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Titan Quest Review

It’s always a worry when games from the past are remastered. Is it better to remember those games how they were through rose-tinted glasses? Often the end result leaves you realising just how much games have improved over the years, and that your favourite game from the past wasn’t as good as you remembered. However, these remasters can reach a new younger audience, so there is some merit in revitalising these old games. Titan Quest is one of these games that have been given the HD treatment. Originally released on PC in 2006, its now available on PS4 and Xbox One. So, how will this shape up?

Titan Quest is an RPG that follows a player-created protagonist as they navigate Ancient Greece, Egypt and China on a quest to defeat the Titans after they escape from their ancient prison. Most modern gamers will find comparisons with the Diablo series of games. Titan Quest was the brain-child of the legendary game designer Brian Sullivan and the script was written by Randall Wallace, so there was some good pedigree behind the original game.

Unfortunately the biggest flaw of this remake is experienced almost immediately after you create your character and set foot in the world of Ancient Greece. The control of your character is very cumbersome in both movement and combat and the game immediately feels like its going to be a hard slog. As a games reviewer this is the hardest place to be, as you have to persevere just in case the character progression improves the gameplay. I won’t lie, this has been the hardest game to battle with since I started reviewing.

As you progress through the game you gain experience points through defeating enemies and completing quests from the various NPC’s you’ll meet on your travels. These are used to upgrade character attributes such as health and energy levels, dexterity, intelligence, or strength. Your character also has equipment slots which can be filled with the usual weapons and armour, but also bracelets and trinkets which will give further buffs to your stats. As per the usual format in RPG’s you will have both main and side quests to complete. Fighting takes the form of real-time hack and slash combat, with players attacking randomly-generated enemies highlighted automatically. If you die, you will respawn at rebirth fountains scattered through the world. Enemies will drop items and equipment that you can use to upgrade your current equipment and you will also find chests around the world which will also contain upgrades.

After levelling up for the first time, the player can access Masteries, which are skill tree-based upgrade systems where skill points can be used to access and boost different skills. There are eight available Masteries to choose from (Defence, Warfare, Hunting, Rogue, Earth, Storm, Nature and Spirit). Players can access two Masteries at any one time, mixing skills from both trees. The combination of different Masteries create different character classes: for instance, combining Nature and Earth Masteries grants players the “Summoner” class, while Defense and Warfare Masteries create the “Conqueror”. There are 36 possible Classes, which include pure disciplines within one Mastery and hybrids between different Masteries.

I picked the Hunter class for my first playthrough, meaning I was extremely proficient with a bow. However, this felt like a bad choice as I proceeded through the first few hours, due to the previously mentioned combat which was so slow and cumbersome that when I encountered a number of enemies I was left with no choice but to run away and then stopping briefly to fire one shot. There are no options to dodge or roll, so if you are getting punished in a fight then only option is to run. And there was a lot of running in my first few hours and it wasn’t at all enjoyable. In total, I got through over six hours of gameplay and things didn’t improve, so at that point I called time on my Titan Quest journey.

It’s a real shame, as there is a huge amount of depth to this game. I know I have only scratched the surface when it comes to stats and masteries, but when the gameplay is this crude and cumbersome its almost a travesty that anyone other than a real fan will ever persevere enough to see it. There are a number of other basic faults that ruin the experience of Titan Quest. When an enemy is defeated they drop items for you to pick up, a task which would be easy when using a PC mouse and keyboard, but it doesn’t seem to have been updated to suit a controller, so the method of just picking up the single item you want is almost impossible and you end up having to pick up everything before heading into the equally cumbersome character menu in order to drop the items you don’t need. The quest system is equally as frustrating, as the map doesn’t seem to show where the quest is. Even a simple map marker would be helpful.

Graphically it’s OK. You have the ability to zoom the camera all the way in or all the way out, and the latter feels the way to play as the world and characters look detailed enough for this generation of consoles. When it is zoomed all the way in you can really notice how poor the graphics are, as can be seen in the following image. The newly recorded voice acting is also pretty nice.

I am sure to face the wrath of hardcore Titan Quest fans on the outcome of this review, but I am sorry to say that the game really shows its age. To give it some positives it is a faithfully remastered version of the original game, that I am sure will be loved by fans of the original. Perhaps if the controls and combat had been updated along with the graphics then the outcome might be different for newcomers, but unfortunately Titan Quest is ruined by these basics. Casual gamers picking this up will probably also give up quite easily and return to the more polished modern RPG’s. Definitely one for the true fans.

Thanks to THQ Nordic and Black Forest Games for supporting TiX!

Bubsy’s back in a brand new title

Ratchet & Clank, Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Dexter and now Bubsy. It’s good to be a PS4 owner if you’re a fan of these excellent titles. I remember playing Bubsy when my parents bought my brother and I a PlayStation bundle so I’m pretty happy to see the strange bobcat return to PlayStation in a brand new adventure.

The bobcat hasn’t been seen in his own game since Bubsy 3D, which launched way back in 1996. Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back sees the troublesome critters steal Bubsy’s most prized possession – The Golden Fleece – and he is back in glorious 2D over 14 levels of witty one-liners.

Rogue Stormers review

German developers Black Forest Games first announced Rogue Stormers at a games developer conference in 2010 under project name Ravensdale. Things didn’t start so well due to a failed Kickstarter campaign in 2013, it seems though they have really got their act together and due to a further successful attempt at Kickstarter in 2014 the game saw it’s release on Steam. Now though it’s the turn of the consoles.

Rogue Stormers is a “Roguelike” game with elements of a twin stick run and gun mashup. From launching the game you’re greeted with the character selection screen, the artwork for the characters is very impressive, the downside though is your choice is limited to 1 character, yep that’s right, the rest of the characters are unlockable. Your character Brecht ( and I assume the rest also) have a main weapon, a special attack and also perks that vary from one character to the next. Brecht main perks are +10 Max HP and a percentage extra in loot hording.

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The levels to the game appear to be randomly generated, this doesn’t help much when you are trying to familiarise yourself with the layouts and your options for getting to the end. The first stage is called King’s Gate, and it is set in an old stony village type of place with cellars to explore. Scattered around the stages are Jackpot machines. These can be used to obtain collectables and upgrades that help with your mission. The drops are delivered in the way of a rocket that lands at your feet and spawns your upgrade ready for you to pick up. Navigation around the level is helped by floating platforms, however should you wish to drop to the platform below, the button configuration is not as intuitive as it could be, leading to a couple of frustrating moments. On the whole, the control system could have been done different to allow a more fluid, flowing game-play. I often found myself getting confused at the layout and at times it felt unnatural.

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Placed around the levels are chests. These mostly offer bonuses, however on the odd occasion they will be booby-trapped and damage you. If your health is low this can lead to death. I’ll come to dying a little later. The power ups aren’t the most powerful thing ever but they do offer a great advantage to your enemies. The bad guys spawn at various locations and on King’s Gate they are little goblins and big mechanical Frankenstein type behemoths. The enemies are hard. That, coupled with them running at you while you fire rapidly to get their health down leads to you jump all over the place to dodge them. If the control system was a little easier this wouldn’t be so bad, however death is inevitable.

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Let’s talk Death.This was by far the most irritating point of this game. When you die that’s it. You have to start again. This had me shouting obscenities at the screen on more than one occasion. Situated around the levels are fixed guns, traps, spinning blades, fire traps and all sorts of crazy hazards. Once a mob of enemies spawn and run at you the chance of you being hit by a hazard goes up, knocking your precious limited health down even further. There is an unfortunate mix of hard enemies, hazards, weak weapons, limited health, dodgy controls and not enough health points initially that cause this game to fall down, and fall down hard. As I said, once you die you have to start again, but the level will be laid out differently and the pickups won’t be in the same place. One of my most frustrating moments came when I finally reached the end of level boss. These quite rightly have their own patterns and mechanics meaning you will die while you figure it all out, however I when I died I spawned back at the start with no pickups or anything. Unless you are  glutton for punishment then this system will become tiring very very quickly.

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Rogue Stormers could have been so much more, with the inclusion of a lives system, easier enemies and more spectacular weapons then the game may have played out differently. There are lots of occasions where back tracking is necessary This gives the illusion that you’re never actually getting anywhere, and when you do get to the end if you die then you have to do it all over again. Rogue Stormers offers online co-op, this may make things a little easier but sometimes people just want to shoot stuff by themselves. This game doesn’t lure you back for another attempt meaning it may just sit in your library gathering virtual dust.

Rogue Stormers

Rogue Stormers looks amazing visually, it’s colourful and the backdrops are really nice. I may be being a little harsh but it’s been a while since I have played a game that actually made me swear, not because of frights or near misses, but out of pure frustration. I hope that Black Forest Games expand on this idea and introduce a more gamer friendly game that has all the elements people are shouting out for.

Thank you to Xbox and Black Forest Games for supporting TiX

Rogue Stormers heading to Xbox One shortly

Rogue Stormers

It’s been through a few months of intense development as well as a name change, but finally, Rogue Stormers developer, Black Forest Games is in a position to announce a release date.

So, wait, Rogue Stormers? Well it’s an action-packed 3D co-op platform-shooter. It’s got roguelike and RPG elements with crazy graphics, allowing up to 4 players in on the action at once.

The game will combine run’n’gun gameplay in the Metal Slug style, offering twin-stick controls in an online or couch co-op mode of play. Ravensdale is under threat by the ultimate evil. In order to beat him you must fight your way through seven increasingly challenging levels. If you die, you’ll be back at square one, although any earned perks and packs are yours for keeps, making it a little easier to get back to where you expired.

The game is designed in such a way that allows the levels to be layered and combined to create meaningful combinations with infinite replayability. There will be an ever growing cast of enemies, hazards and loot layered within each chunk, generating incredible diversity. Rogue Stormers will feature tons of different upgrades and weapons that will cause each new session to play in a unique fashion, depending on which weapons or upgrades you pick and get.

Five character classes with their own skills and base weapons are included and as you delve into the vast undercity of Ravensdale, you’ll learn more and more about the history, it’s citizens and the tragic backgrounds of the five heroes who took arms to save it. How you tackle this sprawling city will be the key to saving Ravensdale.

Will you go toe-to-toe with your enemies, block attacks or simply blast everything to smithereens? It’ll be completely up to you when Rogue Stormers comes to your Xbox One from the 7th of October.

Black Forest Games have been busy ahead of the release of Rogue Stormers, playing the game and recording themselves having fun while doing so. Head on over to their YouTube channel for more, or watch the first one, below.

 

Rogue Stormers release delayed

Rogue Stormers

Rogue Stormers has had a rocky start to life as a game. Black Forest Games were forced to change the name of the title, initially monikered Diesel Stormers. The developer changed the name of the title to avoid copyright issues from a well-known clothing brand. Now the title, by the same team who brought you the Giana Sisters games, has experienced a slight delay to it’s Steam release date.

What’s the reasoning behind this extra delay? Well, Black Forest are polishing the title up, nice and bright, ready for a full release. This may then have a knock-on effect for the Xbox One release of this gun and run rogue-like shooter. When could we expect a console release of Rogue Stormers? Black Forest Games are being more than a little bit coy on that one and it hasn’t actually been announced yet.

Black Forest Games’ MD, Adrian Goersch;

We’re using the extra time to make sure Rogue Stormers launches with maximum polish. Our Early Access players know exactly how much content there is in the game and with the final release we’ve added even more. Releasing Rogue Stormers with sub-par game balance was simply not acceptable to us.

This in itself is a little disappointing as I, for one, am looking forward to getting my grubby hands on Rogue Stormers.

The game will feature a four player online or local multiplayer as well as a single player mode. There will be five character classes to guide through procedurally generated levels all featuring random enemy placement. Nothing will be the same as the previous playthrough. Deal with eldritch horrors, orcs, goblins and battlegates bursting with weapons. You’ll also have the opportunity to set of chain-reaction interactions with the environment that may kill both yourself and your enemies.

Have a look at the last Rogue Stormers trailer below, to see what’s got other folk excited about the title.

Black Forest Games haven’t revealed a date for release for Rogue Stormers on Xbox One yet, but we’ll let you know when they do.

Giana Sisters: Dream Runners review

Earlier in the year we took a look at upcoming multiplayer speed running title Giana Sisters: Dream Runners, and found its offering of superbly designed, and strikingly detailed levels of thrilling acuity a splendid experience. Dream Runners has now hit digital shelves, but have the few glitches and oddities we found in its preview build been ironed out?

Marvellously it seems they have, and Dream Runners looks, feels and plays superbly. The simple focus of a four player race around a complex, looping level is full of exciting competition, as well as frequent and intense platforming risk/reward decision-making and combat, offering precisely the kind of experience titles of this ilk feed on. It’s a compelling mix that can take hook of a party of players for quite some time, complimented by excellent level design and variety to keep the experience fresh.

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You and up to three additional players take to a level and race around it over endless laps, with racers who fall off the edge of the screen being eliminated and the surviving lone player scoring a point. First to three points wins. Power-ups are strewn across the levels, offering temporary boosts to your character or a weapon to launch against your opponents, meanwhile, a refillable sprint can be charged by passing through certain specific areas of a level, and an intractable fireball ability can boost you forwards and save you from elimination but is also at risk of causing you to bounce unfavourably and hurt your progress just as much; it’s a very clever addition.

Multiple paths subtlety branch within each level offering different obstacles and/or collectible power-ups for you and you foes to compete for, and choosing which path to take as you’re dashing through the level is a curtail aspect of the tactics and strategies you need to consider to win those precious points. Weighing up the risk/reward factors of longer routes for potential power-ups and staying out-of-the-way of your opponents who may launch weapons at you, requires quick thinking, and your initial runs through a level are inevitable going to be full of trial and error as you figure out their layout. It’s wonderfully intense competition, and with nine levels to choose from, all of which are lengthy and complex, learning their optimal routes for each situation is a monumental task.

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Moreover, much like in the previous Giana Sisters title, Twisted Dreams, the environments can be altered dramatically, but instead of being able to change your surroundings at will, you need to run through switches scattered amongst the levels. Doing so not only makes for a visually different aesthetic to the location, but also adds new hazards and obstacles. It’s terrific, and essentially turns the 9 maps into 18.

Unfortunately a couple of issues we picked up on in the preview remain. You’re frequently respawned elsewhere to where the last point was won, not far but significantly enough to confuse you a little. It’s a result of specific spawn points that otherwise prevent you from potentially spawning in terrible locations, so it’s a quirk we can forgive. Helpful arrows are littered around each level to help you stay on course at least, but it’s a visually busy and fast paced setting that can still leave you overwhelmed and confused.

Mind you it’s a stunningly beautiful game, with highly detailed textures throughout and spectacular lighting. Falling of screen and watching the action is almost as rewarding as winning the point. It also runs smoothly with no hint of frame rate issues.

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Local and online options are available for finding players to compete with, either ranked or friendly quick matches. Meanwhile, any empty slots can be filled by bots with the option of multiple difficulty levels for each. The AI is, however, very aggressive even on easy, offering up a stiff challenge that better prepares you for skilled human foes but can also lead to frustration in solo play. Playing with others is certainly the best option, and is tons of fun, especially with friends.

Giana Sisters: Dream Runners is a terrific multiplayer title. The level design is impressively complex and beautiful, offering a challenging and diverse set of locations and obstacles that are enhanced even further by the environment switching mechanic. It’s strongest when played with others but is content rich enough to keep solo players happy if speed running takes your fancy. It is possibly a bit too complex with its level design to appeal to everyone, but it’s an impressive title nonetheless.

Thanks to Xbox and Black Forest Games for their support 

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First Impressions Video: Giana Sisters Dream Runners

Black Forest Games’ upcoming multiplayer focused Giana Sisters: Dream Runners get the First Impressions treatment. As such, expect a mixture of funny and informative narration as our Video Editor, Greg Giddens, plays the Beta for the first time. Also expect some pretty strong language from the inevitable fails.

Giana Sisters: Dream Runners preview

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams offered a superbly designed, and strikingly detailed platformer with thrilling acuity. The unique environment switching abilities of Giana produced visually stunning and fascinating vistas, and offered an immersive and challenging platforming adventure. Giana Sisters: Dream Runners means to take the series on a tangent, a four player foot racing competition across multiple maps inspired by Twisted Dreams. We were lucky enough to play the Beta for Dream Runner and see how things are shaping up.

Fortunately things are indeed looking good for this multiplayer project. It’s a little rough around the edges still, with the odd glitch and oddity, but it’s an otherwise stable and enjoyable platforming racer.

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It’s of the same ilk as Xbox 360 indie game – and currently early access PC game – SpeedRunners, where up to four players take to a level and race around it over multiple laps, with racers who fall off the edge of the screen being eliminated. Power-ups are strewn across the levels, offering temporary boosts to your character or a weapon to launch against your opponents, meanwhile, a refillable sprint can be charged by passing through certain sections.

It’s multiplayer focused and inherits a lot of fun simply because of it. Playing with others and competing for that precious first place and avoid elimination is intense and exciting, and Dream Runners captures that thrill brilliantly.

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The strategy comes in the form of choosing when to use collected power-ups and your sprint, and choosing which path to take as you’re dashing through the level. Weighing up the risk/reward factors of longer routes for potential power-ups and staying out-of-the-way of your opponents who may launch weapons at you requires quick thinking, making a run through a level a desperate and mistake heavy affair that helps intensify the competition even more so. Dream Runners adds its own additional unique challenge in the form of shifting environments.

Much like in Twisted Dreams, the environments can be altered dramatically, but instead of being able to change your surroundings at will, you need to run through specific switches scattered amongst the levels to change it. Doing so not only makes for a visually different aesthetic to the location, but also adds new hazards and obstacles. It’s terrific, and essentially turns the 9 maps into 18.

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Currently, however, on respawning after a character wins first place, the characters are pointed the wrong way, you’re also frequently respawned elsewhere to where the last point was won, adding to the confusion over direction. Helpful arrows are littered around each level to help you stay on course, but it’s so visually busy and fast paced it’s easy to miss them. These are almost certainly things that will be ironed out before release, however, so no need to fret just yet.

Giana Sisters: Dream Runners is looking like it’s going to be a terrific multiplayer title when it releases later this year. The level design for the 12 maps is superb, offering a challenging and diverse set of locations and obstacles that are enhanced even further by the environment switching mechanic. Meanwhile, playing with others is a blast. Solo play can get repetitive, the bane of all titles of this ilk, but an aggressively competitive AI makes for a more than worthy challenge to hone your skill for the next human opponent.

Giana Sisters: Dream Runners is due for release on Xbox One this Summer.

Giana Sisters: Dream Runners Gameplay Video

See the latest Giana Sisters title, Giana Sisters: Dream Runners, in action.

This 8 minute gameplay footage shows four colour coordinated characters from the Giana Sisters universe competing over multiple stages trying to beat each other in a platforming foot race. Using collectable abilities the foursome via for first place, once all opponents fall off screen the leader earns a point. Three points grants them the win.

Giana Sisters: Dream Runners is due for release later this year (2015) on Xbox One.

Giana Sisters: Dream Runners Multiplayer Dev diary

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It’s a little over a month until Black Forest Games releases the follow up to Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams. The game itself, Giana Sisters: Dream Runners is a mix of platformer and multiplayer racer and Black Forest have had an inter-development team tournament to test the multiplayer element.

Here’s how the competition panned out.

Giana Sisters: Dream Runners is coming to Xbox One in June.