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Review: SUPERHOT VR

Superhot VR is the popular first person shooter where time moves only when you move, but this time in the virtual world. An engaging and fun to play FPS, the gameplay makes you feel like you are in the matrix, using your mind and body to dodge bullets, in a visually surreal environment.

The gameplay is all about your movement and that of the oncoming bullets, outnumbered by the enemy, in a series of scenarios, using different weapons to shoot, slice and move your body towards survival. It’s a unique FPS design that’s extremely fun and addictive. Having played both the VR and non-VR versions of the game, I recommend getting Superhot VR if you enjoy the original, as the gameplay is the same, but the experience is completely different in VR, and I equally enjoy playing both versions of the game. The VR controls are perfect and super smooth, leaving you with that that matrix feel. The challenge of the gameplay gives it lots of replayablity.

It seemed a touch more aliased than it should have been, and super-sampling can only help you so much, because of the constant red+blank on white color contrast, but of course it runs well. I loved the intermission scenes in the little apartment, with all that computer crap everywhere. The ‘campaign’ mode will probably be over before you know it, but there are plenty of other modes to enjoy in your subsequent sessions.

Now onto the problems with the game. It’s just so much fun. However, I beat the game in only 1 hour. That is VERY short for the main campaign. Although I died a few times and had to restart a few levels, maybe I’m just that amazing at the game? I doubt it. Luckily, when you beat the game you will unlock a few challenges, but they aren’t as substantial as the main game. You can try to speedrun levels, or turn on an only headshot mode, or a survival mode where you kill as many enemies as possible. Again, they aren’t as fun as the vanilla game, but they will extend that 1 hour playtime a little bit.

Another issue I had with the game is everything is picked up using the side grip buttons. After a while, your fingers will really start to hurt, as the position of those buttons isn’t very natural and doesn’t lend itself well to being held for extended periods of time. I understand why they did it like this though.

This allows you to hold onto a gun, and free up the trigger button for actual shooting. After you’ve shot your 5 bullets, your gun will run out and you will want to throw it at an enemy as fast and easily as possible, which is when you just release the grip buttons and it will go flying. If they had any other system, I don’t think it would work as well.
Still, that doesn’t change the fact that it can be quite painful after a while, which sucks.

One tiny thing to point out is, sometimes while you’re waiting for a bullet to pass by you, or waiting for a gun to fall into position, you want to keep your head out of the way while at the same time speeding up time. So you’ll kinda just move your hands around to speed up time. It’s not really an actual problem, but it feels a bit silly at times and might make you feel a little bit less immersed at times.

One final problem is the lack of menus. It can be a bit frustrating when you’re playing a challenge and want to restart if you know you aren’t going to, for example, get the fastest time in this level. There’s nothing you can do other than wait for an enemy to kill you. This won’t affect you much, but it would still be a welcome addition.

PROS:

+ Geat visuals and art.
+ Interesting way to progress.
+ Great game mechanics.
+ Occasional humour.
+ Gameplay feels just right.
+ Lots of modes to play through after the main “story mode”.
+ Works great with Oculus Rift + Touch.

CONS:

– Each level has about 5 stages, but if you fail any stage, you have to start the level over.
– Animations can be a bit underwhelming in some situations (dying enemies seem like only semi-ragdolls).
– Sometimes shooting behind objects doesn’t work because of invisible walls.

Review: Aarklash: Legacy

Aarklash: Legacy is a squad based tactical RPG developed by Cyanide Studio. The combat in Aarklash: Legacy is in real time with the ability to tactical pause whenever you wish. You can queue up abilities with the shift key which will allow you to chain abilities together so you don’t have to manually do each one when it is ready. It is possible to click on the portraits on enemies and bosses to see exactly what kind of stats and abilities they have, as well as if they have any buffs or debuffs. If one of your Wheel Swords go down in combat, you can easily click on them with another hero to revive them, but they won’t be successful if they’re being attacked.

In total you will run into 8 different characters you can add to your party, who are all called Wheel Swords. You can only have four of them in your party at a time, but you can freely choose who you want most of the time, since sometimes you will be forced to split into two groups. Luckily, even if they aren’t in your current group, they will still gain experience from battles. All Wheel Swords have a unique set of stats and attack types, resource pools, back stories, abilities, and passive bonuses and disadvantages. An example is Wendaroo who is a physical ranged Wheel Sword that uses healing magic, and can’t be silenced but must damage allies in order to gain mana instead of regenerating it over time.

Each Wheel Sword in Aarklash: Legacy has a total of 4 abilities, which can be enhanced later on with skill points. These abilities are all unique amongst each other and do more than just simply deal damage or heal allies. Except for one Wheel Sword, all abilities will have a cooldown as well as costing resource points such as mana or even health. A few abilities have the chance to affect both allies an enemies, which means you need to be careful since it is possible to heal enemies and damage allies. Example abilities are an area of effect knockdown which will interrupt everything around you including allies, and the ability to transfer buffs that are on enemies to yourself.

After party members have learned all of their skills, leveling up will start to earn them skill points. Since the max character level is 20, you will only get a total of 17 points per hero to use, which means you can only fully level up at most two skills at one time. You are able to apply these points to the four abilities that each character has, making it stronger, more efficient, and gaining special properties. It is possible to reset your points at any time which allows you to easily adapt for the current situation, as area of effect abilities won’t do you much for large boss fights. As you go down the ability tree, there will be branches that you have to decide on since you can’t go every direction at one time. An example is a simple healing ability that can later either heal both the target and caster, or become a channeled spell that continuously heals the target.

The only items that you will run into are four types of jewelry, such as rings and relics. Each type is completely equal to all of the others, you are just simply allowed to equip one of each onto each member of your party. They have differing values of rarity which of course increase the stats on them, which range from junk, magical, rare, and epic. Each rarity rank will increase the number of stats on them, from one being on junk and up to six on epic pieces. Stats can range from simply increasing the max hp, and increases magic damage by a percentage. When you are running out of space to carry jewelry, or just want to simply get rid of the pieces you will never use, it is possible to recycle pieces that add up on a counter. After the counter is filled, a random epic rarity piece of the last jewelry type that was recycled is created in your inventory.

As you explore the world of Aarklash: Legacy, you will run into groups of enemies consisting of many different types. Whether you are fighting humans or the undead, there are generally three types of units such as melee, archers, and spell casters. All enemies have the chance to drop an item of some kind, but it doesn’t happen too often. As you progress through the game, the same types of enemies will appear but with stronger stats, and even sometimes adding additional abilities that you need to learn about, so it is somewhat refreshing to see similar enemies.

While you’re adventuring through the world of Aarklash: Legacy, you will come upon large bosses at times. These bosses are unique and will act very different compared to everything else you will run across. It is wise to click their portrait and learn about all of the abilities that they use, since knowing how to prevent abilities like the automatic killing of your party is essential to victory. On defeat you will be rewarded with experience and a large pile of jewelry, usually containing at least one epic piece.

When you reach the second act of Aarklash: Legacy, you will start to encounter many different types of puzzles. Most of them are required in order to progress farther, but they aren’t too difficulty and just require a little bit of thinking. You will run into the same types of puzzles over and over, but they get more difficult and add in different elements at times however. Example puzzles are walking through a hallway with projectiles that will teleport you back to the start if you touch them, and creating shapes with switches to match an example shape given to you.

Most of these types of games just have you running around as a single character, or groups of characters in turn based combat. Aarklash plays a lot like Dragon Age: Origins in that you are able to pause the game and give orders to everyone, though nothing is able to be automated. It also feels a lot like a single player MMO raiding game, since the boss fights require a lot of coordination and you only have to rely on yourself.

All of the important options that you would need exist in Aarklash: Legacy such as rebindable controls, volume sliders, and graphical options. There is a unique gameplay option that you can turn on which will automatically pause the game when certain conditions occur, such as start of combat or one of your party members go down in agony. Graphical quality is quite standard with nothing bad or amazing about them. For some reason, the game randomly causes your GPU to go up and down in temperature for no apparent reason, and may cause weaker computers to overheat(just guessing). Everything is voice acted, though the quality of it could have been better, especially when the dog/kangaroo hero growls and snarls.

Especially on higher difficulty, it feels like you have to pause way too often, and thirty second cooldowns feel like five minutes. There’s nothing negative about being able to pause the game and coordinate all of your attacks, but since nothing happens automatically except for basic attacks, you will have to be constantly giving your party the same orders over and over. Other games like Final Fantasy XII and Dragon Age series had ways to let your party automatically use abilities while you can still manually give orders.

You will accumulate tons of jewelry to equip on your heroes, and eventually it can take a long time to equip your heroes, especially when you have 8 of them. Although it’d be best to manually do it, a “Equip Best” button could easily shorten the amount of time it takes to outfit everyone. Even though every hero that you can use in your party is unique from one another, some are just plain better than others and when you can only have 4 in a group at once and everyone gains experience even when not in your group, there’s just no reason to use some of them. There is one time where you are forced to split into two groups though, which is nice when you want to experience even the weaker wheel swords.

You can easily put the game into normal or easy difficulty if you don’t want a challenge. Even so, you will still need to know what types of abilities enemies and bosses can use as well as your own party. You will eventually run into puzzles, but they aren’t too challenging as long as you use your head a little bit. You can save at any time and the battles don’t last very long so anyone with a tight schedule can easily enjoy Aarklash: Legacy.

When you put Aarklash: Legacy on hard or even Ragnarok difficulty, you are in for quite the challenge. Enemies will be doing a whole lot more damage and fallen comrades will take even longer to resurrect if you can even get to them. Giant bosses are possibly the best thing you can look for, since it is a lot like doing a raid in MMOs but only with you in command. Other than possibly finding hidden bosses and treasure chests, there currently is nothing in the preview version that involves collecting or completing other than the main story. Achievements are available however, though they don’t affect the game in any way. Haven’t solved the game yet, but you can easily expect to get well over 12 hours of entertainment from it, depending on the level of difficulty and how often you have to reload.

Aarklash: Legacy is priced at 21 dollars and there is currently no DLCs announced at this time. If you are a big fan of commanding a small group of heroes around and using strategy and tactics to get past the hardest of obstacles, Aarklash: Legacy is well worth your money to buy.

Review: Reflex Arena

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Reflex Arena is a competitive arena shooter where you will be entering matches on various level layouts, collecting weapons and powerups to help defeat your opponents, and playing different game modes.

Levels in reflex can vary greatly, whether it’s the layout or weapon and powerup spawn points. Other than the simple layout of levels with hallways and rooms, there are helpful devices that help you to get where you want, such as jump pads and portals. There can also be hazards present like lava, and even small openings in the walls or floor that let you shoot sneaky shots at people.

The selection of weapons isn’t very large and they are very simple to use, but they are still deadly. Weapon types include the melee weapon you always have, bullet weapons like the shotgun, explosive projectile weapons like the rocket and grenade launchers, and energy weapons like the plasmagun and railgun.

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Alongside the main game, there are also level and replay editors available. While the replay editor still needs a lot of work, the in-game level editor is very nice. Other than simply being a tool to let you create your own levels, you can instantly change from editor to play mode, allowing flawless testing of your maps. Creating levels is also a multiplayer activity, as creating levels happens on a server and multiple people can join, making the creation process much faster. After finishing a level, you can upload it to the Steam Workshop to let other players try out your map.

There are no AI controlled enemies as well as no ranked matchmaking as of yet, and because of the nature of arena shooters, you will most likely have a better experience watching the game than playing it. If you do want to play, it is best to play free for all or any team game modes, as the 1V1 mode is all up to you to kill your opponent.

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All game modes last until a certain amount of time or a certain score is attained, and at most you will be playing matches for 10-20 minutes.

Mastering movement, learning the layout of maps, and consistently hitting your opponents are all skills that you can master while playing the game. It is highly competitive and enjoyable if you are looking for a challenging FPS.

Reflex is a graphically plain game with mostly grey walls and single color objects. This of course allows the game to run extremely well and the only reason you wouldn’t be able to attain very high FPS is if you were to completely max every graphical setting or simply have a terrible computer.

he only music in the game is while you’re at the main menu, as the only thing you hear while playing or spectating a match is sound effects.

As it is an arena shooter, the controls are expected to be very precise and they are. The typical WASD fps control style is used and advanced movement techniques are in play, such as bunny hopping.

There is very little if any loading that happens while playing, as connecting to servers happen quickly.

The core mechanics of the game are essentially complete, while a bunch of extra enhancements are still in development. You can expect to see more game modes, matchmaking, better performance, better spectating tools, statistics, and more.

Review: Gorn (VR)

Gorn is the best implementation of melee combat in VR to date, by a landslide.

I can’t say that I’ve ever actually cut someone’s head off with a gladius in real life. Nor have I let loose a tight circling flail at the perfect moment to crush a man’s skull – but when you play this game, you’ll feel you’d know just how to do it – it’s that intuitive and real in the “feel” of it all. It took the swarm of positive reviews to get me past my aversion to the cartoony graphics – but now I understand their purpose. It’s to keep me out of therapy…if it looked as real as it felt, I don’t think I could feel good about myself after the things that I have done.

I Went through the first few waves of unarmed opponents with little trouble, even grabbing my opponents and ripping their heads from their still living bodies all to please the crowd of omnipotent floating heads around me quoting Gladiator the whole way through. The night ended with my eyes burning from the profuse sweat i had started producing and I decide even the best gladiators need sleep so i proceeded to get some rest.


I can’t express how much I love this game. It’s the perfect game for someone who wants to feel like an amazing sword fighter/ gladiator without all this futuristic garbage (not saying it’s all bad) of jumping around flying throug the air.

One of my favorite things about this game is the developers, they respond and actually listen to the feedback of the discord channel. I cannot reccommend checking out the channel enough. Now, to describe the game…

Now, obviously it’s not a perfect game, its got its frustrating moments and stuff like that, glitches, bugs, the lot.
But the way the game is right now, it’s constantly changing and is being fixed.
We could honestly use more developers who listen to their fanbase, Foxhole and Gorn are good examples of this kind of great thing.

Another great thing about it is how powerful you feel when you go in slow motion after parrying, chopping your foes to bits like a sadistic sushi chef.
Personally I love cutting the AI to bits and watching them struggle to hit you or get to you.

Overall this has to be one of the best VR games in existence. I have never hated a floating head that doesn’t speak/barely speaks as much as i have in this game but that anger just makes it that much better when i rip the head from their “champions” shoulders then throw the remains at them. If you have any exercise equipment you wont need it anymore.

Can’t recommend this game enough, it is definitely going far.

John Wick Chronicles VR Review

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John Wick Chronicles, after spending hours with the game’s short but sweet single player, is one of the most polished VR games, right up there with The Lab, Job Simulator and Batman Arkham VR.

The game puts you in the… hands? of John Wick, played by Reeves, as you check-in at the film’s signature hotel. The first thing you’ll notice is how damn good everything looks. In VR, you’re accustomed to expecting blocky environments or quirky art styles due to technical limitations, but John Wick Chronicles does its best to immerse you in this lifelike hotel lobby.

Sporting complete roomscale, the lobby forms around you, as does the training area and firefight segments through the game. You have full access to walk around, as the game opts for this instead of teleportation or being on-rails.

Anyway, once you call the elevator in the lobby and except your mission, you head to the training room, where you test each of the game’s guns through a series of target trials. You’ll be ducking, dodging and pulling off sweet tricks with your guns as you move closer to the end. Honestly, other VR experiences had me expecting this to be the whole game. Wrong.

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The game then puts you in a short series of quests, where you’ll be on roofs and the sides of buildings, or in parking garages, gunning down baddies or taking aim at assassination targets. The gunplay is very responsive, and you’ll be looking down the scopes and sights of these guns more accurately than most FPS games.

I say that, but VR shooting takes some getting used to, and surely still has a long way to go. John Wick Chronicles also has one main barrier there: it’s exhausting.

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Between the Matrix-style chords hanging out of the back of your head from the Vive, to the gameplay that makes you want to duck and roll, you’ll be winded by the end of the training room. It does add a bit to immersion, but it’d be nice to not have to catch your breath, not to mention stretch your hands out from pulling the trigger too much.

But Starbreeze packed a lot into this package, which is avilable on Steam for $19.99. Those who preordered the game got a free copy of Payday 2, one of the developers’ previous titles. They’ll also snag a John Wick 2-themed weapons pack for the game.

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Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time Starbreeze and John Wick have crossed paths. Payday 2 also featured Wick as a playable character to promote the release of the first film.

Maybe if there’s a John Wick 3 we’ll get an even bigger VR experience. And for an owner of the Vive, games like this make the purchase all the more worth it. You can count this one as a must-play.

Review: For Honor

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The first time I swung my Viking Raiders Axe into the head of a rival samurai in the closed beta, I realised just how innovative For Honor was. I went into the Beta with no interest at all, but over the course of that weekend I played over 30 hours of the game and pre order it as soon as the Beta ended. On paper For Honor is simple enough, the ultimate grudge match. Vikings, Samurai and Knights all fighting it out to see who is the best (Vikings obviously). That being said, its impossible to know just how good the game is without feeling the controls for yourself. The Clang of metal as you parry an attack, the battle cry of your opponent as they advance or the shear joy of pulling of the brutal execution after a hard fought fight. For Honor really is something special.

The Story

The story in For Honor is simply a way to introduce the different classes and factions that fight it out in the multi-player modes. Each faction has a 6 mission campaign to play which provides back story to why the factions are fighting each other. Basically they are trying to give reason to the constant fighting in the online modes. The story takes us through how Apollyon (For Honor’s Big Bad) engineered the faction war. While Apollyon herself is a fascinating character, the story never goes into her motives behind starting the faction war. All we know is she wants to see the strongest warriors raise to the top. The fact her motives are not discussed, left me deflated when the story mode had ended.

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The character you play as in For Honor are not as interesting as Apollyon in my opinion, but it is still interesting to see the story behind each class and character in the larger game. It also introduce me to some classes I was not interested in playing, such as the Valkyrie which became my favourite class of the 12 available. The story really does serve as a perfect way to introduce you to the different classes and their unique abilities. Unfortunately I did not get to play as every class, for some reason the Knights Conqueror ,the Viking Berserker and both samurai Shugoki and Nobushi were left unplayable in the campaign.

Combat

For Honor’s combat system is probably the most innovative I have seen this generation. It starts of simple, three stances for three directions of attack and defence. You change you stance to attack and defend from either the left, right or from over head. Next you add in both light and heavy attacks plus a guard break attack that lets you throw your enemies. Not to mention the brutal executions that can happen if you or your  opponent manages to finish the other of with a heavy attack. It all seems very simple, easy to understand and execute. If that’s all the combat system was it would be elegant, simple and boring.

Fortunately the developers added a ton of extra sub systems to change things up. They took that combat system and added, unblock-able attacks, parries, bleed effect, stun attacks, infinite chain attacks and counters. Each class has their own unique move set. Some classes have the abilities to deflect attacks by dodge but can not stay in each defence stance constantly. Others have chain combos but no unblock-able attacks. Some may have a bleed effect attack that lets you attack and back of as your opponents health slowly fades away. To be successful in For Honor not only do you have to understand your class, but you enemies class as well.

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If all that was not a deep enough combat system, Ubisoft Montreal added even more depth to it by included environmental hazards. You can find yourself set on fire, thrown from a cliff or even impaled on a wall of spikes if you do not mind your surrounding. Then there is the instant kill that happens if your opponent drops from above you to kill you light a hawk swooping down on its prey. The combat systems in this game really are the shinning star of For Honor.

The Faction War

The most engaging content in For Honor comes from its multi-player. 5 different game modes that can be played against other players or the computer A.I. In an all out war to take over territories to win the Faction War. The Faction War is a giant map where the three factions compete for control. After each match you are able to deploy ” War Assets” to help defend or attack different territories. The amount of assets you get to deploy all depends on your personal performance. The better you do the more help you are to your chosen faction. The War takes place in a ten week season. Each season is split into five, two week rounds. During these are turns that last 6 hours, after each turn the map updates to show how your faction faired.

The five multi-player game modes are:

  • Dominion: Players fight for control over 3 areas to earn points in a 4v4 match. When one team reaches 1000 points the opposing teams breaks. Once a team breaks there is no more re-spawning if a player one a breaking team dies.
  • Elimination: A 4v4 team-death match consisting of 5 rounds. Once a player dies they can not re-spawn unless revived. First team to kill all opposing players win the round.
  • Skirmish: 4v4 team-death match where players kill each other to get points. When one team reaches 1000 points the opposing teams breaks. Once a team breaks there is no more re-spawning if a player one a breaking team dies.
  • Dual: 1v1 elimination style death match.
  • Brawl: 2v2 elimination style death match.

While each mode has their merits, my favourite was Dominion by a mile. The tactics used are always different and no match ever felt the same. The best part about For Honor’s Multi-player is that each and every match felt fresh and new. Not only does everyone have their own classes to play as. Each player sets up the classes to their own unique play-style. You may have faced a team of four wardens, but each of those wardens will fight in totally different style. It is for that reason I often found that I had lost a whole day playing For Honor without even realising.

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Graphics and sound

The graphics in For Honor blessed me with some of the most awe-Inspiring views I have seen in a game. Looking out from a castle over a battlefield full of angry Vikings pillaging, or a Japanese city ablaze. Some of the scenes I got to witness while playing For Honor truly stopped me in my tracks. That being said not all is rosy with For Honor’s graphics. During the course of the game I was greeted with what has to be the worse looking horse design since the first assassins creed game. The horse looked more like it was made from plastic or Lego, which really broke the immersion the rest of the beautiful world had created.

While the graphical design of the game may of flattered at one hurdle. The sound design is second to none. The clash of swords colliding in the air. The “swoosh” of an arrow narrowly missing your head, or the grunts and cries of your enemies as you engage them in combat. All this adds to the immersion and feel of For Honor. Whether its the cry of a Viking Raider using his unblock-able attack, or the sound of the Knights peacekeeper pushing a blade into the side of their foe repeatedly. The sounds seem so refined and often blood curdling. The team behind it should truly feel proud of themselves.

Verdict

For Honor is a truly innovative fighting game that has some amazing action game-play. The combat systems had more depth to the game than any other game of this generation to date. If the community get behind it, For Honor could become another competitive Monster from Ubisoft just like The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege. The Story is interesting but leaves some questions unanswered and the multi-player is fresh and no match feels the same. For Honor is a game that is easy to learn but nigh impossible to master. If you can only buy one game every 6 months For Honor is the type of game that could keep to occupied for the entire year. I would recommend it to anyone.

Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book Review

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The 17th in the series Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is set in a small town called Kirchen Bell. Sophie lives in this small town as an alchemist taking over her grandmother’s atelier. But since she is just starting out she is nowhere near at the level her grandmother was at. To make money Sophie will either take on various tasks from the townspeople or she will create things to sell later. At first, the townspeople’s confidence in Sophie was on the low side. But one day Sophie finds one of her grandmother’s recipes in a mysterious book. She decides to make the recipe and it is the best quality item she has ever made. Even her friends were surprised at the quality. She sells the item she made to one of the townspeople. Now the townspeople have new-found confidence in Sophie and she has a new mysterious book.

Sophie discovers something else about the mysterious book. Her new book can also talk but it doesn’t remember anything about it’s past. Now it is up to Sophie to help this book figure out how it came to be and the rest of its memories. The mysterious book is the only mentor Sophie has left to help her perfect her alchemy skills. Sophie and the book form a new partnership. Whenever Sophie learns a new recipe it gets put in the book and the book, in turn, gets one of its memories back. When Sophie learned a new recipe she learned the book’s name was Plachta. Kirchen Bell is the hub for all of Sophie’s activities. Atelier Sophie has open world exploration. You are free to go wherever you want and whenever you want.

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There are tons of people in town you can talk to, shops to visit, and you can use the world map to explore other areas. In Atelier Sophie you can increase your friendship level with certain characters in the game. You do this by either having that person in your party or giving them a gift when you see them. They can also bring you gifts in return. The type of gifts you give them matter. If you give them something they like their friendship level with you increases. You can also unlock special cutscenes and exploration events. If you explore the town or other places Sophie sometimes gets inspiration for a new recipe. The drawback to this open world gameplay is that it isn’t always clear what you should be doing. The game doesn’t give you any daily directions on what Sophie should be doing. There were many times in the game where I felt lost as to what I should be doing.

Which brings me to my next point about the game. Sophie can go to sleep in the game. If you take her to her bed the game will ask you how long you want her to sleep for. The weather also changes in the game. If you feel that you have nothing else to do for that day you can just have Sophie go to sleep. Another great way to kill time in the game is gathering alchemy materials. But beware that if you go to the forest to gather materials you will run into creatures you will have to fight. The good news is that you can take 2 people with you. It is also a turn based system. Each time it is someone’s turn in your party it will ask you what action they should take.

Atelier Sophie does a great job of explaining the alchemy system in the game. It is basically a color coded system. You place green ingredients on the green squares of the menu grid, red on red squares, and yellow on yellow squares. The game will guide you on how to do it. It sounds a little confusing at first but it’s rather easy once you get the hang of it. The items you make do get graded on quality. If you aren’t happy with the grade of the item you can always go back and make it again. The drawback to this system is that you can only make one item at a time. Even if you get a request to make 10 items you can’t make all 10 at one time.

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What I love most about Atelier Sophie is the graphics. The game has one of the most impressive graphics I have seen for an RPG. The anime scenes were well done and the color scheme fit perfectly with the game. I loved the 3D aspect too. Atelier Sophie does a great job of transitioning between animated scenes and 3D graphics. However, when playing the game I noticed that there were a few glitches with the eyes of the characters. Sometimes the eyes would disappear. I also liked that the colors weren’t matte all the time. The game also has multiple difficulty levels easy, medium, and hard. You can switch at any time between them. The controls in this game were not the best on a PC keyboard. The game doesn’t tell you what keys to use on a PC keyboard. You have to figure it out yourself.

Once you complete the story I don’t really see a need to go back and replay the game. Atelier Sophie is a good game for beginners but if you have played your fair share of RPG games and visual novels this game is a tad boring. The story doesn’t have a lot of excitement in it. Your only goal is to help Plachta find her memories. The game’s slow pace doesn’t add to the excitement either. I didn’t really have any motivation to keep playing the game til the end. The side stories are more exciting. Sophie can help people in her party with their goals and dreams. If you enjoy slow-paced games that focus more on daily life this is for you.

Stars in Shadow review

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Published by Iceberg Interactive and developed by Ashdar Games, Stars in Shadow is a sci-take on the 4X genre, not too unlike Master of Orion which we reviewed very recently. Starting off a new game, you’ll be in the early years of interstellar travel, and your empire will grow as new technological advances become available. This will allow you to colonize worlds and develop ever more powerful machines of war, right up to the so-called Dread Stars that will destroy enemy planets much like the Death Star would if this were a Star Wars game.

Stars in Shadow offers a choice between seven different factions, most of them coming from distinctly different alien races. This impacts the game in how you relate to others and in terms of the research trees you have available to you. An immediate positive, since your choice of race never felt quite as impactful in Master of Orion.

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Battles are turn-based and rendered in 2D, but can also be automatically resolved if you’re facing off against a weak opponent (or if you don’t want to bother with the actual battle). As your fleet grows, the option to issue commands to grouped units makes things easier to manage, especially in combat.

Obviously inspired by games like Master of Orion and Master of Orion 2, Stars in Shadow is a promising attempt by a small studio to capture the magic that those games have held for 4X veterans for so many years. The game’s visuals feel like a blend of retro and indie to me, opting for mostly 2D visuals, especially in combat sequences. It lacks the polish and shine that recent titles like Stellaris and the Master of Orion remake have, but Ashdar is working with a far smaller team so the design choice is understandable. If you’re an old school 4X fan like me then the aesthetic won’t bother you at all, but if Master of Orion (the original) turns you off because of its visuals, then this may not be for you.

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If it’s gameplay you focus on, then Stars in Shadow is one to look out for. Combat is fun, and doesn’t get too bogged down by micromanagement as the game progresses and your empire and army grows. This is due to smart choices, for example the aforementioned ability to group units. The likeness to the first two Master of Orion games is strikingly strong though, and I’m hoping Ashdar Games will be bold enough to make some design choices to give their game its own identity as well. For a two-man studio though, this is already an extremely promising effort.

Dragon Quest Builders Review

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Dragon Quest Builders, is a sandbox action RPG developed by Square Enix. Unsurprisingly this game is a mix between the beloved Japanese Dragon Quest series, as well as the hugely popular Minecraft. Dragon Quest Builders is a very enjoyable game and I took great joy in playing it.

For the story, the protagonist awakens in a world where humans have lost the ability to build and civilisation has collapsed, yet you alone have retained this ability. The ‘Builder’ as the protagonist is known as, is charged by the Goddess to help rebuild civilisation and restore humanity’s ability to build. However, it isn’t that simple, the world is full of monsters who will attack you and your city throughout the game. But the protagonist isn’t alone, along the way they will meet a number of people who are inspired by their example, and have come together to rebuild what was once lost to them. This gives the game a classic Dragon Quest feel, having to save a ruined world that’s on the brink of destruction, which is incredibly nostalgic and enjoyable.

Much of the game is spent between collecting materials from the wilderness outside your city, and crafting those materials into useable blocks which are used to customise and improve your city as well as its defences. This is done by creating rooms, which are made when certain conditions are met, for example every room must have walls that are two blocks high on every side, as well as a door and a light source. As you progress in the story you will uncover how to make new rooms, such as a dressing room, a blacksmith’s, make individual bedrooms that can be assigned to specific people, and much more.

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My experience of this game was played on the PlayStation Vita. The game ran incredibly well, and looked very gorgeous in it’s Minecraft style. However, I did find the controls to be a little fiddly, with no hotkeys you are constantly scrolling between items. The camera is usually top-down, which becomes an issue once you enter a dungeon or start mining, as it tends to maintain that position. It is also difficult to target where precisely you place or destroy blocks.

Dragon Quest Builders combines some of the best qualities of both the Dragon Quest series, and Minecraft. From the Dragon Quest half, you get the humour and artwork that truly makes Dragon Quest great. From Minecraft, everything in the world can be made into something better to aid you in your journey. However, this combination is not without it’s issues. Whilst they do make a nice combination together, they do also lose something from each of their respective games. For example, you are incredibly limited by what you can make at the start of the game, recipes are largely story-based. So whilst you are free to explore and customise your city as much as you desire, depending on how far into the story you can only make so much.

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On the other hand, the game tries too hard to be a true Dragon Quest game in some regards. The player has equipment and status screens that are largely redundant, NPC’s join your ‘party’ the first time you meet them and then eternally wander your city once they arrive, making the entire sequence pointless. From the start the protagonist is informed they will never improve their combat abilities, and rather their strength comes from what they create, so how can this truly be considered a Dragon Quest game.

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However, regardless of this, the game is so much fun, the story is in true Dragon Quest style, and is incredibly compelling, as it leaves you excited about what you will discover to create with next. The humour is perhaps one of the best aspects, in the few interactions you have with your townsfolk, almost every contains some witty humour. Exploring the world with familiar monsters from the Dragon Quest universe is also a great feeling.

VR Ping Pong Review

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VR is stupidly immersive. VR Ping Pong makes no attempt at visual realism and yet utterly convinces you you’re playing table tennis. The spectating crowd in the bleachers are all literally made of small cubes, giving them a pixel aesthetic – voxel style – not unlike 3D Dot Game Heroes. Meanwhile, your opponent sports the same look but is almost entirely in 2D apart from his arm, which is merely an extendable rectangle with his 2D hand and paddle on the end. VR Ping Pong could not look more like a videogame, but once that ball has been served your focus is fixed on winning the next point; you’re playing table tennis for real and the pixel people surrounding you cannot convince you otherwise.

Of course the second that precious point is won and you look up from the table and see the daft crowd pulling their heads off in excitement whilst remarkably still being able to cheer, you’re once again reminded that you’re in a virtual space. Going to wipe the sweat from your brow only to clatter against the VR headset proves to further remind you of the fakery of it all. But this to-and-fro between states of immersion makes VR Ping Pong all the more impressive.

There’s obviously a light-hearted and humorous quality to VR Ping Pong, the pixel crowd and AI opponent are reminiscent of classic 8bit sports games, albeit with the crispness and clarity you’d expect from a modern title. The result is pleasantly charming and nostalgic, like jumping into NES title Punch Out, or more aptly Tennis.

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But don’t be fooled by the presentation, behind the scenes some excellent physics ensure that the act of playing table tennis feels as fast and precise as the real thing. Before long you’ll be part of intense rallies, pulling off risky shots towards the edge of the table for glory, and reveling in the crowd’s cheers.

And whilst the quantity of modes is currently very limited, what’s here can still grip you for many hours. One-off games can be played against three difficulties of AI opponent, or you can take to the practice table for unlimited attempts at mastering the mechanics. Meanwhile, a tournament mode pits you against a group of AI opponents across multiple stages and a selection of mini games give you something different try: whether it’s simply hitting the ball against a wall or honing your precision against a broken table with chunks missing. The majority of the mini games are locked, with ‘coming soon’ text to tease you.

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But of course VR Ping Pong is still in Steam Early Access, so some missing modes, including no multiplayer, is to be expected. Fortunately the fundamentals are solid and you can easy lose hours with the current crop of modes. Furthermore, well thought-out options make this as accessible as possible, with the ability to change the rotating of your paddle and even your height. Additionally, it’s an example of a VR game hitting the right price point at a very reasonable £3.99.

Indeed, VR Ping Pong is terrific fun. This digital facsimile of table tennis sports a charming aesthetic that’s delightfully nostalgic and amusing, yet can still entirely convince you of being in an arena playing table tennis once the action kicks in, largely thanks to excellent physics. Once all features are present this is going to be fantastic, right now brilliant will have to do.