Connect with us

Game Reviews

‘Kingdom Come: Deliverance’: A Kingmaker with Some Serious Issues

Likely the most talked about aspect of Kingdom Come has been its combat. This is where your enjoyment of the game will live or die, and people seem to either hate it or accept it.

Published

on

The opening screen of the game Darklands warned players that “in Medieval Germany, reality is more horrifying than fantasy” and that’s certainly true. The history of the Germanic region is full of stories that make Game of Thrones look tame by comparison. Despite the seemingly never-ending supply of tales, there’s very few games that remain totally grounded in real life, often preferring to supplement hordes of angry barbarians with dragons and elves. That’s something that Warhorse Studios is looking to change, and thanks to a very successful Kickstarter they’ve been given the chance to prove themselves with Kingdom Come: Deliverance. So does reality make for a better game, or is it truly the more horrifying experience?

The plot of Kingdom Come starts incredibly with the real story of King Wencelaus IV of Bohemia, who in 1402 was kidnapped by his brother Sigismund for failing to live up to the legacy of their legendary father, Emperor Charles IV. To quell local opposition to his illegal reign, Sigismund hired hordes of Hungarian mercenaries to roam the countryside burning and pillaging. Unfortunately, one of the villages in their path of destruction was the small town of Skalitz, where we find our “hero” of this tale, Henry, the Blacksmith’s son. Henry’s parents are killed, his world turned upside down, and you take him on a quest to regain his honor and make a name for himself in the turbulent countryside.

The first thing the game makes apparent is that Henry isn’t some world-changing hero that re-writes the history books. You aren’t going to be slaying the evil king, or leading men into battle, you’re just a guy who’s life has been dealt a bad hand and you’re learning to deal with it. That might sound like it makes for a bad story, but the writing does a great job of keeping it engaging. Rather then trying to build Henry as some warrior god that rules the land, the plot is instead very small and personal, creating believable stakes and situations for Henry to find himself in.

As Henry you’ll have to deal with people, either with words or swords.

It’s incredibly easy to sympathize with Henry too, and that helps to pull you into his plight. Henry isn’t Geralt of Rivea, but he’s no idiot either. He’s a man that’s been taught to question what’s happening around him, and learned that the most obvious answer isn’t often the correct one. Making the player character a voiced protagonist in an RPG is often a gamble, since it removes a lot of the immersion, but Henry is so well crafted and open to player interaction that after a few hours his life really starts to become yours, and you care about what’s going on.

There’s a lot to be sucked into too. The writing in Kingdom Come is dense, with a massive script. Most, if not all, of the quests have multiple paths you can follow with different outcomes. Then there’s your interactions with NPCs, all of which are voiced with a massive amount of reactionary dialogue based on what you’re up to. The main plot alone is well over several dozen hours, with tonnes of side quests and activities to attempt as well, most with attached skills to increase. There’s a pretty great sense of progression from all of this as you start to craft Henry into a true renaissance man, rather than a weak peasant.

The gameplay of Kingdom Come is a combination of several different ideas, with somewhat mixed results. On the surface its an RPG, with a variety of different skills to level up. Being a blacksmith’s son means that Henry doesn’t really have a lot of skills, and so you start the game under prepared, totally illiterate, and barely able to talk to people. When you’re not improving Henry then you’ll need to take care of him, making sure he gets sleep and food, and you’ll even need to take a bath from time to time to make everyone around stop recoiling in horror. There are other activities too, like making potions with alchemy, playing dice, and archery and melee combat trials to keep you busy enough.

Henry of Skalitz, slayer of men, and wooer of women.

Likely the most talked about aspect of Kingdom Come has been its combat. This is where your enjoyment of the game will live or die, and people seem to either hate it or accept it. There’s a lot about it that works, and a lot that doesn’t, which sort of makes sense given how complex the whole thing is. Unlike most games you can’t just spam the attack button and watch your character swing or stab, rather each enemy has six angles of attack you can aim for. Line up your strike and execute a swing or stab and if you connect you’ll deal damage. More often then not the enemy will go for a block so you’ll need to keep them on their toes, either by using combos and tactics or hammering them till they’re to tired to defend. You can choose between swords that deal damage but bounce off armor, maces which crush through plate but are slow, or axes that provide a middle ground. Each weapon will level up and unlock different abilities as you get better with them.

When combat works it works fantastically. Finishing a battle against a fully armored knight is a satisfying experience, and feels like a great accomplishment. Higher class enemies will employ tactics against you just as often as you do, so outwitting one and forcing them to submit is paramount to boss fights in other games. There’s a real sense of weight, and while combat is slow it’s rarely sluggish, and if you’re using the environment and your abilities correctly, fights rarely drag on for too long.

The issue is, combat rarely threads the needle, and there are a lot of issues with it. First is the camera, which is locked into first person for the entire game. There are a staggering amount of animations for combat, based on weapon type, attack type, and location, and almost all of them are disorienting as hell. Worse is the enemy counter attacks, which have this real bad habit of completely breaking the camera and sending you spinning. Losing a fight because an NPC’s elbow went through your eye and turned you around so another NPC’s foot went through your face again is more than a little annoying. Enemy AI is also really inconsistent and some fights can be finished in mere seconds because the AI didn’t realize it had started, while others can drag on too long because the enemy is countering every attack no matter what.

Bugs range from NPCs doubling up on each other, to game breaking crashes

The issues don’t stop there. This is easily one of the buggiest releases in some time, and unfortunately that does extend to game breaking issues. Assets don’t always load properly, which leads to headless NPCs or people walking on nothing because the stairs haven’t loaded in. Speaking of stairs, they’re death traps because about half the time you’ll become stuck in them for no reason. There was an alchemy bench that shot me thousands of feet in the air whenever I used it, and while there weren’t any during this review, there are hundreds of reports of crashes or corrupted saves. To make the matter worse, the game only lets you save at certain points, so some of these bugs can set you back hours. It’s worth mentioning that the developers are working on a patch with the much requested save-on-exit, but at this time it’s a real drag on the game.

Visually the game is impressive, thanks to the Cryengine and the incredible attention to detail. Environments look amazingly realistic, no small feat for what is essentially the same world design of every other medieval RPG. The maps were digitally created using actual historical data and this lends every location a sense of actual believability you don’t normally get out of generic European forests. Similarly, character models (when they load) look excellent and the texture quality is superb throughout. It’s great to see things like the deterioration of your clothes as you travel or the worn lines in an old soldier’s face and they really help with immersion. There’s also a fair share of pre-rendered scenes which look simply stunning and are a treat to watch.

However, the Cryengine is not without its problems, and like nearly every other title before it, Kingdom Come is rife with optimization issues. With an i7 and a GTX 970 the frame rate fluctuated between 60-20 far too often, and keeping everything stable was a chore. At night, if it was raining, everything would go right down the hole. Similarly on consoles the target 30FPS is often a pipe dream, with the frame rate going up and down seemingly at random. Then there’s the load times, and every time you talk to any NPC, which is a lot, there’s a short loading scene which could also cause the game to crash. It’s frustrating and can become discouraging, never mind baffling when compared to a game like Skyrim or The Witcher 3 where conversations with NPCs are seamlessly integrated without any loading.

Missions will see you helping out villages, hunting bandits, and even participating is sieges.

As mentioned there are issues with the animations but it extends outside the combat as well. Picking things up in the world has Henry bending down to grab them, which is fine, except for the things you’ll pick most often which are plants. for whatever reason this comes with a short, but annoying animation in third person and it makes herbalism one of the least desirable things to do in the game. Then there’s the lip-sync, or lack there of, which nearly ruins some of the in-game cinematics. It’s hard to care what someone is talking about when their mouths look like ham on a desk fan. Motion capture work is a small saving grace, since a lot of the pre-rendered scenes were done with custom work so they abandon the stiff animation of the in-game models.

Audio is similarly all over the place. While the voice acting is great across the board, with Henry being a particular favorite, with his mix of dry wit and skepticism, the mixing on it is a complete mess. Audio will cut from one side to another for no reason, or lines will sound like they were recorded in a completely different booth at a higher volume. All of this can instantly rip you out of the immersion, no matter how important or impressive the dialogue scene is. Worse, like everything else, it’s filled with bugs, and several times the game obviously played multiple takes of the same line during different parts of dialogue.

The sound effects fare a little better. There’s a lot of weight behind weapons, and the sound of two swords clashing or a mace smashing into armor is fine enough, but the sound of a weapon finding its mark on flesh adds greatly to the satisfaction on breaking the enemy’s defense. Audio work for the environmental sound is decent enough, with plenty of layered background sounds for different locations. The rustle of wind and birds tweeting in the wide open fields contrasts nicely to the hustle and bustle of city life.

However, where the audio really shines is in the soundtrack. It’s impressive that something so good has come out of what is essentially a generic property we’ve seen before, but the music here is simply great. The orchestral track picks up or goes down dynamically with whatever you’re doing, so just as you draw your sword and drop your helmet the sound of horns and drums is going to drown out the pleasant traveling music from a few seconds ago. Pretty much across the board it’s fantastic, and if you’re looking for background music for your next DnD session consider adding this to the list.

Overall Kingdom Come is a hard game to recommend. There’s so much good here and its truly one of the most immersive RPGs ever released. But it needs some time, and a few patches to clean it up. If you’re a fan of RPGs and are looking for something different, or at least something to hold you over until Mount and Blade 2 finally announces a release date, then Kingdom Come could be your next addiction. For more casual fans of the genre, this might be one to give some time, at least until it takes a bath or two.

Andrew Vandersteen has been watching movies and playing games since before he could do basic math, and it shows. But what he lacks in being good at things, he makes up for with opinions on everything nerd culture. A self described and self medicated audiophile and lover of anything and everything really, really terrible, he's on a constant quest to find the worst things humanity has ever published. He's seen every episode of The Legend of Zelda, twice, and thinks the Super Mario Movie was a war crime. When he's not playing games or writing about them, he's messing around with audio or fixing computers. Perpetually one paycheck short of breaking even, and always angry about something.

Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Game Reviews

‘Heave Ho’ Review: Us & Chuck

Published

on

Couch co-op is a phrase that’s used pretty infrequently these days. In fact, it seems that couch co-op wasn’t even a phrase at all until it wasn’t the norm anymore. With the modern emphasis on online experiences, the delights of a room full of screaming maniacs stumbling through a party game is largely a lost remnant of generations past. This, however, poses a difficult conundrum to any reviewers unfortunate enough to be unable to fulfill the most vital component for a couch co-op game review: a full couch. Treading in the wobbly footsteps of party classic Mount Your Friends (and clasping at the slippery tentacles of Octodad), Heave Ho is a game fundamentally for social people.

Its premise is a very similar task that involves swinging your wacky avatar’s limbs around, desperately trying to grab hold of any nearby surfaces. The game is more concerned with getting your character to the end of an obstacle course than clambering over your opponents like in Mount Your Friends, and there are a distinctly smaller number of limbs to control (and appendages to laugh at).

Couch co-op is a phrase that’s used pretty infrequently these days. In fact, it seems that couch co-op wasn’t even a phrase at all until it wasn’t the norm anymore. With the modern emphasis on online experiences, the delights of a room full of screaming maniacs stumbling through a party game is largely a lost remnant of generations past. This, however, poses a difficult conundrum to any reviewers unfortunate enough to be unable to fulfill the most vital component for a couch co-op game review: a full couch. Treading in the wobbly footsteps of party classic Mount Your Friends (and clasping at the slippery tentacles of Octodad), Heave Ho is a game fundamentally for social people.

Its premise involves the very similar task of swinging your wacky avatar’s limbs around, desperately trying to grab hold of any nearby surfaces. But Heave Ho is more concerned with getting your character to the end of an obstacle course than clambering over your opponents like in Mount Your Friends, and there is a distinctly smaller number of limbs to control (and appendages to laugh at).

Fingertips count in ‘Heave Ho’

There’s really not much to Heave Ho that warrants more explaining, as expressed via the world’s shortest tutorial at the beginning of the first level. Use the left analog stick for moving both of your character’s arms, press L or ZL for grabbing with the left arm, and press R or ZR for the right; that’s it. At least, that would be it, unless — and this is admittedly a somewhat niche bugbear — you’re a user of the neon red/blue launch Joy-Con, because their colors are flipped on the game’s assistance gloves. You can tell yourself you won’t be affected, but if you’re playing handheld and staring at bright blue and red in your own hands, you’re naturally going to associate those colors with the in-game hands.

A lot of the game feels flat solo, but these moments are still great

Upon acknowledgement of the incredibly basic controls, players are promptly (and literally) dropped straight into the level, left to fumble your way around the various objects and pitfalls en route to the goal. Striking a balance between careful, methodical navigation and reckless flinging is the key to success, with the former being more reliable and the latter being a hell of a lot more fun.

Heave Ho does feels a little forced in terms of its attempts at humor; it’s all very noisy, colorful and silly, which is obviously the point, and playing a game where you chuck a gangly anthropomorphic blob around with little-to-no coordination is never going to be the way to get your fill of sophisticated chuckles. I guess goofy wigs and obnoxious voices are funny to some people, but as the game gets harder and the challenges begin to frustrate, the humor is less of a mood lifter and more of an annoyance.

It all looks like fun and games here, but this world is horrific

The strength of a game like this will typically be measured in the number of laughs emanating from a packed living room, but its longevity will always be judged on how it endears as a solo experience. This is even more vital in the absence of online multiplayer, meaning you’re either playing with a house full of mates, or by yourself. I don’t have a house full of mates all that often, so the majority of my time with the game was playing solo, and that really doesn’t feel like the optimum way to get the most out of Heave Ho. The wacky, party-gaming hijinks sharply degenerate into a frustrating, often tedious slog when played alone.

The moments of intense satisfaction when nailing a long swing to a distant platform, or completing a particularly tricky level, shouldn’t be ignored, but they are too often mired by either boredom or anger. Easier levels require very little thought or technique to complete, and late-game ones are rage-inducing. This is exacerbated by the inexplicable decision from the developers to force players to complete all of an area’s levels in one run. There are no checkpoints after individual levels, so if you find yourself at a wall on the final level of a run and need a break from the game, you’re going to have to go back and complete all its preceding levels just to get yourself back.

I ain’t even gotta look!

This is a real mood-killer, and I found myself apathetically averse to trudging back through older levels to merely match the progress of a previous day’s attempts, especially when that previous day ended in frustration anyway. The type of game that Heave Ho is — one that builds itself on rapid-fire, bite-size challenges — just cannot benefit from forcing players into marathon sittings, especially when multiple people are required for optimum enjoyment.

Having online options would help, and it’s baffling as to why couch co-op and online co-op are mutually exclusive in some games. Playing an online game of Worms back on Xbox 360 was one of the most hilarious experiences I’ve had in any multiplayer game, and it’s such a shame to be denied even the potential for this with Heave Ho instead of being left to drag my tired fiancé to the TV for some forced hilarity. It might have been the worst possible litmus test for a party game, but were she writing this review it would have consisted largely of how “stressful,” she found it. I saw a few smiles, but perhaps the game isn’t as inclusive as it tries to present itself.

Two heads are definitely not better than one here

With the fiancé out of the potential player pool, I may bring Heave Ho out at a more receptive social occasion in the future, as the potential for communal hilarity is definitely there, but solo play is definitely not going to be something to engage in again. Perhaps if the necessary quality of life improvements were made — chiefly, being able to swap the colours of the assist gloves around and having a checkpoint after each level — then players might be more inclined to hammer away at it, but unfortunately, it’s likely to be just squirreled away as a potential curiosity rather than a go-to source of fun.

Continue Reading

Game Reviews

‘Creature In The Well’ Review: Dungeon Crawling Pinballing

‘Creature in the Well’ is a unique blend of genres, and an absolute must-try for audiences of both the pinball and puzzle games.

Published

on

Creature in the Well Review

A top-down, pinball-inspired, hack-and-slash dungeon crawler? That certainly may be a genre combination never done before. But in reflection to the sciences of chemistry, sometimes grouping elements into a mixture can create something that is definitively unique and distinguishable from its initial ingredients. Creature In The Well is a whole new breed of game design — by blending various genres, developer Flight School has created one of the most distinctive and satisfying puzzle games in recent years. The closest comparison you can probably make is if Hyper Light Drifter collided with a classic pinball cabinet and Breakout.

Acquiring a New Beat

Creature in the Well tasks the final remaining BOT-C unit in a mysterious world to venture into the desert mountain that lies in wait next to the imprisoned city of Mirage, a land captured by a deadly sandstorm. Inside the mountain rests an ancient facility in need of power; but there’s also a fearsome creature who stuck in a state of despair. It is the bot’s job to reboot the machine, stop the monster, and save the city of Mirage from the never-ending storm that shrouds the land.

Creature in the Well hub

Although it may sound like a hack-and-slash dungeon crawler, Creature In The Well is not a test of strength against all odds; it’s a quest of knowledge that utilizes timed actions. The BOT-C unit is not on a bloodlust to its goal; it’s in a fight for survival through various puzzles that demonstrate adaptability. The game is a test against the active mind.

After obtaining a sword and learning quicker means of movement through dashing, it would be easy to assume that fighting comes next. However, the reality of the situation is that the BOT-C unit’s sword and secondary weapon are never swung directly at an opponent — not once throughout the entire journey. Instead, weapons are used as flippers in a sort of active pinball game, continuously knocking around orbs of energy at various machines that will grant voltage. This energy must be spent to open hydraulic doors throughout each dungeon that block progress, but it can also be used to upgrade the BOT-C unit’s gear via a blacksmith, or to find upgrades secretly scattered behind different pathways. The more thoroughly a dungeon is explored, the more voltage there is to claim from conquering puzzles of higher difficulty.

The environment then ends up becoming the greatest threat, as there are no true enemies to wield weapons against. A variety of projectiles can cause damage, forcing players to move around. Well-placed shots and timely swings are the keys to progression, and the only way of reaching the endgame. Adapting and using creative ways to solve puzzles is the foundation of Creature In The Well. Mastering Breakout and Pong-like movements for multiple projectiles at the same time is the recipe for success.

Creature In The Well makes magnificent use of the Unreal Engine, showcasing a nightly overcast atmosphere with a bleak, dark color palette, but it also manages to remain bright and colorful thanks to the illuminating projectile lights and flashy animations. This ultimately amounts to a game that is not only satisfying to play, but satisfying to watch. It’s a distinct art style that is welcoming to the eyes rather than a confusingly chaotic bunch of unrecognizable firefights.

Repetition Recognition

Creature in the Well urges players to progressively think smarter as they traverse the eight vastly different dungeons. Each puzzle room slowly improves upon the last, as the game consistently and smartly reuses mechanics while introducing new gimmicks to accommodate the metronome-action movements. These gimmicks can range from the way in which energy orbs damage to adding new obstacles like electrical flooring or spiraling death traps.

Puzzles can progressively become more and more challenging, but most are either not mandatory or don’t need to be completed immediately, as there are branching paths and enough energy to skip some roadblocks. This ultimately comes off as a negative or positive aspect depending on the individual player, as puzzle difficulty drastically changes depending on the order in which dungeons are played. Creature In The Well’s lack of a recommended dungeon order might make you work harder in the early-game, which results in a rather carefree late-game that sees you blasting through puzzles with ease — or vice versa.

On the other hand, this gives the player breathing room, allowing them to experiment with routes and return to previous challenges. Skipping or leaving puzzles unsolved lessens opportunities for rewards, so a handy in-game map system allows players to keep track of exactly where they have not completed rooms on designated paths. An unyielding challenge can become an underwhelming enigma with proper dedication and practice. That said, although the endgame can become less challenging than the beginning, the pinball-inspired mechanics are so entertaining that a decline in difficulty never truly becomes an issue. Creature in the Well is never a slog to play through, even when revisiting old dungeons in the latter half of the game.

All of these dungeons conclude with thrilling matchups with the main power sources, as well as the creature who lives beneath the land. Creature In The Well does not have what many would consider traditional dungeon crawler boss fights, but simply sticks to a its puzzle gameplay and challenges players with a larger and more complex version. These battles involve the creature, who extends its arms from beneath the dark abyss in an attempt to attack you.

Embrace The Storm

Creature In The Well is a captivating case of a fresh experiment gone right. Flight School took risks in attempting to dabble in multiple genres at once that seemingly don’t correlate to each other. Yet, the end result is a fascinating concept built on the gorgeously-used Unreal Engine, with the potential to be further expanded upon. Albeit short, the journey to delve into the deepest parts of the mountain to solve new high-speed kinetic puzzles while avoiding a mysterious, calamitous creature never grows stale over the 5-7 hour journey. It is by far the most distinct ‘break the mold’ type game to be released this year, and an absolute must-try for audiences of both the pinball and puzzle game genres.

Continue Reading

Game Reviews

‘Daemon X Machina’ Review: Beautifully Bombastic Mech Action

With its customization and accessibility, ‘Daemon X Machina’ is a refined action game that should please mech fans of all types.

Published

on

Daemon X Machina

There’s something beautiful about Daemon X Machina. More than just its striking visual style, however, the game’s mere existence is special in its own right. It’s been some time since a classic mech-based action game in the vein of mainstays like Armored Core has burst onto the market, and given that much of the original staff of that monumental series have moved on to Daemon X Machina, this has long seemed like a noteworthy release for fans of robotic action.

However, it’s no secret that Daemon X Machina has had a bumpy road to release. Between its sub-par initial demo and its severe lack of pre-release hype, it hasn’t been easy for Marvelous’ Switch exclusive to get the spotlight. Thankfully, the result largely overcomes these roadblocks to create a refreshingly polished and much-needed revival of the genre. Daemon X Machina certainly has its share of issues with story and mission structure, but overall it’s a refined action game that should please both new players and genre veterans alike.

For the most part, Daemon X Machina checks off every box for ideal mech action It wastes no time in putting the player in control of a massive, customizable, explosive robot suit called an “Arsenal,” which allows players to zip recklessly around the post-apocalyptic environments to wreak destruction with wild abandon. There’s a delightful simplicity to this; with its easy-to-grasp controls, there’s no excessive complexity, allowing for the visceral joy of blasting enemies out of the sky with extravagant missile launchers to shine through.

Daemon X Machina

But that is not to say that Daemon X Machina is merely a mindless romp. Instead, the plentiful variety of different mission types ensures that you’ll have to think on your feet with every objective. Some missions will have you simply gunning down every foe you see, while others task you with protecting specific units, and still more pit you against massive bosses — which are easily the game’s most memorable missions. With so many different objectives, each mission becomes an enticing prospect.

Unfortunately, this variety gets a bit strained towards the end of the fifteen-hour campaign. Far too often, late game missions merely stick you in an arena with a few other full mech fighters then make you fight to the death — and considering that these are easily the most tedious fights in the game due to how chaotic and difficult it is to attack fast-moving robotic suits, this gets frustrating fast. Likewise, the enemy variety leaves something to be desired, with the vast majority of foes consisting of mere drones or tanks, with the occasional mech thrown in for interest.

Daemon X Machina easily stands out for its polish, style, and accessibility.

However, these negative factors only partially distract from what makes Daemon X Machina so special: its ludicrous action. There’s also plenty of customization available to wreak havoc, allowing you to tweak your Arsenal to your liking. Want to focus on hand-to-hand combat? Install some new legs optimized for speedy ground maneuvering, and some arms for katana-wielding. Taking to the skies? Lighten your load, increase your memory capacity, and pack on the guns. The game presents the options to fight with your mech the way you see fit, allowing for action-packed scenarios straight out of your mechanized fantasies.

Daemon X Machina

But Daemon X Machina doesn’t entangle itself in unnecessary complexity, unlike so many other mech-based RPGs or action games. None of the customization mentioned previously is strictly required to complete the story; instead, the only thing that matters is your ingenuity. In fact, you can likely make do exclusively with the weapons you pick up on the battlefield, and never have to bother with the game’s weapon shops or factories. Daemon X Machina ensures that the most important thing in each of its battles isn’t the weapon you wield, but rather your ingenuity in using it. If one gun isn’t working in the current mission, just head back to the hangar and try a new loadout.

For instance, one point in my playthrough saw me stuck against one boss with a seemingly endless HP bar that was difficult to whittle down, no matter how many shots were fired. However, after numerous frustrating failed attempts, some new types of weapons made short work of this previously daunting adversary, turning the boss into a shattered wreck. Daemon X Machina might be an action game, but by no means is it mindless. This freedom of strategy, combined with the flexible customization and accessibility, is what makes the gameplay loop so addictive.

Daemon X Machina is a balanced, deep, and approachable experience that should please players new and old.

It’s a shame that this excellent action is obscured by the game’s truly dreadful story. Of course, action games aren’t necessarily known for their poignant narratives, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but in Daemon X Machina’s case, the poor storyline distracts from the action. The story begins with a simple premise: a portion of the moon has exploded, and its remnants have corrupted the world’s robots to rise up against humanity. Beyond that beginning, the story devolves into a complex feud between different corporations and mercenary squads, often acting less like a sci-fi adventure and more like a political drama — and not a particularly good one, either. Worse yet, this story is populated by one-note characters who often spend minutes at a time musing upon the nature of warfare and humanity, using dialogue that would fit right in with any generic fantasy novel. At the very least, the voice actors all do a great job, bringing their cardboard characters to some degree of life.

Daemon X Machina

Thankfully, there is respite from the dismal narrative in the form of side content like the ‘free missions’ and multiplayer mode. By forgoing the confusing and uninteresting story, these features focus solely on the strong gameplay loop. That said, it is nonetheless disappointing that one of the game’s most significant modes is tarnished by such shoddy execution.

However, the visuals don’t suffer in this way. Instead, Daemon X Machina features a breathtaking cel-shaded graphical style with a vivid color palette of stark reds, oranges, and greys that makes much of the game look like it flew straight out of a particularly stylish manga. The Japanese rock soundtrack does provide a fitting backdrop, but the tunes generally don’t manage to be quite as memorable as the graphics.

Daemon X Machina easily stands out for its polish, style, and accessibility, giving players the freedom to choose whether they want to focus on the best customization or craft the most creative strategies of their own. There a few rough edges due to its repetitious missions and uninspired story, but when the core content of the game is so enticing, most players should be able to overlook them. All told, Daemon X Machina is a balanced, deep, and approachable experience that should please players new and old.

Continue Reading

Game Reviews

‘River City Girls’ Review: Brawling with the Best

Kyoko and Misako are getting their boyfriends back by any means necessary in one of the best beat ’em up joyrides in recent memory.

Published

on

River City Girls

In a generation defined by massive open world experiences, there’s something decidedly cozy and cathartic about settling down with a well-made beat ’em up. The prospect of Wayforward (the lauded developers behind the Shantae series, A Boy and His Blob, and Ducktales: Remastered, among others) working on a modern take on the Kunio-kun franchise was a delightful surprise when it was revealed this past spring. Several months later, River City Girls has largely exceeded its lofty expectations.

Revenge Never Tasted so Sweet

Best friends and high school ruffians Kyoko and Misako are lazing about in detention when Kyoko suddenly gets a text showing their boyfriends (series mainstays Kunio and Riki) being kidnapped. Enraged and worried, the girls set out across the expansive River City to track down the kidnappers and get their beloved boyfriends back.

It’s a fun twist on the classic series premise, and River City Girls has an absolute blast playing off of that. Though the personalities of the girls are a bit one-note (the classic “sweet and sour” archetypes are alive and present here), the stellar writing elevates the colorful cast of modern day River City. Just like with Wayforward’s beloved Shantae series, the studio absolutely nails bringing major and minor characters to life in the most endearing of ways. This is only exemplified by top-notch voice acting across the board, especially in the case of Kyoko and Misako. Chatter between the girls is natural and entertaining, and their interactions with the other whacky characters in River City are a treat.

The search for Kunio and Riki spans across six large sections of the city ranging from the high school to the docks to the skeezy streets of downtown. Every location is segmented into roughly 15 screens that can often be explored via branching routes, with some inaccessible until a certain quest or story requirement is met. There’s plenty of creativity in the level design here; though screens never feature drastically different layouts, they’re all visually distinct and flow together to paint a full picture of everything the city has to offer.

No Punches Pulled

Story, characters, and level design are all well and good, but beat ’em ups are nothing without tight, addictive combat. Luckily, River City Girls has this in spades, and demands quite a bit of arcade-smart skill from players even on Normal difficulty. Kyoko and Misako boast the same base movesets with unique animations: light attacks, heavy attacks, and aerial attacks with ground attacks and a basic block thrown in for good measure. The repertoire is concise but offers a variety of ways to string together fluid combos that feel great to execute. A laundry list of unlockable moves can also be learned in the Dojo, providing plenty of depth to those who want to fully customize their fighter.

Be it with the base moveset or more advanced maneuvers, taking the time to master the combat is a must. Though running into enemies and light attacking them to death might work for a bit, it doesn’t take long to learn that River City’s hooligans are no mere punching bags. Bouts require less focus than a 1v1 fighter, but mindlessly spamming moves won’t get anyone anywhere on their first run. This is essentially ensured by brutal boss battles that bookend progress between sections of the city.

As one might expect, it’s these boss encounters that are the real highlights. Some require proficiency of certain mechanics (side-stepping, wall-jumping, etc.), and have patterns complex enough to warrant several attempts before succeeding. Each boss encounter also feels like an event, featuring beautiful introduction cutscenes and Vs. screens before the showdown. The only downside to these is that they have to be manually skipped upon every subsequent attempt; the game doesn’t remember that they’ve already occurred.

Another issue is that anything bought in the game and used during a boss fight completely disappears after losing. While most games would load in the player’s inventory from before the battle, River City Girls punishes item usage when it counts the most. Having to grind enemies for cash isn’t particularly difficult, but that coupled with needing to backtrack to a shop (since there’s never one right before the boss encounter) is unnecessarily tedious and slows momentum down considerably.

A Cloudy Diamond

This string of minor yet gradually grating issues extends beyond boss battles. The menu system is needlessly cumbersome, requiring players to cycle through six screens to find the right options. Story and quest-specific NPCs are easy to miss because they don’t have any kind of outline or indicator making them stand out. Furthermore, items in shops are marked with “???” until after they’re bought and used or looked up in the inventory menu. This makes it easy to waste tons of cash on items only to be disappointed by their luck-of-the-draw effects.

And yet, for all those niggling design flaws, River City Girls is simply a blast to play. It especially excels as a handheld experience. Feeling the impact of every hit with HD rumble made fights more engaging, and the classic beat-em-up structure makes it perfect for whipping out in short bursts. There’s a good amount of content here, with the main game running about six and a half to seven hours before New Game+, which adds additional playable characters with their own unique movesets and animations (albeit with no new dialogue, making character interactions and cutscenes rather awkward).

If you’re looking for tight beat ’em up action with some truly impressive production values and lovable characters, you can’t go wrong with River City Girls.

Continue Reading

Game Reviews

‘Super Kirby Clash’ Review: Star Allies Meets Clash Deluxe

Published

on

Sub-games: a highlight of the Kirby series. Megaton Punch, Samurai Kirby, Strato Patrol EOS, Snack Tracks, Speedy Teatime, Kirby Quest, and the list goes on. HAL Laboratory has time and time again created memorable mini-games in the Kirby series that have outshined even the core campaigns in fan discussions. These are bite-sized games that every Kirby fan has fond memories of whether it be a master showdown that involves quick reflexes or an eating frenzy that would make any other video game character explode.

Sub-games have always been an integral part of the Kirby franchise ever since Kirby’s Adventure on the Nintendo Entertainment System. In recent years HAL Laboratory has debatably mastered the art of creating more intriguing sub-games than core campaigns for their fired-up super tuff pink puff’s latest entries. Some of Kirby’s side-activities have gone on to spawn their very own entries outside the main series.

Team Kirby Clash is one of the many sub-games that appeared in the Kirby 3DS entries, specifically 2016’s Kirby: Planet Robobot. Team Kirby Clash went on to receive its very own Nintendo Eshop free-to-play exclusive spin-off game on the 3DS alongside Kirby Fighters, King Dedede’s Drum Dash, and Kirby’s Blowout Blast. The sub-game transformed into Team Kirby Clash Deluxe, but now the side series has taken a drastic leap from the Nintendo 3DS to the Switch- and for the better.

Super Kirby Clash Review

It is no surprise why Super Kirby Clash would be HAL Laboratory’s first choice for a Kirby sub-game spinoff that could make a comeback on the current Nintendo hardware after a mainline entry. Clearly, it was the perfect sub-game for the handheld home console hybrid that shares an emphasis on local multiplayer. Just as in the vein of Kirby Star Allies, the game is easy for anyone to pick up and play together; it is simple entertainment where you can easily find yourself a few local or online buddies and bang out a few levels in less than an hour.

The concept of the entire game is to defeat the level enemy and move on to the next, while continuously upgrading your Kirby at Magalor’s shop with an assortment of various weapons, armor, special items, and emotes that resemble different callbacks to Kirby’s history- that is all there is to it. It is your standard Kirby game control-wise, except no copy abilities or repurposable enemies and the hero with an insatiable appetite has been thrown into a boss rush of over 100 enemies to battle it out with.

Microtransactions are typically the major fear when it comes to free-to-play games, but this is certainly one of the very few exceptions of a game from the genre where you will likely never have to think about spending a single dime unless if you are completely impatient with minor grinding or perhaps you just want to show the developers some love. The in-game currencies [gem apples and vigor] are given out after matches, waiting certain periods of time, can be harvested (gem apples only), and collected in batches through various secret passwords inputted through a small statue found on the right side of the hub world.

Super Kirby Clash is, for the most part, more Kirby Star Allies and even more Team Kirby Clash Deluxe with a new coat of paint and that’s great for both casual and hardcore fans who are looking for more Kirby games to play while holding them off for the next core entry. Microtransactions never feel forced, the four-player co-op can be entertaining yet hectic just like previous games in the series, the online works flawlessly, and the amount of content will keep fans of the pink puff locked in for a couple of hours without having them to worry about paying for an entirely new game.

For being a free-to-play game, this is well worth the few minutes it will take to download. It is just right for the fans and for those looking for some quick fun. It is definitely no masterpiece or something to run home about, but once again it is free. Go grab three friends and give it a shot! You can never go wrong with more Kirby!

Super Kirby Clash is a good time!
Continue Reading
Freelance Film Writers

Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip. We are currently looking for Indie Game reviewers.

Learn more by clicking here.

Advertisement

Trending

11 Shares
Share
Tweet
Reddit
Pin