Dark Souls III: The Ringed City

Dark Souls III: The Ringed City

AIt all comes Full Circle

Dark Souls III: The Ringed City not only acts as the second expansion to Dark Souls III, but also acts as a fitting send off for a franchise within the gaming industry that has had an immense presence and influence over numerous titles in the market over the past few years. Dark Souls is an incredible series of games, and Dark Souls III: The Ringed City, is the final expansion that Dark Souls III deserves.

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Without spoiling anything, the first boss of The Ringed City throws a massive curve ball.

The Dark Soul of Man

Unsurprisingly, Dark Souls III: The Ringed City is set inside the Ringed City, at the end of the world, and the close of the Age of Fire, as all cities converge upon themselves, quite literally. The Ringed City’s level design is a devilish, spiralling descent into the madness of Dark Souls III’s most dangerous environments, and it’s an absolute joy to explore, traverse, and find out more about. Much like the first expansion and the game as a whole, The Ringed City’s story is never clearly defined or told in a way that’s straightforward, and players need to talk to NPCs and search for clues in lore in order to piece together what’s going on and just what the hell The Ringed City is. The new cast of characters that reside within The Ringed City are all very interesting if you take the time to look into flavor text and interact with them, and the overall narrative is fairly interesting, ultimately tying up what Ashes of Ariandel started. It serves as a satisfying, yet mysterious storytelling finale for the series, and it more than lives up to the Dark Souls name. Being a part of Dark Souls, The Ringed City is naturally challenging, but in new innovative ways that haven’t been seen in past entries. Whether it be ghost archers that volley arrows at you whenever a giant calls for it, the angel-like flying dregs that barrage you with projectiles when you come into sight, or the viciously quick, hard-hitting Ringed Knights, The Ringed City never fails to provide a challenge for the most seasoned Dark Souls players, and that’s without even dipping into bosses. While there’s 4 boss fights total, one is completely optional, and the second compulsory boss is more or less a glorified PVP battle with some narrative context. That leaves us with 3 potential boss fights, and while that’s a small number, each boss in The Ringed City never ceased to amaze me. The first boss was extremely unexpected, and had me stumped for an hour or two, only to have me move on to the final boss. Without spoiling anything, the final boss in The Ringed City feels like a culmination of everything that’s come before it, and the challenge is right up there with some of Bloodborne’s tougher bosses. It’s worth mentioning that I was playing The Ringed City on an NG+6 save, which made it a lot more difficult than it normally would be. The weapons, armour, and items found in The Ringed City are undoubtedly some of the best in the series, and they mix up the meta for PVP players too. After the boost mode update on the PS4 Pro, Dark Souls 3 runs at 60FPS and still looks just as good as it originally did. The biggest problem with The Ringed City however, is that inconsistent frame rate drops are apparent throughout the experience, but they never led to any deaths, and are a minor hindrance at most.

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The Ringed Knights are definitely some of the hardest standard enemies in any Souls game.

Verdict: 9/10

It brings me great joy and sadness to say that Dark Souls III: The Ringed City is a fantastic send off for a fantastic franchise. Dark Souls has played and forever will play a major part in my life, and it’s saddening to see such a legendary series come to an end. If you haven’t given the Dark Souls games a chance, please do so, they are truly spectacular games if you’re determined enough to get through its harsh difficulty. The Ringed City has spectacular environments, challenging boss fights albeit too few, a satisfying and mysterious plot, and most importantly it completes Dark Souls III as a package. Don’t miss out on this one Souls fans.

Positives

-Ties up Dark Souls III nicely

-Challenging and unique boss fights

-Incredible level design and world building

-New weapons, armour, and items

-Beautiful locales to explore

Negatives

-Frame rate issues

-Too few bosses once again

Thanks for reading guys, next is The Walking Dead Season 3 Episode 3.
Harry.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Mass Effect: Andromeda

The Final Frontier

Mass Effect is undoubtedly one of the most influential series of the last generation, and for good reason. Bioware poured their heart and soul into making a truly excellent trilogy of games, and while they tripped up a little bit towards the end, Mass Effect’s legacy is one that will forever be present in the gaming industry. People got naturally excited when a 4th entry into the series was announced, although it wasn’t what people were expecting. Mass Effect: Andromeda marks the return of Mass Effect, and while it’s gotten off to a rocky start, fans and newcomers alike can enjoy what Andromeda has to offer, despite its shortcomings.

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Andromeda is a good starting point for new players, because it’s very loosely linked to the original trilogy.

The Andromeda Initiative

Andromeda’s narrative is a far cry from anything related to the original trilogy. It’s very loosely connected to the adventures of Commander Shepard and the rest of his merry crew, which makes for a very easy access point for newcomers to the series. Mass Effect: Andromeda is set in between the events of Mass Effect 2 and 3, where earth is looking for new planets to populate with new life in the Andromeda Galaxy as a part of the Andromeda Initiative. You play as one of two twins, Scott or Sara Ryder (i’ll be referencing to Ryder as a him because I chose to play as Scott), and due to unforeseen circumstances, you’re forced to take a leadership role within the Andromeda Initiative as a Pathfinder. The stakes are high as you and your crew must find new Golden Worlds to populate in order to ensure the Andromeda Initiative isn’t for nothing, and in the process, deal with a greater threat to the galaxy. Andromeda’s narrative doesn’t do a terribly good job at pulling you into its struggles and conflicts. The first half of the game feels like a few missions were thrown together with loose ties to one-another, making for an initially incoherent and slow plot. However, the more I played Andromeda, the more I got pulled into its characters, world, and plot, and by the time I reached the halfway mark, Andromeda really got going, even if it doesn’t reach the storytelling heights of the original trilogy. Overall, Andromeda’s tone is a lot more lighthearted than the previous games, which I didn’t mind, but there are certainly a few darker moments within the campaign that harken back to the previous entries in the series. I found most of the characters varied and extremely likeable, although dialogue options didn’t really feel as impactful as they have been in the past, but it still provides a sense of character development for Ryder and his buddies. It’s all tied together with a very intimidating villain, whose motives are never made clear until later on, creating an air of mystery about him that I enjoyed quite a bit. Andromeda’s narrative starts on unstable ground, but if you take the time to invest yourself in it, eventually you’ll find a plot that holds a candle to that of the original trilogy.

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Andromeda’s sense of exploration and scale is incredible.

Fight for a New Home

Mass Effect: Andromeda plays fairly similarly to Mass Effect 3, but there are some key elements that make it unique, fresh, and fun to play. Andromeda offers 4 distinct and varied planets to explore, engage in combat on, and most importantly, make viable for settlement. Each planet has their own little quirk, whether it be a radioactive atmosphere, extreme levels of cold, or extremely dangerous storms. They all felt like their own environments, and driving across Andromeda’s vast worlds was quite the spectacle, and truly a treat. As you explore, you can scan tech, wildlife, fauna, alien structures and more to gather research points that can be spent to research new weapons. Scanning is something you’ll be doing all the time in Andromeda, and you’ll either love it or hate it, but I personally never found it infringed upon my enjoyment of the game. Each world hosts a plethora of quests and loyalty missions to complete, hubs to visit, merchants to trade with and most importantly, Vaults to explore. Vaults act as the main way to increase planet viability in Andromeda, and they act almost as little dungeons within the game, and that’s not even taking into account the Sudoku like puzzles you need to solve to open them up. The first few were interesting and generally fun to complete, but by the end of it all I found myself getting a bit tired of the process. As you play Andromeda, you’ll be fostering your relationships with the people on your crew, whether that be by completing side missions for them or just having general conversation. I felt like I was getting something out of the effort I was putting in to know each character, and every one on my team had some back story or driving force behind them that I wanted to get to know. The Tempest is Andromeda’s version of the Normandy, essentially serving the same function. Through it, you can travel to different planets, research and develop weapons, exchange with the on-board shop, and interact with your crew. When on the surface of planets your main mode of transportation comes in the form of the Nomad, which is a rover designed for travelling hazardous planets. It’s fun to control, and fans of the Mako from Mass Effect will certainly enjoy its inclusion. That might seem like a lot to take in but I haven’t even gotten into the real meat of Andromeda yet, the combat. The star of Andromeda is by far its combat systems and all the elements that come into play when you enter a firefight. Ryder is equipped with a number of weapons, a range of biotic, tech, and combat abilities to choose from, and perhaps most importantly, a jump jet. With the press of a button (or two if you wanna dash in the air) Ryder can zip around the battlefield through the use of his jump jet. It seems like a simple addition, but once you get the hang of it, Andromeda’s combat turns into a fast, fluid and frenetic third person shooter that is extremely satisfying to play. Hovering in mid-air to shoot at an enemy cowering behind cover, only to land back on the ground and zip away at a moments notice is truly exhilarating and certainly never got old. The cover system also makes combat very fluid, as Ryder automatically clicks to anything he can use as cover, creating for a less sticky cover based system. Andromeda’s entertaining combat can mostly be accredited to the varied abilities and skills that you can invest in along throughout Andromeda’s plot. The three main trees from the original trilogy are back, those being tech, biotic, and combat. The main difference here, is that Ryder isn’t locked into the skills you choose from the start, which means Andromeda caters to multiple play-styles no matter the situation. Want to have a loadout where you solely focus on biotic abilities and mid-range weapons and another that focuses on tactical cloaking and sniping? Well you can, and it’s made extremely accessible through Andromeda’s favourites system, which lets you assign a loadout of skills to a shortcut you can access with the press of a button. Weapons come in various types, from assault rifles and shotguns, to snipers and pistols. There’s even an entire category for melee weapons, all of which are varied and unique. Like I mentioned earlier, you can research and develop weapons you haven’t found in the field through the use of research points and materials. It never really properly explains itself however, and it’s quite confusing at first, and collecting the necessary materials to craft one weapon can be a drag, but once you find a loadout that suits you, it feels very worth it. No matter what you craft or choose to use in Andromeda, each weapon sounds excellent and provides a satisfying amount of feedback with each shot. I played Andromeda on normal, which I never found to be overly difficult, but I did get caught out once or twice, and I had to make good use of my abilities if I wanted to get through a tough encounter. Andromeda’s enemies are fairly repetitive early on, mostly consisting of the Kett (the main evil force in the campaign), the Remnant, and wildlife found on the various planets. I did find that it opened up a bit more toward the latter half of the game, with more enemy types and factions coming into play. The final part of Andromeda’s gameplay, is its multiplayer mode. Much like Mass Effect 3, Andromeda’s multiplayer suite consist of a cooperative online wave based survival mode, where objectives must be complete in order to succeed. It gets pretty tough, and playing with friends is definitely recommended. If you enjoyed what Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer had to offer, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy it here, because it builds on everything that made it great in the first place, and it undoubtedly has a number of hours you can put into it.

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While Andromeda does have some fairly stereotypical worlds, they all look beautiful.

A Bug-Riddled Galaxy

If there’s one thing that Andromeda has certainly been criticised for, it’s the presence of bugs that plague the game. I’m not going to sugar coat it, Mass Effect: Andromeda is a very buggy game, and Bioware need to iron it out as soon as possible. Its nothing game breaking, but bad facial animations, disturbing walking animations, inconsistent lip syncing, and visual glitches really do hinder the experience when they’re as prevalent as they are in Andromeda. It honestly made me laugh more than it did upset, but it’s still unacceptable for a triple A game to be this buggy at launch. Aside from all the technical bugs, Andromeda looked beautiful at 4K on my PS4 Pro, and for the most part ran smoothly at 30FPS. Environments are beautifully designed and alien character models look excellent. Notice I said alien character models, because humans look absolutely atrocious in Andromeda, and it honestly seems like they’ve been ripped straight out of a 360 or PS3 game. It’s disappointing to see that a series that was generally pretty good with the technical side of things have a downfall such as this.

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Andromeda’s boss fights are few and far between, but offer a challenge nonetheless.

Verdict: 7/10

Despite all of its shortcomings, Mass Effect: Andromeda is a good game, worth your time and investment once the many bugs have been ironed out. While its narrative takes a while to get going, it has excellent gameplay and worlds to explore. It’s a deep and complex RPG that you can sink hours and hours into if you get into it, and that’s without even dipping into its multiplayer component. It looks gorgeous and runs well enough, it’s just a damn shame that the game is as plagued with bugs as it is.

Positives

-Second half of the plot gets you hooked

-Strong antagonist

-Excellent sense of exploration and discovery

-Fast, frenetic, fluid combat

-Character + relationship development

-Enaging, longlasting multiplayer suite

Negatives

-Gets off to a slow, incoherent start

-Confusing and dull crafting systems

-Choices feel meaningless

-Some repetitive elements

-Numerous bugs and technical issues

-Visual glitches and human character models

Thanks for reading guys, up next is Dark Souls III: The Ringed City.

Thanks again, Harry.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn

From one Behemoth to Another

Horizon Zero Dawn marks the first attempt at something new by developer Guerilla Games, and also marks their first new IP since 2004. Having worked on Killzone games for so long, people were generally surprised when they saw what Guerilla Games had cooking up next for the Playstation 4, and it was a very pleasant surprise. After an amazing E3 demo, Horizon quickly became one of the most anticipated games to be released, and for good reason. Horizon Zero Dawn stands as an incredible example of what can be achieved by developers with a strong vision, and Guerilla Games prove that they can make a brilliant game, even if they’re outside of their comfort zone.

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The machines that roam Horizon’s sprawling open world are just as dangerous as they are beautiful.

Aloy of the Nora

Horizon Zero Dawn is set in the far future, where Earth has been reclaimed by nature, and is now roamed by mechanical beasts called machines. Why they’re here, and what happened to Earth that led to it being in the state it’s in isn’t made clear at first, and it’s one of the undying questions you’ll undoubtedly have when starting up Zero Dawn. Humans live similarly to the way that cavemen did, in separate tribes, and surviving by hunting and gathering in the wild. You play as Aloy, an outcast of the Nora tribe, the reasons for her being an outcast not being fully disclosed until later on. After some initial back story in the form of a tutorial, Aloy tries to be accepted by the tribe in the form of The Proving, which goes horribly wrong, and after a chain of horrific events, sets Aloy on a path to discover who she really is, and what happened to the world so many years ago. I don’t want to go any further to avoid spoilers, but the first half of the story is honestly quite slow, and while Aloy is very well-developed early on, there’s no real hook to the narrative unless you really want to find out what’s going on. I honestly found it quite dull, and was confused as to why Horizon’s narrative was so highly praised, and then I hit the halfway mark. Over the course of one story mission, I had become fully invested into Horizon’s world, eager to find out more about the world and all the circumstances that led it to the way it is. It consistently shocked me with its plot twists and intriguing mystery, and I honestly couldn’t get enough of it. I absolutely loved Horizon’s second half, and the first half felt worth getting through in the end, if a little pointless. The characters are all extremely likeable, Aloy especially, who’s very well developed early on, and with multiple dialogue choices, you’re able to see her interact with people the way you want her to. She’s more than just a way for the player to see the world, and I truly hope she becomes a flagship Playstation mascot. The supporting cast isn’t nearly as strong as Aloy, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. Aloy’s father figure in particular was quite interesting, and some of the Nora tribesmen and women who Aloy cooperates with throughout the narrative always proved to be good company. Horizon’s side quests are also generally well written, and more often than not have an interesting over-arching narrative. Horizon Zero Dawn answered so many of my questions but created so many more, and the level of story telling that Guerilla achieve in the second half of the narrative is amazing, even if it gets off to a slow start.

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Horizon’s machines come in all shapes and sizes, like crabs for example……

Focus

If there was one thing that hooked me from start to finish in Horizon, it was definitely its gameplay. It’s pretty standard affair for an open world game, but Horizon does all the things you’d expect in a typical open world in its own refreshing way that felt new. The map is absolutely huge, and there are a plethora of biomes to explore and hunt in. You can gather resources to craft new gear, potions, consumables and so on. Side quests can found everywhere, and traversal is generally enjoyable, as Aloy is extremely nimble and agile. She can climb most surfaces within the world (providing there are ledges) and she can also hack machines, some of which are rideable. Cities and points of interest are scattered about the open world, and dungeon like challenges called Cauldrons can also be found, which I found were incredibly well designed and challenging. I mentioned crafting earlier, and it plays a pretty big part in Horizon. Aloy has a plethora of weapons she can use to hunt machines, ranging from bows and trip wires to sling shots and machine gun-like rattlers. Every weapon has at least two ammo types you can use, all with different effects or elements.Which weapons and armour you craft determines its ammunition types and bonuses. You can apply modifications which give your gear boosts to resistances, damages and so on. As you complete quests and hunt machines, Aloy gains EXP, levels and skill points. The skill points can be invested into three different trees all providing skills relating to movement, combat and survival. Each point I spent felt meaningful, and I was constantly tossing up my options whenever I levelled up. When exploring, you’ll find bandit outposts, corrupted machines, hunting challenges, and Tallnecks roaming the map, which act as towers. Tallnecks can be climbed and hacked in order to reveal a portion of the map. The scale of these things is simply crazy and the first time you see one will undoubtedly stop you in your tracks just so you can take it all in. When you aren’t doing any of the above in Horizon, you’ll more than likely be hunting machines, and combat is easily what Horizon does best. It’s a weird mix of the recent Tomb Raider games and Dark Souls, but don’t let that put you off, it’s a lot better than it sounds. Aloy can scan machines and the environment due to a tool she finds called a Focus, and this tool is key to coming out successful in encounters. Each machine has multiple weak points or Components, and if targeted by Aloy, you do increased damage. It is paramount that you take the time to hit precise shots on these components or combat is incredibly tough. After acquiring some abilities like slowing down time it makes it significantly easier, and whenever you a hit a weak point it’s incredibly satisfying. Destroying these components can stop the machines from doing certain things, and in some cases, provide Aloy with heavy weapons to use against other machines. It’s intense stuff, and the natural fluidity and fast pace of combat lends every single encounter a sense of danger, whether you be fighting a gigantic Thunderjaw or a smaller Shell Walker. It feels so good to apply elemental effects with arrows, darting around the battlefield with roll dodges, laying traps and tripwires for your unsuspecting enemies. Humans are also encountered in the game, but are incredibly dull in comparison to the machines, and more often than not I found the human encounters to be quite a drag. The game has simple, yet robust stealth mechanics, which are paramount to thinning a herd that you otherwise couldn’t take on by yourself. On normal difficulty, Horizon proved to be quite a challenge, but never frustrating.

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The dystopian setting of Horizon makes for some incredible environments.

A Beautiful Horizon

As always, I played Horizon Zero Dawn on the Playstation 4 Pro, and it is undoubtedly the best way to play the game. Horizon runs at 2160P checkerboard which looks absolutely amazing. Environments are lush, character models are intricately detailed, and the game never looks dull. Aside from the fantastic visuals, the game boasts some of the longest draw distances I’ve seen in a console game, creating an incredible sense of scope. The game is locked at 30FPS, but never drops, and I never had any graphical hiccups or technical hiccups throughout my time with Horizon. It’s a technical marvel, and Guerilla should be applauded for the detail and intricacy put into this world.

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These are the colossal Tallnecks.

Verdict: 9/10

Horizon Zero Dawn marks a new start for Guerilla Games. They’ve made an incredible game, that anyone who owns a Playstation 4 absolutely must experience. Whether it’s for its excellent narrative, intuitive, unique combat, or incredible visuals, Horizon Zero Dawn is well worth your time.

Positives

-2nd half of the narrative is excellent

-Aloy as a character

-Combat is unique, new, fresh and intuitive

-Refreshes the use of open-world tropes

-Incredibly visuals and draw distances

-Strong technical performance

Negatives

-Human combat is dull

-Narrative has a slow start

Up next will either be The Ringed City or Episode 3 of The Walking Dead. Thanks for reading, Harry.

 

NieR: Automata

NieR: Automata

A Platinum Quality Game

When it comes to hyper-stylised action games, Platinum Games seems to be the company that reigns over all, and that’s for good reason. Over the past few years, they’ve quickly grown within the gaming industry, and play a huge part in delivering unique, fast paced action games that are almost unrivalled by anything else. They’re hands down one of my favourite developers, and while they’ve had some stumbles with their recent releases, I’m still at the point where I’ll buy a game simply because it has the Platinum logo slapped on the cover. NieR: Automata was one of those games. Having never played the original, I had no idea what to expect in regards to anything excluding gameplay, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t get it. After an excellent pre-release demo, NieR: Automata instantly had me hooked and wanting more. Platinum once again willingly display their skills in an effort to show their finesse in this particular genre, and what an effort it is.

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The first NieR originally came out in 2010.

Glory to Mankind

NieR: Automata takes place in the future, where humanity has been driven from Earth by aliens, only to take refuge on the moon. Machines now roam the desolate dystopia that Earth became without its human inhabitants, and humanity seeks to fight back through the use of androids. You play as one of these androids, 2B who is a combat unit from YoRHA, the force trying to take back Earth from the machines. It’s hard to talk about anything else without spoiling anything, but it’s worth mentioning that I have not played the original NieR, so my opinion will not be influenced by the events or lore of the first game. I absolutely loved NieR: Automata’s narrative, and it’s simply one of the most emotional, thought-provoking, and interesting narratives i’ve ever experienced. 2B is incredibly well-developed over the course of the campaign, and her characterisation changes dramatically due to the events that take place throughout the story. The same goes for the supporting cast in the form of 9S, A2, Pascal and numerous other characters, who are all extremely likeable. It consistently surprised me with its dark tones and themes, and the story is told excellently with some stellar voice acting and cut scenes throughout the narrative. The world is beautifully crafted through the story, and I genuinely cared about the people and their problems that came in the form of side quests. And while a lot of NieR is quite dark, there were often moments of comedic flourish and oddity to be found. Some of the themes and ideas NieR tackles are extremely interesting, and the multiple story revelations across the different endings always had me on the edge of my seat. NieR: Automata took me about 12 hours to finish fully on my first play through, but I was pleased to find out that the game boasts multiple endings, 26 different ones in fact, making for a lot of replay value if the gameplay isn’t a good enough reason already, but trust me, that shouldn’t be the case.

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The demo for NieR: Automata was actually the start of the game. 

Machine VS Machine

On paper, NieR: Automata’s primary gameplay loop sounds like an absolute mess, but surprisingly it’s not, so bear with me while I try to explain it. NieR: Automata is an open world hack n’ slash action RPG with bullet hell like sequences found often throughout it’s combat encounters. If that seems like a mouthful to say, that’s because it is, simply due to how often NieR bends genre and changes gameplay styles, but it works. I don’t know how it works but it just does. Platinum have somehow found a way to seamlessly blend third person hack n’ slash with bullet hell sections with incredible pace and fluidity. You have to play it to understand how well it’s executed, but I feel like it’s something that only Platinum could have pulled off. Third person combat plays how you would expect it to, you have heavy and light attacks, which can be used to create combos, a dodge, a pod that shoots at enemies, and an ability that said pod can utilise. 2B can have any two weapons equipped at one time, and these range from short swords and long swords, to gauntlets and spears. All feel unique, distinguished and properly developed, and swapping between them on the fly can make for some truly lengthy and flashy combos. Chip sets act as power ups for 2B when battling enemies. As 2B levels up (more on that later) she unlocks more space for her chips which give her boosts to attack, defence, health and other things of the sort. It creates for a variety of gameplay options in combat, and being able to change them when and where you want is certainly efficient and easy to use. If that wasn’t enough as it is, NieR also takes a page from how Dark Souls handles death. Due to narrative circumstances, when 2B dies, she can recover the chip-set and a few levels of EXP that she dropped upon death. This adds an element of suspense to recovering your dead body that is likely scattered somewhere among the flock of deadly machines that just took your life 5 minutes prior. Killing machines and completing quests awards 2B with EXP, which goes towards her levelling up and increasing her own stats. Enemies are level based too, so you can generally tell when you can take on an enemy. The game is difficult as is, so try not to punch above your weight unless you’re playing on easy. NieR’s set pieces and boss battles are nothing short of spectacular, and they certainly hold up to Platinum’s previous work. They’re frenetic, fast paced, stylish, and more often than not colossal, making for some truly epic moments. It screams Platinum inside and out, and are easily one of the strongest parts of the game. It’s bullet hell sections are also very well designed, and it felt like there were just the right amount. When you aren’t decimating machines, you’ll be exploring the open world and doing side quests, most of which felt meaningful, and more than just simple fetch quests. When exploring the world, items can be found scattered around the environment, and platforming is plentiful, which is incredibly fluent and precise. All in all, NieR: Automata’s gameplay is in my opinion is its strongest asset, and it makes for a lot of replayability, much like the story does.

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If you aren’t sold on the gameplay already, you can also sand surf.

Reclaimed by Nature

I played NieR: Automata on the PS4 Pro, and it’s everything I expect from a Platinum game in terms of graphics and performance. The game ran at 1080p and a consistent 60 FPS, which is crucial considering the timing and precision that the game requires of you. It looks excellent, and runs even better. Some environments look absolutely amazing, such as the amusement park, but I couldn’t help but feel that some of the open world areas were a bit lacklustre.

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The PS4 Pro version also has motion blur.

Verdict: 9.5/10

NieR: Automata is a shining example of what Platinum Games are capable of when they’re at their best. It’s another excellent entry into the NieR series, and Platinum has truly outdone themselves yet again, with an excellent story, strong gameplay, beautiful visuals and perfect performance. NieR: Automata delivers on all fronts that a Platinum game should, even if some of its environments are a bit dull.

Positives

-Incredible story

-Likeable characters

-Interesting themes and ideas

-Fluent, fast, frenetic gameplay

-Excellent boss fights

-Meaningful side quests

-Beautiful graphics

-Strong performance

Negatives

-Some dull environments

Thanks for reading guys, next is Horizon Zero Dawn.

Thanks, Harry.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

A Breath of Fresh Air

The Legend of Zelda is undoubtedly one of the biggest names within the gaming industry, and for extremely good reason. It pioneered the adventure genre, and with each release of a new Zelda game, the bar is seemingly set higher and higher. Zelda is a franchise I’ve grown up with over the years so it’d be unfair to say there isn’t a small degree of bias behind this review, but I’m going to try to be as honest as possible while reviewing the latest entry into the series. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Breath of the Wild seeks to break the standard conventions of the Zelda formula, creating a brand new experience within the same universe. I didn’t really know what to expect going in, but I was incredibly excited regardless of my concerns for a few of the systems that were supposedly in the game. Nonetheless, it goes without saying that all my worries were swept aside, because The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an incredible experience that will be remembered as a classic for years to come.

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Breath of the Wild has a ton of Amiibo support, and most of them are unique in terms of what they do.

100 Years Ago

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s narrative is definitely one of its strong points if you’re willing to invest the time and effort into uncovering it. It’s told in a way that’s never forced upon the player apart from a few expositional cut-scenes. I found it was a refreshing way to tell a story in an open world setting, and for the people who don’t want to invest in it, they don’t have to (but you should because it’s just that good if you do). It never reaches the narrative complexity of Twilight Princess or Majora’s mask, but the characters, voice acting, and premise of Breath of the Wild is unrivalled by any other Zelda game. It makes for a truly incredible experience as you play through the game. Breath of the Wild follows a Link that has been awakened from a 100 year slumber in order to destroy Calamity Ganon, and save Hyrule. It’s a fairly simple plot, but its characters and ideas are further fleshed out through optional cut-scenes. I was constantly intrigued in what had happened to Hyrule that some 100 years ago, and that drove me to uncover everything I could about the game’s narrative, and I was rewarded with some truly emotional and well executed story moments and set pieces. It’s a simple plot, but the characters are incredibly likeable, and Zelda is so well done that I feel as if Breath of the Wild was more worried about its characters than actual plot, which definitely isn’t a bad thing because the plot is still decent.

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The Temple of Time is one of the first areas you visit upon awakening at the start of the game.

A Wild Hyrule

Breath of the Wild’s biggest departure comes in the form of its gameplay, changing and revolutionising the formula that has long since been the staple for Zelda games. Gone is the hand holding of past games, Breath of the Wild throws you into the world, gives you an objective and leaves you to your own devices. It’s a refreshing change of pace for a Zelda game, and it didn’t take me long to get lost in the countless things there are to do in the world. Once you clear the Great Plateau which acts as a tutorial area, the game opens up incredibly, and you can go and do whatever you want. I made it a priority to go and do one of the dungeons first, but I consistently ventured off the beaten track to inspect something that caught my eye, whether it be one of the many puzzle shrines, an enemy fort, a lookout tower, or a batch of collectables, Breath of the Wild never ceased to grab my attention. This world is begging to be explored, and 35 hours in I’m still finding new things, which is a massive achievement in its own right. Breath of the Wild is all about survival and nothing screams this more than its systems. Link can only restore health by eating food, which can be gathered and cooked in order to create meals through recipes. Different items lead to different traits and stat-boosts from food, and experimenting with all kinds of weird and wonderful goods never got old, and I often lost myself doing it now and again. The environment is also integral to Link’s survival, as temperatures rise and fall you’ll have to equip different armour accordingly, or eat specific foods that increase temperature resistances. Weather hazards such as rain and thunder also pose a threat too, because if you have any metal equipment on you at the time, thunder can strike at a moments notice, killing Link very quickly, but the same applies to enemies. Rain makes it harder to climb surfaces, which by the way, almost every single surface in-game is climbable, making for a refreshing sense of player freedom and exploration. Once you use Link’s superb climbing capabilities with your limited amount of stamina (which can be upgraded by completing shrines, along with heart containers) you can take in the sights of the breath-taking open world (no pun intended). One of Link’s new tools is the glider, so once you reach a high point in the world, one of the funnest things to do is jump off and glide over the landscape. It’s truly magical stuff, and this along with shield surfing makes for incredibly enjoyable modes of transport. Speaking of which, horses are very prominent in Breath of the Wild, and they must be mounted, calmed down, registered, and named before you can use them, and much like other things in the game, they can die. Great fairies are also scattered around the world and are used to upgrade your armour, if you’re willing to give up the materials. The Sheikah Slate is Link’s new navigating buddy, just less annoying this time around. It provides you with objectives, the world map, and a number of tools such as bombs, magnesis, cryo powers and more. It’s a unique little idea that really works within Breath of the Wild’s gameplay loop. Lastly comes combat, which is in my opinion, is the best the franchise has ever seen. It’s robust, but has so many little things to it that need to be taken into consideration. Almost every single weapon in the game eventually breaks after a certain amount of use, making combat encounters tense and strategic. Some people may hate this feature, which is fair enough, but I think it contributes to Breath of the Wild’s gameplay tremendously once you get used to it. It teaches you to become comfortable with other weapons you wouldn’t normally use, and that good weapons are scarce within the world. It doesn’t help that some enemies hit really hard, but that’s where parrying and dodging comes into play. Last minute dodges are awarded with flurry strikes, where time is slowed down and Link gets repeated attacks in, it’s not necessary, but there for those who are willing to risk it, it creates a unique little risk-reward system. Some weapons have elemental effects, some can catch fire, they all have different stats, and most can be thrown at enemies for a critical hit,. it creates so many options in combat and that’s without the use of sheikah slate runes and a bow. Archery in Breath of the Wild is the most refined it’s ever been, which can be controlled by gyro or control stick. Arrows are fairly scarce to begin with, and using them sparingly is probably for the best. Eventually you’ll develop a surplus, and come across elemental arrows which also need to be carefully maintained. Mid-air shooting or jumping off of a horse creates a slow motion mode where Link can get a precise shot in. The last thing I want to talk about is dungeons. Without spoiling anything, they’re innovative, unique, refreshing, and brand new concepts for Zelda. They’re some of the most fun I’ve had in a Zelda game, and I truly hope to see them return in some form in the future. Each dungeon caps off with a boss fight, which are fairly challenging in their own right, with weaknesses and weak points. Bosses can also be found in the over world, which was a weird change, but one that I got used to and one that I have come to appreciate.

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The Stone Talus are stone giants that can be found and fought against in the over world.

A Beautiful Wilderness

I played Breath of the Wild on the brand new Nintendo Switch, and it was a graphical marvel. The game looks absolutely stunning with detailed character models, beautiful textures, incredible animations and level design. It is easily one of the prettiest games I have ever played, and the Nintendo Switch was an awesome console to play it on. The game runs at 900P in console mode and 720P in handheld mode, while running at 30fps with occasional frame drops, but they were never enough to hurt my experience with the game. The soundtrack is also absolutely amazing, with some incredible themes for different characters, situations, and environments. It also has the level of polish we come to expect from a Nintendo game.

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There’s 120 of the unique puzzle shrines scattered across the open world.

Verdict: 10/10

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is everything I want and more from a Zelda game. It has an incredible open world that’s just begging to be explored, and experimented with. It’s plot is simple, but effective, with extremely lovable, mostly well voice acted characters. It’s gameplay systems fall nothing short of fantastic and create for an incredible survival experience where even the smallest details come into effect. This is all while the game looks and runs for the most part perfectly. The Legend of Zelda has once again set the standard for not only adventure games, but survival games too. Nintendo have really outdone themselves, and if it only gets better from here, we have one hell of a console generation on our hands.

Positives

-Strong plot with even stronger characters, and a Princess Zelda that has been extremely well done

-Robust, unique combat systems that keep you on your toes at all times

-Detailed, beautiful open world that’s begging to be explored

-Cooking and gathering of items

-Dungeons are well crafted and innovative

-Strong survival elements

-Incredible visuals and mostly strong performance

-Intricate character models and animations

Thanks for reading guys, sorry this one took so long. Up next is NieR: Automata, then I’ll do my Horizon review. I got caught up in Zelda and still haven’t finished Horizon.

Thanks again, Harry.

 

 

For Honor

For Honor

A War Ultimately Won

When For Honor was originally announced as Ubisoft’s brand new IP back in E3 of 2015, it was met with a fair amount of uncertainty and scepticism, and for good reason. Ubisoft didn’t have a very good track record at the time, with titles such as Watch_Dogs and Assassin’s Creed Unity leaving fans disappointed and unhappy with the publisher in general. It started generating more enthusiasm and excitement over the course of another E3, alpha tests, beta tests and incredibly effective advertising. For Honor definitely isn’t the pristine shining masterpiece it set out to be, because it definitely has chinks in its armour, but ultimately, that armour proves to be impenetrable.

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For Honor’s season pass is set to add a wealth of content over the next year.

Knights, Vikings, Samurai

If there was one thing I was still cautious about with For Honor up until release, it was its campaign. I was worried it’d be shoehorned in much the same way that other online focused titles handle story modes, such as the original Titanfall. Luckily enough, all of these worries were swept away within the first hour of the campaign, and while it’s nothing special, it’s certainly enjoyable. The campaign is split into three different chapters, one for each faction which are the Knights, the Vikings, and the Samurai. Each chapter consists of 6 missions, and all of it is playable in co-op. Most of the missions in the Knight and Samurai chapters got pretty repetitive, aside from one or two standout missions, and the overall tone of the story feels way too serious, especially when there’s some comedic elements to be found in the Viking chapter. None of it ever gets boring, but there are certainly some standout missions, like storming a beach in order to siege a Feudal Japanese fortress or stealthily making your way through a Viking camp in order to sabotage one of their contraptions. For Honor shines during these missions, and while it’s not very representative of the brutality and harshness of the wars back then, it’s nice to see the development team toss that aside for some truly epic set pieces. The story is very passable too, with the main antagonist Apollyon trying to manipulate the different factions in order to usher in an age of war. It’s a fairly predictable plot, and most of the characters are fairly one note, but seeing how everything unfolded and connected was pretty cool to see. It certainly doesn’t reach the storytelling heights of The Last of Us or Resident Evil VII, but it certainly isn’t the half-baked campaign I expected it to be.

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The scale and size of some of the battles are truly awe-inspiring.

A Dance of Offence and Defence

For Honor’s greatest asset is undoubtedly it’s unique directional attacking system, which is easy to learn, hard to master, and deceptively simple. You have light attacks and heavy attacks, which can be executed in 3 different directions. The direction of the attack is the direction that your opponent must block in, in order to avoid taking damage. It’s a very simple premise, but once you get into attack cancels, dodging, guard breaking, combos, and stamina management, For Honor’s combat system becomes a deep, intricate dance of death where every single input matters. Learning the ins and outs of each hero will give you a significant edge in combat, and grasping some of the more technical concepts takes time, thought, and dedication. There are 4 different heroes for each faction, making for a total of 12 heroes, each split into different classes. These classes include disablers, tanks, assassins, hybrids, and vanguards. Each hero has their own weapons, combos, abilities, health, agility, damage, the list goes on. Long story short, each class has their strong points and their weak points, and while there are a few balancing issues at this stage, each hero has some sort of counter. This means that combat always keeps you on your feet, smart decisions and utilising all of your hero’s techniques is paramount to winning a single duel, and it’s incredibly refreshing. Take the Warden for example, who is considered one of the more basic heroes in the game. The Warden is seemingly an incredibly simple class, but upon further experimentation I found that he/she can also be one of the deepest, with a homing guard break that can be cancelled out into a normal guard break. All of this at least applies to the Duel Modes, where players can 1v1 and 2v2 in a test of raw skill, where gear is purely cosmetic, and hero abilities can’t be used, but more on those later. For Honor is at its absolute best when your best of 5 match comes down to the final round, and the victory could go either way. It’s truly intense stuff, and I found that I kept telling myself to play 1 more match before I stopped playing. Unfortunately, For Honor doesn’t manage to hold the same magic in its 4v4 game modes, and this is due to multiple reasons. While the spectacle and idea of it is cool, For Honor’s combat system isn’t built for large fights, and engaging more than 2 players at a time during combat often devolves into mindless spamming in hopes of bagging some sort of victory. Dominion acts much like domination in the sense that there are 3 different control points to capture and hold, while your forces and enemy forces (controlled by AI) attempt to push, take, or hold these zones. I can definitely see where Ubisoft was going with it, and while it provides some initial enjoyment, those who want to play For Honor for its deep and technical combat system, will find it gets boring quick. Elimination doesn’t suffer as badly, due to players being pitted against each-other in different parts of the map, but it still often devolves into spam when rounds go on for too long. Skirmish is simply a team death-match mode and much like the other 4v4 game modes won’t hold interest for long. I spent the majority of my time in 2v2s and 1v1s, as most other people probably will. I certainly think there’ll always be a lot of people who enjoy the 4v4 game modes, but they simply just aren’t for me, and I’m sure there are some other players who feel the same way. Maps on the other hand are all spectacular, and I never found myself dreading one particular map. They’re all well designed, with a number of environmental hazards, verticality, and varying environments. Finally, when completing a match, you’ll be awarded with gear and Steel, which is For Honor’s in-game currency which can be spent on more loot drops and/or heroes. Like I said earlier, the gear in 1v1s and 2v2s are purely cosmetic, because the buffed statistics become null and void to make them as fair as possible. In 4v4 game-modes however, this gear buffs and nerfs different stats such as sprinting speed, damage output, defence, or health gain on the visceral executions you can perform. My one biggest problem with the loot system, is that gear can be purchased with real money, meaning that there’s a small element of pay-to-win within the 4v4 game modes. The gear doesn’t provide an incredible edge, but it’s enough to change the tide of a match if used properly. Finally, each hero has a different array of abilities available to them to give them an edge in combat in the 4v4 game-modes. These range from things like smoke bombs to a hail of arrows. They can be changed and customised before you enter a game, and add a layer of complexity to otherwise simple 4v4 battles.

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The Orochi is easily one of the most agile heroes in the game, but has the least health too.

Technical Chinks in Shining Armour

If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s that For Honor looks absolutely gorgeous no matter what you’re doing in it. Environments are beautiful, character models are detailed, sparks fly as swords and shields clash, and to top it off it all sounds excellent. It’s unfortunately locked at 30FPS on console, making PC the more attractive option, but it’s definitely still playable. For Honor’s biggest problem however, comes in the form of its connections and stability. For Honor uses peer-to-peer connections, meaning that if the host drops out, it can often cause long wait times before gameplay starts again. I found myself dropping out now and again in 1v1s and 2v2s, but even more so in 4v4 game modes, making it hard to ever fully complete them. I can see why peer-to-peer is used in a game like For Honor, but in the end it creates more problems than it fixes. Dedicated servers would’ve been a much better option, and while it’s a fairly inconsistent issue, it still arises enough to be a pain.

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For Honor supports the PS4 Pro, with an upgraded resolution and more stable levels of performance.

Verdict: 8/10

Ubisoft’s attempt at a medieval warfare game has certainly been a fruitful one. While its campaign is nothing to write home about, it does provide some awesome set-pieces and awe-inspiring battles to take part in. It’s battle system is incredibly deep, and hours upon hours can be sunk into learning it’s mechanics and various systems. It’s such an intricately designed combat system that ultimately works perfectly in 1v1 and 2v2 game-modes, but not so much in 4v4 ones. While technical hiccups sometimes get in the way of your experience, it’s never enough to put you off the incredibly enjoyable game that Ubisoft have come up with. For all of it’s flaws, For Honor more than makes up for it, and it’s a war that Ubisoft ultimately won.

Positives

-Awe-inspiring set-pieces

-Incredibly deep combat system

-Duel and Brawl game-modes

-Varied heroes and unique maps

-Strong performance and stunning visuals

Negatives

-Small element of pay-to-win

-Peer-to-peer connections

-4v4 game-modes might be found boring by some

Thanks for reading guys, up next will be an article. There’s a load of stuff I want to cover next week, including Horizon: Zero Dawn, Nintendo Switch, and Breath of the Wild, so keep a look out for those.

Thanks again, Harry.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gets a Season Pass

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gets a Season Pass

Breath of the Wild jumps the DLC Bandwagon

It’s no lie that Breath of the Wild is the Nintendo Switch’s killer app on launch, the amount of hype and excitement it’s generated is incredible. It’s been recently unveiled that Breath of the Wild has an expansion pass, and Nintendo have detailed what is to come with it. The expansion pass is $19.99, providing access to two downloadable content packs as soon as they release later this year.

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This is the official artwork for the Expansion Pass.

Pack 1 is to be released in Winter of 2017 and comes with:

-A new Cave of Trials challenge

-Hard mode

-A new “feature” for the in-game map

Pack 2 is to be released Holiday 2017 and comes with:

-A new dungeon

-A new original story

-Additional challenges

This is a first for Zelda, but thankfully the expansion pass seems reasonably priced for what you get, and I’m personally looking forward to the additional content it has to offer. Hopefully it’s an addition to the main game, and not a necessity for those who choose not to buy it. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild releases on March 3rd, alongside the Nintendo Switch.