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.

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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.

 

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.

 

 

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

A Horrifying Return to Form

Recent Resident Evil titles haven’t exactly been what fans of the franchise are looking for, most of them with a greater focus on action and spectacle rather than the horror roots of the first few games. People were dissatisfied with where the franchise was headed and luckily, Capcom took note of this and aimed to fix it with the release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Fortunately, Resi 7 delivers on its promises, making for not only one of the best entries into the Resident Evil series, but a horror game that will undoubtedly be talked about, remembered, and used as a standard for horror games in the future.

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You don’t have to have played the other Resident Evil games to understand what’s going on here, you can jump right in and understand everything from the get-go.

A Mysterious Message 

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard follows protagonist Ethan, after he receives a mysterious message from his wife Mia, who has been missing for 3 years. The message tells Ethan to come get her from the Baker family farm in rural Louisiana. As it turns out, the Baker family are actually insane, and shortly after you arrive on the farm, they begin to ruthlessly hunt Ethan down while you try to uncover the mystery of the farm and fight to stay alive. I don’t want to go any further into the plot in order to avoid spoilers, and while there isn’t much story development early on, it really picks up about halfway into the game, and I was genuinely invested in the game’s narrative. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, looking through documents to find out bits of information about the mansion and its occupants. The characters are brought to life by some surprisingly excellent voice acting across the board, with the real standouts being the Baker family, making for a truly terrifying experience. While the narrative seems fairly cliché at first, it unexpectedly twists and turns, and none of it was predictable to me. I was caught off guard when I was presented with a key decision about 2 thirds of the way through the game, and I’m extremely eager to replay the game to see what happens when I pick the other option. All in all, Resident Evil 7 has an incredibly strong narrative, it’s intriguing, riveting, surprising, and tops it all off with excellent voice acting and characters. It’s definitely one of the better stories of this generation, and a real high point for Resident Evil.

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The entirety of Resi 7 can be played in VR.

Back to the Roots

Storytelling isn’t the only place that Resident Evil 7: Biohazard excels in, because it’s gameplay is some of the best i’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in recent memory, and it does all this while taking a new direction for the franchise. For the first time in the main series, Resident Evil 7 is first-person for the entirety of the game, and this only ups the tension and suspense that comes with playing a horror game. It plays like a standard first person shooter, only with fewer guns and more stealth. Early on in the game you’re forced to sneak through sections due to being put up against enemies you simply can’t deal with by yourself, and it creates a tense initial few hours filled with suspense and unease. You’ll spend lots of time sneaking through the decrepit old mansion, searching for items, crafting, and/or running away from any one of the insane Bakers. The mansion is littered with simple, smart environmental puzzles, and while some of them aren’t too challenging, there are the odd few that had me scratching my head. My one gripe with puzzles is that there simply aren’t enough of them in the game in my opinion, but when they are present, they’re effective and excellent. Resi 7’s horror is one of its biggest factors, and I’m delighted to say that all of it is genuinely terrifying. The atmosphere is perfectly setup, and as a player, I always felt exposed or uncomfortable, and I loved every second of it. I’d be lying if I said none of the jump scares got my girlfriend and I when we were playing, but they never felt cheap or undeserved. When you aren’t sneaking, looting or puzzling your way throughout the Baker mansion, you’ll be participating in combat. Resources are limited, and items need to be carefully managed in order to maximise your survivability. The various enemy types can be dispatched generally quickly with head shots, so accuracy is of utmost importance, which adds tension to each and every encounter. As you explore you’ll find a plethora of weapons such as a shotgun, a pistol, a flamethrower and more. The final part of Resi 7’s gameplay is its boss fights, and for the most part they’re fantastic. The early boss fights are incredibly suspenseful, and they really keep you on your toes with their challenge. The final boss fight unfortunately doesn’t follow this trend and it ends up being surprisingly easy, which brings me to my biggest issue with Resi 7, and that is its difficulty. I played through the entirety of the game on Normal, and didn’t find it that challenging apart from one or two sections in the game. The next difficulty up is Madhouse difficulty, which iv’e heard is incredibly difficult, and it’s recommended you play through the game first before trying Madhouse. It’s unfortunate there’s no middle ground here like a hard mode that fits in somewhere between Normal and Madhouse, but it’s a small issue that I have with an otherwise near-perfect game. Finally, the level design in Resi 7 is fantastic, well thought out, and intricately woven together. Environments are dark, gritty, disgusting, and incredibly well designed. It lends a very terrifying feel to the world and atmosphere that Resi 7 builds, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

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The Baker family consists of 5 people. A mother, a father, a daughter, a son, and a grandmother.

A Beautifully Decrepit Bayou
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard looks and performs beautifully on the Playstation 4 Pro. Textures are clean, environments are detailed, and the lighting is some of the best i’ve seen in a video game to date. Most of the game is in 4K, with some dynamic changes to the resolution during gameplay to keep the 60FPS solid throughout the experience, and it does a damn good job at doing so. I never experienced any noticeable frame drops throughout my experience, and the game looked gorgeous throughout it’s entirety. I also encountered no bugs whatsoever, and there seems to be an extremely high level of polish present for the whole experience. Resi 7 also sports HDR capabilities, further enhancing the world and bringing it to life.

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The Baker Farm is massive, but it’s not the only location you’ll visit in Resi 7’s 6-8 hour campaign.

Verdict: 9.0/10

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was an absolute joy to play from start to finish, and I simply cannot wait to jump back into its world on madhouse difficulty. Capcom have finally hit the sweet spot, and have delivered one of the best Resident Evil games in recent memory. It’s definitely up there with Resi 4, but which one you prefer comes down to personal preference. It has an excellent story, terrifying horror, a chilling environment, excellent gameplay systems, and it’s technically sound. Resi 7 is one of the best experiences the current generation of consoles has to offer, and I cannot recommend it enough, even if you haven’t laid a finger on Resident Evil before. It’s time for the triumphant return of Resident Evil, and what an excellent start to that return Resi 7 is.

Positives

-Intriguing story that had me invested from start to finish, with plot twists I didn’t see coming at all

-Excellent voice acting and characters

-Genuine horror and jump scares

-Tense combat

-Beautiful world and environments

-Technically flawless

Negatives

-Final boss fight was disappointing

-Feels like it’s missing a difficulty level

-Not very many puzzles

Thanks for reading guys, I’m honestly surprised at just how much I enjoyed Resi 7. It was truly fantastic, and hopefully this sparks the return of Resi for a long time to come. Up next will be an article, so keep an eye out for that!

Harry.

Pokémon Sun and Moon

Pokémon Sun and Moon

20 Years Strong

It goes without saying that one of the biggest video game franchises ever is Pokémon, currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. It’s captured the hearts and minds of so many gamers, both young and old, including myself from a young age. Pokémon has an incredibly special place in my heart, and it makes me so happy to know it’s as big and as better as it’s ever been. Pokémon Sun and Moon aren’t just brand new entries into the series, they’re a celebration of the past 20 years of Pokémon, with new changes causing much-needed evolution, but still nodding back to the games that came before them. Pokémon Sun and Moon are just as good as they were hyped up to be, and you have no idea how happy it makes me to say that.

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The new starts in Sun and Moon in my opinion, are fairly average, although some of the evolutions are very cool.

The Alola Region

Sun and Moon’s story is a fairly run of the mill Pokémon story line, but it is unique in terms of its characters and themes. Once again, you play as a trainer who’s recently moved to the Alola Region, a set of 4 islands surrounded by ocean. The Hawaiian theme Alola is based on is refreshing, new, and an exciting change in terms of environment for Pokémon, but more on that later. The story is fairly one-note, following your Trainer on their journey to complete the Island Challenge, which is Alola’s version of collecting Gym Badges. Without spoiling too much, you get involved with a number of characters, the Aether Foundation and Team Skull. There are some legitimately dark ideas in Sun and Moon’s plot, and I found it refreshing even though it’s all simply implied rather than directly told. Sun and Moon heavily revolves around family and community, and does an excellent job of displaying so. There’s something very unified about Alola and its people, everyone knows about the Island Challenges, and each and every trainer feels like they’re really part of the world. Sun and Moon also has some of the best characters the series has seen in my opinion. There are a few that are incredibly interesting such as Lillie, Gladion, and Lusamine, and they’re definitely characters that I always enjoyed seeing throughout my 20 hour journey. Sun and Moon doesn’t reach the heights that Black and White 2 did, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s a fun, likeable, simple storyline that has some implications that hopefully provoke further discussion within the Pokémon community. Sun and Moon feel truly unique from a narrative perspective (among many others) and Gamefreak should be commended for that. 

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Trainers can once again be fully customised, including hair, clothes and more.

The Island Challenge

Sun and Moon don’t differentiate much from other games in the series in terms of gameplay, but the overall structure of the game has been fundamentally changed. Gyms are now a thing of the past, and in their place are Island Trials. Each Island has a number of trials for trainers to attempt, and what they consist of varies from taking photos of Pokémon, to more traditionally finding and taking down Pokémon in the area. It’s very different from the established formula, but all the trials are unique and entertaining, making for a very welcome change. the turn-based battle system is still much the same as previous games, with a few minor tweaks and additions that make it easier to use and keep track of. Status buffs can now be viewed from the bottom screen, and if a Pokémon is registered in your Pokédex, you can how moves effect that particular Pokémon. Speaking of which, the new Rotomdex (yes a Rotom inside of your Pokédex) has seen some new additions making it easier to navigate and use. You can now see which island and route specific Pokémon can be found in, it also just generally looks better, and there’s a genuine satisfaction to have a page filled out in the Dex. And trust me when I say this, there are plenty of Pokémon to find and catch in Sun and Moon. Whether it be the Alolan forms of first generation Pokémon, or brand new ones, there’s plenty here to catch and find and it goes without saying that most of the designs for the new Pokémon are pretty well done albeit the odd Drampa. HMs have thankfully been done away with, and have now been replaced by the Pokémon Ride Pager, allowing trainers to instantaneously access a Charizard to fly on, or a Lapras to surf on, it’s a simple change, but a much-needed one. Alola as a region is always interesting to explore, and 30 hours in I’m still finding items and hidden areas throughout. Sun and Moon’s difficulty is nothing compared to the older games, but it’s certainly not as easy as X and Y, which was a nice change, with some of the late game battles taking some genuine thought and preparation in order to succeed. Legendaries and the brand new Ultra-Beasts can be found throughout Alola, making for some great post-game content, with more awaiting the player past the credits. I thoroughly enjoyed playing Sun and Moon, it’s the same battle system we know and love, in the most polished state it’s ever been, and the changes to structure are both new and refreshing. 

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The new Alolan forms are vastly different from their original counter parts.

Smooth Seas

Pokémon Sun and Moon, from my experience at least, excel technically albeit one or two minor hiccups. First off, the game looks incredible, one of the best on the 3DS. I played on a New 3DS XL and I was genuinely impressed by how good the game looks. Character models are detailed, environments are open and incredible to look at, and this is all while the game runs at 60 FPS all the time, except for one occasion. I experienced heavy frame drops when taking photos in-game with the Rotomdex. It didn’t hinder my experience terribly, but it is definitely worth noting. It is also worth noting that the standard 3DS has frame drops during double battles, but that won’t affect my opinion on the game, due to my experience being on the New 3DS, where this problem is non-existent.

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The version exclusive legendaries are Solgaleo and Lunala.

Verdict: 9.5/10

Pokémon Sun and Moon is worthy as both a celebration of 20 years of Pokémon, and simply as a mainline entry in general. It’s a love letter to fans of the series, while welcoming new ones, with a simple yet enjoyable story, the most polished battle system yet, a brand new structure, and strong technical production values. Sun and Moon is an excellent entry into the franchise, easily one of the best, and I cannot recommend enough to anyone who owns a Nintendo 3DS. Pokémon is back, and it’s bigger and better than ever.

Positives

-Simple, yet enjoyable story with some interesting implications

-Likeable characters

-The best battle system yet

-Small but effective changes, making the formula that much better

-New and inventive structure, making for a fresh experience

-Looks beautiful for 3DS standards, and runs smoothly most of the time

Negatives

-Rare frame drops

Thanks for reading guys, up next is Final Fantasy XV! I’m super happy with Sun and Moon, I’m definitely glad it lived up to the hype, or at least my hype. Thanks again, Harry.

Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2

Player Choice Matters

When Arkane Studios’s brand new IP, Dishonored, released in October of 2012, it took the industry by surprise with its open-ended gameplay, a beautifully dark world, and a solid narrative. I have poured hours upon hours into various versions of Dishonored, toying with different play-styles and options I hadn’t previously explored before. It was a breath of fresh air during a time that was crowded with linear games, and something I didn’t expect to spend so much time with. Naturally, I was incredibly excited when Dishonored 2 was officially announced, and 2 years later, it’s finally been released. Dishonored 2 does what everything the first game did and more, making for one of the best gaming experiences this year, albeit some technical issues.

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Dishonored 2 gives you the option of playing as Emily or Corvo.

Take Back What’s Yours

Dishonored 2 is set 15 years after the events of the original, following Emily Kaldwin and Corvo Attano after the assassination of the empress Jessamine Kaldwin. Emily has taken her rightful place as empress of Dunwall, and is taking part in a remembrance cermemony for Jessamine, when she’s abruptly visited by the witch Delilah Copperspoon  and Duke Luca Abele. They attack Corvo and Emily, and here is where you choose who you want to play as. You’re then thrown out, and Delilah takes the throne for herself, as she claims she’s the half-sister of Jessamine, and that the throne is rightfully hers. It doesn’t help that a mass murderer called the Clown Killer, has been targeting all of Emily’s political rivals, framing her as the Crown Killer herself. You then set out to save Corvo or Emily (depending on who you play as) and to get back the throne from Delilah. It’s a fairly predictable story, but definitely enjoyable, with a likeable cast of characters and villains throughout. Voice acting is strong here, and some of the characters from the first game make a welcome return. Most of the narrative takes place in Karnaca, an isle just south of Dunwall. It’s a fantastic setting for the story, making for a more colourful, vibrant, and still dark world to explore. Once again, Dishonored 2 absolutely nails the setting and atmosphere of its world, and I was always incredibly interested in what it had to offer. Smaller side storylines with minor characters are also common, and there’s one in particular that’s very intriguing, which follows Meagan Foster. During both of my playthroughs I paid close attention to her and her dialogue, and I recommend you do the same thing.

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Rats are ever-present in the world of Dishonored, but Karnaca also has another threat in the form of bloodflies.

An Assassin’s Tools

Part of what made the original Dishonored such a fresh experience, was its unprecedented player choice. You could clear the entire game without killing a soul, and it was this kind of player freedom that made Dishonored as good as it was, and Dishonored 2 takes it to the next level. The first choice you make in Dishonored 2 is definitely the biggest, as it determines who you’ll play as for the 8-10 hour campaign, consequently locking you into that characters set of powers for that playthrough. Naturally, I played as Emily for my first playthrough due to Corvo being mostly the same as he is in the original, and if you have played the original, I urge you to play through as Emily first, as her powers are entirely unique and different to Corvo’s. Choice only goes further from there however, with multiple pathways and options for players to take. You can go guns blazing, destroying and killing everyone in sight, or you can go through the entire game without spilling any blood at all. Both play styles are just as rewarding as the other, and both have negative or positive outcomes on the world around you. Powers this time around are just as entertaining to use as they were in the original, whether it be Emily’s ability to summon a doppelganger of herself, link the fates of two unfortunate enemies, or Corvo’s returning ability to freeze time and summon rats, Dishonored 2 never makes you feel like you’re playing it wrong, and player choice once again takes a front seat. The openness of the levels is also extremely nice and exploring each one is always enticing, further expanding the environment and feel of the world. Once again, runes can be collected to upgrade your powers, and bone charms can be found to gain various buffs. One thing that stood out to me consistently across both of my playthroughs, was the incredible level design and verticality found in each mission. Whether you’re exploring the docks of Karnaca, or the twisted halls of the Clockwork Mansion, each individual mission feels unique and of its own. It was an absolute pleasure to navigate each and every environment, and the verticality of each level is unprecedented. Much like the environments, the missions are incredibly varied as well, ranging from missions involving time travel, to others involving the supernatural side of Dishonored’s world. Various tools make a return from the original too, such as the crossbow and pistol, with new items such as various new crossbow darts. It’s truly fantastic stuff, and I enjoyed every second I spent playing Dishonored 2.

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The Clockwork Soldiers a new form of enemy in Dishonored 2, and they’re quite formidable.

Karnaca, Jewel of the South

I played Dishonored 2 on my Playstation 4 Pro, and my god does this game look absolutely gorgeous. The beautiful water-colour art style comes into full effect here, and Dishonored 2 constantly treats you with amazing visual fidelity, with high quality textures, character models, an environment details. The level of visuals Dishonored 2 achieves unfortunately causes the game to run at 30 frames per second, and while it’s certainly stable, I much would’ve preferred a 60 frames per second experience. Dishonored 2, at least from my experience didn’t hold up terribly well in terms of other technical aspects. I experienced one game breaking bug, and experienced 3 or 4 hard crashes across 16-20 hours of game time. I also noticed that the game’s audio mixing was slightly off, with sound effects coming into play shortly after they were supposed to, and it seems to lack support for surround sound, but I’m sure that can be changed with some fiddling with the settings.

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The Clockwork Mansion is one of the most beautiful missions, with ever changing environments, taking place during a gorgeous sunset over Karnaca

Verdict: 9/10

Dishonored 2 successfully takes what made the first game so great, and turns it up a notch, making for an impressive experience drowning in player choice. There’s no right way to play Dishonored 2, and that’s the beauty of it. Arkane should be applauded for crafting such an excellent game, and while it’s definitely got its problems, it’s easily one of the best games of 2016. It has a solid story, refreshing player choice, a beautiful world, and incredible visual fidelity. I cannot recommend Dishonored 2 enough, especially you’ve played and enjoyed the original.

Positives

-Unprecedented player choice

-Engrossing world

-Incredible visuals and art style

-Intuitive level design, that’s refreshing form start to finish

-Solid narrative, with likeable characters

Negatives

-Game breaking bugs and crashes

Thanks for reading guys! I really enjoyed this one, and I was looking forward to it too so I’m glad Arkane handled it well. Up next is the 4th Episode of Telltale’s Batman series, then Pokemon Sun and Moon!

Thanks again, Harry.

No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky

Enough Hype to Fuel A Ship

It’s a lot more than an understatement to say the hype for No Man’s Sky has been minimal since its announcement at the end of 2013. Everyone was amazed at Hello Game’s procedurally generated science fiction exploration game by the time E3 2014 rolled around, and i’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t hyped too. As amazed and interested as I was in the concept of No Man’s Sky,  I was incredibly sceptical and cautious when release was approaching. After numerous delays and years of waiting, is No Man’s Sky worth it?

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The entire game is procedurally generated using the same algorithm.

Endless Space

If i’m being quite honest, I don’t really know how to start with No Man’s Sky, it doesn’t feature any real story mode or campaign, so i’m just going to share my opinions on my experience with the game so far. No Man’s Sky is best described as a space exploration game, with procedurally generated worlds, NPCs, and environments. You’re put on a random planet with nothing but a multi-tool and a broken spaceship that needs fixing up. You mine materials and resources in order to fix your ship, supply it with fuel, and to fuel your own needs such as your environmental protection if the planet you happen to be visiting is radioactive, blisteringly hot or freezing cold. The initial 2-3 hours of No Man’s Sky were magical, and I enjoyed myself a lot experiencing it for the first time. Exploring planets, flying in and out of space, it’s all amazing, it looks amazing, and to say No Man’s Sky is a technical marvel is no lie at all. The sheer sense of scale you get when flying from planet to planet is incredible, and it really does immerse you into No Man’s Sky’s universe. Planet’s are home to various plants and procedurally generated animals, and they’re littered with various elements you can mine and collect to further improve your ship and multi-tool. You can discover alien monoliths, NPC trading stations and landing docks scattered throughout each Galaxy. You really only have one goal in No Man’s Sky and that is to simply get to the centre of the universe by any means necessary. As good as it sounds and as much as it sounds like I adore No Man’s Sky, I find myself drifting further away from it everyday. Once the initial wonder and woe wears off, it became apparent that No Man’s Sky is incredibly repetitive, bear and sometimes straight up boring. While each planet is unique, you do the same things on every single one of them, and the differences between planets are only minor. I grew bored of mining the same minerals for the same item in order to get to the next galaxy, and the only thing driving me to keep going was to find out what was in the centre of the universe. Shooting feels stiff when it becomes compulsory, mining just becomes a boring grind used to simply craft a means to progress further, and space fights felt the same every single time they occurred. It’s such a shame because No Man’s Sky had so much potential, and while it’s definitely not horrible, it’s not good either.

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Other players can be found although it’s extremely unlikely.

Crash and Burn

Unfortunately No Man’s Sky’s technical issues didn’t make my experience that much better. For a game as big as this, the visuals are very passable and some of the main textures look pretty nice (regardless of how strange these animals can get). I didn’t experience any frame drops at all during my experience, but glitches, well that’s another story. I had the game crash twice on me before I even started playing properly, and there were multiple occasions where my ship was sent back to space prematurely, I also had the game freeze on me at one stage too.

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The game has 18 quintillion planets.

Verdict: 5/10

No Man’s Sky will unfortunately be the prime example in the future for hype trains that derailed. It’s a promising idea, and the sheer sense of scale is amazing, and what Hello Games have achieved from a technical standpoint is incredible (minus the bugs). However, that doesn’t change the fact that No Man’s Sky eventually becomes a boring grind, no matter how hard you try to enjoy it.

Positives

-Amazing sense of scale

-Procedurally generated world is amazing

-Incredible technical feat

Negatives

-Gets really boring, really fast

-Game breaking bugs

-Repetitive

-Planets aren’t fundamentally different

Thanks for reading guys, up next is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. I’m really looking forward to this one so hopefully it’s as good as its predecessor!