Tag Archives: Story

Prey: Mooncrash review

Prey: Mooncrash is a very clever and highly enjoyable melding of first-person shooting and exploration with Rogue-like death and replay. It manages to create an entirely fresh experience in the Prey universe. Moreover, it’s fantastically compelling.

You are tasked with entering a simulation and reliving the desperate escape of five individuals that are trapped on the lunar base with Typhon enemies. Much like the core game, the Typhon come in a variety of forms, including the Mimics which morph into different objects to deceive and scare the hell out of you, and bi-pedal forms known as Phantoms. Some additional, new forms are also present in Mooncrash, including a tentacle spewing egg and a terrifically named ‘moon shark’. Dealing with these enemies, either through combat with whatever weaponry you manage to find – melee and projectile – or through environmental hazard manipulation, sneaking, or your very own Typhon abilities and skills provided by implants, is the order of the day.

Indeed, there’s a wealth of options as to how you choose to engage, or avoid, conflict, and the same can be said for progressing through the moon base. Multiple paths are available with different obstacles to traverse, whether these are locked doors requiring pass cards, hacking skills, passwords gained by reading notes and emails or the computer terminals, let alone the environmental hazards and enemies. However, a big change with Mooncrash over the core game are the five characters you control.

To begin with you’re limited to a single character, but as you play his unique escape attempt you gradually unlock the additional characters. This can occur when you discover their corpse for the first time, or by achieving the specific story objective for a character. These objectives are present for each character and revolves around one of the five available escape methods, such as using the escape pod, flying out on a shuttle, etc. Meanwhile, additional objectives are also available for each character, should you feel the need to put yourself in great danger and uncover more of the plot.

With the Rogue-like addition of skills carrying over even after death, and the environment maintaining a persistent state for each cycle, after a dozen or so attempts you’ll have the whole cast ready to go, allowing you to use the abilities of different characters to help pave the way for the others. The ultimate goal is the have a perfect run; where all five characters manage to escape during a single, unbroken cycle. However, achieving this is anything but simple.

Determining which characters can do what is largely a case of trial and error and is discovered simply by using them. However, understanding the base layout and what activates what, takes some exploration, and the more you explore the more dangerous it becomes. This isn’t only because of the random spawning of enemies for each cycle but also because of an imposed time limit. The simulation technology you’re using is unstable, and the longer you remain in it, the more unstable it becomes. This instability is measured in levels, and as each level is reached, new enemies spawn and become more aggressive. It’s a clever mechanic that adds urgency and threat with an effective randomness; it’s Rogue-like at its best.

And indeed, it’s these Rogue-like elements that make this such an interesting experience. Items and enemies surprise you with different spawn locations each cycle, the environment also changes throwing unforeseeable obstacles at you, all the while your cast of characters are gradually getting stronger, your knowledge of the base is increasing, and those five escape plans and their order begin to reveal themselves. Pair this with Prey’s environmental storytelling, intense combat and terrifying enemies, and you’ve got a tremendously unique and engaging package.

Prey’s core mechanics of exploration, limited ammo and health, and horror would make figuring out how to achieve each characters’ escape frustrating due to the amount of times it causes your demise, but due to the Rogue-like qualities of skill retention and a semi-persistent environment, it makes this a unique and entertaining experience that’s hard to put down.

Thanks to Bethesda for supporting TiX

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows review

Masquerada’s opening kept me playing, and it will help me return to the replay the chapters and acts of this criminally undercooked RPG.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is described as “…a tactical action RPG set in a lush 2.5D world…” – by Witching Hour Studios, developer, and Ysbryd Games, publisher. Before I jumped into Masquerada, I tussled with the thoughts of if I had enough time to sink into an RPG at the moment – yes, as a contributor to TiX, it is my duty, yet I know how hard I can fall for an RPG! – with my 20/20 hindsight, I should never have wrestled with such grand of a notion.

The gameplay of Masquerada is rather simple, maybe a little too simple for a PC and console release. I often felt that I would be more comfortable navigating the rather linear scenes of Witching Hour Studios’ RPG via the tap of a phone screen, or maybe the Nintendo Switch than I was with a dedicated controller and large display. Or better yet, having no control over the direction the characters took until combat started.

Speaking of combat; Masquerada’s combat feels as if it is on the edge of greatness. A simple action bar, that can be customised via the character panel, presents your characters abilities for combat – though I found that setting the AI ‘either/or’ settings to use area of effect abilities – which were absolutely stunning to behold; little embers dancing around my fire avatars, water droplets splashing around the combat field from my healing orbs – then selecting and sitting on my healer-type character and keeping RT pressed got me through most combat situations.

The character development of the game hinted at much more than I discovered. Sparse talent-lines with the occasional second prong option to select from, most being either: Generate addition threat, or gain an additional avatar/orb/other, or gain a free use of the ability within Y amount of seconds. With the ability to redistribute your points coming fairly early in the game, I never felt like I could go wrong. A certain character, say your healer, locked out of the party due to story reasons? Change your talents to be more defensive on other characters. Now, typing this out makes it feel like the game allows you to be very adaptive to your situation, yet honestly….it really isn’t.

There are some pretty cool systems that are introduced a little further into Masquerada, and both of these absolutely to be expanded upon in any future installments. One is the Ink and Rune system, where you mix them together and gain a passive stat and action buff, and the other is Masks!

Masks allow you to alter your limit break-esque ability, some of which I found to be more useful than others, such as providing shields to my whole team. As with the most of the art in Masquerada, these animations are vibrant and crisp. Mask abilities are charged by performing certain types of actions in combat. These are mostly passive with all characters apart from your main, who has three stances. Each stance alters how you perform combat and gain energy to use for your Mask attack. Masks can be acquired from a small amount exploration of the scenes. I say small because it is as simple as checking a corner that is just out of view – something that would feel so much grander on a different format, handheld for example, but not so much as is.

The artistic style of Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is breathtaking in places, a lot of places. From the animations of the attacks during combat to the subtle flutter of the character frame during conversations. The conversations are fully voiced, these range from the silhouette journeys between home and each act, the little world building chatter from the denizens of the rich Citte and its locals to the emotionally driven performances during the twists and turns of Masquerada’s excellently paced narrative.

There are some heavyweight voice actors behind the vocal punches of the cast of characters that litter the landscape Masquerada. Matt Mercer, Catherine Taber and, oh yeah, Jennifer Hale are just three of the talented performers that lend their vocal variety to this Venetian-inspired epic. Woah, that was a lot of V!

V leads nicely onto the score of Masquerada. The music oft over empowers the scenes, but after reducing the volume in the options by 30% it settled down and I could enjoy it as part of the overall machine, instead of that one overbearing cog. So, the V? Violins are the V. Violins and plenty of other string instruments lead the score of Masquerada. V also stands for the majestic choir that sits just above the instruments, and at brief points hit the heights of the Marty O’Donnell’s work in Halo. Arm hair standing and the rest!

I labeled the gameplay as core-play, but the story would be better labeled as core-everything. Without the fantastic writing, expert delivery and absolutely insane Codex system – think Mass Effect + a number of layers in the Soulsborne series, and you’ll get an idea of the amount of written content in Masquerada. Everything from character motivations, Guild conflicts through to the different type of politics that flesh out the world at large are stuffed within the Codices. Most of these are automatically filled during natural gameplay, some require repeated conversation during different points in the game, and others are just off the edge of the display like those Masks.

From the prologue, which has to be replayed upon completion of the game, through to the stunning reveals, twists, and politicking that happens so subtly, the narration of Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is like that tattered book you pick up from the bargain bin; shouldn’t keep you up until the bats come out, but it does. You need to know the drive of the supporting characters just as much as the main characters, even if some are underutilised early on. And when the pieces do fall together, even more so via the Codices, you will forget about the undercooked gameplay, the talent lines that often have little meaning and the absolutely unfair treatment of the man in Blue!

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows has the making of a something special, truly it does. The story and art are top-tier, with the gameplay feeling like it came out of a game-jam. As harsh as that reads, I feel no pang of doubt typing or saying it. Masquerada is saved by someone figuring out the water puzzle from Diehard 3, and I am thankful for that. I look forward to seeing what Witching Hour Studios produces next. More Masquerada, please?

Thanks to Xbox and Witching Hour for supporting TiX

Tacoma Review

Tacoma is going to be a very difficult game to review and score. It will probably be the shortest review I am going to write since joining TiX, as I can’t go into too much detail about the story in fear of giving you any spoilers. And, most importantly, the day after finishing Tacoma, I am still not sure how I feel about it.

Tacoma is the latest game from Fullbright, a very small team of developers whose past game, Gone Home, was extremely well received when released on PC, and has since been ported over to Xbox One. Both Gone Home and Tacoma are examples of games which have been given the somewhat harsh moniker of “Walking Simulators”, which are short, story based experiences.

Tacoma is a story, set in 2088, about six astronauts who are based on the Lunar Transfer Station Tacoma, 200,000 miles from Earth. You play as Amy Ferrier, a contractor assigned by the stations owners, the Venturis Corporation, to enter the abandoned Tacoma station to retrieve AI data from each of its sections and retrieve the physical processing module of ODIN, the station’s AI.

As you explore the station you use an AR device to witness the events that have befallen the crew, leading to the Tacoma becoming abandoned. Using the AR device you are also able to investigate the crew’s personal logs and emails, to see their individual thoughts and messages home. All these AR sections play like video clips, giving you the ability to forward, rewind and pause events to gain all the AI data needed. During these sections you discover codes which enable you to open new areas of the space station. Also dotted around are various objects, which when manipulated can earn you some nice easy achievements.

When you first encounter the AR mechanism its a little bit confusing, as there are markers at various time locations on the bar. But when you realise that they are colour coded, and each crew member is also colour coded, then the objective becomes clear. Each AR sequence can also be split, with the crew members splitting off and having their own conversations, which means the sequences have to be played through multiple times with your focus on different crew members.

The story is by far the most immersive element of Tacoma, especially the back stories and emotional moments witnessed in the various emails and messages sent between the crew, and between their families back home. Just by witnessing these moments, and by reading letters or notes left in drawers, you feel a bond and form emotional attachments to the characters, so much so that you really root for their survival.

The design of the space station Tacoma is also superb. You do feel like you are on a living, breathing space station, where a small group of people live and work. The simple additions of areas like Laundry Rooms and Kitchens, although not the most exciting areas, make it feel realistic. Each area of the station is connected via a hub, where there is no gravity, so you have to manoeuvre being weightless. From the hub, getting to each individual area is done via a long tube with a mechanical lift, which positively reinforces the feeling that you are on a space station. Each area has gravity, so it’s back to walking!

Tacoma is short. I am going to get that right out in the open. It is really short. All in all, to get every bit of content from this game will take about three hours. And that’s it’s biggest flaw.

When the game is about to finish, I was expecting it to move to a new location, or tell me that there has been a mistake and that there was a whole secret area to investigate. But there wasn’t. It was Game Over (man). So, apart from mopping up achievements for the full 1000 Gamerscore, that was it. The achievements are also pretty easy to get, but you will probably need a guide as most are secret and you may not naturally do some of these things whilst playing.

The shortness of Tacoma is the reason I am still unsure what rating to give it. Tacoma is a great piece of storytelling, in a fairly new, inventive way, but it left me feeling a bit empty afterwards. It just didn’t give me enough. I wanted more story, I wanted to see what happened afterwards. I wanted more history of both the crew and the Venturis Corporation.

And, unfortunately I came across a few bugs. At times the framerate drops a lot, and this mostly happened when travelling to different areas of the ship. On one of these occasions it also caused the game to crash, so it’s not perfect in its performance. This even takes place when the game starts with the message “Press A to start”, and you press A and nothing happens, so you keep pressing A until finally the game catches up with the first press of A. The bugs are not game breaking but are definitely frustrating.

So, this is my dilemna. Should you play Tacoma? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. But, if you are like me, you’ll come away with a slight sense of disappointment, as you’ll feel a bit cheated on what time you spend for your £15.

Thanks to Xbox and Fullbright for supporting TiX

Broken Age review

Broken Age, a point and click adventure game from Double Fine Productions, has finally come to the Xbox One. Originally announced over five years ago via a famous Kickstarter campaign, the game is a love letter to the LucasArts titles of the 1990’s.

It tells the story of young Shay, last survivor of his planet, aboard the space vessel Bassinostra. Searching for a new home for him, the ship’s AI watches over every aspect of Shay’s life, and appears to him as his mother and father. Yet his life is an endless loop of breakfast cereal, cuddly toys and rollercoasters. Shay tires of his situation and longs for adventure. Keen to break free of his own Groundhog Day routine he soon discovers a stowaway aboard the ship who has a very different perception of what’s going on in Shay’s life.

Broken Age also tells the story of Vella, who finds herself in the apparently enviable position as one of her town’s sacrificial offerings to the dreaded Mog Chothra, a fearsome creature that demands all villages offer up sacrifices of young girls every 14 years. Whilst the other maidens are more than happy with this arrangement, given that it saves their entire villages from being destroyed, Vella would rather find a way to kill the creature. Unfortunately for her, no one else agrees. She escapes the Mog and embarks on a mission to find out more about Mog Chothra, and how to kill it.

The game is split into two acts, with the second act being considerably longer than the first. The two stories are entirely separate but you can switch between them at any time. I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that the two stories do eventually come together, but you can play either story through to the end of Act 1 without starting the other. But it’s a useful feature for when you might be stuck on a particularly difficult problem, and you will most definitely be stuck on many particularly difficult problems.

So, pointing and clicking. You will move through different areas, meet characters, find objects, combine objects, give combined object to character to get an item to put on top of something. I really don’t want to say too much about the story, but: you’ll have to contend with a snake who will strangle you if you get too close, you’ll steal an anti-radiation suits from a cult, you’ll frost cakes, the list goes on. There is no tutorial or hint system in this game, it also involves a lot of backtracking across areas. If you walk off to the side of the screen the game has to load, so although loading is very quick, a fade to black and back again, you’ll be doing it a lot. There are also surprisingly few locations in the game. Whilst I got through the first Act of the game with relative ease, the second, much longer part of the game sees many multiple objectives to complete, with it never being entirely clear what it is that you need to do to complete each one. I found that completing puzzles boiled down to being resolved in one of three ways: you solved it yourself, you fluked it by trying ‘everything on everything’, or you resorted to looking up the answer somewhere. There are some really difficult puzzles later in the game and you’ll really need to take notes (pro tip: or take screenshots with your phone) and due to the random nature of many of the puzzles, a guide is only of limited help.

As I said in the introduction, this is very much a traditional point and click adventure game. Of course it is, and it’s what the fans kept asking Tim Schaffer for. He made all those great old games, why can’t he make one now? The answer was always that it would never sell enough copies in today’s market and no publisher would stump up the cash for a game that wouldn’t make a profit. And so he turned to Kickstarter and quickly raised over $3m as the rabid fan base practically forced him to take their money. This allowed the team to expand their plans for the game, hire some top voice talent and increase the number of platforms the game was released on. This game came to the Ouya before it came to the Xbox. Perhaps some concessions to modernity should have been made. The game could at least have had a hint system, because looking up the answers online doesn’t sit right. I completed the game in just under 12 hours with only 480 Gamerscore, so plenty of reason to go back, especially due to some of the puzzles having different solutions each time, and maybe get the achievement for completing the game in under one hour. I did really enjoy Broken Age, despite the difficulty.

Thanks to Double Fine Productions and Xbox for supporting TiX

Get Even intrigues with a series of ‘side story’ videos

Bandai Namco’s Get Even is coming out on May 26th on Xbox One and is been touted as “unlike any game you’ve previously experienced”.

Described as mixing multiple fun mechanics and featuring superior storytelling, incredible 3D sound design and stand-out composed music by Olivier Deriviere and writing by Stephen Long and Iain Sharkey, Get Even appears to be a real labour of love for Bandai Namco.

The single player narrative experience, where nothing is what it seems, is set to shock, scare and stir deep emotions as you experience the journey.

In the lead up to launch the studio, musicians and writers have created a series of ‘side story videos’. These will appear weekly and give you snippets of intriguing information, however you’ll have to find out for yourself what happens.

The latest videos can be found below, and there’s a Facebook community channel for you to discuss and find out more about the game.

We’re certainly intrigued.

New Syberia 3 trailer released

Syberia 3 is set for an imminent release,  Microids, the publishers behind the game have today released a new trailer explaining a little deeper the story behind Syberia and it’s protagonist Kate Walker. With the artwork coming from legendary comic book illustrator Benoit Sokal the game is certainly going to look spectacular. Watch the trailer below for more details.

About Syberia 3:
Impersonating Kate Walker, players will benefit from a brand new way to freely explore striking landscapes and circumvent their mysteries and puzzles in ways they have not experienced before.

The story begins when Kate is found left for dead on a shore by the Youkol tribe, a nomadic people caring for their snow ostriches during migration. Trapped, prisoners in the city of Valsembor, they will have to find together a way to continue their journey in a chase against their enemies and unexpected challenges. While at the same time, Kate’s past is catching up with her…

Syberia 3 is developed by Koalabs Studio and will be available April 20 in Europe and April 25 in North America on Xbox One and PC. It will be fully doubled in French, English, German, Polish, Russian and subtitled in French, English, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Russian, Czech, Korean, Simplified Chinese and Traditional. The original soundtrack of the game is handled by Inon Zur (Fallout 4, Dragon Age, Prince of Persia), already in command on Syberia 2. The game is rated PEGI 12.

Torment: Tides of Numenera review

In 1999 Planescape Torment took critics by storms, with its story focused roleplaying creating an experience that was more about lore and dialogue than combat and action. This critical success didn’t translate to a commercial one, but the multiverse shenanigans of this Dungeon & Dragons based campaign still won over enough to become a cult classic. Torment: Tides of Numenera is a spiritual successor to Planescape and follows many of the original title’s queues, making it a title whose strengths lie in its storytelling.

For some, Torment: Tides of Numenera will be the ideal RPG experience. It harks back to the days of yore where isometric RPGs were king, where text dialogue was paired only with the odd grunt or one-liner of audio, where combat was unintuitive and harsh, and where handholding was strictly forbidden. And indeed, inXile have revived many of these traits in their game, the primary feature being the focus on storytelling and dialogue.

In Torment: Tides of Numenera combat is to be avoided. Instead, talking your way out of sticky situations, or cunningly manipulating situations through actions and items, is preferred. It’s about being smart, reading a situation carefully and making the right decisions to overcome it. And wonderfully, Torment: Tides of Numenera provides some excellent situations and methods for avoiding combat that are fun to explore.

This is largely thanks to some terrific writing. There’s real character behind the NPCs that makes them engaging to talk to. There are characters that make you laugh and cringe, as well as plenty you love, hate and even fear. The dialogue is thick with lore and intrigue as well as clues on how you can best interact with people. Reading it all and paying attention pays dividends when it comes to avoiding of combat. You can lie, compliment, sell-out and threaten your way out of many situations simply by replying correctly during dialogue with NPCs, playing off the strengths and weaknesses that you’ve perceived through conversations and lore you’ve picked up on your journey and during your interaction with said characters.

Moreover, there are often multiple non-violent ways out of a situation, and if things do go awry, even combat provides options. Environmental hazards can be triggered to damage enemies in combat, and items provides many neat and unique way to turn the tides if things get overwhelming. Additionally, after a show of strength, such as quickly striking down a foe in front of their party, you can sometimes talk your way out of the rest of the combat. It’s brilliantly designed with copious amounts of branching paths.

However, in order to perform some of the actions required to avoid combat, your character stats come into play, providing differing chances of success depending on them. You’re also restricted to how many actions you can perform each day by these stats. Resting for the night replenishes them but that’s not always an option. Fortunately, your party can also perform many of these actions, providing you with their unique skills and stat pools to utilise.

This does, however, sometimes mean you get stuck in a situation where you don’t have the required amount in a particular stat to continue, resulting in re-loading or leaving an area and then re-playing a section now you know what you’re up against. This can get frustrating, an unfortunately side effect of the breath of choice on offer, but largely this comes down to the combat’s fault.

Shorter engagements aren’t too bad, although there’s some confusion over why certain actions aren’t possible, but in longer engagements it’s all too easy to entirely spend you stat points trying to slice, dice, and magic your way through the many foes, leaving you with too few stat points to progress in the story afterwards. Additionally, the difficulty curve for combat is pretty harsh, stretching your abilities and item management skills considerably, and often catching you out with a very tricky encounter. Combat is best avoided at all costs.

Fortunately, as previously mentioned, Torment: Tides of Numenera is focused on storytelling and dialogue, so combat is rarely your only option. As a result, though, there’s a huge amount of reading. Characters occasionally have spoken sections but these are few and far between. Additionally, there’s a lot of introspection on your character’s part, communicated to you through text. This can make it feel a little lacklustre, with a flash back described in text rather than shown in images or fully animated, but it’s exceptionally well-written and paints a vivid picture in your mind regardless.

However, where the visual shine is in the stunningly crisp environments, which show off a wide variety of weird, mystical and technological wonders. The world you inhabit is a melding of multiple different worlds colliding within a dimension, and it looks fantastic. Character models and animations are less impressive, although enemy creatures are impressively otherworldly.

Unfortunately, we did encounter multiple FPS problems throughout the 30-40 hour story, as well as long load time between areas. Additionally, the occasional bug would cause characters to freeze or enemies to become friendly targets in combat, therefore making victory impossible. But this didn’t distract from the otherwise hugely intriguing lore and unique systems for avoiding combat. Certainly, titles such as these are an acquired taste, but this is one of the strongest recipes on the menu.

Thanks to Xbox and inXile Entertainment for supporting TiX