Attack on Titan 2 first gameplay details

Attack on Titan 2 first gameplay details

Attack on Titan 2 first gameplay details. KOEI TECMO has announced new details about the upcoming action game sequel, Attack on Titan 2. The story will follow the second season of the anime along with versatile action gameplay, new challenges, and a wide selection of playable characters from Attack on Titan, including some new faces from the second season.

Attack on Titan 2 first gameplay details

Attack on Titan 2 first gameplay details

The roster will include Eren Jaeger, Mikasa Ackerman, Armin Arlert, Levi, Miche Zacharias, Nanaba, Gelgar, Ymir and Christa Lenz. The sequel will feature enhanced Titan movements and attacks, requiring more precise maneuvers from players. Additionally, it introduces the Monocular; allowing scouts better analyzation based on pinpointing Titan positions from afar and attack strategy utilizing their Omni-Directional Mobility Gear.

Outside of their excursions, Scouts can engage in new and improved Town Life gameplay. Strengthening relationships is an important element, providing a greater insight into the series’ cast. The publisher also confirmed that the launch is planned in March 2018, for PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.


The Long Dark PC Review

The Long Dark PC Review

As The Long Dark emerges after years in early access, it introduces the first two chapters in a five-part story, called Wintermute. The game’s demanding survival mechanics have the potential to mesh well with the story of a plane crash survivor stuck in the Canadian wilderness of Great Bear, but it’s too early to say whether or not Wintermute’s narrative ultimately pays off. It is, however, clearly off to a rocky start, leaving the more open-ended sandbox mode as the best reason to jump into The Long Dark today.

During Wintermute, you play as Will Mackenzie, a loner pilot working in the northern reaches of Canada, who agrees to help transport his distressed ex-wife and her mysterious cargo somewhere into the far reaches of the woods. Though there are a few revealing moments shared between Will and Dr. Astrid Greenwood before their plane comes crashing down, the quick and cliched implication of an emotional backstory through suggestive and vague dialogue makes a weak first impression. It certainly doesn’t help that many of the scenes throughout Wintermute’s first two episodes are hampered by odd animation jitters and floating objects that pop in and out frame.

While you both survive the sudden crash that cuts your conversation short, you are separated from one another, and Will succumbs to injuries that make surviving the harsh winterscape a true challenge. Recovering from the crash acts as the game’s tutorial, throwing you into the basics of survival. Whether it’s seeking shelter, starting a fire, or generally looking after your vital signs, almost everything you need is covered, giving you some confidence before you set out on a journey to find your lost passenger. Learning how to make the most of The Long Dark’s survival mechanics is no simple task, but these foundational steps are relatively easy compared to the hurdles that lie ahead.

Despite Mackenzie’s apparent desperation to find Astrid, he’s more than happy to scout the countryside to gather things for other people, ultimately earning nothing for himself except scraps of information about Astrid’s possible whereabouts and increased knowledge of the wild. It’s frustrating to watch–and even more frustrating to play.


As you carry on, most of your time will be spent scouring abandoned structures for granola bars, harvesting meat from animal carcasses found frozen in ice, and dodging the elements as best you can. Tools like knives and hatchets can be built provided you have the right blueprints, parts, and access to a forge or a workbench. They also need to be maintained using spare parts, which can be gathered by breaking down extra items. Annoyingly, inventory management doesn’t let you optimise your carry weight by combining like items, so instead of being able to do something like emptying lantern fuel containers into a jerry can, you’re forced to carry them all around separately. Be careful where you tread, as well, as it’s not uncommon to get stuck in geometry without the means to free yourself–you aren’t able to jump, only crouch and walk.

Mackenzie’s survival knowledge is minimal to begin with, so his crafting abilities are minimal at best, but what he can make is essential. Blueprints can be found to learn how to craft new items, though these are extremely few and far between. In my experience, most crafting time is spent breaking down things found in the world; spare chairs, tables, curtains, old bedrolls, there’s a lot that can be fixed into something else, and it could be life-saving. By combining some sticks, a bit of spare cloth, and some lantern fuel, you can make a simple torch, providing not just light and heat but also warding off any potential predators that may be circling nearby.

The first episode never really lets go of your hand, keeping you close to a small township for most of its entirety–and rarely asking you to venture to edges of the playable area just beyond the town limits. It’s not until the second episode that you’re set free–albeit under the conflicting pretense of playing fetch for someone else–across three large expanses of untamed wilderness.

Refreshingly, these spaces are deathly beautiful and a showcase for The Long Dark’s striking visual style. When the aurora borealis shines at night, it’s nothing short of stunning–the green hues bounce softly off of snow-covered surroundings. Likewise, the stark pink and orange sunsets that wash over Great Bear are consistently captivating. They are easy come, easy go, due to the game’s dynamic weather system, but it’s impressive how the world–and your place within it–can turn on a dime, choking clear skies with a gusty snowstorm, turning a moment of peace into a chaotic dash for shelter.


When you set aside the available Wintermute episodes–which, crucially, you can–The Long Dark’s tough yet rewarding gameplay owns the spotlight. Survival mode is unforgiving, but it plays to the game’s best strength, and you can always dial down the difficulty to keep going–likewise, if you’re finding it too easy, you can ramp it up as well. The sandbox also has five challenges you can attempt if you require a hint of direction, offering a more catered survival experience, but without the stringent procession of tasks seen in Wintermute.

Stricken from frostbite, and desperately wanting shelter from a violent blizzard, the feeling of helplessness in the sandbox mode gets overwhelming, and it’s in these moments of desperation that The Long Dark is most effective. And thus every minute you survive, and every meter of progress you make, feels remarkably rewarding–the result of a series of calculated decisions you made in the face of depressingly unfavorable odds.

Gallery image 1Gallery image 2Gallery image 3Gallery image 4Gallery image 5Gallery image 6Gallery image 7Gallery image 8Gallery image 9 No Caption Provided When the weather isn’t out to kill you, chances are you’ll find some wildlife that would be more than happy to try. A lone wolf can be handled by waving around a lit torch or flare in its face, but if a pack gets a whiff of you nearby, the only option is to run. And did I mention bears? There are bears, and they aren’t interested in being friendly. Death comes swiftly and brutally at the hands of the animals in The Long Dark, a stark contrast to the slow fade into darkness that comes with growing colder and hungrier.

It’s important to remember that The Long Dark is just waking up from early access. It’s cold, hungry, and huddled somewhere under a rock face, but it’s just gotten the fire started. Another three story episodes are still due, so there is time to turn things around for Will and Astrid. However, because the best parts of The Long Dark are already alive and well in survival mode, perhaps Wintermute’s weak beginning is reason enough to stick to what’s worked for the game all along, blemishes and all.


Expeditions: Viking PC Review

Expeditions: Viking Review

Being a Viking wasn’t easy. Between the icy winters and all the fighting, it’s a tough life. Enter Expeditions: Viking–a game founded on the intrigue that lies between Jutland and the British Isles centuries before they grew to be the modern marvels we know today. It’s a premise that the hardcore tactical RPG wields with enthusiasm, but its performance isn’t the most refined. Rampant bugs trigger frequent crashes and make portions of the game unplayable, but when you catch a smooth multi-hour stretch, the strategy game will entice you back with solid storytelling, deep combat, and satisfying role-playing.

Expeditions: Viking opens (as these stories so often do) with your father’s passing. He died on a journey to the British Isles, so his position of leadership falls to you. Immediately, you’re berated by some of his most bitter enemies and dissenters, and you’re tasked with holding everyone together and bringing glory to your tribe.

As a setup, it works well enough–and does a wonderful job of inviting you into this world. But it’s also an early sign of the game’s blemishes. While bands of drunkards challenging your claim to rule on the night of what amounts to your coronation is exciting, it also leads, inexorably, to some basic questions, but there aren’t too many answers. Some say your father was too focused on conquest, while others claim he ignored the needs of his people.

It’s a confusing tangle of different, conflicting accounts. Some of those issues fall away soon enough, however, as more vibrant, nuanced characters come into focus. Stitched between the dialogue, you’ll find rich descriptions that round out the development of your gang. As they worm their way into your adventure, though, it’s tough to shake the feeling that Viking is nudging you away from the man behind the curtain, so it wows you with its cast and the novelty of its setting. And it works…mostly.

The needs of your people aren’t as straightforward as you might expect. There’s an entire pantheon of gods whose favor you’ll need, not to mention requisite arcane knowledge of the lands and its medicines. These sorts of crisp details play up the role and mystique of magic in the world without breaking believability. Divine presence is faint but palpable, and that imbues the world with a certain vitality. Vikings, like most Dark Ages folk, were a superstitious lot, and Expeditions: Viking shows you that perspective as clearly as it can.


Morality, too, has to be viewed through the eyes and conscience of the era. It’s a notable challenge, but it’s also a fun one to play with. There aren’t any deep, profound revelations about humanity to be found here, but novel ethical frameworks are the bread and butter of most role-playing classics, and it’s wondrous to see a backdrop leveraged to such effect. Resources are scant in the frozen north, and staying the slaughter of conquered combatants isn’t always prudent or kind.

Combat keeps to that theme. It’s slow and painful–you’ll take losses and often face permanent consequences along the way: arrows tear through bone and sinew; axes break bones and shields; no one gets out unscathed. That’s all a natural part of Viking life, though. Battles are hard, but fair–especially as the game opens up its tactical options.

Fun as political jockeying in the 700s may be, mixing it up with blood and iron is even better. Expeditions: Viking borrows heavily from its tabletop forerunners like Dungeons & Dragons. Bulky warriors grab axes, nimbler fighters use bows or slings or knives, and everyone else can pick from an array of simple sidearms. When you’re ready to bop some baddies on the head, you’ll have plenty of skills and abilities to complement your tactics. Taken together and spread across your party of marauders, techniques are a tactician’s dream, offering all manner of precise or circumstantial benefits to exploit. Archers can spot for one another, offering each other battlefield support, while a wall of shieldmaidens can choke an enemy advance and help you crack opposing lines. Just about any approach is valid–as battles get tougher, though, you’ll have to think to keep moving.

If you do lose, you’ll face the usual game-over screen and have to restart–but not every time. Early on, the game is quick to suggest that failure isn’t a big deal, and that you may see new story or plot regardless of the outcome. While that’s true, the concept gets short shrift. Vikings are, to reiterate, brutal and bloodthirsty. It’s rare that you’ll be allowed to walk away from defeat. And that’s a shame, because there’s so much that Viking nails. Deep connections between plot and play yield powerful synergy, at times. The choice to switch to non-lethal attacks at the right moment for the right person might net you a bargaining chip for later. Similarly, exploration and trade will outfit your fledgling fighting force–at least until you hit a modern term that pulls you out of the experience.

So much of the game is spent being a bit too pedantic about Norse culture for it to escape critique when it drops the pretense. That would be fine on its own, but a lot of that world-building crumbles with quest design, too. The nature of the setting lends itself to politicking, and to a degree, that’s explored. You’ll need to rework some relationships and build alliances to cement the legitimacy of your rule, after all. But it’s hard to stay in the moment when you’re told you need to collect generic “trade goods” in order to progress.

Those headaches compound a few hours in when excessive, intrusive bugs start to hit. Conversations might fail to load and progress, loading screens will hang and then crash to the desktop, and Viking seems to be so poorly optimized that at one point, it pressed an eight-core processor and a GTX 1080 graphics card close to their thermal limits. That’s far more disruptive than it may sound, and players may find themselves stalled for real-world days trying to figure out ways to advance that don’t crash the game.

Viking lives in its atmosphere, so it’s appreciated that most of the game is a spirited romp. For now, that experience is mangled by dozens of technical hiccups and anachronisms. At its heart lies an earnest drive to recreate a slice of Viking culture, and those looking for just that niche will find nothing better. But for everyone else, it’s impossible to recommend until it’s given some major help. There’s a lot to be gained from stepping into the 8th century, but be prepared to have your journey hindered by bugs.

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The Town Of Light Review

The Town Of Light Review

The Town Of Light feels like a victim of its own design. While it tells an interesting albeit disturbing story of mental health treatment in the early 1900s, it’s plagued by repetitious gameplay, long load times, and visual issues that hold it back from delivering the impact it strives to deliver.

Based on real accounts from the 1930s and ’40s, The Town of Light focuses on Renee, a young woman who’s suffered from severe mental illness for the majority of her life. Her struggle began with sporadic blackouts as a child and eventually developed into bouts of anxiety and the sounds of strange voices in her head. Pushed over the edge by the horrors of a sexual assault, Renee is callously committed to the real-world Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra, an understaffed, overcrowded asylum in the Tuscan town of Volterra, Italy.

You assume control of Renee after the fact; at a time when the asylum has long been abandoned. She’s a somewhat unreliable narrator, failing to recall exactly what occurred during her tenure at the asylum. The vast majority of your time is spent wandering the halls and grounds of the large hospital, piecing together what happened to Renee during her stint. You revisit sites of traumatic events, discover and study pages from her journal, and page through medical records, which offer eye-opening insight into the horrifying, violent ways mentally ill patients were treated nearly a century ago.

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While The Town of Light struggles with portraying the ways in which people cope with mental health issues, it at least makes piecing Renee’s story together an interesting process. The twists and turns therein are paced well enough that you’ll remain engaged throughout. Some exposition may be drip-fed to players through found documents and the like, while big story beats are presented as hand-drawn cutscenes. Each method is linked to a different part of Renee’s story, whether it’s recalling the doctors who abused her, the fellow female patient who helped her explore her own sexuality, or the circumstances that led to her hospitalization in the first place.

These moments are carried by solid art direction; letters are detailed and appear to be written by hand. Flipping through Renee’s journal reveals a number of dark and thought-provoking drawings that supplement the anecdote she’s sharing. Despite the generally static presentation, the game’s hand-drawn cutscenes utilize a unique crosshatched, watercolor style. When it comes to the The Town of Light’s tiny details, there’s plenty to admire despite the heavy context that surrounds it.

While the hospital is large, with tons of rooms to explore to find the aforementioned narrative tidbits, the drab and ugly environments do take their toll, and not in a way that reinforces Renee’s tragic story. For the majority of the game, you’ll walk through the same hallways filled with similar-looking rooms looking for scraps of evidence, guided only by vague objectives. This persists until the last third of the game, when you step outside the asylum’s walls–a turn that isn’t as uplifting as it sounds.

At first you’re sent to the asylum’s outer grounds to examine headstones in a graveyard, but you’re then transported into a cognitive labyrinth in Renee’s mind. You’ll walk endlessly, trying in vain to figure out where to go and what to do next. Suddenly and for no explicable reason, you’re sent back into the asylum. Both of these sections are confusingly designed, stretching on far longer than feels necessary. It’s at this stage that The Town of Light stops being an interesting examination of a troubled mind, and becomes a frustrating game that may not be worth completing after all.

At least on Xbox One, all of this is made worse by poor technical performance. There are consistent frame rate issues when you’re exploring outside the asylum, where turning in any direction also results in noticeable screen tearing. Load times are equally off-putting, stretching on for upwards of a minute at a time. This is also the case within menus, where opening up the collectibles screen comes at the cost of about a 30-second wait.

It’s disappointing to see The Town of Light struggle so often, because the story it presents is both harrowing and captivating at times. While there’s an interesting narrative to be found in its world, the moment-to-moment gameplay and repetitive environments impose an unavoidable malaise. Given the fact that the game is based on actual accounts of psychiatric treatment in the early 1900s, you might be better off looking up the real stories that inspired The Town of Light rather than forcing your way through a version of them here.


Persona 5 Review

Persona 5 Review

Persona 5 is a game overflowing with style. From bold black and red menus that leap off the screen to the pop-and-lock of scene transitions that carry the player from one colorful corner of Tokyo to the next, it’s a game about youthful exuberance and the power that lies within it. But its beauty isn’t just skin deep. Persona 5’s gameplay systems evolve and coalesce over its 80+ hours to deliver a confidently executed role-playing experience that is not only satisfying, but worth the almost decade-long wait since Persona 4.

Like its predecessors, it’s part social simulator, part dungeon crawler. By day, you’re a high school student–busy taking classes, visiting cafes, watching movies, and hanging out with friends. But by night you are the leader of the Phantom Thieves, a ragtag troupe of idealistic teenagers that infiltrate a parallel reality called the Metaverse. Here, the corrupted hearts of adults have manifested as Palaces, and the Phantom Thieves must find and steal Treasures within them to reform their marks, and by extension, society. Think Lupin the Third, but with a socially conscious supernatural twist.

Together with your friends, you infiltrate the Metaverse. Here lie physical representations of people’s personalities, called Personas–angels, demons, and monsters of all shapes and sizes that you battle using elemental attacks. Physical moves can be used to chip away at health points incrementally, but exploiting an elemental weakness elevates battles from turn-based slapsies to a flurry of crushing combos. Hit an enemy weak to fire with Agi and it will crumple, giving you an additional turn to exploit another enemy’s vulnerability, either by switching Persona to adopt a different elemental alignment or by passing the baton onto a teammate who can pick up where you left off. Once they’ve all keeled over, you can launch an All-Out Attack and watch as black silhouettes of your team dance across a striking red background, slicing and dicing enemies until they burst into a shower of blood. This triumphant animation calls to mind The Bride’s iconic blue room battle against the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill, and even though you’ll see it hundreds of times it never stops being cool.


Improvements to the battle system mean that if you’ve already identified an enemy’s weakness, instead of trawling through menus to locate the specific ability, tapping R1 takes you straight to the move you need. When combined with the baton passing, streamline the turn-based fights into pacy experiences that maintain forward momentum with ease. There’s nothing more satisfying than firing off Persona spells, tagging in teammates, and wiping out waves of Shadows without them even getting a look in. Persona 5’s combat pulls together some of the best elements from previous games–and it’s borderline addictive as a result.

Persona 5’s combat pulls together some of the best elements from previous games–and it’s borderline addictive as a result. Negotiations from early Shin Megami Tensei and Persona titles also make a return, but the system is much improved. If you knock down a Shadow, you’ll surround it with guns drawn and can commence an All-Out Attack or simply talk to them. The conversation becomes a weird Q&A about your character or society a whole, and it often throws up some hilarious dialogue. There’s nothing quite like winning over a succubus by playing hard to get or gaining the favour of a giant demon sitting on a toilet by telling him you, too, are a pretty easy going kinda guy.

Whether you’re successful or not, negotiating will get you something. You can demand items, money, or a monster’s allegiance, but whether your request is granted depends on your gift of the gab. I found negotiation to be a much more useful reward system than the random pickings offered by Shuffle Time in Persona 3 and 4. When filling my Persona compendium or trying to fuse a specific Persona I’d ask them to join my cause. While grinding I’d use an All-Out Attack to earn more XP. In a pinch I’d demand an item. The new system let me reap the benefits I needed at that point in my playthrough.

Palaces are areas given form by the distorted desires of powerful, corrupted individuals, while the process of infiltrating is akin to pulling off a heist. You need to identify your target by conducting investigations in the real world, then enter the Palace to explore it and secure an infiltration route. Once you’ve located the corrupted heart of the individual–represented as an ethereal Treasure–you send a calling card to the target in the real world. This act of showmanship not only alerts the world to the target’s misdeeds but also gives physical form to the Treasure in the Palace so it can be stolen.

And those Palaces are the best dungeons the series has ever had. No longer are you climbing through levels of procedurally generated corridors to reach a boss at the top. Instead, each Palace contains a myriad of puzzles to crack, traps to avoid, and of course, Shadows to defeat. They are intricate, striking locations that unravel as you explore them, each varying in size, scope, and gameplay opportunities. One is a rat maze filled with locked doors and looping hallways, another is a giant safe that you need to crack, and one is a crumbling pyramid filled with walking mummies. They feel almost like different worlds from a Mario game, each uniquely themed and cycling through gameplay ideas like cards in a rolodex.

As Phantom Thieves, you sneak through halls, darting between cover and jumping over obstacles. As you slink into the shadows and ambush an unsuspecting enemy, getting in that crucial first shot, you realize that these Palaces are designed for you to be sneaky. And it feels really satisfying to bounce between coverpoints and ambush an enemy … when it works. Although you’re encouraged to take enemies out sneakily, doing so is made difficult by the game’s uncooperative camera, which often restricts your view. Similarly, clambering over obstacles doesn’t quite feel as good as it should. There are specific spots that you can climb up to access more areas and I often missed these because I wasn’t standing in the pixel perfect point to get the prompt needed to jump.


But honestly, this is nitpicking. I loved my time in each of the Palaces, wandering around using my Third Eye Ability to uncover secrets and steal treasures, feeling like Batman on Opposite Day. Its puzzles never became too taxing, even in later dungeons that required backtracking to find a specific item, enemy, or switch using the Third Eye. In these areas the game mercifully opens up shortcuts for you, so you don’t feel like you’re wasting too much time.

Persona 5 has a hefty run time and while the story remains engaging until its final moments, the gameplay has some pacing issues towards the end. Balance in such a huge game is tricky. I played on Normal difficulty, and for the vast majority of the game enemies felt well-matched to my level. Persona 5 has a hefty run time and while the story remains engaging until its final moments, the gameplay has some pacing issues towards the end. Instakill attacks, a short supply of elemental power-refuelling SP items, and going long stretches of miniboss after miniboss without a save point mean the latter stages can sometimes feel more frustrating than enjoyable. I’ve been wiped out half an hour into a fight on multiple occasions, and I’m still a bit bitter.

But Palaces are just one part of the Metaverse. Once you take a Treasure, Palaces collapse, so they’re not really the place to grind for levels. For those that enjoy the grind-heavy areas of P3’s Tartarus and P4’s randomly generated dungeons there’s Mementos–society’s joint Palace, which takes the form of the depths of Tokyo’s subway system. This area is long, with many procedurally generated levels spiralling down towards a mysterious, seemingly unreachable core. It would feel like a monotonous job were it not for the Phansite. One of your Confidants believes so much in the plight of the Phantom Thieves that he sets up a website where members of the public can leave messages of support (or memes).

More importantly, Phansite users can suggest people they think deserve a change of heart. These are figures that aren’t quite evil enough to have their own Palace, but who are still misbehaving enough to spawn a demi-boss within Mementos. These side stories of abusive boyfriends, scammers, and thieves are mere tasters–bite size chunks of justice that you can dole out at your leisure while grinding for experience. Infiltrating Palaces can sometimes take hours, so quickly dealing with a few Phansite Requests in one go is a satisfying microcosm of the larger gameplay loop in Persona 5. Plus it made me feel like Judge Dredd, dishing out justice as I saw fit to clean up the city.

Persona 5 creates a rewarding synergy between its social simulator and dungeon crawling by making everyday activities in the former empower you in the latter. With limited time in each day and a constant deadline to steal Treasures by, it’s up to the player to prioritize after-school and weekend activities. Attributes such as Knowledge, Charm, Proficiency, and Guts can be improved by studying, working in part-time jobs, crafting tools, or watching DVDs. In turn, these enable you to build deeper bonds with other characters to strengthen yourself and your cause.

Persona games live and die on characterisation as much as they do on the RPG mechanics that underpin the gameplay, and in that respect the latest entry delivers a cast that is loveable, quirky, and nuanced in equal measure. Although the main group neatly fits into classic anime archetypes initially, over time everyone reveals the baggage they carry and, as you solidify your bonds, they start to show their complexities, creating emotional moments where you work through their pain together.

Sometimes their goals will align with yours and sometimes they won’t, so the group can be a little rowdier than previous Persona teams–but that only adds to the experience. I loved that you really had to invest time and effort into each character to crack their personality and unlock how they truly felt. Morgana the amnesic talking cat (it is a Japanese game, after all) is shrouded in mystery, determined to learn about his forgotten past. The quirky Futaba, despite suffering from extreme social anxiety, is the strategic genius behind the group’s Metaverse adventures. Ryuji’s boisterousness is both the energy the team needs to push forward and the powder keg that could be its undoing. And Ann deals with issues of self-doubt in the competitive field of modelling. These characters grow and change as you spend more time with them: They go from being mechanical tools that you engage with to strengthen their Personas, to real people you can identify and sympathize with. By the time the credits rolled, I felt like I was leaving behind friends I had known for years.

Building these relationships with teammates is key to success in the Metaverse. Increasing Confidant Ranks (a rebrand of the Social Link system from Persona 4) by spending time with each of your friends not only affords you deeper insight into their personalities, but also provides bonuses and special moves in battle. A teammate who initially was closed off and distant in the real world can end up literally taking a bullet for you in the Metaverse. Similarly, by improving your personal traits through daily activities you can meet a variety of side-characters that teach you new abilities or offer bonuses that feed back into the battle system.

More than any entry in the series before it, Persona 5 manages to make the mundane not only fit into its gameplay loop but be essential to it. Atlus has perfected the back and forth investment and reward dynamic between the game’s two parts to point where even doing laundry is gratifying–and how many games can you say that about?

While there are moments of levity in Persona 5, the actions of the Phantom Thieves are important and often have much bigger implications than even they intended. Persona 5 deals with complex subject matter and really doesn’t shy away from dark, even uncomfortable, story beats. A constant theme of the game is oppression and injustice, specifically how people can be suffering them in silence. It uses personal hardships and the pressures of modern day society to explore how the actions of the older generation affect the future of the youth. But there’s also an optimism to it all. Its cast approaches complex issues and takes on overwhelming odds with a clarity and gusto that can only be born from teenage naivety, and there’s a refreshing, cathartic quality to being part of that. But of course, just like in the real world, things aren’t always black and white, and the game does an excellent job of showing how even well-meaning actions can have adverse consequences.

Narratively and thematically, Persona 5 has the potential to overwhelm–particularly once it starts digging into Jungian theories of psychology. Thankfully, however, the writing does a fantastic job of eliminating unnecessary exposition, which ensures the important storylines are clear and everyone–especially series newcomers–is on the same page. It means the first ten hours are a little slow, and may make a lot of surface level observations, but not to the detriment of the story or its characters. Even with the heavy subject matter, it doesn’t become overbearing and in fact is filled with little jokes and easter eggs to lighten the mood where appropriate. The localisation team has done a superb job of translating the comedy for a Western audience, too. I’m a big fan of the DVDs you can rent–spoofs of popular Western media like ‘The X-Folders’ or ‘Bubbly Hills, 90210.’

Within Persona 5 is a complex set of interconnected gameplay mechanics, and in almost every aspect Atlus has executed on its vision exceptionally, barring the pacing issues towards the end. At every turn, it presents something to marvel at, whether it’s the fluid combat, vibrant world, or the many memorable characters. It’s a game I could talk about for hours; I haven’t mentioned the ability to connect to the Thieves Guild, which lets you see how other players spent their day or ask them for help answering questions at school. Or the thumping acid-jazz-infused soundtrack that I’ve not been able to get out of my head. Or even just the joy of seeing how it stylishly transitions between menus. But that encapsulates why Persona 5 is a game that shouldn’t be missed. It’s stuffed to bursting point with gameplay ideas and presentation flourishes–there’s an overwhelming level of artistry in every part of Persona 5, making it a truly standout entry in the series. It’s a refined, effortlessly stylish RPG that will be talked about for years to come.

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Fire Emblem Heroes Review

Fire Emblem Heroes Review

For a very abridged version of a very deep series, Fire Emblem Heroes is initially engaging in that it has hooks for two different kinds of players: for fans, the hope of randomly unlocking a favorite character, and for newcomers to the series, an accessible and fun introduction to its turn-based battle tactics. But it also doesn’t do much beyond that, and if you’re somewhere in between those two archetypes, it doesn’t give a compelling reason for you to stick with it.

Playing Fire Emblem Heroes consists mainly of engaging in battles to earn Orbs and then using those Orbs to unlock characters from previous Fire Emblem games at random. There are several currencies to manage and a layered leveling system, but that’s the basic feedback loop. Win a battle, collect an Orb, and hope for a good character (or your favorite) to unlock; if you don’t get what you want, keep trying. What’s missing is why.

Heroes adapts the series’ tactical gameplay for mobile by lowering the difficulty enough to increase the pace of battle. Fire Emblem is known for turn-based strategy on a battlefield, punishing perma-death, and RPG-style character and story development. Heroes features simplified combat without perma-death, and it has a minimal story that isn’t at all interesting without previous Fire Emblem knowledge.

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I breezed through the first few chapters with no problems aside from having a weak party initially, and it was a good warm-up after a long break from Fire Emblem. Battles themselves play really well on touchscreen thanks to intuitive controls, and dropping in for a few minutes while on a break makes sense and is definitely an entertaining way to spend some downtime. As the challenges get harder, executing the right strategy can take some serious trial and error, and finding a solution to a tricky map or tough enemies is satisfying.

Trying to unlock new characters, however, is more of a drag. If you have a bad party due to unlucky character drafts, pulling new, stronger allies is the best way to get the upper hand in high-difficulty battles. In the beginning, you can use reward items from completing challenges to quickly level up whoever you want to use. But if you hit a bit of bad RNG, that can mean a lot of grinding–and there are diminishing returns on how fun a battle can be when you’re only doing it to avoid paying real money for Orbs so you can keep getting more characters.

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Of course, it’s like that on purpose, since that’s often how free-to-play games turn a profit. But if you’re not terribly invested in unlocking Tharja or Camilla or Marth, then the only reason to keep playing is for the battles. Before I’d put together a strong team, I started to lose interest in playing; but once I pulled good characters, I had a hard time putting my phone down. It’s very tempting to keep playing thanks to Heroes’ quick grind-reward loop, and when I wasn’t spending Orbs on characters, I was using them to fill my Stamina–a separate currency you need in order to battle which refills over time in typical mobile game fashion.

While I never felt forced to buy Orbs, I did end up spending money on them once I started battling for extended periods of time. Playing for more than a few battles in a row meant needing (and buying) more Orbs–and that’s when I decided I would much rather just play Awakening instead, where there’s more of a challenge and my favorite characters are more fleshed out.

When the incentive to keep playing is to be able to keep playing, it’s easy to burn out on Fire Emblem Heroes. Aside from obtaining your favorite characters–if you even care about that–Fire Emblem Heroes becomes less and less rewarding as time goes on. Grinding can only be fun for so long before chasing rare allies becomes a chore, and in that sense it caters to two ends of a wide spectrum while offering little incentive for anyone in between.


Cities: Skylines – Mass Transit PC Review

Public transportation has never been my favorite part of city-building simulations. I’ve always treated it as something of a necessary evil–a hassle best dealt with by quickly laying down extra roads, bus lines, or whatever other available gimmick so that I could keep constructing the new subdivisions and industries necessary to keep my citizens healthy and happy.

Mass Transit–the latest addition to the growing Cities: Skylines family from developer Colossal Order–doesn’t quite change my mind on all of this, as I’m also a real-world mayor who focuses on the big picture. However, it comes awfully close thanks to an effective collection of people-moving options, ranging from ferries to monorails to blimps. What’s included here smooths out some kinks in the original game’s transit systems, allowing you to build more efficiently running cities–albeit at the cost of some added micromanagement that moves the game well out of the virtual mayor’s office.

Mass Transit is centered on two areas, largely addressed in the three new scenarios and three new maps that present fresh challenges when it comes to efficiently moving your citizens from Point A to Point B. The most obvious facet of the expansion is what it adds to city character. You’re free to embrace the quirks of each city’s particular geography. You can practice something of a “sea and sky” philosophy for coastal and mountainous locales, for instance, using monorails and ferries to link neighborhoods and give your cities something of a Vancouver or Seattle vibe.


Since Skylines is pretty familiar to its fanbase at this point, being able to mix things up like this and put a fresh face on everything adds more to gameplay than you might imagine. The new Ferry Empire scenario offers a fairly light challenge when it comes to moving folks around your watery city, but it’s set it on a unique, beautiful landscape. Authentically, you have to work within the constraints of this terrain and embrace a municipal vision that’s far from the relative cookie-cutter metropolises seen elsewhere in Skylines.

The other focus is city efficiency. Mass Transit provides tools that make for better-running cities. Perhaps the best example of this comes in the form of the new hub buildings. These structures form central locations for public transportation. They allow you to concentrate your efforts and properly plan out transit systems–a big improvement from the more seat-of-the-pants concept of the original game, where you’re pressured to jury-rig and make it up on the fly. Here, hubs afford more opportunities to sketch out transit and approach development from a top-down perspective. You have more control as a result and become able to address transit as part of core city infrastructure, just like with electrical lines, water pipes, and sewers in the past.

One problem is the size of new additions, though. Retrofitting cities with hubs and other transit buildings can be a major chore, since they’re generally pretty big. The “Fix the Traffic” scenario sums up how challenging this can be, as you can’t seem to help leveling about half the city to get the snarled traffic situation smoothed out. Even laying down facilities that are a little easier to work with–train tracks, for instance–is both tough to design and to fit in without doing even more demolishing.

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Structuring transit routes can be finicky, too. Simply establishing ferry pathways and routes can be frustrating and requires more trial-and-error than should be necessary for something seemingly so straightforward. So, it’s best to start with a clean slate with this expansion, something also advisable to best enjoy the suite of new game options (new road guidelines, for example) released as a free Skylines update alongside this expansion.

All of this combines to make Mass Transit more about micromanagement. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re a control freak who wants to take a hands-on approach to everything in your city. But it does move Skylines further away from a simulation of what it’s like to be the real mayor of a real city. With all of the extras added in the various expansion packs, the game now feels a little more like a municipal engineer or municipal planner simulation than anything that properly depicts what it’s like to be the mayor overseeing everything.

Even with that caveat, Mass Transit adds more character and depth to what’s already the premier city-building simulation. It may be a bit disappointing that some of the original game’s big-picture philosophy and mayoral authenticity has been sacrificed in the process, but it can be argued that these changes have also done an impressive job of filling out the public-transportation element of city design.

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Pinstripe for PC Reviews

Pinstripe Reviews

Pinstripe is a game about descending into Hell to atone for unjustly taking a life. As you explore an underworld fit for a stop-motion Tim Burton film, thoughts of revenge, anguish, and disgust begin to creep in. Though the presentation of these themes is tantalizingly sinister at times, the ultimate impact of confronting them is dulled by pervasive storytelling issues and tedious mechanics, making this less an examination of heartbreak and more a tale of monotony.

Pinstripe’s doomed protagonist is a gaunt priest named Ted, who, along with his daughter Bo, are introduced onboard a moving train. In her juvenile naivete, Bo suggests the pair play detective and investigate nearby traces of smoke, with Ted in the role of Sherlock and her the part of Watson. Some time after exploring the various carts, they stumble upon an ominous man with piercing yellow eyes and a lit cigarette named Mr. Pinstripe, who asks whether Bo likes balloons and if she wants a shiny black one. Moments of grotesque leering later, Mr. Pinstripe kidnaps Bo, exclaiming that she’ll soon call him “father.” With his young daughter in the hands of the titular evil, Ted must go above and beyond to recover his child and punish her abductor.

Pinstripe falls in line with most tales involving kidnapping and revenge: A weak character is rendered vulnerable by a dark presence, and a hero rises to set things right and serve justice. There’s nothing wrong with the revenge trope, but Pinstripe implements it in such a way that makes the narrative feel pedestrian. Bo’s cries for help and Ted’s supposed resilience and determination come across as contrived and shallow, failing to inspire emotional attachment to either character, let alone inspire sympathy. However muted its retribution plot is, Pinstripe’s dialogue exudes childlike wonder, exemplified in the villain’s use of sanitized insults like “screw pod” or “hump face,” which sounds reminiscent of a children’s storybook and elicits a chuckle.


When its childlike voice takes a break, Pinstripe’s haunting aesthetic–driven by gothic and Edwardian-era influence–takes center stage. Its melancholy world is paired with a dreamy soundtrack that feeds off of Hell’s spooky atmosphere. The Sack Chute level, for example, is engulfed in a thick darkness that makes navigation difficult, playing to a fear of the unknown; only Ted’s headlight peering through the dark allows for a cone of vision. This limited view imbues tension, as you can only see what’s in front of you–things grotesque and covered in slime. It’s here in the ambiance, atmosphere, and sound that Pinstripe’s dread takes hold.

When its childlike voice takes a break, Pinstripe’s haunting aesthetic–driven by gothic and Edwardian-era influence–takes center stage.

Pinstripe is a platformer first and a puzzle game second, and though none of its challenges are difficult by design, Ted’s floaty leaps complicate even basic platforming tasks in practice. Getting him onto platforms when necessary is often irritating, especially during timed puzzles.

Awkward platforming aside, Pinstripe’s many puzzles are typically on the easy side. The only time-consuming riddles are those that require you to piece together seemingly benign artifacts in the environment, but these moments are easily resolved through trial-and-error by poking and prodding at anything that looks suspicious until you hear a chime. These puzzles bring diversity to the adventure, but they ultimately feel like unnecessary speed bumps.

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You eventually encounter enemies, armed with nothing but a slingshot to defend yourself. These battles seem easy at first glance, however, the slightest flick of the analog stick will fling the reticle, making it unusually difficult to precisely aim at and hit your target. The game doesn’t include many battles, thankfully, and few of Hell’s enemies pose much of a threat despite the ineffective aiming system–the same can even be said of the final boss. Underwhelming and easily exploited, the ultimate bad guy can be defeated by ducking in a corner and button mashing, in very little time.

Regrettably, Pinstripe’s rich atmosphere is overpowered by these types of issues. Enemies need only a few shots to defeat, puzzles need only a couple of tries to solve, and the final boss can be exploited to oblivion. And because the story lacks emotional weight or resonance, once the credits roll, you’ll quickly forget Ted and Bo’s struggle, the puzzles you solved, the conclusion to what could have been a memorably haunting trip through Hell.


Star Trek: Bridge Crew PS4 Review

Star Trek: Bridge Crew Review

For better and worse, Star Trek: Bridge Crew is exactly what’s advertised–it’s a virtual-reality simulation of operating a Federation starship. For the first few moments, the sheer thrill of taking the Captain’s chair in VR, looking around you to see crew members all working away at their stations, and issuing your first commands is all wonderful and novel. But the second you start yearning for new life, new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before, you find a game nowhere near that ambitious.

Set in the J.J. Abrams Trek universe, Bridge Crew’s single-player campaign centers around the U.S.S. Aegis–which, after a brief training mission, sets forth on its task to help the Vulcans find a new home. This mission takes the Aegis into a Klingon-controlled territory, the Trench, and into the heart of a potentially ugly interstellar incident. You can fill one of four roles aboard the ship: the Captain issues orders to every other department from the holographic menu built into the player’s chair, the Helm puts you in the driver’s seat, Tactical handles shields and weaponry, and Engineering determines how much power gets shifted to the ship’s vital systems.

The single-player campaign is brief, but it acts as an extended tutorial on the ins and outs of running a starship. From the Captain’s chair, you receive orders from Starfleet and issue the commands that lead the Aegis ever forward. However, particularly in single-player, those commands aren’t as simple as just telling your crew to move forward at quarter impulse or fire phasers. Instead, they’re a piece-by-piece process that must be followed and timed just right, with every crew member involved performing their duties with precision. In single-player, even something as simple as warping involves opening a menu, setting the correct course, telling engineering to power up the warp drive, having the helm align the ship towards the target location, and finally issuing the order to perform the warp. The process becomes second nature over time, especially with a proper VR controller like the Playstation Move to navigate the menu-heavy UI.


You also have the ability to temporarily switch to another position to take manual control over the ship’s various functions and levers in single-player, but it’s a lot to manage and not nearly the simple power trip you might expect. A.I.-controlled crew members have a nasty habit of being complete knuckleheads who don’t know how to properly and strategically fly around obstacles when pursuing a target.

Bridge Crew is somewhat more immersive in multiplayer, where you can speak directly to your crew and coordinate actions by voice, but you need to meet certain requirements for it to go smoothly: four trustworthy crew members, all of whom know their roles inside and out, and who can pull it together long enough to take the game even marginally seriously enough to get through the trickier missions. The situation is helped by the fact that, thankfully, the game supports Cross-Play between PSVR, Rift, and Vive users, meaning there’s typically no shortage of players to fill all four roles. However, since voice chat goes through all sorts of different protocols via the uPlay service, consistent communication remains a problem. Even then, that’s assuming you’re not stuck with someone who won’t stop quoting Galaxy Quest instead of remembering to keep your ship in low-detection mode in Klingon territory.

It didn’t happen often in my time with Bridge Crew, but sometimes the stars did, in fact, align with the right kind of crew: cheerful without being overly silly, strong in their roles, intuitive enough to question an order without the bridge descending into chaos, and being just plain fun, amiable companions. And once that miracle is accomplished, you’re left to contend with Bridge Crew as a game. And that game is, ultimately, a fairly milquetoast space shooter.


The big issue really comes down to the fact that experiencing the minutiae of running a Starfleet ship is such a thin, pedantic aspect of what makes Star Trek a fascinating universe to play around in. It’s always been strong character work and far-reaching sci-fi ideas and allegory that have elevated the dry space-navy material. There isn’t nearly enough of the former here. The single-player campaign has a story, one that’s even a decent jumping-off point from the Abrams films (albeit one that’s deeply reminiscent of Mass Effect: Andromeda), but you aren’t making the truly hard decisions that define the best Starfleet captains, nor are you able to interact with your crew or even the ship outside of the bridge room in any meaningful way.

Even Trek’s infamous no-win Kobayashi Maru scenario–playable here as part of the game’s introductory chapter–ends up as little more than a mindless shootout while attempting to transport the doomed vessel’s crew. The remainder of the campaign never really rises above that, content to be a game of traveling between systems, scanning areas and artifacts, transporting life forms, and fending off Klingon Birds of Prey from time to time. It’s a game that crucially needs more interesting challenges that can’t be solved with phasers.

It’s still somewhat thrilling to inhabit the captain’s chair on the bridge of a starship–at the bare minimum, Star Trek: Bridge Crew accomplishes that mission. When the game is at its best, the spirit of cooperation between various asymmetrical elements is encouraging–even special. In every other regard, however, Bridge Crew is forgettable the second you pull out of VR.


Wipeout Omega Collection For PS4 Review

Wipeout Omega Collection Review

Wipeout Omega Collection is not a history lesson. It most certainly doesn’t remind players of Wipeout’s significance during PlayStation’s early years. It isn’t a greatest hits package either–given the absence of Wipeout XL and 3–although this gorgeous remastered trio of games represents a hefty helping of the series’ most recent outings. In other words, it’s sensory-overloading anti-gravity racing that sublimely blends often-chaotic vehicular combat.

This collection feels like a thoughtful bundle when you consider that Sony could have easily released an untampered standalone PS4 port of Wipeout HD. Instead, the 2008 PS3 classic–which was considered a return to form–got a minor visual makeover while being sandwiched by its excellent Fury expansion and a much-improved version of Wipeout 2048, previously a PS Vita exclusive. While these games are strengthened by their frenzied racing commonalities, their differences are equally compelling, enough that you can find yourself jumping from installment to installment in one play session in pursuit of variety. The Detonator and Eliminator modes exclusive to Fury, for instance, offer an engrossing combat experience, even more so than your typical Wipeout race. 2048 stands out with its courses’ unusual natural landscaping, indicative of the game’s place as the first in the timeline, before tracks were completely man-made.

No matter the mode or game you choose to play in the Omega Collection, there’s consistency in how the myriad ships control, from drift cornering to speed-boosting barrel rolls. You keep one eye on the track for acceleration pads and incoming corners while the other maintains awareness of your nearby competitors. And as you pass over weapon pads, you quickly assess the value of each pick-up based on your current race situation. For series vets, such appraisals take less than a second, and having to constantly make these decisions underscores Wipeout’s involving gameplay. Do you fire the high-damage Plasma or would it be best served by converting it into energy (i.e. health)? Do you hold on to the Turbo for the next straightaway even though you’ll miss out on the next five weapon pads? If you’ve played Mario Kart, you can relate to these split-second value judgments, only that in Wipeout, you’re piloting ships that are the equivalent of 300cc karts.


One of the draws of the Wipeout series is how AI competition changes and evolves as you unlock tougher (and therefore faster) competitions. In the first couple speed levels, it’s easy to focus on the closest racer in front of you, systematically passing competitors one by one until you (hopefully) reach first place. The more feverish, pupil-dilating races later on produce a totally different beast of collective aggression among all the racers. You, along with all the AI, are perpetually in a forward-moving swarm where no one is out of contention until the home stretch, barring a significant crash. It’s during these races that certain weapons can change fortunes for everyone in an instant. For example, the Quake–which sends a wave over the track–can slingshot someone from last to first in seconds, making it the bizarro Blue Shell of combat racing games. Such dramatic outcomes in the higher speed classes are the reason why these races captivate time and time again. And that’s not even taking into account online play, which is appropriately unpredictable and riveting against an array of veterans.

Experiencing Wipeout in its prettiest form to date only adds to Omega’s already enticing gameplay. It’s a tall order given that Wipeout HD and Fury already looked gorgeous to begin with. While many of the improved details can only be appreciated with side-by-side screen comparisons, enhancements like the ships’ flaming exhausts and contrails prove that it’s not a straight PS3 port, to say nothing of Omega’s 4K support. Driving the point home is 2048, which visually bursts out of the small-screen confines of the Vita with an eye-pleasing presentation that stands up to the rest of the compilation. One can imagine how transcendent these races would be if Wipeout Omega Collection had PSVR support.

These games already benefitted from an established universe where racing teams are brands unto themselves and anti-gravity racing is a global sport with a 100-plus year history. It’s a near utopian vision of the future, one that has always been fittingly paired with electronic dance music. Tracks by DJ Kentaro and James Talk represent the best of Omega’s tunes, though the playlist as a whole can’t compete with the greatness of Wipeout XL or even Wipeout 3’s soundtrack. Should you feel nostalgic for Underworld’s or Fluke’s contributions to the series, using the PS4’s Spotify app while you play this collection will take you back to 1996 in a pinch.


By focusing on this specific era of the series, Wipeout Omega Collection maintains a level of cohesion you wouldn’t get if this compilation included, say, Wipeout Pure or Fusion. While each of the three games exude style and stimulation in their own distinct ways, they collectively showcase the best elements of franchise’s engrossing racing and silky smooth visuals. And even though it doesn’t completely scratch the itch that only a completely new PS4 sequel can offer, this collection is easily the next best thing.