Chaos Legion Review

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Chaos Legion is a difficult game to recommend. It has its ups and downs but its flaws stick out like a sore thumb. When I first played Chaos Legion I didn’t know what to expect. I picked it up dirt cheap in a bargain bin. The premise sounded interesting so I gave it a shot.

Chaos Legion is without a doubt an unforgettable experience but it’s an experience which may or may not leave a sour taste in your mouth. Put simply, Chaos Legion could easily be mistaken as being a campy 3D beat-em-up in the same vein as Devil May Cry with an emphasis on summoning minions to assist you in battle which isn’t completely far from the truth. The problem is that unlike the Devil May Cry games, Chaos Legion tries to take itself a bit too seriously.

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This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the ridiculous yet somewhat confusing storyline. It’s difficult to put it into words to be honest but the problems lie in a multitude of issues. For starters, the characters are just bad… I mean bad. The main character is what would happen if Dante from Devil May Cry and Squall Leonheart from Final Fantasy VIII had an offspring… now that’s a scary thought.

Sieg Wahrheit is about as cheerful as an onion, so much so that clowns would burst into tears at the very sight of him. He’s the sort of guy you would find sat on his own in a bar drinking himself into a stupor. This doesn’t stop him from kicking some serious ass though. Not only is Sieg a capable sword fighter but he is also able to summon powerful legions to do his bidding. When confronted by a formidable adversary, Sieg combs his hair back as he sends the god of death to do what it does best… bring death!

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The story as a whole is basically a massive dollop of edge, so much so that it can actually be comical. It doesn’t help that the main villain is hilariously identical to Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII, so much so that you even see a flashback of him standing in front of a fiery background much like Sephiroth did in Final Fantasy VII during the Nibelheim scene. There are other little quirks to the story such as poorly delivered voice acting and the odd choice of music that plays during the ending credits. The story is bad, really bad and you are going to either love it or hate it for being bad. Nevertheless, Chaos Legion makes up for this with its sheer kickassery in the gameplay department.

Chaos Legion is not without its flaws though. While I do not dispute the fact that this game is kick ass, the options available to you at the start are pitiful to say the least. You really are forced to rely on your legions a lot at the start of the game since Sieg starts out with a basic 4 hit combo and 2 aerials. Sieg also comes with what is quite possibly the most badass lock on system ever which shoots red lightning at an enemy because why the fuck not?

Over time however, Sieg is capable of learning an assortment of new abilities which can make him a lot more versatile in combat and this allows you to become very powerful. Doing so however requires you to level up your legions. Every single hit/smash rewards you with XP and soul. Soul is the power source used to summon and maintain legions, XP is used to level up legions in 3 categories:  “Force”, “Assist” and “Enchant”.

Force is pretty much the standard level of your legion. It increases the number of legions you can summon at once and the more legions you have, the more damage they will deal. This can be handy when fighting certain enemies who are immune to Sieg’s attacks which you will find over the course of the game. The good thing about summons is that they cost nothing to use and you will only lose soul if they get hit so you will probably be using this a lot.

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By combining the legion’s powers with Sieg’s you can perform a special ability known as an assist. These abilities vary depending on the legion Sieg is equipped with and while some abilities are arguably more useful than others, they all come in handy in a pinch. Using them will lower the health soul of your legion minions which can leave them very vulnerable when summoned. Each assist has its own soul cost and there is a cap on how many assists you can accumulate (though this can be increased via certain stat items you can acquire). There is essentially a risk reward system with both force and assist abilities making it very important to carefully manage your usage of them.

Enchants are augments for Sieg, they do not cost anything to use and are permanent upgrades. This allows Sieg to broaden his move pool and also offers several permanent stat boosts. These upgrades are tied to the respective legion however and as such you will need to equip that legion in order to make use of these abilities so it is important to keep in mind what legion does and what abilities it has before you equip them. Once you hit level 4, these stat boosts are directly linked to Sieg so you no longer have to use that legion. This requires a lot of level grinding though.

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Leveling up your legions is the key to getting the most out of this game, many vital gameplay elements are contained within each legion and you are only able to use two legions at a time. This can feel limiting considering the fact that there are certain areas that are blocked off and can only be accessed with a certain legion’s ability which encourages player’s to backtrack to previous levels to collect hidden items. The problem with this is that the game doesn’t allow you to backtrack until you have the map selector which is an item you obtain for beating one of the game’s later levels.

In theory you could argue that they did this to prevent players from grinding experience points but this just isn’t the case. If you die in a level, you are given the option to retain a portion of your total experience points so you can technically death crawl your way through this game if you need to (you can also do this via the menu). Speaking of death crawling, this game can be ferociously hard even on easy difficulty. Enemies in later levels can deal a considerable amount of damage and have a ton of health, plus the game likes to throw a ton of enemies at you at once which can be overwhelming.

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If you’ve played games like Devil May Cry before, you will likely be accustomed to the level of difficulty Chaos Legion brings to the table but if you aren’t you are probably going to have a hard time getting through the first few levels. As your legions grow stronger and learn more abilities, the game starts to open up a little as you are given more options at your disposal which can make the game feel a little less limiting and more enjoyable. Put simply this game requires a lot of patience, especially when trudging through the first few levels with just your basic attack string.

The controls are kinda weird at first and require a bit of practice to get used to but they offer a surprising amount of flexibility. X is to jump, square is to attack and triangle is to use your legion assist. To summon legions you press the L1 button, To swap legions you use the L2 button and R2 button changes Legion behavior. The R1 button locks the camera in the direction Sieg is facing as well as allowing Sieg to sidestep and perform dodge rolls and circle is used to lock on to the enemy (the one that shoots a bolt of lightning at the enemy). This can also be used to direct legions to attack specific targets.

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Sadly despite how awesome it looks, the lock on function doesn’t automatically lock the camera towards the target and instead requires you to hold down the R1 button in order to lock the camera onto a locked on enemy. This can be quite nuisance as holding the R1 button down completely changes your movement leaving you unable to jump. The issue with this is that it’s not easy to utilize the dodge function as it requires precise timing to pull them off so in many cases it is easier to jump to avoid attacks as a poorly timed dodge leaves you wide open as you can’t chain them unlike in Devil May Cry 2 and trickster in Devil May Cry 3 which can feel crippling especially when there are a lot of enemies around which there will be.

I’d have preferred it if the lock on would automatically focus the camera but still allow you to jump around and by using R1 to change camera you could cancel your lock on. The problem with this is that when you want your legions to focus on a specific target, the only way to do so is to use the lock on. As such I can get why the developers did this but it just goes to show how poorly the legions are integrated into the gameplay and in all honesty I think this is where the biggest issue with Chaos Legion lies. The problem is that summoning the legions kinda detaches Sieg from the gameplay as his movement speed is severely limited making him almost completely useless in combat. This is a shame because if they removed the legions completely and instead focused on enhancing the rest of the combat, this could have been serious competition for Dynasty Warriors.

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The right analog stick camera can be hard to maneuver at times which can be problematic as due to the amount of enemies on screen it’s important to keep an eye on your surroundings at all times. Fortunately there is a handy mini-map which shows the location of all the enemies around you. It is often recommended to use the R1 button to lock the camera in the direction Sieg is facing instead. Sadly it requires to hold the button down for a short time in order to fully fix the camera which can be quite irritating at times but it still beats using the right analog stick which is something.

Awareness plays a big part in Chaos Legion’s gameplay as unlike Devil May Cry 1 and 2, you are going to be swarmed by a ton of enemies. In a way you could argue that Chaos Legion has more in common with games like Drakengard and Dynasty Warriors than it does with Devil May Cry. If you are accustomed with those type of games you’ll feel right at home with Chaos Legion.

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As you can see, Chaos Legion has a lot of issues in both the gameplay and the story department, as such it’s easy to see how people can be turned off by this game and pass it off as a mediocre hack & slash game as it has so many odd gameplay elements and mechanics that are poorly executed. However there is no doubting that Chaos Legion is a very unique experience as a hack & slash action game. Legions play a significant role in this game and it is important to learn and master them all to get the most satisfaction out of it. Sadly some legions are better than others and it’s easy for players to stick with the same ones which can lead to limiting the player’s gameplay experience, especially since only 2 legions at a time can be equipped and many of the underappreciated ones have some interesting abilities.

Chaos Legion appears to be one of those games that is awesome in concept but terrible in its execution. The question is, is there still fun to be had in this game? The answer is definitely yes… but you need patience. Leveling up legions does more than just make the player stronger, it opens up more gameplay elements that keep the gameplay fresh and ultimately more accessible. I found that when I managed to unlock the ability to quick dodge and counter attack, I was having a lot more fun with the game. Sadly this is all too little too late and I wish that the earlier portions of this game could be as fun as this. I really wish I could recommend Chaos Legion for its unique take on its hack & slash gameplay but I just cannot ignore its many flaws.

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The problem lies with the game’s many caveats in its early stages as well as the really awkward gameplay elements. I think with a bit more time and thought, this game could have been so much better. I do see the possibility for a remaster of this game with improved combat mechanics and controls but since this is a Capcom game I won’t hold my breath. Still if you can get past the issues there is some fun to be had here, there are lots of really awesome powers available to you and Chaos Legion presents things in such a unique fashion that the gameplay is instantly likable. It’s one of those games that really makes you feel awesome playing it.

Speaking of awesome, the game’s soundtrack really amplifies this. From the first level all the way to the last you are presented with an epic soundtrack filled with metal and epic choir chants that really keeps the adrenaline pumping in a fashion that befits the setting of Chaos Legion rather well. To make things even better, the music changes when you summon your legions which can make things even more epic. Even the intermission screen has some great music that pumps you up for the next level.

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Visuals on the other hand are a mixed bag. While the character models are nice, the environments are bland and many of the early levels look the same. You can clearly tell that they designed the levels knowing that there were going to be tonnes of enemies littered around and so many of the areas are somewhat open and empty. There is a bit of verticality though which makes the levels a bit more interesting but don’t expect the levels to be as good-looking as Painkiller.

All in all I think there is a lot we can learn from Chaos Legion. A game that does many things right but way too many things wrong. It’s a pit filled to the brim of both mechanical and a conceptual ideas that never got to truly flourish. On top of all that it has a great soundtrack and some really cool abilities to mess around with. Would I recommend this game? That’s a good question. Personally I would recommend this game solely to aficionado’s of 3D beat em up/hack n slash games as this is yet another action game by the makers of Devil May Cry so if you enjoy these types of games and want to experience something a little different, I’d say it is worth a shot.

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As for everybody else, you’re probably better off just playing Devil May Cry 3 instead as unlike Chaos Legion it has aged rather well and still holds up as one of the best games in its genre. Though it saddens me that I have had to be so negative about a game I really like I believe it is important to paint an accurate picture for you all. Who knows? Perhaps the game’s unique ideas and awesome soundtrack might be enough to keep you engaged like it did me or it would be yet another mediocre slog for you to push through only to return it to the bargain bin.


Story/Plot: Ow The Edge

Visuals: Mediocre

Gameplay: Mediocre

Music: Great

Lifespan: Quite Short

Would You Replay? Yes


Overall: Mediocre

 


But the truth is, I really do enjoy this game, I enjoy it enough to realize that I need to set people’s expectation’s low so that they too may be surprised by this game like I was.

Value: £5.00

Purchase Chaos Legion (PS2)

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Theorycrafting – The Importance Of Pacing In Videogames

Pacing is one of the most important aspects of game design in my opinion and is one of the biggest challenges you will face when designing your game.

So you’ve solved a problem and you’ve decided how you’re going to motivate players to play your game but how can we engage them? I talked about engagement beforehand but In that video I mainly talked about the commonly used systems that many games use to build engagement. Now it’s time to get more in-depth and talk about pacing. Pacing is arguably the biggest factor that decides whether or not your game will be engaging. While it isn’t the only factor, pacing can make or break a game depending on how well it is implemented.

Now I have previously brought up the terms: real-time, synchronized time and turn based. These terms will be very important in this video as they are ultimately what will govern the style of pace you want for your game. The hard part comes with deciding how you want to pace your game as not all games have explored these terms and for good reason. A racing game could never work as a turn based or synchronized time based game because its core mechanism revolves around reaction time and dexterity which contradicts a turned based style of pacing.

Nevertheless, pacing is a science which has yet to be fully explored, much like many other aspects of game design. I can however point out fundamental flaws in games where the pacing and the nature of the game contradict one another. Real Time Strategy is essentially a flawed genre for this reason. While it is important to use time as a means of adding tension, a game that has too many things to manage will contradict its real-time pacing.

However, if we separate the nature and the pacing of Real Time Strategy, we can clearly see that real-time and strategy are not incompatible by nature, hence why it is not the genre, rather it is the games that are commonly labeled with the RTS genre that I have issues with. Real Time and Strategy could possibly work together but it would come at a cost. If you’re going to make a game work in real time, it needs to be adaptable to real time gameplay. Too much management can compromise a real time game and as such the inputs required to execute strategic choices need to be as straightforward as possible so that players can feel comfortable playing your game.

One could argue that Final Fantasy XIII is closer to that of a Real Time Strategy than a Turned Based Strategy and they wouldn’t be wrong. The ATB bar is very similar to that of a unit production timer that you would usually see in a traditional RTS. On the other hand I would argue that games like Grandia are closer to turn based, as the game pauses when you are about to enter a command.

Final Fantasy XIII’s biggest flaw was the fact that it was forced to implement an auto battle option in order for players to keep up with the pacing of the gameplay. As such, players would use that option over actually picking skills manually because of how its real-time influences the game’s rules, as auto battle is arguably the most efficient option due to the fact that picking skills manually forces them to navigate through menus which wastes valuable time.

In a turn based game, this would never be the case as the game pauses when you are navigating through the menu which makes sense as navigating menus is a meaningless activity that has absolutely no connection to the player’s strategic choice. As such, while Grandia may have an ATB gauge, the game works completely differently to Final Fantasy XIII as the decision-making process isn’t governed by real-time, Final Fantasy XIII’s is.

This is what greatly differentiates the two. You could argue that Final Fantasy XIII was received poorly for this reason, because it didn’t work. The question is, could it work?

Well that depends, are you willing to narrow down the number of choices in order to have a tighter level of control in your game to make up for it? The problem is, doing so could actually turn your game into an action game because even action games have some decision-making involved, it just isn’t as noticeable. There is a fine line between action and strategy that can be crossed if developers are not careful.

This is where games labeled as RTS are flawed, as the outcome is often influenced more by the number of actions per minute rather than the decision-making process. Take Warcraft 3’s four versus four for example. Due to the fact that large battles favor massing powerful units, certain units such as the Banshee become false choices as they are lesser units designed to support more powerful units. This makes the decision making process weaker. Most players will use Frost wyrms, fiends, chimeras, hippogryphs, siege engines, mortar teams and bats depending on their race.

Because Warcraft 3 suffers from a lot of balancing issues, the outcome of a 4V4 game is usually influenced by what races are on what team but if you were to play in an all undead mirror game, the team with the most combined action per minute wins. As such, Warcraft 3 is not a strategy game anymore, it is an action game.

Then we have synchronized time. Synchronized time is where time moves when the player inputs certain actions. In other words, the pacing of the game can vary from slow to fast depending on how quickly the player acts. While this might seem like a good thing at first, it’s important to remember that synchronized time changes the rules considerably from real-time and unlike turned based, it wouldn’t really work in a multiplayer game.

In addition to all this, it is important to note that certain genres just wouldn’t work well with synchronized time because it would contradict their very nature. Games like Mount And Blade, Valkyrie Profile 2, Mystery Dungeon and Superhot all use synchronized time in some shape or form.

Now that we’ve covered the basic pacing methods, it’s time to refine them. In order to do this we need to find an answer to a more complicated question, “how does the pacing of a game differ between two games which use the same style of pacing?”

Since this is a lot to take in, I’m going to aid you in the process of solving this issue and as such I have come up with a guideline, not a be all and end all… but a guideline on how to decide what style of pacing you want your game to be so that you can clearly understand what this process involves and how important it really is.

This guideline focuses on two aspects of a game which are polar opposites. In terms of racing games for example, supporting mechanisms make up these two opposite ends of the spectrum. One one hand you have games which focus on control and on the other hand you have games which focus on building up speed. I can safely say that all racing games need both mechanisms to function but one is usually going to outclass the other. This is where the decision-making process comes in.

Now the guideline suggests that games on either end of the spectrum are going to be niche… however for the sake of brevity, let’s say that this guideline is used to judge how good a game is. Lets say games on opposite sides of the spectrum are the best games in their genre.

Lets use first person shooters as an example. On one end of the spectrum you have games like Arma and Half Life. On the other end you have games like Quake and Painkiller.  Now that’s not to say that Arma and Half Life are the same because they’re very different but so are Painkiller and Quake. Each game has its own identity which separates it from the other. What these games share with one another is not the style of gameplay but rather the pacing of the game. In Half Life you spend a good portion of the game roaming the maps, hunting for ammunition and solving puzzles. In Arma you spend a lot of time positioning yourself in strategic positions as well as carefully aiming your weapon.

Quake and Painkiller on the other hand has you firing off bullets like there’s no tomorrow and you will be moving very quickly through levels, dodging bullets and other hazards like a god. Now there’s no secret that Painkiller was heavily inspired by Quake 2, you could even argue that it is Quake 3’s true single player campaign as its mechanics are very close to that of Quake 3’s. The level structure however is different. Painkiller is more linear, with large, open arenas to fight in, Quake is more contained and maze-like. Once thing is for certain though, both games are fast and will require a lot more reaction timing to master, Arma on the other hand requires more precision. While both games require a form of dexterity, it is merely the way in which players utilize their dexterity that differs and this completely changes not only the pacing but the entire nature of the gameplay experience as a whole.

As such you can clearly see how important pacing is, pacing can transform games. As a result, you have to be very careful with how you decide to pace your game. Does it fit in with your vision? This is the hardest question of them all because you might have the vision for the perfect game only for it to be ruined by poor pacing. As such you have yourself a dilemma. This is why pacing is so difficult because you don’t want to waste valuable resources trying to make a solid game only for it to fall apart because you realized that the pacing and the vision do not fit together. Then you have to re-think everything all over again and scrap the project.

To alleviate this issue. It might be important to pick the style of pacing first before you pick a vision, it sounds counter-intuitive but believe me, you won’t regret it. This will narrow down the scope of your vision drastically but this also helps you make a more calculated decision when it comes to designing your vision. Afterwards all you have to do is make sure the vision and your style of pacing work in tangent. In order to do so, you need to come up with creative mechanisms, ideally ones which kill two birds with one stone. Remember that the less mechanisms your game relies on, the less you will have to put in your game and the more simple and accessible your game will be. In addition, dealing with too many mechanisms can be costly and time is precious so it is very important to be creative with your ideas in order to hit that sweet spot.

Nier Automata Review

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When people think of notorious game developers, a few names come to mind, Yoko Taro is one of them. Yoko Taro is quite possibly one of the most interesting gaming personalities of all time, a man who dares to present himself in an unorthodox manner and escape the confines of formal corporate etiquette. If you ask me, Yoko Taro is essentially what I would consider to be the perfect videogame producer.

However, looking at Yoko Taro as a game developer requires us to take a look at the many games he has developed. Now my personal knowledge on Yoko Taro’s games is limited but I have seen a pretty clear pattern in his design philosophy. It appears that Yoko Taro gives zero fucks about any of the potential repercussions that his crazy ideas may cause and rather than solving problems, many of Yoko Taro’s design choices often end up creating them.

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When you look at Yoko Taro’s games on the surface, his games are crazy and over the top. I believe this to be the main draw to Yoko Taro’s games. His carefree attitude is certainly appealing, especially in the current climate where most gaming companies prefer to play it safe. Yoko Taro appears to believe that by doing the opposite of what other game developers try to do, he will succeed. He is partially right but at the same time this is a flawed mindset.

While it is important to experiment with new ideas, it is equally as important to prioritize certain ideas over others and cut away anything that isn’t congruent with the gameplay. Sadly Nier Automata prioritizes its narrative and illustration over its gameplay and tries to meld them into one in order to create an unusual experience, an experience in which I personally feel mixed on.

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If Nier Automata has taught me anything it’s that ideas and concepts alone do not make a game. If we look at Nier Automata on the surface we see a massively ambitious project that blows our minds, so much so that this game is admittedly very difficult to critique but at the same time it’s very easy when you look closely at what the game actually is. Nier Automata is the equivalent of a dish that hadn’t been tasted, that’s not to say that the QA department were to blame, rather Yoko Taro’s dumped a lot of random ingredients into a blender expecting it to turn out great.

Now the good news is that Nier Automata is a game that manages to tickle everyone’s taste buds, hence why it became so popular. Methinks this was Yoko Taro’s plan from the start, create something so ridiculously absurd that people get blown away in amazement by how unorthodox the game is and with a plethora of ideas at his disposal, he was able to make a game that grabs the attention of the masses for it offers something for everyone. It worked, sure but that’s not to say that the game is a masterpiece, far from it actually.

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As this is a review I am obligated to paint an accurate picture of the experience and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. In doing so I’m going to tear this game apart. Yeah you heard me, I’m not going to pretend that this game is a special snowflake because it’s not. Nier Automata is far from being a masterpiece like many make it out to be and this is due to one simple issue that plagues the entire game, it lacks a solid foundation.

Videogames requires a similar structure to that of a tree’s anatomy. You have the roots, the trunk and the branches. The roots are essentially what keeps the tree alive, without the roots there is no tree. As such the roots are the base of the foundation, they provide the tree with nutrients and water. Considering the fact that Nier Automata appears to be primarily a 3d beat-em-up I will use Devil May Cry 3 as an example. Devil May Cry 3’s foundation is not the attacks, nor is it the style gauge, the base of Devil May Cry 3’s foundation is the movement and the camera. You see, the entirety of Devil May Cry 3 is built with camera and movement in mind. Devil May Cry mainly uses a static camera angle and the gameplay is built with this in mind.

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Many animals were harmed in the making of this review

Later on, many 3d beat-em-ups opted for a manually controlled camera so that players have control over the camera rather than feeling unable to feel in control. This came with a cost as it can be difficult to manage both the game and the camera simultaneously. Some games such as Chaos Legion made camera management easier, others such as God Hand opted to remove the camera entirely, this caused both games to differentiate from one another dramatically giving each game a completely different feel. As you can see, the camera plays a big part in these games as it is the focal point in which each game is built around. In other words, the camera acts as the foundation that governs the rules and systems built to accommodate it.

Why am I bringing this up? Because one of the biggest issues that plagues Nier Automata is the very thing that governs the foundation of all 3d beat-em-ups, the camera. The very first thing you are introduced to in Nier Automata is a shoot-em- up section. Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a 3d beat-em-up you ask? That’s the thing, Nier Automata doesn’t focus on being one specific genre exclusively, rather it tries to meld different styles of gameplay into one expecting to impress a huge audience with its diverse gameplay.

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When you first begin, the game starts with a vertical camera with your flight unit able to move forward, back, left and right as enemies appear from the top of the screen for you to shoot down, sounds simple doesn’t it? Well don’t get too used to this as the next section presents you with a top down camera which plays more like a twin stick shooter. This introduces the use of the right analogue stick which was previously unusable in the previous section. In other words, the game has just changed its rules without warning and you now have to adapt to a completely different set of rules.

This can be disorientating as players need time to adapt to a set of rules before they are introduced to a new set of rules. Only through practice can players experience educated empowerment, the problem is that rather than having players feel like they are coming to grips with a system, Nier Automata changes the rules and forces players to come to grips with an entirely new system, thus the element of mastery is neglected for the sake of diversifying gameplay which can be infuriating to people who enjoy mastery in videogames and can be equally as frustrating to people who struggle to pick up on gameplay mechanics.

 

“If Nier Automata has taught me anything it’s that ideas and concepts alone do not make a game”

 

In Devil May Cry 3, aside from the occasional puzzle, the game consists of mostly beating the living shit out of bad guys with mostly close quarters combat, it focuses primarily on this close quarters combat and the very first mission involves primarily close quarters combat. Why? Because that is the core of Devil May Cry 3’s gameplay and the game wants to introduce the player to the game by giving them a fairly simple and straightforward training ground allowing players to experiment with Dante’s move set in order to learn the basics of the game’s combat. At first, it is natural that players are going to suck and as such you need to present the player with more of the same gameplay sections, occasionally adding something new to the mix in order for them to become better acquainted with the game’s mechanics which is the first step towards mastering the game.

If you transition to a completely different ruleset, you essentially compromise the entire process of mastery, this is the biggest issue with Nier Automata’s gameplay and it only gets worse from here on out. Nier Automata loves to experiment with a lot of different ideas… the problem is that Nier Automata is a commercial product designed to be a recreational activity. Such experimental ideas do not belong in the game, rather they belong in a note pad… or in a completely different game entirely.

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Of course this also applies to the sections where you are grounded and engaged in close quarters combat. Most of the time you will have access to manual camera control but this is not always the case, some sections will have a static side view camera or a static top view camera. The game seamlessly transitions between each camera angle so this can often happen without warning, changing the way the controls work every single time.

The top down sections are by far the worst of the bunch as the camera is usually zoomed out way too far. Of course this isn’t the only time this happens as the side view camera angle can also be zoomed out way too far at times but I find this to be a lot more common with the top down sections. This can be quite irritating as it can be difficult to read the enemy’s moves when the camera is zoomed out too far. The game tries to make up for this by giving many of the enemies a red aura when they are attacking but it only happens for a split second and when there’s so many enemies on-screen at once it can be difficult to figure out which one was attacking you, let alone what their attack is going to be as it can be difficult to see which enemy you’re fighting.

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Now I get what the game is trying to do, I really do. It’s trying to harken back to the old school style of gameplay, back when side scrolling and top down camera angles were common. The problem is that the gameplay of Nier Automata is not built with these camera angles in mind. The entire game is built with manual camera controls in mind and as such having multiple camera angles is kinda pointless as it doesn’t enhance the gameplay experience whatsoever, rather it hinders it.

If you want to make a side scrolling beat-em-up, that’s perfectly fine, look at what Odin Sphere Leifthrasir did, that game was built with a side view camera angle in mind. As such, rather than removing certain functions from the game, it incorporates functions that simply wouldn’t work in a game that uses manual camera controls such as the ability to hold down square and press up on the left analogue stick to perform aerial attacks. You can’t do this in Nier Automata as pressing up on the left analogue stick is used to move your character forward, granted games like Devil May Cry 3 added a directional input using its lock on system, something Nier Automata is sorely lacking.

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This is where I want to get into the game’s combat system, specifically the 3d beat-em-up sections. Nier Automata’s combat system feels somewhat archaic, at least when compared to other 3d beat em ups like Devil May Cry 3. You are limited to one string of attacks per weapon and can equip 2 weapons at a time. You are also given a pod that shoots bullets and other ranged weapons. In addition to all this you are also able to dodge enemy attacks and counter them which is pretty satisfying to pull off.

One thing that bugs me however is that the short sword counter attack launches enemies into the air, this is cool until you encounter enemies that don’t stagger as instead of launching them into the air, you flail your sword around like an idiot, it gets really irritating how some enemies can be staggered while others can’t. In addition to all this, I encountered several hit point sponge enemies over the course of the game, the game gave me no indication as to which enemies were hp sponges and which weren’t which was annoying.

It appears that these enemies are monikered “gold enemies” and they’re really annoying to fight as they take way too long to kill them unless you hack them but doing so requires you to have a hacking skill which you don’t have access to when you first encounter them and you don’t have access to them for ages. In which case why spawn these enemies there? They’re not even challenging, they’re just annoying and tedious, I killed one of them but I didn’t get anything special for doing so, perhaps there’s more to them but I don’t really care, the fact that they show up in a section of the game you need to pass through to progress through the main story is absolutely fucking ridiculous as you clearly aren’t supposed to kill them at that point… yet you can, the funny thing is, these enemies aren’t a higher level than any of the other enemies, so why do they have so much goddamn hit points!?

It was at this point where I realized just how limited the combat feels, yes the combat is really fun and satisfying at the start but it stagnates later on, particularly when you find out that shooting enemies at long-range with the pod is usually the best strategy for dealing with most enemies making melee combat kinda useless. In a way, Nier Automata feels a lot like Devil May Cry 2 but with faster, less janky combat as it gives you an automatic weapon right from the get go meaning you can hold it down and kill most enemies surprisingly quickly. Why waste time with the melee combat when ranged combat is safer and easier, sure it might not be the most efficient method in terms of damage dealing but after weighing everything up I’d say the game encourages you to use ranged weapons over melee weapons.

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Now you could argue that Devil May Cry 3 gives you handguns and that you can shoot enemies to death. Though this may be true, it clearly isn’t encouraged as shooting requires you to rapidly tap the square button and they deal very little damage per shot, it’s so much easier to hit things with a sword as not only does it deal considerably more damage but it also helps build the style gauge which gives you access to more red orbs letting you learn more moves faster. It puzzles me how a 12-year-old game manages to have more flexibility in its combat system than Nier Automata. It’s as if the developers were desperate to release the game ASAP with a passable combat system. To the developer’s credit, the combat is easy to pick up and play, dodging feels very responsive and the overall combat feels smooth, so much so that it makes a mockery out of Yoko Taro’s previous game’s in this department which is nothing to write home about but commendable nonetheless.

Going by Yoko Taro’s track record, I’d say that this game’s combat system would have been a train wreck if it wasn’t for Platinum games which just goes to show how little confidence I have in Yoko Taro’s games. Drakengard 2 and 3’s combat systems were painfully slow and janky, I could never finish either of them for this reason, granted I never played the first Nier though I heard a lot of complaints about the game and based on my experiences with Drakengard 2 and 3, this doesn’t surprise me. If you ask me, Platinum games saved this game from being yet another janky mess.

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Of course this is only the first layer of the game’s combat system as it is technically two games in one, well sort of. The shoot-em-up segments make up the second layer of the game’s combat system, much like in Odin Sphere, I really wasn’t too keen on having them in this game either. To the game’s credit these sections aren’t particularly all that bad but they just seem to be thrown in there for the sake of it. Unlike most shoot-em-ups where enemies drop power ups and you improve your ship, Nier Automata doesn’t do this which kinda makes these sections feel tacked on and thus an ordeal to get through.

I can’t exactly complain about these sections though, much like the beat-em-up sections you have more-or-less the same abilities, dodging is still great, you can melee attack to deflect projectiles and shoot powerful lasers at enemies. If I was to summarize my overall experience with these sections, I’d say that they’re the top down low-budget equivalent Zone Of The Enders. In other words I think these sections are ok but not particularly rewarding or enjoyable to get through, at least in my opinion. I would have rather they focused on enhancing the beat-em-up style gameplay than shove this in there because I bought this game to hack n slash robots on the ground, not shoot things in the air.

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Then we get into the hacking minigame. To be honest while these sections are simplistic, the fact that they keep the camera static the whole time makes these sections the best part of the gameplay hands down. Much like the standard shoot-em-up sections however, these sections also feel like a needless ordeal to get through most of the time and you will want to get back in the action ASAP. Still I cannot complain about these sections, it’s like a budget indie title some amateur made in game maker, how can you possibly fuck it up? All you need to do is shoot cylinders, circles and arrows, you can’t possibly fuck this up. Do you want a fucking medal game?

Combat aside, Nier Automata offers a reasonable amount of character growth and personalization through the use of plug in chips. Over the course of the game you will acquire plug in chips which can be added to your pod. Each plug in chip has different effects that can be applied to all elements of gameplay. They can also be enhanced by combining multiple chips together in order to improve them. I honestly found this to be a nice addition to the game and sort of makes up for the lack of options in combat. As such you could argue that Nier Automata is actually an Action RPG and to be honest you wouldn’t be completely wrong as the game does have a leveling system and RNG… but after the last blog I made, I’m going to treat this game as a 3d beat-em-up. I do think the character management is good enough to give this game some credit as an ARPG but with only a single controllable character, it’s expected that the game can do more than most ARPGs and as such it feels unfair to compare it with other games in the genre.

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Still, I think what Nier Automata lacks in the gameplay department is flavor. The framework is there… mainly because that’s all they had time to do by the end because they didn’t bother to focus on one particular element. This means the game feels sterile as a result, you get a playable, yet empty experience which could have been so much more had the developers focused on one element of gameplay rather than trying to do everything at once. As such, the lack of focus is the core of the problem. The potential is there but the material on offer feels archaic, dull and boring which is extremely disappointing coming from Platinum games. If you ask me, I’d say that Yoko Taro’s involvement is the main reason why the gameplay never reached its full potential, he demanded too much from the game and Platinum did their best to make it work.

By now you can probably see a trend in this review. So far I have only touched on the gameplay and for good reason, it’s all over the fucking place! That means I have to review every single combat section separately because they’re all different even though my opinion on every single one of them is the same, they all feel half-assed. Now I’m not saying that the gameplay is terrible, it definitely isn’t, heck the game can actually be quite fun to play for quite a while, the gameplay is definitely not a major issue, if I said it was then I’d be a hypocrite for giving other games the pass and not this. I’m just disappointed that they didn’t go all the way with this game considering the amount of hype that was built up for it.

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The sad thing is, Nier Automata clearly had the budget, it just lacked common sense in its direction and I know that this might sound like I hate Yoko Taro but the truth is I don’t, I really want to like his games, I really do. I support everything he stands for in gaming, he’s one of the few people involved with Square-Enix that is genuine and for that I cannot bring myself to hate the guy. I feel his games however seem to follow a clear pattern. Yes they’re all weird and wacky, nothing wrong with that, I get it, heck I can even appreciate it. However there are certain things about his games that rub me the wrong way, particularly in the gameplay department. As such if gameplay is the only thing you’re interested in, Yoko Taro’s games definitely aren’t for you, you are wasting your time and money playing them as there are better games out there for people like you, go play them instead.

So as a game, Nier Automata could have been so much better but is it a good experience nonetheless? That’s a tough question. You see Nier Automata is one of those games that’s either going to click with you or it isn’t. The premise of Nier Automata is pretty complicated. The world has been taken over by machines and mankind has deployed androids known as Yorha to deal with them. It sounds simple on paper but mark my words it isn’t.

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Such an ambitious premise is going to require a lot of creativity in the narrative department as androids are artificial lifeforms that use artificial intelligence. There are only two ways to approach such a concept, either make the android characters completely devoid of emotion and focus primarily on building a strong, interesting world with plenty of abstract storytelling or find a way to encourage players to willingly suspend their disbelief in order to establish strong connectivity with the characters. Nier Automata focuses mostly on the latter.

The problem is that the characters in Nier Automata are pretty bland. This is usually expected with such a premise as it is normal for androids to lack emotion but when you clearly focus your game’s story on connectivity with characters, you need your characters to have strong emotions in order for them to be interesting enough to connect to. The main character 2B has a cardboard personality. She’s a serious, duty-bound Android who is stoic and blunt. Then you have 9S who joins 2B on her mission who is kinda laid back but does develop later on in the game.

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When a game feels the need to be literal when describing the personality of a character, you know the writing’s fucked.

Unfortunately the character development in Nier Automata feels forced. This is mainly due to the game’s lackluster dialogue. The build up is there but it feels very shallow. Once again, this all comes down to a lack of focus. A lot of the game’s narrative is focused on the game’s premise and its themes rather than the characters. If the game was going for a more abstract style of narrative it could probably get away with this but sadly this is not the case as Nier Automata clearly focuses on connectivity. For a game focused on connectivity to work it needs strong characters to act as a foundation for the rest of the story. If the characters are weak, the pillars holding the story together begin to crack and if the pillars crumble, the rest of the story goes down with it and thus is the unfortunate fate of Nier Automata’s story.

To enjoy Nier Automata’s story to its fullest, you not only have to willingly suspend your disbelief but you also have to read a lot of the game’s texts and engage in many of the game’s sidequests. While this does not save the main story from being a complete let down, it at least allows you to appreciate the world a little bit more. I can honestly say that I had way more fun doing sidequests in this game than I did playing through the main story as the sidequests are pretty well designed. Sure there are plenty of fetch quests but they each come with their own little side story. Some missions are more interesting than others but I can definitely say that these are some of the best sidequests I’ve seen in a game hands down.

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Where Nier Automata truly shines is in its exploration. If you’re looking for a true adventure game, this is it. The world of Nier Automata doesn’t feel empty and barren like most open world games nor does it feel strictly linear, instead the game gives you freedom to explore within limits. Personally I’d argue that this is by far the best approach to open exploration. If you see it you can most likely reach it and the game makes it easy to move around the world for the most part making exploration simple and fun. Of course there are plenty of treasure chests and items laid about for players to scavenge to reward players for exploring the game’s world.

Visually I’d say that the game is kinda a mixed bag for me personally. I’m not personally fond of the post apocalyptic urban setting as there is a lot of dull grays. The vast majority of the game takes place in these areas which is a bit of a downer for me but outside of these areas, there are some gorgeous looking areas to explore. I do think the developers overdid it with the lighting at some parts but I don’t think it’s a major issue. For this reason, I found the best parts of the game were the early sections before acquiring the first ending. Those of you unfamiliar with Yoko Taro’s games probably don’t know what I mean by this but Drakengard and Nier both have multiple endings. As you play through the game you will eventually reach an ending where the credits play but the game isn’t over and you are told to keep playing on for more content.

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After the first ending, I started to lose interest in the game as I had already explored the majority of the game’s map and the value of exploration was no longer present in the game. To be honest, despite the fact that the first ending left me with lots of questions, I felt that it was the best possible time to end the game. You could argue that the game is worth purchasing for the first section alone but considering the full package, I’d say that Nier Automata overstays its welcome much like everything post disk 1 in Legend Of Dragoon.

One thing that didn’t disappoint me was the soundtrack. While I’m not usually fond of vocals, I found that they accompanied many of the tracks pretty well. The music helps encourage the exploration, something a lot of open world games fail to do because they tend to shuffle the music randomly rather than keep the same track for each area. I really like how a semi-open world is accompanied with a soundtrack that perfectly fits each section. Not only that but the music changes depending on whether or not you are in battle to get you pumped up for the action. I think a lot of games can learn a lot from Nier Automata for this reason. In terms of open exploration, I’d argue it’s one of the best if not the best game I have ever played.

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Though Nier Automata does have some redeeming qualities, I’d argue that the overall experience of the game is hit-or-miss. When this game was first released I had to pay £44.99 which is an absolutely outrageous price for such a game. I definitely didn’t get my money’s worth out of it but I probably would have if I spent £39.99. This is why I come across as somewhat harsh and bitter in this review because not only am I having to pay more for videogames these days but I feel that many of the games released this generation (and the previous) fail to meet the standards set by games that were released 10 years ago and Nier Automata is one of them.

As such I cannot say that I was as impressed or as blown away by this game like the masses were but can I recommend this game? Well I’d say if the price is right, pick it up, just don’t spend £44.99 on this game, it just isn’t worth it. I base my entire judgement on value for money and time as when a game has the audacity to charge more, I expect more. I don’t give a shit about inflation, I expect games to improve as time goes by, sadly this clearly isn’t the case.


Story/Plot: Satisfactory

Visuals: Great

Music: Excellent

Gameplay: Great

Lifespan: Decent length

Would You Replay? No


Overall: Great


Value: £40.00

Purchase Nier Automata (PS4)

 

Theorycrafting: Maintaining Engagement – How Do Games Keep Us Engaged?

One of the biggest challenges game developers face is maintaining engagement. As such it’s important to understand what keeps us playing the videogames we like and what stops us from playing the games we can’t get into.

Grandia 3 Review

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So after years of waiting, we finally got Grandia 3 in the UK via Playstation Store. It was a hassle to access the US Playstation store but regardless, I have finally finished it and quite frankly I’m quite glad I got to experience this game, even if it is a bit rough around the edges. What do I mean by this? Well it is pretty much the opposite of everything that made Grandia 2 so great in the first place.

Allow me to elaborate. When this game was first released, people were in uproar about it, some consider it the death of the Grandia series, others just consider it to be a mediocre title which was nothing more than a disappointment. Hey, that sounds like the perfect game for me to review. So I picked the game up and gave it a go. How bad could it possibly be?

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First of all, I would like to talk about the visuals of this game since they are a considerable improvement from Grandia 2. The world of Grandia 3 is certainly a looker, not the best looking game I’ve seen but it has certainly been given a makeover that stands out if you’ve played any of the previous Grandia games. It feels great to actually play a Grandia game with such great visuals. Sure Grandia 2 Anniversary Edition improved on the visuals somewhat and made them a lot easier on the eyes and actually made them quite likable but Grandia 3 really has a fresh new style that is unlike any of the previous Grandia games.

One thing I would like to note is that Grandia 3 feels like a much more open-ended game than Grandia 2 but don’t let this fool you, the game is every bit as linear as its predecessor though to be fair, you are able to backtrack this time around thanks to the game’s flight system which allows you to freely roam the world map in a similar way to Lost Odyssey in the sense that it is very restrictive and in a lot of ways kinda pointless considering the linear nature of this game.

Grandia 3 Flying around is kinda pointless

For a theme centered around freedom to roam the skies, you’d expect the game to deliver that feeling of freedom in its structure but sadly this is not the case, instead when you approach certain areas, you merely get a text box telling you about it, kinda like in Mass Effect. It’s such a shame since there is a huge world out there to fly around in yet you only get to explore a small portion of it. It’s such a shame really.

While we are on the topic of the game’s theme, let’s get straight to business and talk about the games laughable story. Where do I even begin? For starters after having played the legendary Grandia 2, it is easy to see how this game has come to receive such a negative reception. You would think that after playing a game like Grandia 2, the story would be exciting and fresh, sadly this is not the case this time around, the story of Grandia 3 is about as exciting as a baked potato.

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Trying really hard not to make a dick joke

While Grandia 2 went off the beaten track with its protagonist, in Grandia 3, you are presented with Yuki who follows just about every single cliché in the book as a JRPG protagonist. His only standout feature is his love for planes… not that I consider that a good thing, rather It comes across as obnoxious more than anything else. Typically the game starts off with the protagonist, Yuki getting scolded by his mother Miranda for being too obsessive over his hobby.

But believe me, Yuki doesn’t get any sympathy from me. After crashing his plane like an idiot, he is left stranded in the middle of a forest a couple of miles from his hometown and encounters a young girl named Alfina… you know what this means don’t you? That’s right, get ready for some boy meets girl action in the form of yet another bland, uninspired romance that contributes absolutely nothing to the plot… hurray!

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Little did I know that the entire build up of Yuki’s character was about to capsize from here on out. Now Yuki must escort Miss Bigears to a place called Arcriff, a place of worship dedicated to communicating with the guardians. Sound familiar? Anyways the story starts getting duller and duller from there.

Put simply if you’ve played any JRPG, you’ve seen Grandia 3’s storyline already. It pretty much deflates into a quest for macguffins once you reach the halfway mark and by that point, the story never really evolves past that until you face the big bad evil thing at the end.

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To make things even more insulting, the only two redeeming characters leave the party early on in the story. This cripples the story as they are replaced by two dull characters who barely have anything to offer in terms of personality and they are mostly cardboard cut outs. In fact, these characters are so bad that you could remove them from the game and it wouldn’t change a thing.

Now in a game like Grandia, this is particularly worrying since the Grandia series has always revolved around its interaction between characters and with a cast of characters as dry as oatmeal, its efforts to focus on character interaction are pretty much wasted.

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The nature of the Grandia series remains unchanged however. Grandia 3 follows the same formula as the previous games. Its focus on NPC interaction is still an all you can eat buffet of narrative and the dinner scenes return to add more flavor.

You can tell that Game Arts were trying to focus on building a strong narrative as they continue to use the same tools that made Grandia 2’s story so engaging, it’s just a shame that the characters and the plot of Grandia 3 are so sterile otherwise it could have made for yet another memorable and engaging storyline.

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Where the game truly shines however is in its battle system. Like the previous Grandia titles, Grandia 3 uses an active time based (ATB) battle system with a heavy emphasis on changing the flow of battles through cancelling enemy attacks and manipulating the IP gauge to intercept enemy turns.

Grandia 3 enhances the system by rebalancing the game’s difficulty to make for a more challenging experience. In addition, the game adds new aerial combos in an attempt to mix things up. Sadly while aerial combos have their uses early on in the game, their effectiveness diminishes later on as enemies are given insane amounts of health and this tends to make many of the boss fights a slog.

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Fortunately many of the boss fights are varied, some of which can be quite difficult to figure out at first. The game keeps things fresh by offering plenty of devastating abilities to be used by both the player and the enemy. It is important to stay on your toes in all battles as you are usually outnumbered by multiple enemies and if your characters are widely spread out on the IP gauge, you may find yourself in a compromising situation if you make the wrong move.

Thankfully the game offers a wide assortment of abilities in the form of moves/magic to bolster your arsenal. Every ability is useful, you just need to find the right one for the job. That’s JRPG combat 101 right there and while many JRPG’s forget the significance of this, Grandia 3’s combat focuses heavily on making the player’s choices feel important. Add to that the need to manage SP more carefully (due to the lack of SP restoration items available) and you have a surprisingly deep combat system which offers plenty of variety to keep things fresh for the entire duration of the game.

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Character Management is different this time around. New moves are learned via leveling up rather than with special coins. Moves are enhanced at random. I personally dislike this as it can sometimes screw you over in battles since attacks will be pulled off instantly when a new secret method is learned (the process of leveling up moves) which can ruin a potentially well-timed cancel. I also dislike the randomness of move leveling. Grandia 2 gave the player total freedom with learning moves which led to several balancing issues, however this method is still preferable to the method used in Grandia 3, at least in my opinion.

Magic is pretty interesting this time around. While the spells in your arsenal are more-or-less the same, the method of learning magic has drastically changed from that of Grandia 2. On one hand it complicates the progression system, on the other hand it is a more balanced system that prevents players from acquiring high level spells too early. Magic eggs can be dropped by most enemies and are surprisingly very common, they can be used to enhance the effects of spells or they can be consumed to learn new spells. Abilities work the same way allowing you to equip skill books to increase the potency of specific skills or consume them to learn new skills. These can be equipped at any save point.

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In addition, there are higher level eggs available which can easily be acquired through mana egg fusion. This allows you to access powerful magic when you wouldn’t normally be able to. It is important to note however that characters have a set magic level depending on how high of a level they are. As such the system is balanced and you can never learn spells that are too powerful. To some, this could be seen as a bad thing, however mana eggs can still be equipped to increase the potency of spells to make up for this allowing you to grow stronger should you wish to.

Ultimately when comparing the gameplay of Grandia 2 and Grandia 3, Grandia 3 comes on top just by a small margin, this isn’t to say that Grandia 2’s gameplay was bad, many of the fundamentals that make Grandia 3’s gameplay so great were lifted straight out of Grandia 2, they have just been improved this time round which is expected of a successor. Sadly it is difficult to call Grandia 3 a true successor to Grandia 2 as it falls short in the department Grandia games are known for, story.

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Personally, I do not often prioritize story in videogames. Grandia 2 was an exception for me and I honestly didn’t expect Grandia 3 to be anything quite like Grandia 2 but the combat is ultimately what won over my interest in this game. While I disagree with some of the systems used in Grandia 3’s character management, the combat itself is actually quite engaging to say the least. As such I cannot say that my experience with Grandia 3 was as bad as many people make it out to be. To be honest I quite enjoyed it.

The music is what sealed the deal for me, despite this games shortcomings, it still has a solid soundtrack, not as good as Grandia 2’s but a solid soundtrack nonetheless. Add to that the eye-catching visuals and you have yourself an enjoyable game. That being said, I can understand the negative reception this game has received, as a Grandia game it is pretty weak and its linear story focused structure limits its potential. Add to that a couple of irritating songs and a few lackluster dungeons leaving you with just another run-of-the-mill JRPG which just falls short of being yet another classic PS2 RPG.

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Truly a work of art! Oh wait, that’s a mirror, never mind…

So all in all, Grandia 3 is not as bad as people make it out to be, while it is far from being a true successor to Grandia 2, it is still worth the experience. If you can find the game for cheap, give it a try. It’s not a bad game, just don’t expect too much out of it. Put simply if you’re starving for some JRPG action and you’ve played all the best, you aren’t doing yourself a disservice by playing this game, you should be able to find some enjoyment out of it. While this may come as a surprise to you all, I actually had a hard time tearing this game to shreds as much as I’d have liked to.

I really didn’t expect to like this game. Though the story may have been laughably bad and cringeworthy at times, I’ve definitely experienced worse (*cough*White Knight Chronicles*cough*). It gave me some good laughs at least… seriously what is with the blatant similarities between the story of Grandia 2/3 and Devil May Cry 4? Even the voices for Yuki and Alfina return to play the same roles in Devil May Cry 4 as Nero and Kyrie… plus why does the villain look so much like Ganondorf and why does he wear black patches on his face? Seriously dude, grow a beard or something. Plus what is with that wannabe Arngrim guy named Kornell? Why is he such a doofus? What is his purpose in the plot besides being comic relief? We may never find an answer to these questions. All I can do is give the game its final score.

Grandia 3 Could he possibly be evil

Seriously who the fuck is this guy!? What is his purpose in this game besides just being there?


Story/plot: Pretty Bad
Visuals: Good
Gameplay: Great
Music: Good
Lifespan: Decent Length
Would You Replay? No

 

Overall: Satisfactory

 


 

Value: £15.00

For a more in-depth look at the story, watch this video:

How to control your backlog and spending habits in gaming

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As a reviewer, I often find myself overwhelmed with the responsibility to buy and play lots of different games and as such I am left with a huge backlog of games just lying around waiting to be played… but then a new game catches my attention and I drop everything just to play it. Then I get fed up again.

Now you must understand that I have been writing on the Destructoid C blogs for 3 years now. I used to be a proactive writer, I would take a pick out of a game that took my fancy and just throw out a review. However, the quality of them was appalling among other things. To make a review is pretty easy if you think about it, all you need to do is write what you’re thinking. However it’s not easy to make a solid review. In fact the moment you start improving as a reviewer is the moment when you start to realize that it is hard work.

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Sure there are a lot more harder things to do but reviewing is considered a hobby to me. Unfortunately with this mindset, I have to become a lot more close-minded. Since this isn’t my job, I’m not going to play every single game on the face of the earth and throw out a review… though I may occasionally try something new, I want to stick to writing about games that I am passionate about or manage to gain my full attention and considering the fact that the gaming industry is changing for the better, I have to change to adapt to that, as a writer.

In any case, how is this relevant to controlling your backlog/spending? Well you see in the latter half of the seventh generation, I hit a massive burnout. Games just stopped coming out (games that I cared about anyways) and I had to change myself as a gamer, I had to be open-minded and explore new areas of gaming which I hadn’t before. In a way, I had grown as a gamer, I had grown away from my nostalgia barrier that led me down a narrow path in gaming. I feel better as a gamer for doing that and to be honest, I don’t think I would have become inspired to write without that.

With this however came its own issues. Though I am often careful with my money, I came to the point where I simply couldn’t turn down a cheap deal. If there was a game that interested me even a little, I would buy it without a moment’s hesitation. This had it’s fair share of ups and downs. I got to discover new games that I otherwise would have never tried but I also picked up some dreadful games that I simply got tired with.

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Despite what many people believe, I played Painkiller on a whim and guess what? I loved it!

I’m a cynic, I hate what the gaming industry has become and this changed my perception on gaming but it was more than just that, the industry’s change affected the games available. It is the end of 2016 now and games have been great this year but the past few years have been utterly dreadful, it was like a gaming drought. Trying to find a top quality game was a nightmare. Many of the top rated games I have reviewed are from past generations. Those days were good, it wasn’t until 2010 where things started going wrong.

I still say that 2011 was the worst year for gaming since the videogame crash, only 1 game released in 2011 managed to entertain me and that was Kirby’s Adventure Wii. Everything else was horrifically bad or just mediocre. 2012 wasn’t much better, Farcry 3 was probably my game of the year and that’s not saying much considering the fact that the game was an open world shooter with a dubstep soundtrack… ehhh.

The biggest question was “where are all the JRPG’s”? We had our Tales, we had our NIS shovelware along with a few others which were equally as bland. Seriously why do the Hyperdimentional Neptunia games still sell? Those games depress me because they take away all the passion and the effort that went into old school JRPG’s and instead these games are released every single year and as such the quality of those games takes a nose dive (at least in my opinion).

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Sure Exist Archive may have re-used assets and all that but at least they were trying. Most JRPG’s of recent years don’t even feel like they are trying to impress us. Someone has to give all those lazy JRPG devs a boot up the ass so we don’t get shit like Time and Eternity anymore, that game was an insult to all JRPG fans.

Sorry about my soapbox rant but I’m trying to get you to understand why I felt the need to spend money when in truth you really don’t. I was prepared to give anything a go because I was lost in the massive labyrinth of gaming. I was desperate, I needed a game, anything to keep my passion inflated, a passion that I knew still existed after I was reminded by Grandia 2. There was still something there… the world just moved on and abandoned passion but I hadn’t given up, even now I’m still confident that we will someday see rainfall again in the gaming industry, Star Ocean 5 gave me hope, hope that I had been praying for years.

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Grandia 2 re-ignited my passion for gaming

In fact it amazes me that games such as Halo can be considered classics now, yes I’m talking about Halo 3. How can a game like that be considered a classic by today’s standards I cannot fathom… but it is, it has been nearly 10 years since it was released. The state of the gaming industry completely blinded me of just how much time had passed, it was a depressing time for me and possibly for many others. Heck I was on the “Gaming industry is dying” bandwagon at one point, even people like Razorfist mentioned it in one of his videos during the dark days of the year 2013… that was a terrible year for a lot of reasons… and for gaming also.

Now that we have hit the eighth generation, as bad as the modern consoles are, there is still hope for change. A fresh start, something the industry has needed for a while. Now it has come to the point that there are far too many games coming out that I simply can’t keep up, I just have to buy them all, I owe it to myself and the readers to do so… or do I?

Not only does buying lots of games cost money but the more games you buy, the less invested you become in them. Here’s one of the reasons some of us younger gamers are possibly suffering from this gaming “spending spree” and what we need to do to prevent it is:

1. Think back to when you were younger…

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It sounds so simple doesn’t it. For some, it may work better than others. If you were spoiled as a child, this may not be the way for you, if you are an older gamer, this may also not be the one for you but if you are in your 20’s like myself and think back to your childhood, you will remember the small selection of games you owned and how dedicated you were to finishing them. They were all you had and you made the most of them. Be is Pokemon Red/Blue Legend Of Zelda Ocarina Of Time or for the older gamers perhaps it was Castlevania.

We valued our games back then because we didn’t have the ability to purchase them ourselves, we were funneled gifts from our parents at xmas or our birthdays and those were usually videogames (for those who were lucky). We were all excited back then. I remember the excitement of getting not only a Gamecube for my birthday but also A Playstation 2. Those were the best consoles I played in my life (well besides the SNES which was before my time but we’re talking about my childhood here). I had so many great moments on both systems, especially the Gamecube. There were so many games to play… but I couldn’t play them all. All I had to play was Smash Bros and a few other games. It wasn’t until way later where I looked back and tried out other games such as the legendary F-Zero GX.

So try to remember those moments and be responsible for your spending. I don’t care how well off you are. Be responsible for the psychological impact that buying tonnes of games brings and try to pick and choose your games. I know it’s hard for the more dedicated individuals out there such as myself but remember, gaming isn’t going anywhere, you can always pop round at a later date and play them when they’re cheaper, sure you’ll miss all the craze but for single player games especially, it may be for the best. However you might want to:

2. Avoid using digital distribution services like Steam/GOG/Humble Bundle

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My Steam Library is chock full of unfinished games

Ah the temptation of steam sales. That moment when you realize just how cheap games can be. The moment when you find out that just about everyone can be a gamer regardless of how poor they are. Not only that but you can also help charity’s through gaming too? It sounds like heaven doesn’t it? Well… it’s kinda cool at first, however you don’t want to overdose on this trend. Remember, these are digital games, they cannot be sold off when you’re done with them (though you can refund them on steam but that’s not what I’m talking about) nor can you keep them on your shelf as memorabilia. These games are the equivalent of an economy flight to Benidorm, a cheap break-away but it gets old after a while.

As a PC gamer, reviews are more important than ever because there is so much choice. However you cannot just read reviews that say “this game is awesome” you have to be 100% sure that you are prepared to play the whole way through because only then will you get your money’s worth. If it helps you can:

3. Play games with a shorter length

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Need For Speed Carbon may be short but it keeps me engaged better than any other game in the series.

For the casual audience, this is your best bet. Games like Child Of Light are great, yet small diversions away from the gaming ghetto bringing back the quality of old games at the cost of its length. Sure I would have liked it better if the game had an epic final dungeon at the end but to be honest, I was glad that it was short. It gave me the quality I was looking for without the investment required, plus it was a challenge.

However it can be difficult to know when games are short or not. If you’re looking for more detailed information on length for any game I reviewed, just leave a comment. I will tell you a more detailed explanation. For the most part I will only cover it if it’s relevant to the game overall such as Exist Archive: The Other Side Of The Sky. However, I have and can not play every game out there so relying on me isn’t always the best bet. I can only try my best after all. As such one thing you really need to do is:

4. Do your research!!!

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Spec Ops: The Line wasn’t a bad game, it just wasn’t for me.

Do you really want a game? Do you want it enough to work for it? To find out if it’s really worth your hard-earned money? Reviewers like me exist for a reason, demos exist too, so do forums and wiki’s. Look up everything you can about the game. Watch lets plays if you have to. I’ve always had a saying that you shouldn’t just read 1 review, you should read 50 because every review is different, if there was truly a definitive review out there, I wouldn’t be writing reviews to begin with.

If you aren’t wetting your pants with excitement, consider waiting. Sure you might not get that pre-order bonus but chances are it will be available as paid DLC later on anyways and if not, it’s not like you missed much. However wasting £40.00 on a game you get burned out on isn’t worth it and you want to get the most out of your money. You may also want to consider doing some price comparison, if you can find the game considerably cheaper elsewhere, you may re-think whether or not the game is worth giving a go, however don’t forget that price isn’t everything and that you also have to control your backlog. Make sure it’s a game that you can dedicate your time to finishing, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, just finish it!

Finally the last and most simple way is:

5. Take a break from gaming

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This doesn’t mean you have to quit gaming, maybe your gaming lifestyle needs adjusting… or perhaps you need to bring a few friends over or just consider doing something else with your time for a while. Consider what I do as being a “productive gaming hobby” I’m not playing anything as I write this, I’m doing this simply because I would rather spend my time writing rather than gaming right now. Even the most die-hard gamers know that gaming 100% of the time isn’t fun, you have to break it up. I don’t care how you do it but you need to change every so often. Heck it could be as simple as playing 2 games as once and going back and forth. Be warned though as this can cause more backlog issues. As such, Pick a game that you have already beaten and try replaying it again. That way you can play both familiar and new games so you have a mixture.

Variety is the spice of life, its never fun to be doing 1 thing constantly every single day, though some people would disagree with that (I.E MMO gamers) but the majority of gamers want something more from gaming rather than something to sink time into. Games need quality to make the experience memorable. It’s why I hate on games like Legend Of Dragoon so much (you probably won’t know that unless you read some of my old Destructoid blogs though), that game was ridiculously long. It wasn’t a bad game by any means but it over-stayed its welcome. It took years for me to finally complete it. Never again. Oh and also:

6. Know your limits

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I want to play God Hand, I really do, but if it’s going to be another masochistic game then I’m just going to have to pass up on it, at least for now. Sometimes you just want a nice relaxing game that you can just pick up and play rather than something which is going to kick your ass on a consistent basis. Think people! Before you pick up Dark Souls 3, think for a moment, are you truly prepared? Do you truly seek a challenge? Or are you simply starved for a new game and like the look of it? If the latter, put it off. I swear if you can’t handle those types of games it is often the best idea to just save them for later. There’s a time and a place for game like that, moments when you feel like you’re up for a challenge.

Games like God Hand and Devil May Cry are designed with replay-ability in mind, they are designed for players who want to invest time into the meta-game and constantly learn. F-Zero GX is the same, by all means as much as I love to preach about it, don’t just dive straight into it if you aren’t ready. F-Zero GX may be the best racing game ever but to truly embrace the awesomeness that F-Zero GX is you must develop patience and determination to get through it. Until you attain those qualities you are unfit for the task. Playing F-Zero GX is a reward in itself, a reward you should savor for a time in your life when you’re feeling like a winner. A time where you’re motivated to experience a true adrenaline rush. Of course you don’t want to hold off on getting F-Zero GX by any means, get it as soon as you are ready for some hardcore action. Heck if you really can’t cope with hard games, just play it on Novice. It’s not that hard.

So keep this in mind when you are considering purchasing games. Don’t just purchase something because everybody else is playing it. Find out whether or not the game is going to be valuable to you first. Read reviews (not just the ones on mainstream sites like Destructoid/IGN), research as much as possible, pay close attention to trailers and you may notice a few things that may alter your experience for better or worse.

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Don’t make the same mistake…

Have a great new year everyone… and don’t forget to keep your wallets sealed during the January sales unless there is something you absolutely must have.