Connect with us
Advertisement

Games

Review in Progress: ‘The Evil Within 2’

Published

on

In 2013 Shinji Mikami returned to the genre he helped define with his spiritual successor to the Resident Evil franchise: The Evil Within. By many accounts, it was a decent enough game, full of scares but with some shortcomings and questionable mechanics. Now three years later we have The Evil Within 2, a game that promises to remedy the issues of the first game and provide a newer, more frightening experience.

One of the biggest improvements over the first game is the plot’s consistency.

The story takes place appropriately enough three years after the last game, with Sebastian Castellanos now a drunk and bitter ex-cop whose mental state never really recovered after Beacon Hospital and his battle with the crazed Ruvik. Despite what the STEM machine did to his brain he agrees to hop back into the bathtub when his former partner Juli Kidman tells him that his presumed dead daughter Lily is actually alive. The catch is that Lily was being used as a STEM Core like Ruvik and suddenly lost control of the system, unleashing a horde of monsters and evil that’s begun killing everyone in the simulated town of Union.

One of the biggest improvements over the first game is the plot’s consistency. While the last title often felt disconnected and disjointed Evil Within 2 stays focused on a single objective and has everything feeding back into that. The writing tends to be somewhat cheesy but in a way that works often evoking the same feelings as a decent enough B-horror film. There’s a lot of environmental storytelling too, including miniature tales of fights gone wrong and desperate escapes from the zombie-like haunted that infest the town. In addition, you can learn more about the village (as well as Mobious the mysterious organization behind STEM) when speaking to survivors and from gathering bits of media scattered across town.

The STEM. Like a computer if its processors were people. You’re the antivirus.

By far the biggest change this time around is the more open nature of the game, with the town of Union offering more opportunities to explore and strategize your attacks. Many of these levels do wonders for the stealth and combat, allowing you plenty of ways to avoid or engage enemies. It’s a far cry from a proper open world game, but since open-world horror almost never works, the choice to lean a bit closer to a linear path was a smart move on the part of the developers.

Evil Within 2 also offers plenty of terrifying, encounters ranging from crawling your way through an auto-shop to slogging through the town-hall. For all intents and purposes, these sections act as the game’s “dungeons” and allow the best aspects of the game shine through. This doesn’t just apply to story missions either, as at one point you can absentmindedly come across one of these encounters by simply walking into a house, something you’ll do often while scavenging for supplies.

There’s a smaller increase of focus on combat over the first game, which may not have been the best idea. Controls are floaty and aiming properly, even after supposedly increasing accuracy, is never totally accurate. The tradeoff, however, is that most enemies are somewhat easier to defeat, with common enemies being way less bullet-spongy then the last game. This makes the few sections where combat becomes necessary, somewhat more tolerable, provided you leave enough distance between yourself and whatever is trying to kill you.

Unfortunately, one area the game doesn’t improve on is its stability.

Union may look like small-town America, but there’s a lot of weird and horrible hidden around.

There’s now a crafting system to supplement your green-goo upgrades. Weapons can be upgraded using spare, and sometimes rare, parts, slowly unlocking more damage and bigger magazines, as well as unique upgrades. More importantly, crafting ammo and supplies is crucial for survival, and thankfully fairly simple. Bullets can be made from gunpowder drops, with higher powered ammo taking more powder. Meanwhile, health kits are made from bit of flora scattered around town. Finally the crossbow returns with different arrow types like explosive traps and shock bolts cobbled out of bits of debris. The interesting twist is that while everything can be made at a workbench, you also have the option to field craft equipment at the cost of double resource, giving you an interesting choice when you run low on supplies.

Unfortunately one area the game doesn’t improve on is its stability. While the game hasn’t crashed or had any game-breaking issues, there are a myriad of noticeable bugs that really damage immersion. First the reload animation for handguns may be one of the buggiest animations ever made, with the spent magazine often flying around completely detached from reality. There’s also bugs with switching weapons and just moving around can occasionally cause Sebastian to contort in a way similar to the very creatures he’s hunting. By far the most unstable interaction is using the melee attack, which is difficult to aim and is poorly animated.

The sick photo-work of the insidious Stefano, evoking memories of Bioshock’s Sander Cohen.

There are other bugs too. Stealth works a bit better this time, but that may just be because the AI is dumb as a post. If you get spotted, avoidance is as easy as rounding a corner and ducking because once you do this, the enemies will immediately stop searching for you (that’s if they don’t just magically loose sight of you for no reason at all). Probably the most annoying issue however, is the inconsistency in enemy reactions. An early strategy is to throw a bottle at an enemy and then land a stealth-kill while they are distracted. The problem is unless the enemy is doing anything but standing stock still, it won’t necessarily work, which can be dangerous and can actually negatively affect gameplay at times.

Unlike its story the graphics of Evil Within 2 are anything but consistent. Character models look fine but their animation is almost hilariously bad. Sebastian skates around like a man bereft of friction half the time, with noticeable lag when his body turns. Enemies look and act better, although there’s not nearly enough variety in enemy models and you’ll find yourself fighting the same four or five zombies over and over. There are some nice minor details, like how Sebastian covers his mouth or pulls his knife dynamically depending on what you’re doing, but most of the time animations outside of cutscenes are just laughable.

Similarly the visuals are all over the place. It’s hard to explain exactly why, but most of the time the first game actually looks better, perhaps due to its linear and more focused nature. Texture work looks good and there’s a lot more colour but the game just doesn’t look like a game released in 2017 and is easily outclassed by other titles released this year like Resident Evil 7, Outlast, or Hellblade. The open town sections look the worst with way too much bright lighting which defuses the horror elements. The linear encounters at least make much better use of lighting and ambiance but overall, it still falls short by most metrics. Bar far the most noticeable issue is the pop-in on smaller objects, and at times it feels as though the world is only barely staying ahead of your movements.

In a year filled with great games, this might just not make the cut.

Some sections change up gameplay, like a first person section in the sewers. Change is not always good.

The audio is mostly pretty good across the board. New voice actors have been hired for Sebastian, Kidman, and the mysterious Nurse Tatinana to somewhat mixed results. While the two women both sound good, with Nurse Tatinana’s VO actor perfectly nailing the detached monotone of a woman that may not even exist, the new actor for Sebastian usually just sounds like he’s doing an impression of every other gruff character from the last five years all at once. There’s a little bit of Big Boss, some Geralt, a dash of Joel and a pinch of Adam Jensen mixed together but none of it works well. This makes his delivery of some lines border on hilarious to just barely managing to reign it in and keep things serious. Apart from that, the voice acting is mostly great even it if does come across as campy at times.

Sound effects are much better and do wonders to enhance the experience. Weapons have a decent amount of punch and weight to them, making you feel every shot or hit reminding you that you’re one step closer to running on empty. Meanwhile the enemies are excellently done, with each type having unique audio queues that alert you to their presence. Music is used sparingly, mostly replaced by a discomforting drone that refuses to let you have a moment of peace. When it does creep in the music is appropriately distorted and weird, matching the crumbling sanity of the game perfectly. Overall this is a game that definitely rewards anyone playing with the audio cranked up and headphones on.

Like it’s crumbling and distorted world The Evil Within 2 is somewhat of a hot mess. It is by no means a bad game and it has remained fairly enjoyable so far, but it also never feels as polished as its predecessor or any of its contemporaries. It does manage to provide a genuinely frightening experience and it does address issues present in the first game, but in a year filled with great games this might just not make the cut.

More to come…

Andrew Vandersteen has been watching movies and playing games since before he could do basic math, and it shows. But what he lacks in being good at things, he makes up for with opinions on everything nerd culture. A self described and self medicated audiophile and lover of anything and everything really, really terrible, he's on a constant quest to find the worst things humanity has ever published. He's seen every episode of The Legend of Zelda, twice, and thinks the Super Mario Movie was a war crime. When he's not playing games or writing about them, he's messing around with audio or fixing computers. Perpetually one paycheck short of breaking even, and always angry about something.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement

Games

PAX South 2020 Hands On: ‘Speaking Simulator,’ ‘Iron Danger,’ and ‘Wildermyth’

Published

on

Iron Danger

PAX South brought an extremely diverse lineup of games to San Antonio, and in this next roundup, it’s time to look at another diverse assortment of titles. These include Speaking Simulator, the surrealist take on the art of speaking, Wildermyth, a beautiful new RPG based on D&D, and Iron Danger, a surprisingly player-friendly take on roleplaying.

PAX South

Speaking Simulator

When asked why he was inspired to develop Speaking Simulator, the developer promptly responded, “I don’t know!” That was exactly what I felt while playing its demo at PAX. It left me mystified, amazed that it exists, overwhelmed by its complexity, and delighted with its absurdity. Speaking Simulator follows a highly advanced android tasked with assimilating into human society in order to gain world domination – and to do that, he’ll need to learn how to speak first. Players are thus tasked with controlling every aspect of this android’s face and guiding it through increasingly difficult social situations.

Speaking is an awkward art for many people (including myself), and Speaking Simulator is just that: awkward. You can control nearly every aspect of the android’s face. You can move its tongue with the left stick and its jaw with the right, while manipulating its facial expression, eyebrows, and more with other buttons. This leads to a delicate balancing act where complete control feels just barely out of reach so that you must always be alert and able to sufficiently direct your mechanical face.

PAX

During each conversation, you’ll have so many different moving parts to consider. You’ll have to follow prompts about where to move your tongue, how to adjust your mouth, how your face should look, and so on. The more complex the conversation, the trickier it is to speak. Scenarios during my demo included a date, a job interview, and the most normal social situation of all, speaking to a man while he’s using the toilet. And of course, if you don’t perform adequately in these conversations, then your face will start to explode – which is only natural for awkward conversations, after all.

Speaking Simulator is the definition of controlled chaos. It shows just how difficult it really is to be a human – controlling the face alone was far more than I could handle, as my frequent face explosions during my demo showed me. Playing Speaking Simulator was an equally hilarious and surreal experience, one that I can’t wait to experience in full when it releases on Switch and PC at the end of January.

PAX

Iron Danger

Iron Danger was one of my biggest surprises at PAX South. When I arrived at the Daedalic Entertainment booth for my appointment with Iron Danger, I didn’t expect to enjoy it half as much as I did. As a western-styled, point and click RPG, Iron Danger was outside my comfort zone. Yet the game is explicitly designed for players like me, who can feel intimidated by the immense amount of strategies and decisions that the genre requires. This is thanks to its core mechanic: time reversal. Perhaps this mechanic isn’t entirely unheard of in RPGs (Fire Emblem: Three Houses comes to mind as a recent example), but the way it’s implemented in Iron Danger makes all the difference.

It begins simply enough for an RPG. Your village is under attack, and as you attempt to escape to safety, you have the misfortune of dying. But death is only the beginning: just as you fall, a mysterious being blesses you with the ability to rewind time at any moment you’d like. That means that if you ever make a wrong move during combat, then you can reverse that decision and try something else. Time is divided up into “heartbeats,” which are measured in a bar at the bottom of the screen.  If you want to go back in time, simply click on a previous heartbeat. There’s no limit on how often you can use this ability: battles become a process of trial and error, of slowly rewinding and progressing as you discover what works. If you end up walking into an enemy trap, simply click back to the heartbeat before the ambush, and try a different strategy.

Iron Danger takes the stress out of roleplaying. RPGs are all about making decisions, and typically, making the wrong decision comes at a high price. But thanks to the time-reversal mechanic, Iron Dungeon gives you the room to experiment without consequence. As the developers at the booth explained to me, the ability to undo your actions turns Iron Danger into more of a puzzle game than an RPG. It’s all about evaluating your situation, the abilities at your disposal, the locations and actions of different enemies, and so on. And if everything goes wrong, then there’s nothing to worry about.

That doesn’t mean that Iron Danger will be too easy, however. Current indications point to the opposite. After I played through the tutorial, the developers took over and showed me an advanced, extremely complex level from later in the game, filled with deadly enemies and dynamic environments to consider, with fields that can catch on fire and explosive barrels to throw at enemies. You’ll have to constantly skip forward and backward in time only to survive. This combination of player-friendly mechanics and hardcore roleplaying combat is an exciting mix, extremely appealing for someone like myself who loves RPGs but doesn’t enjoy the stress that often comes with them.

Wildermyth

Wildermyth

In addition to video games, PAX South also had a substantial portion of the exhibit hall devoted to tabletop games – including, of course, Dungeons and Dragons. But if you wanted to experience D&D-style action without leaving the video game section of the expo, then Wildermyth perfectly fit the bill.

This new RPG is a hybrid between DnD storytelling and worldbuilding with XCOM-esque combat. Like D&D, it allows players to forge their own adventures and stories. Decisions during story events can impact everything from the way the larger story plays out to the weapons your character can use in each battle. Story sequences play out randomly, with events occurring differently depending on which enemies you’ve faced, which characters are in your party, which regions you’ve explored, and so on. It’s an extremely variable story, but with such adaptable writing, each story sequence feels natural, despite its apparent randomness. Instead, it should encourage replayability, to experience every possible story beat there is.

Wildermyth

Combat plays out in a grid-based strategy style, similar to games like XCOM. Each character is decked out with unique abilities of their own, and can interact with their environment dynamically. My favorite ability to experiment with was with the mage character, who can imbue environmental objects with magical abilities, such as attacking enemies who get close or inhibiting nearby enemies with status debuffs. I loved exploiting my surroundings and constructing the best strategies during my demo, and cleverly using special abilities like these will likely be key to strategically mastering combat later in the full game.

Like so many other games at PAX, Wildermyth also boasts of a visually distinct art style. The entire game is framed as a storybook; narrative sequences play out in comic book-like illustrations, and environments and characters consist of flat paper cut-outs in 3D surroundings. Pair this with a muted color palette and a simple, hand-drawn style, and Wildermyth has a quaint, comfortable art style that really supports the fairytale feel of the whole game. Currently available on Steam Early Access, the full game is set to release later this year.

Continue Reading

Games

Indie Games Spotlight – Pastels, Parenting, and Pedestrians

Check out five of the most creative and compelling upcoming indies in the second Indie Games Spotlight of 2020.

Published

on

Indie Games Spotlight

Indie Games Spotlight is Goomba Stomp’s bi-weekly column that shines a light on some of the most promising new and upcoming independent titles. Though 2020 is already scheduled to have several of the most anticipated indie releases of the last few years, this time we’re going to focus on games coming out in the immediate future. From vibrant brawlers to daughter raising simulators, you’re bound to find something that tickles your fancy in the coming weeks.

Super Crush KO; Indie Games Spotlight

Be John Wick for a Day in Super Crush KO

The neon-tinged shoot ’em up Graceful Explosion Machine quickly became one of the best indies on the Switch in 2017. Almost three years later, the same crew at Vortex Pop is back again with Super Crush KO, a fast-paced brawler set in a vibrant, near-future city. Despite the change in genre, however, it’s clear that Vortex Pop haven’t lost their design sensibilities in the slightest.

Super Crush KO plops players into a pastel world full of evil robots and cat-stealing aliens. Such is the situation of protagonist Karen when she’s rudely awoken to find her fluffy, white-furred pal catnapped. Thus, she embarks on a mission to punch, kick, juggle, and shoot anyone trying to keep her from her feline friend. Just like with Graceful Explosion Machine, the goal here is to clear levels with style, rack up high scores, and climb the leaderboards to compete with players around the world. Super Crush KO is out now for Switch and PC.

LUNA: The Shadow Dust Rekindles Lost Memories

Luna: The Shadow Dust is an absolutely stunning, hand-drawn adventure that follows the quest of a young boy who must restore light and balance to an eerie, enchanted world. This lovingly crafted point-and-click puzzle game originally began as a Kickstarter and is finally seeing the light of day after four long years of development.

Beyond its frame-by-frame character animation and appealing aesthetics, LUNA also promises to offer all manner of environmental puzzles to keep players engaged. Control will be split between the boy and his mysterious companion as the two gradually forge a bond and try to uncover the boy’s lost memories. With emphasis placed on emergent storytelling and atmospheric mastery, LUNA should be well worth investigating when it releases on February 13th for PC. Don’t miss trying out the free demo either!

Georifters – An Earth-Shattering Party Game

Genuinely entertaining party games are shockingly hard to come by in a post-Wii world. Georifters looks to fill that gap by offering a multiplayer-centric platformer centered around spontaneous terrain deformation. Players will be able to push, flip, twist or turn the terrain to overcome challenges and battle competitors in hundreds of stages in single-player, co-op and four-player multiplayer modes.

Of course, multiplayer will be where most of the fun is had here. Each character boasts a unique terrain-altering ability to help them attain the coveted crystal in every match. This makes character selection a serious consideration when planning a winning strategy against friends. To drive this point home even further, there will even be dozens of unique themed skins for players to customize their favorites with. Just like the original Mario Party titles, get ready to ruin friendships the old fashioned way when Georifters launches on all platforms February 20th.

Ciel Fledge; Indie Games Spotlight

Master Parenting in Ciel Fledge: A Daughter Raising Simulator

To say the simulation genre is ripe with creativity would be a massive understatement. Ciel Fledge: A Daughter Raising Simulator takes the Football Manager approach of letting players manage and schedule nearly every aspect of their daughter’s life; classes, hobbies, time spent with friends, you name it. The week then flies by and players get to see how their decisions play out over the weeks, months and years that follow. To keep things engaging, extracurricular activities and school tests are taken via a fascinating blend of match-three puzzles and card-based gameplay.

Just like in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, it’s easy to imagine the strong bonds that’ll form after investing so much time and energy into Ciel’s growth into an adult. Better yet, Ciel Fledge is filled out by what Sudio Namaapa calls “a cast of lovable characters” for Ciel to befriend, learn from, and grow up with. Prepare to raise the daughter you always wanted when Ciel Fledge: A Daughter Raising Simulator releases on February 21st for Switch and PC.

The Pedestrian; Indie Games Spotlight

The Pedestrian – Forge Your Own Path

The Pedestrian puts players in the shoes of the ever-recognizable stick figure plastered on public signs the world over. From within the world of the public sign system, players will have to use nodes to rearrange and connect signs to progress through buildings and the world at large.

The Pedestrian is a 2.5D side scrolling puzzle platformer, but the real draw here is the puzzle aspect. The core platforming mechanics are on the simpler side; players can jump and interact with different moving platforms, ladders, and the occasional bouncy surface. The possibilities of where this novel concept can go will all depend on how inventive the types of signs players can navigate will be. The character is also surprisingly charming; it’s inherently fun to guide the little pedestrian man through buildings and environments he wouldn’t normally find himself in.

Whether you’re a puzzle fan or simply appreciate the aesthetics, be sure to look out for the full journey when The Pedestrian launches on PC January 29th. Get an idea of what to expect by trying out the free demo too!

Continue Reading

Games

PAX South 2020 Hands-On: ‘Ghostrunner,’ ‘Everspace 2,’ and ‘Wrath: Aeon of Ruin’

Published

on

‘Ghostrunner,’ ‘Everspace 2,’ and ‘Wrath: Aeon of Ruin’

We’ve already covered a wide variety of the games on display at PAX South this year, from retro revivals to unorthodox romances to everything in between – and we’re not done yet! In this next roundup article, we cover three more ambitious, action-packed games: Ghostrunner, Everspace 2, and Wrath: Aeon of Ruin.

Ghostrunner

Ghostrunner

Ghostrunner was one of the most in-demand games at PAX, and after playing it, it’s easy to see why. This first-person action slasher, developed by One More Level and produced by 3D Realms, lets players dash through the air, run across walls, and slash through enemies at blistering speed all while exploring a dystopian cyberpunk world. It’s gorgeous, lightning fast, and feels amazing to play.

Ghostrunner begins in a broken future, where the remnants of humanity have hidden away in a single condensed tower. Naturally enough, you’re put in the role of the one rebel who dares to rise up against the forces oppressing humanity. As you begin your uprising, you’ll also encounter a grand mystery – why is humanity the way it is now? Just what happened to the rest of the world? And what’s that voice you hear in your head?

Ghostrunner

My demo didn’t offer much illumination to these mysteries, but the 3D Realms team assured me that the story plays a significant role in the main campaign. What my demo did offer, however, was a look into the fast-paced, brutal gameplay that defines the game. Combat is so dynamic in Ghostrunner. Your arsenal of moves is massive and varied – of course you can run, jump, and slash with your katana, but you can also run along walls, dash over chasms, slow down time to dodge bullets, and more.

When all the moving pieces flow together, Ghostrunner achieves a visceral, almost hypnotic flow of battle. There are a few obstacles to this feeling. The controls took a bit of getting used to on my end, but that would be because, console peasant that I am, I’m not used to playing 3D games on a keyboard instead of a controller. Also, this may be an action game, but at many times it feels more like a puzzle game. With bloodthirsty enemies scattered around each environment, you’ll often need to take a step back and methodically evaluate which abilities to use in each situation. This can take some trial and error – it might have taken me more than a few tries to clear out the final wave of enemies. But when the solution works out, it’s a beautifully exhilarating feeling, and that’s what sets Ghostrunner apart.

Wrath: Aeon of Ruin

PAX featured plenty of retro-styled games, but not many quite like Wrath: Aeon of Ruin. This retro-style FPS is a throwback to the simpler, faster days of shooters, built entirely in the same engine as the original Quake. It was even based off the work of Quake community modders. If you’ve played any classic FPS like the original DOOM or Wolfenstein, then you should have a good idea of how Wrath plays: it’s brutal, lightning fast, and action packed.

My demo got straight to the point. After teleporting me to a distant hellscape, I was faced with a horde of demons, ranging from simple skeletons to more aggressive ogre-like enemies and flying laser monsters. Thankfully, I was also given an assortment of weapons to take these creatures down with, including a simple handgun, a powerful blade arm, and my personal favorite, a shotgun. Each one of these felt good to control, and like any good old-fashioned shooter, they gave me a great feeling of power.

PAX South

Like any good, brutal FPS in the vein of Quake, Wrath features an insane amount of mobility. Movement is extremely fast and fluid, allowing you to zip across and above stages with reckless abandon. This extra speed will be necessary, especially considering that enemies can slaughter on with reckless, overwhelming abandon.

Of course, being built in the original Quake engine, Wrath is a delightfully retro treat to behold. It features all the signature hard polygonal edges of PC shooters from that bygone era, but with the added smoothness and fluidity of modern hardware. The game feels great to play and is a unique treat to behold. Wrath is currently available on Steam Early Access, and there’s plenty of new content that can be expected throughout the year, including new levels, enemies, and even a full online multiplayer mode. Stuffed with violent retro action, Wrath: Aeon of Ruin is absolutely worth watching out for.

PAX South

Everspace 2

Space is the final frontier, offering limitless exploration This’s the exact feeling that Everspace 2 captures. This sandbox open world space shooter dumps you in outer space and leaves you to figure out the rest, allowing you to fight, scavenge, and explore as you will, all with an incredible amount of freedom.

It’s a remarkably beautiful game too, boasting of extremely detailed 3D graphics that wouldn’t look out of place in a full 3D AAA experience. It’s extremely ambitious, offering a wealth of customization options through parts that can be scavenged from fallen space craft or space debris. There’s alien life to discover and a wealth of locations to explore, with the full game apparently featuring more than 80 unique environments.

PAX South

These environments will always be interesting to explore thanks to a mix between handcrafted worlds and randomization. The original Everspace was a pure roguelike, and as developer Rockfish Games told me, this constantly changing design has often been fundamental to previous great space shooters. Although Rockfish opted for an intentionally designed open world for the sequel, they want to maintain some of those same roguelike elements. That’s why whenever you venture through the many galaxies of Everspace 2, the galaxies and planets will be the same, but the items you find or enemies you encounter within them may change each time.

It took me some time to get used to Everspace. It immediately offers a great amount of freedom, with the demo simply dumping me in space and only requiring that I take down some enemy units and pick up some loot. Yet once I got the hang of the controls and the environment, it became extremely fluid and natural to zip through space, upgrade different components, and experience all the free-flowing action that it has to offer. Space is the ultimate freedom, and Everspace 2 is set to represent that.

Continue Reading

Popular