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‘Star Wars Battlefront II’ — The Force Is Not Strong With This One

An engaging campaign, a satisfying arcade mode, and thrilling multiplayer make Star Wars Battlefront II an improvement over its predecessor and it should be the game to bring balance to the Force.

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Though flawed, 2015’s Star Wars Battlefront captured the large-scale, galaxy-high-stakes battle scenarios from the Star Wars franchise that fans always wanted to experience first hand. With a plethora of modes, quality controls, and a modest but respectable arsenal to draw from, Battlefront truly brought the conflict of Star Wars to life in an online shooter.  However, restricting itself to one era, paid DLC that significantly fragmented the audience, a couple of balancing issues, and the lack of a campaign meant it wasn’t the droids game fans were looking for. Now Dice strikes back with Star Wars Battlefront II, the campaign-toting, back-to-basics sequel that mends many of its predecessor’s issues — while sadly managing to make a whole lot more in the process.

The biggest complaint with the 2015 Battlefront was the lack of a story mode, a complaint Dice heard loud and clear and remedied in Battlefront II. At the narrative’s center (and the center of the box art, wouldn’t you know it) is Iden Versio, the commander of an elite Imperial special forces unit, the Inferno Squad. The tale opens at the end of Return of the Jedi, as Iden and Inferno Squad arrive on Endor just in time to see the Death Star destroyed for the second time. Now she must find her place in an Emperor-less Empire fighting desperately to re-find the upper hand that it’s had on the Rebellion for so long.  Unfortunately, the initial intrigue of following a loyal Imperial soldier at the end of the Empire’s reign is wasted when the story dissolves into something far more bland and predictable.

That’s not to say that the campaign doesn’t have its moments. That’s just the problem though — they’re moments, scenes that never quite add up to a whole. Part of this is a lack of a true central conflict. An internal conflict that arises in Iden and other members of her squad is the start of a strong, character-driven narrative from a unique point of view, history told from the perspective of the losers, from the “bad guys.” As soon as the conflict emerges, however, it’s jarringly resolved, and the plot bounds ahead while leaving the player behind. A different conflict ensues, only to be resolved a mission later with little to no fanfare.

Still, saying the plot progresses at a breakneck pace isn’t accurate. Instead, the story makes enormous leaps from one moment in time to the next, making it feel like there are entire chapters missing from the game’s campaign. Context is worked unconvincingly into the dialogue to try to convince the player that proceedings have naturally progressed up to this point, but it’s a clear exposition ruse. Promising, original plot points (like Iden’s internal struggle or “Operation: Cinder”) tend to fizzle out immediately, only to be replaced by new narrative threads that feel like retreads from other Star Wars properties.  There’s novelty in being thrown into some new and some recognizable locales, and atmospherically Battlefront II feels like Star Wars — just without a cohesive narrative to actually bind it together. On top of that, random interludes where the player embodies some of Star Wars’ most recognizable heroes that never truly connect back to anything further chop up a campaign that never realizes its potential.

Characterization is equally as fleeting, emerging promisingly in moments when things decide to slow down, only to be reduced to the same sort of expository shortcuts the game tries to deliver as scenario context. Consequently, Battlefront II lacks any weight or emotional resonance, despite its best efforts. Equally as disappointing (considering its initial effort to unmask and humanize some of the soldiers behind the stormtrooper helmets), the game ultimately settles into the same old binary, black and white, good versus evil perspective of the Galactic Civil War that has always existed. In a time when Rogue One took early steps towards painting the Rebellion as anything less than morally white and pure as sheep’s wool, I don’t think it’s asking too much for a portrait of the Empire as anything more than an abhorrent force. In the end, though, Battlefront II contents itself with portraying the Empire as nothing but evil, hardly tapping into the potential of its initial intrigue. All of that said, while the campaign might not be all that memorable, its characters can’t hold a candle to the original Star Wars cast, and the story is sort of a choppy mess, at the very least it’s fun, and a good introduction to the game.

The second of the three major modes Battlefront II offers is the arcade mode, comprised of multiple mini-missions and scenarios categorized as Light or Dark Side that task the player with eliminating AI-controlled soldiers under specific conditions. Those conditions or modifiers in any combination range from strict time limits to using a specific hero, or limit the player with a strict amount of troops, or even to a single life. Each mission also has three difficulties that alter the game modifiers and make more formidable opponents out of the AI.

The arcade offers players a place to experience the game’s different soldier units, the decent range of heroes, and experience a multitude of the game’s locales in a non-competitive environment. While simple, it’s a lot of fun, and honestly reminds me of the 2004 Star Wars: Battlefront or its 2005 sequel in a really great way. In fact, if Dice somehow sees this and expands arcade mode to feature gameplay identical to the original Battlefront across this game’s full maps, I will raise this review’s score a whole number. Hell, I’d double the score if that’s what it took! Dice, how’d you like to be the first game reviewed by Goomba Stomp to get OVER a ten? Think about it.

Like the rest of the present Battlefront II‘s modes, arcade isn’t without its blemishes. For whatever reason (probably to match the rest of Battlefront II‘s horrendous progression system), in-game currency gains are capped after five arcade missions, so that while the mode is a fun diversion, arcade isn’t helping players progress in the rest of the game.  Perhaps it was a decision made to prevent players from farming for credits (the in-game currency) as fast as possible, but considering each mission only doles out 100 credits upon completion, and the cost of everything in game is thousands of credits, this is a disturbingly stingy design choice. And while the arcade can be experienced cooperatively, co-op is limited to same console split-screen, an enormous oversight for a fundamentally online multiplayer game that already allows players to party up to experience almost all of the rest of the content together. While this is the least of the game’s issues, it’s still a design choice that lacks foresight (force sight?).

The final and arguably primary category of play in Battlefront II is the multiplayer mode.  The multiplayer is broken into five modes, the largest of which is Galactic Assault, where two teams of twenty clash over objectives that shift as the game progresses. A combination of the 2015 Battlefront‘s forty-person modes like Supremacy and Walker Assault, Galactic Assault’s objectives vary by map, vast battlefields from all eras of the films that perfectly capture beloved locales such as Hoth, Endor, or even Theed. For those looking for smaller-scale, more contained objective play, the Strike mode is perfect. Round-based, Strike pits two teams of eight against one another in a best of three bout across equally as iconic — albeit more reigned in — locales. Strike provides just the right amount of focused, objective gameplay, remaining quick-paced and competitive despite being far more controlled, and allows teams and individuals to adapt to enemy tactics and mount a comeback when necessary. I still find myself bouncing between the two modes, easily the standouts of Battlefront II‘s multiplayer.

That’s not to say the other multiplayer modes aren’t fun diversions. Starfighter Assault is the game’s starfighter dogfight mode. While better balanced than its predecessor’s dogfight mode, and providing some much-needed objectives to truly make proceedings feel like a “star war,” fighters’ lack of evasive maneuvers means that when a player has you in their sights, you’ll fare no better than Biggs did against Vader during the trench run on the Death Star. You can’t shake ’em (actually, I think Wedge said that, not Biggs, but for the record, Biggs got dead). Heroes vs. Villains is a fun mode where teams of four go head to head as the game’s cast of heroes. A player on each team is randomly highlighted as the target, and killing them nets your team a point — first to ten wins. It’s a goofy diversion, but good to get a feel for all of Battlefront‘s hero characters. Finally there’s Blast, a ten versus ten deathmatch mode. It’s nothing special, and I’d hardly call it a “blast.” Nothing to see here, move along, move along.

Each mode (minus Heroes vs. Villains) features a new Battle Point system. Landing hits on enemies, netting kills, and playing the objective grants points that can be spent on rewards and upgrades in the match. The system rewards player performance by allowing them to take control of special troopers, vehicles, or even heroes, regardless of era. The system seems fairly well balanced, and only allows a limited quantity of each special trooper type onto the field at once. To maintain balance in the force, smaller modes such as Blast and Strike only feature the elite trooper upgrade options rather than allow players to dominate the enemy’s smaller numbers with their favorite hero or villain. Admittedly, it can be antagonizing to get cornered all alone by a Sith or Jedi as humble foot soldier in the larger modes (Yoda, in particular, can be a pesky, small target, and maybe should be rebalanced), but heroes, vehicles, and all upgrades have been fairly well balanced, and players will have to wield all special troops with quite a bit of care, or risk getting taken down quickly by the enemy’s ranks. It can also be a bit irksome when you’ve finally earned enough BPs to upgrade to a hero, only to see the maximum quantity of heroes already on the battlefield, but sometimes resource management can save a team in some clutch moments. In any case, the system is far preferable to 2015’s Battlefront upgrades, which were randomly scattered across each map.

Perhaps taking inspiration from the original Battlefront series, Battlefront II introduces a class system to its ground-based multiplayer modes. Each of the four basic classes fulfills a specific role, and comes equipped with different guns, tools, and perks. The Assault class is a basic ground soldier, effective at medium ranges. The Heavy is tanker, and has a handy shield and lethal minigun. The Officer can boost a teams health and lay down automated turrets, while the Specialist class specializes in range, stealth, and infiltration. While a welcome addition, the class system isn’t without issues — primarily balancing issues, which unfortunately have been drowned out by the more dire progression system complaints. As it stands, the Heavy class is as efficient as the Assault class at close to medium range, but with the benefit of an energy shield to halt incoming damage, meaning far more survivability. On top of that, Heavy weapons have almost as much range as a Specialist’s snipers, with less need for accuracy due to the higher rate of fire, particularly when in Sentry mode (the Heavy class’ special attack). When playing as a Heavy, I’d frequently be about to lose a gunfight, only to pop my shield and finish mowing down my opponent, safe behind my personal barrier. A relatively high time to kill means Heavies can react to incoming fire, drop a shield to turn the tides of the engagement, or, if fighting a Specialist, simply fire faster and finish them off if the Specialist so much as misses one headshot.

As far as the Specialist goes, the class does have the advantage at really long distances, especially if the player has unlocked a double zoom scope for any of the guns. However, most of these guns don’t have quick rates of fire, and (by design) don’t reward kills for single headshots — or, as is often common in shooters, two body shots. I’ve had countless awkward engagements where I simply missed the headshot and couldn’t put my opponent down before they had reacted and finished me off simply because their gun was far faster and more lethal when landing body shots. Further hampering the Specialist class is the fact that it’s the only class to start with a non-lethal grenade. While a trip mine can be equipped once the proper Star Card has been unlocked, it doesn’t replace the horrendous, near-useless shock grenade, but instead replaces the very beneficial thermal binoculars, which help the class set up in ideal positions to pick off enemies at range.

Finally, the best option for the Specialist in close range encounters is the special ability, Infiltration, which provides a detailed minimap, scrambles enemy radars, and auto equips a three round burst, medium-range blaster for a short period of time. Unfortunately, the blaster feels slow, and has a longer time to kill than most classes’ standard blasters. It can be helpful if the player manages to flank a group of enemy troops, but in a face-to-face encounter, even with Star Card improvements, it often comes up short, making the Specialist’s special hardly a special at all.

Those scruples aside, Star Wars Battlefront II‘s multiplayer content is fun. Unfortunately, this quality content is unequivocally marred by the game’s abysmal progression system.  The most natural progression in game occurs as players utilize each of the four basic classes. Those classes can earn upwards of three new weapons, rewarded after earning fifty, 200, and 500 kills respectively. However, EA has managed to botch even that up by allowing players who pre-ordered immediate access to some of the guns, a non-issue if those guns weren’t all indisputably better.

As for the rest of progression, it’s all dependent on loot crates. As individuals play, they’ll earn credits, which can then be spent on an assortment of crates, which grant Star Cards. These cards are meant as customization options which grant new tools, augment existing abilities, improve cooldown speeds of said tools and abilities, and even buff base stats like damage resistance. All Star Cards are tiered, altering their effectiveness. A level one white tier card might provide a new grenade for example, while a level three blue tier card might improve the damage it does, its blast radius, and always improves the cooldown time of the ability. Consequently, players with better cards — received randomly in loot crates and rarely through any matter of earning them — are at an advantage, upsetting the game’s already questionably balanced ecosystem.

Undoubtedly this progression system was designed to promote microtransactions, as initially players were invited to spend real currency on “crystals” that could also be used to purchase loot crates. However, even if EA were to permanently remove microtransactions from the game, the progression system as it stands would be irreparably broken. As mentioned, crates can be purchased with the in-game currency,but doing so is a slow and tedious process that never guarantees players the specific cards they’re seeking. Each crate grants three to four cards: one or two specific to the crate type, one random card, and a card with “crafting parts” (more on those later). For example, the cheapest crate — the Hero Crate — costs 2,200 credits and only guarantees one or two random cards that improve a hero or villain. The most expensive crate — the Trooper Crate — is the only crate that guarantees at least one card to improve the basic trooper classes, costs 4,000 credits, and again, provides a totally random cards, leaving the player no control over what trooper the card will be for, let alone what perk it will improve.

The average game rewards the player somewhere between 100 and 350 credits for roughly fifteen minutes of play. While credits can also be earned through completing career “milestones” (a system that tracks player achievements in game), these returns are pitiful, typically bestowing the player with 100 or 250 additional credits. Long story short, progression in Battlefront II is tedious and left up to a random number generator.

This doesn’t even take into consideration that players will also have to balance their credit spending between hero unlocks, as six heroes must be purchased with in-game credits, including Luke and Darth Vader. Yes, the Skywalkers are locked at the game’s outset. Not helping the matter at all, these characters are all pricier than the most expensive loot crate, costing 5,000, 10,000, or 15,000 credits per character. Even the game’s protagonist, Iden Versio, must be unlocked.

While there’s no shortcut to unlock each hero, Star Cards can be crafted using the aforementioned crafting parts. These parts, also occasionally earned through milestones (though these rewards are equally as paltry as the credits earned in this way), are typically found in loot crates. The lowest-level Star Cards can be crafted using forty crafting parts, a reasonable amount considering that there are forty-five to sixty crafting parts in each crate. The higher tier cards, however, cost significantly more. As a measure of balance, the highest tier of each card can only be acquired by crafting them once that specific class has reached a high level, and costs 480 crafting parts — just another inanely tedious climb.  Luckily, the three-tier cards can still be found in loot crates, totally at random, totally out of the control of the player who will probably end up having to grind to a high level anyway to get the card through crafting it.

All that said, Star Wars Battlefront II isn’t all bad. I can’t honestly recommend it, especially since thanks to the worst progression system I’ve ever experienced, new players will be at a continually steeper disadvantage, but underneath all the bullsith (eh?) and greedy mishandling is a really fun Star Wars game. An engaging if terse and sporadic campaign, satisfying arcade mode (Dice, my deal still stands), and thrilling but imbalanced multiplayer make Battlefront II an improvement over its predecessor, and a laudable arcade shooter satisfyingly set in the Star Wars galaxy. Unfortunately, the appalling progression system and unmistakable greed of the publisher tarnishes all of that, leaving it looking less sleek and shiny, and more gross and dirty like Jabba the Hut. Like a Stormtrooper aiming at a named hero, this one just misses the mark.

Tim is not the droids you are looking for. He resides quietly in the Emerald City where he can often be found writing, reading, watching movies, or playing video games. He is the Xbox editor for Goomba Stomp and the site's official Pokémon Master.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Hvd

    November 20, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    ea its in the crates…lol.ea just pay 2 win…lol.

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Game Reviews

‘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.

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Life is Strange 2

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.

Life is Strange 2

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.

Life is Strange 2

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.

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Game Reviews

‘Yaga’ Review: A Bittersweet Fairy Tale

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Yaga Game Review

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.

Yaga Game Review

“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

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.

Yaga

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.

Yaga Game Review

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.

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Game Reviews

‘Remothered: Tormented Fathers’ Review: I Want My Remummy

There’s merit to be had if you just want a quick bash at a quirky, indie horror game, but with so many flaws, I can’t recommend Remothered.

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Remothered: Tormented Fathers Review

It feels like a while since the ‘survival horror but you can’t fight back’ genre was at its peak, especially with the recent, tradition-tinged revival of the Resident Evil series, but back in 2017 when Remothered: Tormented Fathers was being developed for PC it was all the rage. Like any indie game that’s had even the slightest amount of interest or acclaim during the current generation, Remothered has received the now-obligatory Switch port. Although its modest technical requirements clearly made a successful transition to the platform more than manageable, they don’t help to hide the game’s very obvious shortcomings.

Players take control of Rosemary Reed in her attempts to investigate retired notary Dr. Richard Felton, who is currently undergoing treatment for a mysterious disease. Oh, and he has a missing daughter that he probably murdered. The plot of the game feels a little cliché, but it’s undoubtedly its strongest facet. However, suspending your disbelief at the ropy animations and dodgy voice-acting is needed to avoid being sucked into feeling like you’re watching Theresa May running around a big mansion trying to escape from a John Cleese impersonator with his arse hanging out. Alas, I clearly failed in this endeavor.

Remothered is essentially a game of ‘go there, fetch that, bring it here, use it’ with an added element of ‘don’t let the annoying old man kill you in the face with a sickle’. Yeah, one of those ones. The story takes place almost entirely within Felton’s huge mansion, and navigating the ol’ girl is by far the game’s toughest element. It’s made especially harder while you’re constantly on edge, trying to avoid the stalking lunatic without a map, weapons, or a proper objectives system. Be prepared for your bearings to be quite considerably lost.

There are a couple of ways to avoid that face full of sickle. There’s a dodge button (provided Rosemary isn’t too tired to actually dodge), a run button, distraction items, and defense items that will automatically be used to escape a grab attack if you have one equipped at the time. Remember those crappy bits in Resident Evil 4 where you had to play as Ashley? This is like that… for a whole game.

While a little tired in 2019, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the formula of the weapon-less survival horror game – it’s just that in Remothered, it’s not implemented all that well. Enemy AI routing is weird, which should be grounds for an unpredictable fright-fest, but leans more toward the annoying and/or hilarious. It seemed like the stalkers would either sit directly outside the room I needed to enter – barely moving and refusing to be distracted for longer than a few seconds before returning immediately to their original spot right on my current objective – or simply bugger off to another floor and never come back.

Even with his penchant to completely vacate the area, and despite his advancing years, Dr. Felton possesses supersonic hearing. It seemingly doesn’t matter how far away you are – if you run in this game, he will hear you. To make matters worse, the sound design just doesn’t make sense. With every press of the run button, enemy dialogue would instantly change to indicate they’d heard you and then loud footsteps would permeate every room you enter as if they were right behind you, when they most certainly are not.

It’s either a cheap scare tactic to give the impression of enemies constantly being within touching distance, or the fallout from a combination of naff sound design and the limitations of my Switch’s Pro Controller not having a headphone port. What makes it worse is that everything is so campy that it’s seldom scary in any tangible way. When the man trying to murder you is constantly shouting about how he hasn’t got anything to eat that isn’t moldy while you hide in his cupboard, it’s not exactly bone-chilling.

As a result of the big-eared murderers and their impeccable radar tuned to the sounds of running, I spent almost the entirety of the game… well, not running. Unfortunately, Rosemary walks slower than an asthmatic ant with heavy shopping, and this made exploring the mansion a monotonous chore – especially when getting caught and subsequently having to run up and down floors to hide before slowly sneaking back to restart the investigation.

Puzzles are that old school type of obtuse where you’re tasked with finding everyday items to fix problems. The puzzle itself lies in realizing the item the developer decided should work, finding it in the giant four-floor mansion, and slowly returning to the its intended area of use without dying. For example, in order to get into an attic, you have to search rooms at random to find an umbrella to pull down the door’s previously-out-of-reach cord. It’s such a shame that Remothered eschews any type of self-contained puzzle for a string of confusing fetch quests, as everything feels more tedious than taxing.

It feels a little unfair to bemoan the lack of polish for a two-year-old indie game, but Remothered is full of niggling issues. Animations are janky, lip-syncing is non-existent, and the camera wigs out after the QTEs to fight off enemies have finished – always pointing you in the wrong direction. I also encountered a couple of game-breaking bugs where Rosemary did her door-opening animation without the door actually opening, and I couldn’t enter the room without rebooting the game. Lastly, and I don’t want to be too harsh to an Italian developer, but the in-game English is pretty abysmal, and lots of the game’s expositional notes and articles border on illegible through their poor translations.

There are some people out there who can’t get enough of the whole hiding under sofas schtick, but I like my survival horror games with better psychological tension, a (limited) means to fight back, and coherent puzzle-solving. There’s merit to be had in the game’s labyrinthine setting and short length if you just want a quick bash at a quirky, campy indie horror game in the Haunting Grounds model, but with so many flaws and such a frustrating gameplay loop, I can’t recommend Remothered: Tormented Fathers outside of anything other than morbid curiosity.

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