Video Game Reviews

Deep Rock Galactic Review – It’s Off To Work We Go

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Deep Rock Galactic is a cooperative, mission-based, first-person shooter developed by Danish developer Ghost Ship Games and published by Coffee Stain Publishing.

This game was — like most games I end up playing — one of the Playstation Networks monthly free titles. Even though I added it to my library, I was not entirely sold on this particular title. The trailer was a bombastic mess of explosions and gunfire, to which the only redeeming characteristic seemed to be a wealth of fully destructible environments.

So, I let it go, thinking I would play it eventually.

You know. If I found time in my busy schedule.

Then I got a call from my dad (hi dad!) who really couldn’t speak highly enough about the game. After our conversation, I decided to fire it up and give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Deep Rock Galactic wasn’t quite the game I thought it was.

Its premise is simple.

You play as a Tolkien-style, wildly-bearded, gold-loving dwarf that works for the deep space mining company Deep Rock Galactic. The company is currently stripping any and all resources from Hoxxes IV. Unfortunately for you, Hoxxes IV is home to the Glyphids: a race of spider-like insects that are hell-bent on killing anything that moves. 

Still, gold is gold, and you and your buddies aboard the Space Rig aren’t going to let a couple of bugs stop you from getting your pay.

Gear Up

The first, and most vital thing you do in Deep Rock Galactic is select your class. There are four classes in total, and each one is unique because of the equipment they carry. So, I’ll do a quick breakdown of their unique starting gear to give you an idea of what each class is capable of.

The Scout

The scout is all about mobility and ease of access. He has:

  • A grappling hook that permits zipping across huge gaps or quickly reaching high places
  • A flare gun that can light up entire caverns
  • Grenades that slow enemies within a limited sphere of influence

The Engineer

The engineer is all about preparation and defense. He has:

  • A gun that allows him to shoot platforms against any surface, allowing him to make footholds against walls or bridges across gaps or to cover any kind of hazardous surface 
  • A deployable turret that automatically attacks nearby enemies
  • A grenade that creates a decoy to distract enemies

The Driller

The driller is all about digging and explosive damage. He has:

  • A pair of large drill gauntlets that allows him to bore through any surface at several times the speed of the standard pickaxe.
  • A satchel charge that creates a moderately sized, yet devastating, explosion
  • A throwing axe that stuns and electrifies foes. 

The Gunner

The gunner is all about damage with a dash of support thrown in. He has:

  • A deployable zipline that does not disappear automatically and that any party member can use
  • A deployable dome shield that reduces damage received while inside it by 50%, stops projectiles, terrifies enemies, and gives a small amount of automatic shield regeneration
  • A sticky grenade… 
It’s exactly what it sounds like.

Each of the available classes is, generally, just as viable as any other. So, I advise that you try each and discover which class you enjoy the most. 

It should also be noted that you can level up your class and pick from different upgrades for their various equipment pieces.  

As an added bonus, if you decide to play alone, you are given BOSCO, an upgradable drone that can attack enemies, dig through dirt, and mine minerals for you.

If You Choose To Accept It

Once you’ve selected your class you are ready to start your first assignment. 

Assignments are basically groups of missions that confer a reward when all of the missions have been completed. The very first assignment is ten missions long and designed to get you accustomed to the variety of mission types that will be available to you throughout the game. 

Missions include, but are not limited to:

  • Mining Expeditions: You mine a certain amount of minerals 
  • Egg Hunts: You dig alien eggs out of biogrowth and secure them
  • On-Site Refining: You cap at least three liquid Malkite geysers and build pipelines for mineral extraction.
  • Salvage Operations: You go to collect gear and equipment left behind by a group of Deep Rock Galactic employees that failed to complete their mission. 
  • Escort Duty: You escorte a large drill rig on its mission, making sure it stays fueled and in good condition.
  • Elimination: You find and destroy at least two Glyphid dreadnoughts

In addition to the main objective, each mission has a second objective that boils down to “grab 20 additional things.”

Because that’s always a fun addition to your game

Risk vs Reward

There are several factors that add layers of complexity and decision-making when selecting a mission. 

The first is location.

Some places are just easier than others. For example, the Salt Pits are generally a pretty straightforward place to explore with little diversity of terrain. The Azure Weald, on the other hand, is a glittering blue-on-blue Lovecraftian hellscape where you’ll have a hard time figuring out which way is up.

The second complexity factor is the hazard level.

Before each mission, you can select its “Hazard Level”—which basically boils down to its overall difficulty. For each hazard level, your rewards are increased by 25%, so you have to balance the difficulty with the location and decide how hard you really want your mission to be and how much money you want to receive.

Think twice before diving head-first after that hazard pay.

The third factor is twofold: warnings and anomalies.

Warnings are variables that negatively impact a mission and include, but are not limited to:

  • Low Oxygen: Raises hazard Level 20% and forces you to resupply O2 occasionally
  • Haunted Cave: Raises hazard Level 30% and causes an invulnerable enemy to stalk your every move
  • Shield Disruption: Raises hazard Level 30% and causes your shields to be inactive

Anomalies are variables that have a neutral-to-positive impact on a mission and include, but are not limited to:

  • Gold Rush: The mission area is filled with extra rich gold veins
  • Rich Atmosphere: Everyone’s voices are funny
  • Double XP: The mission will grant double experience upon completion

When you add procedurally generated maps on top of all of the areas, missions, hazards, warnings, and anomalies, it ensures every assignment is a completely different beast.

It’s Called Ambiance

I would like to shine a quick spotlight on the lighting and biome design. 

As every mission takes place within a subterranean cavern, light is very important. Your main source of light is from medium-intensity flares that illuminate an area for a short time when thrown. This means that, unless you’re the scout, you will spend a lot of time throwing flares so that you can see in the pitch black of Hoxxes IV’s depths.

Just be aware of what lurks in the shadows

The development team did an excellent job of balancing light and dark to create environments that can look one way when partially lit by your flares and completely different if seen with the high-intensity light offered by the scout’s flare gun. 

I should note that while you do spend a lot of time in sparsely-lit areas, I never felt a sense of unease. Mostly, I was left marveling at the immense caverns. Even the Azure Weald, a place that makes me want to throw up because I can’t tell which way I’m going, was still an enthralling place to explore.

Oh, also, keeping track of spent flares is a pretty good way to figure out if you’ve been somewhere before. So, don’t be afraid to throw flares all over the place.

Sure, they do have a cooldown period, but other than that they are infinite. 

Heigh Ho! Heigh Ho!

Overall Deep Rock Galactic is a great game. It managed to take a simple premise and weave a complex web of missions, upgrades, and classes to ensure that every time you step into the drop pod, you’re going to have a different experience. While the controls can feel a little wonky, and the button layout takes some getting used to, it is never really too bothersome.

Now, this game will never be a deep contemplative game that muses about the meaning of life, but it is very fun when played together with a buddy or two – or some complete rando’s. It’s even fun when playing alone, as the BOSCO drone can actually make your life easier than an extra teammate.

I’m giving Deep Rock Galactic an 8.5/10. It is a very good example of its specific genre. And, aside from some control issues, and a couple of irritating bugs (the computer kind, not the glyphid kind), it is an immensely satisfying experinece…

…except the Azure Weald. 

Seriously, fuck that place.      

Video Game Reviews

Chronos: Before the Ashes – Age is Just a Number

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Chronos: Before the Ashes is a third-person action-adventure game originally developed by Gunfire Games, but published by THQ Nordic

The original game, Chronos, was released in 2016 and required a VR headset to play. The updated version of the game eschewed the VR element in favor of the tried and true soulsborne formula, albeit with some slight differences. 

I bought this game for one reason, and one reason only: I really liked Remnant: From the Ashes. It was a great game that was fun to play and only seemed to get better the longer that I played it.

I was a little reluctant to move on to a new game, but just as I was finishing Remnant; low and behold, I saw Chronos: Before the Ashes in the Playstation Store.

At first, I didn’t really know what I was looking at, but when I watched the trailer and saw the familiar World Stone…

This doohickey right here

…I knew that the two games were connected.

A short internet search later, and I discovered that Chronos is actually a prequel to Remnant. 

Needless to say, I was sold. 

Now that I’ve played through Chronos, I’m a little sad that I didn’t play it first. Not playing it first didn’t diminish my enjoyment of either game, but I think I might have had more of an appreciation for Remnant when I first started playing it if I had played Chronos first. 

Anyway, let’s get into the things that make this game unique, and whether those things make Chronos worth your time. 

Tis An Adventure

In Chronos, you play as a young hero who has been chosen to enter a mysterious labyrinth and slay an evil dragon. That’s really the only story to the game. There are some journal entries and computer logs to read, but they don’t quite paint a whole picture. 

Basically, you enter the labyrinth and just sort of wander around and solve puzzles until you find a boss. Then you go to the next area, rinse, and repeat.

So, basically what Link has been doing since 1986

While that sounds a little underwhelming, the interesting thing about this game was the way it mixed genres. It was mostly an action-adventure game that followed the soulsborne rules. However, there were times where it felt like a straight-up adventure game from back in the day. 

You see, in Chronos, you have the ability to combine items in your inventory, and to use those items at different places in the world. So, in essence, the game feels like a point-and-click adventure broken up by purposefully hard combat.

At first, I thought the juxtaposition of the two elements would be jarring, but it actually worked really well. I think this is because once you kill your enemies, they stay dead until the next time you die. This means that once you clear an area, you can work at the puzzles to your heart’s content.

The Ticking of the Clock

The standout feature of Chronos was the way it handled health, progression, and death in terms of gameplay.

When you get hurt in Chronos, there are two ways to heal yourself for the majority of the game.

The first is to use a dragon heart — a reusable healing item. Each heart will heal you to your maximum health, but becomes inert until after you die.

The only other way to heal is to level up, which will also restore you to full health.

So, if you run out of dragon hearts and you’re nowhere near leveling up, you’re out of luck. This means that you’re almost guaranteed to die more often than not. 

Basically, the game wants you to see this a LOT!

At first, this might seem strange, since most games give you the opportunity to keep up your health in some fashion. However, once you understand that death plays a role in your character progression, it makes sense.

You see, when you die in Chronos, not only are your dragon hearts replenished, but your character also ages one year. This is tied directly into your stats, of which there are four. 

When you are young, it is easy to upgrade:

  • Your strength ( which governs your damage with heavy weapons and your ability to block)
  • Your agility (which governs your damage with light weapons and your dodge)
  • Your vitality (which governs your damage resistance and overall health).

You only need one point to upgrade each. However, your arcane stat (which governs magic attack and defense) requires three whole points in order to upgrade. 

However, as you age, it becomes harder to put points into strength, agility, and vitality, and arcane becomes much easier.

This means that you have to balance how you are putting the points in so that you don’t become a feeble old person incapable of defending yourself.

Another aspect of aging is your traits. Every decade, starting when you turn 20 and ending when you turn 80, you can choose one of three traits.

These give you much-needed bonuses, especially after facing a string of defeats.

Amateur Hour

The absolute strangest thing about Chronos is the overall feel of the game. From start to finish, it felt almost like the project of some very talented amateurs — and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It was a very tightly-constructed experience. There were just some things that stood out to me in a weird way. These  included, but were not limited to:

  • The camera work being a little shoddy, especially when ascending or descending ladders
  • The menus being stark and weirdly static
  • The button prompts on screen feeling oddly basic
  • The animations, outside of combat, being a little robotic at times.
  • Some items not loading, leaving me swinging around a sword that didn’t exist

I think most of this was due to the fact that it was originally a game developed for the Oculus Rift. I mean, THQ Nordic did some real work to un-VR-ify it, but I think it might have needed a bigger overhaul in order to scrub that directly-ported feel.

It’s like seeing a 3D movie without the glasses

Return to Ashes 

Overall, Chronos: From the Ashes was a solid game. The combat was tough but fair, and the puzzles were inventive and entertaining. It could have been longer, as the three available areas were on the small side, but it was reasonably long without overstaying its welcome.

I absolutely loved the way that they used death as a gameplay mechanic, and how it affected the way that you play the game. But I didn’t like that you couldn’t die (permanently) of old age. 

I’m giving Chronos: Before the Ashes a rooted 7/10. It didn’t wow me, but it was perfectly serviceable in almost every way.

Oh, in case anyone was wondering, my biggest gripe with this game was that I didn’t die enough to see what all the traits were… and I wasn’t willing to kill my character over and over just to see what they were. 

I’m not a monster. 

Video Game Reviews

One Piece: World Seeker – More Like Half Piece

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One Piece: World Seeker is an open world, action RPG that was developed by Ganbarion and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment.

I bought this game for one very simple reason: I love One Piece. I love the characters. I love the world. And I love the story. 

WE ARE!!!

I was going to give a little description about what One Piece actually is, but It’s sort of irrelevant. If you don’t know what One Piece is, you probably won’t buy this game. If you have a passing knowledge of One Piece… I can’t really recommend this game to you. If you love One Piece… Well, I’m about to let you know if this game is really worth it.

One Piece Film: Prison Island

One Piece: World Seeker is basically one of the One Piece films, only it’s a game. This means that it is definitely not canon. Aside from the fact that it clearly takes place after the “Whole Cake Island” arc, there is no logical place it could fit into the actual story of the show. This is much like the Film Z and Film Gold that take place post-timeskip. So, you can essentially enjoy some One Piece goodness without having to think about it too hard. 

World Seeker takes place on Prison Island (formerly Jewel Island), which has been taken over by the World Government and is controlled by the Marines. Rumors of a legendary treasure being held on the island have circulated throughout the world, and the Straw Hat Pirates are hell-bent on getting it for themselves. 

Unfortunately, so is every other pirate crew on the Grand Line. 

The main focus of the story is actually on the struggle of the Islanders themselves, who live under the thumb of the Marines and in fear of the ever-increasing number of pirates. 

Jeanne, the young woman who leads the island’s Anti-Navy faction, and her brother Issac, the warden of Prison Island, are the only two characters worth caring about. Every other original character is forgettable and basically not worth your time. So much so that, other than the actual One Piece Characters, I couldn’t tell you the name of any of the other characters in the game.

Except maybe Fred… He came up a couple of times.

Good for you, Fred

Anyway, Jeanne wants the Pro-Navy and Anti-Navy factions to work together, but tensions are reaching a boiling point. This is when she meets Monkey D. Luffy and the game starts.

A Pirate’s Life

Playing as Luffy is definitely the highlight of this game. I want to say that it was pure joy, but that would be an embellishment. It was, however, incredibly fun. Using the power of Luffy’s Gomu-Gomu No Mi was immensely satisfying for the majority of the game. Sure, the combat was a little clunky… and sometimes irritatingly repetitive, and the means of locomotion was hackneyed at best, but… 

LUFFY!!!

Unfortunately, that’s really the summary of the gameplay. Without the One Piece name and characters, this would have been an abysmal game. 

It’s the kind of gameplay that would have been celebrated at the end of the PS2 era, and maybe the beginning of the PS3, but seeing it today is really kind of laughable. It reminds me of playing the original Infamous game, but with clunkier mechanics. 

I will say that the animations for the special attacks and the general feeling of the combat was spot on. Using Luffy’s Elephant Gatling was amazing every time. However, once you were out of combat the gameplay was… lacking in every aspect of the word. 

A Deserted Island 

Prison Island seems interesting as long as you don’t look at anything too closely. The environments are bright and shiny, but ultimately, they lack the polish of games of the current generation. This manifests itself in some glaringly obvious ways. 

  • The islanders rarely move from their designated positions, and hardly speak unless spoken to
  • There are only about twelve character models used throughout the island, and they are only differentiated by slight wardrobe changes
  • Items you find are just blue shiny things that dot the landscape, instead of looking like part of the terrain 
  • The few towns on the island are woefully underpopulated with only a few people to the dozens and dozens of houses
  • Everything feels a little sterile, or barren, as the majority of the island is mostly trees with very little undergrowth
  • While everything generally matches the aesthetic set up by the show, it looks and feels off when seen in 3D

Any single one of these would have been hard to swallow, but having them all together makes for an experience that is devoid of the wonder that today’s open world games generally instill in me. 

A Cavalcade of Cameos

The whole game seems like it was basically a vehicle for One Piece cameos. While it was entertaining near the beginning of the game, once you run into basically every single character from the show, it starts to feel a little contrived. I mean running into literally every known Admiral on a single island is not only insane, but should have resulted in some of the greatest fights in One Piece history.

What makes these Cameos so frustrating is that they are very, very, very, VERY clearly cameos. Most of them show up, attack you, and then… they just leave… for almost no reason. These are some of the most powerful people in the entirety of the show, and they just give up because they got a phone call. What’s worse is they always leave with a “I’ll leave you alone for now, but next time… just you wait”. 

After the third time I was like…

No Stakes

The hardest part about playing World Seeker, to me, was the lack of stakes. 

To Luffy, it was the lack of steaks

I was often told what the stakes were, but I never actually got to see them. 

Jeanne would explain to Luffy that the Island was in turmoil, but when I went to each town, everyone was still just kind of hanging out, telling me the things they always told me. In fact, most of them were still smiling ear to ear in true One Piece fashion. I have to say that it really put a damper on the main story beats. 

Toward the end of the game, when the excitement was supposed to be ramping up, it really just felt like more of the same. I never once felt like things were getting dire. I really, really, wanted to feel like the whole island was about to be destroyed, but I never got that feeling. 

Of course, the show spoiled me for this particular aspect. I mean, the entire Island of Dressrosa, in the show’s canon, was completely destroyed except for a few city blocks near the palace. So, having someone explain to me that things are getting bad without actually seeing it isn’t exactly thrilling.

Not Really that WANTED

Overall, One Piece: World Seeker was completely underwhelming. I really wanted to like it because it’s One Piece, but I just couldn’t do it. The majority of the game was terrible side quest after terrible side quest that amounted to little more than “Go to this place and fight some guys.” 

I will say that the last twenty minutes of the game were spectacular. The climactic final fight and the ending sequence felt like what the rest of the game should have been. If that much effort had been put into the rest of the game, it would probably have been worth the time that I put into it. 

As it stands, One Piece: World Seeker is a mediocre game that is entirely propped up by the franchise it’s based on. 

I’m giving it an unapologetic 4.5/10, and it only gets the extra point five for giving me the opportunity to send a Hawk Rifle into Akainu’s face. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and watch some actual One Piece where the stakes matter and every character is lovingly crafted. 

Recommendations

5 Kids Shows That Need a Mature Reboot

Please Note: This site uses affiliate marketing. This means that if you click one of the links on our site and make a purchase, we may—at no additional cost to you—receive a portion of the proceeds. Thank you for supporting MediaVore. 

There are a lot of shows that we all loved as kids. Most of those shows do not stand up to the ravages of time, nor the march of progress, and get left by the wayside. Sure, you probably look back on them fondly, but that’s about it. 

But what if we could look forward to them again?

I know that reboots, preboots, prequels, and sequels can be touchy subjects. On the one hand, we really like to see more of our favorite characters and settings. On the other hand, we crave original content. I don’t know if there is a balance that can be struck between these, but what I do know is that sometimes (read: most times) nostalgia wins out.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, while not a perfect show—it definitely went downhill in its later seasons—was proof that those old intellectual properties could be infused with new life. It took something I’d known for most of my life and it made me look at the story and characters from a different perspective. 

A REALLY different perspective

Granted, I don’t think every show needs this kind of treatment, but here are five blasts from the past that, I think, deserve a second chance.

1.) Scooby-Doo

This show has been around since 1969… 1969!! There are so many different versions of it that I can’t even deign to list them all, lest I get heckled for forgetting one. It also means that it’s still around, so the big question becomes, why reboot a show that’s constantly being rebooted anyway?

My answer to myself is that it’s always being rebooted for children. Sure, Be Cool Scooby-Doo had humor for adults to enjoy, and Mystery Incorporated managed to have a truly grand overarching story, but for the most part, they were still created for children… 

…and me. 

What we need is a mature version of Scooby-Doo. I want to see the gang solving a murder that occurred in their hometown. I want to see them solving smaller mysteries every episode as they try to learn who killed old man Jenkins. And I really want to see them running from a guy in an old diving suit through the corridors of an abandoned aquatic research lab. Not sure why, but that last one is non-negotiable. 

Basically, I want to see Scooby-Doo done by the guys who made Veronica Mars

Come on, you know it would be great. 

2.)The Secret World of Alex Mack

I’m not sure if this one is too obscure, or too old… or both for that matter. 

Either way, the original Nickelodeon show was pretty good. It was about this girl (Alex Mack) who was involved in a chemical spill on her first day of junior high. Shortly after the accident, she realizes that she has some amazing new abilities. 

Like the ability to move things with her mind. Or turn into a puddle of liquid. 

While the original show focused mainly on Alex’s school life, it did have a large subplot involving her trying to avoid the company that owned the tanker of experimental chemicals that gave her powers. 

Now, imagine moving Alex up to high school, or even college. You could still have the interpersonal drama (my least favorite part of any show) and whatnot, however, you could really play up a cat and mouse narrative. Like, they are looking for her so that they can perform experiments, and she’s investigating them at the same time. 

It would basically be a superhero show, but without all the tropes getting in the way… 

Or at least I would hope that they wouldn’t let the tropes get in the way. 

3.) So Weird

So Weird was a monster-of-the-week show that aired on the Disney Channel in the late ’90s. 

It was about a young girl named Fiona Philips who traveled from town to town with her mother’s band. While they were crisscrossing the country, she would encounter various strange and bizarre phenomena, including, but not limited to:

  • Ghosts
  • Tulpas
  • Changelings
  • Time Warps
  • And Trolls

Basically, it was Supernatural, but for 90’s kids. The main story even had Fiona looking for clues about her father, who died while investigating strange occurrences. 

I propose that, for a mature reboot, the show focus on an older version of Fiona who lived with her father until his recent death. He was always into the occult, and though she loved him, she always thought that he was a little crazy. Now, she is forced to travel the country with her mother’s band, but she begins to see strange things that may prove that her father wasn’t crazy after all.

You could basically take all the best parts of Supernatural, sprinkle in some X-Files, and then serve with a side of angsty teen.

4.) Space Cases

 This was basically the show that started my interest in sci-fi. 

It’s about a group of kids who attend a school in space. One day, while everyone else is attending a lecture or something, a group of problem students—and two teachers—accidentally make their way on board a mysterious alien ship that warps them to the other side of the galaxy. 

If that was not problematic enough, the ship registered the kids as the main crew, leaving the adults in a bit of a sticky situation. 

What I loved about this show was that it was silly and bizarre, but also had some weirdly grounded aspects. There was an entire subplot in the first season about how the human character’s dad fought and died in a war against the andromedans. This makes the human kid prejudicial against one of the other kids, who is an andromedan. While it was played pretty seriously in the show, it was still undercut by the low production value and spotty acting. 

Basically,  I want this show to be Farscape, but with better graphics and a slightly younger cast. I mean, it was basically the precursor to Farscape anyway, since it came out three years before Farscape even started.

Okay, I say that, but Farscape was nearly perfect (to me, anyway). What I really want to see from a Space Cases reboot is a show with more focus on the relationship between the crew members while they try not to die in a distant corner of space… 

So I guess it would be more like Stargate Universe, just with a younger cast… of aliens.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

5.) Wizards of Waverly Place

This Disney Channel original was always a bit all over the place. It eventually settled into something resembling a coherent show, but for the most part, it was just slapstick magic fun. 

However, If you delve into the story and lore of the show, you start to see the potential in creating a more mature version of this children’s show. 

The main story focuses on the Russo family. The mother is a normal person, but the father was born to a wizard family. Now, he is not a wizard, and that’s because only one child per wizard family gets to keep their magical powers. So of his three children, only one will get to keep their magical abilities. 

Now, this is where the true potential of a reboot comes in. 

You see, it’s not a genetics thing that lets a kid keep their magic as an adult. Nope, they basically have to compete against their siblings for the right to keep their magic. The other two are left to live normal lives and know that they will never again be able to perform even the simplest of spells. 

Can you imagine a gritty retelling of this story? It would be amazing. It would be like a less lethal Hunger Games, pitting a bunch of wizard children against each other while their parents basically help train them to ruin each other’s lives… to a certain extent. 

If you add all the vampires, werewolves, and such on top of that, you have the potential for a pretty riveting show.  

So, Netflix idea curators, if you’re reading this—and I know you are—you need to get on this shit. Chop chop.

Video Game Reviews

Mortal Shell: An Adequate Homage

Please Note: This site uses affiliate marketing. This means that if you click one of the links on our site and make a purchase, we may—at no additional cost to you—receive a portion of the proceeds. Thank you for supporting MediaVore.

Mortal Shell is an action-RPG developed by Cold Symmetry and published by Playstack. It borrows heavily from From Software’s Soulsborne games, but definitely has a certain flair all it’s own.

The game follows “The Foundling,” a strange pale being from what appears to be a purgatory of sorts. The Foundling’s mission is… 

Well, I’m still not sure. He just kind of appears and sets about murdering most anything that gets in his path. Then, in a very Zelda turn of events, a clearly evil guy asks The Foundling to bring him glands from nearby temples. 

That’s about as clear as the story gets. 

I, however, knew that the story would be somewhat obtuse because, as I stated earlier, this game based most of its content on the From Software games. So, I didn’t really pay that much mind, because if I really wanted to know what was going on in this game…

…and yet I still have no idea what was going on in this game

Mortal Shell also hit the nail on the head as far as gameplay mechanics and setting were concerned. So let’s not concern ourselves with its sameness with the games it chose to emulate, and instead focus on what made this game stand out, and if those things were good or bad. 

Cling to Life

Mortal Shell’s claim to fame is its shell system. This allows you to switch between the bodies of different fallen warriors and take on their attributes. There are four in total, and each one easily fits a certain playstyle. They essentially boil down to:

  • Tank: High Health, but low stamina and resolve (the stuff you need to use abilities)
  • Rogue: High Stamina, but crazy low health and resolve
  • Warrior: Middle of the road with all stats
  • Wizard-ish: Moderate health and stamina, but massive amounts of resolve

There are a few things that make this shell system interesting. The first is that each shell’s stats are static. Their health stamina and resolve essentially stay the same throughout the game, meaning that mastering their resources is vital to survival. It’s also a neat system, because while you can’t change their base stats, you can unlock abilities for each shell that lets them become even more powerful. 

The Tank gains a stacking damage buff the more people he kills. The Rogue gains the ability to poison enemies, and have that poison trigger other effects. The warrior focuses on defense and gaining the in game currency. And the Wizard/Scholar guy is good at using and regaining resolve.

The other thing the shell system does is give you multiple chances to defeat your enemies.

You see, if you run out of health while in a shell, The Foundling will be expelled and all enemies in the area will freeze for a short time. 

Like so

While playing as The Foundling, you only have one hit point, but it opens up the opportunity for you to live again. 

If you have a clear path to the shell you were just kicked out of, you can run back and re-enter it —which completely refills your health bar—and begin round two. If you don’t have a clear path back, you can attempt to finish the current fight as The Foundling, but with only one health, you have to be crazy careful not to get hit.

Red Light Green Light

Another of Mortal Shell’s key features is “Hardening.” This allows you to turn yourself into a statue in order to avoid damage. It’s a little like using a block… 

but absolutely nothing like that

For starters, you can harden at any time. Jumping into the air, you can harden. In the middle of a dodge roll, you can harden. Winding up your heavy attack, you can harden. Fighting a guy named Hadern, you can harden. 

That last one is funny because it’s true… and because Hadern can also harden. 

Harden does break once you’ve been hit, and it has a four to five second cooldown, but otherwise there are no limitations on its use. It even lasts for about a second after you’ve been struck (as long as you hold the button), making sure that any consecutive enemy attacks also do no damage. 

Honestly once you master the harden feature, it makes the game far easier than previously indicated. You can basically beat any enemy as long as you back up and wait for your harden to reset. So, unless you’re fighting a ton of guys that are all attacking at wildly different intervals, you can block most incoming damage. 

Something Amiss

For each of Mortal Shell’s stand out features, there were glaring bugs or oversights that would crop up to annoy me. 

For example, every once and a while, my weapon would just disappear. I’d be swinging my hammer one moment, and the next I’d be flailing my arms wildly like I’d entered some kind of medieval dance off, or become a…

Wacky, waving, inflatable, arm-flailing tube man!!!

This wasn’t terrible, but it was off-putting in a number of ways.

What was terrible was that sometimes my character would simply refuse to do something. That something was usually dodging or hardening, and not dodging or hardening often got me killed, or at least booted out of my shell. This led to some minor (read: major) frustration.

There were also a number of smaller things that I ran into from time to time. Such as:

  • Items not showing up in my inventory when I picked them up
  • My currency counters not updating in a timely fashion
  • Getting stuck in the item use animation
  • Enemies not noticing me when I’m standing in front of them (this one was ok)

None of these things stopped me from playing the game, but I would have had a much better time if everything had run smoothly. 

Shuffle Off

Overall, Mortal Shell was an alright game. It managed to capture the feel of a From Software game while putting a refreshing spin on the genre. The gameplay, while slow, was intentional and fair (unless you glitched out). and the graphics were phenomenal for a game with such a small development team. 

Unfortunately, the game was also really short and ended up feeling like exactly one fourth of a standard game, though the price-tag reflects that pretty well.

I’m giving Mortal Shell a brittle 6.5/10. It was fun at times, but it never really lived up to the standards it set for itself. It had some interesting ideas, and maybe one day we’ll see them again in something a little longer and more balanced. 

Video Game Reviews

Little Nightmares II: Two Little Nightmares

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Little Nightmares II is a side-scrolling 2.5D platform/puzzle horror game developed by Tarsier Studios & Supermassive Games and published by Bandai Namco.

Now, I was really late to the game on the first Little Nightmares. So, I tried my best to be more timely with this one. I think almost a year is slightly better than four.

Anyway, Little Nightmares II starts an indeterminate time after the end of the first game. You play as Mono, a young boy who wears a paper bag over his head as he traverses increasingly twisted and disturbing locations in order to… well it’s not really clear what he’s trying to do.

Not sure if running away from danger or toward it

Fortunately for Mono, he has a traveling companion in the protagonist from the first game, Six. So, at least he’s not alone in trying to do… whatever it is he’s trying to do. 

Unfortunately for me, the second game is very similar to the first one, so there is actually very little to do by way of reviewing. It has the same art style, similar controls, same puzzle structure, and an overall similar atmosphere and feel to it. 

Basically, If you liked the first game, it is very likely that you will enjoy the sequel.

This means that I can only really point out the two biggest ways in which the games differ to give you an indication of what to expect, so that you can make an informed decision about whether to purchase this game or not. 

Difference #1: A Second Nightmare

Like I mentioned above, you spend a good deal of time in Little Nightmares II traveling with Six, the protagonist from the first game.

While this is hardly the first time a companion has been introduced to liven up a franchise…

…which doesn’t always work out the way we want it to…

…the inclusion of a secondary character worked very well in the context of this particular game.

The first marked difference that Six makes is that she adds a layer of complexity to the obstacles and puzzles that you face. She can help you reach higher platforms, jump across larger gaps, and push heavier objects. While this extra layer isn’t exactly thick, it does make for a nice change of pace from the first game.

The second thing that Six does, which I think is infinitely more important than a layer of puzzle complexity, is get you more emotionally invested in the experience as a whole. What I mean to say is that you quickly become attached to her… or at least I did. 

It was nice to have someone else with you when you’re walking through the nightmarish hellscape that is the world of Little Nightmares II. It wasn’t long after encountering Six that I found that I was sad if the level design forced her to be away from Mono, and almost elated when it brought her back. I even found myself using the hand holding feature to make sure she was close, even if it offered no benefit other than to ensure that someone else was close at hand when things were at their scariest or most off-putting.

Difference #2: Setting

While the first game took place wholly inside of a decrepit submersible known only as “The Maw,” the second game eschews the claustrophobic confines of a submarine and instead takes place in the semi-claustrophobic confines of a dilapidated city.

It might not seem like much, but these new environments actually provide some insight into the world of Little Nightmares. 

The first game gave us a little snippet of children being raised to be eaten by a group of overweight cruise-goers. Unfortunately, it didn’t offer any explanations as to why that was happening or what the hell was going on. 

The sequel doesn’t do much on that front either, but it does give you a larger pool of locations, such as a schoolhouse and a hospital, which gives you a greater sense of exactly how screwed up the world was, is, and is likely to be. 

I’d rather not give away too many details about the setting, because the little details are seemingly the only thing holding the narrative of the game together, and I’d rather you discover them yourselves. 

Suffice to say that having finished Little Nightmares II the only thing I know is that…

But I’m okay with that… for the most part… 

Alright, I’m dying for an explanation… but I’m also worried that the answers won’t be any fun.

Awakening

Overall, Little Nightmares II was a pretty good sequel. It didn’t really try anything new, but honestly, the foundation laid by the original game was solid enough that it didn’t need anything special to be decent. 

The addition of a companion to help you endure the often eerie and unsettling world was welcome, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it again. Meanwhile, the multitude of locations to explore gave a greater sense of depth to a world that already seemed an abyss.  Unfortunately, I do have to lament the lack of originality in this game. I really would have liked to see… more. Instead I saw more of the same, and while that’s not exactly a bad thing, it kept this game from being great. 

I’m giving Little Nightmares II an unsettling 7/10. I think I get what the developers were trying to do. I just wish it had worked out better. 

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go assume the fetal position in the corner of my room and rock until I understand what the hell I just played. 

Video Game Reviews

Wasteland 3: Cold Justice

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Wasteland 3 is a post-apocalyptic turn-based tactical RPG developed by InXile Entertainment and published by Deep Silver. It takes place sometime after the canonical end to Wasteland 2.

You play as Team November, a squad of Arizona Rangers that has been tasked with garnering aid and supplies from the Patriarch of Colorado. Unfortunately, in exchange for his help, the Patriarch wants Team November to reign in his three traitorous children. They are:

  • Victory, a technical genius who has fallen in with a cult that worships God President Reagan
  • Valor, a psychopath who was exiled and later returned with an army of chemically-dependent road warriors. 
  • Liberty, the greatest threat of all, who has more ruthlessness, cunning, and drive than her brothers combined.

I’m going to be honest, I haven’t played either of the first two Wasteland games. 

I don’t usually start with the third installment of a game. If I see a sequel that looks promising, I almost always go back and play the original so that I can get the most out of both experiences.

Well, after watching the trailer for Wasteland 3, I took leave of my senses and decided that I would ignore my usual policy and play the third installment first. 

Now, after playing through Wasteland 3, I can say that it was a pretty good decision. I mean, there are clearly a lot of references from the previous games that I won’t get until I’ve played them, but I’m cool with memento-ing my way back through the series to see what I’m missing out on. 

Hopefully it works out better for me

Anyway, if you played either, or both, of the first two games, great. I hope that I can give you enough information so that you can decide if you want to try Wasteland 3. If you didn’t play the previous games, I’ll let you know what it’s like to start on the third installment.

No I in Team

Team November is exactly what it sounds like: a team. So there is literally no main character in this game. You might say that the first two characters you choose—or create—are “the protagonists” ; this isn’t exactly true.

Eventually, you can create a number of characters, if you want, and trade them out as you see fit. The only caveat is that you can only have four of these “Ranger” characters at a time. The other two spaces in your squad are occupied by companions, which are basically the only characters on your team with an actual personality. 

And by personality, I mostly mean they have voiced dialog.

And you wasted it on this

You can also get some tertiary team members (I’ll call them followers), including but not limited to:

  • Any neutral animal you can find (if you have enough points into “Animal Whisperer”)
  • Various robots
  • A underdeveloped clone of one of your characters
  • A guy who speaks only speaks Latin
  • A small voltron-style robot made out of cyborg chickens

These followers are a little harder to keep track of, because—as far as I could find—there were no menus where I could view their information. At least the animal followers had health bars that were visible, but it wasn’t always the case with the other followers.

This led to the majority of my followers dying without me realizing it, which kinda sucks because some of them were really helpful.

Hymn of Battle

This section isn’t going to be huge. I just wanted to draw some attention to the specific musical choices. 

There are some battles that, for whatever reason, have actual songs playing over them. These songs are generally ones you probably know. However, they are not the versions of those songs you’re used to. The first, and therefore most memorable for me, was “Blood of the Lamb.” It’s still stuck in my head, and I beat that game weeks ago.

Here is a quick list of the other songs that struck a chord with me:

  • “Down in the Valley to Pray”
  • “America the Beautiful” (two different versions)
  • “Glory Glory Hallelujah”
  • “Onward Christian Soldier” 
  • “Monster Mash”

You can look these up on YouTube to get a general idea of what I’m talking about, but if you have any plans to play this game, you should let yourself be surprised.

Brass Tacks

As you would expect from a tactical turn-based RPG, combat makes up a large portion of this game. 

Sure, you get to run around and open boxes and talk people into not shooting you, but a good portion of your time will be spent deciding if you want to move your sniper forward for that hail mary shot or keep them back and heal up.

You should heal, by the way

Anyway, the combat is about what you would expect from this type of game. You move your team along a grid-based battlefield and try to move them into the most advantageous positions, not unlike a chess piece… 

You know, if chess pieces had mini-guns and chainsaw swords. 

I will say that while the combat was solid, the interface was very hard to get used to. It’d been a while since I’d played a tactical RPG, but even then, the controls were, initially, very hard for me to get used to. I felt like there were too many menus and too many buttons, and too many menus for all the buttons. 

After a while, though, it did get easier, but I can confidently say that I was still messing up which button did what even near the end of the game. 

All that said, combat was always fun. I attribute this, largely, to the fact that you could have six primary squad members. Having so many meant that you could experiment with different weapon and item combos. 

This is even more true since each character can carry two different weapons, meaning you could have a sniper that also specializes in explosives, or someone who carries a mini-gun and a flamethrower at the same time. 

There were some technical issues with combat, and the game in general, but we’ll get to those later. 

Later

Oh my god, this game is soooo buggy.

I’m not sure what it is about tactical RPGs, but they always seem to be about 80% buggier than most other games, and unfortunately, Wasteland 3 leaned into this real hard.

For starters, it had a tendency to completely crash during loading screens, and this got worse the longer I played. Fortunately, it also saved before starting those loading screens, so at most I had to reload and try again.

For brevity’s sake, I’m going to list the most egregious errors because if I were to put them in paragraph form, well…

  • Music cutting in and out
  • Items not registering as being able to be picked up
  • Combat freezing for intensely long periods of time between turns
  • Pathing errors that resulted in my characters getting stuck 
  • Attacks that used templates would go completely wild and fire in the wrong direction
  • Voice lines not playing
  • Voice lines playing at weird times

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

These bugs and glitches weren’t game-breaking, but they did diminish my overall enjoyment of the game as a whole.

The Final Deluge

Overall, Wasteland 3 is a fairly good game with some outlandishly fun moments in a grim post-apocalyptic setting. The dialog is well-written, and you’ll need an ethics degree to figure out if you’re making the right choices. The combat is solid, and the character creation and leveling systems will keep you engaged with your characters throughout your playthrough. 

Unfortunately, the laundry list of bugs and glitches throughout the game will certainly put a damper on said playthrough. 

I’m giving Wasteland 3 a dynamic rating of 9/10 for initial enjoyment and story, and a 7.5/10 once you’ve gotten tired of dealing with all the technical difficulties.

Despite the glitchiness of this title, I can honestly say that I’m hoping that there are other Wasteland games coming down the pipeline. Hopefully, between now and then, some wizard will come along and fix whatever the hell is wrong with tactical RPGs. 

Until then I’ll pretend that the crashes don’t bother me. 

Book Reviews

The Last Wish: Which Witcher is Witchiest?

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The Last Wish is the first book in the Witcher series. It was written by Andrzej Sapkowski and published in 1993, though the franchise originally started as a series of short stories dating back to the 1980s. Oh, by the way, that’s all for the original Polish versions of the book. The first English version wasn’t published until 2007, which is the exact year that the first Witcher video game was released. 

For anyone who doesn’t know, The Witcher series follows the adventures of Geralt who, if you couldn’t guess, is a Witcher (which is essentially a monster slayer for hire). He travels around a continent imaginatively named “The Continent,” a fantasy realm filled with monsters, wizards, and more assholes than you can shake a stick at—and I’m assuming that you can usually shake a stick at a lot of them.

You just have to watch out for sticks that are also assholes

To be honest, I didn’t know that the Witcher started off as a book series until Netflix made the television show… which you should watch if you haven’t already. I was perfectly content to just play the games. Especially the third one, which is still one of the best RPGs available today, so you should play it if you haven’t already.

However, after recently re-watching the first season of the show, in preparation for its second season, I seem to have caught Witcher fever, and the only prescription… is more Witcher. I found myself thinking, maybe just watch that season again, or play back through the third game. 

Instead, I found myself drawn to the idea of reading the books.

A quick google search revealed that The Last Wish is the official first book in The Witcher series. It also happens to be a collection of short stories that introduces you to Geralt and his witcher-y ways.

So, I bought it and read it. Unfortunately, it only took a few hours because the book is only about two-hundred and eighty-eight pages long. So, kind of a sneeze as far as most fantasy novels are concerned.

It was, however, better than I expected, and my expectations were set pretty high because of my previous experience with the games and the Netflix show. That being said, I’ll try and keep to the book for this review…

But, fair warning, I reserve the right to trail off into a game/show rant. 

A Well Contained Anthology 

The Last Wish starts with a fairly straightforward tale of Geralt fighting a monster. Near the end of the story, he finds himself gravely injured, and he spends the remainder of the book convalescing at a temple run by a sect of healing priestesses. As he recovers, he flashes back to previous moments in his life, making The Last Wish an anthology, which made me hesitant at first.

I’ve found, over the years, that most anthologies suffer from a fatal flaw: not all of the stories contained within are good. You usually get one good story, a couple of alright ones, and then an army of duds. 

This can be hard to suffer through.

The Last Wish manages to elevate itself from the usual anthology fare by containing no duds whatsoever. Now, art being subjective and all, I can’t say that you’d enjoy every story (I did) but I can say that, as a whole, it tracks well and gives you a very good picture of Geralt and what his day-to-day life is like.

Just picture this, but in different settings

The Netflix series is actually a pretty faithfull retelling of all of the stories contained in The Last Wish. Although, the show takes certain liberties, has a larger overarching story, and weaves the stories of other characters in between Geralt’s exploits.

A Progression of Prose

I don’t know if it was because this was the first book I’d read in a while, but I felt like the first story in The Last Wish started off a little… janky. The wording felt weird, the dialog was stiff, and the characters were kinda…. 

The story was still good though, so at least there was that. 

Starting with the second story, the prose improved steadily. By the end, everything flowed, the dialog was witty and dynamic, and the characters felt more alive.

This shift might have been because it was translated from Polish, or because some of the stories were written at an earlier time. Either way, the book had a little bit of a rough start, but managed to conclude rather gracefully.

Stealth Reference

One thing about The Last Wish that caught me completely off guard was the inclusion of several well-known fairy tales.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that the second story is actually a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, or that one of the characters from the third story is ostensibly Snow White. Of course, they don’t just come out and say these things, but it’s pretty obvious if you stop and think about it. 

I know that there are a lot of reimaginings, retellings, pretellings, and alternate history versions of these stories, but I enjoyed the almost stealth way the fairy tales were presented in this particular book. 

When I first realized that I was reading Beauty and the Beast and the Witcher, it felt a little out of place. However, once the story concluded, I thought that it was an imaginative and concise version of a story I’ve seen a thousand times.

I’m not sure if the rest of The Witcher series has any stealth fairytale references, but it was a welcome addition to this anthology. 

Toss a Coin to Your Witcher

Overall, The Last Wish was very good. I think the whole franchise, including the games and television series, does a good job of telling the story in their own way. I don’t know if it was better or worse than the show (which I think was funnier) or the games (which were more immersive), but I think the first Witcher book managed to convey the heart of what makes the Witcher series great… which is, honestly, Geralt. I feel like the show and the games give you a pretty good sense of who he is, but this book in particular is really a study of this magnificent character. 

I’m not going to give this one an official rating. In my mind, the game, show, and book all swirled together in a beautiful miasma of Witcher, and giving this one segment a rating would feel disingenuous. I will, however, say that I really liked it, and if you are interested in getting into the world of The Witcher, The Last Wish is a fantastic jumping-off point. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, reading this did nothing to curb my want of more Witcher, so I’m off to watch the show again… or play the games…. or continue to read the book series… or be crippled by decision paralysis. 

Probably that last one if I’m being honest. 

Movie Review

Free Guy: Yeah… That’s How Video Games Work

Please Note: This site uses affiliate marketing. This means that if you click one of the links on our site and make a purchase, we may—at no additional cost to you—receive a portion of the proceeds. Thank you for supporting MediaVore. 

Free Guy is a movie that is, ostensibly, about an NPC (that’s Non-Player Character for the uninitiated) inside a video game who slowly comes to the realization about who and what he is. 

I’m going to try and keep this review on the rails. However, I might have to make a couple of disparaging asides. This is because if you’re watching Free Guy as an avid gamer, it seems entirely possible that no one on the movie’s production team understands how video games work. Hell, I would hazard a guess that they’re not even sure what video games are, given the egregious misrepresentations perpetrated throughout its runtime.

They’re just like The Matrix, right?

I will, however, try and balance my asides with some actual nice things to say about the movie.

Also: SPOILERS! For, like, the whole article. Because I tend to rant, and I can’t do that without over-explaining. 

Free City

The movie takes place, predominantly, in Free City, an MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online game) that is something akin to Grand Theft Auto. In the game, players cause havoc by completing missions which, in this case, amounts to committing crimes. Players rob banks and bodegas. They steal cars in the middle of the street. And they pilot jets between the city’s skyscrapers.

Or “the Danger Zone,” as it’s sometimes called

Guy (played by Ryan Reynolds) is an NPC and bank teller whose bank gets robbed several times a day by various players. This doesn’t bother him, or any of the other NPCs, because the gameplay loop of Free City is their lives. So, to them, the chaos caused by the players is just a matter of course. 

One day, when Guy is leaving work, he passes a Player who is singing a song that resonates deeply with him. Without hesitation, he turns to follow the player so that he can talk to her, thus breaking him from his predetermined path. 

Through the Looking Glass

Now, the biggest difference between the players and the NPCs of Free City is that players wear sunglasses and NPCs don’t. So, the NPCs imaginatively refer to the Players as “the sunglasses people.”

After failing to catch up to the singing player (Molotov Girl, played by Jodie Comer), Guy takes it upon himself to steal a pair of sunglasses so that he can talk to her.

Now, this is absolutely ludicrous for a few reasons. 

Not only is it ridiculous because he could steal the sunglasses… the fact that there are sunglasses at all is absolutely insane. This means that no matter how you design your character, it’s always going to have sunglasses of some kind. It also means that the developers of this game made it a requirement to have them on so that Player Characters can see the game as it truly is.

Looks right to me

Did I not mention that before? Yeah, the NPCs just see a normal world, and the only aberration seems to be the jerks who get to wear Ray-Bans. 

However, with the sunglasses on, Guy can see all of the UI elements and in-game markers that players can see. So, now that Guy is effectively a “sunglasses person,” he goes about using his newfound sight to find Molotov Girl.

Reasons

When Guy does finally catch up to her, she rebuffs him, saying that she doesn’t need the help of someone who is only level one (Read: Noob), and to come back when he breaks level one-hundred.

What follows is a montage of Guy “playing” the game so that he can level up. However, instead of running around killing people and robbing banks he opts to—Audible Gasp—help people. For some reason, his antics take off around the world because he’s the only “Player” in Free City who’s not a dick.

This means that no one—NO ONE!!—had ever tried to play the game as a good guy.

So, at least that’s accurate

Eventually, Guy gets to level 100 (pretty easily) and becomes a worldwide sensation in the process, all because his crush set an arbitrary level requirement for him. 

Anyway, it turns out that Molotov Girl is actually a game developer herself, and is trying to prove that Free City was built atop a game that she helped develop. And what she needed help with was stealing a video file from another player’s home base… 

Because that’s where we keep our video files. Not on our desktops, but inside a video game location as an item that any other player can take.

So, now that Guy has the prerequisite experience, he joins Molotov Girl on her quest.

Electric Sheep

The worst part about this movie is its missed potential. Yes, it’s a family-friendly action movie starring Ryan Reynolds, so it never really had to try very hard.

A cinematic masterpiece

However, there was a much more contemplative movie lying underneath Free Guy’s surface.

You see, Guy is (within the world of the movie) the first true artificial intelligence. He is a thinking, feeling entity that is fully self-aware. He even passes an impromptu Turing Test when Molotov Girl is unable to tell that she is talking to an A.I. and mistakenly thinks that he is another player.

This plot point leads to moments of true introspection as to the nature of humanity and what it means to be self-aware. Unfortunately, these moments pass quickly and are undercut with (admittedly funny) jokes and more video game references than you can shake a stick at.

Dev Notes

Overall, Free Guy is an alright movie. It has plenty of heart, which was overshadowed by a lot of video game references and childish humor. 

Though, I guess that was probably the point. 

It was supposed to be a fun action-adventure about seeing a video game from the point of view of an NPC, and that’s exactly what you get with this movie.

Could it have been introspective and thought-provoking while still maintaining its sense of humor and devotion to video game tropes? Probably. However, the end result was a movie that was mostly entertaining, not entirely coherent, and had fun with its premise.

I’m giving Free Guy an underwhelming 6/10. It wasn’t a tour-de-force, nor was it utter garbage. It walked a fine line between being funny and being good, and unfortunately, it suffered for it.

There was one thing that this movie did for me personally. I think watching this as someone who has played games his entire life has made me realize what it must be like for cops to watch procedural crime shows, or doctors to watch medical dramas. 

Sure, it’s still entertaining, but boy howdy, when the movie gets something wrong does it yank me right out and destroy my suspension of disbelief. 

So, I guess my point is: I should never become a cop or a doctor, because I like media too much. 

I think that was the right lesson to have learned from this… 

Probably.

Video Game Reviews

Lost in Random: A Toss of The Dice

Please Note: This site uses affiliate marketing. This means that if you click one of the links on our site and make a purchase, we may—at no additional cost to you—receive a portion of the proceeds. Thank you for supporting MediaVore. 

Lost in Random is an stylized action-adventure game developed by Zoink and published by EA Games.

The game takes place in the Kingdom of Random, where everything is decided by the roll of a dice… the Queen of Random’s black dice to be specific. When children in the kingdom turn twelve, they are forced to roll the black dice to determine where they will spend the rest of their lives.

Fairly accurate

You play as Even, a surly eleven-year-old who lives in Onecroft, where all of Random’s garbage is sent. When Odd, Even’s sister, rolls a six and is taken by the Queen, Even sets off on a journey across all six lands to save her sister and overthrow the evil queen.

This, for me, was a knee-jerk purchase.

I usually go back and forth on whether or not I’m going to buy a game for a while. Lost in Random just had so much going on that I felt the overwhelming need to purchase it. It had a quirky Tim Burton-esque aesthetic to it. I really liked the narrator’s voice. And the combat looked intriguing if a little overly complicated.

I was a little worried that I was falling into a trap, even after I purchased it. I mean, sometimes a trailer can polish a turd to the point that you don’t even realize that you’ve purchased utter crap. However, after actually playing Lost in Random, I can now see it for what it was, and tell you all about it.

Noteworthy Narration

I’m going to start with my favorite part of this game.

The Narrator.

Whatever else I say about this game, let it be known that the Narrator, and his narration, was amazing. 

I put it down to three factors. 

  1. His voice was the perfect balance between a gravely action narrator and soft spoken British guy
  2. Whoever wrote his dialog did so with great care
  3. He felt like as much a part of the story as every other character that was introduced… actually he felt like more of a character than half of NPCs in the game.

He just had so much personality that it was hard not to stop whatever I was doing so I could hear every line of his dialog. He would make jokes about the fact that he was a narrator. He actually seemed to care about Even, the subject of his narration. And sometimes he would break the fourth wall to make a point.

I’d really like to get into the parts of the narration that had me completely taken aback, but I’d rather let you see those for yourself.

Countless Quirks

If you’re a big fan of wordplay, or puns, then you’ll probably enjoy a lot of the naming conventions in this game.

The world of Random is broken up into six cities, and each city is named after, and based on, a specific number. This means that people will have names like Una or Quatro, often with the most ridiculous last name you can think of.

These characters often have crazy voices and equally insane views on the world. 

In addition to the hilarious, and yet simultaneously groan-worthy, character names, there is a lot of personality by way of the game’s aesthetic design. Which, if you were wondering, is something akin to a Tim Burton fever dream about a really big casino.

Wait… that already exists

This means that in addition to the humanoid characters like Even and Odd, there are also some really bizarre people who live in Random. There are wolf people, little gribbly people with masks, people with upside-down faces, and people who look like the Magic Man from Adventure Time (if you dropped him into a pile of greasy garbage).

I don’t know that I liked every bit of the relentless quirkiness of this game, but it was much better than having a game completely devoid of personality.

Roll for Initiative

The combat in Lost in Random is an amazing, convoluted mess. It takes a bunch of different ideas and smashes them into a Frankenstein’s monster of mechanics that works, is really fun, and somehow falls short all at the same time.

At the beginning of each battle, Even starts off with only her trusty slingshot, which does precisely zero damage to enemy health. In order to do actual damage, or activate other abilities, she needs to use cards which can do anything from summoning weapons to creating bubbles of slowed time. Unfortunately, the cards can only be activated with points from your dice rolls.

Following me so far?

Anyway, the only way to pull cards from your deck, and roll your dice, is to collect crystals which you can break off of your enemies using—you guessed it—your trusty slingshot. 

While this system is a bit contrived, it actually works pretty well in practice, especially since time freezes after you roll your dice. This allows you to select cards from your hand without having to worry about getting stabbed.

The random elements of this combat system—pun absolutely intended—are what really make the combat special. This is enhanced by the fact that you can curate your deck any way you want, so even if you don’t draw the card you specifically needed, you should always have some options to keep your fights interesting.

In addition to all of this, there are board game fights. In these specific combats, your dice also serves to move a game piece around a track in order to achieve an objective. This both spices things up, and makes most of the regular combat seem pedestrian by comparison. 

A Bad Hand

Despite all the great things about this game—and there are a lot of them—there are also some not-so-great things that weigh it down considerably. 

These include:

  • So many glitches: From disappearing UI elements, to not being able to talk to certain NPCs that you really need to have a conversation with, to getting stuck in certain fights, the glitches are f’reals.
  • A severe lack of diversity of character design: You’ll run into the same seven character models more times than you can count. 
  • Invisible Obstacles: This includes places where you’ll get stuck when walking, and invisible walls in areas where you should clearly be able to walk. 
  • Flappy Dialog Animations: They looped within seconds, making the characters look like they were having seizures.
  • The inability to jump: Speaks for itself. 
  • Not Enough Cards: About two thirds of the way through the game you will likely have all the cards, thus making your currency worthless.
  • Few Enemy Types: The lack of enemy diversity made most fights sort of repetitive. 

There were some other, smaller, issues, but these were the most egregious of my particular playthrough.

Random Rules!

Overall, Lost in Random is a bizarrely solid game. Despite its many technical issues, repetitive (yet deliciously convoluted) combat, extensively reused assets, and somewhat clunky controls, it still manages to be good—and, in some ways, great. I’ll attribute this to the game’s overflowing personality and willingness to take risks, which really fits a game about random chance. 

I’m giving Lost in Random a very lucky 8/10. It could have been a complete flop, but somehow, this house of cards managed to hold together and reach heights that I would not have thought possible.

P.S… Can you do a postscript on a post? Would that be post postscript? 

Either way, there was a moment during a fight about three-fifths of the way through the game that caused my wife to freak out, throw the controller at me, and question the very laws of reality… So, do what you will with that.