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Risk of Rain 2: Bring an umbrella

Co-op was a hugely controversial feature less than a decade ago. It seemed every single game tried to emulate Halo and throw in co-op everywhere they could. I remember when games like Dead Space 3 added it in, much to everyone’s dismay. It completely killed the whole franchise due to the change from horror to Michael Bay-inspired action set-pieces. Fortunately, Co-op is making its way back into the world, especially since COVID hit. This means the thirst for high octane and endlessly replayable gameplay has come roaring back.

If your looking for a fun game with friends, I’d recommend this weeks game, one called Risk of Rain 2.

Pro: Gameplay Loop

The biggest driving factor for ROR2 is the gameplay loop. It has a strong emphasis on movement and momentum, as well as using the environment around you. Taking place in a third-person perspective you have a number of attacks and abilities, ranging from shields, to AOE attacks, to debuffs that you use to fight an ever-expanding roster of monsters. Overall it’s a very solid, if generic, primary loop (or second by second gameplay)

But where the game comes into its own light is in its secondary loop or minute by minute. As you run around, you’ll find chests that give you special items. These have a vast number of effects from blocking damage, to increasing firing speed, to causing enemies to explode once you kill them.

This is where the game steps into legendary status. This subtle, powerful progression incentivizes players to keep searching for every available item. Dont and you’ll get curbstomped by a boss in one hit.

By their own, the primary and secondary loop would be decent, if generic. Together, however, they give the game a ton of replayability. Its gotten to the point where everyone I know who owns the game has beaten it several times, takes a month off from it, then jumps back in.

Overall, this game has excellent replayability due to its fantastic gameplay and understanding of what makes a game rewarding

Con: Character customization

Ironic for a game which understands rewarding gameplay well, the biggest downside for me is how character customization is handled.

As you progress, you’ll unlock different heroes with different abilities which, obviously, play quite differently to each other. . The engineer for example can choose to either stationary turrets or moving turrets that can slow down enemies.

However, that’s where the game begins to stutter, because the different abilities tend to feel like different flavors of the same soda, like vanilla coke vs cherry coke. For example one character, Acrid has the choice between a poison spit and a “Blight” spit, which functions exactly the same as poison but is colored yellow instead of green.

In addition there tends to only be an extra ability if any for each ability slot, so the upgrades and different playstyles tend to wear a bit thin. There’s exactly one extra skin for each character and that’s the character customization.

This hamstrings each character’s potential replay, and railroads progression into one specific class with barely any wiggle room, so even if you like a character overall, except for their one primary attack, then you’re going to miss out on that one character due to the lack of any sort of variety.

Pro: Level Design.

When it comes to the level design of rogue-lite games, most games tend to screw it up due to the randomization element. Fortunately, ROR2’s randomization elements are only tied to placement items and teleportation altars.

Each level is designed to be actually fun to play in, rather than the cross-our-fingers-and-hope-its-not-completely-broken strategy. Ive seen overused Roguelike elements follow roguelikes around like the Black Death follows people with poor immune systems.

It’s not liked the levels are extremely complex either, the game follows the philosophy of vast open spaces, and small amounts of closed in areas. This is so that they can cram as many monsters and explosions on screen as physically possible.

While I appreciate intricate levels like Dark Souls, this more open and sparse design allows the gameplay to breathe easier. If a fight goes sideway you can always run rather than bravely make a Ruby Ridge-esque last stand. The only issue is that it’s a double-edged sword, and requires a lot of backtracking to get anywhere. The smaller roguelike elements don’t help much in the way of level design. It’s easy for the teleporter to not show up and spend twenty minutes looking for it. Half the time i just gave up and restarted the run. despite some petty annoyances, the replayability of the levels adds alot of depth, and i keep coming back time after time.

Overall:

Risk of Rain is an easy sell, offering tons of replayability and a strong co-op experience for a decent price. While it does have a few pitfalls in the way of character customization, it sucks you in for hours if not days.

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.

Salt and Sanctuary: Would you like Salt with your tears?

It’s good these days to be a Dark soul’s fan, what with the recent rerelease of Demon Soul’s, a game that was feared lost to the void of copyright law, and the ever so encouraging prospect of Bloodborne 2 being a possibility. It’s good that these types of difficult games are coming back into the limelight for those who crave a challenge.

However, there’s only so many From Software developers at one given time, so the dream of them pumping out souls’ game like McDonalds pumps out chicken McNuggets is sadly not part of our current reality.

That’s where indie games come in, with games like Salt and Sanctuary, a 2D platformer that has a solid core gaming loop, and a bit of a naming problem.

Also before I go further, I just wanted to explain that I’m trying to figure out a review style that works for me, so feel free to leave feedback to the Pro/ Con list idea.

Thanks!

Pro: Art style

One thing that grew on me over the course of the game was the bleak, grayish art style. While it is true that it isn’t conventionally beautiful, I do think it does a good job of setting the atmosphere. The game is set on an island in the middle of the ocean, so the art style looks very grayish, with a lot of the background areas covered in mist and fog. The overall look of the game is very bleak and muddy, and the character designs are… unique to say the least. The weapons and gear aren’t much to look at either, the but the color pallet overall does a good job of setting the atmosphere. While I’ll touch on the levels later, I will admit that the same look of castle after castle gets old quite quickly. Other than that though, I did enjoy the bleary, somewhat depressing atmosphere of the island

Con: Story

Ask any Dark Souls fan what makes a Souls game a Souls game and they’ll respond with three things: Difficulty, Atmosphere, and Story.

While the first two are in ample supply, the latter I find lacking in Sanctuary.

The main plot is that you’re trying to rescue a princess that was captured as it would mean the end of a long war if she were to be married, and your quest to rescue her. It starts off nice enough, a strong if generic, story hook. But it fails to develop from there for a number of reasons. The way a good story is told through these games is not through cutscenes and characters yammering on through them, but in the bits and pieces. In the first DS game, the story is started off with a. cutscene that explains the basics of the world, and from there it comes in through snippets of conversation, the level design, and through flavor text. Through item descriptions. That last one is the one I find lacking in a lot of games that attempt this type of style. Flavor text is vital because its A. adds depth to the world, B. allows the writer to stretch their creative wings and make reading descriptions of things cool, and C. give vital story information while not overwhelming the player. The reason we know I’d say about ¾ of the world of Lordran, Drangleic, or even Yharnam is through the flavor text on weapons, clothing, and items. It also allows the player to experience the story at their own pace, while not forcing them through a story they don’t want. Salt and Sanctuary lacks this, as they seem to offer a barebones item description, only telling the absolute essentials. For example, I played a beast hunter, because anyone who has read my Hellsign review(https://wordpress.com/post/shutyourcakeholegaming.com/112)  would know my love for monster hunting games. When I delved into the description for the cloak he was wearing, it simply read, “Cloak of a beast hunter.”

Nice worldbuilding there Salt and Sanctuary. The item description for literal garbage in Dark Souls 3 has more words than the description of a starting class’s armor in Sanctuary. While some do have a bit more than others, for the most part it’s pretty lackluster. I also found the starting items annoying because you couldn’t read the description of them, so you had no clue what they did until you were in the game.

 Sanctuary also attempts to give depth through these made-up Bible passage things in the skill tree which I stopped reading after the first few due to them being of little substance.

Overall disappointing but in the end, is made up for in other areas, such as the combat

Pro: Combat and Gameplay Loop

Overall, I’d say that Sanctuary is the best form of a 2D souls-like, even amongst others like Blasphemous and Hollow Knight. Despite the meandering story everything else tends to make up for it. The gameplay is no exception, as it apes the wide range of play styles of the soul’s games, and even adds a few new elements to the mix, however scant. It’s your standard fighting controls for the most part: light attack, heavy attack, roll, block etc. you can choose to two hand almost all weapons in the game, which is nice, but it also allows the use of charms for weapons, which give a variety of buffs from more damage, to a portable lantern, and other nice passive buffs. Other than that its basically souls combat in a 2D space. Which isn’t bad, in fact it is quite fun, although I will admit that the knockback/ immediate stunlock is frustrating, as are any enemies that stop the game to attack you with a long, drawn out attack animation, completely killing the pacing of an otherwise fun fight.

The gameplay loop of souls is here, which not a lot of other games do, and includes the mechanic of circling back to unlock a door that gives a quicker route to a boss from your sanctuary. Speaking of.

Con: Sanctuary mechanic/ Creeds

I wouldn’t stay that this is a hard negative, more like a wasted opportunity. Rather than bonfires you have Sanctuary’s which allow you to refill health potions, level up, and such. The difference is that you now have the ability to place vendors in the sanctuary. These range from merchants to blacksmiths, to guides that allow you to teleport to literally any unlocked sanctuary for no cost, which makes me wonder why not just cut out the middle man and let us teleport straight from the altar. There are also leaders to your specific faction, or Creed, that you can call that let you upgrade the merchants etc. etc. The problem is that once you put exactly one guide down, and all the merchants in one or two sanctuaries, it becomes more or less useless. Sad really, I feel if they expanded on that, like every merchant you put down you get a new piece of gear available from the store.

Creeds are also a massive pain; they tend to be worthless. They function as covenants but in this game also determine the types of equipment given to you. Top tip: if you play any melee build, get the iron ones, because they are the only ones geared towards it and all the others offer useless equipment. It could have been interesting, but the creed system tends to be fairly boring, only upgrading the shop once you grind for body parts, which is just the definition of fun aint it?

Rating:

Overall, this games pretty great, with a solid core loop, and a decent amount of replayability especially if you want to try out both a melee and a magic class down the line.

It’d give it a solid recommendation for those wanting some Darksouls/ Castlevania action.

Good Job: Another chair through the wall

In these trying times, I feel as if we need to inject some fun in our lives, whether it be through positive mediums like hiking, fishing, surfing, etc. or through less helpful mediums like binge-watching Gotham or challenging yourself to drink a 12 pack of Redbull at four in the morning. While there are good ways to have fun, Good Job defies all attempts to put it in a box. I and roommates simultaneously poked fun, grit our teeth at the tedious level design, padded out objectives, and terrible music. At the same time, we couldn’t put it down because we were keeled over laughing half the time.

You’re a CEO’s son, who has been hired at his dad’s company and has to work his way up the corporate ladder by doing four things from each floor and moving on to the next.

It’s a cartoonish game for sure, which doesn’t let the laws of physics, gravity, or common sense stop you from shooting office workers in chairs through a wall because you connected a power outlet to a plug and turned it into a ballista -Esque weapon.

There are two different paths through this game: single player, or multiplayer which are basically two other games with 2 different review scores.

Single-player is a game I straight up don’t recommend. The game’s puzzles aren’t bad, but they lack the energy needed to keep the player going. Levels tend to be huge and require constant backtracking to find components and switches. I would often fail to find a puzzle component and wander around and get it by chance, which kills the pacing of the game. The puzzles overall are very barebones, and I never got stuck on any one level due to them being so straightforward.

Multiplayer, on the other hand, is an entirely different experience. I convinced my roommates to give it a go with me, and that’s when I started to have a lot of fun. If your like me and crammed in an apartment with four other roommates, then this game is gold. The physics make it so there’s always fun to be had, whether using a gardening hose to fly over a flower bed or using a crane I nicknamed “The Hand of God” to pick up my roommate in a forklift as he’s trying to complete a puzzle and proclaiming that he’s been chosen for a “higher purpose” (sorry Jesse. The fact that there are two players helps negate the massive level design, and allows the tedious fetch quests to be slightly less dull.

Don’t get me wrong though, there are still a lot of issues, and the hilarious physics engine is a double-edged sword. The forklift levels alone were enough to make me want to shove a fork into an electrical socket. But overall, the physics made it fun, and me and my roommates took a break from all the stress from school and laughed as I flew around the stage on a gardening hose, or me and my roommate Jason tried to enforce a blockade of inflatable dolphins and beach balls in the lazy river to pull them out. The worst levels are the find the workers, which were tedious regardless of how many people were playing, as you have to wander around for upwards of 15 minutes. 

The level design is not helped by the camera positioning, as it tends to obscure essential buttons and switches. I would be remised if I forgot about the most painful aspect of the camera though: the split-screen view. When two characters walk away from each other, the camera is cut in half to allow each person a view of their character. Normal enough right?

Wrong. For some reason the angle and view of the screen tilts depending on the position of the players, to demonstrate where they are. So for example, If I was close to the left side of the map and my friend at the right, the line would be vertical, with my view on the left and his on the right, but then I move to the top, now the view spins wildly to angle the camera line at a diagonal slant. It’s a bit hard to put into words, but let’s just say its seizure inducing after a few minutes. I actually got motion sickness from how fast and blurry the camera got, which showcases just how important a good camera system is with these types of games.

Regardless, the game gains a considerable boost in enjoyment once a second player is added. I’d recommend this game to people who live with multiple people, as the game becomes a lot more entertaining when you have friends cracking jokes or offering advice. I would recommend it as a party game to play with friends, or with a girlfriend/ boyfriend if your both looking for a lighthearted, often funny fun. However, its worthless as a single player experience, and if you get motion sick easily, you might want to sit this one out.

198X: Small town and even Smaller story

I feel as if I have the opposite of a Midas touch, as in every story based game I’ve played recently has ended up disappointing me. I was really looking forward to 198x, with its fantastic trailer and beautiful 80’s styling. I hoped it might make for a compelling, emotional drama that many people, myself included, would have gotten a lot of value from. But you know what they say about assuming. I feel as if these sorts of games are becoming generic in a way, as was the case more than a half decade ago when cover based shooting was the Triple A standard with games like COD, the indie space was filled with children running around scary big worlds, and receiving critical and commercial praise from IGN. These games are nostalgia bait and this game is the pinnacle of it.

Story: Running in the 80’s

The game is set in the 1980’s where the protagonist, The Kid, is feeling bored, lonely, and depressed. He stumbles upon an arcade and quickly becomes obsessed with them.

So the story starts off great. Its nothing revolutionary but its a strong setting of “small town boy in a big arcade.”The music alone pulled my heartstrings and it did build up nicely to the second game. Everybody has felt lonely at one point in time and has used video games as a way of comfort, including me. This allows us to relate to The Kid. However, soon after I started to notice a potentially worrying message form. The Kid states that the games help him to become someone else for a short while, and that the worst part is going back to the real world. I’ve heard that last excuse before, in the form of drug addicts, alcoholics, and the like. The games soon become an escape from the real world, and this attitude is never talked about beyond a few brief sentences. The ending does nothing to confront this either, and walks a dangerous line that glorifies escapism.

Ironically enough, this loneliness the Kid feels can be mitigated quite easily: He’s in an arcade. Arcades have always been social affairs, kids yelling, screaming, and joking around while also playing video games together. Yet the Kid just wanders in, plays a game and goes home after a level it seems like. The only way you wouldn’t know what an arcade is like is if you’ve never stepped foot in one beyond watching Wreck It Ralph, which I suspected more and more as I played it.

That’s also the closest to story we get really. The cutscenes alone feel like they could be compiled into ten minutes total, and the dialogue is full of philosophical ramblings from the Kid, that seemed to have been ripped straight from Reddit’s r/showerthoughts. The main driving motivation is the kid being sad about his dad being gone, but that information is never given to us, he could be dead, missing, or was taken away by the Men in Black, we don’t know. The mom is given even less of a spotlight, beyond the Kid hating her for some reason. We never see either parents though, or any character except for one goth chick, and no one except the kid has dialogue.

 It also ends with a generic ending which, in true generic fashion, the Kid literally says “The game isn’t over yet.” To say I rolled my eyes hard enough to evoke a seizure is an understatement.

None of the games have any connection to the story, except for the ending portion of the car one, and the RPG, so theres this rough stop and start flow of storytelling, where patches of the game go with no story development whatsoever

The main problem with it all though is that it could have all worked perfectly if A. the arcade’s social environment came into play and added actual characters, and B. if the game weren’t so short. And I mean reallyyyy short, to the point that I could drink a full bottle of water and beat the game before having to go to the bathroom. I don’t get where people are saying that the game is paced slowly, it’s cutscenes waste too much time getting to the point sure, but the game goes through so many story beats so quickly that it was kind of blinding.

198X tries to pander to those who grew up in the 80’s and pump philosophical garbage into a series of generic arcade games. It’s boring story, and shortness deprives it of any depth. Now apparently it’s supposed to be episodic, but the short story  told here could have filled six or seven hour long episodes on their own. If they keep this frustrating pace up, then I don’t know how in the hell they plan on advancing the story further, with its minimal dialogue and lack of storytelling.

Gameplay: Painful and dated

So the gameplay aspect had the potential to be amazing, and tie into the story themes. Sadly the games lacked the depth, or storytelling to make them worthwhile. Theres five games and I feel the best way to go through them is one at a time.

1. The beat em up: It’s pretty good, out of all of them I’d say it might be my favorite gameplay wise, though its half the length of the others, the combat works, is punchy and fun, though it’s far too simplistic, I also liked how at the end the game kinda dissolved in on itself to show the Kid sitting on a ledge, and starts the story.

2. The Shoot em up: By far the hardest of the bunch, and also the most frustrating. The starship and enemy designs are pretty generic, but the sound and music are the best in the game. It gets annoying towards the end when you fly through the enemy mothership and the walls damage you, and you only get three hits before dying. It also tends to throw a lot of enemies at you In hordes, and the damaged animation on your ship obscures prjectiles due to it leaving behind these huge fire effects, causing you to simply not see the bullets hit you.

3. The Racing game: probably my second favorite out of the bunch. It’s a generic desert themed racing sim, but the cars actually handle pretty well, and that ending shot where your driving through the city is genuinely beautiful and awe inspiring. At that point I feel the devs nailed the feeling of beauty and wonder that these games could create. The biggest and only problem I have is that when you accidentally hit a car, the cars behind you can ram you and cause a chain of cars constantly knocking you down over and over again.

4. The Ninja game: I hate this one, easily my least favorite of the bunch. It plays like a crappy 2D Temple Run game.

  The design of the game is generic, lots of bamboo, wood, and yokai demon masks with little animation. That goes double for the main character, who doesn’t even have a sword swing animation, theres just a white graphic that appears to represent an attack. The level design relies on you being lucky in order for you to dodge instant death traps, or pick the single route not lined by spears that gives an instant KO. Its also the longest game I found, as one playthrough takes about 15 mins, though that might just be me.

5. The RPG: Who the hell makes an RPG arcade system? Seriously, whose gonna pump a quarter in, and then spend twenty minutes grinding slimes? Despite the weird choice of game, this one is probably my favorite. Not because of the awful gameplay, where you have three different attack options: a slash, beam, and hack function. Each enemy has a weakness to one , you spam It and only it and congrats kiddo you win.

I like it because there are some actual story points to it, which relates to the kids mom being angry and upset with the way her life is going, and the rpg breaks the fourth wall and tries to talk to you, telling you to go to bed, that she hates you, and she’s sorry, Which culminates in a final boss battle where she strips your abilities away one by one, while you physically cant do any damage to her. That part was great, but the actual gameplay borders on unbelievably worse than generic, as it is so bare bones and simplistic I’m shocked they even decided to include it.

If I had to describe a substitute for the story and gameplay of 198X it would be this: Go down to a mall and pick up two things: a cheap plug and play capcom game, and Catcher in the Rye. Go home and play each game on the plug and play, and in between each read one chapter of Catcher. I guarantee that you’ll get far more value, and have more fun as well.

Graphics/ sound: *insert Tron joke here

The best thing about this game is by far the visuals and the music. Now i’m not a passionate music fan, nor do I know much about it beyond the bare minimum. However, this soundtrack managed to hit me right in the feels the way the story and dialogue couldn’t. Its very soothing and mellow, and it gives the dialogue extra weight that it desperately needed. The designs of the character aren’t super detailed, but they do look clean and well made. The in game graphics and design vary, some look very pretty and stunning, like the car game and the shoot em up, while others are either bland looking, or extremely simplistic, like the ninja game and the RPG game respectively. The game isn’t afraid to use bold, vibrant colors, and the main color pallet of the game uses a lot of great looking blues. I feel the game is definitely pretty in its own way, its just a shame about the rest of the game

Conclusion:

I would never say that this game is lazy, or rushed, or unpolished. I would say that this pretty piece of art comes across as dull, and unsatisfying. A damn shame too, I feel that if the game was longer than a coffee break, it might amount to something fantastic and moving. However the short pace, repetitive gameplay, and miniscule story beats hurts the game.

Firewatch

I’ve been playing a lot of combat focused action games these past few weeks, and I’ve been craving something that really gets you in the feels, so I turned to a darkness, a deep force that no man can penetrate, the depths of which few have managed to come back from with their insanity intact: the backlog of my Steam library. It was then I saw Firewatch, and I was like ‘oh yeah that game happened.’ I vaguely recalled it being a very pretty forest game with funny dialogue but then I dropped it like a sack of anvils, though I couldn’t remember why exactly.

Then I played it, all the way through in one intense green and white tea fueled (yes I am on a cleanse thanks for asking) afternoon.

Soooooo…. I think I’m in the minority on this one. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy parts of it, but I am certain that outside of free roam, I will never pick this game up again. Which is sad, because I wanted to like it, but you’ll see why when I get to everything.

Story:

Before I continue I’m just going to be lazy and say straight up that I’m spoiling this so if you really want to give it a shot but want some feedback here it goes: Overall it’s fine with decent character moments, funny lines, but a crappy mystery element. It’s not worth $20 dollars since it’s about five hours long, but I’d say $10 to play it through and $15 if you want to just hike around it afterwards. There ya go.

You are Henry a bearded, Colorado bred, IPA drinking extraordinaire. You pick up a Firewatch job in order to escape from the crushing emotional reality of a dementia riddled wife, and soon find yourself having what amounts to walkie talkie sex with your supervisor Delilah, as a generic mystery audiobook plays faintly in the background.

Okay in fairness, it is better than I described above. If there’s one strong suite in the story department, it’s the character to character dialogue. Henry is dry and sarcastic, while Delilah is witty and clever, and the two VA’s have decent chemistry together. It is just entertaining to walk around and have Henry and Delilah joke about a pair of teenage girl panties left on a tree (purely for character development of course), or have Delilah tease him about..

You know what?        

As i’m writing this, I realized I can’t remember much of the dialogue, at least the comedy bits. I remember it was vaguely funny, but nothing actually stuck out to me.

What did stick out though, was the character-building stuff. Henry turned out to be more relatable than I realized, and as time went on he became my favorite character. His main drive is his guilt riddled decision to leave his wife in a 24 hour care for her early onset dementia. As someone who had a grandparent go through that, even as a kid I could tell just how stressful that is. If you’ve experienced that before then you’ll probably connect emotionally with him. We’ll get to Delilah later, but Henry is the definite high point.

So the story itself starts out decently strong, you go through a series of choice A or choice B story scenarios, very simplistic story beats that shape your relationship with your wife Julia. Then you meet Delilah, you two banter and then go to investigate teenage girls shooting off fireworks in the middle of fire season.

Then things begin to derail..

Firewatch introduces a mystery element to it, or should I say several mysteries pretending to all be linked, in the span of roughly ten seconds apart from each other, then confusedly tries to work through them one at a time. I should add this game not long, about five hours, and it introduces these elements an hour and a half in. So it ends up feeling like you’ve done an 8 ball of cocaine and put on several Scooby Doo movies on several different TVs and tried to analyze it all while occasionally getting REI travel brochures thrown at your head.

It’s just exhausting and tiring to even think about, and I keep feeling like missed huge pieces of plot because I was just trying to analyze what the hell was going on. Because it’s so confusing I’m just going to list out all the mysteries in one fell swoop, starting at the most important and working my way down.

1. Someone’s stalking you and Delilah, as they break into your tower and take down notes on what you and her are talking about through the walkie talkies, mentioning such things as relationship status and personal fears, and you, Henry, get knocked unconscious at one point when you find a strange walkie talkie on the ground.

2. There’s the mystery of Ned and Brian Goodwin, a father and son respectively, who were stationed at Henry’s station but disappeared one day and were never seen since.

3. There’s a weird government camp with surveillance equipment by them, and you don’t know what they’re doing exactly.

4. The two teenage girls I mentioned earlier are reported missing after cutting your phone line (long story) and you find their tent literally torn up, as if a bear went through it. Later Delilah falsifies a report on them leading to possible legal trouble for you both.

5. There are two guys, Ron and Dave. Dave is gay, and wants Ron inside him. That’s it.

So as you can imagine, throwing all this in a third of the way through your remarkably short indie game gets a tad bit messy. What’s worse is that there’s only one mystery that the game doesn’t jettison like deadweight on a sinking ship and attempts to find a resolution to: the Ron and Dave plotline.

Oh wait i’m sorry I meant the Ned and Brian Goodwin plotline. Which is strange because I had wayyy more investment in the two teenage girls plotline, as you had conflict with them, yelled at each other, then you stumbled upon their destroyed campsite, and took pictures of the damage etc. So that had emotional stakes to it, whereas the Ned and Brian plotline had barely any, other than Delilah knew them for a few months. The Goodwin storyline is tied up, with Ned taping a cassette to a climbing rope, and him expressing his grief over his son’s death, which is so incredibly obvious, and generic that I can’t believe they actually did it.

The girls plotline is an absolute joke, and literally ends with Delilah saying “oh yeah they found them drunkenly stealing a tractor,” and never mention it again, the whole point of the false report is never brought to any sort of light. It was an absolute waste of crucial time in an extremely short game,

The surveillance camp is just not worth talking about, it’s some sort of wildlife study that, again, takes up valuable screen time.

So here’s my biggest issue with the story, and I’m in the minority again: I hate Delilah, as a person anyways. She comes across as a cowardly, despicable human being, who has no remorse for those around her. She abandons her boyfriend after his brother died, because she didn’t want to deal with the feelings, and abandons Henry after he discovers a child’s body because she felt guilty over it, when he probably wanted to talk out the trauma with a friend.  A despicable horrible person right down to her core. She also proved herself to be a pathological liar who may or may not have been collaborating with Ned the whole time, though I don’t have time to get into that here. If you’re interested in the Ned and Delilah conspiracy here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-kJek00O0Y&ab_channel=PushingUpRoses

Firewatch’s decent (at first) characters are waylaid by poor story planning, pacing, and mystery elements that cripple the story in an inoperable way.

Gameplay:

 It’s a walking sim, right down to its core. There are elements that give it more teeth than other walking sims though. You can pick up and examine objects, which can add flavor text on stuff like books and shampoo bottles, giving depth to the world. You can also grab equipment like a flashlight, axes , and rope that allows you to explore more areas than before. Overall pretty decent for a walking sim, though I wish there was more to it. It’s a shame we never got any actual “firewatch” stuff like using the Osborne Fire Finder introduced in the game. One thing that is really good is the orienteering aspect, where you use a map and compass to organically navigate the park, which is pretty fun in its own right. It is very satisfying to figure out a path on your own rather than just take the easy way to an objective. Other than that there’s not much to it, as it is still a walking sim.

Graphics/ Audio:

The game looks gorgeous, with a lot of high contrasting colors, and dense, well planned level design. The game looks good but never sacrifices design for not screwing the player around, as everything is clearly laid out and a pleasure to walk around. It goes from forests, to canyons and ravines, to caves pretty well, and it got to the point I was able to figure out where I needed to go without pulling up a map, which is a hallmark of good design, especially in open world games. As the game has a free roam mode after you beat the main story, I would recommend this game highly to those seeking a mindfulness meditation exercise, as it’s perfect for that. The only real issue I have with it is the look of the water, which is ugly and makes the water areas look murky and kinda gross. A personal gripe I have is the weak flashlight, which is a personal pet peeve of mine but not really an issue.

 The audio is nice, and isn’t overbearing with its music, instead relying on ambient sounds and such.  It has a great art direction, and an 80’s style to it that never got old. Sadly, that doesn’t make up for the story, and failed characters.

Conclusion:

It pains me to say that Firewatch is a letdown, from the tepid mystery element, to the unlikable/ underdeveloped supporting cast leads it to me never wanting to play it again except maybe for the free roam mode.