The Outer Worlds Review

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Obsidian Entertainment have been around for about 15 years and in that time have built an impressive resume of games. Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity and South Park: The Stick of Truth are but a few of the games developed by the studio, all of which receiving much critical acclaim. So, with the bar set so high, when The Outer Worlds was announced at The Game Awards in 2018, I was ecstatic, expectations have been set and even then, I felt it would be one of my favourite games of the year. Fast forward approximately 10 months later, does it meet the hype or fall short of its Outer World-ly expectations? (You’re damn right I just did that.)

You are a revived survivor, a revivor if you will, from The Hope which is a colony ship that was tasked with colonizing the Halcyon star system. Phineas Welles is the scientist responsible for bringing you back from stasis with the intent to have you help him save the rest of the populace who were deemed to have spent too much time in stasis that reviving them would ultimately result in their death. The only reason for you to survive is that Welles only had enough resources to bring back one person and you were the person he chose, your task is to then gather more resources to free everyone else.

Like most stories, there is of course a lot of coincidental events that need to happen to serve the plot, it just so happens only you could be revived out the thousands, etc. But without that there would be no game, I mean are you meant to play someone trapped in stasis for 20 plus hours waiting for salvation? From the get-go, the immediate hook was put right there in the open and I chomped down on that thing for dear life, from presentation, to visual design, to the very first character interacted with, I’m all in.

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As the ‘stranger’ you’re a malleable husk which you can customise aesthetically and then build in terms of skills and perks. It lends itself to this personal journey experience, becoming the character as opposed to playing one that’s already been established. The task of saving The Hope’s passengers is presented immediately and can then be taken in different directions throughout, through free-will, being able to choose what your character’s motivation will be and how to go about accomplishing the mission and sometimes changing the objective at hand. Freedom is not only at the centre of the story but the core element for gameplay as well.

Characters in Obsidian games have always been one of the best aspects, but god damn if we all don’t band together to protect Parvati, we are doing a dis-service to all of mankind. I guess what I’m trying to say is that throughout my twenty hour plus stint in Halcyon, I met some truly intriguing and memorable characters. Parvati is a lovable engineer with a heart of gold, Felix is the slick and yet slightly dull gunner and SAM is a complete machine, you know if you know. I could go on, but you need something to find out for yourselves, right?

Aside from the main story, there is a ton of side quests, companion quests and tasks to dig into. All of which add more depth to the world and give you a glimpse into the challenges a lot of these unique people face in Halcyon. Because of the writing, I found myself wanting to experience each and every side quest I could come across, but in a natural way as opposed to using guides or just scouring every nook and cranny. I would go off the beaten-track in a way to further my adventure whilst keeping an eye out for people in need.

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I feel that whilst the characters and story were ultimately strong, without the action elements of the gameplay this could have turned into a bit of a chore to play. Thankfully this is an action RPG and helped in breaking up those long stints of cutscenes, interactions and dialogue by being able to take control of the fight in a fluid and responsive way. You also don’t even have to fight, so it allows those who want to have a bit of a battle do that, but for those wanting to talk their way out of every confrontation or even stealth their way through, those options are also available and can be just as fun if not even more so. I had a guard come up to me ready to sound the alarms, asking for my ID, I persuaded him that he shouldn’t be talking during his shift, and he left me alone, meanwhile I was crying with laughter.

What I enjoy about jumping into battle is the overall feel of it, weapons have different feels dependent on what ammo they use or what aesthetic they have been designed with. Futuristic energy weapons are floaty and come across as cool pieces of space tech. In comparison, the typical physical bullet weapons are mechanical, rugged and thanks to vibration feedback they feel heavier. It is of utmost importance for the gameplay to be solid. There is plenty of space for error in the way it controls, leaning heavily towards light and loose, to the point that missing your target by a pixel or two was constant and bumping into objects or surroundings was frequent, which almost feels deliberate in the sense that you are in space so different gravity may be playing a part in things. I appreciate that may not be the best description but nonetheless, it never dampened the enjoyment I got from my ventures and in some way bolstered the immersion.

How you fight or what your limited to in battle is heavily influenced by your skills and perks. The skills have been split into seven disciplines with each housing more specific skills. The disciplines focus on different aspects of how to go about your mission. Melee consists of 1-Handed and 2-Handed,  Ranged features Handguns, Long Guns and Heavy Weapons, then in Dialog you find Persuade, Lie and Intimidate. On top of that you have Stealth, Tech, Defense and Leadership and whichever route you take in terms of which areas to spend your points will determine what type of character you are going to set out to play. I went mostly for Dialog, being able to talk myself out of or sometimes into any situation I saw fit, for those that love combat, that path would be the least rewarding and satisfying whereas for me, its been the most, because of how well written and emotive the dialogue trees are. I could get into heated confrontations without ever coming to blows physically or just laugh my behind off thanks to humour.

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Perks are just another way to buff yourself and can range from increasing walking speed to increasing carrying capacity and even allowing you to deal extra damage with certain weapon types. You are rewarded no matter how you play by being able to spend your perk points in perks not just related to battle but for everything outside of it too, ensuring that the system doesn’t become redundant if you’ve opted for the combat-less approach.

Whilst I went the heavy dialog route I spent a considerable amount of points in ranged, allowing me to take full advantage of the weaponry I acquired throughout. Workbenches can be used to upgrade your gear which is fantastic because it allows you to be somewhat fight competent without having points used in those areas. Spending currency to improve damage or armour ratings and using mods to provide a buff you can keep your equipment relevant and be ready for the encounters that you need to partake in.

The world of Halcyon is absolutely brimming with gorgeous visuals, spanning numerous towns, open fields and even planets. I cannot overstate just how much I love the look of not just the locations but the characters too. It all comes together and delivers this overall futuristic and yet run-down look that makes it come across as, yes you are in the future, but it’s not quite the future you would want. If I had to describe it in as few words as possible, it’s a dated, worn-out, lived in, future. Everything from level design to the colour palette to the effects all come together to deliver this look and it’s a fantastic looking game for it.

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Voice acting has proven to be pivotal in ensuring the characters come alive and feel relatable. The range of emotions they can go through did wonders in drawing me in and taking me on their unique journeys. I felt invested because I could hear the urgency, sadness or joy in their voices that made things almost real. Joining the performances is the sound track that is present throughout but not always apparent, with plenty of times it’s just a subtle tune that is making me feel emotions without me realising that’s what is happening. The atmosphere built has been thanks to a mixture of everything, visuals, music, the characters and it just feels so damn good.

OVERALL: 9/10 – EXCELLENCE

The Outer Worlds delivers a fascinating world that comes packed with captivating characters and thought-provoking stories. It’s gameplay is intelligently designed and expertly executed, balancing that fine line between the combat, stealth and dialogue routes. There’s charm and humour coming out of its rear end that makes the whole adventure memorable. This makes me very optimistic about what is to come from Obsidian now they are under the Xbox Game Studios banner.

Written by Rhys Baldwin.

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Gears 5 Review

Gears of War sits comfortably towards the upper echelon of my all-time favourite game series. After being there from the very beginning with the first title back in 2006 all the way through to Judgement, there’s something about seeing The Crimson Omen logo once more that gets the blood pumping. To lead into playing Gears 5 I finally found the time to play Gears of War 4 for the first time in order to get myself up to date and ready for next go around with Lancer in hand. It’s a mad world and will The Coalition succeed in delivering on the hype?

Now, for a third-person shooter that features a ton of gore, larger than life characters and bad-ass ways to execute your enemy, it’s the story that takes centre stage. It’s a shooter with tons of emotion, charm and above all, heart. Kait was first introduced in Gears of War 4 as part of the core squad, this time around she leads the squad and plays a pivotal role in the events of the game and the overarching Gears universe, if you will.

Number 5 follows the events of the previous title closely and directly deals with the final moments of GOW 4, Kait after losing her mother seeks to uncover the origins of her family and of the Locust. She finds herself a part of the very thing she used to fight against, The Coalition of Ordered Governments, also known as COG. Joined by JD, Del and Marcus who along with Kait reform Delta Squad, which is just a nice call back to the OG team.

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Start to finish each mission serves a true purpose, there aren’t any throwaway objectives or battles and all aid progression of Kait’s goal to find out what the hell is going on. Whether it’s traversing winter terrain in the hopes of uncovering the location of a comm tower or putting together a rocket in the harsh dessert, there is a sense of importance and urgency in everything you do that doesn’t overdo it or come across as cheesy. Throughout there are specific moments that add weight to the story and show the real danger present in the world of Sera. Whether it’s sweet victory or a bitter loss, I’m invested and celebrate or mourn each one respectively.

Something that has always stood out to me when it comes to these games is just how distinct and somewhat unique the gameplay feels. The series that popularised cover-based action has this gravity about it that makes it feel not only slower but heavier too, which is weird to even comprehend. If you take the gameplay and transfer it anywhere you could identify that this is straight-up GOW.

Weaving from cover to cover whilst trying to protect my skull from the impending sniper round eager to spread my brains all over the floor is exhilarating. The stakes in battle are very real where wrong moves can easily spell the end and even though respawning is a thing, I didn’t want to get that point. Shooting from cover requires strategy and awareness of your surroundings as the Swarm often flank or aim from afar, especially those with the torque bows that can be crazy accurate and frustrating to come up against.

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Sight and hearing go hand in hand when it comes to combat, using both simultaneously to keep track of any enemy movement and action. Picture this, you’re in cover, pinned down by several assault rifle toting swarm. One by one, you start picking them off, only to hear the distinct clicking noise in the distance, in that moment you swap to your Longshot sniper rifle, and with the flick of the thumb stick you scope in on an enemy looking to hit you with the torque bow and take his head out before he can let go of the shot, I love it.

Something that lets the gameplay down is the gunplay that feels in a way too slow when it comes to aiming and sensitivity that it causes plenty of missed shots, wasting valuable ammunition at sometimes important moments. The reticles feel a bit too big almost as if they were designed in a way for you to miss shots, like there is a smaller invisible reticle inside the one displayed on screen. I hope I conveyed that in a way that made sense to you, if not, well that is the best your going to get I’m afraid.

But to bring it right back around something to commend is the variety of enemies on offer that make every encounter have this sense of eerie wonder. The thought of not knowing which type of enemy will pop up next is unsettling, considering the widely different tactics needed to overcome some of them and the difficulty they offer. If you aren’t prepared for opponents like the Carrier or Snatcher then you’ll be in for a tough fight. Having your wits about you and holding off on using all your explosive type weaponry will pay dividends for sure.

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Boss fights are very few and far between which means when they do occur, they feel earned and not shoe-horned in. The one fight which for those who play will know what I’m on about is downright infuriating, and yet I still enjoyed learning the enemies moves and how to counteract them that the countless deaths felt worth it in the end, like I accomplished something.

By far one of the best if not the best-looking experiences to grace the Xbox One platform, Gears 5 brings an awe-inspiring world to life thanks to both its design and visual fidelity. Each location has vastly different looks but have these underlying common traits of being barren and run-down with a severe absence of normal life. Whilst obtaining all these dark qualities, the visuals glisten with a polish not yet seen by a first-party games from Xbox this generation.

From the world to the characters to even the weapons, all have been designed to accentuate the apocalyptic setting. Ranging from dull colours to the wear and tear encountered on textures through-out, everything comes together to produce this formerly lived in world that has seen its fair share of war. What I particularly love is the evolution of the character designs not only throughout the series but even just in Gears 5, dependent on the location and time in the story there are different appearances that some of the characters go through which show the struggle of life for them.

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Quick shout-out, write-out, type-out, to the sound design of Gears 5 and I mean sound design overall. The music that accompanies those memorable moments and adds meaning to them is very much welcomed, with many pieces being evolved versions of ones that have shown up in the past. Somehow, music has always been one of the highlights of the series and whenever I hear them it sparks this recollection of the events the pieces are played over.

Satisfying sound effects are essential in making gameplay go that bit further on the addiction scale, because they make you want to continue the fight, to hear the scope in effect of the Longshot or the roar of the Lancer’s chainsaw is just, well it’s just lovely.

Laura Bailey does an outstanding job reprising her role as Kait Diaz and stepping up to the spotlight in a way that shows her vulnerability and yet her strength at the same time. Being able to show a range of emotions and take you on the journey with her. Other notable performances include Liam McIntyre, Eugene Byrd, John DiMaggio and Rahul Kohli who each bring their respective characters J.D. Fenix, Del Walker, Marcus Fenix and Fahz Chutani to life. After writing those, to be honest there are more I want to include like Fred Tatasciore and Lester Speight who return as Baird and Cole, two of my favourites of the series thus far. Needless to say, it’s a damn fine cast.

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The multiplayer offering comprises of three core areas, versus, horde and escape. The first of which has been a staple of the series, since its inception and has often been among some of the most rewarding online experiences I’ve played. Unfortunately for me two glaring omissions have been made in versus when it comes to included game modes, the lack of Wingman and Execution is disturbing. That’s not to say the other modes don’t stand on their own merits because they certainly do and offer different styles of play that allow a bit of a mix-up when needed.

Arcade is a new addition to the versus catalogue and provides a five-on-five scenario that sees characters with passive abilities do battle. It also uses a system almost akin to Counter-Strike in which players need to gain skulls in order to upgrade yourself and improve your weaponry each round, the skulls you receive depend on round-by-round performance. Variety is certainly something the team at The Coalition went for and succeeded upon, whether they’re all quality modes to jump into is the question.

Horde returns and seeks to once again improve on the formula of old, each character is now a hero that have their own abilities and roles to fill. My favourite thus far is a toss-up between Kait and her camouflage ability and Fahz with his x-ray vision. Perks are obtained throughout the game and act as a progression system whilst in each game, being able to improve your survivability by spending power obtained from fallen enemies. A second progression system comes in the form of skill cards which allow for improvements of a character whilst in between matches and are specific to them, levelling up characters will get you closer to the best cards.

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Being able to customise the difficulty and add modifiers allow for replayability and the opportunity to really test your skills, 8 levels of difficulty each one adding a modifier, the latter levels really bring the pain. An issue I find with horde is that it’s only truly fun when with human players, preferably with ones that are talking otherwise you have to put up with bots and the unique challenges they bring due to not being as talented as real players.

Escape is new to the series and allows players to test their will in a battle against both the Swarm and time itself. Fast-paced action which is straight up my alley and that’s not a euphemism. Three players go in, hopefully all come out, much like horde it offers escalating difficulty levels. The biggest inclusion perhaps of the entire mode is allowing you to create your own hives and allow the player base to have at it. The potential is there but after a few go arounds, it does get repetitive and I feel will heavily rely on player creation in the future as opposed to dev created maps. A character-based system is in effect with specific hero’s having their own loadouts and abilities along with the option to add star cards to them in order to boost their stats or net some tasty perks.

OVERALL – 8.8/10 – GREAT

A bar has been set for Xbox Game Studios releases and it’s been set by Gears 5, being perhaps the first, first-party exclusive for Xbox One that delivers a deep story with interesting characters, stunning visuals and an addicting gameplay loop. The multiplayer suite has some surprising omissions but still manages to capture much of the magic that made me stay up for hours into night in its predecessors. The repetitive nature of Horde and Escape dampened my enthusiasm for the package that is Gears 5, but with a campaign as strong as it is, thankfully I can say I highly recommend.

Written by Rhys Baldwin.

Everspace Review

ROCKFISH Games is comprised of a team that for the most part has been together for ten plus years primarily on mobile titles, Everspace is their first venture into the PC and Console territory. The single-player rogue-like space shooter looks to cement the developers place in the market and perhaps provide a great first impression. But is it all space wonder or does it leave me wondering what the hell?

Try, try and try again would perhaps be the best way to describe the gameplay loop in which you are warped into space, fight, loot and keep on travelling until death or success. After one of two potential ends to the run you then need to upgrade your ship ready for the next mission and do it all over again. For those that either bore easily or just can’t deal with repeating the same things constantly, there is only so far you can get before deciding to throw in the towel.

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That being said, it does its best to throw curve balls at you with its roguelike nature of seemingly procedurally generated encounters. Personally, not my cup of tea but I appreciated the element of surprise that loomed throughout my experience.

One run is comprised of numerous sectors that increase in difficulty as you progress through them. Something I’ve not come across before is that death is encouraged by design, because through failure you can then improve your ship and see if you can get further the next time around. This kept me engaged for brief periods before I found the grind becoming tedious. It just took too long for my ship to get to the point of reaching the latter sectors successfully. Accumulating the credits, fuel, plasma and other resources wherever possible came across as more of a chore than something rewarding to take part in.

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The controls are intuitive and do well in creating a pick up and play feeling whilst in terms of difficulty design remaining tough to master. Because of the natural control layout, I became eager to carry on flying around through space shooting things, even when the dying rinse and repeat cycle began to irritate me. Just proving how important setting the right actions to the right buttons is, when it comes to inviting players in and keeping them.

RPG elements are in play and take the form of loadout and perk systems. I felt like I was controlling my personal ships with the look I chose and upgrades I installed etc. Because of this I became more invested and attached to what I was doing. Experimenting with the variety of perks was fun and interesting to see how they affect gameplay.

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On the surface it looks great, its visually pleasing and nails the look of what we have come to expect space to look like. Other ships, fighters and freighters have different designs that build this world and lore around you and the team make great use of colour to represent the varying factions. The blemishes began to appear when you get right up close with textures and you notice the not so fine detail, but that still doesn’t bother me, because if you play how you should, you won’t see that anyway.

Sound is playing an important role in atmosphere building, space is commonly associated by either other worldly sounds or an absence of sound altogether. This however, mixes both in a subtle way to produce the same sense of dread and nothingness. Using ambient music reminiscent of retro sci-fi films and even games, alongside almost classic sound effects for the engines and lasers makes for this slight nostalgia trip I love so much.

OVERALL: 6.9/10 – AVERAGE

Everspace delivers a competent and enjoyable experience the latter of which I feel only lasts so long due to a lacklustre and unsatisfying gameplay loop. The look and feel were enough to draw me in but not quite enough to keep me hooked. It looks great, sounds even greater and plays really well, those who love a grind will find it here for sure. It just isn’t my thing but of course that isn’t to say it won’t be yours.

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Everspace, 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.)

Insurgency: Sandstorm Review

New World Interactive hit the scene in terms of developing games in 2014 with Insurgency, a multiplayer tactical based first-person shooter, it was received with generally good reviews and caters to the more hardcore of players that thrive on difficult, no nonsense gameplay. Sandstorm seeks to replicate the formula and deliver the same tough fast-paced action as before but hopefully bring it to 2018.

There are three experiences to jump into and are all online, players taking on AI, players taking on each other and the third is PVP but ranked competitively. In the co-op section the only gamemode is checkpoint but from a glance it almost appears as two, the difference between them being which side you start on. Checkpoint is a rush style mode similar to the Battlefield staple, one by one, capture and destroy objectives. The twists come with respawns taking place after a point is either taken or destroyed and if the offensive team is successful in capturing the objective, they then need to endure a counter-attack as well. It takes a classic mode and changes it slightly, making it feel fresh, I enjoyed jumping in, and playing against the AI isn’t quite the walk in the park you would expect, there’s a challenge which is definitely welcome and great for getting in some practice.

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Versus mode provides the flexibility of getting better against players whilst not affecting your competitive rank. There are three modes available and whilst each are different in their own ways they also come across as a bit too similar. All three involve points to either capture, defend or destroy, two of them feature respawns occurring after a successful capture of an objective and a different combination of two have limited respawn waves. This presents the feeling that there is a lack of varied content and leads to me only being able to play for an hour or two at a time before getting bored and some will get to that place way before me.

Competitive play is a more tight knit mode with a five a side battle, three objectives, capture the most points or kill all enemies to win the round. This leads to faster fights and forces the ability to respond under pressure be it respond well or otherwise. The atmosphere this brings is addicting, constantly having to be aware of team-mates locations and communicate to keep tabs on what is happening and where. Easily a favourite mode of mine in all online shooters, I love being tactical and feeling a part of a team.

The Low TTK (Time To Kill) provides that harsh reality of imminent death when turning corners without checking them and running across map with no care, because you can get caught out and in one second be watching from the sidelines, waiting for a respawn. Of course, this goes both ways and allows you to really catch your opponent’s off guard. Furthermore, the minimalistic HUD means no unnecessary clutter on the screen, just your weapon and your surroundings, which allows skill to take precedence.

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I love the idea of being able to access all weaponry and upgrades from the get-go however this leaves an almost empty progression system that only allows you to earn customisation items through play. With all weapons available there is a supply point mechanic that gives you limited currency to spend on a layout for any given round and can be adjusted throughout each game which offers a balance of flexibility and restriction needed in this type of game.

Back to the equipment, there are a ton of toys to have at and experiment with, I went straight to work toying with the various combinations of what to take, when to make use of them and sometimes how to use them. I often favoured the sniper rifles as they allowed me to keep an eye from afar and take pick off enemies before they even reach the objectives, didn’t always work out that way but that is what I’m going to tell myself.

The six maps are different in terms of layout but aesthetically they are all too alike which doesn’t help in conducing a long play session. They look good, don’t get me wrong but it’s the same thing almost across each map with one outlier, they certainly got the title right in Sandstorm, because that’s what it is, sand everywhere which wouldn’t be any form of issue if executed right. Visual fidelity in shooters often go hand in hand lately but I don’t quite see the 2018 quality we have to come to expect, having said that in no way is this a bad looking game, by any stretch of the imagination.

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I must applaud the technical aspects of the level design, attention to detail went into ensuring each map added something to the gameplay, providing plenty of areas and points that can be used for great advantage or even disadvantage. I was constantly on my toes, ensuring I was aware of my surroundings, keeping an eye on windows, ledges and even the so many murder holes you can find throughout.

Sound is vital in allowing you to immerse yourself in the and keep track of enemy footsteps, so it’s great to see or rather hear that sound design has certainly been a priority for the team at New World Interactive. I found myself using hearing nearly more so than sight to work up a plan on the fly to decimate the competition, yeah, I have issues.

OVERALL – 7.9/10 – GOOD

Insurgency: Sandstorm is a competent shooter that absolutely does what it needs to, bring fast-paced tactical gameplay into 2018 and almost 2019 now. The maps are incredibly well designed and do a lot in adding depth to the already enjoyable and tough gameplay. There is a lack of varied content and content in general but those who don’t bore easy when subjected to the same thing over and over will feel at home here. Finally the mid-ground between realism and arcade style has been well-tread providing a satisfying experience catering to many players.

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Insurgency: Sandstorm, 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.)

Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek Review

tinyBuild has done a great job in building its portfolio over the past five years with many titles being well received such as Mr. Shifty, The Final Station and Party Hard 2. There are other games however that haven’t exactly shone bright. Hello Neighbor released last year for the first time yet before that is when it received most of it’s publicity, due to somewhat a broken state of the game in terms of technical issues and in difficulty when in early access. Keen on sticking to the IP, Hide and Seek looks to rectify what went wrong but instead, makes things worse.

It very much feels like a rehash of the original just with differing characters and the intent of building a narrative that leads up to the first title. I didn’t get far, or couldn’t get far into the content due to lack of direction, interest and a lot of irritation. You play as the young daughter of the Neighbor you had to avoid in the 2017 game. This time it’s about hiding from your brother as they play hide and seek and jump into exaggerated worlds that are based upon the reality of their home.

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Whilst playing it becomes obvious that the hide and seek is more a side objective whilst you try to complete different puzzles, and uncover what happened in the events leading up to the game before it. This feels like a piece of DLC and yet is priced otherwise, which wouldn’t be so bad if the quality was there but unfortunately that is not the case.

Gameplay is uninspiring and repetitive with the major game mechanic coming across as completely annoying. Whilst on the run from the brother, if he spots you the music kicks in to let you know he is closing in and when the distance between you is miniscule the screen fades a little, those parts are okay. When he grabs you however, he lets out this completely obnoxious noise somewhat reminiscent of Roger’s “NYEH” in American Dad. Aside from that, I don’t feel incentivised to go ahead with the levels, there’s nothing to clearly guide the way and when I try to accomplish something, I’m held back by terrible level design and difficulty spikes.

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The most promising aspect of the series are the visuals, delivering a unique art-style that I feel is now synonymous with these games, from the characters to the worlds, the use of varied colours is inviting and urges you to wander and take in the scenery around you. Accompanied with the ambient noises, each level really comes alive and immerses you right before everything else knocks you back into the real world.

OVERALL: 3/10 – TERRIBLE

Hide and Seek is a complete misstep for the publishing portfolio of tinyBuild and yet another step in the wrong direction for Dynamic Pixels, a promising premise with lacklustre execution makes for a forgettable experience.

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek, 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.)

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.)

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.)