Rapid Fire Reviews: 07-09-2014

Opinion, Video Games

By William Chandler

Well, fam, I decided to make this a regular segment due to the fact that I play a metric shit ton of games, many of which I either don’t have the time, or simply do not care to write about in full. So here are some critical summations of various games that I’ve been playing lately.

The Banner Saga: 5 – 6 hours in, purchased on Steam, played on PC

Admittedly I’ve been sleeping super hard on this game because it came out way back in January and I’m just now taking the time to play it. I was looking forward to it prior to release because it is essentially a Norse themed Fire Emblem game developed by a few ex Bioware employees and I fucked heavily with Bioware games. Even the later ones that eschewed many of the core components that made their early RPGs great like actually having complex skill trees. The gameplay is solid with just enough depth and difficulty to keep one interested as well as reasonably challenged, which I certainly appreciate. The battles are played out in a fashion similar enough to a Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics game that you’ll likely feel relatively at home with the mechanics if you’ve played one of those titles, however, there are enough small differences to ensure that you won’t have a complete mastery over them upon first booting up the game. For instance, the stamina system not only limits how much you can use a character’s special abilities, but it also allows for spare stamina points to be added to regular attacks for additional damage, or they can even be used to move slightly outside of a character’s standard movement range. These mechanics, combined with the fact that most characters only have a handful of hitpoints which make them realistically squishy, ensures that moves must be thoughtfully considered during some of the more difficult battles.

The story is obviously also a major component in The Banner Saga and it is as solid as one would expect from a Bioware pedigree. Very few of the characters are particularly likable at my current point in the game but I expect that to change over time. Honestly though, the main draw is the lore in my opinion. The world is decidedly unique and interesting enough to keep me going just to learn more about the way things work.

If you like slow burn RPGs with a heavy focus on character interaction and decision making then I imagine that it is difficult to go wrong with The Banner Saga. Shout out to the dope as fuck atmospheric sound design as well.

Shovel Knight: 4 hours in, bought on the Nintendo eShop, played on a 3DS XL

Yo, this game is wicked charming. From the true 8 bit graphical stylings and soundtrack to the legitimately funny NPCs, you’d be hard pressed to not be grinning from ear to ear while playing this game. Well, that is until you get to some of the more bullshit platforming sections later on. Perhaps the 3DS d-pad just isn’t as accurate as is apparently necessary for this game, but I’ve found that many of my trips to the void are due to the slightest and most frustrating of miscalculations. That said, the difficulty is never overwhelming and it ensures that even the most annoying of areas do not overstay their welcome. Aside from that small complaint, the game feels extremely tight and responsive which lends itself well to the type of game that Shovel Knight is. That is, a 2d side scroller in a similar vein to that of the Metroid or Mega Man games of yore, but you probably already knew that considering the absurd amount of praise the game is getting from the press.

Just fucking buy it if you haven’t already. It certainly isn’t perfect, nor do I find it to be as great as many reviews suggest, but it is damn fun and just the type of thing you probably need if you’re sick of a lot of the tropes present in modern games.

The Forest: 5 – 6 hours in, bought on Steam, played on PC

Let me just say that this shit is decidedly early access. It’s still quite rough around the edges in many spots and a great deal of the content hasn’t even been implemented yet, so my evaluation of the game will likely change over time.

The Forest is an extremely thorough survival horror game with an almost obsessive focus on the survival portion of that description. Let me just say that this game is not afraid to mercilessly and completely fuck you over in an instant, and indeed that will likely be the case the first few times you play it. It certainly is never frustrating though, as the game really insists on the player learning from their mistakes of their last playthrough. And the randomly generated island layout as well as the various possible starting locations ensured that my few attempts never really felt too similar. That said, I did find myself growing bored a couple of hours into my most successful playthrough, so perhaps the advertised longevity of the game is not nearly realized in the current build.

You must gather food to avoid starvation, build a fire for warmth so you don’t freeze to death, and construct a shelter in order to avoid exhaustion, and those are just the basics of survival. It seems as though the developers plan to expand upon all of the survival aspects as game development progresses but the systems are pretty bare bones in their current form. There are only a few types of shelters and very little in terms of flora and fauna diversity, which means that hunting and gathering can often feel like a grind, but I imagine that won’t be the case in later versions.

While being stranded on an island sounds horrible enough on its own, the fact that there are mutated cannibals stalking you at every turn is really just the icing on the cake. The combat system leaves much to be desired in its current state, and it often feels like you have to dish out far too much damage to dispatch any adversaries, but the fact that it is a horror game makes that par for the course. And if the fact that it can often be a pain in the ass to find food doesn’t kill you then it is highly likely that these boyos will.

The Forest is certainly an interesting concept with some great ideas and even the fact that it is extremely early in development doesn’t stop it from being one of the most in depth survival focused games on the market currently. It’s some good fun but likely not worth the fifteen dollar price tag for the current version.


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