Nintendo Direct Coming Tomorrow

Nintendo have announced that we will be getting a Nintendo Direct soon, how soon you ask? Well, tomorrow at 11:00pm (UK Time) to be precise.

Nintendo Direct’s have long been hailed as a platform for big hype, big announcements and of course, rumours. Now, I personally don’t give much thought to rumours and try to stay away from them as much as I can as not to spoil what goodies await.

I do however heavily invest in what people would like or love to see, what their crazy dream predictions are etc. If we get anything from Monolith Soft, consider me happy.

What we do know is that the Direct will focus heavily on Nintendo Switch titles coming out this year, including Pokemon Sword & Shield and Luigi’s Mansion 3.

Check back tomorrow to see what announcements were made.

Published by Rhys Baldwin.

Advertisements

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order Review

Ultimate Alliance is somehow a series I have never played before now, which is strange considering my affinity for all things Marvel. When Marvel Ultimate Alliance the 3rd was announced at The Game Awards last year, I rejoiced and revelled at the thought of being able to jump in the series finally and beat the not so holy hell out of the biggest baddies I have watched and read about for so long. What I was especially excited about is the subtitle, The Black Order. Now for the more casual Marvel fan, a.k.a me, what I know of this order is all that’s been shown in the MCU, before the films I knew nothing Jon Snow. I love the idea of The Black Order and the chance to explore that some more, count me in.

Now the story follows that age-old tale, of an alien dreaming of a peaceful universe as he sets off on an adventure with his childhood friends to compile a handful of pebbles that he can use to slaughter billions of entities. At least that’s what it would be if you played as the bad guys, playing as the superheroes however, the goal is to put an end to the efforts of Thanos and The Black Order. Thanos is a titan who seeks out six of the most powerful items in the universe, the Infinity Stones, named because of their seemingly unlimited power, both on their own and when combined. The end goal is to bring obscene destruction to the universe. He uses an elite team to help bring his plans to fruition, featuring five vicious beings known as the Children of Thanos.

Switch_MarvelUltimateAlliance3_01

This is where the heroes step in, an all-star cast of some of the most known and even obscure characters of the Marvel universe. Iron-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, Thor, Star-Lord all the way to Elsa Bloodstone, Ms. Marvel and the Inhumans. You start off with a group of four as you set off to recover the stones before Thanos can get his hands on them, recruiting many faces along the way to the Alliance with the hopes to stop the Mad Titan. I absolutely love this story through and through, the Ultimate example if you will of good versus evil and on as grand a scale as any.

Throughout each chapter the sheer joy when meeting each new face never subsided meaning I was more or less on a high for the entire thing. This leads to many meaningful moments where a recognisable face jumps in to get in on the action and aid in the fight to survive. Not only did I revel at the characters encountered, but the locations too, being sent to some of the most iconic settings, from Wakanda to Asgard and from Knowhere to what quite literally feels like nowhere. All characters feel authentic to the source material, from not only their looks but voices and actions too. It’s pure fanservice, in a good way, straight to the veins.

What makes a great beat ‘em up is gameplay that is tight, responsive and most importantly addicting. Fortunately, all three boxes are checked here however I still feel something is a little lacking. Aiming seems to be at the core of my troubles, there’s a slight delay between aiming and hitting the action button and the attack following through which allows for the enemy to move and attack you whilst it feels like it shouldn’t, not like it’s a natural dodge and hit. This is only noticeable when using abilities or chaining moves, so by all means not game-breaking, just a little nagging issue and in no way ruins the fun.

Switch_MarvelUltimateAlliance3_02

Now onto the good, combat is satisfying with each hero playing differently, having their own way of attacking, different abilities and extreme moves that all reek of the character you are playing. Such variety does wonders in stopping boredom kicking in, because if you want to freshen things up, then just swap out members of your team and go at it. To further the fight against repetitiveness there are a few systems in place that allow upgrades for your hero that can do anything from increasing specific types of damage, to increasing stats like vitality and durability.

Alliance enhancement is a system that isn’t so much complex, but it is incredibly deep, with so many options to choose from. The greatest benefit is that any enhancements are applied to the entire team not just the one, making it a worthwhile investment of effort and time. ISO-8’s can be equipped to each character for further improvements and if that wasn’t enough you can upgrade the ISO-8’s to increase the percentages that they boost your stats. Combine all these different features and become a powerhouse on the field, simple yet effective.

The story is linear with the flow of events feeling natural and straight-forward, there are opportunities to sort of travel off the beaten track. Rifts can be found in every mission and offers the chance to jump into challenges to earn rewards, those come in the form of XP cubes, currency, and when enough stars are built up you can unlock new costumes for a selection of your superheroes. It’s just nice sometimes to break up the action by challenging yourself against a slew of objectives.

Switch_MarvelUltimateAlliance3_06

Rather than go for a more realistic aesthetic, the developers have stuck to the roots of Marvel and created a look that is inspired by where the source material originates from and comes across like a fluid, moving comic. The quality is limited by the hardware of the platform and displays these limitations mostly in the form of rough jagged lines. In many areas where the camera zooms out, everything looks worse and is a shame because up close it looks so good, which is strange as you would usually expect the opposite. I want to be up close and personal in the fights but instead controlling from afar is a little atmosphere reducing.

By far the best thing from a visual standpoint is those smooth, sweet character designs that get the blood flowing, being able to watch as I control my favourite Marvel hero’s wreak havoc is joy inducing.

Voice acting is one of the highlights for me with each performance nailing what I believe to be authentic to the character voices. The soundtrack itself is enough to get you pumped and march onward just blasting or hitting enemies out of the way but combined with the voices and sound effects I felt like what I was doing was just pure epic. Being able to lose myself in a battle because of the combination of sounds flooding my ears is addicting, which in turn pushed me to continue the fight so I could listen to more of that tantalizing sound design.

Switch_MarvelUltimateAlliance3_17

There’s replayability which I feel will vary from person to person how much you get from it. If it’s for you then you can take the extra challenge by going through the campaign again at a higher difficulty which is unlocked after first completion, maybe you just want to try the missions with different teams and loadouts or keep grinding the rifts to get the best rating. Certainly, there is content there to have at, but its depth will kind of depend on how you take it.

OVERALL: 7.9/10 – GOOD

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is a much-welcomed addition to the Nintendo Switch exclusive library and one that I feel was much needed in bolstering the beat ‘em genre on the platform. Team Ninja have once again proven why they are experts in the field of fast-paced action gameplay. It feels like a comic book come to life with both visuals and sound design that ooze that Marvel charm. It’s nostalgic, fantastical and above all enjoyable. I was happy with my time spent, however don’t feel the need to jump in again at any point soon without fresh missions to play.

Written by Rhys Baldwin.

Opening Night Live Featured Death Stranding, Call of Duty & More

The first ever Opening Night Live has come and passed and serves as a reminder that yes, we want more E3 style showcases throughout the year to keep us satisfied.

Geoff Keighley puts a lot of effort into the video game industry which is proven by the very successful The Game Awards which has been the end of year gaming celebrations for the past several years now. Opening Night Live is a chance for him to try and bring more announcements and games together under one place to celebrate what’s to come more than what’s already passed.

Check out the show in the video above to see what featured in the very first ONL, games such as Death Stranding, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Destiny 2, Borderlands 3, Predator Hunting Grounds, Need For Speed: Heat and many more.

Published by Rhys Baldwin.

Stadia Gets Watch Dogs Legion, Cyberpunk 2077 & More

To kick off the Gamescom festivities this year we had a few showcases and video presentations to get those taste buds excited. Nintendo kicked things off with their Indie World showcase, followed by a lengthy episode of Inside Xbox. Afterwards, Google took to the spotlight with another Stadia Connect aiming to give players a look into more games heading to the streaming platform.

Some of the games that will be available for Stadia in the future include heavy hitters like Cyberpunk 2077, Watch Dogs Legion, Borderlands 3 and Mortal Kombat 11.

Orcs Must Die 3 was announced as a Stadia Exclusive title which joins the likes of Gylt from Tequila Works as part of the platform exclusive library. Check out the video above for more details on what to expect from the new entry into the gaming platform space.

Published by Rhys Baldwin.

Ori, Superhot & More Head To Nintendo Switch

Earlier today we were treated to the Indie World Showcase from Nintendo, a glimpse into many indie titles making their way to Nintendo Switch over the coming year.

Just two of the many games heading to the console are the indie hit Superhot and the previously exclusive to Xbox platforms, Ori and the Blind Forest Definitive Edition. Both are sure to find new life on the Switch and with that said, you can check out the Indie World Showcase below.

More titles include the likes of Risk of Rain 2, Freedom Finger, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened, Torchlight 2, Creature in the Well and Hotline Miami Collection, just to name a few.

The Switch library just keeps getting stronger, with an impressive exclusive offering and vast Indie support it just keeps getting better to be a Nintendo player.

Published by Rhys Baldwin.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses Review

Fire Emblem is a series that dates back all the way to 1990 on Famicom, with Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, bit of a mouthful for a game title I know. It’s important to recognise where it all started especially when the first in the series has been credited with popularising the tactical RPG genre, something that I’m oh so happy about. Now, nearly an impressive 30 years later, the latest instalment has released on Nintendo Switch, Three Houses. Will my first venture into the main series be one to remember or prove to be a fruitless experience?

Play as a mercenary turned professor, drastic career change I know, named Byleth or whatever name you wish to choose as you set out to make a difference in the lives of the many students who attend the Officer’s Academy at Garreg Mach Monastery. These students come from many walks of life and hail from different regions of Fodlan, the continent in which the game is set.

Fodlan is comprised of three core regions, The Kingdom of Faerghus, The Adrestian Empire and The Leicester Alliance. Between all three regions, sits Garreg Mach Monastery, inhabited by not only the students who attend but the Church of Seiros led by the archbishop Lady Rhea. Each region is represented in the academy as a house, think Harry Potter. The Blue Lions led by Prince Dimitri who is next in line to lead Faerghus. Then there are the Black Eagles with Edelgard at the helm, she is princess and future emperor of the Empire, see the trend so far? Finally, the Golden Deers representing the Leicester Alliance sees Claude as their leader, who is heir to House Riegan, the leading house of the Alliance, how convenient.

Fódlanmap

These three regions, houses and characters are at the very center of the story, the glue if you will that bring everything else together, some characters will be more prominent depending on the paths you take. The first key choice is which of the three houses will you be responsible for and teach, there are no wrong choices, unless you don’t choose Black Eagles, of course I’m joking.

When you make the option, I don’t think there’s perhaps enough emphasis on just how important the decision is, because you will be playing three very different stories or at least perspectives based on this choice made in the first few hours. Each path is accompanied by underlying themes which do wonders to promote replayability and draw you in to try multiple playthroughs. No matter the path however you will encounter the same high-quality storytelling and doesn’t leave you short-changed or penalised at all from a plot and story perspective, because of which road you decided to travel down.

What will differ however are the core group of characters you will interact with on a routine basis. The three houses of the officer’s academy all have a roster of eight students that are varied in name, look, personality, interests, backstories, classes and more. I truly feel it’s the characters that make this such an interesting, rewarding experience, whether it’s the promiscuous Dorothea, the ever-hungry Raphael or the introverted, anxiety-riddled Bernadetta. I thoroughly enjoyed every interaction be it the short and sweet one-line responses, the multiple sentence conversations or the exchanges featuring dialogue choices, they all add something to the world and character building.

2019072217351600-0DC6ECE91CF3F6F02BAFC002E3FFBAAD

Fortunately, if you draw a liking to some of the students from the other houses you do have the opportunity to recruit them, through one of two ways. Support conversations, or having a high enough skill level in the skills whichever student is interested in. So fear not, you won’t miss out on your first playthrough as long as you put in the work.

Taking it back a step to the story, it meets close to the middle when it comes to delivering out of left-field twists and easy to predict moments. What stands as a testament to the story development however is that even those predictable scenes and events have a weight to them and still managed to draw out the emotions from within me, deep I know. In all seriousness though I was brought to both absolute laughter and solemn tears, with much thanks to the endearing cast.

At the heart of Fire Emblem lies the tactical, grid-based level design and turn-based combat. This is what the series is truly known for, as well as fantasy settings and anime of course. I’ve never really clicked with tactical RPG’s in the past, the only outliers being South Park: The Fractured But Whole and now Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The latter of which, does a great job in making you aware of the very real threat of perma-death, if a character dies, that’s it, they are gone unless you play through the casual difficulty. This feature or curse some may see it as, ensures you think about every move with meticulous care because of not only the risk but the huge investment for the characters.

fire-emblem-three-houses-gameplay-screenshot

With all the stakes, navigating the field is the ultimate game of chess, knowing which units to move, where to move them and when to do so is king. Deciding to take the opportunity to obliterate an enemy could also spell doom if you leave your character in the open without a defence, got to think smart or go home. The freedom I find is the hook, because you are basically the master of your own destiny. One feature that downplays the threat of perma-in-the-ground is Divine Pulse that allows you to rewind time however many steps you see fit to a moment in time most opportune for you to have a bit of a do-over. What it does so well is cater to those looking for a more relaxed experience whilst also offering a harsh time to those who seek it.

Characters can be equipped with a weapon, supporting equipment that can increase stats, classes, abilities and battalions. For the classic difficulty setting it really is important to make use of all these components to succeed. What’s impressive is how many combinations there are to experiment with when you consider every variable. Being able to watch the action from afar but also having the ability to zoom in close to see not only the unit but their surrounding battalion at the same time is a much-appreciated feature, letting me choose how I want to play whenever I want.

With all the different factors, I always look forward to the next battle and find them exhilarating which is not a word usually used to describe the gameplay of a tactical RPG. The amount of choice available mixed with the risk, twists and plot progression entices me to do as many missions as possible. Which is a great segway to mention that the main story missions are not the only ones to jump into.

dims

Paralogue Missions are more character focused, narrative driven encounters that serve to progress a character’s arc whilst coinciding with the main story and offers more lofty rewards. Quest missions are extra’s you can pick up whilst in the monastery and then embark upon to earn some renown and basic weapons. What is renown you ask? Well, it’s basically XP that can be used to purchase perks from four statues, cool right? There is a surprising amount of systems that go in to building your team and enhancing them to be the best they can be, it’s satisfying to explore and really dig in to everything on offer.

Whilst at the monastery there are many ways in which to spend your time (activity points), go fishing, have a cup of tea with someone, practice some singing, train your skills through faculty training, gather students for a meal and cook with someone. There’s no shortage of options and puts the control in you to decide how you want to go about your days. You can only walk the Hogwarts-esque environment on a Sunday in-game, but not all Sundays will allow it dependent on if it’s the end of month etc.

The calendar serves to provide chapters in an easy to navigate way, one month, is one chapter and at the end of each month you have a main mission to embark upon to finish the current chapter. Before that final day you do everything you can to train your units, recruit others and really ready yourself for the upcoming fight. The beginning of each week is a lecture that you use, to have one to one’s with your pupils and train them up on different skills at your discretion, you can also get two of them to take part in a group task to better their bond with another and increase the relevant skill.

fire_emblem_three_houses_fishing_screenshot

Professor level is important as the higher grade you are, the more activity points you can spend on each free day. Meaning you can do a lot more and improve yourself or your units at a more accelerated rate.

Visual fidelity has never been the Switch’s forte and with the right art style and design, it doesn’t have to be. Three Houses is gorgeous from the standpoint that the world looks so damn beautiful I just want to jump into the screen and live out my days at Garreg Mach. A bright colour palette matched with a level design that just oozes fantasy and wonder. Whether running around in-game, on the battlefield or watching the incredible anime inspired cutscenes I would consistently just marvel at the screen, smiling because of everything I was witnessing.

The students all have their unique looks that make them stand out from the crowd and coincide with their personalities and behaviours. My favourite design being Petra from the Black Eagles, foreign royalty which she displays prominently with her slightly altered regular attire, purple hair worn in a high ponytail featuring minor plaits and a simple yet elegant tattoo under her right eye, straight fire.

Petra

That brings me to the soundtrack, oh hell yes, the music featured is just so anime and hype and I love it so god damn much. Just everything about it eggs me on to keep moving forward and lose myself in the adventure, be it in battle or chilling with my home boys at the academy. If it isn’t the soundtrack it’s the excellent voice acting performances and if not that, it’s the subtle sound effects that just build the atmosphere and immersion.

Upon game completion it doesn’t have to end there, because of the numerous routes you can go down throughout, you’ll have a lot more to see that you wouldn’t have been able to on the first run. New game+ is available for those who want faster progression on their 2nd, 3rd etc playthrough, being able to purchase upgrades with renown that allows you to run through the rest of the game at a quicker pace.

OVERALL: 10/10 – PHENOMENAL

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a perfect example of complex storytelling, filled with content that can be witnessed through multiple playthroughs. Memorable characters are plentiful, leaving me with an affinity for each one that goes beyond just remembering a name or design, but knowing their likes, dislikes and how to turn them, to my house. It looks good and sounds oh so amazing that it was such a genuine pleasure to play, let alone complete. Not to mention it re-ignited my love for gaming which in turn persuaded me to begin writing reviews once more. My first mainline Fire Emblem journey was a success and I cannot wait to see what’s next.

Written by Rhys Baldwin.

 

Need For Speed Heat Revealed

The newest instalment in the Need For Speed series was revealed earlier today with a trailer giving a glimpse into the setting, backstory and gorgeous visuals.

“Hustle by day and risk it all at night in Need for Speed™ Heat, a thrilling race experience that pits you against a city’s rogue police force as you battle your way into street racing’s elite.”

Need For Speed Heat will release on November 8th worldwide but for those with Origin Access Premier/Play First Trial, you can get your hands on the wheel November 5th. Heading to Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

Published by Rhys Baldwin.