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Bound by Flame – Demons make everything better

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Ah, the realm of fantasy games… A place where elves are frolicking happily through the forests and use intruders who dare to question their obvious distinct gender as arrow-pincushion, where magic is more or less the source of wonders and evil and where the undead wander around, raiding the lands with their armies and leave destruction in their wake.

What nice nostalgic…Wait.

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They have huge rotting skeleton gigants?

We are having an undead apocalpyse in the medivial fantasy world?

What are you mages doing over there? Is that a summoning ritual? What? You are going to summon an ancient demon out of the depths of hell?

And there I dared to wonder just for a moment how an army of brainless undead could come that far. *sigh* When something is already burning and on the verge of annihilation…just summon a demon into our plane. What could go wrong? But to literal hell with logic. There are undead out there, you are the hero. Now grap that sword and start slaying. This is what you were paid for.

You are just another ordinary mercenary of a band of mercenarys, after all.

That is, until the summoning ritual went foul and the demon has to search for a body and you just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. (Like always)

Congratulations, you are now being possessed by an evil being trying to take over your body. (And no, there is no exorcist in sight)

Speaking of body, let’s start who you are, what you are and who you can become. Your name, or less the name you will be called by, is Vulcan, a newly recruited mercenary and a specialist in explosives (or what the lore says at least). Your ever standard hotheaded, cussing, rough soldier, mind you, and you will be a standard hotheaded, cussing, rough soldier, disregarding if you are female or male as the dialogs of him/her/it imply.

My first thought was, why not? Soldiers don’t have to be nice, they can cuss as long as they are good with the blade. Good by me. Very limited customization (five different heads and five different haircuts to chose from per gender choice). Alright, I will survive it.

You have experience with the greatsword and dual blades, being able to harness and hone those skills by level and points. Greatsword for balanced damage and defense stats, and later on for rechargeing your health while dual blades are fast, do a lot of damage but not really good for defense and are better for dodging attacks. Through the demon, you get another skill tree, named pyromancy which enables fire magic.

And only fire magic. While other people might find this annoying, as long as the story can justify it, I’m also fine with just fire magic. What’s better than setting moving corpses on fire? I always was a fan of the the flamethrowers in zombie games…*clears throat* Alright…on with the script.

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The skill trees enable additional enhancements like being able to stab the enemy faster with the dual blades, the spells being less expensive or upgrade them into more powerful ones.

You can also build traps and place them around the areas, use a crossbow and make and combine other things from materials and ingrediants, like potions, bolts and so on. Additionally to the usual the skill tree, you can spend specific…titles with points from the level up like “tough” that ups your hit points when you “buy” it or alchemist which makes your potions are more useful or assassin which raises your critical with dual blades. To unlock these, you not only need point but also such things as kill/make a specific amount of things.

With those things you are ready to take on and slash your way through the hordes like a possessed…You get the idea, but the answer is yes…and no. The combat is action oriented, quick and you can switch between greatsword and dual blades and shoot magic, meaning you can try slashing your way through the monsters, but at most times this won’t work. They will kill you just as fast as you think this way of thinking will work in Dark Souls.

And no, it isn’t as hard as Dark Souls. You just have to plan what you are doing what isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can sneak around, place traps, etc. to thin the numbers which gives combat more depth, but it is by far not perfect. The camera can be annoying sometimes, on higher difficulties it is more apparent that the “action” isn’t as well rounded and balanced as one might think, but this is up for personal taste. The AI of companions is…let’s say as intelligent as those mages deciding to summon a demon into this world would be a great idea. They die quickly, but they try to stand their ground.

Graphics…Although I don’t really care about that point, I still want to mention that the Ps4 edition of the game looks like it belonged on Ps3 or below. Just that I mentioned that.

Which leaves the story.

Yes, we have heard the story of the heroic mercenary before, yes, the undead raiding isn’t something new either, yes, we are already used to magicians doing something stupid, summoning demons or mess things up. Even the possessed hero is nothing new. If people find this generic, yes, at some point even good fantasy RPGs are generic, but the exel on another point.

Presentation.

How the story is told, what role you have, how the world is represented around you. Are the people relatable? Do you feel represented by the hero and the decision that are made? How do the writers play with what we know about fantasy stereotypes? Does your decision influence anything? Is the atmosphere fitting?

In some games the surrounding tell you the story. In this game, story telling and build up of story is done by dialog. And…That is one of the greatest weaknesses of the game according to my opinion. And that is something I hadn’t had for a very long time. Yes, I came across dialog in games that are…pretty standard and uninteresting, but this is just…I don’t even know how to warp this up in words. It is standard, although it decides to be self-ironic sometimes or even sarcastic, but more often it is…stating the obivious or strangely over-the-top or being overall uninteresting to listen to. And this is fatal when you have to make decisions in an rpg that should have an impact on you in some way.

Maybe it is just me, but when you have such a story with potential and then having something like that…Well, it is up for the taste, I guess.

The story as a whole? Well, short moral of the story is that magic is mostly the source of evil. The Big Bads which leads the undead? Immortal Sorcerers (*coughs* liches) also called the Ice Lords (*cough* Frozen Throne). The thing that got you possessed? Magic.

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The demon who wants to hijack your body even grants you one ability. MAGIC.

More power for more control over your own body and it shows, as you become more demonic in appearance which is a nice mechanic. It tries to be interesting, it tries to be grim and the morals are twisted, but sometimes it just tries to hard or not at all. For example the demonic possession stuff has a lot of potential but you are served with a or b decisions and you can use magic without consequences at all.

The atmosphere is pretty solid. Nice music here and there, the background, lighting, water effects are nice as well as the enemy designs….overall nothing bad.

To round it up a bit:

The combat system is quick and dynamic, nothing groundbreakingly good or bad. The crafting system is actually really nice, you can sneak, you can ambush and you can set traps everywhere. There are problems with the camera, It has some nice ideas, to say at least.

The story is…It could be so much more, but fails to deliever at the basics. There are so many possibilities open for a possessed character which are simply not used. It doesn’t need to be over-the-top complicated or dark to keep being interesting. Some games even deliever without dialog and let the atmosphere speak.

My opinion to the fact that the company is a smaller one and with that the budget? I don’t expect it to be Dragon Age, or a new Witcher or Skyrim. I really am at a point to not expect anything at all from a game. It tries; I won’t deny that. Combat is solid, setting is passable, but the dialog…When I see all the indie and kickstarter games out there which  have a lower budget and deliever much more interesting things, I can’t say it is an excuse.

Was it worth the hunt? At the normal price? No. I get better meals to a cheaper price. When it gets a discount? Maybe… It is overall medicore. Not a steak, not a piece of tough leather, but if an rpg fails to keep my interest for the story or any , I have to let it go by.

Until the next hunt,

TheNocturnalHunter

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Posted by on May 10, 2014 in Pc, Ps4

 

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Toukiden – The Age of Demons (and Demon Hunters)

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Okay, I’m a little late with this one, but lets get started…

Let’s take Samurai/Dynasty Warriors, Monster Hunter, a tiny bit of Soul Sacrifice and a few big, fearsome demons right out of the Japanese Mythology, throw it into a blender and see what happens. That not only sounds like me when I try to cook something when my fridge is a frozen wasteland, it is also the first thought I had for Toukiden.

Does that mean something bad? I have survived each of my cooking experiments without harm. Just look at my words! Do they read like someone who is on the verge of dying or insanity?

…Let’s…just ignore the fact the voices in my head just started a debate over this matter, shall we?

Anyway…Let’s look at the setting of the game. Oni, demonlike creatures, plague the land of Nakatsu Kuni (meaning “Middle country” – coming from Ashihara no Nakatsukuni “The middle country of reed beds” between Takamagahara (Plain of High Heaven) and Yomi no Kuni (Place of yellow springs or Hell)) and the Slayers (mononofu -> warrior or samurai) are the ones who make it their duty to kill…well… slay those beasts to preserve peace in the lands.

Eight years prior to the plot, an event called “Awakening” took place. A great Oni emerged out of Yomi and brought an age of calamity over the humans who now try to hold the lines desperately against the waves of Oni sweeping down against them.

You, a mere rookie, are sent to such a final holding line, a village named Utakata and live a life as a Slayer…Oh, and did I mention that you are also the only reinforcements this village gets? I’m no genius when it comes to tactics, but I don’t think that is the best way to protect one of the last standing points against Oni, but well…

Let’s just send a rookie (*cough* fresh meat) to one of the most dangerous places! What could go wrong?

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Holy…That is not what I have signed up for.

Since there is no backstory to the protagonist, I can only suspect that he/she did something which offended the higher ups big time. They really seem desperate to send you to your certain death. 

Of course you are to stubborn to actually bite the dust, since you are a special little Slayer-in-training (and the only ray of hope…Yes, you have guessed it: These are really desperate times). A Slayer normally bounds with one Mitama (“Honorable Spirit” or Spirit of a hero) and thus can use their powers. You on the other hand can bound with more. A hell lot of more, considering there are 200 Mitamas in the game. What hell it must be when they begin to talk in your head…

Speaking of sunshine, rainbows and voices inside heads, this is a rather interesting mechanic. Each Mitama gives you special abilities which you can use during battle dand they can level up so that it gives you even more things to choose from. Additionally, the artwork for the different people is gracious, but this is just my personal standpoint.

So, I just arrived at the village, a nice little town, green and flourishing at the bottom of a tree. Everything is nice and peaceful besides a few Oni encounters here and there, you get some nice NPCs (nothing new, but still amusing) and then the plot gets on. And on. And on.

And things go from bad to maybe-world-shattering-worse.

Monster Hunter isn’t funny, more neutral, but has charming moments with the feline companions and the bright enviroment and landscapes. Soul Sacrifice…It was clear that this was no game with joy and unicorns since the very beginning (not the nice sort of unicorns at least). Toukiden greets you with characters who seem totally sane and stereotypical and then gives them backgrounds where you wonder that they are not more nervous wrecks with the whole thing going on from the psychological standpoint.

All in all, the main storyline is acceptable for a hunting game (just to remind you I normally dig story and storyline, but this time it is just to set the stage)  , the characters not too bland (maybe a little stereotypical) and the setting interesting. I would go more into the plot section, but I don’t want to spoil anything for new Gamers.

About the mechanics…It wasn’t incrediably difficult to get into it, it makes fun to rid the huger Oni from their extremeties which is especially funny when your weapon is a little more powerful and you go back to earlier missions and see the bodyparts flying around in short order.

If a body part is cut, you need to purify it, which is essentially standing and reciding a haku until it is gone. If you don’t…well…the big bad oni will reclaim it and you can begin anew in hacking away that annoying thing.  (Especially annoying since certain body parts give you certain items you need for smithing new weapons and armor) Some attacks and the behavior of some Oni change with the lack of body parts and general health as well.

You have also different weapons to choose from: A huge sword, a spear, Chain&Sickle, a bow, a pair of armored fists, dual blades which all play differently with own combo sets. Additionally you can embed your Mitama in it which gives you different boni and offers different strategies in battles. The Eye of Truth mechanic not only shows you the body parts which you can slash away, but also “hidden” Oni which can’t be send with seen with the naked eye.

From these weapons the bow is by far the most boring to play, but it is very effective when you need certain bodyparts for smithing.

Was it worth the hunt? Well, yes. Not the best but still quite acceptable. There were no real problems with the game controls, the setting is interesting as well as the designs. The story and characters itself is nothing new, but they show own characteristics. To be honest, I was expecting something far worse, but it was really nice. I have made this post short, since everyone has already written about it. I hope my next posts are longer and better…I need to get back to this thing first.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2014 in Ps Vita

 

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Black & White – Let’s hunt Gods

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In the beginning was one single prayer echoing through the void, desperately searching for something who will heed the call and will help this forsaken soul. And amidst this clenching darkness something awoke, flared to life, to follow this plea, born from the despair of humankind. The light descended to the mortal plane, flickering and vividly glowing to fulfill their wish. They praised it for its mercy, they named it a savior…

They called you God.

But if you are a blessing or a cure for those who awoke you from your slumber, is a question only you can answer. You are God and you decide which path you will follow. Are you the embodiment of light or bringer of darkness? The savior or the tormentor? This is up to you.

This is your story. (For the love of…Auron, out of this commentary! Go back to your own game!)

*clears throat* My deepest apologies about the downright cheesy introduction. Let’s get to business, shall we? You (aka God) just saved a boy from his fate of being fish food and his parents are more than thankful for this deed. So, they want to introduce you to the other villagers…

…Which are already dancing around a stone and building a temple for your grace…Wow…that… escalated quickly.

The world you landed on is called Eden. A peaceful land without weapons, people living leisurly like normal people do (eating, building, procreate…) …if it weren’t for the Gods who are ready to literally lighten the place up to just gain more influence. Yeah. And you are not really an exception.

The main goal of the game is to gain influence and eliminate everyone who tries to steal yours (i.e. other Gods). When the last follower of you is gone, your temple becomes touchable and when it’s gone…well, Game Over.

Besides that, the main story speaks about the Creed (not the one from Assassin’s Creed, mind you. Yes, there are more Creeds than one, Altair. No, you are not allowed to stab me.).
A power with is seperated into three pieces and it is rumored to be so powerful that it could kill a God with the snap of your finger. Guess, what the mightiest God Nemesis has and what are you going to do. You got this information  from a former subordinate of Nemesis and he wasn’t very pleased as he heard from this…not at all. He showed up and tried to kill you, but you could escape through a portal. This is the point where your real journey starts.

Nemesis

Nemesis…yeah…Exactly what it says on the tin, Archenemy

I mentioned a temple before. Yes, you have your own personal temple which grows with every village you take over and it depicts your alignement in the game. You can also enter that building and go in different rooms like a bestiarium, a library, a room with pictures where you can save, a map etc. Unfortunately, in the sequel you just have a town centre building which provides you with information….
This is also the place where your followers build their altar to dance and pray to you and enable their miracles through the power of prayer.

As a God, miracles are your spells and a very important aspects, since you can use them to convert people to your teachings, attack, defend and reduce the needs of your own people. Yeah, I mean reduce, because your people always need something…

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This is your village store. See the flags? They tell you what your people need…and there starts the vicious circle.

When they have enough food, they want to procreate, when they procreate then they want more buildings, which leads them to demand wood. And then they start to want more food…
And then your conscience annoys you about not fulfilling their needs. Yeah, you have a conscience.

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Whitey and Blackey (?) here are your spiritual advisors and provide you with information what the good/bad solution for a quest/problem is, among other things as annoying you about the needs of your villagers. They also have a good jokes for different occasions. They are a part of you…Talking about a case of multiple-persona-disorder…Nobody said, you are a mentally healthy God.

Talking about mental condition, let’s get on with the alignement system. You have a devil and an angel (?) as your spiritual advisors, so you can guess, which sides they represent. It’s your choice to with side you lean to. Use more “good” wonders and do good deeds (which includes to not hurt anyone, even the enemy) and after some time your temple will look like this.

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White temple with a rainbow and clear sky, nice, isn’t it?

When you prefer to squish people with rocks, sacrifice them and lighten them up just for personal amusement, yeah…that’s the other side.

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I’m the only one who finds it amusing, that evil is always a little bit… spikey?

At the beginning you are neutral and it is hard to maintain this state. Once I killed a few villagers by accident (Yeah, right…Be quiet, sarcastic little brain-voice.) and the first spikes curled up my nice white tower. After spent hours to get to be a good God, now this. Yeah. What I have experienced, you can become evil quite easily.

Now you have followers and a temple and can use miracles. The only thing that is missing is your creature. The creature as physical entity of your strength can…Let’s cut it short, shall we? The creature is a huge (compared to villagers)  tamagochi. You feed it, you teach it things and it has a mind(?) on it’s own. And it can grow as tall as a mountain. At the beginning you can choose between a cow, an ape and a tiger. They have different skills. The Ape learns faster, the tiger is a better fighter (but dumb) and the cow is something inbetween. If you don’t want those creatures at the beginning, you can unlock other creatures at different mini-quests.

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Yeah, the little tiger on the front is your Creature at the beginning…The lion…is older…and a “little” bit more stronger

Your creature can also have an alignement, but you can have a good creature even if you have the blackest soul on this planet. And the creature will sometimes think that you are a saint, even if its living in a spikey tower. Have I mentioned that the creature isn’t always the brightest being on Eden? This can lead to some frustrating moments when for example the Tiger eats someone who is quest-important. Evil solution. Yeah, thanks helper.

But the Creature becomes essential later on. You can only perform miracles in a certain space, indicated through a red (sometimes other coloured) circle. That is the room you have influence on, but your creature can go outside it to another village and can perform miracles to impress people.  You can also send it to fight another Creature of another God if it’s strong enough.

There is also a multiplayer…but only if you have a lot of time. The AI of the other Gods…They aren’t really bright. More annoying than really demanding, for multiplayer and the main game alike. I never came in a though spot because of them.

The hunting Conclusion? It was fun, even when the AI wasn’t the best. There were a few bugs and glitches which prevented the completion of certain quests, but the quests themselves were different, had their own story and were entertaining with a good reward at the end. And although the Creature isn’t a genuis, it is fun to see it grow. The main story…it isn’t a great, but passable. You just really want to kill Nemesis at the end.

I would say, overall, it was a nice experience, they put the love in different details and jokes, but it had its fault. Not the greatest game but a good stepping stone for future generations, because (as far as I can remember), after Populous, there wasn’t really a game which was a memoriable one with this whole God-Genre thing.

…I have the feeling I should review the sequel as well…but…well…if you want.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2013 in Pc

 

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