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

Factorio

Assembly lines, production graphs, logistics, resource juggling, electric supply, industrial train schedules, technological research, and so many conveyor belts. It’s not work; it’s play!

Game Name: Factorio (2016)
Developer: Wube Software (no other games at this time)
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux (reviewed on PC)
Categories: 2D, Strategy, Survival, Sandbox, Multiplayer, Supply Line Juggling, Automation, Crafting, Industrial Manufacturing, Extreme Resource Management, Alien Infestation, Tower Defense, Escalating Complexity/Difficulty, Moddable, In Development

May Appeal To: explorers, tinkerers, builders, thinkers, learners, train conductors, civil servants, xenophobic combatants, survivalists, craftsmen, detailists, OCD junkies wanting an acceptable outlet, and transactional efficiency masters. If you’ve ever busted out a red pen and took pleasure in written revisions, you might have the right mindset.
May Repulse: instant gratification chasers, redundancy allergics, ‘big picture’ people, macro managers, and corner cutters. If you’re fighting an addiction to crafting games due to their monotonous and tiresomely open-ended nature, avoid this one at all costs. It’s just too good at what it does.

Comparable To: Starcraft’s zerg and Starship Troopers’ bugs for alien opposition. It bears likeness to Minecraft and Terraria’s resource gathering/processing, has a Sim City attention to zoning and facility management, Anno 2070’s supply lines juxtaposing warfare, a modded Age of Empire map feel, and Space Empire V’s research tree of micro-progress minutiae; Factorio borrows land-based tower defense from the genre at large, and is easier to progress and excel in than Don’t Starve Together’s multiplayer. Continue reading

Pony Island

Why hello there. You’re unsettling.

Game Name: Pony Island (2016)
Developer: Daniel Mullins Games (Grav, Agent Maxwell: Master of Math)
Platform: Windows, OSX, Linux, Mobile (reviewed on PC)
Categories: On-Rails Adventure, Minimalist Puzzles, Minimalist Sidescrolling Action, Mouse-Only, Dark Comedy, Self-Aware Meta Gaming,  Indie Experiment, Corrupted Nostalgia, Interactive Novel

May Appeal To: tongue-in-cheek gamers, weekend vg jaunters, anyone with ‘meta’ in their vernacular, Steam completionists and hoarders, indie snobs, and those looking for mold-breaking conversation starters about the state of our industry.
May Repulse: not many people actually. It’s short and easy – any opposers to that may have a bad time. The stylized CRT retro-graphics might be a bit rough on sensitive eyes.

Comparable To: Five Nights at Freddy’s in terms of simplicity, tone, and the lore-hungry community over-analyzing every snippet or encrypted character dump that appears in frame. The Stanley Parable’s story and game structure is cognitively similar. Pony Island is infinitely easier than every sidescroller, arcade title, and ‘Escape the Room’ style predecessor that it alludes or emulates. Both GlaDOS and Psycho Mantis approve of the narrator/player interactions.

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Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries

Recon mission? I’ll send this hundred ton Clan battlemech and friends.

Game Name: Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries (2002)
Developer: FASA / Studio MekTek Inc. (Heavy Gear Assault, Beneath the Surface)
Platform: Windows (reviewed on PC)
Categories: Battletech Pilot Simulator, 1st/3rd Person Shooter, Single Player Campaign, Multiplayer Deathmatch, Multiple Endings, Squad Tactics, Walking BattleTanks and Equipment Juggling, borderline overwhelming Mech Loadout Designer. Lasers, Missiles, and multi-ton 31st century Shotguns to the Armored Face, oh my!

May Appeal To: aging gamers with a hard-on for big, clunky, 80’s robot brawls. (Demographic outliers need not apply.)
May Repulse: those expecting modern finesse, flow, balance, and graphics from their gaming excursions. Fair warning: if you liked Mechwarrior then, you’d like it now. If you weren’t aware of it then, you’ll wonder what the fuss is/was about.

Comparable To: Hawken’s plodding arena battles with a kick, featuring mechs less maneuverable than Gundam games but more fluid than Armored Core. The mech garage sections remind me of Front Mission 3; it’s more interesting than Mechwarrior 4, more immersive than Mech Commander, it’s less thematic than Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries, has better gameplay and design than Mechwarrior 3, is less ‘modern’ than MWO, has considerably more depth than Mech Assault, and made me wish my Mechwarrior 3050 SNES emulator would just work dammit.

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