Friday, December 4, 2020
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Why Killing Floor 2 is one damn satisfying shooter

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So Killing Floor 2 is free on Steam this weekend. My initial reaction to this was somewhat reserved, as this is an Early Access sequel to a game I haven’t even played before. Never mind though, I decided to give it a shot. Oh boy, was I surprised.

Actually, if you haven’t played it before, just stop reading this article and go enjoy some co-op goodness.

Still here? Fine then, you get to read my superlatives.

A little backstory — when I was a wee child the first real game I played was Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2. Actually, I watched my dad play it for a few months before mustering the courage to try it out for myself, standing in awe before this living Star Wars world being presented on a small screen in front of me. The blaster sounds, the light emanating from the walls when you shoot, and the constant surprises from enemies springing from each corner got me glued to the screen for hours on end. It really was something I’ve never seen before.

When I sat down to play Killing Floor 2, I honestly felt something very similar. Sure, there wasn’t anything groundbreaking, as going into it I kinda knew what I was supposed to do, i.e. survive each wave while barricading entrances and gearing up after each stage. But the thing is, all aspects of it worked towards one goal — delivering a bad-ass shooter.

First of all, shooting feels heavy. The amount of recoil your guns have really forces you to conserve ammo and go for the burst-fire approach instead of “spraying and praying” (although sometimes that’s your only choice as you’re surrounded by hundreds of ‘Zed’). Whether you want to go melee or long-range, there are already tons of possibilities out there, with classes ranging from traditional commandos and medics to insane explosives-based ones that burn everything in their sight. My favorite one must be the Demolitionist, a class utilizing C4 and grenade pistols. You know, your normal means of mass destruction. And as for the targets you get to blast into tiny bits, they are pretty much an artist’s paint — predominantly red and overly abundant, covering the canvas thoroughly.

Metaphors aside, whatever map you’re playing on gets covered in blood, guts and all sorts of nasty intestines in the matter of seconds. In other words, this isn’t a game that shies away from presenting a hardcore atmosphere, and I’m kind of glad that’s the case. While enemy variation could be a bit more rich, differentiating what you’re up against happens extremely fast if you’re new to Killing Floor. In fact, the whole process of starting a game for the first time and figuring out what’s happening was extremely easy and seamless, maybe due to resemblances to other co-op survival shooters like Left 4 Dead or the zombie modes in various Call of Duty games.

But despite how cliche the idea of fighting zombies in creepy abandoned places is, this is a game that simply doesn’t seem to care all that much. Nicely timed slow-mo segments that happen when you eliminate big foes are one of the most satisfying moments of the game, allowing players to carefully place their bullets where it matters. In the same time, there isn’t a single map that looks mediocre compared to the rest. Wide-open ones like ‘Burning Paris’ may seem straightforward at first, but each new wave reveals underground passages and tunnels that can make your head spin. In the same time, maps like the ‘Catacombs’ are exactly what you would expect — nasty, dark and perfect for lighting up with explosives.

Last but not least, music is what makes Killing Floor 2 so damn good. You’re decimating wave after wave of failed specimens rushing at you with their unnatural abilities, running past hallways with bones and graves strewn around, and all you hear is the juicy riffs flowing through your speakers (or headphones). An entirely instrumental soundtrack that features 100% pure heavy metal mixed with a moderate dose of industrial elements — it’s simply the perfect music to have while you witness zombies’ heads flying away and giant, fat bloaters exploding in excrement. Sorry for making this graphical.

Quite frankly, I don’t think I’ve had more fun in any game recently. I’d describe my experience with Killing Floor 2 as pure brutality, as it brought me back to the years of Doom and Quake and reminded me what those games stood for. Sure, it’s an Early Access game that still needs more content to be added. I also didn’t like that the overall movement was a bit too slow and sluggish, on top of the lack of any FoV slider and the abundance of bullet-spongy enemies. But even in its current state, Killing Floor 2 is one bloody solid co-op shooter.

Original Author: Georgi Trenev

The Flock Review

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Imagine a game that can no longer be bought after a number of players have died in the game. A game where players that managed to buy the game are brought to a new stage in this very moment, and upon completion of this stage, makes the game disappear forever. Imagine how unique it would have been to be one of the players whom have played this limited game, to be able to play it in its final stage when no one can buy it. This is exactly what The Flock is going for, and this is what makes it stand out against other Multiplayer games out there. But The Flock hardly touches upon how good it could have been; it isn’t unique in any way and the cease-to-exist selling argument feels more like a sham than anything.

The Flock is a First-Person Multiplayer game that puts one player against all the other players in a cat and mouse like chase, with a lamp. You either play as the carrier or the flock. As the carrier, you walk around the maps with a big lamp, and as the flock, which are an alien/monster race, you try to kill the carrier and by doing so, becoming it. Playing as the carrier you need to focus the lamp on the flock players to kill them, but they can only be killed if they are moving, so there is a lot of standing still and just watching the carrier, which on occasion can be fun and feel a little creepy, but mostly plain boring.

Playing as the flock, you move around very similar to the alien in the Alien vs. Predator games, without the wall-hanging, different kinds of attacks and all things that make them fun. You either walk slowly on two or run fast on all four, but getting the light in your face while moving will kill you. So far, I like the idea behind the game, where standing still makes you this kind of a statue, and there is a multitude of real statues looking like the flock placed all over the maps, but sadly it is only fun on paper and never reaches any of its potential in the game. I really wished I could tell stories of how I hid from the carrier among statues just to attack him right after he thought he was safe, but the stiff and boring level design never opens up for these moments.

Moving around as the flock feels very fluid with good and limited controls, it is kind of fresh with a game that doesn’t give multiple ways of killing or moving about, even if in this case makes the game more repetitive than it has to be. Moving around as the carrier is sadly a lot stiffer, while its walking mode fits the game in some sense, slower moment with a faster run mode for short burst would have added more to the tension the game so often misses.

Tension in these kind of games can also be very dependent on the visual style chosen for the game, and running the game on an old engine with low detailed grey and brown textures, is not the way to add tension to the game. Add that the lightning for the maps seems to have been completely forgotten making it a dark game with almost no shadows to trick your mind. I really hoped that, for a game that basically is about a big lamp, they would have put a bigger effort into its lightning.

While The Flock doesn’t feel unique at all in neither how it looks nor how it plays, it does have one selling point that really makes it stand out: The one I told you about in the beginning of how the game will eventually cease to exist. Before you rush over to Steam to be a part of something special, let me tell you this: There will be nothing special about it at all. Having a limited game based on its “population,” which is counting down every time a player dies, may sound tempting even if the game is not that fun. But when the population is high and the players right now are extremely low, I never under my time found a full or even half full server.  It will take the game more years to reach this point than the average life of online games out there. On top of this, The Flock has a very high price for the small amount of content that it provides, making it almost the same price range as a lot more unique and better made titles such as Natural Selection 2 or even Alien vs. Predator, which both have similarities in their Multiplayer.

VERDICT

The Flock is a game with a great selling argument, which on paper gives the player access to something that only the first buyers will have experienced, something that seems to go away before it can even grow a big community. This may seem like a weird decision for something the developers have spent years on making, but in the end it seems like a fast way to get players to buy it before words spread on how lacking The Flock is in every area. It does have its moments where you, as the carrier or even as a member of the flock is on edge, but those moments are extremely rare and do not at all make up for all the shortcomings The Flock has.

Original Author: Karl de Maré

Oh Ubisoft, How I Loathe You

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I should be pretty ecstatic and happy today. I’ve been added to the Heroes of Might and Magic VII Closed Beta. The Heroes of Might and Magic series is one of my favorite gaming series that originated from the 90’s. When offered the opportunity to be a part of this, how could I say no. QA is one of the many things that I do within the realm of gaming beyond journalism.

I was given the press kit, got some nice images to look at for Heroes of Might and Magic VII. While I was looking over the materials, I had to stop myself, I should look at all of this information after I start the download. The reasoning behind this was perfectly sound.

Grabbed my game code, ran over to Steam, Steam is where most of my alpha and beta testing occurs, and then wham out of the blue Ubisoft hits me. Code isn’t valid. Wait, what? Go back to the e-mail, read through the material, and in the fine print I notice: “The Uplay Installer must be downloaded and the code activated from there.”

Now anybody who is anybody can attest to how bad the Uplay Installer is. I’ve uninstalled it a couple of times, because I’d prefer not to mess with a Uplay game through the installer, but rather through Steam. The last game that I played through Uplay was when I beta tested The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot.

Ubisoft, I say this with the utmost respect, please give up on Uplay. It’s always been horrible, no one likes it, why do you keep forcing an inferior product onto your consumers.

Alright, I’m game, I’ve got Uplay downloaded, I’m installing Heroes of Might and Magic VII. Download speed is at 100 KB’s… The facepalm is real… This just forces me into a Bioshock moment where I want to say to Ubisoft, “would you kindly…”

Original Author: Travis Patterson

Prime World – Developer’s Care More About New Players Than Veteran Players

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My MOBA of choice since 2014/04 has been Prime World. I really enjoy the talent system, it’s RPG like elements, I don’t have to buy any gear from a shop because it’s all based on my talent choices. I’m not overly fond of their Facebook Style Kingdom Simulator, but that’s a moot point, it’s not that big of a deal. Most of the loyal fans of the game don’t care for it, but it’s in there, what can you do. This is how much I’ve enjoyed Prime World, I’ve spent almost 900 hours in it. Here’s a Screenshot.

You’ll notice, not only is it 900 hours, but I also have the Level 5 Steam Badge. I’ve been quite loyal to Nival. Even though Prime World is a Free to Play game I have invested quite a bit of time and money into the game.

I’ve gotten other friends to join Prime World, obviously it wasn’t hard, it’s Free to Play, I even wrote a positive Review for the game, because I really like it and think others will too. Now my friends, when we play, obviously we mic. Over this past week something odd has been happening. One friend, they gave me Moira and two skins for free. Another friend, I got one the recently added Guardian for free. Yet another friend logs in and exclaims I got Swamp King, two skins for him, a thousand gold, and a unicorn pet. Now this really shocked me. That’s a lot. I’ve been playing since the Beta, the unicorn pet was given to people in the Beta, and I never got one, but it was no big deal, I bought the wolf pup. Now this new player has the Beta unicorn…

As if all of these items were not enough, each player was also given Golden Age which is a cash paid for item to give your champions a boost with better talents and double the experience. They also had 100 Prime Crystals. I earn 100 Prime Crystals in about 8 days, that’s kind of a lot of Prime Crystals.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, there is still more. They were given Golden Runes so that they could adjust talents for free because of recent balances and changes to the way several heroes work.

Now, as extra salt to the wounds, we’re playing with a friend of a friend, and he’s bragging about the 3,000 gold Nival gave him. Okay, something must be going on, and Nival must have just forgotten about me. You know, because I’m the loyal player that has invested money into Prime World, I must have fallen through the cracks. After all, I spent money, and my friends didn’t spend any money, so surely I’m suppose to get something too.

I e-mailed customer support, because I’m wondering where are my free items, or unicorn because I was a Beta player, or even the golden runes so that I could fix my talents for free too. In order to make talents unassigned you have to spend between 6 and 14 Gold pieces. This is the real world cash money currency.

However, a dark revelation was revealed to me today. Nival answered my support ticket by saying this:

Hello SaintKilljoy,

Thanks for contacting us.
Your friends received presents as they were fresh players (that had played not a lot).
Unfortunately we can’t help you in this case, because support team isn’t engaged with such giveaways.

Best Regards,
Prime World Support Team

New players, who have not spent any money, are being rewarded with gifts, some with 1,000 and 3,000 gold. $4.99 of real world currency gets 150 gold. Some new players to the game are getting $200.00 to $600.00 worth of free gold. These are just the cases I’m aware of. This seems extremely excessive, but what is worse, is it seems like a complete disrespect towards veteran players. You know the players who have invested time and money into Prime World.

Okay, so now, I still need to fix my talents. Right now Prime World has an offer, if you buy gold then you will receive 30% more gold for free. Okay, here’s 5 bucks. I was given 150 gold. Where’s my 30% more gold bonus? Here’s a screen shot after purchase.

Okay, well, I went this far, I intend to fix my talents. Nival made changes to Prime World, and yet, I’m having to pay to fix them, because I’m a Veteran player. Let’s do this. I’m game. After stripping my Sesha, who is all but useless with the changes. I’m left with 19 Gold. Here, have another screenshot.

Something is deeply wrong with this picture, and I feel the need to bring this not only to Nival’s attention, but to all the Veteran players as well. I’ve promised Nival that I would e-mail them the link to this story, and after reading this, I would really like them to provide us with some answers. Hopefully something positive can come out of this for all of the players, not just the new players. I will report back with whatever news I’m given, and if they say nothing, well I’m sure I can talk about that too. By the way, what about my 30% free gold?

Original Author: Travis Patterson

Olympia Rising Review

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When video games and Greek mythology cross paths, typically the God of War franchise comes to mind. However, when Greek mythology and a pixelized retro-styling cross paths, Olympia Rising enters the fray. Players take control of Iola, a young warrior who finds herself cast to the Underworld. Iola must escape Hades’ domain and make her exit towards Mount Olympus. Throughout the journey, players will have to face off against various mythological beasts, as they traverse the nightmarish hell that awaits in the Underworld.

The Underworld is home to contrasting biomes that Iola must slice and dice her way through. Levels are separated into typical areas such as lava or ice, but in Olympia Rising, levels are more than just getting from point A to point B. This is where things get a little messy. Players will have to guide Iola and collect a certain amount of Obolus Coins in order to please a greedy skeleton named Charon that acts as a gatekeeper before each area. The formula is refreshing when compared to standard Platformers, but it is not without its flaws.

Collecting coins doesn’t feel very meaningful aside from allowing Iola to finally finish a level. Players can collect more coins than needed in a given level, but this extra pocket change doesn’t amount to anything. They won’t be used to buy any upgrades nor can they be used to buy items along the scenic route through the Underworld. This would make for a nice incentive to keep exploring or to try to rake in as much dough as possible. Instead, once Iola can buy her way to the next area, it seems best to just book it to the exit.

Each world Iola will encounter in Olympus Rising is segmented into distinctive levels. Some are quite relaxed and will have players freely roam around collecting coins. On the other hand, some levels will have Iola snagging as many coins as possible while climbing upwards to escape the Purge of Hades, a rising torrent of corrosive goop. The variation between hectic and calm will keep players on their toes. The Obolus Coins are scattered around in set places, but can also be earned with a well-placed sword swipe across any enemies in Iola’s path.

Unfortunately for Iola, it seems like she ended up in the Underworld with a sword that’s just a tad on the short side. Taking out enemies is necessary in order to clear a path and earn some honest money. Often times, this leads to taking hits that don’t necessarily feel like the player’s fault since Iola’s sword only has such a small set reach. Players will have to get in really close, but at the same time, maintain a minute distance. There were times that I was barely in striking distance, only to have the enemy make a slight movement and hit me. Combat would feel a lot more fluid and this wouldn’t exactly be a problem if the sword was just a teeny bit longer. Players can learn to manage, but those times where damage feels unavoidable bring upon some frustration.

On the bright side of things, power-ups are there to collect and aid Iola in combat. A fire power-up allows players to shoot flames a good distance to get that needed edge for ranged combat. A water power-up, that is honestly less useful, is great for defense. Activating the water power-up gives Iola a bubble shield in which she can’t be hit. This is nice if players really want to play it safe, but it feels like a stronger offense was the better way to go about handling things. While it could prove to be useful in some scenarios, the bubble shield takes a second to activate, so it feels less like a twitch reaction to avoid damage like a dodge would. It feels more like a way to react to a projectile that the player is already aware of and can potentially jump over. Lastly, there is a lightning power-up that strengthens Iola’s sword. This is great for adding that length bonus previously mentioned as well as general power.

Each power-up has to be activated and once activated, they consume magic which can be replenished by finding magic potions. Magic is also utilized in order to grant Iola the ability to essentially fly. This becomes a great way to distance Iola from sudden danger very quickly.

One huge flaw in the design of Olympia Rising comes in the form of blind drops. Sometimes, in order to move along, players will have to blindly plunge downwards. Instead of being able to react to what is beneath Iola’s feet, players will have to blindly swing their sword in hopes of killing any small enemies that may happen to be hanging out where Iola is falling. This can also lead to you falling on tougher enemies that take more than one hit to kill. These blind drops will lead to frustrating and untimely deaths that are sure to aggravate players.

VERDICT

Olympia Rising is a fun Action-Platformer with beautiful pixelized graphics. Its Underworld atmosphere is oddly welcoming to players for something that represents death. Aside from a few shortcomings, Olympia Rising is a decent experience that players will enjoy overall. For only $4.99, players looking to add a wonderfully pixelized 2D Action-Platformer to their Steam library on their PC or Mac will get their money’s worth. If the visual style and atmosphere don’t win you over, the fluid maneuverability will. With a little more elbow grease, Olympia Rising could be an even greater experience.

Original Author: Connor McCullar

Vortex Attack Review

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I suck at Arcade space shooting games. I’m so terrible, that I usually don’t play these kinds of games at all anymore. Vortex Attack, however, may have changed my mind on the entire genre. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this 2D Space Shooter and it’s available at a very cheap price.

At its heart, Vortex Attack is a 2D Arcade Space Shooter, similar to classic games like Space Invaders and Galaga. Each level has a giant vortex at the top of the screen that emits enemy ships that you shoot at and destroy. Once destroyed, these enemy ships drop small white particles that your ship can then pick up. Those particles then attack the vortex. The objective of each level is to attack and destroy the vortex. Once the vortex is destroyed, you move on to the next level. Levels can be completed as quickly as twenty seconds or they can last as long as two to three minutes.

Since Vortex Attack is a retro-inspired game, the game has a heavy emphasis on high scores and leaderboards. You get a few lives per run, and once you run out, you’re dead. Your score is saved and you have to start over. From my understanding, there are nine worlds and over two hundred levels. The game also features boss fights, but they’re pretty generic and forgettable at best. After you destroy each boss, you will unlock a new ship. There are eleven total ships, and each ship varies greatly in stats and how it controls and feels. Some ships are slow, some are fast, some shoot quickly, some shoot slowly. There is a great variety here, and it’s fun to try out each ship and find your own personal favorite to use.

The levels themselves can vary with different enemy amounts and types. The game starts out slowly, basically easing you into the game. It can often at times be too slow, with barely any challenge. After your first few attempts at the game, it can get quite redundant having to replay through those levels each time, but it’s really not a major flaw of the game. Soon enough, the game picks up speed and can get incredibly hectic, especially for someone lacking skills, like myself. Enemies cover the screen, and you will be weaving through lines of enemy fire and destroying a huge amount of enemy ships. Some levels even have you dodging massive meteors. Vortex Attack shines here, and the game is incredibly fun to play when the challenge is ramped up. As you progress through each level, you can earn a limited amount of bombs as you play. These bombs are very useful as they do a huge amount of area damage and can kill multiple enemies at once. Being a retro Space Shooter, the game also features an abundance of power-ups for you to pick up as you play. Shields, faster fire, double fire, triple fire and bombs are some of the power-ups you will encounter as you play. There is a strong variety here and with each ship feeling so different, certain ships will take better to certain power-ups.

The game’s art style and graphics work well. The game looks like the old Arcade Shooter games, while also maintaining modern resolutions and crispness in the graphics. Enemies blow up into tiny pieces and the sound of your ship’s weapon is satisfying. The music also does its job well and fits with the tempo the game offers. My biggest issue with Vortex Attack’s graphics is your own ships. Some can be a little bland in terms of design and color, meaning your ships don’t really stand out from the crowd during gameplay, especially the early ships. Thankfully, some of the later ships are a little better, but it’s nothing spectacular.

I played the entirety of Vortex Attack with a keyboard. The keyboard works surprisingly well, and I had no issues controlling my ship and dodging enemy fire. If for any reason you don’t like the controls for the keyboard, they are fully rebindable. The game does have partial support for controllers for those that want that. In terms of Multiplayer, Vortex Attack offers local Multiplayer co-op too. It’s a fun addition, and player two can control his own ship and help you out. For those that care, Steam achievements and trading cards are also available.

VERDICT

Vortex Attack is a great Arcade-style Space Shooter that can steal hours of your life. The different ship types change up the gameplay more than you would think, and the large amount of levels gives the game surprising depth. The first few levels can start out a bit too slowly, and the boss battles are a little dull. However, if you’re into Arcade Space Shooters, this is a no brainer. For anyone else, I highly recommend you to give it a try. The game is really cheap and those vortexes won’t destroy themselves!

Original Author: Zak Murkin

Zenzizenzic Review

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Zenzizenzic is a fun and engaging Twin-Stick Bullet Hell experience that supports local co-op for two players. Unfortunately, the game has a few glaring issues. The game music that’s played is fine, but pretty quickly I found myself turning the music off, so that I could listen to my own music in the background. Two other features you should be aware of are the Steam Leaderboards and it possesses 210 Steam Achievements. These two factors alone do increase the replay value of the game tremendously.

When you first start Zenzizenzic, you are greeted with the option of playing in Classic or Macro. The difference between these two modes is that Classic is a five-level structured design, while Macro is a more open-world and Roguelike experience. However, I didn’t find Macro to be very engaging or interesting. I was moving my ship through empty white areas, with enemies being far and few between, and more than once I found a shop early on without having any points to spend in the shop due to the lack of enemies. The best experience that can be found for Zenzizenzic will be in Classic.

The Classic mode of Zenzizenzic consists of Regular, Boss Training, Bonus Training, and Gauntlet. Gauntlet is a locked mode, and you’ll have to play the game in order to unlock it. But what Gauntlet does is allow you to play through all five missions back to back without stopping. Considering how much of this game has to be unlocked by spending the points you earn from playing, this feature will be the one that will need to be unlocked last.

All levels have three degrees of difficulty, Normal, Hard, and Very Hard. I found the differences between these levels of difficulty to be great and well balanced. Normal and Hard are not frustrating at all. However, I plan on spending more time on getting better with Very Hard, as it proved to be too difficult for me. One important thing to note when a player loses a life is that he can buy his life back by spending 500K points. Obviously, this effects your score at the end of the level, but will force the player to play a little strategic when choosing to use or not use this feature.

The alternate weapons of Zenzizenzic consists of are the Laser, which is a powerful offensive weapon that passes through enemies and shields, but forces your ship to remain in a fixed position while firing. Missiles behave like seekers, rapidly deploying to assault your enemies. Charge Shot is used by holding the fire button to charge and then releasing when you are ready. The shot creates a hard blast that can be used as a protective barrier to hide behind, as it slowly progresses forward, annihilating bullets and enemies it passes through. Eventually, it will explode and produce a shockwave. Laser Pods will pass through multiple enemies when fired and will attack the closest enemy first. The player must hold down the fire button in order to fire multiple laser beams at once. Other abilities include the Time Jump, which is a defensive mechanic that allows you to relocate easily, and Black Hole, which produces a shockwave that destroys bullets, much like the Charge Shot. Only two of these abilities can be taken at one time, with Laser and Missiles being the weapons you start with. The player will have to unlock the other weapons by spending points that are earned from playing the game.

Upgrades can be found while playing the levels. The upgrades are for the basic fire weapon and shields, and randomly appear after enemies are destroyed and float across the board. You’ll have to navigate and dodge bullets and enemies in order to collect these upgrades. I did find one glaring problem with the shields: As I obtained more and more shields, they began overlapping one another and increased the size of their radius. I didn’t like this behavior because, with this being a Bullet Hell-style game, you have to pass through some very tight spaces between bullets that are only far enough for the ship to barely pass through. Obviously, I lost my shields to no fault of my own. This is just pointless and annoying — I felt like I was being punished for playing well. This caused me to start picking up only one shield at the time, because why be bothered grabbing more than one, you’ll just use them needlessly.

Each level in Zenzizenzic is designed with its own enemies and color schemes. As far as this design approach goes, I really loved level 3 the most. Level 5 feels a bit lazy with its black and white approach. When it boils down to how each level plays, level 1 is designed the best. Each level is unique and has its own bonus stage. Level 5 is very unforgiving and you will use everything you learned from all the other levels to beat it. The bonus stages are tight, narrow passages that the player will have to navigate their ship through in order to complete. All of level 5 is a mix of bonus stage and level design, which makes it incredibly challenging.

I did manage to break Zenzizenzic and encounter some problems that really impacted my time with the game. Once, the stage completely disappeared, while my missiles traveled off-screen at another particular instance. They are relatively small issues, but are still something to consider when you are dropping $10 on a game, and that is very disappointing.

VERDICT

If I hadn’t discovered so many problems and issues while playing Zenzizenzic, it would have earned a higher score. The game is available on Steam for $9.99, however I would advise waiting for a 50% off sale before purchasing.

Original Author: Travis Patterson

Hands On: Pokken’s Blaziken Release

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Not even a month has passed since Pokken‘s release and a new fighter has been released for the game: Blaziken. Well, semi-released. Players with a Bandai-Namco “BANAPassport” can spend coins on the game’s online app to unlock the fire/fighting type between August 4-31, at which point the character will once again be unplayable until Oak-knows-when. As today was opening day, and since I’ve spent a decent chunk of time playing the game, I decided to I’d devote an article purely on the fire bird who, as you can see above, has quite a blue alternative skin.

If you’re fortunate enough to have played Pokken but don’t have the time, coins, or Japanese skills to use the site’s app, I can summarize its playstyle rather easily: Blaziken feels like a mix between Charizard and Machamp, but has speed closer to Lucario, which makes sense for a bird fire/fighting type. However, for most of you, I need to explain a bit more.

Charizard and Machamp are both power types. As the name implies, they hit rather hard. Charizard’s range is better than Machamp’s, but Machamp hits harder. Blaziken does not hit as hard as either of these characters, but has similar reach, as well as a rush-type move where it does a quick loop in place before dashing at the opponent. The quick delay can leave you open, but it’s not a bad starter for someone you know will try to dodge a traditional projectile. It gives Blaziken a second rush in the field phase, which I felt helped me tremendously with projectile users I wanted to close the gap with.

However, Blaziken also has a few projectiles of it’s own. While its projectiles are not quite as far reaching as fellow standard type Lucario’s, or as devastating as Charizard’s, they’re quite unique. Aside from close range projectiles where fire comes out similar to Charizard’s mid-range flamethrower attack, Blaziken can shoot a fireball at opponents or do a kick that provides a wide, slow moving projectile, which you can see in the trailer at the end of this article. The two compliment each other quite well. In the air, Blaziken can release a narrow fire projectile that shoots diagonally down at an opponent, similar to Pikachu, giving it another ranged attack to help keep enemies off balance.

What’s really interesting though is it’s power-gauge special. Aside from looking pretty cool when it mega-evolves, the power-gauge special performs a series of kicks in front of the player, pauses, and then adds another upward kick if none of your previous attacks hit. Generally, most gauge specials unload in one swift motion, so if your opponent blocks, the full move won’t be execute and you are unable to use that attack again without having to refill your gauge. However, Blaziken’s pause is currently causing players who traditionally counter attack after the barrage to open themselves up to the additional kick at the end. I tried interrupting opposing Blazikens during the pause a few times, but either I was too slow or it simply can’t be done. Either way, should Dave and Buster’s have the character available during their state-side play testing, you’re now properly warned to watch for that pause, dropping your shield after the real final kick to punish your opponent.

While a few bugs were also supposedly fix, the game mostly feels the same as it did last month. Machamp players have found that approaching with one of Machamp’s aerial attacks is quite hard to counter or avoid, and I’ve personally learned how to more reasonably approach ranged-special Gardevoire, but ranged attacks still feel like they’re quite strong. I even practiced my Gengar a bit and was able to beat Blazikens and a few Machamps with almost only ranged attacks (though there are a lot more skilled Machamps now).

Because of it’s mix of ranged attacks, rushes, and above average speed and damage, Blaziken feels quite powerful, especially compared to other standards. I did lose to a Pikachu in the 10+ games I played, but Lucarios fell pretty easily, and Suicune matches were fairly close (I lost due to skill, not because those characters were inherently more powerful). I’d normally expect a new character to feel unbalanced in a fighting game, but perhaps because of the small roster, getting Blaziken right was easy enough. I’m sure the limited availability is a sort of beta-test for the character, but I feel it’s ready for a full release. We’ll see what Bandai Namco thinks after August 31.

Original Author: Laguna Levine

Is Aer The Next Journey?

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Beautiful games don’t come around very often. However, every now and then – away from the likes of Call of Duty and FIFA – will come titles like Journey; gorgeous, mysterious, different. Titles which allows us to explore, to learn, and to discover.

Aer, developed by Forgotten Key, looks like it will be one of these hidden beauties.

Playing as a girl who can transform into a bird, you will fly around a world of tiny floating islands; landing on each of them to explore and discover the secret treasures that they hide.

You will encounter Gods and escape from fearsome beasts. You will glide from sun-baked islands to snow-covered peaks. All of this adventure forming part of a much bigger quest to save reality itself. Aer looks every bit as perfect as Journey but with the added allure of flight.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at what the critics have to say:

“Aer looks ethereally brilliant.” – Nathan Grayson, Rock, Paper, Shotgun

“Imagine Wind Waker had flying, instead of sailing.” – Luke Plunkett – Kotaku

“The essence of a world different than ours conveyed so simply, yet so perfectly. And the feeling of exploration the trailer gives me just has me wishing that this was something I could already play.” – TheWulf – Video Games 24/7

Set to be published by Daedalic Entertainment – of the Deponia series – Aer won the 2013 Game Concept Challenge.

And it looks as if Forgotten Key haven’t looked back once since picking up that award, if this game is even half as good as the Gamescom trailer looks, then we are all in for a treat. Aer will arrive on Steam, PS4 and Xbox One sometime next year. Keep your eyes peeled.

Original Author: Jay Michael

The Red Solstice Review

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The Red Solstice is one of my favorite Steam Early Access games that I’ve enjoyed playing. And now, It has finally been fully released! It is an eight-person top-down Tactical Shooter. If you remember playing the mod referred to as Operation Raccoon City for Starcraft, then you’ll know exactly what to expect with this title.

In The Red Solstice, human life is now located on Mars due to a plague that ran rampant across the Earth. Essentially, the plague turned human beings into monsters. The Capital city of the new colony on Mars is known as Tharsis, and all communications have been lost due to a particularly nasty dust devil referred as The Red Solstice Event. Eight space marines have been dispatched to uncover what has happened due to the loss of all communications with Tharsis.

There is a Single-player campaign in The Red Solstice, where the focus is on a marine named Tyler Hunt and his team designated as “Alpha” squad. The player will be leading his own team as they progress through the campaign. The campaign consists of 10 levels. It’s not bad, it’ll teach you the basics of the game, and give you an idea of what you need to do. However, Multiplayer is the experience you’re going to want to have with this title and the reason why you purchase the game. I was particularly lucky, I was able to play Multiplayer with a full pre-made eight-man squad team consisting of my friends. This is definitely how I recommend playing the game: All eight members, on the mic, laughing, and dying together.

There have been reported incidences of more experienced players booting new players, just for being new, so it may be difficult when you first start out to get into a game. The difficulty level of the game is high, and has a strong learning curve, so that discourages more experienced players from allowing new players to join in the fray.

In The Red Solstice, the player uses his mouse to move and fire, with special abilities located on the numbered hotkeys. It does have an RPG leveling system, which means you will be able to obtain better battle suits, weapons, and abilities as you level your class through a ranking system. Be warned, though, the game’s combat is tough and very unforgiving.

Here is a breakdown of the classes: Assault is the Jack of All Trades, it is highly adaptable, and you can field a full team of eight if you chose to do so. Medic is the healer and there is a maximum of two per team. Demolition is high DPS through explosives and it also is maxed at two per team. Recon is the Scout & Support class and you can only field two per team as well. Heavy Support is a great class for players who are new to the game and is capped at two per team too. Hellfire is the flame tank and only one can be fielded per team. Terminator has access to teleporting abilities and deals AoE damage, you may also only have one per team. Marksman is the sniper class and you can only have one of those per team as well.

Scavenging for weapons and items in The Red Solstice is critical to your survival. The player starts the mission with a very limited number of ammo and supplies. Everything you need can be found in Tharsis, if you can live long enough to find it. However, you won’t be able to pick up and keep everything that is scavenged because of a very limited amount of inventory space.

The Red Solstice is not just survival against a wave of monstrous hordes, but it also has mission-based quests that you will need to complete in order to improve your chances of survival. It also has boss waves. The players must explore and move through the maps as an organized team. Strategy is the key to survival. If anyone wanders off, or gets separated from the team, they will most likely die.

VERDICT

I found The Red Solstice to be great and absolutely enjoyable. I played from the very early Alpha and can attest that almost all of the bugs and issues have been addressed. The developer Ironward also took in consumer feedback and made changes to the game as well. The game also has a variety of game modes and victory conditions that will add to the replay value of it. The Red Solstice has come a very long way from its Alpha days.  It’s a great game, but you may want to hold off a little bit for a sale price (currently priced at $24.99 on Steam), especially if you plan on playing this game solo. What are you waiting for? Start dying today!

Original Author: Travis Patterson