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Amnesia: The Dark Descent: Unmatched Horror

Amnesia’s title is eye rolling-ly generic if youve spent more than a few minutes in the horror games category. The “I have Amnesia” trope has been worn thin through constant abuse through the years.

“No,” they say, “lets just delete the memory and fill it in later so we don’t have to write compelling stories.”

So that sort of title, combined with its listing under Lovecraftian horror, doesn’t sound promising. That goes double if you’ve only played the terrible Amnesia: Rebirth and been turned off from the franchise.

But, this game is one of, if not the most important, horror game in the general market today. It’s up there with SIlent Hill 2, FNAF, and (far, far, FAR) above the Slenderman games. With Halloween fast approaching, Amnesia is a must have game for any horror fans library.

The game starts off with the main character, Daniel, waking up in a castleto discover he has amnesia. A note left behind reveals that Daniel willingly wiped his memory, and then tells the now mindwiped Daniel that he needs to kill the Baron of the castle

Now, while thats the extent of your role in Amnesia, the backstory that you find through notes, is fantastic. While the trope of scavenging for pieces of paper with words on them has been worn thin, Amnesia does it in a way that makes it feel rewarding. In contrast to the meandering notes of other horror games, Amnesia’s are well written, short, and clearly state important information. This allows each note to give you a quick, useful piece of background info, that you can look at and instantly understand it’s significance.

Scavenging in general is fantastic, as each item, be it tinder boxes, oil, or first aid supplies feels rewarding to find. You never know when you may be trapped in a basement and need a bit more light. So scavenging feels as if you’re preparing for a challenge, rather than loading your inventory with a bunch of crap. I might have enough oil to fuel a battleship and i’ll still get a burst of dopamine when i check a closet and find that bottle of oil. Which is good, because light plays such an important factor in the gameplay.

Light levels and the Sanity meter is the closest Amnesia has to unique gameplay mechanics. For starters, the main character has a deep seated fear of the dark, to the point he goes insane after several seconds. To remedy this you have several options, either a. use a tinderbox to permanently light stationary candles, fireplaces, and lamps, or b. use a portable lantern that runs on limited oil However, they also provide a tradeoff, as the monsters in the game can find you instantly if they see you out in the open. This is also where sanity kicks into overdrive, and what i think is Amnesia’s strongest element. You can’t look at the monster’s for long as your sanity will drop, and with no combat all you can do is run. . This keeps the look and feel of the monster fresh, and tense, allowing the game to use the same enemies without getting exhausted. This, along with excellent ambient sounds and artstyle, keeps the game scary from start to finish.

The artstyle has truly stood the test of time, despite the game being a decade old at this point. The castle is ominous, darkly lit, and resembles a twisted maze. overflowing with massive rooms of barrels, libraries, and steampunk technology, along with various tools of witchcraft like spell books, and runes. There’s also certain ambient noises that really get under your skin in a good way. The footsteps alone make you feel trapped as they echo down the hall. If I’m being honest, tis games atmosphere is a better Call of Cthulhu than Lovecraft’s original works

Overall if i had to pick one strength of Amnesia, it would be how effectively simple it is. While it does nothing revolutionary, the surgical precision of these basic elements allow Amnesia to stand the test of time.

Dying Light: Parkour and Dropkick in the Apocalypse

My God, zombie games have become new and interesting again. It’s easy to forget in 2021 how oversaturated the zombie game genre was. It filled every type of genre, from tense emotional stories like the Last of Us, to abominations like Road to Fiddler’s Green.

Now that we’re in the age of battle royale/ sandbox games though, zombie’s are making a comeback, in part due to the fact that now the trend chasing (Or trend parkouring) is over we can get back to zombie games made with an actual fucking point in mind, rather than big companies chasing the green.

With the new Dying Light 2 releasing in 2021 i thought it would be nice to lookback on one zombie game from this time that people actually seem to like.

Pro: Fluid Parkour, and Desperate Combat

This game is all about movement, which is something one usually doesnt find in the zombie genre. The parkour elements to this game add alot of depth, as your ability to move is your best weapon in this game. For the most part Techland did a good job with the movement. It feels solid, with good sound design and character animation, and is overall really smooth. Despite the fast movement there is little, if any framerate drop, which is good as that problem would have torpedoed the game.

It still has physics problems where the protagonist doesn’t seem to remember how his arms work as you fall to your death, cursing the devs all the way . But for the most part it feels solid, fluid and satisfying. Every piece of equipment feels “Parkoury” , and everything is built around your movement, such as throwing stars to stop a zombie quietly from a distance.

The combat itself is, for the most part, pretty good. The undead are pretty lively in this game. They dodge melee swings, try to trap you into tight corners, and can climb any building. Melee combat is a slog for the first hour, but once you start getting some decent gear, it becomes quite satisfying to whack your way through a group of biters.

Once you get a firearm, the game’s difficulty drops like a barbell into the ocean. You can pretty much kill anything in the game in a few hits, which causes the late game to becoming a bit tired and repetitive.

Going from struggling to take down three at a time to mowing through an army ends up going dull real fast. Regardless, the gameplay’s focus on movement and snap decision making create a tense survival game in a way that makes Mirror’s Edge look like a game about a child running through a dreary office complex

Con: Terrible Characters/ Story

I have to get this out of the way first: Who in their right goddamn mind thought that Rais would be anything above a waste of time and effort.

The characters in this game are god awful. It is so filled with zombie movie cliches that when a cutscene plays i roll my eyes and skip it half the time.

Rais is the absolute worst character. As the main bad guy he promotes a feeling of evil and badassery, which is fair considering he’s a murderous warlord. But he is so evil, he becomes unrealistic. From shooting his own men, to controlling life saving supply drops that the government just gives away anyways, he just defies common sense. His soldiers should just cut his throat and elect someone who doesn’t have an absolutely massive God Complex. His design is generic, think bald guy with a black mustache and you’ll probably be able to fill in the rest on your own.

It has other problems with genericism, to the point it sounds like they are going off a checklist

The good doctor working a cure out of a trailer? Check.

Hot badass lady that the hero needs to rescue? Check

Young child who has a bizarre amount of technical knowledge? Check

Main villain screaming the main characters name in rage? double check

the themes that “Men are the real monsters”

The only characters i found myself relating to was the main character, Kyle Crane and the leader of the resistance, a man called Brecken. Kyle surprised me at first, due to the fact that unlike other zombie FPS characters, he actually has a personality. He’s snarky, witty, and doesnt fail to tell his secret agency to shove it up their asses. Brecken, on the other hand, falls on the opposite end of the specture. He isn’t a military leader, in fact he traveled to the city as a parkour instructor, and it shows. Every scene he’s in shows him as this broken down, terrified man, who might snap and hurl himself out of the window at any moment.

Conclusion

Dying light is a flawed game, but one that is still very worthwhile. If you’ve been craving a parkour game and a zombie game at the same time then this is a perfect buy for you. If you wanted a more narrative focused game similar to Last Of US, then skip it and play something else, because Left 4 Dead 2 has a better story than this confusing narrative

Brigador: Mechs Galore

Intro:

Ever since i got into gaming, there have been a few genre’s in gaming that always get me excited everytime i hear of a new one. Mech games are almost always one of them. Given my love for the excellent Battle-tech, as well as my favorite anime being Neon Genesis Evangelion, its easy to see why i love the genre.

While i love mech games, the genre has it’s problems. the majority of the games tend to fall into very specific categories, mostly first person shooters. Admittedly it does make sense. One of the coolest things mech games allow is the ability to immerse yourself into the cockpit of a mech, filled with all manner of gadgets and gizmos gives it a unique aesthetic edge that most games cant match. However, if your in the mood for mechs, but don’t want to deal with another fps game, then you might find your options severely limited.

However, There exists an outlier: Brigador, a top down isometric shooter that seemed as if it would never rise beyond the title of cult classic. While it fortunately is getting more attention thanks to reviewers such as Mandalore Gaming, Brigador still deserves far more of the spotlight.

Pro: Strategic Gameplay

Brigador’s gameplay focuses heavily on both movement, positioning, and precise aiming. The mechs stomp along slowly, and stopping is basically giving the A.I a free pass to swarm you and take potshots at you as you panic, fiddle with the controls and wheel around trying to defend yourself. This is a game that requires you to plan ahead, both in the loudout screen and in-game. The most important skill you can develop is knowing when to cut and run and when to dig your heels in and give em the ole Japanese curbstomp.

The main goal of the game is to destroy certain objectives, such as planetary defense guns, communication stations, and ammo depots. Destroy all of them in a mission and you get a cash bonus. Overall, pretty simple stuff. However, this requires you to destroy every single one in each level, called districts. which varies from just two to an exhausting ten. Adding onto the difficulty: if you die, you lose 90% of your money and have to start over. So planning i essential.

You have a wide variety of tools at your disposal, with weapons ranging from standard machine guns, to mustard gas launchers, to “gatling mortars” which can take out an entire city block in one blast provided you run for your life and pray the splash damage doesnt kill you as well. In addition there are special abilities, with a staggering four pieces of equipment: emp, camouflage, smoke bomb, and an audio pulse that acts as a short range backup weapon. Add to that the different weapon mounts to mechs, as well as the mech’s stats , and you’ve got a game where youll spend quite a bit of time wondering wether to go with the safer 12 mm machine gun, or throw caution to the wind and weld on a giant death ray that runs out of ammo in about four seconds.

Even more important than weapons knowledge thought is you ability to gamble. when you consider the risk and rewards type of gameplay Brigador supports: If you die you lose any and all money you had gained. So knowing when to go after communications so that reinforcements cant be called in, or hunt down an enemy commander can mean the difference between a win or a loss. In addition, the ability to use your equipment properly to set up traps can be immensely satisfying. But the moment to moment gameplay, where you dodge and weave between enemy fire, and try to fend off an approaching hoard of space hillbillies, is where the game shines the most.

Every part of the game relies on strategic planning, and resource management which is hard enough to pull off in slower paced strategy games without wanting to headbutt the monitor. This balance, alongside excellent animation, and artstyle allows it to stand out amongst both mech games, and twin stick shooters as a genre, and blends the best of both games together.

Con: Samey, Repetitive Mech designs

The game itself looks stunning, specifically in it’s art style, and wide range of beautiful colors and sounds. It’s cyberpunk aesthetic and dramatic use of lighting give it an almost vaporwave feel to it. If not for the mech rampaging it would look like a piece of art on a Lofi Beats To Study/ Chill With livestream. However, one of the biggest problems I have with the game revolves around it’s mech designs. and how they tend to lack distinction, both from a visual and gameplay perspective.

For starters, the mechs tend to blend together on the selection screen, as they are shown exclusively in a dark red, making it difficult to tell apart. Even if the devs patched in a feature that added different shaders to them, there would still be an issue with how they look on screen. About 75-80% of the mechs are either some variation of cylinders, squares, boxes, and scrawny legs. Mixed with the above stated red, and i honestly couldnt tell you which mech was my favorite, as i just selected whichever mech gave me the stats i was looking for. Even worse, the unique looking mechs are often relegated to one faction: The Corvid, which are guerilla fighters who quite literally dug through a graveyard to find old cars to tape together before sending them off to the front lines.

Put a gun to my head and ask me what was the name, weapon hardpoints, and basic stats of the last mech I played as and I wouldn’t be able to answer, which is a real shame. There could have been plenty of interesting mech designs, like a tripod shaped one that carried long range artillery, scouts who could run in a straight line fast but have difficulty turning, etc. Fortunately, the devs have realized this and are adding new abilities for some mechs, such as giving them automatically firing weapon hardpoints separate from you main loadout (Yay!) or a straight up damage reduction (Boo!). But for now, the individual mechs are relegated to little more than their stats and random clicking, rather than being interesting and memorable in their own right.

Pro: Weapon Designs

While the mechs may be a bit more on the generic side, the weapons are the complete opposite, in which the majority all stand out. Each mech supports two weapon hardpoints, with each weapon placed in a subcategory of turret, small, main, heavy, and auxillary. Strong audio and animation gives them a weighty feel, and seeing enemies explode on screen from a well placed howitzer blast will never get old.

In addition, the differing hardpoints allows you to be creative and take risks in order to potentially give you an edge. Will you play it safe, putting on a simple heavy cannon/ machine gun combo, or will you strap on two mortars and active camo and pray the enemies never come within eyesight of you? The choice is yours if you want to be practical or and it gives a satisfying rush when your running around with a mech with the speed of a cheetah on cocaine and testosterone supplements and sprotection of a cardboard box wrapped in duct tape and bubble wrap wielding an enormous chemical launcher (which i took to calling my “Mobile War Crime Platform)”

Mixed: Bad Campaign, Good Backstory

When i checked out the campaign tag I was expecting a decent enough story, nothing on the scale of mass effect obviously. But with a game as good looking, polished, and fluid as Brigador is, the campaign ends up being a shallow, wasteful endeavor, as your given a set loadout and tasked with completing a shortened version of the freelance missions. Worse yet, there’s no narrative, other than some decent flavor text in the beginning, but lacking any emotional weight, rendering everything pointless

Now thats my thoughts on the campaign, but the story is completely different. In the main menu there is a separate tab titled “Lore” In which you can buy story beats, faction backstory, vehicle descriptions etc. I remember being quite impressed with the amount of lore that just went into the civillian’s yellow raincoat that they wear in an emergency. It’s not just a dry telling of events either, it’s laced throughout with black comedy and a wicked sense of humor that makes you actually want to keep reading. Of course a few bits of lore is generic and samey, and some descriptions come off as super short and dry (Hopefully for comedic purposes)

Truly the lore runs deep in this game

In my opinion Brigador has Destiny syndrome. The story had the potential to be great, but somewhere along the game development conveyor belt they forgot to put it into the actual game, panicked, and just bolted the story into it’s own, barely marketed lore section.

Conclusion

SCP Strategy: A Hopeful Investment

I don’t think that I have to explain what the SCP foundation is to anyone with even a passing interest in horror. To sum it up, the SCP Foundation is an online site roleplaying as a secret organization called the SCP Foundation, which stands for their motto: Secure Contain Protect. It’s based around made up documents that describe a monster, why it’s contained, what the containment procedures are. Usually it adds things like the history of said monster, and field reports from special units dispatched to deal with them. It’s a fantastic site that I’ve clocked in at least a few hundred hours. When it comes to the games however, there isn’t much, aside from a few basic first person horror games. So imagine my surprise when i browsed Steam a few days ago and discovered a game title SCP Strategy, on sale for the low cost of five dollars. It was an easy sell, and i snatched it up on the spot.

Before I get into the basics i should clarify that this sort of game is not a full, finished product. Rather, think of it more as an investment. It is extremely limited and simplistic. However, it is in Early Access and the devs seem to be responding to the community with great enthusiasm, so i feel comfortable recommending the game as is.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, lets dig into what the game has in store. The game is a realtime strategy, with minor base building where you send special forces to a country to investigate anomalies. You then perform a search, have the scientists research it, and get money to do it all over again. Theres no combat, building containment facilities, or even areal goal other than to mindlessly get more and more resources. It’s quite repetitive and mundane in all honesty. However, it does a great job at the little it presents. The menus are smooth, the graphics themselves look decent, and it’s very obviously made with care yet a lack of current funds.

Overall, If your the type of person to want to risk a bit of money and buy a game to see as it grows and develops, then I’d recommend checking it out.

Far Cry 5: A Worrying Downhill Cartwheel

Oh Boy Another Ubisoft Game!

I’ll admit i like FarCry. It doesn’t break any records, but it does enough well that it’s a series i can enjoy while relaxing or listening to podcasts and stuff. Of course it also has alot of strengths such as beautiful art direction, engaging villains, and multifaceted gameplay. But I’ve been noticing a worrying trend in the series that has begun to develop. Full disclosure, i’ve played all the games, and beaten FarCry 3, 4, and 5 twice each. 5 is easily the worst of the bunch, which pains me to admit honestly. Far Cry had bad games in the past like the terrible Far Cry Primal and Far Cry New Dawn. But when it comes to main games they’ve always been great. Far Cry 5 is the exception to this, as it doesn’t not hold up nearly as well as its other titles. 5 is the equivalent to a perfectly good plane driven by terrible pilots who pass around a bottle of vodka mid flight and forgot to put the landing gear down.

Pro: Gameplay Styles

Far Cry’s biggest strengths have always been its flexible approaches to different gameplay possibilities, and thats certainly true here as well. The game allows for equal opportunity of playstyles such as close range combat, long distance marksmanship, stealth, and melee kills. Its pretty standard fare really, go to outposts/ bases, kill everyone inside, rinse and repeat. You’ve played this before, i’ve played this before, so what does this game do to try and be interesting?

Well, there are a few wrinkles to the fold this time. You get an assortment of new vehicles to play with, from a giant semi truck with guns bolted on, to vintage ww2 fighter planes that you can shoot rockets from and drop bombs. These provide a fun alternate way to play, although i rarely found enemy pilots while flying so it was hard to dogfight. The biggest gameplay change is that of the new ally system, where you can call up specialist NPC’s to give you support during a firefight. While i’m not usually a fan of these types of systems, it works well here because it feels less like an essential ingredient to the game, and more of a type of seasoning, that can change the game based on the way you want to play, ranging from long range snipers, to an attack plane with a gatling gun on it. Overall, when it comes to raw gunplay and combat, the systems in the game work well, and never bogs itself down with any unnecessary gimmicks or pointless gameplay elements.

Cons: Removal of Unique mechanics

While the above points recieve alot of praise from me, Far Cry 5 consistently takes two steps forward, one step back. NPC allies and customizable vehicles are welcome, but seem to come at the removal of iconic features. For example, the famous first aid system, where you could heal a portion of health at anytime by pressing a button and having to sit through a few second long healing animation, or buy a syringe that would allow you to do it in half a seconds is gone. It has been replaced by a traditional healing system: use a first aid kit or sit on your ass and wait for it to regenerate. The regeneration is painfully long, to the point it kills the pacing of a potentially fun firefight, . This makes each fight longer than a few minutes seem agonizingly slow up until the last parts of the game.

The hunting system, where you could craft holsters, ammo pouches and other gear?: Axed, now everything is relegated to a boring, watered down skill tree that takes forever to find points for, with the animal skins used solely to grind for money.

While an outsider may point to this as a non issue, I would disagree. These mechanics are what made Far Cry so successful. It gave you the feeling of scrounging whatever you could to fight an overwhelming dictatorship. When you gutted the black bears and rhinos in 4 it felt as if you were trying to claw your way into a powerful guerilla fight. Without it, it’s honestly just a pretty generic open world game. There is one feature i am glad they removed , as it was pretty much infesting every open world game for the past half decade: the radio towers. No more climbing samey boring structures to reveal small pin pricks of a map over and over again. That alone is worth a game of the year award right there.

Mixed: Strong Characters, but Weak Protaganist

The characters in Far Cry have always been close to legendary, particularly the villians. It started out with the Jackal in Far Cry 2, then moved onto the iconic Vaas and Pagan Minn, from Far Cry 3 and 4 respectively.

5 is no exception as the main character, The Father, is an intimidating villian. Head of the cult that infests Hope County, Project of Edens Gate, he demonstrates his insane fervor through killing and kidnapping anyone who gets in his way.He creeps me out in the same way Kenneth Copeland does, though i’d much rather join Eden’s Gate.

However, the rest of the cast is strong as well which, for a game with easily more than a dozen characters, really says alot about the writing. None are really unique besides the Father, but there are strong character motivations in even the more minor characters. My favorite ended up being Nick Rye who, despite being scared shitless by The Father, ends up staying behind to fight the cult. Its moments like these that make the characters stand out and become relatable.

There is an exception to this rule though: The Deputy. Your own character has no voice, no internal thoughts, no character at all. It stands to be a remarkably stupid decision, as having characters talk at you, rather than with you stonewalls the dialogue unless other characters are involved, which is rare. Every time it’s just the deputy vs some character, the dialogue gets increasingly repetitive. Overall, strong relatable characters minus a terrible lead. Shame about the artstyle though.

Con: Lazy, Generic Artstyle and Look

I felt the smallest amount of effort went into the art style of the game, as its very clear they’re just copying and pasting used assets over and over again. The graphics themselves are nice, with lots of contrasting colors, but it never feels as if they’re not stealing stuff from Far Cry 4. The most obvious are in the NPC’s themselves, with lifeless, emotionless expressions, as theye flap their gums at you for several minutes anytime you want to talk to them. They all have the same fashion sense too, which is odd. Every NPC civilian dresses up in mesh trucker hats, wifebeaters, flannels, and of course cowboy boots, With American flags slapped on to everything, of course. For those of you outside of America, thats not what people here look like. Thats what pompous British tabloid writers think Americans look like. It’s even worse for the enemies. I guess the cult loved Jesus so much they decided to all look exactly like Him, with every male in the game having long flowing dark hair, beards, and dressed in pure white clothing, which would be totally perfect from tramping through grass and hiding in forests. This serves to make them stick out like sore thumbs and probably costing the cult a small fortune in Tide pods. Style choices like these make alot of the game seem cheesy and ridiculous. While past far Cry games had added bits of humor to it, this game uses it to such an extent that you don’t take anything seriously.

Conclusion

If you have a bit of time to kill and it’s on sale, I’d say give er a go. But if your’e expecting it to stand up to 3, You’ll be severely disappointed. Still, it does have its moments of fun, and hopefully 6 takes influence from it and develops into a proper Far Cry sequel. Fortunately, it passed the lowest hurdle, and is better than Far Cry Primal. Hopefully Ubisoft doesn’t pull a.. well.. Ubisoft and screw the series up any further.

StarDew Valley: Chill Yeehaw Sim 2016

Longing for a simpler time..

Have you ever looked at the comforts of the modern world and said, “Fuck it, let’s move to Georgia and start a radish farm! I’ll be broke as shit, but at least I’m outside!”
No. No, you haven’t, at least not with a healthy mind. Nobody wants to do 90% of the work required to become a farmer, just to be outdoors.
If you still crave the outdoors or at least want to get away from modern life, then i have the game for you.
Stardew Valley is a revisioning of one of those old farming sims from the early 2000s, most notably the game Harvest Moon, just with much better graphics, a relaxed and chill atmosphere, and more depth.

Pro: Gameplay


You play as a random, depressed office worker who inherits a farm in Stardew Valley from his dead grandpa. Your task is to clear roots, plant crops, and raise livestock. The gameplay is a slow burner, with you having to wait a certain number of in-game days for plants to grow. It’s hard to pull off, making plant growing fun, but it does it in a few ways. First, it focuses you on long-term planning and logistics, which becomes a mind game in it itself, as you only have so much land to sacrifice. Second, the game is extremely chill, from it, color pallet to its relaxing music. Third, there seem to be a billion little side activities that completely stray from the farming aspect of the game. There’s fishing, in which it’s possible to pick up an anchovy and a Lovecraftian water god from the same pier.
This can get insanely addicting to the point I abandoned my farm for a week straight without realizing it. You can mine for materials in caves and fight monsters with swords and slingshots; it’s quite overwhelming.

Overall, the strength of Stardew Valley is its ability to lull the player into a trance, making hours seem like minutes as you float from one task to the next. It’s certaintly not perfect though

Con: Characters


If there was one aspect of Stardew Valley i hated I would probably point to the superficial character and relationship elements.

You are given several bachelors and bachelorettes to seduce, which often leads to stilted, awkward conversations where they regurgitate how their day is going before meandering off.

You can seduce them faster by giving them gifts, making yourself a simp, as they become interested in you when you give them copious amounts of berries and diamonds. It did make me laugh when I would run up to a potential suitor, hand them a jar of honey, and disappear into the forests like a horny Lorax.

But other than that the characters arent very intriguing beyond which guy/ gal is the #1 hottie of Pelican Town, as they all fall into bland stereotypes that i barely feel the need to explain. From goths to jocks to nerdy engineers, it hits all the stereotypes with one blast from the Literary shotgun, leaving every character feel like a character from a late 2000’s Disney Channel Original movie.

Pro: Chill Quality

I’ve always said that always said that the gaming industry needs more games focused on relaxing and healing. I mean video games are recreation right? It stands to reason that there is a market for games that help someone turn off for at least a few minutes. So if your stressed about finals, and want a chill down game, i’d recommend picking this up as a t. The game seeks to be a soft, melancholic experience, from the sound design of trees breaking and falling, to the way the ocean crashes on the shore. Its beautiful and relaxing in every sense of the word.

Summary:

Overall, Stardew Valley is a proven great time, perfect for relaxing or just wanting to play something while listening to a podcast or two.

Game Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/413150/Stardew_Valley/

Age of Empires 3: Strategy for the

If there’s one fanbase I’m scared to talk about, it’d be the Age of Empires fans, specifically Age of Empires II. A game notorious for the skill required to master it, plus having an active fanbase to this day despite it being older than I am, leads to some colorful characters when reviewers have anything negative to say about it. But with the release of Age of Empires 4, I thought I’d take a stab (no pun intended) at the series. However, this is on AOE III, which is the black sheep of the series, due to a number of issues with it. If you’ve never played AOE 2, and you like history/ strategy games overall, buy it, it gets a gold star from me. 3 is a bit more subjective, and tends to be more hit-and-miss for some people.

Pros:

Age of Empires, for the unaware, is a strategy game based around building an empire from filthy mud huts all the way up to Medieval times. It’s based around resource management, combat, and logistics, basic strategy game stuff.

This is the norm for Age of Empire games, but AOE III decided to change it a bit, going more for the time of colonization and early America and such. Think muskets and Native Americans rather than knights in shining armor. While a lot of the gameplay remained the same, there were a few changes and tweaks to the formula. The most noticeable one was the implementation of a card system. How it works is you pick a deck of cards before the match begins, be it an amount of food, new builders, soldiers.

Then as the game plays out, a timer counts down and when it runs out, you can take one of those cards and the resource will be delivered to you. This gives you the ability to form a limited strategy before the game even begins, which was never an option in AOE 1 and 2.

  A decent idea in theory, though it ends up breaking the game a lot of the time, specifically the cards that give you free cannons and artillery wayyy too early. But I enjoy it for what it is, and it’s a trend I wish other RTS games would embrace because it gives it a sense of.. wait for it… Strategy!

In terms of other ideas there’s also a stage coach system. This acts as a passive source of income provided you hold the station, which drops off resources of your choosing as it travels down a path. It adds a sense of strategy to it, adding another objective to keep an eye on, lest an enemy try and take it from you. I also liked te addition of an explorer, a special unti you get that travesl the map scouting for enemies and building trade posts everywhere. I wish there were more upgrades for him, as he tends to be completely useless during the end game but overall it’s a great idea.

Now those sound like great fun and all, but what are the downsides?

Cons

Well, the A.I seems to suffer a lack of basic survival instinct, as the enemies can be literally burning down your farms less than 20 ft away and they just stand around, swapping Yugo cards, or whatever the 1700’s equivalent is. This means you have to keep babying your soldiers and making sure they wont just stand idly by while the enemy ransacks your base.  

Conclusion

Overall though, I still feel it’s a fun game regardless, and definitely doesn’t deserve the bad rap it gets. If you’re a fan of AOE 2, and never gave III the chance it deserves, I’d recommend picking up the original, which is $14.99 on Steam.

Game Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/933110/Age_of_Empires_III_Definitive_Edition/

Lost In Vivo: All Aboard the Horror Express

Silent Hill is, sadly, a long-dead corpse, beaten to death by Konami executives with the ripped-off metal levers of a pachinko machine. The once king of the horror genre fell off its crown, and we as a horror community have since tried to put a new king on that throne. Lost in Vito tries it, and at times succeeds with flying colors, while at other times stumbles a bit on the long climb up to the horror throne.

Pro: Aesthetics and Atmosphere

Lost in Vivo is a game about fear, obviously, and states so in its name. The term Lost in Vito refers to Vivo exposure therapy, which basically means subjecting yourself to a phobia and gradually working up from mild exposure to it to extreme exposure. You play as a person suffering from claustrophobia who has to rescue his guide dog from a sewer after he falls it. This leads to (you guessed it) a terrifying journey through a tense, well-built atmosphere that has a meaningful message on mental health and personal trauma as a whole.

My favorite aspect of Lost in Vivo is the look and feel of the game, which stays consistently excellent the whole way through. The game looks old, not in an ooh- Skyrim-graphics-didn’t-age -well way, but in a purposefully chunky way. The game has a low poly look to it. A lot of the finer details look muddy and unrecognizable, even before low lighting is slapped on. A lot of the monsters/demons/ walking metaphors of the game retain their fear factor, as you can’t really see them, and as such, the fear of the unknown sticks around longer than most games. I’ve long held the opinion that the better graphics games get, such as Resident Evil 7, the less terrifying they end up being, because everything is so clear, it leaves nothing to the imagination. And that’s before they made the main monster a hot mommy dom vampire (which is a sentence I never thought I would ever say about Resident Evil).

It’s not just the monsters either. The in-game areas reek with suspense and dread, as the long-abandoned train stations, sewers, and tight, compact service corridors give off a claustrophobic, compact vibe. Without spoiling too much, the train stations look and feel alive with a sickly greenish, yellow sheen over the walls, floors, and light sources. The sound design contributes well, though it tends to be a bit more generic compared to the other standouts in the game, though I like the footstep sounds, which is an often ignored factor in horror games. Overall, a solid environment with good production value that sadly kneecaps itself a bit with the gameplay.

Cons: Overpowered Gameplay

When horror games include combat, it usually aims to make the player feel as powerless as possible. Be its finicky controls, such as the tank controls in the Silent Hill series, or purposefully giving your player weapons that struggle to kill enemies consistently, like Alien: Isolation. Lost in Vito doesn’t do either. At the start of the game, you have only a flashlight, which is where I felt the game was at its most terrifying, as you had no way to fight back against the spooky sounds in the distance. Soon though, you get a sledgehammer, which is used to break barricades down and fight off enemies. While it’s not particularly powerful, it’s enough to beat any standard enemies to death in a few hits. In some games, the developers could crank the difficulty in a number of ways. Whether if there were multiple enemies or had some stamina mechanic where you needed to wait for it to recharge. In this game, however, there are no such mechanics. You’re free to swing at the monsters as fast as you can click the mouse button. In fact, the easiest way to break the game is to hit a monster once with the sledgehammer before backing up and finishing him off with the pistol. This will leave you plenty of ammo for the rest of the game. The guns themselves are alright. I liked how they included a .22 pistol, as it sounds weak and ineffective, making it feel as if you can barely scratch the monsters. But this is neutered by the fact that the game showers you with ammo for it, and even if you run out, you just whack it with the sledgehammer some more. You get a shotgun, which claims to be an anti-riot gun filled with salt instead of buckshot, but it still kills the enemies, so I don’t even see why they would bother with it. The weapons aren’t too exciting; with the previously mentioned sledgehammer, pistol, and shotgun, the only other weapon is a kitchen knife. There are a bunch of weapons that are unlocked after you beat the game, and part of me wished that you could find them in the game itself. Without them, the game loses a lot of flavor to its gameplay.

Overall, Lost in Vivo remains a decent time. If anyone is looking for a game with a seriously dark atmosphere, then I would recommend it. But for those searching for the new coming of Christ, AKA Silent Hill 2, I’d wager you’d be a bit disappointed. I did really like the game; it’s definitely a weird game that I was never bored playing, minus a few grindy enemy encounters. A good game for a comparatively moderate price.

Official Steam Page Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/963710/Lost_in_Vivo/

Official Itch. io Page Link: https://akuma-kira.itch.io/lost-in-vivo

Official G2A Page Link: https://www.g2a.com/en-us/lost-in-vivo-steam-key-global-i10000175807001

Project Warlock: Wizards and Weaponry

Last year there was a sale on Steam, and being a poor college student working a dishwashing job, I decided to reward myself with a few new games. One of them was Maximum Action, a cheesy, FPS that pays homage to old action movies, and Project Warlock, a game which I played for about ten minutes, got frustrated at the first level and logged off, debating whether to return it.

My god, I’m glad I didn’t. Project Warlock has quickly become one of, if not the best retro 90’s shooters vie ever played. Its usage of the old school, chunky graphics, combined with fantastic sound and lighting effects, gives it a feel completely unique even among games like Dusk, Amid Evil, and Doom Eternal.

Pro: Graphics and Atmosphere

One of my favorite parts about this game is the retro graphics and designs. The voxel-based art style gives it a unique feel. The pixels appear in different sizes and shapes and do a good job of helping the sharp, jagged character designs stick out from the background, even far away you can clearly see them.

There’s also the different movie/gaming themes running through each level, you start off with ruined castles, before progressing into an arctic station, reminiscent of The Thing, (The good one, not the Hays Law riddled 50’s one.) after that there’s an Egyptian level, with things like the Mummy, Serious Sam, and Stargate influences. My personal favorite, is the terminator themed level, with massive drones and robots wandering around a ruined city. The design influences also lend to the weapons you’ll use. The pistol you acquire can be switched with a flare gun, similar to Caleb’s flare gun in Blood, the red laser rifle in the Terminator levels can be switched to Terminator 1’s fast firing purple laser cannon, and I hardly need to say anything about the double-barreled shotgun. The only slight criticism I have is towards the way that sometimes doors can’t be distinguished between the ones requiring a key, vs unlocked ones. Besides that, the game is a true graphical marvel, and wears its gaming influences proudly on its Terminator-Esque leather jacket.

Con: Level Design

While the look of the game is fantastic, the level design can be downright frustrating for a number of reasons. For starters, you have a minimap, but you can’t fully open it. You just have it in that tiny windowed mode, which leads to confusion and wandering. Second, the levels sometimes become too complicated and messy. This is due to the levels looping around themselves in a big sprawling maze, similar to games of old. Great in theory, but suffers the same issues as Doom. The navigation problems causing you to backtrack, looking everywhere for one tiny door or second corridor you never saw and completely killing the pace of the game as you wander around aimlessly for twenty minutes.

Project Warlock also relies heavily on switch activation, often making you find up to eight of these tiny white buttons to open exactly one door.

The key system is well implemented and gives you a “HELL YEAH” feeling when you finally find it, and go to open up the rest of the level.

Though the game has a fetish for putting a key in the middle of a room, and spawning half a dozen monsters in a very tiny space.

One upside though: the levels are short, as in I beat levels in about three to five minutes.

it’s easy to say, ‘just one more level before class,’ for the third time, not realizing it’s nearly eight at night, and your class was at three P.M.

Pro: Guns/ upgrade system overall

The gunplay in this is phenomenal and can easily suck you in for hours on end. You don’t need me to tell you that, I wouldn’t recommend it if it wasn’t. its fluid, fast, and oh so satisfying.

What really drives it home though are the guns themselves. Project Warlock attempts to take the Quake storytelling/ character building, by which I mean a paragraph of text after you’ve shot the required number of monsters for the day. There’s no story, no character you can get attached to, not even a main villain. So the next best thing we have are the guns, and boy do they have personality. As mentioned before the weapons take cues from classic video games and movies (I.E flare gun Double barreled shotgun etc.). But what gives the game more variety are the numerous upgrade paths for each weapon. For example, the standard pump shotgun can be upgraded to shoot either solid slugs, or turn it into a semi-automatic shotgun. Every weapon has this in game, and the different types are too many to list in this one review. Some of the guns do suck though due to their overall ineffectiveness or weak sound.

The sound design especially is very hit or miss, some weapons have fantastic sounds, while others literally sound like a nerf gun firing.

For weapon upgrades hers my top tip: don’t use flame-based weapons the damage falloff just isn’t worth it. Nine times out of ten, it would have just been faster to fire an extra bullet and kill the enemy that way. I was surprised though, to find out the melee weapon was actually pretty good. A rarity in fps’ these days

Speaking of stats, Warlock has a full-on leveling system. It’s pretty simple, but still fun, as you pump xp into ammo capacity, health, mana, and melee strength. Additionally, every five levels you get a perk , ranging from faster running to more ammo, to the exceptionally broken “bonus random stat point per level” .

Overall, the guns are a thrill to use, with some ironing out in a potential sequel it could be even better.

Con: Magic

The term Warlock, implies magic use, so it’s no surprise that Project Warlock has a magic system to it. Though a Warlock tends to get their powers from eldritch gods in exchange for soul contracts , the main character (who I will be calling Jimmy) is a special snowflake.

Jimmy doesn’t have God, Jimmy has capitalism.

  Its pretty simple, you have a mana pool, and governs what spells to use.

The problem with it arises when you learn that the upgrade points used to unlock the different weapon upgrades are the same as the points used to unlock spells.

There’s not too many upgrade points overall, so you have to choose either spells or guns, which means guns mostly. They are useful, I found, just not exciting, and I’d rather just have a better gun. If the spells had their own separate points it’d be worth it. The two I found useful were the magic lantern spell, and the bomber man spell, aka throw grenade.

Bit of a wasted opportunity but again, can easily be ironed out in the sequel.

Mixed Opinions: Difficulty

One of the biggest complaints I have with the game is difficulty, by which I mean the game tends to be too easy at times. I feel the biggest challenge is the dev not knowing how to ramp the difficulty up besides hordes of monsters. One annoying thing I found was when a monster would hide right behind an unopened door, and smack you for a free hit . The levels get hard sometimes, but that’s due to massive amounts being on screen at a time.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, one of my favorite levels was the command center on the future apocalypse episode. That’s when I really felt the power fantasy of decimating all the enemies in your wake. it’s not bad per se, but at the same time it tended to make levels a bit boring, especially if I did even a little grinding.

Tips:

  1. If you want to replay levels/ bosses to level up you have to do it from the main menu, select Single Stage, and whatever xp/ points you gain from that goes into your main game
  2. Get the Student perk ASAP, which gives you a random extra stat each time you level up
  3. Grenades are a bit wonky, and they might bounce back on you if thrown in a narrow corridor due to their large hitbox
  4. Nailgun bullets can damage you when they bounce back.

Overall:

Project Warlock is a fantastic time, with a unique graphical styling, and an array of fun weapons. The game needs more love, and I can’t wait for the developer, Buckshot Software to release some more quality games.