Video Game Reviews

Mortal Shell: An Adequate Homage

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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. 

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.

Video Game Reviews

Kena: Bridge of Spirits — Ghost of a Tale

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.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a third-person action-adventure game (with some light platforming) developed and published by Ember Lab

The game follows Kena (pronounced Kay-nuh), a young spirit guide who’s traveled to a long-forgotten valley where a great energy calls to all who are attuned to the spiritual world. In order to find the source of the call, she will have to use her spiritual abilities and empathy to quell a spreading corruption and save the spirits of the valley.

This game went on my list of games to play for one very specific reason: It looked like a playable Pixar movie. 

No. Not that one.

Seriously, the cutscene graphics looked like a fully-fledged animated film, and the in-game graphics didn’t look far behind.

Well, I finally got a chance to play it, and it did not disappoint… graphically. I would, however, like to let you know about some of the other great—and not so great—things about this game.

Blast from the Past

Kena is a bit of a weird game to play in 2021 for one specific reason: It evokes a feeling of the platforming adventure games from the era of the original Playstation and the Nintendo 64. 

You know what I’m talking about: the mascot games like Super Mario 64, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Croc, and Gex. Those games were a major advancement for the time (because of the third dimension) but were a little stunted in other ways. 

Basically, they didn’t have much by way of backstory.

Usually, those games start with a short cutscene that introduces the characters and whatever their whole deal was. You know… someone was kidnapped, or an evil guy was going to do something evil.

Or both

Kena is very similar to these games in a lot of ways. You start the game with a single cutscene, and honestly, there is very little by way of any sort of explanation as to why you are doing what you are doing. 

Trying to… stop an evil ghost… maybe?

While your mission does become clearer as you go on, it unfortunately never really takes off in any meaningful way. The stakes are pretty low throughout, and honestly, Kena’s personal story is a little underdeveloped and in no way tied to the events of the game. 

That being said, it is still a fun adventure marked with interesting characters and beautiful environments.

Mediocre Story but Great Stories

While Kena’s personal story is lackluster in many ways, the stories of the spirits you help are actually the highlight of the game.

As you bring these spirits back together so that they can finally move on, you learn more about them and begin to experience their memories. This is where the true heart of Kena lies. These are the inspiring, heart-wrenching, gut-punching tales that live up to the game’s Pixar style and cause something to get caught in your eyes.

Tears. They’re called tears.

So, while Kena herself may get left by the wayside as far as the main story goes, these interludes with the spirits she’s trying to help really bring both the world of the game to life and give you a reason to keep playing.

A Lot of Rot

The most endearing part of Kena is the Rot, which is an impressive feat because everything in this game is some level of adorable… including some of the enemies.

The Rot (which me and my wife referred to as “Meeples”) are tiny spirits that are so adorable that they basically defy any other descriptors. 

Adorbable?

Other than being extremely huggable, and essentially a collectible item you find around the map, the Rot are an integral part of Kena’s gameplay experience. They serve precisely four purposes.

  1. Experience: The more Rot you collect, the higher your “Rot Level” goes, and as your rot level increases you unlock more abilities and can use those abilities more often.
  2. Power Boost: You can perform empowered attacks that unleash the Rot and deal devastating damage or augment the way your spirit Bomb works.
  3. Exploration: Some obstacles require you to perform a special action that coalesces the rot into a single entity, and then you use that entity to clear paths.
  4. Combat: The Rot can pin down enemies for a period of time, making them easier to deal with and, when coalesced, can attack enemies for significant damage.

Unfortunately, the Rot was probably the buggiest part of the whole gameplay experience. They would appear and disappear for no reason. They would float in the air and walk around. And they would fall through certain platforms, only to bounce back up, only to fall again.

Spiritual Conflict

While Kena is a peaceful game, and it does put a great amount of effort into creating a sense of serenity throughout, it’s also a game that has some pretty solid combat. 

While you don’t start off with much by way of weapons (you pretty much just use your staff to hit things), you eventually gather a handful of abilities that build well with one another, until you are a finely tuned spiritual warrior… 

…or a glorified babysitter

Your arsenal includes:

  • Staff: used to whack bad guys in the face with traditional light and heavy attacks
  • Spirit Bow: used to activate switches, grapple to distant platforms, and pinpoint enemy weak spots
  • Shield: used to block incoming attacks (or parry them), and activate switches and other interactable objects
  • Spirit Bomb: used to move platforms, destroy obstacles, or damage enemies. 

While this doesn’t seem like a huge list of abilities, each one gets several upgrades that increase its overall effectiveness or provide additional effects.

So, by the end of the game, the combat is more dynamic, especially if you add in all the enemy combinations and the hazards upon the battlefield. 

Inner Peace

Overall, Kena: Bridge of Spirits was an enjoyable experience. It had the flash of a great game, but the substance of an alright one, which equaled out to something in the middle. I really wish that Kena herself had been a little more fleshed out (especially since I really enjoyed her character design), but the stories of the supporting cast made up for that particular misstep. Luckily, the combat was fluid and challenging enough to keep me engaged throughout. 

I’m giving Kena: Bridge of Spirits a somewhat serene 7/10. It was beautiful, evocative (in certain areas), and played really well despite some bugs that fell through the cracks.

My biggest complaint with the game is actually the Rot—or, more specifically, their name. What kind of name is “the Rot” for the adorable little guys that follow you around. They’re not even rot… I mean they have mushrooms on their head and stuff, but they’re not actual rot… They get rid of corruption and stuff… So, that would make them Rot Eaters at most…

I don’t know where I was going with this…

Bye!

Video Game Reviews

Vampyr: Exsanguinated

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Vampyr is an action RPG developed by Dontnod Entertainment (creators of the Life is Strange franchise) and published by Focus Home Interactive.

The story follows Dr. Jonathan E. Reid, a renowned surgeon from turn-of-the-century London, who wakes in a mass grave and discovers that he has been transformed into a vampire. Determined to see the light of day, and get revenge on the creature that turned him, he begins to study his affliction. During his quest for knowledge, he is pulled into the shadowy world of the supernatural, where vampire castes vie for power and zealotus hunters prowl the night in search of fledgling vampires to kill. In addition to his more corporeal foes, he must also battle the growing hunger within and decide if blood is more important than his Hippocratic Oath.

An amazing naming opportunity was clearly missed.

Honestly, I got this game for free on the Playstation Network, and still never really felt the compulsion to play it. The only time I looked up reviews they were mediocre, skewing toward slightly good. 

Well, I recently found myself with some free time. So, I decided to give this game a shot.

The results were… mixed, to say the least.

Vampyr is definitely an interesting game, but, like its protagonist, it seems to be torn between two worlds. And, not unlike Johnathan, the game suffers by being pulled so roughly in two separate directions. 

Now, I will admit that part of the issues I was having in the game were, in fact, my own damn fault. I made a decision early on, and stuck with it even to the detriment of my playthrough. This is mostly because I’m a stubborn bastard, but also because I’m an incredibly stubborn bastard.

Anyway, in order to best understand the dichotomy between the two aspects of Vampyr, you must first understand those aspects. So, let’s just dive right in. 

Tooth And Claw

The combat in Vampyr is… passable at best. 

It works, for the most part, but never really does anything to set itself apart in any meaningful way. Basically, it commits a cardinal sin of gaming: it’s boring. It’s just so relentlessly standard that it’s hard to even get excited about writing about it.

…because writing is so thrilling otherwise

You get melee weapons with which you can do basic combos and attacks. You have ranged weapons, so you can slightly damage anyone outside of melee range. And you get some vampire powers—like claws or invisibility—that give you a little more flexibility in the way you approach combat.

Unfortunately, none of that matters. Most combat is so straightforward that you really don’t really need to get too tricky. Sure, it’s nice to be able to do more damage, or turn invisible, but most of the fights I experienced were a lot of mashing the attack button and dodging at the appropriate moments. 

There were a couple of cool things added to combat that spiced things up. For instance, there were priests carrying crosses that stun you with blinding light, and other enemies who could see you even when you turn invisible, but these didn’t seem to change combat in any meaningful way.

A second layer of complexity added to fights was that certain enemies were resistant to specific types of damage, but again… that wasn’t that important. It was, however, nice to be able to kill something slightly easier. 

For the most part, though, these resistances didn’t factor into my attack strategies.

It felt like combat might have been the last thing added to the game, and no one really cared if it was great or not, as long as the game shipped on time. I can’t confirm if that’s true, but you’d be hard-pressed to convince me otherwise.

Interview With a Vampire 

My favorite part of Vampyr is basically everything that happens outside of combat.

You see, a good portion of the game is spent actually being a doctor/investigator/busybody (or, at least, as much as you can be those things in a video game about vampires). 

Despite your character having an MD and serving in the war as a doctor, you spend most of your time acting like a private investigator. 

Basically, you do a lot of talking. 

This is a tedious process, especially in the beginning. However, it’s totally worth it because everyone has a secret, or set of secrets, to discover, and to uncover those secrets, you need to talk to everyone all the time. This means that the majority of your time outside of combat is spent making small talk.

In spite of the repetitive nature of this investigation aspect, it all becomes worth it when you finally get the scrap of info you were looking for and bring it back to someone who’s been stonewalling you for several hours.

What really kept me engaged with this particular aspect of the game was how much more alive the world felt while I was running around chatting with people. Sure, it was tedious, but it was also informative. Each conversation was a brush stroke in a much larger picture, and trying to see the bigger picture is what held my attention long after other aspects of the game had proven less-than-entertaining. 

Unfortunately, once you’ve depleted your dialog option in a specific location, you have to brave the tepid combat to make it to your next batch of interviewees.

Wheel of Morality

The morality of Vampyr is a little childish when compared to the complexity of it’s investigation aspect.

Basically, anyone you can talk to or investigate, you can also eat… 

And the game really, really, really wants you to eat people. 

It’s constantly like, “Dude… see that guy over there that you just spent three hours talking to and getting to know? Well, you should probably eat him because he’s full of delicious, delicious, experience.”

Knowing them makes it harder

It does this constantly, and with good reason. That reason being that Vampyr is at least three orders of magnitude harder if you don’t eat anyone. Sure, you get experience from killing enemies, but you’d have to kill about a hundred enemies to give you the experience you receive from eating one hobo.

Unfortunately, that “hobo” was an NPC you could have gotten information from, and killing him not only removes him from your investigations, but it also contributes to the decay of the area in which he lived. 

Basically, the more people you eat, the stronger you are for combat purposes. But if you take it too far, you could really ruin the other aspects of your game. So, you really need to get every piece of info you can from someone before drinking their blood. 

The worst part about the whole system is that you can’t just drink a little blood from someone to slake your thirst. Nope, any time you choose to feed on someone you murder the shit out of them.

This is where I may have been too stubborn for my own good: I chose not to kill anyone on my playthrough. 

Of course, at the time, I didn’t know exactly how much this would hamstring me. I only started to realize it once I was around level fifteen, and all of the enemies were several levels higher, making each fight into a laborious chore instead of a welcome obstacle.

Daybreak

Overall, Vampyr is a perfectly serviceable game. It’s milquetoast combat is offset by an investigation system that has a surprising amount of depth. The characters manage to breathe some life into the game, even if a few on the periphery border on being completely two-dimensional (probably so you’ll eat them). And the environment conveys a  sense of oppression that you could probably only otherwise get in real turn-of-the-century London.

Unfortunately for Vampyr,  none of these elements meshed enough to matter. So, I’m giving it an unenthusiastic 5/10. It was good enough not to be bad, and bad enough not to be good. 

Vampyr just kind of exists at this point…which is fine, I guess.

I had a joke here… something about the game telling me to murder people all the time… but it sort of fell flat when I realized that most games are encouraging me to murder people all the time. So, I just left this explanation here instead. 

Video Game Reviews

Psychonauts 2: A Mind-blowing Sequel

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. 

Psychonauts 2 is an adventure / platformer game developed by Double Fine and published by Xbox Game Studios. It is the sequel to the original Psychonauts and direct sequel to Psychonauts: in the Rhombus of Ruin

The game follows Razputen (Raz) Aquato as he officially joins the Psychonauts after two death-defying adventures (and roughly sixteen actual years between game releases). Unfortunately, in spite of his growing resume of heroics, he is only qualified to become a lowly intern… you know, because it’s been, like, four days in-game and he’s all of ten years old. 

Everyone knows you have to be at least twelve to save the world.

To make matters worse, there is a mole operating within The Mother-Lobe, the main headquarters of the Psychonauts. So, since everyone else is a little useless, it’s up to Raz to save the Psychonauts from this mysterious threat. 

The original Psychonauts was one of the first games I played on the original XBOX. It was quirky and hilarious, the story was great, and its levels boggled my mind. Unfortunately, this gem was overlooked at the time of its release and only gained notoriety after the fact, effectively hamstringing any potential for a sequel.

Then, miraculously, in 2017, the VR game Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin released. I was literally flabbergasted… which is a weird thing to literally be, if I’m being honest. I had never expected to see another Psychonauts game… 

Ever. 

So when I heard that there was a Psychonauts 2 coming down the pipeline, I was ecstatic… which is a much more manageable emotional state than flabbergasted.

Now that I’ve finally had a chance to play this long-awaited game, I’ll let you know if it was worth the sixteen-year wait.

Spoiler: It kinda was. 

All Aboard the Nostalgia Train

As I mentioned earlier, the original Psychonauts was one of my favorite games as a kid. So, it’s no surprise that this second game would evoke a pretty powerful sense of nostalgia without even trying.

I mean, the game starts off mere days after the end of the first game, and with almost every memorable character from the original installment making an appearance. 

What I did not expect was for Double Fine to not milk that nostalgia for all it was worth.

Psychonauts 2 is almost effortless with its introduction of characters and ideas without hitting you in the face with a sign that says “YOU LOVE THIS STUFF, RIGHT?”. Sure, there is a little pandering, but it was oddly subtle. 

What surprised me most was how this second game tricked my brain into thinking that no time had passed between the two. The voice actors are the same, the character designs remained largely unchanged, and the environments maintained the aesthetics of the first game… though the latter two had some pretty severe graphical upgrades.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this game is unobtrusive in its execution. 

A lot of games, shows, or movies that get another shot after a decade of collecting cobwebs (not mental ones) turn out to be heartless cash grabs.

Thank you for your 30-second cameo

Psychonauts 2 is anything but.

A Cavalcade of Kooky Characters

The first Psychonauts took place at Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp with a delightfully deranged assortment of campers, counselors, and escaped asylum patients to interact with. Unfortunately, most of the campers received little screen time, and served only to fill out the world a bit and add some personality to the game.

Psychonauts 2 decided to take this idea and expand upon it. This time there are several groups of people to interact with:

  • The Interns: A group of up-and-coming psychic teens who are working toward becoming junior Psychonauts. They are the most diverse of the groups, and have some of the more interesting character designs. 
  • The Agents: A handful of seasoned field agents including fan favorites Sasha Nein, Milla Vodello, and Coach Morceau Oleander, with a couple of new additions thrown in.
  • The Psychic Six: The original founders of the Psychonauts. I’m not going to spoil anything here. 
  • The Flying Aquatos: Raz’s family and acrobatics troupe. Also, not spoiling this.

While I feel like I would have liked to get to know each of the characters better, there is a fair amount of time spent with each group. I especially liked the conversations you can have with your fellow interns.

So, while talking to each and every character isn’t mandatory, I highly recommend that you take the time to seek out—and talk with—everyone to maximize your experience and get some of the better laughs in the game.

Head-space

The level design of the original Psychonauts was one of its most outstanding features. This was mostly due to the fact that the levels took place inside the heads of different characters. So, you could see what they loved, hated, feared, and (mostly) how they thought about themselves.

Psychonauts 2 takes that idea of exploring someone’s mind and expands on it in a number of different ways. From trying to understand what consciousness really is, to wondering what happens if you were to force a change in someone’s mind, the levels in the second game seem more inquisitive and considerate in nature. 

There are, of course, some pretty straightforward levels, but, overall, the designs are more abstract… and I use that word loosely, and also pretty solidly… 

It’s a pretty trippy game

Mental Gymnastics 

What has improved, by leaps and bounds, are the basic controls of the game. Two of my only issues with the original Psychonauts were the somewhat clunky controls and bizarrely-chosen camera angles. While there are still some weird camera choices, the controls (or their responsiveness) have improved immensely. 

I will, however, say that the way you map your controls is pretty crap. You can only have four abilities equipped at any given time, and you have far more than four abilities, so you are constantly having to pause the game to switch them out. This can turn regular platforming segments into a tedious trek. 

Another improvement over the original game was the expansion of enemy types. The original game had Censors (things inside your brain that stamp out thoughts that don’t belong) as the main enemy type, along with a couple of others. This second installment has added some new enemies, and I loved each and every one of them. They include:

  • Bad Ideas: which tend to blow up in your face
  • Doubts: which slow you down
  • Regrets: which weigh you down
  • Judges: which try to hammer you down
  • Enablers: which make other mental enemies invulnerable

There was, however, one holdover from the original game that I was not a huge fan of:

The Figments. 

These are basically the coins you collect for this particular platformer. The only problem is that they all look different and are completely two dimensional. This makes them almost impossible to see if you are looking at them from the wrong angle.

To add insult to insult the developers also decided that sometimes, if the figment was blue, they would put it up against a blue background, making them almost impossible to find. 

I digress. 

Mind the Gap

Despite over a decade between the first game and The Rhombus of Ruin (which was a short VR game), and then another four years until the release of Psychonauts 2, all three games are part of the same direct story.

Me on the Psychonauts 2 release day

Basically, the story in the first game is important to the second and third games, and the story for the third game informs the events of the first two. 

Not only did this work extremely well, but it actually made me look at the events of the first game in a different light. 

So, if you haven’t already, you should play the original Psychonauts before diving into the sequel. I would also recommend playing The Rhombus of Ruin, but, again, it’s a VR title, so maybe just google what happened or watch a YouTube video or something if you’re not planning to invest in a VR

Peace of Mind

Overall, Psychonauts 2 is a pretty amazing game, all things considered. It managed to bring me back into that particular universe in a completely unobtrusive way. It expanded upon the gameplay mechanics that made the original game great in all the right ways. And it managed to keep the heart that made the original so special.

While there were some things that still frustrated me (FIGMENTS!!!), and by inextricably linking the story with the previous two games, Double Fine sort of ensured that you can never judge one without the other, it is still a solid game.

Since I am, however, of two minds about this game, I’ll have to give it two separate scores. 

My nostalgic inner child gives this game a 9.5/10. It gets 9 points for simply existing, and the subsequent  0.5 is for actually being good. 

The critic in me says it gets a 8.5/10 because it’s still a really good game, but is almost completely dependent on the first game for half of its score.

So, now that I know that Double Fine is making amazing sequels to games that are over a decade old, it’s probably safe to start waiting for a sequel to Brutal Legend 

…Right?

Boomer's Take, Video Game Reviews

Dark Souls III, a Boomer’s Take — the Light and Dark of the Soulsborne Genre

Dark Souls III is a third-person action RPG developed by From Software and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. The Soulsborne genre gleaned its name, in part, from the Dark Souls games, and like others in the genre, Dark Souls III was built to be gruelingly difficult. 

The game takes place in the Kingdom of Lothric, which has been led, up until now, by Prince Lothric…

Clearly, South Park rules apply.

The Age of Fire is coming to an end and the Age of Dark is taking over, bringing with it a horde of undead. Prince Lothric and the other Great Lords are supposed to prolong the Age of Fire by sacrificing themselves, but they have abandoned their duty. 

Your job as the main character is to bring the Lords together. At that point, you can choose whether you want to prolong the Age of Fire or welcome the Age of Dark, and your actions throughout the game determine which one of four potential endings you’ll see. 

Dipping a Toe in the Soulsborne Genre

I’m relatively new to soulsborne games, and it’s been an interesting adjustment. It’s been a while since I’ve screamed at my TV in frustration over a game.  

If you’re also new to the Soulsborne genre, or thinking about trying one, please don’t get caught up in the hype of how difficult the games are.  The thing is, at least with the few I’ve played, the games are very playable. They’re just set up differently and have an acute sense of rewards and consequences.  And, there’s not much in the way of hand holding…

So, a couple more general comments on the genre.  They don’t have maps, at all!  I used to bitch when a game had a poor map system, but after a few souls games, I’d pay extra for them to include a basic map that would give me some idea of how the areas tie together. 

Me, every time I boot up the game.

Another thing to know about Soulsborne games is that when you die, you generally lose whatever currency you’ve looted or earned to that point.  Your loot is generally at the location where you died, so if you can get back there without getting killed, you can regain it. 

The thing that makes this frustrating is that the currency in a souls game is what you use to level up.  In other words, you purchase stat boosts with the currency, and those stat boosts are equivalent to levels.  

There are other quirks to this type of game, but if you’re willing to learn a new strategy of gaming, and you have some experience and skill with shooters and RPGs, you might enjoy the challenge of a souls game. 

It Starts with You

The choice of starting stats, character traits, and skills is important.  It’s best if you understand what your own playstyle is when making this initial choice.  Sure, it may be fun to try a magic user, but if your playstyle is to get in there and hack and slash, magic might not be the best thing to focus on. 

Narwhal Blast will not get you far in this game.

On my first character in DSIII, I chose a character who literally had a loin cloth and club.  My thinking was that I’d get to build the character from the ground up.  

That seemed like a good idea until I was almost immediately faced with a boss.  I mean, I was pretty proud of myself when I managed to beat that first boss barefoot with a club. But I still ended up re-rolling for an initial build that was more my style.

Watch and Learn

As mentioned, DSIII virtually starts with a boss fight.  There are a few enemies before you get to the first boss, but not many.  

Fortunately, the first boss is beatable with a club and no armor, but it still may take a few tries.  If you have trouble with the first boss, try not to get frustrated.  Easier said than done, I know, but since it’s the beginning of the game and there’s not much to lose, when you go back into the arena…

Eventually, the boss will reveal his moves, and you’ll be able to determine the best way to beat him… or her… or it.

I always like to be strong enough to do a stand up fight with a boss or enemy, but my usual tank-and-DPS approach had to be adjusted to make significant progress in a souls game.  So be willing to adjust your play style to meet the needs of the boss you’re playing.

Resting and Progressing

Once you get to your safe haven—the place where you can make upgrades and buy and sell things—you’ll have a save point.  

Keep in mind that every time you rest at, or use, a save/fast travel point, nearly every enemy is respawned. 

Always do a perimeter check.

Bosses and special enemies don’t come back, however, and found loot (as opposed to dropped loot) will not respawn. 

Now, here’s a hint for anyone, like me, who doesn’t pick up on some of the subtle hints the game drops on you:  In DSIII, there is no way to leave the starting area except by the fast travel point.  

Usually, you can’t travel to somewhere you haven’t been, but in this case, you simply rest at the fire and choose to travel to the first location. 

I know, right?  I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to leave the safe haven and finally looked it up.

Boomer’s Take

The bottom line on DSIII is that it’s very playable. And although it’s touted as being among the harder games, if you think of yourself as being a decent gamer with reasonable skills and abilities, you would probably enjoy this game.  

Expect to die.  Expect to learn.  And accept that you’ll probably have to look some things up to get through a tough area or boss.  

You might even decide not to finish the game.  I’m still playing, but I’ve been tempted to quit a couple of times.  Oddly, if I were to quit playing DSIII, I still feel pretty satisfied with my experience. It almost feels honorable to tip my hat and say, “you got me, this time, but I’ll be back when I get a bit more experience, and I’ll build a slightly different character and we’ll do this dance again.” 

I think I’m close to the end though, so I’m not quite ready to quit.  

On the Boomer Scale, it’s an 8.5/10.  It’s a challenging game with a lot of secrets to unlock, and it’s  a game you’ll want to brag about playing. 

Video Game Reviews

Divinity: Original Sin II: Roll for Initiative

Divinity: Original Sin II is a tactical turn-based RPG which, if you hadn’t guessed, is the second game in the Divinity series. It was developed by Larian Studios and published by Larian Studios and BANDAI NAMCO.

The story revolves around your character, who is a sourcerer (a person who can manipulate source: the wellspring of all life). Unfortunately, the use of source has been outlawed, as it tends to attract horrible otherworldly monstrosities known as the Voidwoken.

In order to save the masses from these bloodthirsty creatures, an organization known as the Divine Order has rounded up every known sourcerer, collared them with anti-source collars, and dumped them on a prison island… which means that you’ve been dumped on a prison island. So, it’s up to you to escape the island and claim your destiny.

Divinity Original Sin II (henceforth referred to as DOS2 because I’m not typing that every single time) was on my radar for quite some time. I really enjoyed what I played of the original game, and tactical turn-based games are some of my favorites. It’s also one of Vii’s favorite game types, and it’s been nice to be able to play something together.

Now, having played over one-hundred and sixty hours of DOS2, I can definitively say that it should be on everyone’s radar. It’s been a long time since a game was able to hold my interest for that long…

It’s also been a long time since I’ve played a game that required that kind of time commitment. So, if you’re going to play this one, first and foremost, make sure that you have the time.

I did not do this.

 So, if you were wondering where we were for the month-long hiatus we recently took, the answer was “Playing Divinity”…

Actually, the answer is probably still “Playing Divinity”.

It’s a long-ass game.

Anyway, there is probably too much to cover when doing a review of this game. So, I’m just going to skip a major swath of this review by saying this: The story is amazing, the characters are great, the voice acting is well done, and the writing is hilarious.

For the rest of this review I’ll do my best to be concise and give you, what I think, are the best/most interesting parts of this massive and amazing game.

Have It Your Way

DOS2 is a very open ended game, at least as far as how you wish to accomplish your quest objectives and mission goals. This is because DOS2 is about as close to actual Dungeons and Dragons as is possible within the confines of a video game. So, the creators wanted you to have a fair amount of agency as far as how you completed objectives.

As an example, there is a small labyrinth near the beginning of the game that serves as an obstacle to an abandoned wizard’s tower. Now, you could go straight through the front door and go full escape room on the labyrinth, making sure to solve every puzzle so that you can come out proud on the other side. Or, you could find a ring that the guardian of the labyrinth recognizes and he’ll just let you through…

Or you could do what my wife and I did. 

We went around to the backside of the tower and used a teleportation spell to jump across the water to a nearby section of beach. From there, you can climb some vines, and then it’s just a matter of walking around to the tower’s entrance.

Basically, there is more than one way to untie a knot.

I will add, however, that it is not a perfect system.

Sometimes, you get tired of completing a quest, only to walk around and find the seven other ways you could have approached it… and more often than not the other methods would have been easier and given you more loot.

I mean, it’s nice to know that there were other options available, but when you’ve slain a beast in an epic battle, it’s a little weird to walk around and find a guy handing out beast-killing swords.

Divide and Conquer 

The freedom of choice that is offered in your approach to any given mission also applies to combat. 

DOS2 uses a pretty standard AP (action point) system for combat. Each character starts off with four action points, and can use those points to move or perform spells and abilities. While none of that is earth-shattering, it’s the way that all of this is implemented that makes it so special.

First of all, you can have up to four characters in your party at any given time. Again, nothing too special there. What sets DOS2 apart is the fact that you don’t have to have all of your characters engaged in combat at the same time. This means that you can have two people fighting in the town square while the other two are shopping, or investigating a murder.

I’d play CSI: Rivellon

It also means that you can engage in combat in any way you choose. If you happen to start combat with one character and the rest of your team is considered out of combat, you can move them around to ambush the enemy from all sides. Or you could go and find a bunch of exploding barrels and bring them with you into combat. 

The ability for each of your characters to be doing something different allows for some pretty crazy situations. This is especially true with local and online co-op. You can play with up to three friends to really take advantage of the game’s systems.

A Classier Class of Class

Piggybacking on all this freedom are character classes.

So, very succinctly, there are a number of character “classes” in DOS2. I say “classes” with quotes like that because there are really no classes in the game, just combat abilities. 

You can put points into Warfare, a skill set that allows you to do warrior stuff, but that doesn’t mean you need to specialize in this by any means. You could, though, and you would be a really good warrior, but you would lack the utility of someone who diversifies their build.

I wonder what he put HIS points into…

The reason diversity of character is so important is because of the innumerable ways in which combat can unfold. Which leads us to…

The Cacophony of Combat

You see, combat in DOS2 has a number of things that make encounters both endearingly intricate and incomprehensibly complicated. These can be boiled down into three-ish categories: 

  • Surfaces
  • Clouds
  • Status Effects & Armor

I will do my best not to bore you to death with the minutiae of each, but I’ll try and provide some context. 

Surfaces are basically elements that have been applied to any given floor space. This means the floor can be covered in fire; oil; blood; water; electrified oil, blood, or water; poison; or ice. Each of these surface types has a different effect, and has different interactions with other types of surfaces. As a quick example, fire surfaces will ignite oil and poison surfaces, but will be put out by water and blood surfaces. 

Clouds are the result of different spells or the effects of different surfaces interacting with one another. They have the same relative properties of surfaces, but will also block line of sight, adding an extra layer of complexity to any given fight.

The final category is twofold.  Armors and status effects are important because they can affect, and be affected by, clouds and surfaces. 

Basically, there are two types of armor: physical and magical. Every status effect can be blocked by one of the two types. So, in order to apply any status effects to enemies, or for them to apply status effects to you, the requisite armor type needs to be broken. 

Like so.

This means that you should always size up your opponents and decide which type of armor you want to break first, so that you can get the most out of your status effects.

OOC or Original Origin Character

Just because I really enjoyed them, I wanted to touch quickly on the game’s Origin characters, which are basically premade characters you can choose during character creation. These Origin characters have their own voice lines and dialog options, and their story lines are inextricably linked to the game’s main storyline.

You can, of course, make your own character(s) to play with, which is nice. But you can still have the Origin characters on your team, and as long as you let them, they can still play out their storyline while you are on your grand adventure. 

While it’s not necessary to use an Origin character, or have them on your team, having them with you adds a bit of punch to story points that might have felt a little impersonal, or otherwise fallen flat.

From Whence It Came 

Overall, Divinity Original Sin II is an astonishingly good game. I may have already mentioned that “the story is amazing, the characters are great, the voice acting is well done, and the writing is hilarious,” but the level of freedom you have to create your character and engage both combat and exploration in almost any way you could want elevates an already good game to one of the greatest RPG’s of all time. 

Of course, I’m not saying it’s perfect. There are some issues with bugs. It can be hard to target things properly. Sometimes things lag for an unacceptable amount of time, and occasionally the audio is either off or missing.

All that being said, I’m still giving DOS2 a Divine 9.5/10. Larian Studios went above and beyond in creating this beautiful unicorn of an RPG, and I hope they will continue to do so for many years to come.

Hopefully, by the time they come out with their next game, I’ll finally be finished with this one.

Late to the Game Reviews, Video Game Reviews

Late to the Game: Little Nightmares – Big Presence

Little Nightmares is a side-scrolling horror puzzle game that was released in April of 2017 to critical acclaim. 

I originally passed as I was a little burned out on side scrolling games at the time (I know it’s like 2.5D, but that did not sway me any), and I wanted something a little more lighthearted. 

Also, you know, money. 

I recently picked up a copy so that I could start Little Nightmares II properly, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Though it’s not the longest game (I think It took me about three hours to beat) It managed to pull off a lot. 

So, I know I’m late to the game, but let me fill you in on why you might want to pick up a copy if you haven’t done so within the last three years. 

Enter the Maw

Little Nightmares follows Six, a nine year old girl trapped aboard a large submersible called “The Maw.” Now, the story of Little Nightmares is almost completely implicit, meaning that you’re never specifically told anything. Which can lead to confusion…

However, as you journey through “The Maw” you’ll be able to infer what’s going on. I don’t want to get into specifics, but when looked at as a whole, the game’s story, and world are one of the most terrifying I’ve ever experienced, at least on an existential level. 

What really sets “The Maw” apart from other game settings is the way in which it was stylized. Little Nightmares looks like a Tim Burton stop-motion picture that you control. The characters, the backgrounds, and even the toilets in the bowels of the ship give off the vibe that they might be set pieces from the Nightmare Before Christmas… only actually scary.

I appreciate the fact that even though there is nothing photorealistic about any aspect of the game’s design, I still felt like I ought to be able to reach through my screen and interact with the environment like It was some kind of diorama. Of course, I never would, because honestly this game was unsettling in a way I find hard to describe… but in a good way. 

A Puzzling Adventure

As I said in the intro, this is a puzzle game, so it would follow that the majority of your time is spent solving puzzles. Despite this, the puzzles in Little Nightmares are never obtrusive, as they can often be in similar games. Each one feels necessary to continue not only the individual levels, but the story as a whole. Not once did I stop and wonder why I was doing something; I only know that it had to be done. 

How I get through life

While none of the puzzles, or obstacles, were especially hard, the terrifying antagonists, atmospheric setting, and general diversity of locations kept me engaged throughout. There were a couple of encounters with “The Janitor” (the game’s first real antagonist) that left me stumped, until I finally had an “aha!” moment (which was usually preceded by my wife telling me to stop sucking so hard). 

What really made all the puzzles worthwhile—to me, at least—was how deftly the controls were crafted and how the physics of the game worked. I loved the layout of the controls, the way in which any given action was executed, and how every object in the world had presence and weight. This was all elevated by the way the character motions and controls correlated into actions. I wish every game felt as good to play as Little Nightmares.

Big Dreams

Little Nightmares is an amazing combination of form and function. It manages to tell a horrific, yet intriguing, story without a single word, and it does it well enough that I plan on buying, and playing, every single DLC before playing the second game.

I’m giving Little Nightmares an overwhelming 9/10, but I’m going to do it as far away from “The Maw” as possible. 

It was exactly what it should have been and then some. So, if you’re late to the game, like me, and looking for a short but sweet morsel of gaming, I cannot recommend Little Nightmares enough.