Life is Strange: Before the Storm (Episode 1) – Review

Life is Strange was 2015’s biggest surprise. At first I thought it was going to be a cash-in on the Telltale Games hype machine but instead offered more than just decision making. By manipulating time, our hero Max would stumble upon a series of events that were unpredictable and at times shocking. Before the Storm ends up stripping away that mystery and leaves us with an odd ball. A story that doesn’t involve super natural only the struggles of a teenage girl named Chloe.

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As the name implies, Before the Storm is a prequel, focusing on the supporting cast from the first game with the main character this time being Chloe. Unlike Max, she does not get random time manipulating powers and instead deals with her day-to-day issues. Sneaking out night, substance abuse, and hating her step dad are among the many challenges you will face. Since there is no powers, this time the game relies on Chloe’s mouth or more specifically her angst. Occasionally you will run into arguments or situations in which you would need to convince the other person you’re right. This is done through a meter, by adding more points you eventually end up winning the conversation. In order to win you will need to analyse and pick apart specific words the other uses and throw it against them. It’s an interesting mechanic but doesn’t feel anywhere near as genuine as playing with time.

The narrative itself feels a bit shallow. Before the Storm’s first chapter took me about 3 to 4 hours which felt like an eternity thanks to the constant teen drama schlock the game throws at me. I have no quarrels with teen dramas, heck one of my favorite TV shows recently was 13 Reasons Why. But unlike that show, the drama here is played out in a very predicative manner. For instance, one scene Rachel, Chloe’s new friend, begins to feel anxious after witnessing a particular incident. It’s pretty clear why Rachel is annoyed but it took Chloe 2 hours to figure it out.

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Speaking of predictable Before the Storm really does nothing to make me look forward to the next chapter. Rachel was a big character often mentioned in the first game and knowing what happens to her kind of eliminates the suspense. Choices also carry very little weight this time around. In one section I tried to settle a argument with Rachel and replayed it with different choices. The end result was always the same.

In terms of presentation, Before the Storm still carries the same tone the original had. The music is stellar, the atmosphere is there, and the visuals are colorful. It is worth noting that I did encounter stuttering during my playthrough on the PC version. Turns out there was no proper V-Sync and had to enable it manually through the Nvidia control panel. It’s not a big deal but those who aren’t tech savvy may feel frustrated.

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Episode 1 left me with mixed feelings. It has potential to add more depth to Chloe but honestly this felt like it could have been told in one episode. I mean sure there were some interesting distractions like having a D&D session with one of my friends but the majority of it was just filled with unnecessary padding that I honestly got bored and forced myself to the finish line. I do hope Episode 2 kicks the story up a notch because so far Before the Storm is hella meh.

5/10

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60 FPS Breath of The Wild Patch Released (CEMU)

Developer Xalphenos has been hard at work getting Breath of The Wild to run at 60 FPS on the popular Wii U emulator, CEMU. After weeks of teasing today players will finally be able to experience it for themselves.

The Dynamic Speed patch is a graphical plugin that works as a sort of cheat that speeds up the game while making it playable. Considering the Wii U version sits somewhere between 20-30 FPS, this is a BIG improvement.

A similar technique was also used to make Mario Sunshine play 60 FPS on Dolphin.

Furthermore, the patch includes several experimental features that players can try out and report back. Of course this patch is still in infancy so you will run into issues here and there but it will no doubt receive multiple updates due to fan demand.

If you’re interested in giving this go, you can download the patch here.

Destiny 2 on PC: There’s No Going Back

Destiny 1 is the most played game I have on PS4. Endless hours spent collecting loot, dominating Raid runs, and long loading screens. As a veteran PC gamer it was annoying knowing that I couldn’t experience it to its full potential. “It was fun” I thought to myself. Then I played Destiny 2 on PC.

Destiny 2 PS4 BETA didn’t blow me away. It felt more like an expansion on the first one with some much needed improvements. Yes, it does have a new plot but the mechanics are all the same with just a few tweaks. I was hungry for something new. Destiny has a lot of potential and just feel like 1 barely scratched the surface. Thankfully my time spent with the PC version this week has elevated my look towards the sequel.

It’s not just the framerate, it’s gameplay that’s different.

Say what you will about FPS and how it doesn’t matter. For a game like Destiny 2 the difference is night and day. I’m not even talking about picture clarity, or the fact the annoying grainy edges are gone, but how responsive it feels. My aiming became easier and more precise as I was able to land headshots without trouble rather than wrestle with an aim assist mechanic. Jumping and overall movement is quick and smooth, and as someone who mains a Hunter the mobility plays a big role and it shows here.

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More importantly I didn’t notice any weird lag that’s been plaguing the PS4 version. Oddly enough for a service that I’m paying for I hardly see the value in PlayStation Plus. Crucible matches tend to be filled with lag. A widespread example of the terrible netcode is when an enemy’s death animations gets delayed causing me to waste ammo and precious time shooting nothing. To my dismay this was also found in the Destiny 2 PS4 edition. The PC version however completely eliminates that and works as intended.

Speaking of fast, everything in terms of managing items feels smoother. Destiny’s UI is built to be used with a mouse but rather than waste time moving a cursor around with an analog stick, navigating menus is no longer a chore, further helped thanks to hotkeys that take me where I want instantly. Loading has also been practically eliminated. Prior I would wait almost 30 seconds if not more just to go from A to B but thanks to modern PC hard drivers including SSD’s this has been reduced to 5 seconds.

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I can go on and on at how much the PC version pretty much decimates the console equivalent including the option of adding an FOV slider (which finally eliminates having the gun take 25% of the screen.) Instead I would just say that if you do have a fire team on consoles, ditch them. Yes, I know that’s harsh but you can always make new friends and who knows they might join you eventually. There’s honestly no reason to play this console, not even for friendship.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle—Review

I won’t lie, I’m not a big fan of strategy games. Titles such as X-Com or even Fire Emblem relies a lot on planning ahead and patience—two of things I’m terrible at when it comes to gaming. Yet despite that, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle has managed to convince me otherwise.

The concept is pretty simple, the iconic (and somewhat annoying) Rabbids have invaded the Mushroom Kingdom causing chaos by merging various objects together. Mario and company have to work together to stop the madness from spreading. Along the way you will also meet and befriend the robot Beep-0 and normal Rabbids who are merely “fans” who cosplay as various Mario characters. One distinct element in the story is how the world is self-aware that it’s in a video game. The intro sequences shows the basement of a young girl who is a fan of the Mario universe and has her merging invention stolen from her by Rabbids who travel between worlds. Throughout the journey she would send upgrades to Beep-0 and help you through your journey.

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The worlds mostly consist of iconic locations. You have the grassy hills of World 1, the sand dunes and ice of World 2, Creepy Boo mansion of World 3, and so on. What makes them distinct is how they’ve been mashed up with Rabbids. While exploring you’ll often have moments where you can investigate Rabbids and watch them interacting with the environments. They’re fun distractions and gave me a chuckle here and there even though most of their jokes relies on screaming.

The battle system is surprisingly deep. While previous Mario games have pulled of RPG in a simple yet fun fashion, Kingdom Battle goes all out with levels that require deep thinking and planning. You’re essentially on a grid with turns that give you the ability to walk, shoot, and use a special all in one turn for each character. Cover is also important as you’ll be an easy target otherwise. Did I mention this game uses guns? Well they’re not your M4’s but more MegaMan-ish buster guns. Each character is also distinct with their own abilities. Mario is your well rounded character with a good close range melee and mid-range weapon. Others such as Luigi uses a sniper (vacuum?) and bomb traps. You can only select three characters to take with you so knowing who to pick before each battle is essential.

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Using the levels to your advantage is a must. Having a high vantage a point will lead to higher damage, for example. Plenty of times I struggled to find a proper strategy because I failed to review the layout properly or predict where enemies may find an opening. It can get even more frustrating when realizing that you selected a location and realized moments later you made a mistake before ending your turn. This has happened to me a lot as I would accidentally select a wrong space and have to deal with it. While jumping is strangely omitted you could use your partners to jump higher or even bounce off enemies.

Kingdom Battle is not an easy game. Even starting from the half-way point of World 1 it begins to throw a lot of curve balls and enemies with different attributes. One such enemy is the brute who runs towards you if you hit them and deals ridiculous amounts of damage. The starting Battle of World 3 took me a couple of tries as well as enemies were mostly stationed at the top giving me very little room for cover. There is an easy mode but what it does is basically heal your party before each battle. I ended up using this quite often as there’s no proper way to heal your party. But the challenge isn’t frustrating. The game simply has a deep learning curve and once you master it that rewarding feeling begins to kick in. Maybe because it’s a Mario game or the charm, either way it made me love it and pushed me to go further.

Outside of battle, the levels offer little in terms of exploration. You are more or less navigating a linear path from battle to battle. There are some small distractions such as discovering a secret path or hidden item. Puzzles also play a role in the form of moving objects (mostly bricks) and hitting switches. They offer very little in terms of challenge and can get quite repetitive. It’s a shame because Kingdom Battle’s world is so lush and full of detail but most of it is relegated to background décor.

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Graphically, the game looks quite stunning especially in portable mode. It runs at a fixed 30 FPS though I did notice a few drops here and there particularly when coming out of sleep mode. The special effects such as fire and the environments look dazzling. Playing it on the TV I noticed a fine attention to surround sound with birds and rivers sounding crisp. The model details however felt a bit lacking in some areas. The AA was poor and skin textures felt pretty plain with barely any shadows to add depth. The difference can clearly be seen when compared to Mario Odyssey or Mario Kart 8. The animations themselves however are fantastic. The Rabbids have all sorts of expressions that belongs in a high budget animation movie. Ubisoft have also managed to mimic the Mario cast perfectly.

The soundtrack however can feel a bit…generic. I mean, yes, there are some iconic Mario melodies but most of it feels taken from some random super hero title that often feels forgettable. Mario games are known for their catchy soundtrack. I mean, I can recite all the main melodies from Mario Sunshine, a game I finished years ago, but I can’t remember a single beat from Kingdom Battle. Overall it’s a disappointment as far as Mario soundtracks go.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a fun addition to the Mario universe. I’m not a big fan of those annoying little creatures but Kingdom Battle’s presentation helped eliminate that. They gelled really well with the Mario universe. Adding to that the unique battle system and you got a Mario experience like no other.

8.5/10

Classic PS One Game, Fear Effect, Getting a Modern Remake

Fear Effect, an obscure cyberpunk adventure game, is making a comeback. The game has been revealed as Fear Effect Reinvented and will be modern remake of the original PS One version.

Fear Effect played much like Resident Evil with fixed camera angles but relied heavily on motion video backgrounds. It also had an interesting cyberpunk look which at the time was widely popular.

Fear Effect Reinvented is expected to launch next year for PS4, Xbox One, Switch (yes!), and PC.

Final Fantasy XV Coming to PC Early 2018

After months of waiting, PC gamers will finally be able to play the latest installment in the Final Fantasy franchise early next year.

The trailer was accidentally leaked. As expected from a late PC release, the version will include a host of new features such as improved framerate (that doesn’t stutter), 4K textures, enhanced physics such as hair, and Dolby Atmos.

One key feature is being able to play the game in first person. I can see that causing some serious headaches though especially with the warp strikes.