(Cont’d from Part One…)
2016 saw the release of a good handful of titles which seemed to be stuck in the perpetual loop known as “Development Hell”. Games like Final Fantasy XV, DOOM, Owlboy, and even The Last Guardian all managed to sneak out and finally see the light of day, but there was another long awaited game that failed to escape the loop, a little game named Nioh, which has actually been in development longer than any of the aforementioned titles were.
Originally announced in 2004, Nioh’s development process has been marred by internal struggles and multiple revisions to the game’s core structure. Information about the game became sparse pretty soon after it’s initial announcement, leading many to forget about its existence, but the game resurfaced in 2015 with a new and exciting look.
Nioh’s narrative is based around the real life story of William Adams, an English sailor who landed in Japan during the 1600’s and went on to become the first Western samurai. Though based on real events, the game takes some liberties here and there by tossing in a few demons and other aspects of the supernatural ilk. The influence of Team Ninja’s prior work is easily apparent, as the level design and structure screams Ninja Gaiden, while the overall aesthetic has a heavy Onimusha vibe, and combat is clearly borrowed from the Souls series.
Sony was hoping for this PS4 exclusive to finally reach the hands of gamers the world over in 2016, but Team Ninja delayed the game one final time to make some tweaks after gathering information from the game’s two public beta tests held last year. It’s clear this game isn’t being rushed, and after playing the betas it’s also clear that Nioh is poised for success. If you’re looking for the next hard-as-nails combat-focused action-RPG, look no further. (Matt De Azevedo)
Persona 3 and 4 were minor hits, providing some old school JRPG action with a modern day twist. The relative lack of quality JRPGs gave Persona a chance to be noticed, one which Atlus have seized upon. After the minor success of Persona 4, they remade the game for Vita, sanctioned two anime series’ based on the game, released 2D fighter and dancing game spin-offs and topped it off with a Persona 4 stage play. There was also an unsanctioned porno, but the less said about that the better. The gaming world is ready for Persona to be a big hit, and given how popular the PS4 is right now, with the right push, Persona 5 could really surprise people in how it sells. Since Final Fantasy has gone off the rails in recent years, the Persona series has become my new go to JRPG. In 2017, there’s no other game I want to play more than Persona 5. (John Cal McCormick)
It could be the final race of a great athlete, or maybe the rebirth of the dying phoenix hoping to spread its wings once more. The precarious position the Nintendo 3DS finds itself in leaves the release of Pikmin 3DS this year as a curiously ambiguous prospect. Pikmin isn’t just a catalog implementation, but a universe that’s become a staple of the Nintendo lore. In other words, Nintendo hasn’t pulled the plug on the 3DS just yet. What makes this release more intriguing is the words of Shigeru Miyamoto four years ago. He said, “The truth is we were doing prototype tests of Pikmin for the DS and 3DS but it turned into unit management with only the touch pen and no matter what it just didn’t seem like Pikmin.” Essentially, Pikmin 3DS isn’t meant to work on the Nintendo 3DS.
But this is going to be a different Pikmin game entirely. Rather than bring the classic game to the 3DS, they’re bringing an action game to the 3DS. This won’t be the Pikmin you’ve grown to love. This has certainly upset a lot of Nintendo fans, and there’s even a petition on change.org to cancel Pikmin 3DS. This will obviously be futile, but it’s also rather small-minded. To coincide with the limitations of the handheld system, changes were always going to be made. This side-scrolling Pikmin adventure looks as beautiful as every Pikmin game, and a change of pace from the conventional should always be welcomed. Honestly, the petition reads like satire, and hopefully it is. But so many great games have taken different paths to utilize every strength each story could have. There was a bigger uproar when Toon Link arrived on the scene, but now he’s Super Smash Bros. certified. Olimar has certainly reached the same status and deserves his chance at a new style of adventure. This isn’t Pikmin 4, this is something completely different, a little unique, and anything that breaks a few boundaries should be given the chance to stretch its wings. (James Baker)
During Bethesda’s 2016 E3 conference, a new Prey game was the last thing on anyone’s mind. The original sequel to the 2006 sleeper hit was stuck in development hell until Bethesda shut the entire project down in 2014. This gave the studio a chance to establish a firm grasp on the property and create their own vision for the future of the series. It’s easy to see that this new Prey title shares almost no narrative relation to the original game save for the name. However, this does not take away from the fact that this game looks amazing. Set in an alternate timeline when JFK survived his assassination and poured more funding into the space program, the player controls Morgan Yu, a human stranded aboard a space station infested with a variety of hostile aliens. Using a diverse array of weapons and alien powers, Yu must fight his way through the station and uncover the reason behind the alien’s appearance. What really excites me about Prey is how open it will be. Encouraging exploration and backtracking, developers Arkane Studios made the entire station an open complex, meaning that the player is not restricted to areas only available through missions or levels. What’s more, the player will be able to alter everything from Yu’s gender to the decisions he makes throughout the story. While Prey is considered a first person shooter, the combat seems more tactical than just a simple run and gun shooting gallery. The enemy A.I. seems intelligent and cunning, and will keep the players on their toes. Prey looks to offer a unique and exciting story with solid gameplay and a memorable setting. If the game delivers on everything its promised, then we’ll all owe Bethesda and Arkane a massive thank you. (Carston Carasella)
Red Dead Redemption 2
Anyone who played Red Dead Redemption waited with baited breath for the announcement we’ve all been craving since the 2013 release date of GTA V. Finally at the tail end of 2016 Rockstar Games revealed their next product would be a return to the West and to add a cherry to this gritty western sundae, their first trailer came with a release window of Autumn 2017. For those who missed the first game, it is sort of what you’d expect. For the most part, it’s a pallet swap of the GTA series, but with cowboys and horses instead of gangsters and muscle cars. What really made the first game special was its amazingly well realized open world, memorable characters, and engaging story, on top of the refined open world gameplay from GTA IV. It shouldn’t really be surprising that Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the most anticipated games of 2017. Rockstar has constantly raised the bar when it comes to mature open world adventures, and many argue that Red Dead Redemption is still their best effort yet. Details are unfortunately sparse at the moment, with almost no story details revealed or even how it might relate to the other Red Dead games, but given Rockstar’s history and their recent work with GTA V, it’s a safe bet this trip back into the West promises to be wild. (Andrew Vandersteen)
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Resident Evil 7 promises to be the most radical departure for Capcom’s survival horror series since the seminal Resident Evil 4 was released ten years ago. After Resident Evil 6 misfired by delivering a stale and underwhelming action game, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard wisely brings everything back to what first defined the series. Make no mistake, Resident Evil 7 is a horror game first and foremost and those who have played the early 2016 demos have claimed it is utterly terrifying. Not only is this new installment a return to the series’ survival horror roots but it is also the first in the series that is fully playable in VR, adding an extra layer of suspense that will make the hair ion the back of your neck stand up. Taking on the first-person perspective of many modern horror games and combining it with the series’ penchant for puzzle-solving, is everything longtime fans want, and for this reason alone, Resident Evil 7 is a must have. (Ricky D)
Platinum Games is a name we associate with a special brand of hyper-kinetic, ridiculously-scaled action, crafting expertly-tuned action masterpieces like Bayonetta, Vanquish, and The Wonderful 101. Scalebound is Platinum’s attempt to outdo itself, while simultaneously embracing a new direction. It’s the studio’s first action-RPG, combining dragons, four-player co-op mode, and gargantuan monsters to do battle with. As one of the most memorable game announcements to ever stem from an Xbox conference, Scalebound certainly turned heads when it was first announced in 2014 and now the long wait is almost over. After a series of unfortunate missteps with recent games like Star Fox Zero and TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan, Scalebound promises a comeback for the studio best known for over-the-top absurdity. (Ricky D)
Sea of Thieves
Let’s be honest, Rare has been in a bit of a rut for a while now. A long while. It’s crazy to think about, but It’s actually been over 15 years since they’ve released a truly great game. How did one of the greatest development teams in the world just suddenly fall off the face of the planet? Well, Microsoft bought them, Perfect Dark Zero was horrible, and then they were slowly transitioned into a team that was forced to focus on making Kinect games. It’s been painful to watch. Many people, myself included, never really expected Rare to come out and announce anything of significance ever again, and then E3 2015 happened. Dubbed “the most ambitious game Rare has ever created” by Craig Duncan (Rare studio head), Sea of Thieves is an MMO style game where players take the role of pirates in a wide open world of swashbuckling and treasure hunting. How much do we actually know about the game at this point? Not enough, but what we do know has us chomping at the bit for more. Sailing a ship bound for adventure with a crew of friends? Check. Ship on ship combat? Check. Being able to make someone walk the plank? Check! No firm release date has been set, and expectations should be tempered, as the Rare of today isn’t run by the same people that made all those N64 classics, but the foundation for Sea of Thieves is solid, and it has the potential to be one of 2017’s sleeper hits. (Matt De Azevedo)
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
After a notoriously nightmarish development cycle, no one expected 2014’s South Park: The Stick of Truth to be one of the top games in recent history. However, it proved everyone wrong. Ubisoft and Obsidian Entertainment teamed up with Trey Parker and Matt Stone to create an epic story based in a fantasy world created by Cartman and the gang. It was a true embodiment of the spirit and humor of the television show while also delivering some remarkably fun gameplay.
It’s follow-up, South Park: The Fractured, But Whole, looks to be building upon all of the core elements of TSOT. The story, obviously making fun of the Marvel cinematic universe, looks to be another genius basis for an adventure in South Park. The boys’ “civil war” over who gets a movie in the “Coon and Friends” franchise is timely, relevant and hilarious, just like South Park. While it is yet to be seen whether this concept as an RPG will be as seamless as the fantasy world of TSOT was the comedic possibilities show promise. And, as much as we may laugh at how much they have taken over our pop culture, who hasn’t wanted to be a superhero? The upgrades in store for the already delightful combat are taking things to the next level, adding tactical strategy to your vicious fart attacks. It will keep its turn-based style, but movement and positioning on the battlefield will become much more important in your success. Based on everything that we have seen so far, South Park: The Fractured But Whole will be another spectacular RPG in a world that everyone knows and loves. (Sara Winegardner)
Smac Games’ debut, Tokyo 42, is an unknown. The two-man team of Maciek Strychalski and Sean Wright have no real history in video games, having in their own words only really worked ‘on the fringes’. So there’s no track record to look to, and making any prediction on the quality of Tokyo 42 would seem baseless. Yet the open-world isometric action shooter/bullet-hell/stealth game, inspired by the likes of Syndicate and GTA, has some serious talent in its production credits. Mode7 Games, who people may know from strategy game Frozen Synapse, is producing Tokyo 42. Mode7 might make really ugly games that appeal to niche audiences, but what they do make is original, with rock-solid core gameplay. Hence with Tokyo 42’s bombastic gameplay and art design (if the trailers are anything to go by) being tempered with Mode7’s veteran guidance, one can see a potentially thorough and enjoyable experience being delivered. Given how awash we are with open-worlds these days, it’ll be nice to get one with some character.
Potential and possibilities aside, it is a certainty that the game’s soundtrack will be killer. Vicente Espi, whom is scoring the game’s electronic soundtrack, may be known to obscure music connoisseurs as one half of ANIMA!. Only two tracks can be heard from the game’s limited released material, but both are damn good – if you can find any good in electronic, that is. Thus, I anticipate Tokyo 42’s 2017 release with quiet hope. With Mode7 and Espi at the wings, there is a possibility, maybe even a likelihood that Tokyo 42 will do a lot of things right. At the same time, this being Smac Games’ debut, means there are no assurances. (Liam Hevey)
Torment: Tides of Numenera
After a famously successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013, the spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment – perhaps the most beloved computer role-playing game ever made – was set to come out on December 2014. Yet it encountered a series of delays, as its stretch goals proved more time-consuming than expected. A beta version was finally made available to backers last year and, on February 28, it will be officially released on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. Why the excitement? Many members of the original Torment team are back, including composer Mark Morgan and designer Colin McComb. And thanks to met stretch goals, Chris Avellone, the earlier game’s director, joined as creative consultant while epic fantasy author Pat Rothfuss collaborated with the writers. But even more enticing is what Tides of Numenera promises to be: a journey into a world where characters don’t just have motivations and backgrounds, but profound philosophical positions and alignments.
That’s what made the 1999 classic so absorbing and why it remains an unmissable experience, despite having a battle system so perfunctory even Avellone has publicly shaken his head at it. Yet no one plays Planescape: Torment for the battles. It’s all about the dialogue, the story, and the characters. Unlike books or movies, videogames unfold their narratives in virtual space. Players can roam at will, falling into pockets of storytelling spread out over the land. To explore Planescape: Torment is to never know when you’ll stumble into a transdimensional portal or – far more often – into a spellbinding discussion on reality, existence, morality, and many other things besides. Tides promises to recapture that same narrative joy, albeit no longer in Dungeon & Dragons’ Planescape setting but rather in Monte Cook’s futuristic Ninth World of Numenera. If it succeeds, it should be one of 2017’s best videogames. (Guido Pellegrini)
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
It feels crazy that a year after Uncharted 4 masterfully closed the chapter on Nathan Drake we would be getting psyched up for more Uncharted. What was originally planned as DLC has been upgraded to a stand alone game, ala The Last Of Us: Left Behind. Naughty Dog has kept their promise, this isn’t an adventure about Drake and Elena, instead Uncharted 4 absentee Chloe Frazer takes the spotlight along with ambiguous villain Nadine Ross. How these two pair up is one of the most pressing questions we have about the game, especially considering their opposing affiliations with Drake. What’s most exciting is the prospect that this story will be a character study of these two independent women in the same way that Uncharted 4 was a character piece about Drake, Elena and his brother Sam.
There have been suggestions that this will feature even wider environments than those seen in Uncharted 4, an interesting move for a series that has perfected linear game design. There are some nagging doubts whether it’s a smart idea considering the company and the series’ strengths but there’s little chance Naughty Dog will resort to barren wastelands filled with tedious fetch quests after all, this is likely to be the last time we see these characters. Naughty Dog has time and again proven the power of interactive storytelling and any chance to see more of that is enough to make us feel giddy inside. After 2016 it’s easy to feel cynical about gaming promises but we can say with almost utter certainty that The Lost Legacy will be deserving of the Uncharted name. No Chloe, it isn’t an ancient Tibetan ritual dagger, this time we are just happy to see you. (Oliver Rebbeck)
Back in 2015, developer DONTNOD surprised everyone with their episodic series, Life is Strange. The choice-based slice of art school life was a welcome change of pace from the Telltale school of similar titles, and a whole host of gamers found themselves enraptured with the fictional town of Arcadia Bay. Now, they’re set for their next effort, with the oncoming release of Vampyr. Set during the Spanish Flu epidemic in early 20th century London, Vampyr focuses on a doctor who finds himself turned into a creature of the night. Facing his new reality as one of the undead, he must balance between his medical duty to save lives and his supernatural lust for blood. The dichotomy should make for an interesting experience, especially if DONTNOD can come up with more of those brutal choices we faced in Life is Strange. (Mike Worby)
What Remains of Edith Finch
Back in 2012, Giant Sparrow released The Unfinished Swan on PlayStation 3. It’s a short but stylized indie game with a compelling story about a little boy named Monroe, who chases after a swan that has escaped a painting. The game received glowing reviews and went on to win two BAFTA awards. Now the small studio is back with their follow-up – What Remains of Edith Finch, a “collection of short stories” about the deaths of various members of the Finch family. The game begins at the eccentric Finch house, where players can eventually unlock the bedrooms of each family member to reveal their fates. Similar to Gone Home, you’ll follow Edith Finch as she explores the history of her family and tries to learn about their troubled and mysterious past. (Ricky D)
It’s hard to talk about Yooka-Laylee without talking about Banjo-Kazooie. But hey, that’s kinda the point. After leaving their positions at Rare, the folks responsible for Banjo decided to take matters into their own hands. They created a company named Playtonic and ventured onto Kickstarter, attempting to gain the funds needed to develop its successor. In the spirit of its predecessor, Yooka-Laylee is a platformer/collection. The player controls a chameleon named Yooka, who is ridden by a bat named Laylee. They work together to perform acrobatic maneuvers, solve puzzles, and battle enemies. While that may sound very familiar, it’s clear that Playtonic is letting their mind breathe. No longer restricted by any “higher ups,” they’re free to implement any crazy ideas they have stirring in their heads, which is indescribably exciting.
From what we can see in the trailers, these mechanics and level designs look absolutely brilliant. Yooka and Laylee work well together as characters and even better as controllable avatars. They spin, fly, transform, and do much more based on their innate abilities. The worlds look sprawling and riddled with secrets. They’ve shown gigantic plains, a haunted house, and a dirty casino, all humongous and leaking personality. The characters within them also flourish in their charm. They vary impressively, even including Shovel Knight. They also speak in the kind of gibberish found in Banjo-Kazooie. One really has to admire Playtonic’s bravery on that one. The game is also gorgeous. For an indie game to reach this peak of graphical excellence is astounding. Oh, and we can’t forget the legendary Grant Kirkhope’s return. In true poetic justice, he is composing the soundtrack for Yooka-Laylee. The music sounds utterly whimsical and nostalgic, but it still feels new. It sounds as though Grant Kirkhope has only mastered his craft even further with his age, and that can be said for everyone working on this game. (Ricardo Rodriguez)
‘Life is Strange 2’ Episode 5 Review – “Wolves”: A Worthy Send-off
The final episode of Life is Strange 2 may take a while to get going but it does offer a solid conclusion to the Diaz brothers’ journey.
Life is Strange 2 hasn’t made any bones about being a political game over the course of the last year. The 5th, and final episode, “Wolves”, doesn’t just continue with this message, it doubles down, and in a big way.
Set near the Arizona-Mexico border, “Wolves” follows the Diaz brothers on the final leg of their journey. Having escaped from the cult that held Daniel up as a messianic figure in the previous episode, Sean and Daniel are camping out in a sort of pop-up town filled with outsiders like themselves.
The location provides Life is Strange 2 with its final breath of relaxation before the story enters its high tension endgame, and it’s a much needed reprieve. Unfortunately, it does seem to go on a bit longer than the player might like, and that makes things drag a smidge.
To give you some idea of how long you’ll be spending in the village, 4 of the 6 collectibles are found here. So, yes, this starting area is the main place you’ll be spending “Wolves” in. To be clear, the area isn’t bad per se. There’s a lot to see, a scavenger hunt to go on, and a few interesting characters to speak with, including a surprise cameo from the original game. The bummer of it all is that players will be feeling the time here more laboriously simply because there isn’t much of anything happening.
In the 2nd or 3rd episode of this story it’s perfectly fine for an extended bit of down time. Episode 3, in particular, benefited greatly from allowing you to settle into the setting and get to know a diverse and likable new group of characters. However, by the 5th episode, players will be so eager to see how things are gonna settle up, they won’t be able to get out of this area fast enough.
On the upswing, once Sean and Daniel leave the village, the story moves at a pretty solid clip to the credits. As the key art and trailer for “Wolves” might suggest, the Diaz brothers do indeed challenge the border wall in the final leg of Life is Strange 2. Where things go from there, I won’t spoil, but rest assured that Daniel will absolutely go through the crisis as you’ve trained him to do.
By this I mean, you will see the final results of your choices throughout the game, and they’re pretty impressive. With 4 possible endings, and 3 possible variations on those endings, Life is Strange 2 can ultimately play out in a variety of ways. How yours plays out will, of course, depend on the choices you’ve made and how you’ve influenced your brother throughout your journey.
Either way, though, Life is Strange 2 closes off “Wolves” with an emotionally satisfying and generally fulfilling conclusion to your journey. It might be a necessary evil that the events can’t be intense the whole way through, being that this is not an action or combat-focused game, but the fact that things take so long to get going in the final episode is a bit of a problem.
Still, fans worried that Life is Strange 2 might fail to stick the landing can rest easy. “Wolves” might not be the best, or most satisfying, episode of the series but it does what it needs to do and it does it well, particularly in the back half.
‘Yaga’ Review: A Bittersweet Fairy Tale
Some games feel perfectly suited to their genres, as if they fulfill every ambition that their genre could promise. On paper, Yaga from the developer Breadcrumbs Interactive, should be one of those games. This roguelike RPG is meant to bring traditional Slavic folktales to life, and its procedurally generated structure allows the game to change in every playthrough, just like how the ancient fairy tales it’s based on can change in every telling. Yaga immediately shines on a conceptual level, but as a game, the most important question remains: will this fairy tale be enjoyable to play?
From start to finish, Yaga uses the rich source material of Eastern European history and folklore to create a vibrant, fantastical world. The entire game is framed as three elderly women telling the story of Ivan, a heroic blacksmith who has been stricken with the curse of bad luck. These women spin a fanciful yarn, one in which Ivan is constantly plagued by horrors from traditional fairy tales such as the hideous One-Eyed Likho, along with more realistic foes, such as a corrupt, overbearing Tsar. The game thrives on this balance between history and fantasy. Its world is filled with peasants who face daily, universal struggles with war and agriculture, while massive ogres and goblin-like Vodyanoys haunt the surrounding wilderness. This mixture creates a strong setting that finally gives Slavic history and mythology its long-overdue representation in games.
“Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.”
The frame story always remains the same: Ivan will always have to serve his Tsar while avoiding bad luck in every playthrough. However, beyond these core details, the old women are extremely flexible storytellers, often switching events around or changing story beats entirely. In some playthroughs, you may discover a woman raising an enormous chicken; in others, you may instead encounter a band of thieves waiting to rob you. You will frequently face important decisions to make that will dramatically impact the outcome of your quest. yes, you can always break into monster hideouts with hammers blazing to slay every creature before you; but more often than not, you are also given the opportunity to peacefully talk your way out of these toxic situations. Even more dramatically, oftentimes the game will zoom out to the old women storytellers and allow you to choose how they tell the rest of Ivan’s story. Yaga is at its best when it doubles down on this player freedom. It makes every moment engaging and allows its stories to truly come alive.
Yaga’s writing and presentation only serve to make this world even more striking. It features a distinctly dark sense of humor – for instance, a man may ask you to push a boulder into a well behind his house, but he will neglect to tell you that he has also thrown his wife into the bottom of that well ahead of time. Much of this dialogue is even written in rhyme, enhancing the otherworldly, fairy tale atmosphere. On top of that, nearly all dialogue is fully voice acted, with most voice actors delivering some eccentrically charming performances that make the game feel as if it’s a playable Disney film. The visuals look like they’re taken straight out of a Russian children’s book of fairy tales, while the music incorporates traditional instruments and language into an electronic, hip-hop fusion soundtrack that captures the cultural heritage that Yaga focuses on while connecting it to modern culture. Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.
However, this leads to the gameplay. Quests may be randomized each time you play, but nearly every one of them takes the same general format. One character will request help, and then Ivan will have to venture out into the world to fight some demons or recover an item. Worse yet, the levels are just as randomized in their procedurally generated design, and not in a particularly clever way, either: most of them likewise follow the same formula, being little more than arenas full of enemies connected by copy-and-paste environments. Many paths in each environment lead to nothing more than pointless dead ends. The combat has a satisfyingly simple basis, with basic moves like long- and close-range attacks, roll dodging, items to use, and a variety of different weapons to equip, although his trusty old hammer is generally the best choice. However, while this simplicity makes the combat enjoyable on its own, there is very little depth to it, and the inherently repetitive design of the mission only serves to highlight how paper-thin combat can be. Most battles involve little more than hacking away at enemies until they die, which becomes increasingly repetitive by the end of the roughly ten-hour campaign.
At the very least, the robust customization system helps add a little intrigue to the combat. As a blacksmith, Ivan is naturally gifted with the ability to craft weapons for himself to use. By scavenging parts and items from fallen enemies and treasure chests around the world, Ivan is able to create the most powerful weapons. Crafting is simple to use yet extremely ripe for experimentation, requiring only one base item and a handful of accessories to create unique new items. With dozens of components to discover and use in your forging, there are plentiful opportunities to create the best possible weapons.
“All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.”
The crafting system would be the standout aspect of the moment-to-moment gameplay if it weren’t foiled by another one of the game’s systems: Bad Luck. Ivan has been cursed with perpetual Bad Luck, which grows constantly throughout the game – whenever something good happens, Bad Luck is sure to increase. Whenever the Bad Luck meter fills all the way, Likho will appear and strike Ivan, generally breaking one of his weapons or stealing his money.
On paper, this mechanic makes sense, since it prohibits the player from becoming too overpowered and also fits into the folklore style off the story. In practice, however, it is an infuriating limitation on player progression and invention. It effectively punishes players for putting thought and care into their weapon crafting and character-building – at any moment it can all be washed away in bad luck, so what’s the point? Considering how enjoyable the crafting and combat systems are, it’s a shame that Bad Luck seems to exist solely to diminish the very best parts of the gameplay, leaving the game feeling like it cripples itself.
Your enjoyment of Yaga depends heavily on what experience you want out of it. If you’re looking for a deep and satisfying RPG, then it likely won’t deliver. Although it features satisfying combat and customization systems, the frustrating randomization of its level design and Bad Luck system only serve to foil these good qualities. If you are instead looking for a faithful, fleshed-out image of Slavic cultural heritage, portraying both the harsh realities of peasant life along with its fanciful folklore, then Yaga is a clear triumph thanks to its emphasis on player choice, its excellent writing, and its beautiful hand-drawn visuals and inventive soundtrack. All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.
‘Resident Evil 3: Nemesis’ — A New Height to Survival-Horror
If we can forget that Nemesis was a poorly designed rubber goof in the Resident Evil: Apocalypse movie, we can easily state that he is the apex predator of the series. The follow-up to Resident Evil 2 had quite a few expectations to fill and, for the most part, Resident Evil 3 delivered. While not so much a fan-favorite as RE2, there was a lot to like about RE3. The return of RE‘s Jill Valentine, some new intuitive controls, and, of course, theNemesis.
RE3 marks the first time in the series where you are limited to one character – Jill. Through this, the story is slightly more focused and straightforward – despite the plot being all about Jill trying to leave Raccoon City. RE3 director Kazuhiro Aoyama cleverly sets in pieces of RE2 to make this work as both a prequel and a sequel. If you’ve never played RE2 – shame on you – you would not be able to scout notable tie-ins such as the police station. With a large majority of the building still locked up, Marvin Branagh, the wounded police officer who helps you in the second game, is still unconscious and has yet to give anyone the keycard which unlocks the emergency security system.
Where RE3 really shines is in its latest entry of Umbrella Corps. bio-engineered tyrants called Nemesis. The hulking tank brought a new dimension to the series, invoking more cringe-inducing terror and stress than ever. As if zombies and critters jumping through windows weren’t bad enough, now you have to worry about an RPG-wielding maniac busting through a wall and chasing you around the entirety of the immediate environment – and chase is certainly brought to a whole new level indeed. It became a running joke when you would encounter a handful of zombies, but could escape unscathed by simply running into another room. Nemesis, on the other hand, will continue his pursuit no matter what room you run into. At the time, this brought a whole new level of detail in the genre. Knowing that at any given moment he will just appear and will certainly derail whatever key or plot item you’re quested to look for made Nemesis a very intense experience.
Resident Evil 3 is the pinnacle of the series and the last of old-school survival-horror.
The gameplay also takes a few different approaches in this game. There will be moments when you encounter Nemesis, or certain plot occasions where you will be prompted to make a decision. It was a great alteration to the series, as it added new layers and weight for the player. Another addition to the gameplay came in the form of control although as minute as it sounds, is having the ability to turn a full 180 degrees – yes you read that correctly. Resident Evil quintessentially coined the term survival-horror, and survival certainly predicates the genre. There will be times – if not numerous times, you will run out of ammo. When those moments used to occur, you would have to make your character turn in the slowest fashion imaginable to make a run for the door and to safety. It was those moments back then that would pull the player away from the action. With the addition of the quick-turn ability- which was actually first introduced in Capcom’ Dino Crisis game – it gave the player the chance to just cap a few zombies and dash creating more seamless and dynamic gameplay.
The level design of Resident Evil 3 is grand, if not grander than RE2. A lot of the setting and scenery take place in the open air of the city and a few other places around the vicinity. RE and RE2 mostly took place indoors, and those settings helped create unique moods especially when it is all about tight corridors adding a more claustrophobic feel. Aoyama definitely went with a bigger setting and atmosphere in the follow-up. The game takes you through a police station, a hospital, a local newspaper office, a clock tower and a factory. More often than not, though, people tend to forget the scope and grandeur of RE3. Not to mention you can only… spoiler… kill Nemesis with a Rail-Gun at the end.
Resident Evil 3 is the pinnacle of the series and the last of old-school survival-horror. It took everything that it did so well in the previous titles and made it bigger and better. Nemesis encapsulated fear and dread in ways rarely experienced at the time. The scene where he popped through a window and chased players through the police station has always remained a nostalgic moment, much like anything that comes through a window in the RE series. In fact, a bit of advice for anyone playing the first-gen of RE titles: beware of windows.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 16, 2016.
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