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Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings review (PS4)

When I was younger my grandad used to take me fishing at our local reservoir. He told me that it would be a relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I was excited to catch a fish and thrilled at the prospect of fighting with the rod before pulling a big fish in that I could then hold up in the air while my grandad snapped one of those cliché ‘big catch’ fishing photos. It turns out that we really just ended up sitting there for most of the day freezing and wet, anticipating that slight yank of the rod that would always turn out to be nothing. We came away with zero catches at the end of the day, and after a few repeat visits, I decided to call it a day.

Honestly, I’m going somewhere with this story. Just bear with me.

What would have made my fishing trips better? Maybe putting fish in the sky and giving me command of a plane to chase them down? It sounds batty and, well, it is, but we play video games because we like to do things we could never do in real life. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world where fish swim in the sky, but you’d think that an imaginative world where this is the case would be a thrilling game to play. At least I hoped it would be more thrilling than a wet and windy day at a dull reservoir.

I can’t say that Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings beats fighting with the rod when you finally do get that catch, but it helps that it throws in thousands of bullets, explosions and the fact that you can play it in your warm living room.

Combining the frantic pace of a twin-stick shooter with fishing is a combination I never thought would happen, but for protagonist Amelia, it’s just another daily grind. Journeying up from the sands to make her fortune in the skies, Amelia settled in the floating city of Granaria. Unfortunately, she’s stuck living on the underside of this marvellous floating island, where she must scratch out a living with her trusty plane and its onboard harpoon. She has dreams of catching the mythical Sky Whale that makes its home in the highest level of the sky, but first she must work her way up through layers upon layers of colourful sky fish, layers of sky that also happen to be dominated by murderous sky pirates that will do whatever it takes to send Amelia crashing back into the sands.

After a brief tutorial that teaches you the simple controls of the game, you’re launched into the first layer of the sky and left to your own devices. Pay attention here, because it’s an extremely good idea to remember what you learned in the tutorial. The game won’t remind you again and it won’t really explain any other elements that you come across during your playthrough either. But, for now, you’ll be treated to a vibrant environment dotted with lush floating islands and brightly coloured sky fish.

Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings

It’s a charming looking game, and as you journey through the layers of the sky you’ll be able to look down below and see everything you left behind to see just how far you come, and just how far away the ground is. It’s a great sight until you accidentally smash into a rock and end up plummeting down through everything you’ve worked hard to fight your way through.

The controls sound simple, but you may quickly find they can be quite frustrating. Steering the plane is done with the right stick and control of its turret is handled with the left. Hammering R2 will fire your weapon, while a hit of the L2 button will fire your harpoon to allow you to catch those pesky sky fish. It’s easy enough on paper, but the plane flies awkwardly and firing at the same time can lead you to wildly misfiring. This is especially apparent when trying to fly through tight spots or trying to catch a sky fish by hitting it with your harpoon. It’s worth noting that you can just fly into the fish to catch them, but some of them move so fast that the harpoon is often your only option.

The control of each plane becomes even more frustrating when you realise what you’re up against. The first layer of the sky passes without much incident. All you’ll have to do here is catch as many fish as you can before other sky fishers catch them. The second layer introduces sky pirates, which you can happily gun down before they do the same to you. It’s fun to blaze away at oncoming pirates, but it’s not fun when you accidentally hit one of the other sky fishers and the sky police come flying in firing a gattling gun that will quickly dispatch your wings. In these early levels, it can be easier to just fly away, as it’s highly frustrating when you take a pirate down only for a stray bullet to hit a guy who was just minding his own business, upon which all hell breaks loose. This issue is more sporadic the higher you go, but it’s just replaced by something else even more frustrating.

Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings

I forgot to mention that Airheart is a roguelike. Die in the game and it’s game over for good. Thankfully, the game does give you a few ways out before it gets to that. It starts to warn you when your health falls below 10, reminding you that you can hold down on the d-pad to fly back to base and sell the haul of sky fish you’ve painstakingly collected. Lose all your health and you’ll start to crash land, but you can save yourself by successfully manoeuvring your plane to crash land in Granaria. Unfortunately, you’ll lose some of your cargo and some of the upgrades you’ve worked hard to purchase, but at least you won’t have to start again.

Permadeath is expected in roguelikes, it’s part of their so-called ‘charm’. While death can leave you frustrated, simply returning to the base has the same effect. If you’ve made it through 10 layers and decide to return to base to sell your sky fish haul, recover your health and buy some upgrades, be prepared to do all those 10 layers again. Then again, and again, and again. This rinse and repeat formula quickly gets repetitive, and as the fish population depletes in each layer you’ll be forced to go higher each time, blocking you from easily grinding to better upgrades. I’m not saying that it should be an easy ride – roguelikes never are – but doing the exact same levels over and over again isn’t a great deal of fun. At least a lot of roguelikes mix it up by introducing randomly generated levels.

For each layer, you’ll have to remember where the portal was to get to the next layer, but if you’re like me you’ll quickly forget where each one was due to the confusing layout and waypoints that only appear when you get near to the portal. It leaves you aimlessly wandering around before stumbling into a group of pirates that promptly pepper you with bullets. The bullet hell output of a handful of pirates and the almost impossibility of being able to swiftly move to avoid bullets means you’ll often get back to where you were before through gritted teeth, a lot of repetitive shooting and, likely, not very much health. Then it’s back to your hangar to repeat it all again.

You can’t even rely on the narrative to keep you interested in this repetitive formula. The story is drip fed through single scenes every four layers, which is nothing more than a picture and short voiceover. It’s a bare-bones story that won’t have many people yearning to reach the Sky Whale to see the conclusion.

Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings

The game does try and mix it up a bit by including a crafting system. Blow up pirates and you’ll pick up loot such as scrap metal and gunpowder. You can combine these materials to create your own inventions in the workshop. For each recipe, you’ll have to figure out a small puzzle of combining the correct formula of materials to discover a new invention. It’s a neat little system that prompts a bit of head-scratching.

You can also upgrade your plane with new weapons, parts and even a new chassis, improving your plane bit by bit so you can go through the same layers you’ve just spent twenty minutes fighting your way through. The money earned by catching sky fish pays for this, although I did find that catching these fish got harder in the higher layers simply because you spend so much time trying to survive the hundreds of oncoming bullets to worry about catching a flying fish. When I did finally break free to catch some fish, I found that I’d accidentally killed half of them during my firefight with the pirates. Finally, both weapons and parts can be quite pricey, so if you do end up crashing back onto Granaria you need to be prepared to slog through lots of tedious grinding to get them back.

Overall, Airheart starts out more exciting than sitting next to a reservoir fishing for real, at least for me, but it quickly becomes about as repetitive and frustrating to the point where you feel like giving up. Plus, you don’t get the added bonus of being able to cook a juicy catch at the end of the day (although it’s not like that ever happened with real fishing for me anyway). But as I never went back to real fishing, I also doubt I’ll ever go back to fishing in the sky.

If you like a roguelike that gets more brutal the further you go in, Airheart may be for you, but I just don’t think there’s a whole lot of content worth going back for, again and again.

Thanks to Premier for supporting TiX

No Mans Sky Next gets a new trailer ahead of July 24th release

I was one of the enthusiastic gamer’s who jumped on the original release of No Mans Sky, but who tailed off after a few weeks due to what I thought was an empty experience. However, Hello Games have continued to pour love into their development of the game and now we are on the cusp of the latest iteration of the space exploration game.

The No Mans Sky Next update will release on PS4 and will be free to all owners of the game. The Xbox One will get its debut release on the same day. The update includes the addition of multiplayer, improved graphics, and a third person mode. The new trailer shows off the multiplayer mode, with multiple explorers all on the same planet. No Mans Sky Next is now looking like the game we all wished for on its original release.

Hello Games have been quoted as saying “This is an incredibly important update for us, but it’s also just another step in a longer journey, and we’ll continue to support No Man’s Sky in this way for the foreseeable future.”

Death Stranding gameplay footage debut

Sony have delivered on the gameplay footage we’ve all been waiting for, footage for Kojima Production’s Death Stranding.

It looks gorgeous, eerie and confusing, precisely what we expected. A few more story and setting details were revealed in the footage but so many questions still remain. A new cast member has also joined the production, Lyndsey Wagner. Check out the footage below:

Rebellion releases new Strange Brigade trailer

Rebellion have released a new Strange Brigade trailer ahead of E3. The new trailer features a sneak peak at the Hidden Valley level of the game and also features much more heavy firepower than we have seen before, along with some more traps. This is still one of my most eagerly awaited games of 2018, and look forward to seeing much more of it before the August 28th release.

Much more information can be found on the official website.

Strange Brigade release date set to August 28th on Xbox, PS4 and PC

Tix’s Day Out at EGX Rezzed 2018!


Playstation announce ‘Days of Play’ event for 2018

Sony have announced the return of Days of Play, which is a global promotion that offers epic deals at participating retailers. From 8th to 18th June, gamers can get discounts on hardware, peripherals and PlayStation 4 exclusive games.

Sony are also introducing a Days of Play Limited Edition PS4 system on 8th June, which is a limited-edition console in Days of Play Blue, features the iconic PlayStation symbols in a gold design. The system comes with two matching DualShock 4 wireless controllers, which also feature subtle gold PlayStation shapes on the touchpad.

One of the biggest price reductions in the Days Of Play sale is that of the PSVR which will be available here in the UK, along with either Wipeout Omega Collection or GT Sport for the incredibly low price of £199.99, which may just convince those of us on the fence over VR to take a look.

There are also price reductions to be had on God Of War, Shadow of the Colossus and GT Sport.

Check out the official Playstation website for all the details and the deals!

Insane Robots coming to a Console near you in July

Insane Robots was one of my picks of the show at EGX Rezzed in April and has now been given a release date of July 10th on PS4, July 12th on Steam and July 13th on Xbox One.

Insane Robots is a unique card battler with a brave tale of robot rebellion. Its a quirky, “rogue-lite” 2D strategy game where you battle for survival with token-based skirmishes in random-generated arenas. Each tournament brings tales of loyalty and betrayal; cold logic and insane risk. Power up your robot, lock down your slots, hack your opponent and launch your attack. Discover branching, reactive stories; strange and rare augments; special boosts that bring surprising twists; dynamic hazards like the acid cloud or ring of death; and deadly enemy robots ready to fight you and each other. Only a cunning player can survive the tournaments, unlock enough memory fragments and overthrow the Kernel to discover the terrible truth.

The core Insane Robots battle system was originally created in 15 minutes as a tabletop prototype using a pile of old business cards. This was only the start of a substantial physical and digital design process. The Playniac team has been playing and iterating the game since then, running tabletop sessions in their studio and at festivals worldwide during 2013-2014. Development of the digital game started in Jan 2015 and 15 people have formed the core team, including developer/designer Tom Kail (80 Days, Biome); artists Catherine Unger (Snipperclips, Detective Grimoire, Haunt the House, The Swindle), Fran Court (Hue, Stealth Inc 2, Frozen Synapse 2, New Art Academy 3DS), Belinda Leung (Total War, Pokemon Art Academy), Karen ‘bitmOO’ Teixeira (Twelve a Dozen, Oceans Heart), and Alice Duke (Fantastic Beasts, Lazarus); writers Yasmeen Khan (Fallen London), James Wallis (The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Paranoia RPG), and Charlie Carter; and designer/developer and Playniac founder Rob Davis (International Racing Squirrels, Cat On Yer Head, Anomaly X, Battlefield Academy). The game’s soundtrack includes tracks by Noise 5000 and legendary French electro producer Kid Loco.

Check out the official website and social media channels on Twitter and Facebook.

Bungie to reveal Destiny 2 year two plans on June 5th

E3 is only a week away and as usual there have been plenty of pre-event leaks – case in point is keyring-gate for Assassins Creed Odyssey, and some developers are releasing their information in planned events ahead of the show.

Bungie are in the latter camp and in a tweet have announced details for their year two plans that will be happening on a livestream event on June 5th. If you’ve delved back in to Destiny 2 recently then don’t miss the event which will be taking place on www.twitch.tv/bungie