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INSIDE Review: For Love of the Game

INSIDE Review: For Love of the Game

Review by, William Griston, For Love of the Game – Gigamax Games Contributor

INSIDE is the spiritual successor to Playdead’s previous game, LIMBO, and it wears that mantle well. INSIDE was released on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One in 2016 by Playdead. This game is a “trial and death” game much like what Playdead had labeled LIMBO. Thematically both games are dark, but most of LIMBO’s grit comes from the ambiance, whereas INSIDE’s melancholy is tied to the themes that it presents.

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At its’ base, INSIDE is a side-scrolling 2.5D puzzle game with the story being told through set pieces that you encounter on your journey through the remarkably detailed world. While it’s not as difficult as its’ predecessor, INSIDE has a few new mechanics that keep things fresh.

Much like the previous game LIMBO, INSIDE starts off with a small boy running through a forest. After a short trek through the bush, you burst out into a clearing, where you learn that your character is trying to evade some NPCs(Non-Player Characters) armed with flashlights and tranquilizer guns.

INSIDE Gets Dark

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As you venture further and further into the game, the NPCs get more aggressive. The world itself takes a dystopian twist, each death functioning as a checkpoint as you stumble blindly through Playdead’s wonderfully crafted and terrifying world. You’ll find yourself holding your breath as you attempt to evade NPCs, pulling your hair as you try to figure out the path you’re supposed to take and a surge of joy when you finally solve an especially difficult puzzle. Much like LIMBO, there’s also a modicum of macabre humor to be found within the venue that Playdead has granted us. The sad state of the protagonist’s world is told through both the extremely creative set pieces as well as the beautiful art style. You will die, a lot.

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INSIDE’s graphics are not as rudimentary as the previous game. LIMBO was a black silhouette on a black landscape, INSIDE’s world is one of color, still draped in an atmospheric shadow and somber grays. The oppressive landscape serving as a terrifying backdrop to the gameplay, the story of the wheres and whyfors playing out in the background and sometimes in the foreground as you attempt to surmount the plethora of nefarious puzzles that have been placed in your path.

INSIDE is great, but LIMBO is better

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While INSIDE is a great game, I think LIMBO is the much stronger title out of the two.

If we’re being totally honest, I feel like INSIDE would probably feel more original if I hadn’t touched LIMBO first.

In the end, I’d say that if you like platformers and Puzzle games: Pick up both LIMBO and INSIDE. If you have to choose between the two, I’d get LIMBO because the puzzles feel less labored than they do in INSIDE. I just did not get as much from INSIDE as I did LIMBO, it’s still a great game, it’s just not as fantastic as the previous outing by Playdead.

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Surviving Mars Review – For Love of the Game

Review by, William Griston, For Love of the Game – Gigamax Games Contributor

Surviving Mars was created by the Bulgarian Haemimont Games and published by Paradox Interactive from Sweden. It was released on Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on March 15, 2018. The game follows in the footsteps of Cities: Skylines (Another Paradox game) and SimCity (Maxis).

Not quite what I was expecting

After spending almost a hundred hours on the indie company Magruda Works’ Planetbase, another game that’s eerily similar to what Haemimont and Paradox have offered with Surviving Mars, to say I was excited for the game would be an understatement. I pre-ordered Surviving Mars, I never pre-order games anymore. I have been burned one too many times, this game was not any different. While Surviving Mars had originally piqued my interest because the game looked like it was Planetbase++, that is, Planetbase with more substance.

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What I got was a flashy game with very little substance. Which honestly should not have surprised me considering that it was published by Paradox, the kings of DLC. Paradox has a habit of releasing half-assed games and then making them better over time with DLC (See: Hearts of Iron IV, Crusader Kings II). Don’t get me wrong, I like Paradox games (I’ve played the shit out of both Hearts of Iron IV and Stellaris, as well as dabbling with the extremely complicated Crusader Kings II), I just I don’t like their business model.

Various Shades of Boring, with a side of Ho-Hum

Gameplay wise, you will spend a few hours collecting materials and then building windmills and solar panels so you can generate air and water and drop your first dome. After that, you call in your first batch of colonists which aren’t enough to staff all of your structures. Later on, when the games design to allows you to recruit more colonists it will automatically assign people to the jobs, but they are not assigned correctly. It assigns Engineers to the Farms, and Botanists to the hospital, and so on. This leads to a lot of tedious micromanagement with you attempting to track down individual colonists and telling them what building to work on.

For some inexplicable reason, the colonists sometimes ignore those commands and go back to the job they were working before, even though you’ve eliminated that shift which leads to even more tedious micromanagement. There honestly isn’t a lot to Surviving Mars. It’s basically SimCity/Cities: Skylines on Mars with a stricter ruleset. Graphically, the game isn’t really all that spectacular, either. Granted, the setting is Mars, which means that the terrain is various shades of red and brown.

Hot Garbage

In the end, I would honestly pick up Planetbase instead it is half the price of Surviving Mars. Even with the wonky AI in Planetbase, I had more fun within the first 3 hours than I did with the eight I put into Surviving Marts. I hate to trash on a game, but, Surviving Mars was a disappointment.

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On The Eighth Day, Iguana Created Turok…

For Love of the Game: Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

Review by, William Griston – Gigamax Games Contributor

Originally released on the Nintendo 64 in 1997, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was one of the first FPS games designed explicitly with a console in mind. While it did receive a port to the PC, it was not as well received as the N64 version. Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was crafted by the now defunct Iguana Entertainment and subsequently published by the now equally defunct Acclaim Entertainment. Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was given new life on the PC in December of 2015 and on Xbox One in March of 2018 by Nightdive Studios

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Nightdive has succeeded in bringing a beloved game from many of our childhoods into the modern era. They seem to have a penchant for bringing old games from defunct studios back from the dead, and I feel that we all owe them for this great service. Keep fighting the good fight Nightdive.

The Setting

Taking on the role of Tal’Set as the current Turok(in the later games of the original series, you play the role of Joshua Fireseed). All Turoks function as protectors of the barrier between the Lost Lands and Earth as well as participating in an unending struggle to stem the tide of the nefarious Campaigner’s bid to rule the multiverse. Based upon a comic book series that ran from the mid-‘50s to the early ‘80s, the Turok games are one of the few game series to feature a Native American protagonist. It’s the only one to feature a pure-blood one, which is somewhat surprising given the rich lore in their culture. I would love to play through a game similar to the setting/events in the movie Apocalypto as an example. Pre-European conquest Tomb Raider? Yes, please.

The Gameplay

While the gameplay is fairly rudimentary by modern standards, that is, you point guns at bad guys and press fire until they die. Strafing in circles is your best strategy for almost every enemy in the game with few exceptions. You can also attempt to make your foes attack each other, a feat that is much easier with the ranged enemies than it is with the melee based enemies. The caveat here is that like enemies will not attack each other, except for humanoids armed with guns. That is, Raptors won’t fight Raptors, Pur-Lin won’t fight Pur-Line.

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You are given access to a veritable cornucopia of weapons with to dispatch the various flora and fauna of the Lost Lands. Most of them are stock standard FPS fare but there are few standout weapons like the Particle Accelerator, easily one of the most unique weapons in the game, hell, in any FPS game that I have played. The Particle Accelerator charges up before automatically discharging, or you can unleash a torrent of directed plasma in front of you and most enemies hit by it will be burned to a crisp before finally exploding flinging giblets every which way.

The final weapon, the Chronoscepter is only available if you find all of the missing pieces scattered across the levels. The Chronoscepter goes boom in the most satisfying of ways, at least for the era that the game came from, for modern games, it’s rather lackluster even with the updated particle effects from Nightdive Studios’ remaster. I think the only major issue I have with the weaponry is how weak the shotguns are, especially on the higher difficulties.

The vast majority of the enemies you will face in Turok are humanoids, but there is a sprinkling of non-humanoids such as the goliath Pur-Lin(Giant Ape-like creatures, that look like angry mutant frogs) and dinosaurs such as Raptors. There’s even a small handful of bosses (Four total). The amount of dinos you face is rather minuscule considering the suffix of the game is “Dinosaur Hunter”, but I guess “Turok: Hunts Dinosaurs Sometimes” isn’t as catchy.

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The enemies are not the only threat you’ll face on your trek through the multitude of interconnected worlds. There are a bevy of hazards sprinkled liberally throughout each level from the mundane and primitive stake traps (Long branches with sharpened stakes attached to them that swing out horizontally), flesh-eating plants that fire spikes at you, and the occasional falling rock, all of which serve to bring life to a mostly empty world.

Inexplicably, there are a series of jump puzzles across a few levels in Turok. Whose idea was it to put platforming into an FPS game? They deserve far more scorn than I can muster, maybe even more scorn than the entirety of gamedom can muster (that’s a lot of scorn for those keeping track).

Exploring The Lost Lands

On your quest to collect all the pieces of the Chronoscepter and defeat the Campaigner will find you venturing through a massive and ancient temple complex. Delve into the claustrophobic depths of a mazelike catacomb, run across bridges through a village high in the trees, trudge through a wasteland filled with fields of lava, and finally the assault the Campaigner’s fortress which is a labyrinth of steel corridors. Every level has a few secret portals that pop up from time to time, given away by the telltale throbbing hum.    

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The journey starts out in the lush* jungles on the outskirts of Lost Lands, which functions as a hub for the game itself. After collecting the first few keys, you’ll find yourself in a giant cave with slightly raised stone floor with a series of stepping stones marked with glyphs that correspond to a specific key for a specific portal on the cave floor leading to an archway that become active portals to each sub-world of the Lost Lands once you insert the needed keys into the corresponding mounting affixed on the central platform.

*There are trees, some vine covered walls, as well as few monkeys, boars, and deer.

Caveat Emptor(Let The Buyer Beware)

This is an old game, that means much of Turok’s content was limited by design choices of the original team (Iguana Entertainment) due to the technological constraints of the system it was created for in the first place (The Nintendo 64). The AI is pretty abysmal, the textures are low res, and the models are janky. The fog was initially used as a stop-gap to keep the framerate at a playable level, but it was put to good use by adding some much-needed atmosphere.

If were not for the fog, you would not be treated to seeing the monolithic structures that poke out of the mists at you as you approach them, nor would you have to tangle with dinosaurs charging at you from unexpected places. Even with Nightdive Studios stellar job bringing this game back from the abyss, there’s only so much polish you can put on a turd. I enjoyed my trip through memory lane, while I am honestly not sure how much of a factor nostalgia was, I expect it did play a rather large role in my enjoyment of the game so there may be some positive bias in my thoughts to the game as a whole.

Play Turok: Dinosaur Hunter if you want to see what helped influence the acceptance of the console FPS. Games like Turok, Goldeneye, and Perfect Dark all laid the foundation for games like Halo and Destiny.

If you want the flashiest of graphics with the gibbiest of gibs, I would just play the new Doom.

This review was written based off of the PC remaster of the game that was released in 2015 by Nightdive Studios and may not be applicable to the Xbox One version of the game.
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For Love of the Game: Superhot Review

Superhot is the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.

Review by, William Griston – Gigamax Games Contributor 

Designed by the Superhot Team from Poland, Superhot was initially created for 7DFPS in 2013 before being worked into a more fleshed out game by the aforementioned

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Superhot has you enter a matrix-like grey-scaled world where the only bits of color are the endless hordes of Red dudes. The gameplay is centered around controlling the passage of time with key presses (or the lack thereof), time still flows even if you are not pressing any buttons or looking around, albeit at a pace even a snail would find painfully slow. Essentially, you will feel like you are playing through a John Woo movie. This is a game where you can literally dodge bullets. You can even, if you so choose, play the game like a stock-standard FPS game by pressing your movement keys constantly keeping the flow of time active rather than relatively inert. Superhot is easily the most stylised shooter that I have ever played, every level is black and white, all the Bad Dudes are Red, and your Dude is Black. All of the various Dudes are made of a crystalline substance that chips, cracks, and eventually shatters when hit by various objects ranging from baseball bats to pool balls, monitors, bottles, to bullets.

An Interesting Start

The game starts you off staring at a reasonable facsimile of MS-DOS.

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There is a surprising array of options for a game like this (Or any game in recent memory, really), some of them quirky (my favorite is the Chat Room), and a couple “games within a game” one of which is very self-referential. There is also a few easter eggs that are only accessible once you have completed the main game. The tree chopping mini-game is pretty charming.

I could honestly see that Superhot was a labor of love for the Superhot Team, and I can really appreciate the effort that they have put into it.

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The campaign is roughly two hours long, without spoiling anything important (Is there a way to spoil a two-year-old game?). The campaign starts you off with a text conversation with a friend, who after extolling the virtues of the same, sends you a copy.

Memorable and Engaging

I found Superhot’s campaign to be pretty engaging as a whole, or at least engaging enough that I played through it in a single sitting, even if Superhot is somewhat predictable.

There are a few really memorable set pieces as you progress through the game, which I want to talk about, but I would rather not tarnish the experience for those of you who have yet to play through Superhot.

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The Endless Mode moniker is a case of “What’s on the tin, is what’s in the tin.”, and is unlocked after completing the main game. The Endless Mode gives you the ability to play through a selection of stages you played through on the main game, albeit with endless waves of Red Dudes coming at you from every angle until you are taken out and repeat the process. Killing a fixed number of Red Dudes on a given stage unlocks further permutations of that stage, such as Time Attack, or “Katana Only” challenges, the number is cumulative so you don’t have to worry about doing it in one go, as I had initially thought was required.  I think my only complaint is that there’s too much focus on the gunplay in the Endless mode as a whole, you’ll see ARs and Shotguns in the second and third waves rather than a gradual introduction of better-armed opponents. It’d be fun for it to be primarily melee with the occasional pistol wielding Red Dude for the first 5-10 waves. I bet there’s a mod out there that accomplishes just that.

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Simple Is Beautiful 

Although simplistic, the graphics are able to convey the world that they wanted to show you in a manner that fits the narrative of the game. There are reasonable facsimiles of real-world objects (Cars, Bar Counters, Pool Tables, Toilet Stalls). There are Red Dudes, and various items that you can pick up and throw, use to beat or shoot the Red Dudes until they shatter. The Katana is a personal favorite, cleaving Red Dudes in twain and the way that the Katana sticks into the ground after you throw it is oddly satisfying.

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If you want to try a shooter that is as unique as it is stylistic, give it a shot.

If you are leery about trying it, grab it on a Steam sale.

Now For a Joke

A joke made by one of the streamers I watch on the regular made is that there is a hidden challenge mode in trying to beat the game before you can return it on Steam. I enjoyed the game enough that I did not return it, and have sunk a few hours into the Endless Mode.

Really, if you enjoy shooters in any fashion you should give the game a shot. I feel like you will not be disappointed. I know I was not, I just wish I had played the game when it was new rather than waiting a couple of years due to unfounded misgivings. Superhot is one of those games that really makes me love indie game developers.

The Author has not played the VR version of Superhot, as such this review is not applicable to that version of the game. Find the Superhot VR review from Gigamax Games!

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For Love of the Game: Sea of Thieves Review

For Love of the Game: Sea of Thieves Review

Review by, William Griston – Gigamax Games Contributor 

Rare always managed to excite my imagination, starting with their entries in the Donkey Kong Franchise on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, and the Highly Underrated(amongst people who haven’t played it, that is) Conker’s Bad Fur Day on the Nintendo 64. When Microsoft acquired Rare from Nintendo in the early 2000s, I was pretty disheartened. I had expected the monolithic Microsoft to utterly destroy the Rare I knew. I am sure many of you have experienced the same palpable dread from time to time when it comes to this hobby.  With Bethesda’s acquisition of id Software, those fears were proven immature with the eventual release of Doom(2016). Easily one of the best shooters I’ve played in the last decade.

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After a faltering start on both the Original Xbox and the Xbox 360, those misgivings were finally assuaged with Sea of Thieves. Sea of Thieves is a return to form for the legendary Rare. the world is brimming with soul, passion, and character. Often criticised for its’ lack of content, the much-maligned Sea of Thieves quickly endeared itself to me. I wasn’t a “day one” player like much of the initial player base, but I did get into the game shortly after it was released(about a week), and was quite enamored with the world that Rare managed to craft.

From The Beginning

Sea of Thieves offers a rather large oceanic sandbox with a plethora of well designed and unique islands to explore by yourself or with a cadre of like-minded scoundrels of the sea.

The game opens up inside a fairly nondescript tavern with a bevy of pirates for you to choose as your avatar, you can lock specific models and generate more if you so choose. After choosing your pirate, you’re greeted with a screen giving you the option of playing on a Galleon(3-4 Player Vessel) or a Sloop(1-2 Player Vessel).

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The names of the various islands and outposts have a pirate-y feel to them(Keel Haul Fort, Shark Fin Camp, Skull Keep, Tri-Rock Isle). The dearth of Ocean to explore is both a blessing and a curse, with a tailwind you can cross the map in short order. With a headwind, you’re in for a slow trek across what seems to be an endless sea pocked with little bits of adventure. The RNG factor of the Wind led my crew and me to name our vessel “The Br(e)aking Wind” because you’re never too old for fart jokes.

The weakest part of the game is definitely the PVE(Player vs Environment) aspect of the game, as you’re limited to four different kinds of radiant quests given to you from one of three factions.

The Gold Hoarders, The Merchant Alliance, and finally The Order of Souls.

I am partial to the Gold Hoarders quest line, which has the stereotypical pirate’s map with an X marks the spot mechanic as well as cryptic poems of the riddle maps which start of with something like “Crescent has riches vast, from forgotten stories in the past.”

Next is the Merchant Alliance Quests, which are in essence timed fetch quests.

Go collect 300 chickens and go to this island before a fixed amount of time has passed. I found these quests to be pretty mundane if we’re being honest.

Finally, we have the Order of Souls quests, which give you a single quest or a series of quests to find and eliminate a crew of skeletons and claim the skull of the Captain.

The faction quests are akin to the quests that you are given in Skyrim, in that they generally target islands in fairly close proximity to each other, and if you pray to RNGesus, your vessel.

Where Sea of Thieves Shines

Where the game truly shines is the PVP(Player Versus Player) aspect, assuming you can find a crew of individuals with the few things required for success in Sea of Thieves: A working mic,  ears, and a couple thumbs. Sarcasm aside, with a properly crewed and run Galleon, you can rule the seas with nary a vessel to challenge your prowess. I have had the most fun trying to hit the other vessels with a Gunpowder Barrel, or simply firing myself over in a Cannon and attempting to wreak as much havoc as I can while my shipmates send a barrage of lead. The cacophony of cannons playing a boisterous dirge for the soon to be doomed ship. Something my crew and I try to do is start off our play with a Skull fort, after which we try not to visit an outpost until someone has to log off, we find that having a belly full of loot makes the PVP that much more exciting.

You play a bit harder when you have something to lose.

The meat and potatoes of the game is definitely the sailing aspect, and you are going to be doing a lot of it. Steering the vessel is done on the poop deck with the wheel, which will turn one or two full revolutions left or right depending on whether or not you’re on a Sloop or a Galleon

On each side of the ship, there are controls to raise, lower, and rotate the sails. Which controls operate which sail are pretty obvious even to a neophyte. The main key to traversing the seas is catching the wind as much as possible, otherwise, you are in for a long voyage.

Final Thoughts

Graphically, Sea of Thieves has the best looking and most realistic water effects I’ve ever seen in a video game. The character models are cartoony and have that stylised Rare feel to them, as do much of the Islands, vessels, and buildings themselves. Assuming you’re on a PC, even on the lowest graphical settings, you’ll have a gorgeous well-designed game to play.

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If you’re looking for a sandbox pirate game with enough content to keep you going for at least a week or two at a casual pace, and you enjoy PVP interactions, you’ll love Sea of Thieves.

If a set goal with a clear road of advancement is more your speed, I’d give Sea of Thieves a pass.

Regardless, I’ll be continuing my journey.

See you on the Seas, Y’arr. This article was based upon the PC/Microsoft Store version of Sea of Thieves, and may not be applicable to the Xbox One Version in any way shape or form.

Review by: William Griston, games way more than he should, but still not enough.

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God of War PS4 Review – Kratos Never Looked So Good

If you were a fan of the first three God of War games or the various side stories that were released on the PSP/Vita, the latest entry in the series is a huge departure from what you’ve played before. God of War on the PS4 takes some huge risks that are all ended up being wildly successful. They highlight what a positive change bringing more maturity to a well-known game/character can do for a long-running IP. While many may be turned off by the brutal difficulty the beginning hours of the game may hold, it is important to stick with it and get comfortable with the new mechanics. With an open world, side quests, and actual character development, this is God of War like you’ve never seen it before.

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God of War Like Never Before

Fans of the series will immediately notice that the first ten minutes does more to develop Kratos as a character than any game before it. The game opens with Kratos teaching his son, Atreus, the basics of wilderness survival,  showing a side of the protagonist that many didn’t believe existed. Instead of just murdering every being in sight, age has brought some restraint to our hero, allowing the game to take an introspective look at how murdering every Greek God weighs on his conscience and how he tries to hide from his demons. That’s not to say Kratos is an open book, in fact, he’s quite the opposite, only revealing his deepest thoughts when speaking to his son and when thrown into moments that shake our previously unshaken hero to his core. God of War is absolutely packed full of these kinds of intense moments.

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This game is packed to the brim with monstrous battles. Players will not need to go far to fight their next massive foe or group of enemies. A lot of this is thanks to the new side quest system that is full of unique adventures that are as fleshed out as the optional quests in The Witcher 3. Not only do the side quests offer visual splendor, but they deliver a deeper look into the relationship between Kratos and his son, Atreus. While Kratos may seem more vulnerable emotionally, that does not make him any less of a savage.  When pitted against some of the ugliest/scariest monsters Norse mythology has to offer, the Kratos the world has grown to know and love comes out.

The New Combat System

Combat has taken a huge turn in this entry. With every swing,  dodge, and block being deliberate and a keen eye necessary to watch the move of every enemy on screen, it’s unlike anything a God of War fan has experienced. Instead of relying on the hack and slash nature of the previous titles, the new game takes a few cues from Dark Souls and puts an emphasis on proper timing, blocking, and dodging.

Every enemy now has a combat level and if pitted against an enemy above a players gear level, the fight will be next to impossible. Even enemies that are at your gear level pose a serious threat and unprepared gamers will quickly learn not to underestimate even the grunts of the fantasy army. Kratos still uses his host of unique finishing moves that will make even the most vetted God of War fans cringe as enemies literally get torn to pieces.

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As previously mentioned, gear score is a huge part of moving forward. Completing side quests, exploring, and killing strong enemies will pay out in unique material drops that can be taken to the smithy and be crafted into new armor and weapon upgrades to increase Kratos overall level. RPG fans will recognize the color-coded equipment system with white being common and orange being top tier. Unique items have interesting perks attached to them that add spectacular bonuses to Kratos while in combat. There are even a few different armor sets for Atreus even though he doesn’t have a real health bar. Instead, his equipment makes him better in the different support roles he plays.

Final Thoughts 

God of War doesn’t feel like a sequel, it feels like a perfect restructuring of a series that was quickly growing old and tired in its ideas. This game is essential for any PS4 owner and could easily be a frontrunner for game of the year. The developer took a huge risk in fundamentally changing nearly every aspect of the game but ultimately, it is exactly what the series needed. Hopefully, other reboots will learn from the success of this game and strive to reach the same level of quality.

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The Invisible Hours Review: Movies and Gaming Collide

Game: The Invisible Hours
Developer:
Tequila Works
Publisher: GameTrust/Tequila Works
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR
Genre: Spherical Narrative
Players: Single-player

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Background

Tequila Works was absolutely successful in delivering a unique experience with The Invisible Hours. Now available for non-VR, the flat-screen version of the game is still able to remain immersive and unbelievably exciting. The second Tesla’s body was discovered, the intricate story begins to unfold in a spectacular way. This noir is truly an experience to remember.

Watch the Review Preview on YouTube!

Following this game since its release on VR, the only thing to hold me back from actually picking up The Invisible Hours was the thought of getting sucked into a game and needing to play it on PlayStation VR all the way through. This piece of tech is awesome but it can get a bit cumbersome when gaming for hours with this hunk of plastic on your head.

Now that Tequila Works was releasing their flat-screen version, I was extremely excited to get my hands on a copy. I’m not a big noir fan, and honestly, a conversation heavy game with little to no action or incredible cinematics doesn’t often catch my attention. However, there was something a bit different about The Invisible Hours.

The Cinematic Experience Begins

Following the footsteps of Nikola Tesla and getting to the bottom of his gruesome murder felt like the right combination to catch my interest. Tequila Works sent over a review copy and I couldn’t wait to get started. They marketed The Invisible Hours as a “Spherical Narrative” something that just seemed to be clever marketing language to catch gamers attention. But it actually turned out to be so much more than that.

The spherical nature became clear in the first hour of the game. It is built, unlike anything I’ve ever played before. A story unfolding and the player doesn’t have any direct impact on the events taking place. Instead, the main character isn’t really the main character. Gamers control what seems to be a “fly on the wall” kind of entity that has the ability to fast-forward, rewind, and stop time. This primary mechanic is the gem that truly makes this game shine, taking the gamer on a circular journey back and forth to get to the bottom of this mystery. 

It All Starts Coming Together

Taking place on Nikola Tesla’s private island, the playable character appears without much backstory. The only option is to start walking up the winding steps in front of you. With a large body of water behind you and a sheer cliff face to your right, the steps guide you up to a large gate bearing the letters, “NT”.

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A crying woman that pays no attention to your presence and a gigantic mansion are the only things of immediate interest after reaching the top of the steps. Leaving the crying woman alone, feeling slightly offended she didn’t pay any attention to me, it was time to explore the mansion. This is when the body of the famous inventor is first discovered and things start to heat up.

As the drama unfolds, tensions flare and conversations start breaking out. From the moment Tesla’s body is discovered, the game truly comes alive. What seemed like an empty mansion soon started filling with characters from all walks of life. Famous historical inventors, actors, along with people that history would have never mentioned all begin to appear from seemingly nowhere. Each of the characters plays a vital role in the stories development. All have a unique perspective on the situation that’s unfolding all around them as well as develop intricate back stories that only become clear as time goes on.

The Invisible Hours Stands Out

The feature that makes The Invisible Hours stand out and what created such a unique experience is the time control feature. Being able to rewind, fast-forward, and stop time along with the fact that your playable character is completely invisible allows Tequila Works to create that cinematic feel while still allowing gamers to have some kind of control.

As characters appear, you can follow them with the rewind function to see where they came from in the mansion and what they were up to. You can even rewind to the point before everyone was notified of the murder and fast forward to after the large group breaks up and see what they are doing in their room when they think they’re alone. It gets a bit creepy, but all throughout the game, it feels like a playable movie so it’s really not as weird as it sounds.

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Each character had an unbelievably in-depth backstory, their complex emotions that The Invisible Hours is able to portray while they were alone with their thoughts is enthralling. Hanging on every word while also anxiously waiting for their monologues to end so I could go back and follow someone else around.

Less than 30 minutes in game time went by and I already put hours into the game. Every minute that passed in game felt like it caused a chain reaction, sending me off on a wild hunt for clues, collectibles, bits of conversation, and story. It is strangely exhilarating, especially being someone who usually finds themselves losing interest in dialog heavy games.

Overview and Wrapup 

The only real complaint about the game is the fact that you had to wait for the rewind and fast-forward mechanic to wind up in order for it to go faster. It would start off slow and gradually increase in speed. This is a bit annoying since it played such an important role throughout the game. It would have been nice to have the option to have control of how fast time rewound or moved forward, instantly.

Overall the game is an interesting introduction to the Spherical Narrative genre. Tequila Works did a great job bringing this VR game to flat-screen as well. The story is fascinating and kept my attention every second I was playing. I didn’t want to miss a word and at one point I advanced to chapter 2 but didn’t want to move forward because I didn’t have a chance to follow someone back to their room and see what they were up to. It was nice that Tequila Works included a quicker way to time travel through the start menu so I was able to jump right back to the beginning of the game. 

There are a lot of secrets hiding in Nikola Tesla’s mysterious mansion and the journey to uncover the truth about his death is filled with mind-blowing realizations and tense interactions. Tequila Works did a fantastic job putting this story together. I’m excited to go back and see what other secrets The Invisible Hours has in store.

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Really, What’s Up With Final Fantasy: A New Empire

So Really, What’s Up With Final Fantasy: A New Empire

You’ve probably seen those strange ads for the mobile game Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. This strange ‘free’ app looks like any other free to play mobile game but with one major exception, it’s based on the most recent Final Fantasy game. Noctis, Prompto, Gladiolus, Iignis, they’re all there but it still feels like an intellectual property lawsuit waiting to happen rather than an actual Square Enix game. But yes, this game and all of its elements are legitimately licensed from SQUARE ENIX HOLDINGS CO., LTD. according to their official website.

Seriously, What’s Up With This Game?

A fan reached out asking us to give our impression on this game and we’re here to deliver.

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This is a game that would normally fly under the radar for Gigamax Games but there were a few things about it that did catch our eye. The marketing on those aforementioned social platforms stood out, maybe not for the best reasons but it did have our intention. The graphics (on the ads) and action looked impressive for a mobile game. However, as gamers know all too well this is a common marketing ploy. Video game developers have lied in the past when it comes to their marketing, No Mans Sky comes to mind. However, this seemed to be on an entirely different level.

FFXV: A New Empire promised exciting quests, action, and combat when in reality it is just another “age of empires” tower defense style mobile game. Yes, it does use the Final Fantasy universe but things are so much different.

Even with the Final Fantasy inspiration, this game is nearly identical to all the other tower defense, base builder, free to play mobile games on the market today. There are a lot of different things to do but there’s very little substance when it comes to the content.

“Questing” They Call It

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The questing system is extremely shallow. The only thing a player has to do to complete a quest is click “start” and wait for the timer to tick down. Fighting other bases and monsters is dull as well. The tiny sprite that represents a character slowly walks through the overworld, swings its sword and walks back to the base. There was only time Noctis is ever actually seen fighting and that was in the ‘Proving Grounds’. Noctus runs toward an enemy and each slash of his sword uses 50 Ether. Ether is not easily found and it costs an incredible amount of ‘Loyalty’ to purchase more.

With the lack of exciting content, there is one thing that this game does very well, entice the player to purchase the in-game materials and currency. There are so many things to do, even if they’re shallow, there’s a lot of different bases to upgrade, bosses to fight, in-game items to purchase but free players are extremely limited. To continuously play, the only real option is to pay.

Time Goes On But The Game Stands Still

After a while playing, there was the inevitable point where you are stuck waiting for resources to generate and a building to finish completing. The only New Empire, ffxv, mobile game, gigamax, gaming newssaving grace would be free to play mini-games that gamers could play while waiting around. However, there were actually multiple mini-games to choose from. This could have been the ultimate “Is this actually a great mobile game I would have missed out on?”

Clicking on the first one brings the player to a classic tower defense game. You build turrets that defend a wave-like onslaught of enmities, protecting the walls of your empire. This was exciting, having the chance to play fun games while resources accumulate or buildings to upgrade could have been great! However, players only have one attempt and then they are locked out with a 24:00 timer. Gamers only get 1 chance to play a single mini-game per day. There are 4 mini-games to try and a 24-hour timer shared between them. This means it will literally take four days to try each of the mini-games and you only have one attempt.

Final Thoughts

At the beginning they give you an incredible amount of resources and leveling up the citadel is a breeze. This honeymoon stage ends abruptly and they make it abundantly clear that in-game purchases are easy to complete and readily available. It’s unfortunate that the Final Fantasy brand is associated with this kind of game. The beautiful thing about Final Fantasy is the abundance of content a game purchase offers. Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire is the opposite. The shallow and lackluster content teases people along to get hooked and then once they level their buildings to about level 8, resource requirements for an upgrade increase exponentially. The only way to continuously play this game is to buy the in-game currency, however, if you’re a very patient person and don’t mind putting the game down for long periods of time, it’s a great distraction for a short period of time.

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Destiny 2: Was It Worth The Hype?

Destiny 2: Was It Worth The Hype?

Many players had a strange relationship with the first Destiny. Bungie told people to expect a 10-year game that will continuously grow and improve as time went on. However, this was far from the truth. The original Destiny left a bad taste in many gamers mouths, feeling as though it was disrespecting the players time and just adding enough content to string people along. Some loved the game, but there is no doubt that the game, at its core, was seriously flawed but now all eyes are on Destiny 2.

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The Worry Was Real

This left gamers worried if Destiny 2 had the potential to save the franchise. When people found out all of their hard earned rewards would be stripped away and then be forced to start from scratch, it wasn’t the best introduction. But to the surprise of many Destiny 2 and the developers at Bungie took the community’s criticism of the first game to heart and it shows in a big way.

Destiny 2 – Nightfall Strike [Gigamax PowerHour]

One of the main issues with original Destiny was the lack of rewards and the countless hours spent on repetitive grinding to receive any piece of worthwhile gear. This was far beyond the expected grind in this kind of ‘open’ exploration game. Bungie seemed to put all their chips in the exquisite gunplay and ignore a fully fleshed out campaign or any substance when it came to the grind. Running around a small map searching for chests that spawn in the same location on a timer is not an exciting gaming experience.

Destiny 2 May Have Done It

Destiny 2 is a monumental improvement over the original. Even though players have to start from scratch, the intro of the game provides a nice flashback of their time in the original. Milestones are remembered with a slideshow once a player starts the game, showing off their greatest achievements and even lists the players that were in the group when completed. This short but sweet ode to your original Destiny fireteams was the right kind of send off for the misstep that was Destiny.

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Even those that truly enjoyed the original Destiny have said it felt as though it was just one big beta for Destiny 2. Bungie did it right with this latest installment. Each planet has a more robust environment giving the sensation of being alive, more so than anything the original ever offered. The amount of story, strikes, and content offered at launch puts the original to shame and is an incredible indicator of things to come. The story evoked emotions and NPC’s have relatable personalities. With Bungie stating that they will be adding content much more regularly, one can only imagine where it will go from here. 

Overall Bungie redeemed themselves with Destiny 2. This latest title truly shows that the developers listened to their audience and put some real thought into the new game.  It feels as though this is just the beginning for one of the most highly anticipated shooters in history. If Destiny was able to reach impressive heights with lackluster content, there’s no telling how far the second game can go.

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Theseus Review: Avoid More Than the Minotaur

Theseus Review: Avoid More Than the Minotaur

Whenever a new PlayStation VR title releases, a sense of excitement follows. I begin to wonder what world I’ll get to take an active part in and experience through my very own eyes. Needless to say, when Theseus was first announced I was excited to avoid the infamous Minotaur in the labyrinth he calls a home while fighting creatures that dare to live in his kingdom. Admittedly, the 3rd person camera made me a bit wary of the title, but it was a perspective I had not yet experienced in VR and when done right could be a unique setup. Unfortunately, my concerns rang true, Theseus is a short and dull experience that ends long before you even have the chance to enjoy it and a price point that is far above justifiable doesn’t help either.

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The Journey into the Labyrinth

Theseus revolves around the characters journey into the labyrinth to escape the limbo he has been cast into. There’s spiders, a minotaur, and one helpful ghost, but that’s it. The game’s lack of NPC’s wouldn’t be so concerning if it did more with the ones it had created. In the short time I explored the maze I fought a cumulative 16-20 generic spider enemies, followed the ghost to the objective, and defeated the minotaur without swinging my sword at him. Also, if my description of the story seems somewhat lackluster it’s only because if I said anymore, the hour and a half long story would be ruined. While there is nothing wrong with a short game, charging $20 for the experience is a ripoff.

The third person perspective is a cool take on VR that could be used to set up some cool scenes. Unfortunately, Theseus’ take on the idea caused an uneasy feeling in my stomach and made little sense in a game that was about tight corridors and fighting spiders. Although it wasn’t the developers direction, the game would have benefitted from a first person perspective.

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Gameplay and Mechanics 

The gameplay involves climbing up walls, climbing down walls, walking down halls, running down halls, and lazily swinging at spiders. The combat was so dull at some point I tried to just walk to the next objective until an invisible wall impeded my progress that would only disappear when the enemies were defeated. Fighting involves swinging a torch with triangle and swinging a sword with square with no other control choices available, movement and strategy also felt very limited. While the game may take place in a labyrinth at no point was I ever left questioning which way to go. Pro-Tip, a game about a maze should never be a linear experience.

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Final Overview

Theseus is a collection of ideas that could have been really cool if executed properly. The graphics were great and the character design was creepy in a good way, but ultimately the game fell short in too many areas to justify it’s unusually high price point. If you are looking for a new VR title to pick up, Theseus should probably not be on your list.

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