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Eliwood8

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  1. In another blast from the past revival, THQ Nordic has remastered the 2009 destruction-fest sandbox game from the Red Faction series—a series that hasn't seen a new release since 2011. Red Faction: Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered draws upon the sandbox game formula but focuses on one key action gameplay hook: blowing shit up. With sledgehammer, bombs, and rockets, you're able to wreak devastation across Mars, but the fun of seeing things fall down may not be enough to sustain an entire game. Alec Mason arrives on Mars looking for work as a mining engineer, but a family tragedy pushes him toward joining the Red Faction, a resistance organization trying to throw off the shackles of the Earth Defense Force's oppressive regime on Mars. Now that he's caught up in the fight he'll do anything to take down the EDF. For a game focused on the wanton destruction of buildings and vehicles, it's probably not too surprising that the plot is pretty bare-boned. None of the characters, either protagonists or EDF villains, are developed in any meaningful way, though you can at least read about some of the setting's lore in the pause menu. To be fair though, Guerrilla is the third game in the Red Faction series, so some background knowledge was perhaps expected of the player. First and foremost, Guerrilla is a game about destroying things, and to that end the game is immensely satisfying. Watching buildings crumble definitely taps into some kind of primal urge to break things, and the physics engine powering Guerrilla makes seeing the rubble fall down around you particularly satisfying. There's also just enough realism to make it particularly engaging without bogging down the gameplay with too much detail—i.e. you can target support beams and walls to let a building fall under its own weight, but you're still able to break through just about any surface with just a sledgehammer. There are some wonky physics at times as well—a building probably shouldn't still be standing if only one wall remains—but it's hard to quibble over those details when you're in the middle of the carnage. Unfortunately, the destruction physics is kind of all the game has going for it. The other aspects of the gameplay leave a lot to be desired, from the barren open world environment where targets are few and far between to the tediously dull third-person shooting mechanics. Granted, the game takes place on a Mars colony, but the minimal scenery to interact with quickly grows boring, and the driving mechanics can be as frustrating as they are fun. Vehicles will easily bounce through the air from any little bump in the road, which can be amusing but quickly grows obnoxious when you're just trying to get to the next mission objective. Controlling even basic vehicles is just a little too wild, not to mention the fact that even small bumps can drain the vehicle's health. The relentless onslaught of enemy forces can also be a drain on the gameplay. Sure, Mason and the resistance are fighting a much larger force, so it makes sense that you're always going to be outnumbered. But Mason can die so insanely quickly against never-ending reinforcements of EDF soldiers that they're more of a constant headache than engaging opponents. Aiming and shooting isn't as smooth or tight as it ought to be, though thankfully explosions (and even the sledgehammer) are pretty effective at taking out enemy forces. Combat tends to devolve into tedious hide and seek games as you run away to let your health regenerate, and you never get the same "one-man wrecking crew" feeling fighting soldiers as you do when blowing up buildings. The biggest issue with Guerrilla though is just the fact that you'll see pretty much everything the game has to offer in the first hour or so. Drive to a mission marker, drive further to the target, blow it up, escape—there really isn't much variety or depth to the gameplay here. Sure there are a few weapon options to let you tackle objectives in slightly different ways, but in the end too much of the game just feels like repeating the same concept over and over, and destroying things just isn't enough to build an entire game around. And on a technical level, Guerrilla has a few nagging problems. Every time you load the game, reload after dying, or fast travel, there's an incredibly long load screen (although to be fair the game is mostly seamless otherwise). You may also run into other technical hiccups, including crashes and mission objectives that don't trigger properly. They may not be wildly egregious bugs but they certainly don't help the sense of bland repetition. Although the single player campaign is fairly short (even with its repetitive structure), Guerrilla has a few other game modes to keep players busy, from score chasing in Wrecking Crew to battling other destruction pros in online competitive matches, though good luck finding other players. Ultimately though, even the multiplayer options can't shake the feeling of just doing more of the same repetitive gameplay as the campaign. For a decade-old game, Guerrilla looks pretty solid on the Switch. There's no mistaking the art design for being a bit dated, but the remastered visual features are pretty smooth. Though again, the barren landscape of Mars isn't a particularly interesting setting, either for gameplay mechanics or visuals. And occasionally you might run into some framerate stuttering when there's a lot happening on screen. The soundtrack isn't particularly impressive either, though it doesn't often get a chance to shine with all of the explosions happening left and right. And the voice cast does well for the most part, even if there is some hilariously repetitive ambient dialogue at times. Red Faction: Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered serves as a nice time capsule to ten years ago, but mostly because it highlights the sloppy video game industry trends of the time. A satisfying, flashy demolition game was clumsily molded into an open-world sandbox title, which really only served to emphasize how bland and repetitive the gameplay could be. Blowing stuff up is still pretty fun, but tying it to mediocre shooting mechanics, long and dull driving scenarios, and a bare-boned story doesn't do the physics-based chaos any favors. Rating: 6 out of 10 Factions
  2. I thought you were making a joke but I am delighted to learn that mystery snail is an actual name for a type of snail.
  3. Originally born out of a Seattle Game Jam, Gurgamoth, from developer Galvanic Games and publisher The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, offers up a lightning fast party game of kill or be killed. In a vague eldritch horror setting where dark sorcerers compete to summon the elder god Gurgamoth, up to four players locally compete to be the last cultist standing. It's fast, frantic, and fun, though undeniably one note. Part of what makes Gurgamoth an effective party game is the simplicity of its controls and gameplay. You'll move around, smash into other players, dodge, or try to stun them with a risky stun maneuver. Your goal is to smack opponents into the stage's hazards, whether those are spikes, spinning saw blades, or rotating lasers. It only takes a minute to learn, though there's still a little depth that you'll uncover as you play more—specifically, baiting opponents into positioning themselves poorly, or mastering each stage's unique hazards. Perhaps most importantly, you only have a limited number of attacks before you have to wait for them to recharge (indicated by white dots above your character). This is where strategy becomes crucial, since you can monitor your opponents' remaining attacks to know when to strike, or horde your own attacks until just the right moment. Gurgamoth is fast-paced and chaotic, which makes it great for a raucous local multiplayer game night, plus the short length of most matches means the energy never flags. And although you can technically play solo against three AI controlled opponents, Gurgamoth is at its best when you've got friends sitting next to you. The only problem with Gurgamoth is that there really isn't much in the game. There are a handful of stages, each with unique hazards, so there's a bit of variety and replay value in swapping stages, but otherwise the game is woefully light on gameplay options. You can adjust how many points are needed to win, change the frequency that power-ups appear, but that's it. Other games might feel bogged down with too many side mode options, but in this case something like a challenge mode or story campaign would have done wonders to make the game feel more fleshed out. Gurgamoth is single-minded in its gameplay approach, which is admirable, but it does make the experience feel a bit bare overall. The game's colorful, cartoony look perhaps helps soften the fact that your goal in each match is to kill your opponents so you can summon an elder god. Regardless, the visuals are charming, even if there isn't a ton of variety to them. You've got a few characters to choose from and a handful of stages to battle on, but that's it, unfortunately. At least there's a decent upbeat soundtrack to match the fast-paced energy of each battle, though sadly there are only a handful of songs to enjoy here as well. Gurgamoth is great for a quick and chaotic party game, but the lack of game modes and features means it doesn't have quite the longevity of similar titles. And the game's simple, pick-up-and-play philosophy is a big part of its charm, but it's just not enough to sustain the game for too long. Give Gurgamoth a try if you're in the mood for a solid, fast-paced party game, but be aware that the longevity isn't quite there. Rating: 6 out of 10 Elder Gods Review copy provided by publisher Gurgamoth will be available on the Switch eShop on August 23rd for $9.99.
  4. I don't know, it kind of feels par for the course for a Platinum title to receive only modest attention leading up to release, but then build a faithful following afterward. Regardless, it's always cool to see a bit more of the game in action.
  5. Press release: Lots of interesting stuff on display here. SUPERHOT was already rumored a few days ago and people had predicted that Ori and the Blind Forest might be the Xbox Game Studios title that's coming to the Switch, but I'm still excited to see official confirmation of both. I'm definitely interested in a lot of these other games too, like EarthNight, Youropa, and The Touryst, plus I didn't realize that some other games I've been looking forward to are coming so soon, like Creature in the Well, or Blasphemous. And Hotline Miami is a big get for Nintendo as well!
  6. Looking forward to hearing about any new indie titles, though with so many big games out lately (Super Mario Maker 2, Fire Emblem: Three Houses) and coming soon (Zelda: Link's Awakening, Dragon Quest XI S) I don't know when I'll find the time to play them! I still need to catch up on some major indie releases of the year so far.
  7. Over four years since its wildly successful Kickstarter campaign was funded, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is finally available and carrying on the spirit of the Castlevania franchise, if not the name. A creepy castle full of monsters, RPG mechanics, Metroidvania progression—Ritual of the Night has all of the hallmarks that made games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia such beloved hits, but can it fully capture their charm? Ten years before the events of the game, magic researchers attempted to summon demons by using the power of Shardbinders, humans fused with the power of crystals that were charged with demonic power. The summoning attempt was, unsurprisingly, catastrophic for humanity, with only two Shardbinders surviving. One was Miriam, our protagonist, who avoided the entire ritual by falling into a deep, unnatural slumber for ten years. Now she's awake, and demons are once again wreaking havoc across the land, meaning it's up to Miriam to stop it. It's a decent backstory, if not terribly original, but unfortunately the game's few cutscenes and dialogue sequences do little to elevate the story. You'll encounter a handful of side characters along your journey but none of them feels particularly well developed, even accounting for a few twists and turns in the plot. It's a bit of a shame that this opportunity to branch out from Castlevania lore into original gothic-horror storytelling wasn't used to more interesting ends. Ritual of the Night is a Metroidvania game, meaning it generally takes place in a single location—in this case, a castle crawling with demons—and your progress is limited by power-ups gained from defeating bosses. You might wander through the castle and notice a health upgrade on a high ledge, but with Miriam's default jumping ability it's out of reach for the moment. Metroidvanias are all about exploration and making mental notes of where to return once you're better equipped (Ritual of the Night also lets you make handy marks on the in-game map to remind yourself to return later). It's an addictive gameplay formula that Bloodstained handles well. The environments are diverse, there's an exciting sense of discovery as you inch forward into each monster-filled room, and a satisfying tension when your health is running low and you're desperately searching for the next save room. Exploring and discovering what to do next is a blast, but Ritual of the Night may go a little too extreme with how difficult this can be at times. Specifically, there are a few instances where the game gives so little direction or hint while requiring a very specific solution that it is extremely difficult to solve organically. One of the worst moments involves an item that is randomly dropped from a specific enemy but is required to progress. At that point, progression is just a little too obscure, and ends up being a little obnoxious. Ritual of the Night is no stranger to challenge in general, though. Combat can be tough early on when you're still learning the ropes of the game, especially given how slow Miriam's movements and attacks feel, compared to similar side-scrolling action games. You can't swing wildly lest you leave yourself open to enemy attacks, and monsters generally take several hits to go down. The first couple hours can be extremely challenging, especially the boss fights, though gradually the difficulty mellows out, partially due to the wide range of combat options at your disposal. In addition to a variety of weapon types (swords, whips, spears, etc.), Miriam can equip shards collected from monsters which essentially act as spells. There are dozens of shards in the game, giving you free rein to customize your approach to combat—you can even save equipment set-ups to quickly switch from one to another, perhaps to best handle different types of enemies. It probably won't take you long to find a preferred fighting style and sticking with it for the rest of the game, but the opportunities for customization are still excellent and opens the door for plenty of replay value. The process for unlocking new equipment or shards can be a little tediously haphazard, though. Aside from getting random item drops from defeated demons, you can also craft weapons and armor at your base of operations. Crafting has the same issue of dealing with random drops since you're at the mercy of chance when it comes to whether or not you'll have the materials needed to craft items. It can be a tedious process if you're really trying to craft a specific item, but as with so many crafting systems it might be better to not sweat over it too much and simply play normally. The game's presentation is a real mixed bag of quality. The art style is decent enough, even if it seems to rely a little heavily on paths Castlevania already forged (though granted there are only so many permutations of 18th century gothic horror). There are some fun demon designs, and overall the colorful art style is charming. The technical quality of the graphics, though, leaves quite a lot to be desired. For one thing everything in Ritual of the Night is just kind of blurry—low resolution plagues not only the gameplay but character portraits during dialogue and cutscenes. The technical quality doesn't seem to be doing the art design justice at all. Secondly and more egregiously, the game runs pretty poorly on the Switch. You'll notice slowdown when there's a lot of movement on screen, significant loading times even when just moving from one room to another, and possibly even random crashing (which is especially problematic in a game with no autosave feature). Patches have been promised by the developer but as of writing this review the quality of the graphics is disappointing. The soundtrack, however, is pretty consistently excellent. There's no mistaking the Castlevania influence on the music, but when that style nails the mix of action-oriented gameplay and gothic-horror setting so well, it's hard to find any faults with it. The voice acting isn't bad either, but the soundtrack is far and away the highlight of the game's presentation. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a faithful recreation of the Metroidvania era of Castlevania games, even if some of its gameplay conventions feel a little too dated now. Still, Castlevania fans will be more than satisfied with the blend of combat and exploration that challenges the player to survive until the next save room. The game's presentation is an irrefutable issue with this Switch edition of the game though, one that may justifiably leave gamers wary of investing in this version, or at least warrant waiting for some thorough patches and updates to the game's visual stability. Rating: 7 out of 10 Rituals
  8. - Borderlands 2 (PS4) Replayed this as a Mechromancer which was a lot of fun and incredibly overpowered once you've got a lot of anarchy stacks built up and a good shotgun. Deathtrap is also invaluable as a distraction when playing solo. [image] - God Eater 3 (Switch) For a game that's so similar to Monster Hunter, I just never really clicked with this one. Too often found myself thinking that I'd rather just be playing MH. [image] - Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 (Switch) Pretty repetitive multiplayer-focused action game, but the fun of seeing all of these heroes and villains together kind of makes up for that. [image] - Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Switch) Still would've liked the early monastery stuff to be streamlined a bit better (not sure how to do that without fundamentally changing some things though), but overall it's still Fire Emblem, and I do enjoy me a good Fire Emblem. [image] - Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Switch) Even putting aside the game's visual issues I didn't love this as much as I thought I would. Still good overall but didn't have quite the charm/appeal I expected. [image] Bronze challenge 8 completed: 8) Portmanteau: Beat a Metroidvania game (Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night) Two challenge games completed: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Fire Emblem: Three Houses C : 73 H: 2 P: 0 M: 0 O: 75 Challenges: 15 points
  9. Thanks to a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, Castlevania fans get not one but two games that draw upon the classic action gameplay that the series is known for. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon was developed by Inti Creates as an homage to the early days of Castlevania, with particular emphasis on Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. The end result is a satisfying blend of classic action-platformer mechanics with thankfully a few modern conveniences thrown in. You play as Zangetsu, a swordsman who was cursed by demons and has vowed to destroy any demons he can find—pretty standard set-up for a classic 80s action game. Despite that vow though Zangetsu allies himself with several demons over the course of the game, but what's most interesting is that you can reach different endings depending on how you interact with those demons (this is only accessible after your first playthrough). The story still isn't particularly deep but the different endings add a nice bit if replay value, making Curse of the Moon a decent introduction to the world of Bloodstained. The gameplay truly feels like it was lifted straight out of a NES title. In classic side-scrolling fashion your goal is to reach the end of the level and defeat the boss, but there are plenty of monsters blocking your path as well as some light platforming challenges. Curse of the Moon should feel instantly familiar to Castlevania fans—the game even retains some of the frustrations of old school gaming, such as getting knocked back when hit or the incredibly stiff controls that can make jumping feel frustratingly clumsy. The good news, though, is that Curse of the Moon features a Casual mode that eliminates the knockback and gives you infinite lives, which is useful even if you're an experienced player since it gives you chance to run through the game and acquaint yourself with the mechanics. But even on Veteran mode (the default mode that replicates classic Castlevania mechanics) the game never gets too frustrating. You'll definitely suffer through some cheap deaths, but it's not too hard to rack up a healthy supply of extra lives. Best of all though, you can change the difficulty setting any time you reload a save file to get just the right challenge balance for you. It helps that you eventually have four playable characters that you can swap among at any moment, and you won't lose a life until every character is dead (dying does send you back to the last checkpoint though, and there's no way to revive a character aside from completing the level or killing every character). Having four playable characters also does wonders for making the gameplay feel engaging. Each character has unique abilities that help make monster slaying a little more varied, plus you'll find alternate paths through each level thanks to each character's unique skills. For example, the first ally you encounter, Miriam, has a whip for longer reach and can slide through small areas. Once you have all four it's pretty satisfying to swap among them to deal with any given obstacle, or to challenge yourself by taking on enemies in different ways. Another feature that helps alleviate some of the "Nintendo Hard" feeling is permanent upgrades, such as expanding your maximum health, sub-weapon ammo, or even boosts to offense/defense. Finding these upgrades always requires a bit of exploration and using characters' unique skills, but they're always worth hunting down. Curse of the Moon is definitely not a long game—it's possible to finish the game in under two hours—but what it lacks in length it makes up for in replay value. There are the two difficulty settings to test your skills, the branching paths that reward exploration (and require keeping your characters alive), and there are multiple game modes that offer slight differences to the gameplay and story. All told, there's a decent amount of content to satisfy Castlevania fans. It wouldn't be a retro revival without recreating the classic look and sound of a NES game. The pixel art is fantastic (definitely more elaborate than your average NES title) and the music captures just the right sense of catchy, slightly repetitive chiptune audio. It may not be the smoothest pixel art or animation out there today, but Curse of the Moon is all about reviving a sense of 80s Castlevania games, and in that regard the presentation nails it. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is a spot on recreation of familiar Castlevania mechanics, plus a few thankfully more forgiving features such as Casual mode. The level design and challenges aren't necessarily breaking any new ground in the action-platformer genre, but that was never really the intent with the game in the first place. This is a game for Castlevania fans, and those fans will love running through a new dark and spooky adventure and putting their old school skills to the test. Rating: 8 out of 10 Curses
  10. Well, yeah. Some of the loading screens can be a little long, so I'd open up Ninfora for all of the scintillating conversation here.
  11. It took me until now to notice you can make the little Byleth sprite on the loading screen jump by pressing B.
  12. Ever since the release of Awakening and its surprise surge in popularity, the Fire Emblem series has gone from a dying, niche franchise for Nintendo to one of their biggest names (if Smash Bros. representation is anything to go by). As a huge Fire Emblem fan though I'm not complaining! With the latest release in the series, Nintendo had the challenge of maintaining that momentum by delivering the trademark strategy gameplay of the series, alongside fresh new features, in a format that would be just as engaging on-the-go as it is on a TV screen. Considering Fire Emblem hasn't had a home console release in over ten years, there were some high expectations here. But with its wealth of characters to love and updated gameplay mechanics, Fire Emblem: Three Houses makes the grade. The game gets its subtitle from the three school houses at the prestigious Officers Academy at Garreg Mach, a monastery where nobles and other warriors from the three main regions of the continent are trained in the art of war. As the game begins, our protagonist is a wandering mercenary who is somewhat pressed into becoming a professor at Garreg Mach after rescuing three students from bandits. The school setting might seem just a tiny bit silly compared to past Fire Emblem games that focus on epic wars, but as you might expect there are some nefarious goings-on at Garreg Mach and you'll eventually be steeped in a much more dramatic conflict. The real benefit of the school setting is immediately giving you a large roster of characters to get to know, each of which has their own charming quirks as well as much more depth than they may seem at first. It feels like support conversations have become increasingly a focus of Fire Emblem games, and Three Houses is no exception. Although the central conflicts of the game are really only based around a handful of characters, there's something addictive about uncovering each character's story through their support conversations. It's easy to get invested in these characters, even if it's initially somewhat overwhelming to interact with so many, and the mysterious aspects of the plot keep you well engaged, culminating in the second half of the game when the stakes are much higher. You're also given the choice of leading one of the three houses, which impacts the story via branching paths. The downside is that completing one path may not answer all of your questions about what is really going on at Garreg Mach, but in the end that's just a good excuse to replay the game and focus on a different path and different group of students. The gameplay of Three Houses is more or less divided into two halves. In one, you have the familiar strategy RPG battles that involve moving units around a grid-based battlefield. The other half of the game is being a professor at the monastery—you tutor your students individually to level up their weapon skills, chat with them between battles, and interact via various events such as sharing a meal together to boost their motivation in class. Early on, this monastery business can seem overwhelming. There's actually quite a lot you can do at the monastery, though your time to do it is limited at first (you'll gradually unlock more activity points), and most of all it is incredibly time consuming to walk around Garreg Mach, talking to students and just generally investing in their individual stories. The balance between battles and monastery business gets better as you progress—you'll also learn how best to spend your time, perhaps focusing only on specific students—but Three Houses still does feel a little bloated by content that is mostly secondary to the core strategy gameplay. Fire Emblem Fates had a somewhat similiar (though far simpler) version of this with My Castle, and between the two, Three Houses feels a bit overboard. The good news though is that if you're truly not enjoying your time at the monastery you can choose to skip through it pretty quickly. Obviously you'll miss out on features that do actually impact battles—not experience points but other bonuses like weapon proficiency—but sometimes it helps to just speed things along. Much of the combat system feels like a natural evolution of the Fire Emblem franchise's progression since Awakening. Not surprisingly there is once again a big focus on abilities which characters can learn to grant helpful boosts, though this time abilities don't feel quite as overwhelmingly powerful. That's a good thing, though—you won't feel as bad for skipping over certain abilities or just letting your characters grow naturally without fastidiously tracking their progress. Three Houses also introduces a few new combat tools in your arsenal. First are combat arts which were actually first seen in Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and return as a more accessible option in battle. Instead of being tied to a specific weapon, characters learn arts as they increase proficiency with a weapon type (swords, lances, axes, bows, and gauntlets), and learned arts can be used in battle. Arts provide some sort of attack bonuses—increased damage, increased accuracy, increased damage against flying units, etc.—at the cost of wearing down your weapon's durability more quickly. Early on, combat arts are a valuable bonus, since even another point of damage can make a huge difference. They get somewhat less useful as the game progresses, since your characters eventually become strong enough with their standard attacks that combat arts can be less effective since you generally can't double attack with them. Still, they're another handy tool when plotting your next attack. Another significant addition is the battalion system, which allows you to assign a group of generic allies to each unit in your party. Battalions add passive stat boosts which can be huge, plus they allow units to use Gambits which, much like combat arts, are another attack option. Depending on which Gambit you're using they can be incredibly powerful, especially because many inflict special effects, such as stunning an enemy so it can't move, and Gambits never trigger a counter attack. Gambits are quite limited in use, and should your battalion fall in combat you'll have to replenish them between battles, but even so battalions are far too useful to ignore (and also quite obnoxious when enemies use them—no one likes to be denied a counter attack!). On the other hand, if battalions seem to be making the game too easy for you, you can always ignore them. In many ways Three Houses lets you customize the difficulty of the action by either using or ignoring certain features. And Fire Emblem veterans may want to take that advice to heart, since Three Houses is, overall, fairly easy for a strategy RPG. It's not just the new, powerful attacks at your disposal in the forms of combat arts and Gambits. Part of it may be due to the lack of a weapons triangle, the rock-paper-scissors system that has defined most titles in the Fire Emblem franchise. It's a shame to lose that element of strategy, since now it really doesn't matter too much if a unit only carries one type of weapon, nor do you have to be too worried about sending an axe user against a group of swordsmen (though some abilities will still affect your accuracy and chance to dodge depending on your weapon type). There's a layer of strategy lost without the weapons triangle, which makes it much easier to somewhat brute force your way through the game. On the other hand though, not worrying about weapon advantages does give you more freedom in how you build your characters and your army as a whole. You can truly use whichever characters you like regardless of the situation, which is convenient in its own way. And finally, Three Houses brings back Mila's Turnwheel from Shadows of Valentia—this time it's called Divine Pulse—which allows you to rewind time to correct mistakes in battle. Divine Pulse is, perhaps, a little too forgiving on the player, especially since you get so many uses per battle, but it does make the game much more accessible to inexperienced tacticians, and occasionally deaths in battle come down to truly bad luck rather than poor planning, and in those instances Divine Pulse is a godsend. Like most Fire Emblem games, Three Houses is by no means short. Playing through the game just once can last a good 45 hours or more, though potentially less if you really ignore monastery features. Most of all though the game truly is a time sink—in a good way. There are so many little things to fiddle with between battles: monitoring characters' study growths, monastery tasks, just chatting with students. 45 hours may seem like a lot but it really does fly by. And since there are three paths, there's inherently plenty of replay value, even for a Fire Emblem game. Three Houses also features a New Game Plus which allows you to carry over certain bonuses from one playthrough to the next, which can be hugely helpful for alleviating some of the early game grind at the monastery. Of course, even with the help of those bonuses, Three Houses is a lengthy, addictive experience. For its return to the TV screen, the developers have given this Fire Emblem game a cel-shaded art style, which is pretty snazzy when paired with the sort of anime character design that basically makes everyone pretty. Really though, there are a lot of charming character designs (and a few questionable ones), and besides, battles don't really need anything more than fairly basic graphics. It is a little disappointing that the framerate doesn't always seem up the task of keeping up with the game, but this never actually interferes with the gameplay, it's just a small visual annoyance. The soundtrack, meanwhile, has a lot of great, epic-sounding tracks, though overall there isn't as much variety as I'd like, and few songs truly stand out. The voice acting is particularly well done though, which is impressive given the huge amount of dialogue that has been recorded for the game. With so many conversations it's tempting to fast-forward through them as quickly as possible by simply reading the text on screen, but it'd be a shame to miss out on the personality of the voice work. With Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the franchise continues down a more character-driven story path, as well as a gameplay system that seems to get more and more lenient with each new release. Fire Emblem purists may sniff at the balance between monastery gameplay and actual battles, but once you're in the thick of things—teaching your students, bonding with them, raising their skills as well as your own, and of course actually battling—it's easy to become completely addicted to the cyclical nature of the game's structure. After taking so long to return to a home console instead of a handheld, Fire Emblem: Three Houses feels suitably massive, engaging, and charming. Rating: 9 out of 10 Students
  13. I've heard plenty of good things about Pillars of Eternity, but I might have too much on my plate right now to dive into another lengthy RPG—it is tempting to just buy it now though while it's on sale. I did want to highlight another game that's on sale this week, SteamWorld Quest is 20% off and is getting a big patch today for some new side features like New Game Plus, an extra hard mode, and gallery features. I highly recommend the game, one of my favorites of the year so far!
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