Creed. Personally, I was blown away by how great this game is. I had high expectations of it in the first place, but it did exceptionally well to surpass those expectations and deliver one of the best gaming experiences of the eighth generation.

 

Graphics – 10/10

The game’s visuals are phenomenal from both a technical and conceptual perspective. The level of detail is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on even the PlayStation 4, which is saying a lot since I’ve played a great deal of technically marvelous games on the system like InFamous: Second Son and Killzone: Shadow Fall. But more impressive than this, the game’s universe is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic Earth whereby humanity has regressed to prehistoric culture, but the wild is infested with dangerous robotic animals made with technology that was widespread before the events of the game. The world in this title is extremely impressive to look at, and to me, it sets a new standard within the industry in terms of cutting-edge graphics.

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

Outside the main story and various side quests, The object of the game is to hunt animals around the world in order to develop the character and to discover new materials used to upgrade equipment, weapons, and storage capacity. There is great freedom to be had in terms of choice of how to approach combat; the player can choose to take a more stealthy approach and use environmental hazards to subdue enemies without being detected, or they may choose to take the less subtle route and go in all guns blazing. Upgrades provide the player with new abilities to assist them whilst taking all these different approaches towards combat. Morality mechanics also play a part in the game similar to Mass Effect whereby the decisions the player makes affect the outcome of the story and the player’s influence over NPCs. Whilst it’s a little bare compared to some other open-world game, which is ultimately why I would have to place Breath of the Wild above it when comparing the two games, there is still a lot of things to do within the game that will keep players entertained for an extraordinary amount of time.

 

Controls – 10/10

In terms of controls, the game doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel. However, there are no unnecessary frustrations to be experienced with the control scheme, so it is deserved a perfect score in this aspect. It’s also quite clever how the developers were able to implement the mechanic of scanning enemies and environments in order to assist players in how they choose to approach the situation, despite the fact that it isn’t the first game of its kind to implement such a feature.

 

Lifespan – 9/10

With plenty to do throughout the game beyond the main story, it can be easily made to last at least 60 hours. It’s actually quite surprising to me that a game of this level of technical innovation can encompass an open world of this size. I was impressed with how Far Cry 4 was able to accomplish a similar feat to this, but this game goes far beyond what the latter was capable of.

 

Storyline – 9/10

The story of the games follows a young hunter named Aloy, who has been shunned her entire life as an outcast to every other tribe situated throughout her homelands. As she has grown up, she sets out to prove herself as a member of the Nora tribe. But she soon discovers that she is only part of a greater destiny, and so she sets out to uncover it, and to also uncover the history of her world. Horizon Zero Dawn is very much a coming of age story reminiscent of a lot of Studio Ghibli films and goes beyond that of a typical story found in many open-world games. It’s immersing, emotionally charged, and deals with the wonders and complications of a young woman trying to find her way in the world. Watching the development of Aloy’s character, in particular, was a pleasure from beginning to end.

 

Originality – 8/10

The game is definitely more evolutionary than revolutionary. It’s not the first game of its kind to do many of the things that it doesn’t, but it does do them bigger, and all at once, one-upping the likes of Shadow of Mordor in my opinion. Where it truly stands out is in aspects such as its conceptual design, and variety in combat, which makes me feel reassured that innovation is not just happening within the indie industry, but also in the mainstream scene as well.

 

Deliirious

Overall Horizon: Zero Dawn is one of the best games of 2017, and unanimously my favorite PlayStation 4 exclusive of that year. I’ve been impressed with many others such as InFamous: Second Son, Infamous: First Light, and The Last Guardian, but to me, this game surpasses them all, making for a better IP than Killzone ever was.

Score

54.5/60

9/10 (Excellent)

Scouse Gamer 88 Dishonored 2 Header

Dishonored 2 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC)

Developer(s) – Arkane Studios

Publisher(s) – Bethesda

Director – Harvey Smith

Designer – Dinga Bakaba

PEGI – 18

 

Developed primarily at Arkane Studio’s Lyon branch, and released in late 2016, Dishonored 2 was released later last year to critical acclaim, with player and reviewers citing major improvements made over the first game; most of which concerning the game’s difficulty, as many players opinionated that the last game seemed too easy. Personally, I agree that the sequel is better than the original game in almost every respect, and whilst the gameplay wasn’t structured as well as I believe a Dishonored game has the potential to be, it was more than a worthy sequel.

 

Graphics – 9/10

Taking place in a new city away from Dunwall known as Karnaca, there are many new aspects of conceptual design added to expand upon the series’ mythology, as well as an overhaul of graphical quality, making the game just as compelling and wonderful to look at as the first game; if not, more so. There are new machines to have to contend with besides the tallboys, and a new set of city streets and buildings to navigate through and discover new secrets and vantage points. The second game also seems even darker than the original, giving it more of a gritty feel to it appropriate for the feel of the story. The setting of the Void is where this aspect of the game seems most prevalent as the Outsider is also portrayed as a much darker character in himself.

 

Gameplay – 9.5/10

This time around, the player is given the option to select from two characters from the start of the game, both with their own unique set of abilities; there’s Corvo Attano, the protagonist of the original game and the empresses royal protector, or Emily Kaldwin, the empress of Dunwall. The game itself is also structured very similarly to the last, taking place in a semi-open world and offering players the option to either take a stealthy approach or run rampant and kill every enemy standing in the way. The game also presents the option of going the duration of it without killing a single person. The best thing about this game is that the character choice not only offers a new dimension of gameplay with so many new powers and options to experiment with, but it also gives it, even more, replay value than the first, warranting at least four different playthroughs. So even though it didn’t offer a completely open world, which I think can be implemented very easily in a game like this, there is plenty of replayability to be had to make for a fairly long gaming experience.

 

Controls – 10/10

As with the previous game, there are no issues with its control scheme, despite the fact that there are more options and abilities available. It’s actually quite impressive how the developers have managed to incorporate so many new features whilst at the same time keeping the fundamentals of the game to a perfect standard. Keeping a control scheme unique in a gameplay perspective that has also taken and maintained prominence throughout the industry for almost twenty years also makes it seem even more impressive in my opinion.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

Each individual playthrough of Dishonored 2 lasts about as long as it did in the first game, clocking in at around 20-25 hours, which for me, was mildly disappointing, as a game like this can have a campaign that can be easily made to last longer. However, the game’s lifespan is in its potential replay value, of which there is a great deal for those willing to delve deeper into the game. So whilst it may not have the lifespan that a Dishonored game could have, it still has a great of longevity attached to it, and will make for hours upon hours of entertainment.

 

Storyline – 7/10

The sequel to Dishonored takes place fifteen years following the events of the original game. Whilst Emily Kaldwin has long since been installed as the rightful empress of the city of Dunwall thanks to Corvo, the empire has prospered, but it has not been without challenge. A serial murderer knows as the Crown Killer is murdering enemies of the state left, right, and center, and has led many in Dunwall to believe the Crown Killer is Emily herself. Whilst Corvo and Emily are attending a remembrance ceremony for Emily’s mother Jessamine, a powerful witch named Delilah Copperspoon is introduced to Emily, and claims to be her older half-sister and rightful heir to the empire. Whichever character the player chooses at this point manages to escape Dunwall, whilst the other is subdued by Delilah, who usurps the throne, and the player character is tasked with putting an end to Delilah’s regime and rescuing either Corvo or Emily depending on the character’s choice. Whilst I thought the game’s story was not as suspenseful as the last since there is not as much of an elaborate twist to it, it still has the same level of political intrigue, and just as much emotional charge; especially as this time around, Corvo is given a voice as opposed to being confined to the role of the silent protagonist.

 

Originality – 7.5/10

Though the structure of Dishonored 2 remains relatively the same as its predecessor, the formula is kept fresh enough with the introduction of so many new features and abilities added. It’s most definitely evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary, expanding on what was already good about the first game with the exception of the story. In my opinion, it does still leave room for both improvement and development in the event of a possible third game, but having played through both, I would welcome a third with open arms. The second game cemented the fact that both the concept and mythology behind the series is more than worth further expanding upon still.

 

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Overall, Dishonored 2, whilst not being exactly the sequel I had hoped it would be, still presents massive improvement upon the first game. It’s enjoyable and lengthy with a decent story, and plenty of gameplay options to match; well worth one playthrough at the bare least.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 Styx: Master of Shadows Header

Styx: Master of Shadows (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Cyanide Studios

Publisher(s) – Focus Home Interactive

PEGI – 16

 

Taking place in a dark and gritty medieval fantasy setting, Styx: Master of Shadows is a 3D platforming stealth game, with a few thorough espionage mechanics, and somewhat of a quirky sense of humor. However, the same problems arose in this game that I have found in many other stealth games since; as well as a few other problems.

 

Graphics – 6.5/10

Firstly, the best thing about the game’s presentation is its atmosphere. Everything is extremely dark and gloomy, which is even used to the player’s advantage in order to remain undetected from enemies. However, the game runs on Unreal Engine 3, which makes it look outdated compared to even late games on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; defeating the entire object of porting it to eighth-generation consoles. In terms of its general conceptual design, it’s about as original as Dark Souls II was; particularly typical of what a medieval setting should be, having no truly outstanding elements to it.

 

Gameplay – 5/10

The gameplay, in my opinion, is even less enjoyable. Aside from the few half-decent stealth mechanics of being able to put out fires to better hide from enemies, using sand as a projectile, and the few magic abilities at the player’s disposal, I found the main problem with it was how many times I found myself resetting the game in order to pass certain areas undiscovered. Since there’s also a very intermittent auto-save mechanic, it made playing through even more unnecessarily complicated.

 

Controls – 8/10

The control scheme of Styx: Master of Shadows is extremely reminiscent of that of Blood Omen 2. Movement is somewhat stiff, and it can be gratuitously hard to perform certain commands, such as climbing and strafing. In particular, the carpet on which Styx must land in order to soften the sound of his fall towards the beginning of the game is very clumsily placed. I assume that it was done that way to add to the challenge, but even if the landing is softened, it’s too easy for the guard to spot the player afterward; thus, compelling the player to once again reload the game an undetermined amount of times.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

For a 3D platformer, the length at which this game lasts is passable, coming in at roughly 16 hours, which will provide a fairly long experience for those willing to look past the qualms I have with it. It doesn’t have the open-world factor, which has made many classic 3D platformers last for exceptional amounts of time, but for a linear game, that is fairly impressive. The concern after that would be whether or not if the player can spend as little time having to reset the game as possible in order to not add to the game’s lifespan for the wrong reason.

 

Storyline – 6/10

The story of Styx: Master of Shadows follows a master goblin thief called Styx, who is on a quest to steal the heart of a World Tree within the Tower of Akenash. The best things about the narrative are the occasional wisecracks that Styx comes out with, as well as his own narrating of the events that unfold throughout the game. Though it concerns the concept of the protagonist coming of age to a certain extent, there have been a few games to come along over the years to present that scenario better than this, such as Ocarina of Time, Ni No Kuni, and the original Fable.

 

Originality – 4/10

As both a 3D platformer and a stealth game, it doesn’t bring a great deal new to either genre. If anything, judging by the game’s control scheme, I actually saw it largely as a step back from many of the innovations that have been made concerning both categories of the game in the last ten years. There have been many more stealth mechanics introduced in many more games, which the developers neglected to either implement or work upon, it would seem, and whilst they may have designed to be evolutionary as opposed to it being revolutionary, they failed to execute that in my opinion.

 

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Overall, whilst Styx isn’t entirely god-awful, it’s certainly no game of the year contender; for this year or the last. It has a good few problems that could’ve done with a coat of looking at before release and wasn’t the best start to Cyanide Studio’s venture outside the plethora of sports games they have developed over the years.

Score

36.5/60

6/10 (Average)

SG88 Sly 3 Header

Sly 3: Honour Among Thieves (PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Sucker Punch Productions

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

PEGI – 7

 

Taking place sometime after the events of Sly 2: Band of Thieves, the third Sly game kept to the core mechanics of the previous installment but also presented a few changes to it as well. In my opinion, those changes were made for the worse, since it took away much of what made the second game as exceptional as it was, and I was left pretty disappointed by it.

 

Graphics – 8.5/10

The one thing the developers didn’t take away at least was the exceptionally great cel-shaded style of the visuals, and outlandish conceptual take on the modern world filled with plenty of anthropomorphic animals. The settings are also as wonderfully diverse as they were in the previous game, taking place in various different parts of the world ranging from Venice to Yuendumu to Kinderdijk. It also features an interesting blend of old and new supporting characters from both the first and the second game to add more to the story element.

 

Gameplay – 4/10

As I mentioned, Sly 3 sticks to the same core concept as Sly 2; the player must travel from city to city advancing the plot and using stealth mechanics and a range of different abilities to overcome a multitude of different perilous situations the characters find themselves in everywhere they go; with the added feature of some new characters to control. The problem being is that many of the side quests that made the second game as immersing as it was were substituted for side quests, which have the player redoing certain challenges found throughout the story but having to fulfill additional criteria, such as doing them in a certain amount of time, etc. To me, whilst many there consider it to be better than the second game, it was a massive step down in my opinion. It demonstrated a lack of imagination on the developer’s part; especially when I think of all the imagination that went into Sly 2, and how much it was a genuine improvement in the first game.

 

Controls – 10/10

Since the game runs on the same core principles as both the first and the second, the control scheme hasn’t changed, and thus the developers didn’t take it upon themselves to try and fix something that wasn’t broken. The controls are as wonderfully fluent as many of the greatest 3D platformers to have ever been developed over the years, and regardless of what installment may be coming under review, the stealth mechanics make them stand out greatly.

 

Lifespan – 3/10

Clocking in at a mere 9 hours on average, this is yet another reason why I view this game as being a drastic step down from its predecessor. The second game could easily be made to last around 20 to 25 hours with everything that there was to do outside the main story quests, but since the side quests are different, I think many gamers will have inevitably disinclined to undertake the side quests upon discovery of what they are; as indeed I was.

 

Storyline – 8/10

Set one year after Sly 2, Sly Cooper, along with his colleagues Bentley and Murray, as well as a plethora of new allies, venture out to seek the fabled Cooper Vault reputed to hold a vast amount of heirlooms collected by Sly’s descendants over the years. Personally, the ending of Sly 2 blew me away, but Sly 3 continued that level of character development and built upon it even further. For a game series that started by relying on a strong element of comedy, I never thought I would be able to take it as seriously as I ended up being able to.

 

Originality – 4/10

To me, because the developers took away a lot of the elements that helped to take the Sly series to the next level, there is considerably less originality about the third game. They did try something new with the inclusion of more than three playable characters, a concept that would carry on into the fourth game, but to me, it meant considerably less than what it could have potentially meant if the developers had chosen to handle the side quests in a fashion more reminiscent of Sly 2. I think Sanzaru took this onboard whilst developing Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, and I’m glad they changed as much from this game as they did.

 

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In summation, Sly 3, in my opinion, is so much less than what it could have been had the developers not decide to make as many negative changes as they did following Sly 2. Even though the original game had less substance, I think the developers misused what substance they added to the third, making it worse; a classic case of quantity over quality.

Score

37.5/60

6/10 (Average)

SG88 Sly Cooper Header

Sly Cooper & the Thievius Raccoonus (PlayStation 2 & PlayStation 3)

Developer – Sucker Punch Productions

Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment

PEGI – 7

 

The Sly Cooper series first appeared in 2002 on the PlayStation 2; around the time when Sony started to find much greater success with developing 3D platforming games than they had done previously with the original PlayStation; having released games such as Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank. Whilst sales of the game were pretty poor during the time of its release, the game has become a cult classic among gamers and has warranted the development of three sequels. Though I don’t believe the first to be the best (Indeed, I believe that honor goes to Sly 2: Band of thieves), I don’t think it’s a terrible game; it just needed an extra push, and I think the developers saved that for the sequel.

 

Graphics – 8/10

Relating to Week 4’s unique article, Sly Cooper was released at a time when cel-shading was first being established as a popular form of visual representation in video games; so consequently, this game was always going to stand out. At the time, it was an extremely significant change from the norm, and it also made for a number of compelling level designs as well as character designs. Although some of the bosses look a little bit bland, the last boss, in particular, was very well designed, and the main character cast equally so. Looking at some of the levels, which are set on rooftops, it’s also plain to see where the developers took inspiration from when they were creating InFamous. Though this would become even more evident in the sequel and onwards, the opening level of the first game alone is enough for players to make this assumption.

 

Gameplay – 5.5/10

Sly Cooper & the Thievius Raccoonus is a 3D platforming game with stealth elements reminiscent of games like Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell. But even with this somewhat unique aspect of gameplay, I still felt playing it left a lot to be desired. There are so few side quests that completing the game to 100% can simply be done as the player goes along as normal, and there’s not much call for re-visiting levels, save for completing the time trial challenges. In this respect, it reminds me of the third Crash Bandicoot game, Warped; only with less content and fewer side quests. There is a bit of incentive to playing the game to 100%, however, in the form of additional abilities, such as running faster or invisibility. The game also has a bit of variety in that respect too.

 

Controls – 10/10

At least in terms of controls, there are no problems. Sucker Punch had found critical success before Sly Cooper with their first game; another debatably unfairly obscure game for the Nintendo 64 called Rocket: Robot on Wheels. So that there’d be no problems with the controls would have been expected; especially taking into account the elaborately challenging nature of Sucker Punch’s first game, released back in 1999.

 

Lifespan – 4/10

Unfortunately, even completing the game to 100% can take players less than 10 hours, which compared with other platformers, especially at the time, is nothing. With games like Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank came more content and substance in gameplay, and I found that the original Sly Cooper game severely lacked that, and by that token, it would seem to be no wonder why the first game couldn’t compete with games such as the two aforementioned examples.

 

Storyline – 7.5/10

The game’s story is just about as simple in general concept, and as crazy in design as many other video gaming franchises before it; but I found that it wouldn’t really be greatly expanded on or elaborated on until the next game. The plot follows an anthropomorphic raccoon thief called Sly Cooper, who along with his two closest friends, a turtle called Bentley and a hippo called Murray, set out to recover missing pages from the book passed down from generation to generation of Sly’s family; the Thievius Raccoonus. Overall, the game’s story is okay, but it only starts to get most interesting towards the end, and I don’t think there was enough added to keep it overly compelling. At least the story is simple enough to not create any confusion, I guess. I believe it to be the worst-case scenario when games or films become so convoluted that they become nigh on impossible to follow.

 

Originality – 5/10

Although the game would inevitably be considered unique in terms of visuals, it’s by little means unique in terms of gameplay. The only unique gameplay mechanics was the stealth element, which would again, be more elaborated on with future installments.

 

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Overall, the original Sly Cooper game isn’t an overly terrible game; it was a simple case of trial and error. Only compared to future games in the series, as well as other games around at the time, it seems to me that it was extremely obvious that it was a case of trial and error.

Score

40/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)  

Scouse Gamer 88 Mark of the Ninja Header

Mark of the Ninja (PC & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Klei Entertainment

Publisher(s) – Microsoft Studios

PEGI – 16

 

Mark of the Ninja is an indie 2D platformer, with a strong element of stealth, and using weapons and equipment to keep the player hidden from the enemy as opposed to attacking them head-on. This game is an incredibly unique experience for many reasons, and to me, one of the most standout indie titles to have been developed before the recent influx of them throughout the eighth generation.

 

Graphics – 9/10

Very much like in their later game, Don’t Starve, the game’s visuals seem to be based on a pre-existing artistic style; in this case, that of Genndy Tartakovsky, who worked on the creation of such cartoon series’ as Dexter’s Laboratory, and most significantly, Samurai Jack. The whole thing looks like something out of Cartoon Network, but only with a much darker and grittier atmosphere. The sound effects throughout are also put to good use to maintain that atmosphere, as they are also integral to the structure of gameplay.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

I would best describe this game as Splinter Cell with a hint of Feudal Japan. The objective is to sneak past enemies using various different tools, weapons, and environmental shortcuts, and hiding places to get around. Points are awarded for remaining undetected, going through levels without killing enemies, and hiding bodies if the player does decide to kill. Light and sound sources can be used to manipulate enemy behavior to the player’s advantage, and attacking them head-on is very ill-advised. It provides a very different take on games including ninjas and makes for an incredibly immersing 2D side-scrolling experience.

 

Controls – 10/10

In terms of controls, although there should never have been any real issues, the control scheme has been handled quite well. Movement is very smooth, and there is a multitude of different features that players can use to get around; a number of things unusual for a game of its kind.

 

Lifespan – 4/10

Clocking up at about 5 hours, it, unfortunately, lasts about as long as the average modern-day 2D side scroller, and I can’t help but think that this had been a Metroidvania game, then it would have lasted a greater amount of time longer. There was certainly more room for a greater amount of side quests in the game anyway, and I believe it’s criminal for such a unique experience to also be a very fleeting one. Klei Entertainment would go on to address this issue in Don’t Starve, but if a sequel ever does happen, then I think it would be easy to expand upon what they achieved with this game.

 

Storyline – 8/10

The story of Mark of the Ninja follows an unnamed ninja, who after waking from an extensive irezumi tattoo, realizes his clan is under attack and manages to save his sensei Azai, with the help of his ally, Ora. He learns that the tattoo he has acquired affords him heightened sensory abilities, but will ultimately drive him progressively deeper into madness. The Ninjas resolve to take their revenge against the organization responsible for the attack on their clan after the ninja vows to commit seppuku once the madness starts to take hold on him. As far as the ninja archetype goes, the developers hit the nail on the head. The main character’s name is never revealed, he never speaks, he keeps his face hidden, wears navy blue attire, uses his tools for things other than attacking enemies and he does his best to preserve his stealth, and not go kill-crazy. But as far as the main story goes, it’s also very engrossing, and has a good few twists and turns before the end.

 

Originality – 10/10

Especially in this day and age, it’s particularly difficult to create an original game in the 2D side-scrolling genre, since the formula has been long since perfect, and long since worked on by a multitude of big-name developers over the last 30 years. This game is perhaps one of the most unique side scrollers I’ve seen for many years now, since gameplay elements are taken from newer genres add a great deal to the 2D platforming formula, making it go leaps and bounds against many other games released in the genre today.

 

Happii

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Overall, Mark of the Ninja is an exceptional indie game, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who owns an Xbox 360. It could have been made to last longer, but I’m hoping that’s where a possible sequel may come in.

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)