Category Archives: RPG

Tales of Zestiria Review – Needs more ‘Zest’

There was a time when Japanese RPGs were big news on consoles with regular updates from the likes of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. There have been slim pickings over the last few years though. Instead, we’ve seen RPG elements creep into more action-orientated games. 2015 has been no different, with the great (Witcher III) and poor (Mad Max) alike bumping their games past the 40 hour mark with skill trees and lengthy upgrade systems.

But what about something unmistakably ‘Japanese’? With the Final Fantasy series going online with XIV or still being miles off (XV), it’s once again up to Bandai Namco and the Tales series to bring fans a slice of old-school goodness. Continue reading Tales of Zestiria Review – Needs more ‘Zest’

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The Witcher III: Wild Hunt (Review) – An unpolished classic?

The Witcher III: Wild Hunt Review | An unpolished classic?

A reliable sign you’re playing an absorbing game is how it makes the time fly. I was constantly interrupted by my TV’s two-hour auto-shutdown notification throughout my time with The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. Geralt’s adventures will cut through the days and nights so fast it’ll shock you.

The Witcher III marks the series’ debut on PlayStation and as such will be played by many gamers unfamiliar with the past games. There’s no getting around the fact that you’re going to be at a loss just diving in, I’d seriously advise reading a few wiki summaries of past events and  brushing up on some of the main characters so you won’t feel too left out. Continue reading The Witcher III: Wild Hunt (Review) – An unpolished classic?

Bloodborne (Review) – Hunt. Die. Learn. Grow.

Bloodborne Review | Hunt. Die. Learn. Grow.

Weeks after my first night in Yharnam, it’s time for a verdict on my adventures in Bloodborne. Well, a number for the experience so far at least. Fresh tales about From Software’s new title are appearing online every day. This is a game that nobody can really claim to have mastered yet. Secrets are still being unearthed, much of the lore has yet to be agreed and rumours whisper through the net about everything from werewolf modes to hidden boss fights.

One thing’s for sure though, Sony has done very well for themselves by nailing Bloodborne down as a PS4 exclusive. As enjoyable as Infamous, DriveClub (eventually) and Killzone were, they never rode such a continuous wave of hype after release. Bloodborne’s appeal won’t be a surprise to fans of From Software’s Demon’s Souls or the Dark Souls series, but what is surprising, is that it’s pulling in people who aren’t fans of the Souls games. People like me. Continue reading Bloodborne (Review) – Hunt. Die. Learn. Grow.

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Review | The Behemoth vs The Boyband

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Review | The Behemoth vs The Boyband

It’s highly unlikely we’ll see Final Fantasy XV released this year as it’s apparently only around 60% complete. So it was a great surprise to hear that Square-Enix were releasing a lengthy demo for it. Well, if you bought an copy of Final Fantasy Type-0 that is.

So let’s dive into this vertical slice of the game that lets us play around with some basic combat options and also provides a large area to explore. Seriously, this thing is huge, no wonder they called it an Episode rather than a demo.

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Review | The Behemoth vs The Boyband

This lengthy taster begins with a brief introduction to the four main characters of your party. There’s some serious box ticking of RPG-tropes here. There’s the muscle head, the smart guy, a Junkie-chic version of Cloud wearing a weird vest jacket that looks like a tartan skirt at first glance and then there’s you, Prince Noctis, a skinny ultra emo haircut. There’s not enough story or dialogue scenes offered to provided a fully rounded opinion I’ll admit. But as first impressions go, they’re fairly dislikeable. I’ve noticed that FF party members have been a wonderfully diverse group over the years, so it’s odd to see this Japanese equivalent of the Backstreet Boys.

Like Kingdom Hearts, your party will sometimes be joined by other characters (in the final game) for a while, so fingers crossed we get a bit more racial and gender diversity in the group. Given the series’ popular appeal with male and female gamers, it’s odd to see Square-Enix shun half of their audience by having no default female party members. In episode Duscae, the only female of note is the cleavage-centric mechanic fixing your car.

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Review | The Behemoth vs The Boyband

After the opening cutscene ends and the early resentment fades, you step outside your tent to be greeted with a stunning vista of a lake with huge dinosaur-like creatures wading in the middle of them. The lakes are surrounded by meadows where large rounded sheep-like beasts graze in herds and there’s a forest over to your left. And the best thing? You can go anywhere you like.

Waiting at least 20 hours to go free-roaming in FFXIII was a disaster the XIII series never recovered from. Episode Duscae seems like it is making a very important statement that freedom is back on the menu. Consider us relieved and impressed.

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Review | The Behemoth vs The Boyband

Combat

I’ll get to the missions later. Chances are the first interaction you’re going to have with this world is to bash it with a sword. Handily, there’s a quick tutorial to ease you into the new combat. Turn-based purists may want to brace themselves, we’re looking at an action-RPG this time.

The closest Square-Enix comparison would be Kingdom Hearts, but seeing as this is a demo, not all of the combat features are available. There’s no spell-casting for example. The Square button handles melee strikes that can be bashed out or used with held presses for a variation (I had to look that latter feature up online though).

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Review | The Behemoth vs The Boyband

The MP bar feeds dodge moves by holding L1 and pressing a direction on the left stick. Time a dodge correctly against telegraphed attacks and you’ll have a chance to initiate a powerful counter. Different special attacks are activated via the Triangle button, such as the drain attack that absorbs HP/MP  or the Dragoon Jump that launches you into the air to smash back down with a powerful blast – great for groups of goblins or getting out of harm’s way for a few seconds. These specials also use MP, but they recharge with successful melee strikes, when you back away from the fight or use the warp teleport to climb nearby towers to take a breather. A warp-strike move is also incredibly helpful to zoom straight towards your target, which you’ll really appreciate during encounters with nimble enemies.

This brief sparring session put the combat in a good light, the melee moves were reasonablyresponsive -you’re not getting it confused with DmC anytime soon- and the dodge mechanic works well. Once you get into the field to take on groups of enemies though, things are a little different.

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Review | The Behemoth vs The Boyband

The target lock system is going to need a lot of work by the time Final Fantasy XV releases. In its current state, you press R1 when facing an enemy for a soft lock and you’ll need to press R3 to get an apparent hard-lock on an enemy, indicated by an extra layer on the targeting reticule.  Holding R1 is also an option. The right stick controls the camera and swaps targets, which can be problematic when you’re just trying to get a better view. Whichever option I used, I found the lock-on would come loose all too easily against larger numbers of enemies. When trying to work on one enemy at a time to thin out their numbers, accidentally swapping targets all the time made fights much harder than they needed to be.

Against small groups of three or four enemies, I was able to wrangle the system into a manageable form, but against any larger groups, its becomes very annoying. With so much development time remaining though, we wouldn’t be surprised if Square-Enix continue to adapt the combat, especially with some of the feedback they’ll get from Episode Duscae. Hopefully at least.

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Review | The Behemoth vs The Boyband

Weapon equip options available in this slice of the game were mainly locked down. Essentially, your melee combo is made up of five different swords with different properties. The special abilities only matter when you activate them via the Triangle button, but you can swap the swords around if you fancy opening a combo with a lance for example rather than a short sword. The final blade in a combo is ideally a finishing weapon, so you’ll want to equip one that does massive damage. Not that this demo tells you any of this. I had to go online to find information on that too. So again, hopefully the full game will fill in the blanks better.

Missions

So, when you’re not stabbing oversized sheep, what else is there to do in Episode Duscae? The overall mission is to earn 25,000 Gil to fix your car. While one of the larger yellow sheep monsters will net you 3000 Gil for a horn, you’re better off taking up the bounty of defeating the local behemoth, Deadeye, who has wanted posters all over the region. Probably for eating the locals, he doesn’t look like the bank-robbing type.

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Review | The Behemoth vs The Boyband

From the map, you’re able to trek to distant locations to look for clues on his location, like huge footprints or smashed up sections of forest. These missions are very much a case of walking to a location and pressing X until you’ve done enough to find the entrance to his lair. Side-missions along the way may pop up, but all the ones I found involve walking a hundred metres from the start and picking up a clearly indicated item. So yes, the mission design is pretty poor. But they do feel a bit like placeholders, so again, we’re keeping our fingers crossed for something a little more exciting in the final game.

When you do decide to head into the forest to chase down the behemoth, you’ll get a change of pace with a stealth mission where you have to creep behind the huge creature in the fog to follow it to its lair. While initially quite atmospheric, it’s let down by cheap fails if you get too far behind (despite still being able to clearly see it), or when it spots you despite having its back to you or when moving on its blindside (it’s missing an eye and the game tells you it can’t see on that side too).

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Review | The Behemoth vs The Boyband

It’s about the EXPerience

EXP earned during fights is based on a few factors, like speed, number of parries and any boosters added through eating specific meals at camp. Meals can boost not only your XP bonus, but also critical chances or immunity to poison attacks. The longer a day goes on, the less XP you will earn once these boosters wear off, which can be a little annoying to be honest, as even hard-won fights against tough opponents can provide little reward if done at the wrong time of day.

If a party member’s HP reaches zero during battle, they’ll stumble around until someone heals them by running over and pressing X (the AI will look after you here too). However, each time this happens their overall HP meter shrinks. Camping will restore the meter’s maximum capacity though, making it an essential part of your day. It’s too bloody dark to enjoy hunting at night anyway.

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Review | The Behemoth vs The Boyband

You’re only actually given your XP from the day when you rest at a campsite overnight. Here the XP automatically levels up everyone on the team. There’s no option to choose specific stats to update, but fingers crossed there will be by the final game. Hmm, I’m crossing my fingers a lot here.

Despite the issues with the camera lock-on and the generic mission types, Episode Duscae shows that Final Fantasy XV has enormous promise. The Duscae region is but a tiny sample of the world we will be able to explore and feels like the first proper Final Fantasy experience I’ve had in years. Emerging from that tent and being free to run off and explore in any direction of my choosing was fantastic fun and after four hours I may have finished the behemoth storyline, but there’s still more to do. Like finding all the parts of a hidden sword or using my new Eidolon to overkill the smallest of enemies just for the hell of it. And yes, it is possible to break out of the demo’s map barrier and explore more than you’re supposed to. You might even spot a Titan if you know where to look. Even at this demo stage, people are finding lots of hidden depth and extra things to do, just imagine how much there will be to discover in the final game.

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae Review | The Behemoth vs The Boyband

*All images captured by author on PS4.

Freedom Wars (Review)

freedom-wars-reviewOh Monster Hunter, why hast thou betrayed us so? After starting life with PlayStation, Capcom’s hit series has gone on to become a huge seller exclusively on Nintendo platforms, particularly the handhelds, leaving Sony desperate to come up with a similar winning formula for the PS Vita.

Last year Soul, Sacrifice made a valiant effort and in many ways succeeded, although it was a little too niche for its own good. And boy was it all sorts of brown. So step forward Freedom Wars, a futuristic take on the genre that sees players trying to work off larger chunks of a 1 million year prison sentence by slaying monsters and harvesting resources for ‘the greater good’. The world is ravaged by war and hunger and broken up into separate cities or Panopticons, with any child born beyond the strict family quotas imprisoned to earn their way back into society via this obscenely long sentence.

Continue reading Freedom Wars (Review)

DIABLO III: ULTIMATE EVIL EDITION (REVIEW)

Console-based action RPG fans are generally an underserved bunch, so when Diablo III was announced for the PlayStation and Xbox consoles, those of us with an unquenchable thirst for loot were certainly excited.

But then Blizzard had to go and announce that in addition to the PS3 and 360 versions, the game would eventually make its way to the next generation on PS4 and Xbox One. Then began the waiting game, in which I would have had plenty of time to pick up the PS3 version of the game to whet my appetite. But no, it’s shiny or nothing.

Continue reading DIABLO III: ULTIMATE EVIL EDITION (REVIEW)

Child of Light (Review)

child-of-light-review-540x274RPG games are usually big-budget epics with the promise (threat?) of at least forty hours running time. Ubisoft’s Child of Light is here to change that assumption by providing a low-priced downloadable alternative.

Others have failed quite miserably (Hello, Mars: War Logs), but ze Germans made a solid effort with the tough Rainbow Moon. But with Ubisoft providing genre classics in action, shooters and platforming (Assassin’s Creed IV, Far Cry 3 and Rayman Legendsif you’re asking), we can’t wait to see how they handle an RPG.

The first thing we all noticed about Child of Light was of course the visuals -and they don’t disappoint. Using Rayman’s UbiArt engine, Ubisoft have this time favoured a watercolour approach to the visuals instead of bright colours and cel-shaded lines. This has resulted in a classic fairy tale aesthetic that gives the game its own unique endearing personality throughout the ever-changing landscapes.

Continue reading Child of Light (Review)

Final Fantasy X HD Remaster (Review)

FFX_HD_Remaster_VitaHas it really been thirteen years since Final Fantasy X on the PS2? The biggest name in RPGs hasn’t had a great time with the PS3, as the XIII trilogy consistently misfired and many of us are still clinging to the hope of a remake for VII. So, a HD remaster of Final Fantasy X and X-2 didn’t exactly strike me as much to celebrate, despite enjoying the first game all those years ago.

I was wrong though. Dead wrong. Final Fantasy X is arguably better than ever and an essential purchase for anyone pining for the good old days of Square Soft-developed RPGs. If Final Fantasyis to have a bright future, the developers need to look back at games like this to understand why the series went global post FFVII in the first place.

Continue reading Final Fantasy X HD Remaster (Review)

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (Review)

lightning returns“The brightest lights cast the darkest shadows”

Who among us dared to imagine that after playing the miserable corridor that was the first Final Fantasy XIII, we’d be lining up for a third game in the series a few years later. The sequel, XIII-2, eased up on the linearity, but was still a mess on the battlefield. It’s baffling to think that of all the great Final Fantasy games in years gone by, the almost universally slated XIII series is now a trilogy.

But throughout my time spent playing the previous two games, there remained a streak of perseverance. The ongoing story of sacrifice, family and loss always deserved a better game to be a part of. The cast have always been one of my favourites in a JRPG too, despite being a bit on the broody side a times.

Continue reading Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (Review)

South Park: The Stick of Truth (Review)

Review of the new RPG game South Park: The Stick of TruthThis generation of consoles hasn’t had the best run for licensed tie-ins or traditional RPG experiences. And now, as it winds to a close, the two genres get one last chance in an odd-sounding hybrid. A South Park RPG.

How do you fit South Park into an RPG experience? Simple, just have the kids pretending to be on an epic adventure with elves, mages, wizards and warriors. Adults may know it as LARPing (Live Action Role Playing (like in the movie Role Models), but to the kids of South Park, they’re simply playing outside.

Continue reading South Park: The Stick of Truth (Review)

How to Survive (Review)

Bring duct tape.

Like any good zombie attack, you never see it coming and How to Survive will sink its teeth into your nights if you let your guard down while patiently awaiting the arrival of your shiny next-gen console.

EKO Software’s game is a top-down action-RPG that can be loosely compared with the likes of Diablo III or Dead Nation. After crash landing on a zombie-infested tropical island, you’ll need to scavenge for salvage and build weapons and armour to hold off the infected masses. The overall aim is to make a series of vehicle repairs via completing fetch quests. Ok, so not exactly a revolution of new ideas, but once How to Survive gets going, it’s hard to put down.

Continue reading How to Survive (Review)

Dragon’s Crown (Review)

Dragon’s Crown is a fond throwback to classic side-scrolling beat ‘em ups like Streets of Rage, or more specifically, Golden Axe (you can totally ride dragons!). Stages involve going from left to right with a four-strong group consisting of knights, amazons, dwarves, elves, wizards or sorceresses. There’s a boss with a health bar as wide as your TV at the end of each one too, with one of them being a clever nod to a certain Monty Python film. Sold yet?

You’re spoilt for choice, with six different character types to choose from. They’re ranked from beginner to expert, but to be honest you’ll be fine going with whichever takes your fancy from the start and you’re allowed to have a few on the go at once.

Continue reading Dragon’s Crown (Review)

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix (Review)

An absorbing adventure that’s still full of heart

Square Enix aren’t the fastest of movers when it comes to giving us what we really want. That Final Fantasy VII remake doesn’t appear to be on its way soon and Kingdom Hearts III has only just been announced.

In the meantime though, we’re more than happy to revisit the past in their latest HD collection, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix. Rather than just give us HD versions of the main canon PS2 games, Square are making the effort to bring players up to date with the Nintendo-only spin-offs and region-specific releases. Naturally, this leaves room for another HD collection before KHIII.

Continue reading Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix (Review)

Mars: War Logs (Review)

That’s One Red Dead Planet

Low cost downloadable RPGs are something of a rarity on consoles, with only Rainbow Moon coming to mind in recent years as anything vaguely worth your attention. Mars: War Logs would like to get involved with the genre too, despite being more of an action-RPG.

Set far into the future, Mars has undergone colonisation, but that new civilisation has long since collapsed. It has been replaced by warring water companies as everyone inexplicably fights over the dusty hellhole.

Continue reading Mars: War Logs (Review)

Tales of Xillia (Review)

After waiting nearly two years more than our Japanese friends, we Western gamers have finally got our hands on one of the most eagerly awaited RPGs of recent memory. But was it worth the wait?

Tales of Xillia takes you on a journey with Milla Maxwell, a spirit deity in human form, and Jude Mathis, a young student, as they try to stop a corrupt king using a deadly weapon in a war he’s desperately trying to start.

Continue reading Tales of Xillia (Review)

Soul Sacrifice Review | Part 2 – Getting slayed with friends

This is our concluding part of our Soul Sacrifice review. If you’d like to catch up on the basic game mechanics and the single player experience, you can read Part 1 here. Ok, up to date? This could go either way right? The remainder of my review is going to focus on the online multiplayer side of the game.

A range of options allows you to set up public or password protected games with invites via the Vita’s messaging system being a simple if slightly clunky affair. You can label your room to give other players an indication of which chapters you’re playing and if you prefer saving or sacrificing bosses. There were a healthy number of players online during the launch weekend, meaning I never had to wait long for players to join. Although it’s often worth waiting until you have a full group of four to take on some of the boss battles. Continue reading Soul Sacrifice Review | Part 2 – Getting slayed with friends

Soul Sacrifice Review | Part 1 – Slaying Solo

Monster Hunter is a handheld system seller. That’s a fact, particularly in Japan. Yet we’ve only heard the slightest of rumours about the mega-series bringing its giant-chasing exploits to Sony’s underperforming handheld.

We don’t know if it’s a case of Sony not being able to agree a deal with Capcom, but until that champagne spraying day arises, Soul Sacrifice is here to carry the burden and an hefty amount of expectation in the face of the Vita’s barren landscape of recent or future releases. Continue reading Soul Sacrifice Review | Part 1 – Slaying Solo

Rainbow Moon Review – Grinding to the moon and back

With PS3 RPG numbers being on the worryingly low side, I certainly wasn’t expecting one to appear on the digital PSN platform, but that’s exactly what developers SideQuest Studios have given us. Their ambitions are clearly high and I couldn’t wait to see if they could pull it off. Continue reading Rainbow Moon Review – Grinding to the moon and back

Final Fantasy XIII-2 (Review)

The beautiful and the damned

If you didn’t finish Final Fantasy XIII, you’ll have saved hours of your life from a torturous grind. However, the story was one of the best the series has ever done. The brooding star, Lightning, was a fantastic character that proved you can have a female lead that eschews the tiresome ‘big boobs, brassy attitude’ design and we were gifted an understated portrayal of conflicted charisma. A real boot up the backside of the series’ recent rosters if ever there was one.

After the closing scenes of the last game, Lightning disappeared almost as soon as she was reunited with her younger sister, Serah. This leaves the sequel without its leading lady. I wasn’t convinced that Serah had what it takes to take over the lead, but Square-Enix have done a great job at building her into a solid character. They must have been really confident in her as the old cast only really appear as cameos, admittedly perfectly timed ones.

Continue reading Final Fantasy XIII-2 (Review)

Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention (Review)

After a strong launch line-up the Vita’s release schedule has been worryingly quiet. It has also been without anything resembling a decent RPG to really get our teeth into. Hopefully that’s all about to change as Disgaea 3 gets a re-release.

We’re not entirely sure why NIS didn’t release Disgaea 4 instead as it’s generally seen as the superior title. What you have here is a full priced game that has been out on the PS3 since 2008 and available for under a tenner today. On the plus side, Absence of Detention does come with all the separate DLC from the PS3 game, including an extra four chapters. Not that you’d miss it, this game is huge. You can level up to Lv. 9999 type of huge.

Continue reading Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention (Review)