Blue Reflection’s Difficulty Problem

Difficulty is integral to turn-based role playing games. Gamers generally look to turn-based rpg’s over their active counterparts when they want a more mentally taxing experience. That’s not to say that games with turn-based combat always have to be hardcore masochistic tests of skill, but without enough player engagement, the passiveness of navigating menus becomes mind numbing. This is the predicament Blue Reflection finds itself in. It is one of the most insulting role playing games I have ever had the displeasure of playing.BLUE REFLECTION_20171120214412

The issue stems from its non-traditional progression system that ties leveling to story progress and optional friendship meters as opposed to experience points gained from battle. This wouldn’t pose an issue were it not for the game’s lack of urgency. Unlike the modern Persona titles, which contain a calendar system, meaning there are only so many social links and activities you can complete in one playthrough, Blue Reflection lacks such a system entirely.

What does this mean for the end-user? Remember when I brought up that leveling is tied to friendships and main story events? Players can bond multiple times with several characters, earning up to a dozen levels or more in a single sitting without engaging in combat or progressing the narrative.

BLUE REFLECTION_20171208163537I chose to develop as many bonds as possible around the mid-point of the game, hoping to break up the tedium of dungeon excursions with slice of life style interactions. By the time I returned to the main story path, I was so over-leveled that I plowed through every enemy encounter in a single move even on hard. This game breaking moment was exacerbated by the title’s inherently casual nature. Health and magic is restored completely after each fight, meaning once you have broken the game, spamming the most powerful multi-enemy attacks without the need to conserve any magic points in long drawn-out dungeons is the only strategy moving forward. This devolves what would otherwise be a fairly strategic battle system emphasizing ether management and wait times into a nonsensical spam fest. The issue is further compounded by Blue Reflection‘s lack of consequence. Dying in battle transports the player back to the real world without resorting to a prior save state. BLUE REFLECTION_20171119162232

Gust has expressed interest in developing a sequel. Despite my voracious tear-down of Blue Reflection, I won’t condemn a future installment. The writing and hardware optimization could use major retooling, but the core concepts are there. If Gust just re-balances the difficulty in any way they see fit, then we’ll already have a markedly more palatable experience. The question remains, though, whether they are capable of capitalizing on the franchise’s potential.

 

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School Girl Zombie Hunter Review(4.5/10)

School Girl Zombie Hunter_20171117184217“Lose the clothes, save your life!”

With such eloquently stated writing on the back of the box, whatever could School Girl Zombie Hunter possibly be about? As a spin-off to the Onechanbara franchise, School Girl Zombie Hunter aims to titillate, but is it any good? The previous game, Onechanbara Z2: Chaos, while low effort in many ways, at the very least exhibited flashy combat that exceeded the level of depth you’d find in typical western character action games like God of War or Heavenly Sword. 

School Girl Zombie Hunter_20171117172626Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of School Girl Zombie Hunter. While the game may introduce interesting mechanics, the core shooting feels under-cooked with a horrible frame rate that exacerbates the less than optimal character movement and control. Despite running on Unreal Engine 4, the game looks about 10 years behind the times. Even releasing in this state in 2007, it would pale stacked up to the competition. Remember, 2007 was the year of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Crysis. Regardless, it is a modest visual upgrade over Onechanbara Z2: Chaos. Tamsoft finally upgraded from PS2 era levels to mediocre PS3 environments.

With that said, for a Playstation 4 exclusive running on a modern engine like Unreal 4, its laughably outdated visuals make the performance profile all the more baffling. Low budget Japanese games are no strangers to poor performance, but even so, School Girl Zombie Hunter is one of the most jarring experiences I’ve had all console generation second only to Warriors All-Stars. It seems to target a 60 fps refresh, though it regularly drops below 40 frames per second, with minimums as low as what feels like the teens in extreme cases. Even on a PS4 Pro with boost mode enabled(it has no official PS4 Pro support from what I can tell), it runs like hot garbage. When we have console games like DOOM running at 1080p at a stable 60 frames per second on the standard PS4, performance like this stings even more.

School Girl Zombie Hunter_20171118155025Unfortunately, fixing the frame rate wouldn’t solve much considering School Girl Zombie Hunter is a below average shooter at best. The game contains five playable characters throughout the roughly 4-5 hour story with each character providing different benefits. Rei is invincible during her melee animation, for example, while Mayaya reveals collectibles dotted around each level. The most interesting mechanic revolves around disrobing. Players can dress their characters in various outfits and even select the underwear/bra set underneath.

Pressing the touch pad rips the selected clothing, acting as a trap, enabling zombies to ignore the player and friendly AI. Underwear traps work exactly the same, though their effectiveness hinges on how long a character wears a set of underwear. School Girl Zombie Hunter tracks the amount of time each character wears an underwear set. Once ten minutes is exceeded, you can take a shower from the menu outside of missions, saving the dirty underwear as a single use item. The longer you wait to take a shower, the longer the underwear trap will last, capping out at one minute for thirty minutes of in-game underwear time. Traps are an underdeveloped throwaway mechanic that’ll make you chuckle once.

School Girl Zombie Hunter also contains a thin veneer of rpg elements. Completing missions rewards experience points with each level increasing a character’s health and stamina; a bar whose management is integral to sprinting, dodging, and performing melee attacks. Leveling up has an imperceptible impact on gameplay, though the loot drop system with several weapon types having different properties and effects adds depth to a game sorely lacking in meaningful content. It’s a shame then that with so many weapons containing variable stats, the game lacks a basic weapon comparison feature. Consisting of a by the numbers plot filled with archetypal anime characters and horrendous cinematography in addition to outdated animations, the loot drop system ends up being the single most compelling element of the entire experience rather than a supplemental addition to what should be the core shooting mechanics.

School Girl Zombie Hunter_20171117144915The act of shooting things lacks satisfaction. All weapons, including shotguns, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers lack impact. Even dismemberment weapons(guns that automatically dismember enemies on contact) feel weightless. When mowing down waves of zombies, I felt like I was shooting spitballs at grown muscular men. Shooting lacks the sense of weight and player feedback necessary to make the violence truly gratifying. Even worse, the campaign recycles the same four maps throughout the entirety of its run-time. The budget apparently only allowed Tamsoft to render School Building A, School Building B, The Outside, and Underground. Some chapters mix things up slightly by opening up the ability to freely travel across both school buildings and the outer premises within the same mission, but at the end of the day, it’s still only four maps that are repeated ad nauseam. Within the first hour, you’ll grow tired of seeing the same backdrops.

School Girl Zombie Hunter_20171120115817School Girl Zombie Hunter is a frustrating game. It follows a competent action game by the same developer just two years ago, but that’s not why it’s so frustrating. In the current political North American climate, low brow sexy games like this are unfairly dismissed by mainstream gaming media. Far too often, we see supposed “professional” reviewers give games poor or reduced review scores simply due to the reviewer being offended by said game’s representation of women or minorities, completely ignoring the actual quality of the game experience. Tamsoft has proven that they can make decent erotic games, but School Girl Zombie Hunter only adds fuel to the fire. Its poor level of quality and downright laziness serves as more ammunition for “politically correct” gaming journalists to justify their automatic condemnation of “weird Japanese games”. Even at a launch price of $40, School Girl Zombie Hunter is difficult to recommend, though if you find it on sale for under $20, it’s a passable mindless time waster for when you’re in that mood.

SCORE: 4.5/10

How Hidden Agenda Stacks Up as A Single Player Experience

We certainly saw how people had responded to Until Dawn, especially on streaming sites. That inspired a lot of the direction we’ve taken with the game.”

Hidden Agenda_20171029154011Supermassive Games has been around since last gen, dabbling in the creation of downloadable content for LittleBigPlanet among other minor projects, though 2015’s Until Dawn was their breakout hit. The developers saw Until Dawn transform into a party game due to its decision based gameplay that could result in either all or none of the eight playable characters dying.

This group-centered environment induced by Until Dawn’s mechanics heavily informed the design of Hidden Agenda. Whether that change in direction is for the better isn’t my place to decide as the developers have made it clear through interviews and trailers that the multiplayer “competitive” mode is THE way to play the game. Well, I have no friends so I have yet to try the multiplayer mode myself, but that’s not what this article is for.

Hidden Agenda_20171029160306Rather than writing a traditional review of Hidden Agenda because I have not experienced it properly, I aim to figure out how well it stacks up as a single player experience through the game’s “story” mode. Not everyone interested in this game may want to play with friends. They’d prefer an isolated experience in a similar vein to Until Dawn. Before starting the analysis, it’s worth noting the price. Launching at $20  after Until Dawn‘s full fledged $60 price tag in 2015(which can now be had for $20), it’s clear that Hidden Agenda is a budget title and should be treated as such.

Hidden Agenda_20171103202355First impressions for the single player gamer are not strong. Even if you want to play by yourself, you are still required to download the Hidden Agenda app for your smartphone. Don’t worry. It’s free, though using this app, as you’ll soon find out, is a price of admission not worth taking. Both the system and phone have to be connected through the same wifi network before they can be synced. The game is played entirely through this app, a design decision that ultimately hampers the single player experience, transforming it into a hollow shell devoid of any potential it might have had. The already simple mechanics of Until Dawn are streamlined even further. Players never physically control either of the protagonists in a three dimensional space. Instead, the three modes of control consist of:

  • Making one of two decisions(it’s never any more than two)
  • Quick time events; either uneventful chase sequences or some of the most awkward fights you’ll witness in your life
  • Crime Investigation

On paper, crime scene investigation seems like the most interesting use of the playlink technology powering the game until you realize how shallow the experience is. Every crime scene consists of a single still frame with three pieces of evidence scattered about the scene. Crime scene investigations are timed, which when utilized properly, should add a sense of pressure that only video games can provide. However, instead of being a tense race against the clock, these scenes devolve into tedious wrestling matches against the unresponsive touch controls. Through the entirety of the experience, all decisions and mechanics are enabled through the use of an on-screen pointer that corresponds to your finger on the phone. Crime scenes use this pointer as well. This is where the game begins to fall apart. The second you identify a clue, the stupid app has a schizophrenic attack and loses the normally adequate, though not ideal, level of response for at least 2-4 seconds, wasting your time in the process. I did not time the crime scenes myself, though they are all definitely expected to be completed within a window of under thirty seconds.

Hidden Agenda_20171103203201The developers recognized this shitty technology and accounted for that. Guiding the pointer in the general direction of a clue highlights a gigantic magnifying glass, immediately giving away the item of interest. It’s a cop-out that would have been unnecessary if the app worked as the developers claimed or better yet, if gamers that know how to hold a controller were given the option of using one. Quick time events are similarly unresponsive, explaining why every QTE prompt slows down the action to give you enough time to wrestle with the controls. Even then, bringing the pointer close enough to the desired QTE box magnetically pulls it in. This design deficiency also adversely effects simple binary decisions. Often, when laying my finger on the phone, dragging back and forth, the pointer would magnetically teleport to the undesired choice, leaving me at the mercy of the playlink technology’s incompetence.

We haven’t had any problems with latency and so forth. We’re comfortable with the fact that we have quick-time events in the game and timed choices, and that’s caused no problems at all…We haven’t at any point had to think, ‘We can’t do that because of latency.’ It just works.

Right. Sure. Okay.

Hidden Agenda_20171103211148

Be careful dragging your pointer around curiously. The shit controls might make the decision for you against your will.

While control is limited, thereby inhibiting the level of player agency you’d expect from a game of this nature, Hidden Agenda does at the very least exceed Until Dawn in one key area: Presentation. In the move from an earlier version of the Decima Engine circa Killzone: Shadowfall to Unreal Engine 4, Supermassive Games has crafted one of the most visually impressive games of the generation. Despite being two years old, Until Dawn remains one of the best looking current gen games, with Hidden Agenda pushing far beyond that. Noticeable improvements to lighting, materials, and character models are integral to making the experience that much more immersive, a necessity given how lackluster the narrative is.

Hidden Agenda is far from a compelling story. The plot is poorly paced with characters having very little room to develop. It’s perhaps a byproduct of the two to three hour length better suited to film combined with the inefficiency of a script that feels as though it was written for a much longer game. Until Dawn was not cinematic genius, but it wasn’t trying to be. Hidden Agenda doesn’t aspire to be Citizen Kane either, though with the anemic length and lack of player agency, the game’s success hinges entirely on its narrative and when even that feels bare bones, there’s a problem. Filled with some of the most obtrusive scene transitions I have ever witnessed in any piece of entertainment, even Tommy Wiseau would be more capable of tying scenes together.

The basic plot holds promise for an interactive narrative. It centers around a serial killer that is sentenced to death for a series of murders dubbed the “trapper” killings due to each victim being rigged with a trap that kills first responders. The mystery and motives surrounding these murders has the potential to elicit unique gameplay encounters and enable morally ambiguous player choice. What we are left with is a poorly written story devoid of a legitimate sense of agency and filled with mostly binary decisions that do little to stimulate the mind.

Hidden Agenda_20171103214540Hidden Agenda is a botched attempt at capitalizing on the legacy the studio started to build with Until Dawn. In its chase for the casual group-think crowd, Supermassive Games has crafted a shallow experience. While it may very well be a fun game to play with a group of friends over some pizza and drinks, it’s almost insultingly empty for the single player gamer. With that said, Hidden Agenda is still worth looking into for devout proponents of the narrative potency of video games. While it may be a “failure” incapable of competing with proper crime/thriller films and television shows, it’s commendable that the developers took a risk in an industry so averse to experimentation. There are worse ways to spend $20. After all, you could end up finding a used copy of Final Fantasy 15. 

Yakuza 0 Review(9/10)

Eleven years after its western debut, 2017 has finally become the year the Yakuza franchise has gained a foothold outside of Japan. The series has seen a dedicated following, but it wasn’t until January 2017’s localized release of Yakuza 0 that the series finally struck gold in western markets.

Part of Yakuza 0‘s success at reaching a relatively large audience stems from the fact that it is a fresh start. As the “0” in the title implies, this is a prequel to the entire franchise, setting up events that lead into Yakuza Kiwami, a remake of the original PlayStation 2 entry. It’s never been a better time to get into Yakuza.

Yakuza 0 centers around the plight of Kazuma Kiryu after he is framed for the murder of a civilian, which brings unwanted attention to the Tojo Clan. Through a series of events, Kiryu finds himself excommunicated from the Yakuza, allowing him to act on his own devices. Unbound by the shackles and “code of ethics” of the family he once belonged to, Kiryu is determined to clear his name.

Comprising of seventeen chapters, Yakuza 0′s story alternates between Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima every two chapters. This structure provides a strong foundation for a multilayered narrative. What begins as two distinct narratives about two entirely different characters with seperate goals eventually morphs into a cleverly connected overarching plot that ties the seemingly disparate stories of Kiryu and Majima together. It’s this penchant for storytelling that remains Yakuza 0‘s greatest strength.

The game has a strong enough narrative to be worth the price of admission alone. Thankfully, the game underneath all this story is just as worthy, though for entirely different reasons. 

While Yakuza 0 presents a serious narrative with incredibly dark scenes and well produced cinematics, it also presents its gameplay elements and mechanics through dissonance.

To begin with, combat in Yakuza 0 is ridiculous in the best way possible. Battles play out in a simplistic 3D brawler fashion with standard light attack combos and a heavy attack that can be utilized as a finisher for said combo. In addition, players can pick up random objects such as bikes, chairs, ashtrays, stun guns, and poles. Enemies can also be grabbed and punched or thrown onto the ground. Throughout combat, players will fill a heat gauge that has up to three levels. A level two and 3 heat gauge will allow heat actions to be initiated, which are essentially destructive special moves of sorts. These heat actions range from contextual animations such as knocking an enemy over a nearby ledge to jamming nails down his throat. It is excessively violent and works fine, but repetition starts to set 50+ hours in after witnessing the same thirty or so heat actions repeatedly. 

As players earn money, they’ll be able to unlock new moves for each of the three fighting styles with a fourth style unlocking after completing Kiryu’s real estate management and Majima’s cabaret club side stories, respectively. 

That’s right. Real estate management and running a cabaret club, each complete with their own storylines are just a few of the dozens of fully fleshed out  activities available in Yakuza 0. Other activities include batting, bowling, disco dancing, karaoke, playing old sega arcade games, watching erotic videos, “phone sex”, mahjong, shogi, darts, and pool. The list goes on and not a single activity save for erotic videos isn’t fleshed out enough to stand on its own and distract players for hours. 

There’s nothing quite like finishing a heart wrenching ten minute cutscene, followed by going to the disco club and witnessing the hardened Goro Majima dancing like a fool to cheesy 80’s music with a ponytail and eye patch; or masturbating to erotic videos, after which, the character’s heat gauge will fill up to max level.

This wildly erratic tone that juggles between deeply engrained human emotion and absurdist humor is part of what makes Yakuza the distinct experience that it is. This dissonance between narrative and gameplay is further compounded by the roughly 100 substories. Substories are Yakuza‘s version of side quests, though most of these consist of nothing more than dialogue. Substories can range from stuff like teaching a timid dominatrix to assert her dominance to buying an adult magazine for a ten year old kid. 

In other games, this tonal imbalance would be a detriment, but Yakuza 0 asserts itself with such confidence that players either learn to accept this dissonance or they don’t. Considering Yakuza‘s target audience, refusing to pander to western sensibilities is precisely what makes it such a success. It’s a representation of not only Japanese culture, but also its design doctrines with the west and the east adopting differing styles of game design and storytelling.

In the modern day, with more and more eastern studios like Square Enix acquiescing to western design sensibilities, it is a breath of fresh air to witness a game that flies in the face of contemporary design conventions. While the increasing trend in the industry has been to meld narrative and mechanics in such a way that they complement each other, Yakuza 0 says “fuck you. I’m a video game. I can be what I want.” to all of that. It is a deeply engaging narrative experience that also cements itself as an addictive video GAME by providing endless distractions that offer a reprieve from the story’s heavy themes.

SCORE: 9/10

What Remains of Edith Finch And Interactive Storytelling 





WARNING: SPOILERS!

What Remains of Edith Finch is many things. It is a narrative driven experience, or as some like to call it, a “walking simulator”. It is a collection of short stories, but most importantly, What Remains of Edith Finch is one of the finest contemporary examples of the  effectiveness of interactive storytelling. When it hits its peak, Edith Finch utilizes the medium’s interactivity to deliver potent story beats and moments that would be impossible to replicate in any other form of entertainment. 

The player takes control of Edith Finch, the sole remaining member of the Finch Family. She returns to her old family home after being away for years in search of the truth behind each family member’s death. This is where Edith Finch‘s narrative structure lies.

Once the player happens upon the Finch family home, they are left to their own devices. Each room contains a letter, note, or memorabilia of some kind which triggers a playable chapter detailing each individual’s final moments. Due to this set-up and the fact that the game contains no puzzles of any sort, it’s entirely possible to make it to the end while missing half of the Finch family secrets.

However, doing so would be a disservice to the team’s hand-crafted elegance. Rushing through the game is exactly the opposite of what you’re supposed to do. You are supposed to take it slow. After all, there is a reason the game’s default walking speed is mind-numbingly slow and why a sprint function is absent. What Remains of Edith Finch is a labor of love from a studio of tightly-knit individuals. They are proud of the experience they have created and entrust the player to appreciate the game’s quiet time, extrapolating extra information through environmental observation.

The house is painstakingly detailed. Each room serves to accentuate the individual stories as well as the story at large surrounding the Finch family’s supposed “curse”. A player could in theory make a mad-dash to each interactive note/object and learn enough just through the playable stories, but Edith Finch deserves more attention than that. Because this is a video game and not a film, the player is given the opportunity to linger and that more than anything is what cements Edith Finch as a strong narrative experience.

What Remains of Edith Finch also utilizes video game conventions to tell certain stories in ways that only a video game could. The story of Molly Finch is just one example of this. As a kid with an active imagination, Molly claims she was hungry one night, then saw a bird. She tried reaching for this bird and in doing so suddenly turns into a cat. Through a series of events and clever transitions, she then becomes an owl, then a shark, then a sea monster. Each shift in perspective provides a shift in playstyle and controls, each of which prove to be disorienting to the player. 

Boundless leaps of logic are to be expected in a video game and that sort of logic-leaping nonsense in the typical video game is a perfect catalyst for representing the imagination of a little girl. These radical shifts in perspective leave the player in wonder as he/she comes to grips with the controls and rule set of each new perspective, perfectly echoing the mindset of a child as she’s pretending to be all these things and acclimating. Had this been a film or novel, the effect just wouldn’t have been the same.

Unfortunately, for all its successes, What Remains of Edith Finch also highlights why games like this still have a lot to learn. I mentioned quiet time earlier, but to be honest, there actually is very little of it. Edith herself talks a lot. Any interactive object will trigger dialogue from Edith. Traveling through most of the house will trigger dialogue. Go up these steps. Trigger dialogue. Open this door. Trigger dialogue. It’s as if the writers were afraid their niche game would somehow bore the sort of player that is interested in experiences of this nature. A little more restraint could have gone a long way.

What Remains of Edith Finch, despite what you may believe, is a wonderful celebration of life rather than a mourning of death.

“In Memory of Shirley Davis”

Reads the end credits soon followed by portraits of every member at Giant Sparrow. You’ll immediately notice that each member’s portrait is taken from their infancy and early childhood years. That’s when it hits. As Edith echoes in her final words: “I don’t want you to be sad. I want you to be amazed that we ever had the chance to be here at all“. What Remains of Edith Finch is a narrative experience that explores and celebrates the gift of life and living in the moment. While it may still have room to grow, What Remains of Edith Finch is about as good as it gets within this genre at this point in time. This genre and the video game industry at large still have a lot to learn about writing, pacing, and restraint, but regardless, it’s exciting to be a part of this and play something as special as What Remains of Edith Finch.

NieR: Automata Is One of The Best And Most Clever Games of The Generation(Too Clever For The Financial Post) 

Nier: Automata exemplifies what is wrong with mainstream gaming media. Although Automata‘s reception has been startlingly positive from both critics and consumers, there are a scant few individuals that missed the point of Nier: Automata and as such, their overall impression of the game is less than positive.

One example is the Financial Post’s review. Before we begin to tear this review apart, I must preface this tirade by stating that I condone dissenting opinions. There is nothing inherently wrong with one critic liking a game and another one disliking it. It’s bound to happen and as long as both sides of the fence have legitimate reasons and arguments for their own sides, all it does is generate a rich discussion surrounding the game.

The issue with The Financial Post’s review of the game is that the reviewer in question(Chad Sapieha if you want to get out the pitchforks) did not finish the game properly. Based on the wording used in his review, it’s fair to assume he either never finished a second playthrough or just never even started one to begin with. This can be surmised by the following excerpt: “Perhaps I stopped too early. Maybe I should have played through a second time – and a third and fourth – to see what the writers were holding back for those with the patience and tenacity to keep going. Maybe Nier: Automata is actually the Rashomon of video games, providing new insight and perspective each time you play, resulting in something that transcends each individual play-though.


But if Platinum Games wanted me to do that, it should have made the first time through a lot more charming
.”

This closing sentiment echoes the unprofessional attitude the writer took when choosing to critique Nier. The issue stems from that fact that the “multiple playthroughs” are integral to Nier: Automata‘s design. Unlike a lot of other games that like to claim “branching storylines” and “multiple endings”, Nier really follows through on that promise of delivering an entirely new experience until the true ending is achieved by the third playhthrough. 

Automata‘s playthroughs are more than simply playing this game the exact same way and getting a different cutscene at the end. Story route A is basically equivalent to the opening 10-15 hours of a sprawling 60+ hour rpg. You’re barely scratching the surface of the game and in reviewing it so prematurely have defamed the narrative ambition of the title.

Because – in what can only be described as an utterly miscalculated decision – the writers decided that in order to fully explore these weighty themes and issues they needed to make us play the game more than once.

After finishing it the first time, with no real resolutions provided, we’re told we need to start this 25-hour plus game all over again to get the full Nier: Automata experience.”
If the reviewer in question had bothered to begin a second playthrough, he would have immediately found out that the thirty minute or so prologue mission is entirely different and that players take control of 9S. 9S controls differently from 2B, already making it a unique enough experience from the outset. However, that’s not where the game’s ambition lies so let’s go a step further.

Each subsequent playthrough essentially acts as new game plus, meaning all gold, crafting materials, character progression, weapons, and so on carry over from story route A all the way to C, cutting down on the tedium typically associated with playing a game more than once for a different ending. Furthermore, 9S has the ability to hack enemies, chests, and doors, introducing an entirely new mechanic to story route b. That’s to say nothing of the added story scenes throughout that flesh out sections you’ve already played in addition to new enemy types being introduced. EVEN FURTHER, all previously completed side quests will remain completed, meaning no time wasted on doing the same tedious side quests again and again for lore or extra experience or just to scratch your OCD itch. 

That second playthrough already sounds like a different enough experience to be worth playing, doesn’t it? The real game changer, however, is story route c. This third playthrough is a different game from beginning to end. It introduces yet another new playable character, A2, whom plays similarly to 2B with the added mechanic of taunting enemies to enrage them, increasing both your attack power and their attack power. Story route c takes place after endings a and b. This isn’t just some “let’s play the same main story again a third time with even more added cutscenes to flesh it out even more”. No, this third route is a fresh experience. Story route c is so integral to the narrative structure of Nier: Automata that a preview of future events in an anime style “this is what will happen next. Tune in to find out” plays after the end credits of story route b. 

If Chad Sapieha had bothered to play the game three times and still didn’t like it much, then that’s fair play. However, as it stands, his criticism of Nier: Automata is predicated entirely upon the need to play an open world rpg more than once to fully understand the story. It’s clear by the review that Chad didn’t understand just how different each playthrough is and as such, his criticism of Nier: Automata is unprofessional. That it even showed up on metacritic is baffling. The Financial Post should stick to boring news and stock information. It’s clear that the site and Chad aren’t qualified enough to properly review a game.  

Rainbow Six Siege is Brilliant

A little over a year on from its release with a second year of confirmed support, Rainbow Six Siege has survived its launch woes and cements itself as one of the best shooters of this generation.

Rainbow Six Siege has been able to captivate me in ways no other game has. Its greatest strength lies within the methodical pacing. Each match lasts only a handful of minutes, and combined with the low player health and lack of respawning, that makes each second crucial.

The difference between winning or losing a round can sometimes hinge upon whether or not you happened to be aiming at the right location at the right time. In spite of this time sensitivity, a lot of game time is spent waiting. Whether a player is laying prone in a corner or has punched a hole in a wall for a new line of site, situational awareness is paramount to success. Running in straight to the objective with reckless abandon WILL get you killed. 

Success requires patience. Oftentimes, even more tense than a firefight is a tango between players on opposing sides of an obstruction. Player 1 is repelling down the side of a building. Player 2 hears the rope and makes a quick sprint toward a corner by the window. Player 1 hears these footsteps just before deciding to charge through. This leads to a mindgame mimicking a balancing of power.

This constant balancing of power between humans players with only one life nestled deep within the micro-level destruction creates a dynamic no other multiplayer game aspires to. No other game this generation has made the simple act of slowly turning a corner feel so incredibly tense and dire. 

Both players are scared for their lives, but just one slight move can turn the tide of battle. Perhaps player 1 has a flashbang, but should he/she risk shooting or punching a hole in the window to allow space for this flashbang to enter through? Doing so might give the opponent just enough of a reaction time to gun him/her down.

Because of the nature of Rainbow Six Siege‘s mechanics, underlying structure, and game flow, more than half of your total play time will be spent scouting for information through drones or cameras, sitting in silence, listening for sounds, or dancing back and forth between an opposing player until one dies or retreats. 

It is one of the most satisfying games to play in this day and age. Yes, it’s got its fair share of bullshit like any multiplayer game in existence, but when a game plan goes right, Rainbow Six Siege enables a specific kind of power fantasy rarely seen in gaming.

Variety is The Spice of Life(Gaming)

Stop me if this has ever happened to you before. You are looking over a list of games to be released over the next several months. For a good majority of those games, all you can think is “damn, I want that”. Then, you begin to spark conversation with your gaming friends about what you are looking forward to. 

Game after game gets shut down by your friends, with statements usually along the lines of “I don’t like games like that” or “that’s not my kind of game”. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s an innocent enough statement that’s not attacking anyone for liking something different, but then you sit back and reflect. 

As a “hardcore gamer”, you find yourself enamored by the sheer variety of experiences on offer in the medium. As such, you refuse to turn a game down just because of the genre it falls in or just because it’s purely gameplay driven or just because it’s a cinematic/narrative driven experience. You love all games because all kinds of experiences are equally valid, but your friends have a much more limited taste in games, making it far more difficult to really connect in conversation.

Gaming’s greatest strength is its versitlity which can extend far beyond that of any other medium. Want to watch a horror movie? There’s esentially only serious horror or cheesy and/or comedy horror. Want to play a horror video game? Yeah, there’s still the two tonal extremes as with film, but how does it actually play? Is it first person? Is it third person? Does it rely heavily on melee or gun combat? Is there even any combat at all? How much puzzle solving and environmental exploration is involved? Is it super linear or more open ended? Does it have choices that impact the narrative? How difficult is it? So many parts come together to create video games and being able to experience everything the medium has to offer keeps it from ever becoming stale. Unlike some of my friends, I never get bored of games or have my moods where I don’t want to play a game. 

That mostly comes down to the fact that I open my mind to playing any kind of game. When within a week I can go from playing a generic first person shooter to a hardcore rpg to a walking simulator to a racing game, I’m never going to grow tired of gaming. Open your mind and you’ll have so much more fun with games. 

Look Back: Playing Resident Evil 6 For The First Time in 2016

Resident Evil 6 has garnered quite the reputation as being the most reviled entry in the mainline series. It’s a game I have yet to play until very recently and after finally taking the plunge, I’m left utterly baffled by the hate. Yes, Resident Evil 6 is far from a masterpiece. It has some pretty blatant issues and frustrating design inconsistencies, but to call this a “bad” game is extreme. 

I get it. There are these hardcore series stalwarts that hate change and automatically insult any new installment in a series that’s different because they’re regressive and can’t handle change. Every fanbase has those people. Who cares that Resident Evil 6 isn’t a horror game? It was clear from the start that it was going to be an action game and makes no attempts at hiding that. 

You can complain all you want that the series’ roots are gone, but they’ve been gone for years and this game embraces that by doing a hard left turn, challenging your preconceived notions of what a Resident Evil game is. Put simply, on a purely mechanical level, Resident Evil 6 is the most satisfying RE game to play. 

First impressions upon beginning the prologue are iffy. The opening playable sequence is a tightly directed and controlled vertical slice that entirely removes control from the player. When the tutorial prompts you to use the left stick to move, Leon will move forward regardless of which direction you move the analog stick. It’s as if Resident Evil 6 thinks you’re a fucking dumbass and can’t handle control in video games. Once it begins properly,though, it shines brightly, but not too bright. 

Let’s get this out of the way. Resident Evil 6 is not what I’d call a good game; more along the lines of average, but that’s the problem with consumers in this day and age. They hear anything less than “amazing” and the game is not worth their time. Plenty of average games can be filled with a fair amount of fun and interesting ideas/mechanics. RE 6 is one of those games.

No matter how directionless the story and level design becomes; no matter how contrived and scripted its set pieces can be, Resident Evil 6 feels so good to play. The mobility and control is something I never thought I’d see in a Resident Evil game. The ability to sprint and slide while still shooting is a blessing. Additionally, you can quick turn during the slide and still be laying on your back, ready to shoot at any enemies from behind with style. 

There’s also the fact that your character seamlessly transitions from cover to laying on the ground and vice versa just from moving the analog stick back and forth. If you’re on your back against a wall, the camera switches to a first person perspective so as to not cause camera issues. I also haven’t even begun to mention the contextual melee animations as well as the No Mercy mode.

Resident Evil 6 isn’t a game I’d revisit time and time again because of how well designed it is like Resident Evil 4 or even Resident Evil 5, but it’s far better than butthurt fanboys make it out to be. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the game felt on a purely mechanical level. In that respect, this is the best RE game by miles. 

Onechanbara Z2 Chaos Review(7/10)

Onechanbara Z2 Chaos is another game in the pantheon of erotic Japanese games that markets itself as this sexy experience you’ll get off to, but like so many other games of this type, the fan service is relatively light. Cutscenes do show off the sexy cast of characters, but these scenes are so brief and infrequent that they do little to titillate. In addition, due to the nature of the game’s musou style combat, it’s difficult to see anything erotic during gameplay. 

When all is said and done, Onechanbara Z2 Chaos is an action game first and a sexy game second. Combat is much more accomplished than expected. It seems simple at first with standard light and heavy attacks, but spend more time with it and you’ll find a fairly complex game underneath. The game stars four characters: Kagura, Saaya, Saki, and Aya. Every character has access to two weapons and a sub weapon, each with their own combos and properties. 

Basic combos are simple to pull off, but every combo string can be interrupted mid-combo and be continued by switching weapons or characters on the fly, continuing a combo string. This on-the-fly switching coupled with other mechanics such as the chase system, which automatically dashes you toward the nearest target and launches them in the air, transforms what would otherwise be mediocre combat.  

Onechanbara Z2 Chaos takes a few hours to master and understand, but once you do, the pacing and fluidity of it all makes it incredibly addictive. Even when the PlayStation 2 era environments with uninspired level design rear their ugly head, the core gameplay is so satisfying that the poor design is mitigated slightly. 

It helps that the game’s story clocks in at around 4 hours, meaning it doesn’t overstay its welcome. The story itself is nothing to write home about. It’s so poorly written with such sporadic pacing that skipping all the cutscenes wont detract from the experience at all unless you really NEED to see that two second ass shot. 

Onechanbara Z2 Chaos is a perfectly competent action game with enough depth to satisfy hardcore action fans, but its limited scope and budget severely impacts the quality of the title. It has the basic mechanics down. All it needs is more polish to become a bonafide classic. 

SCORE: 7/10