Darkest Dungeon

“Let me share with you the terrible wonders I have come to know…”

Game Name: Darkest Dungeon (2016)
Developer: Red Hook Studios (have made only this game)
Platform: Windows, OSX, Linux, PS4, Vita, iOS, Nintendo Switch, XBOne
(reviewed on PC and Vita)
Categories: Lovecraftian Horror, Turn-Based Party Combat, Real-Time 2D Exploration, Gore-gous Art Style, Carnage and Viscera, the Darkest Tone, Bleak and Brooding, Punishing Difficulty, Structured Rogue-Like, Sacrificial Risk/Reward, Engrossing Story, Best Narration, RPG Equipment, Skills, Traits, Afflictions, Madness and Stress Mechanics, Town Development,  Procedural Missions, Dark Fantasy, Perma-Death,

May Appeal To: mettle testers, metalheads, medal earners, angsty teens/tweens, masochists, self flagellators, punishment gluttons, horror fans, disturbed obsessors, H.P. Lovecraft freaks, Alice Cooper and other pasty consumers of black eyeshadow
May Repulse: God fearing folk, scaredy cats, responsible parents, the busy, the previously abused or burnt, [boring] well-adjusted citizens, self respecting abstainers, and that one dude that knows his limits

Comparable To: a bunch o’ games that leap to mind…. but aren’t all that similar after consideration. It bests Bastion’s charismatic voice-overs. It champions TellTale Game’s bold, bright comic book style. Early Final Fantasies’ turn based, four person battle system -complete with spells and items- are the closest that I can dredge to measure its architecture. Dungeon of the Endless is a rogue-like exhibiting mysteriously ominous environs and specific character roles in defeating the bloodthirsty swarms. (This one also had a transactional battle system that is closer to Darkest Dungeon’s mission setup.) Etrian Odyssey and early Wizardry games are contenders for the labyrinthine, tile based exploration and testicle crushing difficulty DD may have taken inspiration from. Long story short, it’s a primal RPG amplified by modern conventions flying in the face of its predecessors, and no comparison does it justice.

Continue reading

Layers of Fear

Someone should really clean up…. Well, don’t look at ME!

Game Name: Layers of Fear (2016)
Developer: Bloober (Observer, Basement Crawl, Brawl)
Platform: Linux, PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Switch (reviewed on PC)
Categories: Walking Sim, Horror, Jump Scares, On-Rails Adventure, Story Driven, 1st Person, Single Player, DLC, Short, Art House (literally), Disturbing, Multi Ending

May Appeal To: artists, aspiring developers, bargain bin divers, game hoarders, casuals, Let’s Players, horror buffs, and braggart Indie snobs
May Repulse: the anxious, architects, depth cravers, the unsettle-able, young children, the jaded, and braggart Indie snobs that have yet to buy the game

Comparable To: story and other time elements of Braid, Stanley Parable’s maze-like walking obsession and visual pratfalls (sans narration, which this game could have used); Layers of Fear resonates with Amnesia the Dark Descent except for its tension emanating solely from the environment. SOME DEVELOPER played through the Silent Hills hallway demo, for sure! Also SOMA’s dark, desolate shtick is present, though puzzles are absent. (Unless you count a 3 digit numerical lock or rewinding a phonograph to reverse time, which I do not.) Continue reading

Final Fantasy Tactics

“Many will fall. In fact, most of you pale by comparison to story-oriented characters. But the second wave of disposable recruits may very well have a chance once the invisible guiding hand learns to attack at range. Onward!”

Game Name: Final Fantasy Tactics (1997, War of the Lions remake 2007)
Developer: Tose, Square Enix (Bravely Default, Kingdom Hearts, Tactics Ogre: LUCT)
Platform: PS1, PSP, PS Vita (reviewed on the Vita), Mobile and Tablet versions exist
Categories: Turn-Based Tactics, Squad Based, sRPG, Single Player, Bare Bones Mechanics, Sprites, Symphonies, Side Quests, Inventory Juggling, Team Management, Endless Overworld Battles, Heretical Plots, and Bourgeoisie Backstabbing

May Appeal To: armchair tacticians, Final Fantasy Fanatics, grid and turn-based gamers, or anyone hungry for lasting revenge against a too-hard challenge that previously thwarted them *cough, erm*.
May Repulse: the apparent target audience for modern Final Fantasy games: either Jpop quaff-wearing doofuses or fashion-forward boy band douchebags. This game doesn’t cater to the crowds lining up for immediate gratification. Anyone offended by time honored traditions of FF’s Christianity blasphemy, check out now.

Comparable To: Tactics Ogre’s artstyle and story, though this has simplified personal statistics, less cast members, and more concise and rewarding battles. Vagrant Story shares its world and design inspirations; Suikoden 3’s harder battles are reminiscent. Growlanser had a more compelling positioning and magic attack system. And FF Tactics A2: Grimoire (the sequel) had better team management, a lighthearted story, improved presentation, but a worse -or at least a childish- theme. Continue reading

Bloodborne

You really don’t want to set your verevolves on fire. Because of the smell, primarily.

Game Name: Bloodborne (2015) aka “Budblorne”
Developer: from FromSoftware (King’s Field, Armored Core, Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls)
Platform: PS4 (reviewed on PS4)
Categories: 3rd Person Action (a Human/Alien/Warewilf ménage á trois), Multi-Ending, Multiplayer elements for PSN+ subscribers, Exploration and Backtracking, Shades of Blue and Gray, Furious Flurries of Melee Combat, Piecemeal Storytelling, Procedural Dungeon Extras, Bloodsports, H.P. Lovecraft Inspired, Top Hats and Canes m’lady

May Appeal To: die-hard Miyazaki fans, PS4 exclusivists, Team Jacob, Team Squidbillies, Cthulhu cultists, and (of course) action/horror survival junkies with a proclivity for the macabre and a hankering for the Souls series to don a new theme.
May Repulse: XBox fanbois, Lovecraftian genre abolitionists, Team Edward, and reasonable people expecting a full game without dropping money on the PSN+.

Comparable To: Demon’s Souls’ sense of pioneering new subject material. If you squint real hard, Bloodborne shares otherworldly traits and story with Darkest Dungeon. Dark Souls has a similar environmental hub to this game and I’d say that Dark Souls 2 is much easier to discern due to visual contrast, though Bloodborne sports a unified style. Dark Souls 2 and Bloodborne aren’t identical battle systems though they’re forks off of the same Souls iteration. Monster Hunter has analogous weapon transformations. Continue reading

Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin

I pissed my pleated, Roman war frock.

Game Name: Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin (2015)
Developer: FromSoftware (King’s Field, Armored Core, Bloodborne, Demon Souls)
Platform: PC, PS3, PS4, XBox 360, XBone (reviewed on PC)
Categories: Punishing Trial and Error, Nintendo Hard, 3rd Person Action, Western-Style RPG, Open World with “Branches”, Exclusive Multi-Player Messaging and Cooperative Play, Multi-Player Griefing, Medieval Fantasy, Eclectic Story Unraveling, Perilous Platforming, Exploration, Inventory Management, Gritty Visceral Horror

May Appeal To: serious series followers. I mean, if you don’t already know what you’re in for I would advise against this sequel as a launching point.
May Repulse: hollow braggarts, posers, complainers, DarkSydePhil (in a perfect world)

Comparable To: a smaller, harder, more focused and concise Skyrim…. so really nothing like Skyrim and more in the vein of Dragon’s Dogma, though better assembled. This game is super bright compared to Dark Souls and lacks the nuanced professionalism of its switch-backed level design. In a strange way, this environmental choice puts it on par with the ‘levels’ of Demon Souls, which was harder and more thematic. This straightforward game has arguably better story fragments than Bloodborne and I found its iconic vistas easier on the eyes. The Souls games are less King’s Field and more Shadow Tower than most people are aware of – just sayin’. Continue reading