Bleed 2

Welcome back everyone. Today we’re covering Bleed 2, brought to us by Ian Campbell February 8th of 2017… or, y’know, not long ago. It continues to follow the adventures of Wryn as she defends her title of Greatest Hero.

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I am still awful at dodging, but hey a B is something, right?!

I’ll say up front, it’s not a very long game. 7 stages and I was able to beat my first run on Normal in about an hour. That’s fine though. You know why? Because those 7 stages were amazing. Bleed 1 was fast, but Bleed 2 feels like “Speed Run: The Game.” And that’s perfect, because Bleed is at its peak when you’re triple-jumping around the screen, cutting down enemies right and left while breaking out ye olde bullet time when things get too hairy. As before, winning is great, but winning with style and speed is even better, so the old scoring meter is sitting up in the top right corner again.

In terms of mechanics, the big new thing is reflectable projectiles and attacks. You could do it in the first game with the sword, but it wasn’t always clear which things you could properly reflect, and having the sword taking up one of your two weapon slots just to find out felt like a gamble. In this case, your first run is limited to the sword and pistols, starting with a cool combination where you send out a reflecting sword slash when you first hit fire… then firing the pistols as you hold the trigger. As in the original, there are new weapons and characters to unlock, but it’s all AFTER the first run-through. This change is ultimately a plus, as the starting weapons being locked makes it much easier for the dev to build the game around that first and foremost, and players don’t have to keep getting used to new weapons just because their current one isn’t the best fit for the current challenge. Besides, the old Shop system encouraged “do this 5 times” rather than “do this as well as physically possible”, with the latter being much more in-line with the spirit of these games.

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The new reports using actual stills from your run is a nice touch.

Bleed feels half like a sequel, half like a remake. The latter because a number of enemies and scenarios will feel oddly familiar for anyone who played the original, the former because, rather than just doing it again and saying “Here’s more, give us more cash!” they do more with it. The sections involving said pieces feel like someone said “Okay, let’s try this again now that we REALLY know what we’re doing.” I appreciate that, and I appreciate that they still created a new game with new content to back up those sections.

In terms of graphics and sound, the music feels faster-paced, particularly the reprise of the main theme from the original game, which helps keep it in time with everything else. You’ll often pass through the environments too quickly to pay much attention to them, but if you can spare a moment from dodging and shooting, they’re better detailed than they were in Bleed 1, and the animations look spiffier too. You can see a number of places where the dev stopped leaning on pixelated graphics and the result just looks cleaner and better made.

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In terms of complaints… ummm…? Challenge mode is tough on 3 bosses? Higher difficulties have more tricks rather than just burying you with higher enemy counts or harder-hitting/spongier ones? It’s hard going back to Bleed 1 when I can reflect entire bosses? Erm, those aren’t really criticisms. Hell, the game actually takes it into account when you play through on a different character, having the newcaster go “oh shoot, my bad, that’s not Wryn” at the end. I don’t know if I have anything to knock on this one.

So, that’s Bleed 2. I recommend the heck out of it, in case that wasn’t clear yet. It’s $10 on Steam, $9 if you buy before the 15th. Take care, and see you next time.

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Fisher-Diver

Welcome back! Today we’re doing something a little different. I’m just gonna tell you that this free flash game, Fisher-Diver, exists. And you should go play it. Like, now, preferably. Please. It’s one of those, you know the ones. The sort of game you wanna tell people about but can’t because half the fun is experiencing it yourself. Takes maybe half an hour, give or take. But seriously. Go play it. Everything below the screenshot is going to be spoilers.

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The circle thing is the diver, near the bottom edge is a fish.

Seriously.

Spoilers.

You don’t want ’em.

Last Chance.

So… That ending, huh? I mean, man. I was just starting to get over my fear of the ocean. And that last note before the final fishing license? Gave me chills. Yes, I’m still avoiding spoilers a little. Just… this is really cool concept. The game does everything right. The minimal art style still works beautifully to convey the world you’re in. The gameplay is oddly entrancing. And the build-up is perfect. So many games and books and movies try to show how someone could go a little crazy from the trials of their daily life. This might be the first one I’ve seen that makes you experience those same trials, putting you in the same general mindset, and not giving you any warning that’s what’s going on until it’s nearly too late.

To anyone reading this that wants to be a game dev: Look at this game. This took the smallest fraction of effort and resources to create compared to your typical AAA title. It took me less than a day to beat. And yet this game gave me pause, it got to me. I’ve played hundreds of games by now. Many of them were expensive, many of them were fun, many of them were memorable. Very, very few of them got to me like this one did.

Sometimes that’s all you need to do.

Take care, everyone. See you next time.

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Dead by Daylight

Welcome back everyone! Today we’re covering Dead By Daylight, brought to us by Behavior Digital and Starbreeze Studios, released Jun of 2016. The premise is surprisingly more intriguing than the gameplay originally suggests. The survivors and killers both are caught within the realm of something known only as “The Entity.” The Entity pits 4 survivors against one of a few potential killers. The survivors must activate the generators to power the gates at the edges of the map, while the killer is trying to grab the survivors and trap them on meat hooks for the Entity to devour. Whether the survivors flee the field or are sacrificed to sate the Entity’s hunger by the killer, they always reappear at a campfire, forced to run another round. Appeasing the Entity, in terms of committing noteworthy acts such as being in sight of the killer grant blood points, which can be used earn items and perks to make the next round more feasible (and all this is true for the killer as well).

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The entity forces you to prioritize major rewards in later levels.

Whereas Depth spends most of its time on direct confrontation between Sharks and Divers, DbD revolves around pursuit. The Killer generally doesn’t know where any of the survivors are until he sees some sign, such as a generator activating across the map, or the scratch marks left by someone running in panic. So while a Killer can and will patrol or set up traps around objects of import, it can be tough to play because it feels like you’re waiting for someone to slip up, taking some of the agency out of it. Once they detect someone, however, it’s a race against time, as the Killer will catch survivors on open ground, but survivors can more quickly traverse ledges and such to widen the gap, hopefully giving them enough time to break line of sight and disappear into the surrounding area once more.20170111163133_1.jpg

The presentation involves a number of distinct visual and audio cues, and that is huge considering the importance of remaining undetected. Survivors make noticeable amounts of noise when interacting with anything, and any Killer abilities are suitably “you should run the hell away because this is going to hurt”-y. The maps are well designed, offering multiple approaches, obstacles to both Killers and Survivors, and a spooky fog that makes you question whether that blur of motion at the edge of your vision really was just another Survivor. Thankfully, major events like activated generators also ping on the screen, so a Killer has a place to start searching. There’s very little in the way of effective communication though, and as such playing with a Voice Chat application is common and understandably disliked by many killers for the increased coordination that brings.

While I enjoy the premise, this game has many grating flaws. Even on a reasonably beefy rig, the game has performance problems, such as freezing up for a few seconds when trying to join a match. Loading screens either take 20 seconds or 10 minutes. My personal favorite is when I waited for a lobby to load for 15 minutes, was returned to the matchmaking menu, but still couldn’t do anything because of a “Please Wait” prompt that I gave another 5 minutes before I gave up and force-quit the application. Even after you land in a lobby, you have to wait for every person in said lobby to ready up, otherwise the match takes a long minute just to start. Then, once you start the match, there’s always the chance you or someone else will do something poorly or the opponent(s) will be extra competent, and the whole thing’s done in 5 minutes. As such, I often spend more time waiting for matches than actually playing the game, and that’s a sign that someone has failed their task from the get-go.

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Sometimes you win or lose by the skin of your teeth, but you’re generally more likely to experience one-sided contests.

Lag is another frequent hurdle, which is one of the worst things imaginable when you’ve got a man with a chainsaw 2 paces behind you, and the fact that the killer is always the host to the match is wide open for abuse. And did I mention there’s a number of killer and survivor strategies that seem designed to be a massive pain in the neck for the other party more than anything else? Yeah. Trolling the daylights out of the killer with a survivor squad full of friends armed with hook-busting toolkits is a thing. As is leading the killer to other survivors so they get killed first. As is putting a survivor on a hook, then standing and watching them until they finally die, granting the rest of the team time to escape but rendering victory completely impossible for the survivor in question.! No one likes to be completely shut down, but the players have been given tools to do just that. Considering my last paragraph explained how long it can take just to get in a match, losing because of nonsense like this stings even more.

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You can struggle, but unless someone helps you you’re going to die.

Ultimately, I can’t recommend this game, even at it’s $20 price point. I say that because for that amount of money I expect a title that is mechanically sound, especially given the low complexity in comparison to other titles. This game has a genuinely interesting lore, cool mechanics, and is excellent of creating moments of tension and outright fear, but the frustration I experience trying to forcibly extract that enjoyment poisons the whole deal for me.

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Space Pirates and Zombies 2

Welcome back everyone. Today we’re covering Space Pirates and Zombies 2, or just SPAZ2, released May of 2016 by MinMax Games LTD. It’s an Early Access 4x game set in space with an emphasis on customizable ships and faction wars. The first game left me feeling unimpressed; the grind became intolerably slow after mid-game and the ending was a big slap in the face. Still, I had some genuinely enjoyable moments that led me to give the sequel a try. The result feels like they combined Warship Gunner’s naval battles with Mount and Blade’s faction system.

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SPAZ2’s storyline is a continuation of the original: After the destruction of the Dark Entity, the former crew of the Clockwork are scraping by in a galaxy that has forgotten them, clinging to their mission of wiping out remaining zombies, even as new powers battle over what remains. Seeing as they haven’t dropped the word “Zombies” from the title, you can guess how that goes. If you don’t care for the story, you can run Sandbox mode with the same ultimate end goal of purging the infection from the universe; It sports impressive number of customization sliders.

As before, you’re trying to accumulate resources and experience to create a more capable fleet. Rez, Scrap, and Goons all return, as do the ships from the original game in the form of “Strike Craft” meant to give your mothership a leg up in combat. Yes, the mothership is now your main problem-solver. Using a modular building system, you design your mothership to suit your tastes in weapons, resilience, and maneuverability.¬† The fact that each nose, engine, and wing piece sports a weapon means you don’t have to sacrifice firepower in any design. As such, the current meta leans towards agile vessels that can dodge or outrun most incoming ordnance, and tanky bruiser types like the sort I’d like to use are just less effective in general, as it’s much easier to out-maneuver the enemy than shrug off their fire, even with heavily buffed stats.

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There’s a number of changes and refinements from the original system of “enter new system -> grind resources -> upgrade -> Repeat.” The universe is much smaller and more interconnected now, and that’s honestly an improvement. The universe in the first game was massive but thinly spread, and because things were easy on the edge of the universe but steadily got worse as you approached the core, there was no reason to look at, say, the far edge of the universe because you wouldn’t encounter anything new or challenging. Now, because of the different factions and ensuing complexity managing your reputation with them will add, there’s more reasons to check out those unexplored corners.

Whether through joining one of the already present factions in the universe or creating your own, the late-game revolves around picking a side and helping it become the top dog of the universe. As a faction grows in power, it gains more territory and has access to more powerful ship parts. However, thanks to the leveling system and the buffs granted by it your own ship is never rendered redundant, so you can always be a major player.

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The late-game battles are a terrifying mass of SFX, so hopefully you have a feel for combat by then.

In terms of presentation, the dialogue and overall style of the universe is as charming as ever. This was one thing I unequivocally liked about the first game, and it’s good to see it was not lost in the shuffle. Lasers are still unsatisfying to fire yet the other weapons that have been brought over are remain enjoyable, as are the new additions including gravity missiles and bomblet dispensing cloud torpedoes. The crew of the Clockwork returns too, an amusing bunch of dysfunctional, quibbling, best-hope-this-sorry-universe-has individuals. As before, they’re the only ones with any relevance to the story, but a number of other captains have been used to populate the universe, each with their own quirks and feelings towards you. The game is much improved by the ability to stumble across an old friend in a time of need, or make new ones by beating down on mutual enemies. These pilots are better brought to life by the odd snippet of audio. I still get a little smile on my face when I jump into a fight with an ally and hear them state “You’re the best! You really are!” or the enemy Captain declare “And now I must be going!” as he makes a run for the Fail Gate.

The first car on my habitual complaint train is that situations never seem to go quite as smoothly as they could. While I know it isn’t true, I always get the impression the stores you’re friendly with never have the parts you need, your allies are always conveniently out of reach when some nemesis with twice your threat rating comes calling, and zombie asteroids always start on your side of the field. The grind from the first game is as present as ever and the early game is still a frustrating mess of systems that were never fully explained to you (they’ve made gains here, but they’re not quite there yet).

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He knows me too well.

That was SPAZ2, available on Steam for $20. If you enjoyed the first game, definitely check it out, but understand that the devs themselves do not call it a direct sequel but rather “something new.” If the first game ultimately failed to impress you, like it did myself, you still should take a look. It is similar to its predecessor: a flawed game with some good ideas, but one I leave feeling satisfied rather than bitter.

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Titanfall 2

Welcome back everyone. Today we’re reviewing Titanfall 2, which came out October 28th, brought to us by EA and Respawn Entertainment. Now, you may be thinking: “Hang on, a AAA game review? And not covered a year after the fact? You feeling okay?”

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Feeling better than that Titan down there, that’s for sure.

Yes. Yes actually. I’m feeling amazing, that’s why I’m writing this. Titanfall 2 has revitalized my love for the Military Shooter genre, the same way Battlefield 1 is reportedly doing for several others right now.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t big on the fancy new mobility systems being plugged into shooter games when Advanced Warfare tried it… but I’m liking it much more after Titanfall 2. I’m not sure if that’s because the latter did a better job showing me the potential the system has, or I didn’t give it enough of a chance of my first try, or some combination, but I know I enjoy it now.

Enough about me, onto the game itself.

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Spoiler: I like it.

There’s a campaign this time around, so let me start by saying it was great, better than I ever expected from a multiplayer-focused FPS. It’s a little on the short side but the levels are mostly well-designed, giving you a number of weapons to use and obstacles to interact with. Players follow the story of one Jack Cooper, a Militia Rifleman whose dreams of becoming a Titan Pilot are granted in the cruelest way possible, as his mentor is cut down in front of him during a botched attack on an IMC installation. With his dying breath, Captain Lastimosa grants him use of his own Titan, named BT, leaving a dangerous mission in their hands. The overarching Militia-IMC conflict is reasonably interesting but I had more fun listening to the conversations between Jack and BT, the player often being able to choose 1 of 2 responses to BT’s statements and queries. The Campaign levels are especially pleasing to look at, with a variety of colors and a great deal of details thrown into each stage. The sound work is also good, with a variety of sounds to represent the different weapons and help convey their punchy-ness (or the literal punchy-ness of a Titan trying to swat an enemy pilot).

The Multiplayer, being the real meat of the game, is no slouch either. The movement speeds have reportedly been slowed down a bit from Titanfall 1, and it seems a reasonable change, as players can be fast without being disorientingly so. There’s a slew of usual game modes, but the main draw is that all players can call in Titans after their gauge reaches 100%, also gaining a Boost of some sort at some percentage prior. Normally I’d be concerned about this, but it’s more akin to a CoD support streak than a kill-based one, so every player is going to get their Titan, and with it a chance to turn the tables, eventually. I’ll also say that it’s not the end of the world if the enemy gets Titans first, as a capable pilot can thoroughly harass and even kill one given time, through specific weapons and ordnance or just climbing aboard and ripping their batteries out. Additionally, Titans can only access so much of the map, so a full team of Titans is going to have no easy way to get at the other team as the latter pours gunfire and grenades into them from every angle.

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The setpieces in the campaign are great.

I’ll also say the weapon design is a much appreciated refinement of other shooter games. Instead of having a dozen guns that are all variations of the same few archetypes (Lookin’ at you, Black Ops 1!), Titanfall 2 has a much shorter list of armaments and weapon attachments that don’t completely shred the balance like Grip and Rapid Fire did in MW3. There’s still some frustrating combinations, which I’m going to touch on later, but I appreciate that they worked to decrease the number of them.

Okay, so complaints: Some areas in the campaign and multiplayer are so detailed to the point of being a little overwhelming. Even after several dozen matches, I keep turning my head to glance at scenery that triggers my brain’s “Pilot” recognition. The later campaign stages have moments of “wow, look at this place… where was I going?”, breaking the flow all the more noticeably after several levels you can speed through like a parkour demigod. I also wish I could replay earlier stages and Titan fights with the loadouts I unlocked later, as by the time you have the full set the game is nearly over. In Multiplayer, I really dislike the progression system for Boosts, as newbies are stuck with “Amplified Weapons”, which is only really useful if you’re a good player to begin with, while players that are further along get things like map-wide radar, map-wide radar jamming, and a few other things that resulted in several frustrating matches, for example when my Cloaking-based loadout was rendered completely useless thanks to apparently the entire enemy team having the Map Hack Boost. Also, while I appreciate the impact added to the combat by all the added sounds, Multiplayer does often reach a point where, like the detail in the maps, situations get too hectic and you’ll be hard pressed to keep track of everything. I’m not too mad about that, as some Titans rely on being able to slip away in the confusion¬† and others are built around causing said confusion, but I know it’s going to rub some people the wrong way.

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I mean really, look at that.

So, that’s Titanfall 2. It’s available for PC, PS4 and Xbox One for $60, and it’s a rare example of a AAA game that I feel is worth the asking price, especially because the devs have already explained that upcoming DLC, including maps, gamemodes and “other stuff” is free to everyone. Seriously, when was the last time you heard that?

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10/22/16 Status Update

I think I need to revise my strategy. A number of the games I’ve been playing, I haven’t been able to reasonably review in the span of a week. There’s also the matter of, half the games I reviewed, I still want to play because I still haven’t seen everything they have to offer and I want to: Final Station, EDF, and a few others come to mind.

So apologies if my release schedule gets a little weird for a while, I’m trying to find a balance for all the stuff going on in life.

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Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair

Welcome back, today we’re covering Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair. It’s an updated re-release of Earth Defense Force 2025, and was released on Steam in July of this year, brought to us by Sandlot and D3 Publisher.

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EDF 4.1 is the story of the return of the giant bugs and aliens that appeared in the original game. Just as it happened 7 years ago in-universe, Earth is under attack, and the Earth Defense Force stands ready to repel the intruders. Both sides have spent that time gearing up in anticipation for this battle.

Mechanically speaking, it’s a 3rd person shooter game with co-op. Imagine if Armored Core had a baby with Helldivers, combining intriguing build customization involving an impressive number of components with hammy performances and over the top combat. It also reminds me a bit of arcade-y titles like Warship Gunner and Gungriffon Blaze, with its power-up drops and stage structure. I’ll tell you outright, it’s an excellent combination.

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Fencer is a pain to use… until you find out you can dash-cancel.

The gameplay of “Here are a hundred giant bugs and/or giant robots, go kill,” is surprisingly nuanced, with a good chunk of the story missions going into their interactions and showing scenarios in which your own troops are at a disadvantage. The earliest example is with the airborne units known as Wing Divers. The ability to evade most enemies and attacks by flying above the melee is great… Right until the giant webs come out or they’re otherwise faced with something that can out-range them. Better yet such moments fit the structure of the alien invasion movies that EDF mimics, where the humans think they’ve finally got the edge only for the invaders to have another ace up their sleeve.

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Michael Bay, eat your heart out!

Anyway, you run a mission. Shoot up some aliens, listen to the hammy dialogue, pick up Armor crates to increase your maximum health and Weapon crates to give you more options for the next run. There’s also multiple difficulty settings, which influence the quality of the Weapon crates in addition to making enemies stronger and even adding more of them in later stages. You’ve got 4 classes to choose from in your search to find a fitting playstyle, including the “Has a gun for every occasion” Ranger and the “Clunky but powerful” Fencer. The Support class, Air Raider, is a bit impractical without more versatile firepower from other players or a large group of AI-controlled troops, but otherwise I quite like the roster. With ~80 missions running at 5-10 minutes a piece, the game manages to be both reasonably long-lasting and easy to pick-up and play for short periods.

It’s not perfect, though. Some weapons and tactics explicitly require teammates, through being impossible or unbearably impractical otherwise. Another point is that the weapons that drop are dependent on the difficulty and stage, so it can be hard to get, say, Air Raider weapons in a certain range when the missions in said range are rather impractical for their playstyle.

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Air Raider often gets the short straw, is what I’m getting at here.

Getting back to the positives, the co-op elements are solid as well. Teammates can revive each other, albeit at a cost of their own health, and any loot crates picked up benefit the entire team, so a player can’t, accidentally or otherwise, hog all the stuff. The levels for Online unlock separately from the ones for Offline, though, and the aliens get a noticeable boost if you try to play Online alone. I guess that’s one way to encourage teamwork.

 

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At least you can sing the EDF song together with the dialogue menu!

Going into the Presentation now, I’ll start by saying the translation is a little off. Not broken, just… you can tell it was translated. That’s not the end of the world when it’s already a cliche B movie in game form, though. Also, the interface is a little strange in that the WASD keys provide character movement and control of the menus, but you can always pull up the dialogue menu with the arrow keys, and it can be a little confusing until your brain mentally separates the two. For my last complaint on this section, levels with civilians are unpleasantly loud and obnoxious as the overlapping screams, wounded alien sounds, and gunfire threaten to destroy the player’s eardrums. On the upside, the world looks great with mostly bright, detailed stages full of equally detailed soldiers and bugs and robots. And, it should probably go without saying, but the weapons are incredibly satisfying in their impact, kicking bugs the size of tanks halfway down the street and/or pulping them in a bloody explosion.

So, that’s EDF 4.1. It’s $50 on Steam, and I’d say it’s a worthy purchase if you enjoy action-oriented gameplay, fussing with cool weapon systems, or getting past your arachnophobia with the assistance of a plasma-tipped pile bunker.

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