Battlefield V Review

Battlefield can often be referred to as the rival of Call of Duty, or at least that’s how many gamers see it, you’re either a Call of Duty player, or a Battlefield player etc. I love both series dearly and oppose the idea that they are in direct competition, in the shooter space sure, but they are both a different kind of shooter compared to the other. Large scale warfare is what the BF series excels in, can the same be said for Battlefield V?

Much like in the previous game, the single-player content is split up into War Stories, smaller mini campaigns designed to give a look into different fronts and perspectives of what it was like in World War II for those in active duty. I loved this take on a campaign in BF1 so welcomed the idea of the developers doing this again. My expectations were set high and I believe this time around they missed the mark a little, primarily in quantity rather than the quality.

Under No Flag (UNF) is based in North Africa in 1942, immediately your thrown into the role of Billy Bridger, a prison inmate turned soldier who looks to redeem himself and prove his worth to others. A relatable character for many and someone I found myself empathising with. The missions are straight forward and place you on wide-open maps with objectives such as blowing things up more than anything. An issue I faced was that the second mission relied heavily on stealth gameplay, don’t get me wrong I love that normally, but Battlefield for me has always been about loud, chaotic action. Fortunately, going in stealth isn’t mandatory, however that being said, going in guns blazing is a tougher fight, all the enemies rush to you, reinforcements get called and you need to keep aware of your surroundings to survive. The final act in this story is very much a worthwhile and earned climactic finish that pits you in a survival effort to take on wave after wave of enemy forces in an epic encounter.

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Nordlys is the story that was a part of the main marketing push, we had brief looks into this several months prior to launch and is set in 1943 Norway. By this time the country has been occupied for three long years, and it’s time to kick the Germans out. Instantly this feels miles apart from the previous campaign, playing as a young Norwegian resistance fighter who seeks to save her mother and liberate her country. Absolutely love it, the fact that already I’m seeing a contrast in Nordlys and UNF in terms of setting, characters and the mission itself. Much like UNF however, there is a heavy reliance on being quiet, sneaking through and silently killing enemies, this time around though it feels like it fits, I enjoyed playing that way in this scenario.

Tirailleur takes place in 1944 where infantry fight in Provence, France. This completes the trifecta in yet again delivering a new environment, varied characters and a new ideal behind why you are fighting onwards. This time you are a soldier taking part in Operation Dragoon, the goal of liberation is still there but Deme, the character you play seeks for him and his allies to be remembered as Kings for succeeding in a mission where no-one else can. Fighting alongside troops and a close friend makes each conflict feel different to the ones you face in UNF and Nordlys.

I adore the variety in the single-player content, the one thing branching all three stories kind of puts a bad taste in my mouth, stealth enters all three and it doesn’t fit, it absolutely works in Nordlys but feels rather forced in the other two. That aside, I enjoyed my time fighting in the desert, going from there to the snowy mountains and from there to the woodlands, it’s refreshing to witness each setting change and puts the point across that in WWII, the war was quite literally everywhere, a scary profound point. Three characters each come from different backgrounds, a white male prison inmate, a female resistance fighter and a black infantry soldier also show that from 1939-1945, everyone was affected no matter who you were.

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It is common knowledge that perhaps everyone gets Battlefield for the multiplayer, each year it is the most important part of the game to get right. It needs to offer something for everyone and provide enough reason to keep playing beyond just killing people and telling them you fornicated with their mother.

There are six game modes to play with eight maps to jump into, the content is there, now it’s just about execution. Breakthrough is straight up attackers looking to push the opposition back by capturing each point in a sector and then onto the next one. Frontlines takes the Breakthrough style and turns it into a two-way street, like a tug of war with both teams trying to push forward point by point. It also has a smaller player count with 32 compared to Breakthrough’s 64.

Conquest is all out war between two teams with the same goals of holding as many objectives on the map and running down the other sides life count. Domination is basically Conquest on a smaller scale, the same exact rules but with half the number of players. Team Deathmatch is as basic as it gets, just get those kills in a 16v16 environment.

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Finally, Grand Operations (GO) is the pinnacle of the game mode offering, a massive conflict that spans multiple days, maps and even other modes with the outcome of each day affecting the next. By far one of my favourite modes to play in any game. It switches things up and keeps you on your feet. No matter how many times I played the same GO it was different each time in terms of what transpired, due to differing team strategies that can drastically alter the field.

It is unfortunate that the other remaining modes are mostly clones of each other with slight revisions. There isn’t much change going from one to the other and someone who likes to switch it up constantly, may be hard to find themselves pleased.

I am happy to say that the maps are varied, all eight are completely distinct from each other. Being able to fight anywhere, on barren wastelands, in farming fields, upon snow covered mountain tops and in once great cities reduced to rubble, is satisfying. No matter the map, I found myself falling in love with the level design, art design and attention to detail, they feel authentic.

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Visually it is one of the most stunning games I’ve seen, and DICE have done a fantastic job in putting the Frostbite engine to work, which aesthetically always raises the bar. Everything from design to execution impresses, lighting to weather to ‘leveolution’ it all comes together to produce something that can near enough deceive your eyes. The characters are unique, coming with their own recognisable characteristics and appear lifelike at a glance.

The soundtrack is gorgeous and emotive, combining with the visuals it truly makes for an immersive experience. Going from sad subtle tones to loud booming battle pieces it really takes you on a journey. Alongside that you have the sound effects that bring war to life on the screen, rushing around the field has literally never felt so daunting before in a video game. You hear every bullet, explosion and impact it’s quite unsettling at times, just goes to show the power of audio.

Progression is important, without it there is no reason to continue playing, in this case, it’s a little convoluted but a lot of fun and allows for plenty of experimentation. Your loadouts can be different for each side which allows you to not only choose your assault, medic, support and recon class but for both forces, be it Allied or Axis. The same with vehicles, these can be adjusted with specialisations to suit your playstyle. Going further in you can change your combat role, weapon sights, skins, appearance and much more, I felt a sense of ownership of my character, like it was really mine.

OVERALL: 8/10 – GREAT

Battlefield V takes the same formula it always has, massive warfare and done little to change it up along the way. Not there’s anything wrong with no straying from a successful path but more innovation is needed to distance itself from previous titles to not be considered a re-skinned iteration in the series. There isn’t enough in terms of story but what is there drew me in hook, line and sinker. Grand Operations is a brilliant achievement in technical design that breathes fresh air into the multiplayer suite. Progression is complex but it incentives you with customisable weapons, vehicles and characters to keep fighting.

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Battlefield V, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

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Fallout 76 Review

Fallout is one of the most anticipated and beloved franchises over the past decade and serves as one of the major staples in Bethesda’s offerings to us, the gamer. It comes as no surprise still however that the announcement of Fallout 76 was met with mixed responses, an always online, multiplayer game strays from the typical experience we have usually received. Personally, this is the kind of game I yearned for, a massive Bethesda world that I can play with others. But does the risk pay off or is it a mis-step?

What is absolutely clear from the get-go is that story is at the heart of this open-world RPG but it doesn’t out-right take center stage. Throughout my time in West Virginia, I purposely tried to focus my time in the main quests and lore but often became distracted in the side missions, events and in general, mucking about with friends. Whilst the main storyline could be seen as lacking I take the glass half full approach in saying and believing the rest of the content packs out this adventure in a meaningful way. There is no shortage of things to do, sights to see and enemies to kill.

Typically, side quests have a negative connotation of being a waste of time and adding little to no value. I believe that just isn’t the case here, I found myself invested in each one, to the point of seeking out all the possible details that can be discovered by searching the surroundings. Whether it was training to become a fire breather or trying to solve the case of the missing boy it all felt worthwhile.

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It isn’t just what the story is, but how it is delivered too, and I feel the series has done a fantastic job in delivering information through sound, something 76 follows up on in a much more aggressive way. There are few friendly NPC’s and no human allied ones other than the voices you can hear through the many holotapes you will collect along the way. This way of storytelling accentuates the feeling of being alone but still being able to convey the objectives to the player.

Marmite, I can tell I confused you with that, what I want to get across is that the gameplay of Fallout can be referred to as ‘marmite’, you either love it or hate it. Unfortunately for this venture, the same issues arise and if that wasn’t bad enough you have to contend with the bugs that can at times make playing, such a chore. The movement is janky, the menus are cluttered, and combat is lacking in fun.

Frequently, traversing the terrain has resulted in either getting stuck or falling, and that isn’t down to my poor awareness either, it just doesn’t feel natural. Combine that with trying to fight something and I just constantly got caught against something and completely ruined by a swarm of enemies. When that happens time after time it becomes irritating.

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As it was stated during the Bethesda E3 2018 press conference, you play with dozens of players, not hundreds or thousands, because it’s the apocalypse, not an amusement park. It completely makes sense in theory, but in execution it has resulted in a world that feels a little empty, especially when playing alone. It isn’t just the number of players that make the wasteland feel bare, but also how many buildings you can explore, there are far too many structures that are blocked from entry, this makes this vast world seem just a tad smaller.

Going solo in West Virginia is a burden, to stand a chance it’s imperative to grind to get the best possible weapons, apparel, aids and stats. I don’t exactly have the best patience when it comes to grinding, some games get it right and others make it feel like a chore because of either the time it takes to level or what you must do in order to gain experience. Discovering places, killing enemies and completing quests are the ways to gain XP, you can get better percentages through use of certain perk cards, items and joining with team-mates, your incentivised to be in a group and almost penalised to be a lone wolf. Fighting a horde of enemies whilst with some buddy’s is pretty easy, alone, it’s tough, of course depending on levels etc.

Something I love are the random encounters I faced, be it game scripted or player based. I remember one of the scariest moments, I had cleared out a couple of buildings and proceeded to loot the corpses. What followed was a pip-boy stop to scour through my well-earned winnings and all was fine, all quiet etc. What followed was a loud “CONGRATULATIONS!” it was almost enough for a bowel movement, just something so unexpected it caught me off guard. I laugh about it now, but Mr. Prize-Bot is still out there, taunting me. When it comes to player interactions it could be something as simple as being given a helping hand against some enemies followed by the thumbs up emote and going on our separate ways. It might however look something like six players getting together going emote crazy and taking on waves of enemies, either way it brings a smile. Those moments I cherish in games.

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S.P.E.C.I.A.L and perks serve as the core RPG elements that go hand in hand with levelling up and becoming a stronger player. There are seven stats and with each level you can choose which to increase by 1, simple enough really. In reality it’s more complicated as each increase in a particular stat you get an extra perk slot for that specific category, be it Strength, Luck etc. Equip perk cards that you accumulate that can give numerous different benefits. This is where a bit of forward thinking is really needed to know where you want to be and how you are going to get there. I toyed with the system ad nauseam and always found new and interesting combinations.

Now this is technically a survival game and as such there are a few meters you need to be aware of at all times, food, water and HP/Rads. It’s another layer to the game that drew me in, keeping me on my toes and was one of the deciding factors in a lot of my perk choices. I went for perks that gave me the most benefits and bonuses from consuming item to ensure my character was in tip top shape.

Base-building is back and was absolutely a much-welcomed addition in the previous game, it solidified the message that the player is the last hope for rebuilding a fallen community. It is also a blinking beacon that signals everyone to have at it and build whatever crazy things you can. This kind of freedom is just refreshing to see, being able to almost change the game world and add your own flare.

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Visual fidelity has never come across as a priority in Bethesda titles, instead opting for design as opposed to fine detail. The graphics seem a little three years ago almost as if the same settings were copied and pasted from Fallout 4. That being said, there are some technical features that stand out and make this world come alive, just things like proper lighting, shadow effects and wind effects go a long way in building an atmosphere. West Virginia has undergone a drastic transformation and it truly does look that way, in terms of the level and the characters, everything has been designed superbly and puts across to the player how horrifying a post-apocalyptic earth could be.

The soundtrack of Fallout 76 is often subtle but can escalate into these ‘epic’ feeling moments. When at its quietest, you know the music is still there floating about, creating tension and when combat begins the pace is matched by the background tune, becoming hectic. Voice acting plays a big role in the immersion building process, be it the grunts and roars from hostiles, a casual chat with a robot or listening to a holotape. The performances vary with some standouts such as The Overseer voiced by Adrienne Barbeau and Mr. Fluffy, my favourite robot in a videogame.

It is with a little regret that I admit I never managed to launch a nuclear missile due to lack of friends available at the same times. This kind of proves a point that some content, like the atomic strike is cut off to those playing on their own unless you keep at it and grind to the max, something not all are willing to do.

OVERALL: 7.2/10 – GOOD

Fallout 76 is a flawed game, by any stretch of the imagination, but be damned there is also something so endearing about it. The deep survival role-playing mechanics go hand in hand with the over-arching theme of Fallout, to survive and rebuild. Its bugs are face-palm inducing and should have no place in a somewhat fully released product in 2018. I fully believe player-choice has been one of the core reasons for me to stay the course and enjoy my time playing, I got frustrated but I also smiled and laughed at the same time, gaming, am I right?

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Fallout 76, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

Hitman 2 Review

Hitman is one of the most recognisable franchises in gaming today and has transcended the entertainment medium by jumping over into the movie world. It’s no surprise that another title in the series was on the way thanks to the success IO Interactive saw with the 2016 game. Since then, IO have parted with Square Enix and managed to keep the beloved IP and continue it with Hitman 2. Does it recreate the satisfaction when taking down enemies in a stealth-like fashion, and bring the enjoyable content found in its predecessor?

The stealth genre is filled with fantastic series, like Metal Gear Solid, Dishonored and Assassin’s Creed just to name a few. Hitman however, thanks to its setting, characters and game mechanics, stands out amongst the crop. Agent 47 in spite of his soul-less demeanour is a memorable character that you can cling onto and feel like a badass. From the barcode tattoo on the back of his head, to the lack of hair and even his red tie he is easily spotted in a crowd which makes it more impressive that his cover doesn’t get blown from mission start.

Variety is the spice of life and this could not apply more here, each kill can happen in dozens of different ways and each level is kitted with a plethora of objects to assist in your murder quest. Use everything from your typical guns or knives to falling chandelier’s and electricity. Those who are quick to think on their feet and remain aware of their surroundings will absolutely make full use of the killing playground.

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In terms of content there just isn’t a lot of it, but I guess it is all about quality over quantity which fortunately seems to be the case here. The campaign features just six missions, all of which however can be replayed a great many times and you still won’t have found everything or completed the mission in each different possible way. What’s refreshing about the story is it comes across as concise with no un-necessary padding, my attention was captured through-out and I remained invested from start to finish. I couldn’t help but feel like I had just played through a downloadable standalone piece rather than a full game and the replayability just isn’t enough to sate my hunger for more.

What doesn’t help that feeling of in-completion is that in the menus you can see the story option for Hitman 1 and then a campaign option for DLC that is to come. By paying a little more you can get some extra content although it seems a little disingenuous as it feels needed to complete the package.

Ghost Mode is currently in beta and a much-welcomed addition to the series, with two players going head to head in a competitive environment, who can be the better assassin basically. Same starting point, same target etc with each player going about in their own instance whilst being able to see each other but not out-right affect the other players world. I had a blast with this mode as a result of the tension and urgency that it brings to the plate. There’s nothing quite like casually making your way through a heavily guarded area only for the indicator to pop up that tells you your opponent has killed the target. Upon this happening a 20-second timer begins forcing the fight sort of speak, either eliminate your target to even the score or forfeit the point. Consider me hooked on this adrenaline rush.

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Sniper Assassin is the second new additional mode to the series and serves as the co-operative experience whilst also remaining slightly competitive. Compete against someone whilst working together to take out all targets from afar in a limited timeframe. It’s the best of both worlds with the competitive aspect coming up in just keeping track of how many kills each player has. The downside to both modes is that currently they are only available on one map each, which adds more weight to the lack of content argument.

Then we have Contracts, user-created missions, almost. Players can jump into one of the maps and select an NPC, however you kill that marked NPC will be tracked, saved and then available as a contract for other players around the world to try their hand at it. This provides another way in which IO have made the small amount of content go a long way and provides that quality. Challenges, Mastery and Unlockables combine to form this sense of progression as you rinse and repeat your way through missions to gain more experience and satisfaction in completing things 100%.

I am a huge fan of the visuals, more so the effects and design as opposed to fine detail and fidelity. Walking through a typical suburban neighbourhood whilst taking in the view of American flags rippling, trees swaying and leaves falling sets an atmosphere that almost contrasts to your objective of well, killing people. The brightly coloured street doesn’t share many features with some of the other areas you will encounter, showing the sharp differences in the locations as to which your assassin job will take you to.

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Sound has been put to good use in conveying what is going on, building the tension exactly where it needs to and then bursting into a rush when things go awry. You need to be using your ears when tracking your enemies, as there are a ton of things to pick up along the way, vital information primarily.

OVERALL: 7.9/10 – GOOD

Hitman 2 delivers a well-paced story, deep gameplay mechanics and a ton of replayability. To go back to the argument of whether there is enough content, I want to say for the most part yes but only if your happy playing through the same few missions just in different ways and trying to 100% what you can. Personally, the amount of content just isn’t enough to keep me invested and I found myself becoming disinterested after a couple of play-throughs. A little more content would have gone a long way.

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Hitman 2, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

 

The Banner Saga Review

The Banner Saga first released in early 2014 for Windows and Mobile, the fantasy tactical RPG that fast became a cult hit amongst gamers. Stoic Studio and Versus Evil have since brought it to consoles and much recently released it on the Nintendo Switch, so more can play and witness what The Banner Saga has to offer. Shall we call all bannermen? Or is it not worth bothering them?

The sun has stopped moving over a world populated by Humans and Varls, the latter of which are a giant-type race which commonly resemble the towering Vikings from all the stories. All would be fine if a third race, the Dredge decided not to come back from extinction with the intention of killing all in their path.

The events preceding the fight for survival were to bring the two long standing races together in an alliance. Things went awry when one of those leading the caravan across the land to escort the Prince of the Human capital to the Varl capital was slain in combat. From there it is a constant effort to stay alive, seek shelter and look after the many under your care, with the ultimate end goal of thwarting the Dredge’s plans.

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It’s a typical fantasy setting that features unique context which makes it feel fresh and un-like anything played before-hand. What I often find annoying about the fantasy style of games is how similar many of them come across in their story, with only a few outliers, this is one of those that manages to stray from the norm.

Gameplay sticks to the common formula used in the tactical genre, particularly in combat. Characters are placed on a grid field at the beginning, there is a preparation phase in which you have a limited set of space in which to place your heroes at the start of a fight. Once ready, the battle begins and the entire field opens up. There is a turn order which sees you go, then the AI and back to you etc. The best thing about this sequence is it doesn’t leave much space in between your interactions and certainly makes it feel more like a chess game as opposed to being able to attack with two or more at once, you are almost certain to take some hits. It feels like each battle there is this sense of urgency to take out the enemy as soon as possible.

When it comes to your turn there are a few options and things to consider, where to move to, who to attack and how to attack. It takes some thought but isn’t overly complex, meaning it keeps the entry level minimum and overall the combat is enjoyable to take part in.

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Outside of fighting is a generally more peaceful venture, you follow your caravan on their journey and make choices along the way that will shape how things unfold. There are animated scenes although few and far between and show the travel more than specific actions or dialogue exchanges between characters. The latter of which is usually an image of the speaking character along with the text on the screen and sometimes their voice too.

The animated art style I feel is the perfect choice, it reminds me of the animated Lord of the Rings film and puts a somewhat fresh and fun look on a bleak story and setting. Colours have been used to great effect in showing the wear and tear on the world around you and puts an emphasis on the snow-covered vistas.

The sound design is where this shines the most, every aspect of voice, sound effects and music just fits in perfectly. Tailor-made for the experience and immersing you into the harsh environments and encounters. It all screams tough and Viking, with sounds of wood, metal, wind and even string instruments coming together to draw you in and believe in what’s happening in front of you.

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The Banner Saga brings to life old tales in a thoughtful way, filled with endearing characters, impossible odds to overcome and gorgeous visuals. All sewn together with its expertly crafted audio design. The gameplay still comes across as a little slow and basic for what it is, but doesn’t stop this being a great journey to embark upon.

OVERALL: 8/10 – GREAT

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of The Banner Saga, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

Earthfall Review

Shoutout to Rhys for being awarded the Friendly-Fire King of Earthfall 2018.

There is literally no better way to describe this other than: Earthfall is like a somewhat buggy spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead with aliens instead of zombies. It feel like an uninspired phrase to coin in on but it has never been more true, never have I felt the mechanics of Valve’s first-person zombie masterclass recreated so well. It feels more like homage than replication.

Earthfall was developed by Holospark, a team made of people that have had their fingers in many pies over the years. People who’ve had a hand in Destiny, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, No One Lives Forever 2,,Call of Duty 3, F.E.A.RBioshock Infinite, Dawn of War III & inFamous 2 to just name a few. It’s safe to say the team carries some hefty calibre.

It scratches that itch, the itch I’ve not been allowed to touch for years. Can you believe that it will be 10 years in November, nearly a decade since the launch of Left 4 Dead 2 and Earthfall is like the cooling balm needed, because that itch has been turning into something I caught once… we won’t go into detail.

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Four survivors (players or A.I) fight their way through hordes of aliens on a mission to exterminate the invaders. It’s set some years after invasion and seems mid way through terra-forming – there is alien fauna mixed with our own across the landscape. Our four heroes are searching for the hive, to take out the menace at the source.

Maybe it’s the fact that I had overplayed the hell out of L4D2 but I find Earthfall’s protagonists much more engaging. Their backstories and portrayal feels much less “b-movie” than I had expected. Voice acting is great and thankfully keeps the game “cheese-free” due to zero cringeworthy lines of dialogue.

Visually it meets the mark, volumetric lighting a standout for me. Running the game on maximum settings with a constant 115 frames per second was pleasing to say the least. It’s attainable due to the nature of the game. L4D2 ran perfectly well when it launched back in the day and other similar games managed to do so – Vermintide springs to mind, that and its recent sequel manages to amaze in its optimisation. Earthfall is no different.

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Akin to the above mentioned titles, Earthfall is not short of enemy variants. Light and heavy infantry, ones that run up and grab you by the head before running away, ones that pounce on you and keep you pinned, some explode and others spit at you. Then you have the heavy-weights, a futuristic energy shielded squid-like thing that causes an E.M.P on arrival and the massive brute similar to the Tank from L4D but this time totes a massive laser cannon in its mouth.

Gadgets and weaponry are just cool, although being able to use a 3D printer to print an infinite amount of firepower may be making things a little too easy. Three versions of an mp5, two versions of an AK47, a few shotguns, a sniper, couple pistols and a heavy Gatling gun or flame thrower… standard fair for this type of shooter. The plasma rifle is my favourite by far. The barricade gadget is one of the most welcome items I’ve come across in gaming for ages, forming a mesh-fence barricade with automatic door to block access from the waves of aliens and you can upgrade them with an Arc grenade to give them an electrified effect.

Where the game falls short is in its length (at least for now), it has just 2 campaigns – each five missions long and maintaining the usual linear paths of hold/defence of the genre. A.I on both sides – the aliens and your companions – needs some refinement. Such as one of my guys refusing to pick up a weapon or the grabby-alien not really running away when he gets hold of you. The balancing of the aliens also needs to be questioned, the Thresher (pouncer) for example carries far to much health and deals too much damage for my tastes and the biggest guy, you know, laser-cannon mouth, is not fast enough to catch you unless you have lost a serious chunk of health yourself.

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Even on the games easiest setting it can still be quite unforgiving. However this is made easier by the fact you can revive players on the spot. Like L4D you get knocked down and can still fire you pistol for a time or until you get incapacitated. After which you must then search for the last survivor in cupboards or rooms along the route to recover the team to its full. Earthfall lets you revive them there an then, unless you’re being battered and have to leg it.

And as I mentioned earlier, the fact you can print endless weaponry offers the player too much power, a hold-out mission at a church stands out in particular because you can print infinite Arc grenades and the better of the AK47’s. As long as those playing understand the very basics of the game it becomes very difficult to lose the battle. Shoutout to Rhys for being awarded the Friendly-Fire King of Earthfall 2018.

This was genuinely hard to write about. The gameplay is great and it all looks sexeh, aside from a few niggles, bugs and some needed tweaking I can see Earthfall being a title I return to for years. Adding a few more campaigns would be number one on my to-do list. If you love the L4D format, love aliens or just solid shooters you can’t go wrong here.

OVERALL: 7.4/10 – GOOD

Written by Michael Jones.

(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of Earthfall, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

The Spectrum Retreat Review

The Spectrum Retreat is a captivating narrative-driven puzzler developed by Dan Smith Studios. This challenging, first-person game is set in the near future, your job is to manipulate your way to the truth.

It opens with you being woken up by a courtesy call at your door. Once you answer it you’ll be greeted by a slenderman-ish robot servant reminding you that it’s time to get up for the day. Upon investigating the Penrose Hotel you’ll find that you’re the only person actually living within it and the rest is filled with various mechanical helpers who only have a sentence or two of programmed dialogue and who you never actually see move. The whole thing is weird as can be, but it only gets weirder from there.

After a while you’ll have someone ring you on the phone who claims to be from “the outside” and says she knows that you’re in danger and being held against your will. The only way to uncover the truth and escape is to gain access to the other levels of the hotel. In order to do so, you must solve a series of puzzles that will unlock the other floors. This might seem like a bizarre request, but then again you’re walking around in an empty hotel with a bunch of strange stationary robots, so maybe playing along isn’t the craziest option.

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BAFTA Young Game Designer winner, Dan Smith and publisher Ripstone Games have released the narrative puzzler The Spectrum Retreat on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch (The game is available now).

Dan Smith picked up the Young Game Designer gong in 2016 for his prototype of The Spectrum Retreat and has continued to develop the game over the last couple of years.

“The last few years have been a great experience”, said Dan Smith, Designer of The Spectrum Retreat. “When I first began development, I couldn’t have anticipated that five years later we’d be releasing a game like this and that I would pick up a BAFTA along the way. The Spectrum Retreat is built on the mechanics I developed a few years ago, but they’re now integrated with a mature, absorbing story and setting. It’s been great to push the game further in every aspect and to craft an engaging world that can deliver the puzzles and story together.”

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The puzzles are at the heart of the game, and they are generally quite pleasant. At first, you only need to swap colors to overcome different barriers. You only start with orange and white, so nothing too complex, but in the end you will also have green and blue. While this may not sound like much, adding puzzles to new mechanics adds some tricky late game play. The only real problem with these riddles is the severity of the punishment if you break out; In the event that you fail one of the longer puzzles having to restart the entire puzzle is immensely annoying. It by no means ruins the game, but it feels like the punishment does not fit the crime.

Each puzzle has its own flow, although the puzzles all have the same base, they feel separate enough to keep them interesting. At no point do the supplements feel overwhelming, nor do they come across as too far apart, it’s an impressive balancing act well mastered here. Once again, there are a lot of little stories going through the carpet of every puzzle, with snippets of history that you can research to help you slowly build to the truth of what has happened.

The way the rooms are made remind me of Portal, in the sense that you have to go room to room to do them and the difficulty rises progressively but not drastically, the visuals do a great job at reminiscing it and i found it enjoyable to be reminded of it.  There will be no spoilers here, but there was a special moment that made one of the puzzles much harder by making the whole thing almost embarrassing.

Visually, The Spectrum Retreat is a bit inconsistent. The parts where you’re exploring the hotel are a lot more polished than the puzzles. If you get too close to certain objects, they lose their readability and look overly simplistic. From afar, most of the hotel looks pretty clean and classy. The puzzles are bold and simplistic and look like something you might have seen in Portal. Luckily, they’re well done so you can forgive the primitive look of them. The Spectrum Retreat also utilizes a lot of purposeful glitches which I haven’t seen used well in a game. It really adds to the unsettling nature of the mystery surrounding the Penrose Hotel and your personal story trying to break through.

There’s not a whole lot of sound to boast, but that adds to the isolated feeling of being trapped in a hotel by yourself. The small amounts of voice acting from the hotel staff and the woman trying to help you are executed well. The background music during the puzzle sections is intense and urgent, but without being overbearing. Overall, I feel that Dan Smith Studios made the right decision when it came to deciding what to do, where less is more.

Clocking in at a little less than three hours, there isn’t much to see here once you’ve completed the game. With only a total of nine collectibles, most players will find these within the initial playthrough, as most are included in linear areas that are required to be explored and emit a blue glow, requiring little effort to locate.

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The combination of running simulator and puzzle integration is very well done, while the drip of the story is steady enough to keep the focus and guide you through the little niggles that arise during a game. The whole thing is connected with great voice work and music. Overall, Spectrum Retreat holds on and refuses to let go, while its clever combination of pure riddling and storytelling provides a pleasurable and unique experience.

The Spectrum Retreat launches on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch on Friday, 13 July 2018, 00:00:00.

OVERALL: 7.9/10 – GOOD

Reviewed by Jack Moody.

(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of The Spectrum Retreat, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

LEGO The Incredibles Review

As LEGO games have proved in the past they are the perfect palette cleanser between those big releases, that offer something different in terms of aesthetics, gameplay mechanics and are packed with fun moments. The Incredibles or even Disney and Pixar may just be one the most ideal names and brands out there to put with this type of game. They aim to offer enjoyable and charming experiences for all ages. LEGO The Incredibles follows the events of the second film and puts it’s hybrid art-style to work.

I perhaps made the error in playing this before watching the film but on the plus side of that, If I never watch the film due to time and money constraints, I feel like I’ve gotten the jist of what happens in it. The LEGO series have always heavily relied on the source material and has stuck to it more often than not whilst also sprinkling in some new-ness to keep it fresh and slightly unpredictable.

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The Parr family are back and this time it’s to try and make a better name for super’s everywhere, they come up against a villain that makes use of human’s reliance on technology to brainwash the populace of Metroville. It may be the child in me talking but I was consistently interested and entertained throughout, thanks to a story that somehow manages to cater for all ages with underlying mature themes in an immature setting. I almost feel like an English teacher reading too much into things, but still.

It was much to my surprise (for whatever reason because it is something I should have expected), that the first film’s events also feature in this adventure. Upon finishing The Incredibles 2 missions, you then open up the levels based on the first film that help to pad out the game in a meaningful way and gives a glimpse into the earlier days of the Parr family Super-hood. Once all was said and done however, I felt myself wanting a bit more in story based content, original or otherwise.

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The gameplay isn’t so much inspiring as in other titles simply because it takes the very same formula and barely brings anything more to it. Leading to the feeling that if you have played one Lego game, you have played them all in terms of gameplay, visuals and even sounds. The platforming is still technically solid, and the combat is satisfying. What I appreciate about both is that as the player you can opt to play as basic as possible or make use of all the abilities and moves at your disposal for a more varied experience.

Any improvements on the series lately feel more like incremental steps as opposed to huge leaps but do add to the overall package. One new addition that I haven’t personally seen previously is the mid-level builds that require a certain amount of special bricks to produce which in turn allows you to overcome whichever obstacle stands in your way. It just adds to the depth of each level by giving something extra to do.

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An overworld serves as the hub to play around in when between levels and is packed with activities. Find the Incredibricks, acquire gold bricks, erect the family builds and compete in races. All of which you can spend a ton of time doing and before you know it, hours have passed and you haven’t finished a single mission.

The LEGO game art-style is iconic almost, being synonymous with this series of games, mixing in LEGO bricks with a more realistic approach when it comes to the background. This allows for specific props and buildings to really stand out on screen which is put to good use in signalling that it’s breakable and/or can be used in some away to further progression through the level. By no means does it test the boundaries of visual fidelity but these games always look good thanks to the mix of styles.

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When voice acting was introduced years ago into the series it has been a staple ever since and has been vital in immersion building. I find myself getting lost in the story and captivated by the characters because you get to hear them. It often takes me back to the films the lines are from, and nostalgia is always fun. This alongside the soundtrack and effects just makes me so damn happy when jumping around, breaking bricks and waiting for a mate.

The Incredibles lends itself to the LEGO game style and has blended together that results in an engaging story. There are little in ways of innovation, instead opting to stick to the tried and tested formula it has done so well in the past. If you like what TT has done previously and have an affinity for Disney, Pixar or The Incredibles, then this is an absolute no-brainer, you pick this up! Those who aren’t particularly interested may be hard pressed in trying to find the enjoyment.

OVERALL: 7.5/10 – GOOD

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of LEGO The Incredibles, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)