Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Xenoblade Chronicles X review: A whole new world... of Warcraft

Ok, I loved Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii U and 3DS. Long story short on it is that it had a great story, huge world and it engaged me from start to finish. This game, the massive follow up chose to go big or go home... and I kinda wish it did go home a little. Yeah... I'm not singing this game's praises.

Xenoblade Chronicles X(by the way the X is actually a cross, like on the PlayStation controllers) is a bloated game. No seriously it's so full of padding it may as well be a 1:1 scale Snorlax plushie! There is so much you can do in the game and it can get, to put it simply... BORING! That's something you never want to here about any game. I beat the game and I honestly felt like I wasted over 100 hours of my life on stupid side quests and grinding!

So when you boot up the game for the first time the game lets you customise an avatar... yay? Silent Protagonist anyone? One of my first problems is that your character doesn't talk, despite the fact you can choose a voice when creating them. Choosing a voice is just for screeching attack names in combat and it's a waste of voice acting talent, especially for Shulk and Fiora's voice actors from the UK. Seems like a really terrible choice to me, but then again, I prefer my JRPGs with a focus on it's characters and story over the WRPGs choose your own adventure style.Yeah... it's got WRPG style dialogue choices and they pretty much are meaningless too.

"So what about the story?" you may ask. Well this is a sore spot for me. The story really feels like it was put on the back burner during development in favour of building the excessively large, waste of precious gigabytes world of Mira. The characters involved in the story are great don't get me wrong(Lin's my favourite), but the story itself for the most part just isn't very engaging. To make matters worse is all the walls thrown at you to make you earn the privilege of experiencing the story. if you haven't guessed it... mandatory side quests to unlock story! The game really loves to keep you on that hamster wheel all right.

"So there are job classes in the game, right?". Well yes, but they all suck! Classes only really dictate what weapons you're stuck with and your stats. The skills are actually dependant on what weapon types you equip and makes the classes meaningless once you master them. Yeah... once the final classes are mastered, you can equip any weapon and choose the class with the best stats. Just be warned... the grind is high!

As I've already mentioned, the game is full of padding. There are 100's of quests in the game to drive those of us with OCD absolutely crazy. To make matters worse is the affinity grinding needed to access certain missions just to flesh out your team mates personalities... and some of these quests are mandatory to gain permission to continue the story! The basic quests are literally just that, basic MMO quests you've probably experienced in World of Warcraft or any other cookie cutter MMO.

Speaking of World of Warcraft(personally I'd rather not, but many people are familiar with it), if you've played that game... you'll feel at ease here. hell, even if you've played Final Fantasy XII it'll seem familiar. One of the few things the game did right(unlike FFXII) was make MMO combat work in a single player experience... though credit for that actually belongs to it's superior predecessor.

"So what merits does Xenoblade X actually hold?". You'd think the Skells right? Boy did they want us to love them with all the promotional material huh? Well they dropped the ball there too! You don't get Skells until half way through the game and they are little more than a second set of skills and an extra health bar. Sure you can use them to help with exploring Mira, but in essence they are a second skin... and they are outrageously expensive!

The music... oh God the music gives me such mixed feelings! On one hand the music is used well,  but on the other hand the vocals ruin the experience constantly! The song's vocal track has this annoying habit of drowning out the story's voice acting, requiring you to have subtitles on so you don't miss a thing. I honestly wish the game had an instrumental option for the music so it doesn't overshadow the story moments... also the song lyrics are terrible and annoying!

Online features! Every game today as required by law(at least it feels that way) to have some sort of online connectivity. Yes, online features for those of you who don't like to be alone when playing games. Funny thing though, seems no one is really using them. Nobody seems to want to join other people's games and even when they do... connection speed is an issue. The only reasons to play online are to recruit A.I controlled versions of other peoples avatars and to earn those reward tickets to buy enemy drops... online based padding!

"What if you beat the game? Is there a new game plus or any real bonuses?". Well... not really. Elma gets a palette swap and new gear is unlocked...that you need to grind for! If there was a new game plus, I'd shut up... but NOPE! All the end game content exists for, is to keep completionists from throwing the game back at the EB Games for the AU$25 store credit... or AU$48-56 at CEX. You know what? I challenge Jirad the Completionist to complete this without getting bored of the game!

So if you haven't already worked it out... I'm not very nice to this game. While combat is as good as the original Xenoblade, everything else either doesn't live up to the same standards as the original or is rubbish. I wanted to love this game, I really did... but it's overly padded and underwhelming! Sure you can create your own avatar and the world is excessively massive, but without a decently engaging story... it all just feels like wasted potential. I honestly think it's heavy western influence is what knee capped it. The original kept to it's Japanese sensibilities while still being western inspired, but this just wanted to be World of Warcraft crossed with Mass Effect and Skyrim. At least the main characters are interesting right? look I'll admit I had fun with it at first... but it was short lived. If you must have the game, just beat the story mode and shelf it. It's a rabbit hole that isn't worth getting lost in.

Score 6/10

Monday, October 12, 2015

Transformers Devastation Review: Me Grimlock, kick butt!

Ok... I'll need to make this clear. I am almost 30 years old, which means I have a little bias towards G1 Transformers... I am also wearing a Transformers T-Shirt as I write this. So yeah, I'm an old school Transformers fanboy and that drew me to this game like a moth to a flame... also PlatinumGames made this and they made Bayonetta... and I LOVE Bayonetta! So... bias's aside, is Transformers Devastion more than meets the eye?

Transformers Devastation is actually more related to the Transformers Generation comics than the original Transformers... which was based on the original Transformers. Full circle huh? Like the old TV series, the story isn't very deep in this game. In short, Megatron is "Cyberforming" Earth with the power of the Proud Star, an ancient Cybertronian ship that crashed eons ago & the Autobots must stop him to save the world. The story feels like a lost episode of the TV series... but more action packed!

I love the combat in this game! The combat is so much like Metal Gear Rising and Bayonetta in it's design. It is a fast paced system that requires quick reflexes to maximize your score for high ranks. The game's style is in essence a reskinning of Bayonetta with it's mission structure, secret mission and linearity, but it helps keep the game focused and considering this is Transformers after all... what'd you expect?

So the game has only 5 out of the hundreds of Autobots as playable characters. Some people have already complained about the selection, but I don't really think it's a bad selection. You get to use Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack and fan favourite... GRIMLOCK!! Each Transformer has their own stats and unique skill they can use in battle... but they all pretty much play the same. Grimlock is probably the only one who has any real variation... but it's only because he doesn't turn into a car. Also there is no Decepticon campaign and worst of all... no Starscream betrayal that makes him a temporary Autobot like in the TV series! I want to play as Starscream!

Scattered throughout each chapter are a series of collectibles. These can be both well hidden and in plain sight. Kremzeeks, Decepticon logos, letters and very hard to find Laserbeak's are the things you'll be searching for but here's the thing... they don't get you much at all. You pretty much get 2 trophies/achievements and an art gallery.

Throughout the missions you'll earn loot, yes loot. You'll earn so many guns and melee weapons while playing that you won't know what to do with them... at first. You can synthesize weapons to make them stronger or sell them for money(duh!). There is a surprisingly large variety of weapons for both melee and ranged weapons and they can also have elements and status effects too. You'll end up choosing your favourites obviously, but there's a lot to experiment with. My suggestion is to carry 3 guns each with a different element.

Speaking of money, the game throws money at you constantly throughout the game. You use money to buy items(duh), synthesize weapons, and even level up your stats. Yes... this game has a leveling system... and it doesn't effect the game that much, if at all. The funny thing is that you always need money! Seriously, leveling up higher grade weapons cost so much money and in harder difficulties will have you restocking items constantly! There are also some skills that you need to purchase from the lab and trust me... you need them as early as possible!

To top of the constant need for money, there are items you can make with the money you earn called T.E.C.H. T.E.C.H are equipable items that boost your abilities and can be both beneficial and useless.To top it off... making them is done in a quick timed event and the results are always random. I honestly haven't bothered putting much time into these because of the random nature of attaining them and the fact that they don't help very much from my experience.

I know I usually don't talk about graphics in video games, but I love the how authentic the Transformers themselves actually look. They just look magnificent! It's a shame the environments look like they were made for PS2 and are recycled throughout the game like the running scenes in the old Flintstones TV show. There's only 3 areas the game takes place in and 2 are recycled, maps and all throughout the majority of the game.

The game's length is a little... short. Unless you're like me and look for every collectible in every nook and cranny, you'll only get about 6 hours out of it on your first run through. Not to say that a short games is a bad thing, it's just a lot of people today want long and thick games... despite the fact that they don't know what to do with them... I just made a penis joke didn't I? To the game's advantage though, it's highly replayable because of trying to collect everything and getting SS rank in every mission... assuming you care about those.

Thrown in for good measure... and frustration is a Challenge mode. These are good for earning weapons, money and leveling up your Autobots, but ultimately lead to nothing. I honestly think the mileage in Challenge mode will vary from person to masochist. I honestly just couldn't bother stressing myself on these more than once per difficulty.

Transformers Devastation is a fun 80's nostalgia trip that is, in essence just Bayonetta once again. You can get a lot of fun out of this game if you love fast paced action and grew up with the Transformers, but it all depend on if you think the price is worth it. The USA has it for $50 and so does Australia. Us Aussie's got a good deal on it,  but the USA got screwed! The game does feel like a budget title you'd normally see for $20 on the digital stores, so why did Activision charge so much for it? THE BRAND! It's not cheap to licences the Transformers brand and they expect us nostalgic fans to empty our wallets for it. If you live in Australia and New Zealand, it's great for the price! If however you live anywhere else in the world, wait for it to drop to like US$30 so it's a reasonable price. Regardless, the game is fun and I love it. If you can rent it, do that.

Score 4/5 But don't pay US$50 for it!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blade Kitten Full Game Review: She's back, she's bad, she's tough & she's mad!

It's been many years since the release of Blade Kitten episode 1 on consoles and PC. I'm sure most of you forgot it existed and those who remember probably keep bugging it's creator for episode 2 on consoles. Unfortunately... console owners will be chasing that cat up a tree for the foreseeable future. Luckily the PC version is on Steam for cheap and episode 2 is available there too and you don't need a beefy PC to run it either. I ran it on a AU$500 laptop with minor performance issues. The big question is... is the game any good and was the wait for episode 2 worth it?

The story of Blade Kitten is not too complicated. Kit Ballard is a Breaker(also known as a bounty hunter) who has come to Hollow Wish to take on work. After accepting a break for local wanted criminal Terra Li, she is ambushed by Justice Kreel(another Breaker) who takes her Breaker key(a Breaker's I.D and logbook for breaks) and blows up Kit's ship. Now Kit must get her Breaker key back, capture the criminal Terra Li and survive Hollow Wish.

Do you like Strider? I like Strider! Blade Kitten can be considered a modern clone of Stirder. The game has you climbing almost any surface to traverse the large levels. The levels in the game are fairly large, but ultimately linear... but they are littered with collectibles! The game was built with completionists and speed runners in mind with lots of collectibles to find within each level and easy to find paths that will easily beat levels in 10 minutes or less... and there's an achievement for getting all of the levels best times totaling less than 90 minutes!

Throughout the stages you'll collect Hex, the games currency. It's abundant and is used to upgrade Kit's health, stamina and used to buy new swords and outfits. There are A LOT of costumes in this game! Some can be bought, some are unlocked just by buying both episodes of the game and others require completing certain requirements. None of the costumes do anything to improve Kit's abilities, but it's still fun to change the outfit every once in a while. Weapons don't really seem different enough from each other to make too much difference at first, but in the end you'll choose the the one with the highest stats and never change.

Difficulty has been an issue for many a reviewer and player alike. The enemies A.I is not very intelligent, even the new enemies introduced in episode 2 have no improvement over the first one. Enemies aren't really meant to be something to defeat so much as an obstacle to avoid and the levels themselves aren't too difficult to beat either. There are a couple of mini bosses and boss fights in the game too... and they aren't to difficult either. All this makes the game sound easy right? Well... it isn't easy... but it isn't hard either.

The game isn't without it's flaws. The game has a ton of bugs that appear in the PC version I never encountered in it's console counterparts. Falling through the environment, blinding white glare during the final boss fight, busted scripted sequence that goes faster than it's suppose to be and getting stuck in various objects randomly. The game even crashed once on me because of the way I entered the area before a cutscene. There's also the floaty controls that a lot of people didn't like the first time around... it never bothered me, but I thought I'd mention it for those who hate it.

Despite the issues, the game's writing is very enjoyable. The dialog exchanges between the characters is enjoyable and I never tire of it. So many characters have such great lines! Fighting through the enemies can also be very satisfying, despite the bad A.I and the completionist in me had to obtain all the collectibles and all the trophies.

So... is Blade Kitten good? Yes... yes it is. Yes the game is not very difficult and seems buggier on PC then it is on the consoles, but it's cheap and you can finally play the whole game. You can get a fair bit of mileage out of the game and it's fun to try and beat your best times. I recommend you play through the game without hunting everything down in the first run, do a second run to find everything and them speed run like a boss! My opinion of the games hasn't changed much, but I still say it's a good game worth your time

Score 4/5

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Amiibo... The Destroyer of Worlds!

What are amiibo? Why do they exist? Why are people sending themselves bankrupt to buy the rarest ones from scalpers on eBay and other auction websites? These are the questions normal people are asking about the new generation of Beanie Babies and we all have fallen under the amiibo spell.

Amiibo for the uneducated, are plastic statues with a microchip installed into it's base. These microchips communicate with Nintendo Wii U and 3DS via NFC(Near Field Communication). It uses a similar technology to your Pay 'n' Wave/Pay Pass cards you use at the check out. Each amiibo has unique data written to it that reflect the character on it and work with selected games, most famously Super Smash Bros for Wii U/3DS.

Nintendo obviously created amiibo as a reaction to the Skylanders and Disney Infinity craze that has taken over the wallets of parents everywhere over the past few years. These toys unlike Skylanders and Disney Infinity have been released in short supply and in some countries cases... made exclusive to specific stores. This has caused a gold rush to occur where people are buying them up in bulk and selling them at extreme mark ups on internet auction websites. These scumbags have been profiteering from Nintendo's stupidity and making thousands reselling the rarest of amiibo at 500+% mark ups and even selling the common ones at double the retail price.

The main reason amiibo are huge at the moment from my perspective seems to be aging Nintendo diehards obsession with needing official Nintendo collectibles and kid's love of toys and technology. Yeah, that's why the rarest are selling so high on eBay. Scalpers on eBay are making the most of Nintendo diehards need to have all the amiibo(because we just need the whole set damn it!)  and some of us are so desperate to complete the set... we're willing to pay anything for it.

Worst of all is that most people buying amiibo... aren't buying amiibo for it's functionality, but because they are Nintendo officially licensed merchandise. Admittedly I've only opened 50% of my amiibo myself. I... I just can't find the use of most of them worth while at the moment and will open them as the use becomes worth while. See, collectors have this crazy mental condition where they usually buy things and never open them from the package to preserve the artifact to prevent it's degradation. Some will even buy 2 of each thing so the can also have a display/use set that they will open up and a set to gather dust in a storage locker or cupboard.

Amiibo are an interesting idea in theory, but what they are used for is kinda... terrible. See, amiibo don't really work like Skylanders or Disney Infinity toys... they work much differently. In Super Smash Bros they allow you to "train" a computer A.I character, Mario Party 10 uses them to unlock new boards and play as the figure used... and constantly rescan them, Splatoon uses them to unlock challenges, Mario Kart 8 uses them to unlock costumes. You get the picture yet? Amiibo are in essence... physical downloadable content! Now this isn't bad in theory, what's bad is that Nintendo just isn't manufacturing enough to fill demand, let alone enough to fill store shelves for the uninformed to blind buy. I admit that Nintendo is starting to produce more, but for a good number of us... the damage is already done!

So there you go. Amiibo are the new big thing and will probably be so for quite some time. DLC packed toys with lots of ugly practices shadowing them. They look good, they add extra content to Nintendo games and they are financing a community of scumbags retirement. Are amiibo worth the hassle? I... just don't know. I haven't gotten much use out of them but they are cool to look at. Look... if your kid wants one, buy it. Simple.

Dust settled on E3 thoughts & what happened to me all this time?

Hey guys! What happened to me? Well... I've been busy with this thing called LIFE! It happens, you people should know that right... right? Anyway I've been distracted with things in life you may not be interest in, but doing the geeky stuff that makes me me. Yeah I haven't done a game review in like... 6 months or any posts in that long, BUT I'm going to try and fix that. Remember guys, I don't get paid to do this, no one funds me and this is pretty much a hobby. Anyway... on to the E3 stuff.

E3 happened! The people more influential than myself have all said their pieces and I thought I'd get my 2 cents in now that they've all shut up. Before I continue, NO THIS IS NOT A FULL RUNDOWN OF E3! Just my thoughts on the presentations and lists of games I'm excited for. There's a bit to go through, so let's get this ball rolling.

Ok! So the press conferences were all interesting but I'm only going to focus on the big 3 and not all the other stuff... I.. I don't want to write forever. Need I remind you, I DON'T GET PAID TO DO THIS! Now there were some good and bad from each, but let's talk Nintendo first.

Nintendo has received the most flak from fans and journalist alike. I think Nintendo's Digital Event was fine... but what ruined it was that most of the games were already shown or announced prior and it just didn't feel as special or magical as Nintendo usually is with the Nintendo Directs. To make matters worse was the fact that they arguably didn't even bring any A grade games. There were plenty of games shown, but not many that the majority of fans would fawn over. You got to admit, the whole Muppet Iwata, Reggie and Shigeru was kinda cool! The games I'm most excited to play are,
-Starfox Zero
-Legend Of Zelda: Triforce Heroes
-Hyrule Warriors Legends
-Super Mario Maker
-Metroid Prime: Federation Force

Microsoft's presentation was... so boring! I know I know, they just don't know how to appeal to a person like me. I spent the majority of my time watching the Microsoft conference on my phone murmuring to myself "Show me something that's not modern garbage... please!". No, it's not my retro gaming nostalgia stopping me from enjoying what Microsoft is shelling out, it's just that it's always the same crap. Microsoft DID throw out a curve ball though... backward compatibility is being rolled out on Xbox One! Yeah it sucks that it only supports a small amount to start with, but they finally gave an excuse for normal people to consider the upgrade to Xbone. They did show a couple titles I was interested in... but the Xbone is still not too appealing to me... but it's getting there. As for games I'm excited to play,
-Rare Replay
-Fallout 4(with mods)
-Xbox 360 games on Xbox One

Sony unanimously "won" E3 this year. They threw out all the stops and showed us so many games this year that were new! Arguable the biggest moments was The Last Guardian, Shenmue III Kickstarter announcement and the Final Fantasy VII remake. There were lots of games that really impressed me and seeing a couple have a PS Vita tag on them too made me happy that it isn't quite dead yet. The games I'm most excited to play are,
-Horizon Zero Dawn
-World of Final Fantasy
-Shenmue III
-Final Fantasy VII remake
-Uncharted 4

VR seems to have been a big thing at E3. Obviously I wasn't there to try it out. VR is something that doesn't really appeal to me, but it's nice to see it advancing the way it has. Sony is trying to milk everyone out of their money with Morpheus, Microsoft is going for augmented reality with it's impressive Hololens and Occulus still exists and is arguably the better version of Morpheus. To me, VR is going to be like 3D. It'll sell to tech heads and magpies, but ultimately be a niche thing most people won't bother with. I honestly think Hololens has the strongest chance of surviving out of the lot.

So that's my E3 opinions. Overall... it wasn't exactly a stellar E3, but it wasn't terrible either. Let's face it, the video game landscape is changing and the industry doesn't know where to go right now. Some think VR, others think an end to consoles and a few think a new boom is just on the horizon. Regardless, we video game players have plenty of games coming for a variety of audiences and we'll still have fun playing them.