Quick Impressions: Remnant From the Ashes

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This fog door looks very familiar…

I don’t often buy games at full price. In fact, I don’t even remember the last time I did so. This month I’m going to do it twice. I’m getting Borderland 3 at the end of the week and I purchase Remnant from the Ashes last weekend.

I learned about Remnant maybe a week before the release date. From the trailer, I wasn’t sure what kind of game it was. It looked like a third-person shooter that might have been a looter shooter a la  Hellgate London. All I know is that the setting and the monsters made me want to play it. I held off on release day though because I was out of spending money for the month and because I wanted to know what the game was.

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The reviews came out: “Dark Souls with Guns!” Which was confusing because it didn’t look like it had all that much to do with Dark Souls and it kind of put me off to the game. I don’t hate Dark Souls but I never got into them as much as other people. I enjoyed Demon Souls, some of my best memories from gaming were because of that game but Dark Souls-Bloodborne did nothing for me. To this day Bloodborne is the only game I’ve ever traded back in when I was done with it.

Anyways, a few more days passed and the reviews changed their toon. It wasn’t that much like Dark Souls, after all, it was it’s own game, imagine that. I had the money, I had the desire to play something new, I was kind of hoping my friends might pick it up on sale one day. So I bought it.

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I’m 5 hours in and I can tell you that I’m very much enjoying it. See, it is a little like Dark Souls after all but it’s taken the good things about Dark Souls. The level design encourages exploration to find hidden items, lore, and short cuts. Learning enemy attacks and movements and finding the most efficient way of taking them out. Most importantly, the combat isn’t clunky and the roll animation doesn’t take an unnaturally long time to finish

The boss fights are fair but difficult. Sometimes it does seem like they’re tuned more for multiplayer than single-player campaigns. Which is fine because as long as you’re playing in a public lobby, anyone can join you on your adventure. The first 2 boss encounters I had to do a few times before I beat them but, man, did it feel good when I finally downed them. Especially the first one. The first 2 boss encounters were so much easier with a second person and a third probably would have made them trivial. That’s ok with me too. I’ve always liked exploring the levels more than boss fights anyways.

It does seem like progress isn’t saved unless your hosting. I had a nice run with a stranger through a part of the game I was struggling with only to find out when I logged back in that I had to do that part over. It did give me a bunch of crafting materials though so it wasn’t all bad.  I’m looking forward to seeing more of the story and exploring more of the world.

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Backlogged: Borderlands 2

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Me and Jay have been playing Borderlands 2 on and off for 5 years. As of Saturday night, it took 5 years to beat our first playthrough.  In fact, it probably took more than that, I think we started a playthrough on PS3 before the PS4 version came out. Our playthrough predates this blog. I had just moved into my second ever apartment, and I was working like 3 jobs. 5 years later I’m married, I have an actual full-time job in a field with a career path, and I feel like I’m somewhat established as an adult.

When we beat it Saturday, we both breathed a big sigh of relief. It’s been on the back burner for so long, one of those games we said we’d play and then we don’t. In the beginning, we were on track. I bought it when it first came out and we played it almost nightly. At some point, we got sidetracked with DLC. I will say that I think Gearbox makes way better DLC than they do games. There is still a ton more DLC that we could have played but Saturday we were determined to get to the end.

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See, I like Borderlands as a whole. The looter shooter aspect is compelling and the dialog is off the wall, albeit sometimes kind of annoying. But I’ve felt like I’ve been held to it for too long. It’s always been nagging in the back of my mind when we decide what we want to play.  Most of the time, I didn’t want to play it because I don’t like shooters on PS4. I’ve never been good at aiming with a controller, it frustrates me. But the time was right to beat it now before Borderlands 3 comes out. And we are 100% getting it on PC.

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We were going to try and play through the DLC that ties 2 to 3 that came out in June. That is until we discovered it was no longer free. I’m trying to phase out purchasing games for ps4 so I wasn’t about to buy it.

All in all, I had fun with Borderlands 2. I would have liked it a lot better if I hadn’t spread it out so much. I would have liked it a lot better if it was on my preferred platform, but 5 years ago I didn’t have a capable PC. We had some good times with it over the years but ultimately, I’m just glad it’s finally over.

I am very much looking forward to Borderlands 3. I will be beating this game much quicker this time around.

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Quick Impressions: Valkyria Chronicles

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One of my goals this month was to beat another game from my backlog. At the beginning of the month, I was debating on whether to play Argarest Generations or Valkyria Chronicles. I had already put some time into Argarest before the month started but I have been wanting to play Valkyria Chronicles since I owned a PS3.  Realizing it was halfway through the month already, I had to make a decision, and quick. So I settled on Valkyria Chronicles this weekend.

I didn’t have a ton of time for gaming over this weekend. Saturday was one of my good friend’s wedding and Sunday we had some family obligations. I got in just enough playtime to sink my teeth into the game.

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Valkyria Chronicles is a game about war and the people it affects. The Second Europan War has begun as Imperial forces invade Federation land for the precious resource Ragnite. Caught in the middle is the neutral nation of Gallia where we meet our main characters Alicia, leader of the town militia, and Welkin, a scientist returning home to take his sister to the capital.

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This isn’t the game I thought it would be. I’ll admit I did very little research before buying it because JRPG World War 2 sounded like such an interesting concept. I was under the impression that this would something of a third-person shooter with some strategy elements. This was not the case. The gameplay is more akin to XCOM where you move units, give orders, and watch the action play out. Despite being a completely different game than what I thought, I quite enjoyed my time with it.

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I’m looking forward to playing more of this in the coming weeks. I’m not sure if I’ll finish it by the end of the month but it’s been a while since a single-player game has caught my attention.

Sanctum 2 – Electric Boogaloo

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Sanctum 2 was on my wishlist for years. Like at least 2 years. Every time there was a steam sale I’d see it for $3 and try to convince my friends that we should play this one as our next multiplayer game. It looked right up our ally. 4 player co-op, perfect of our group size, FPS, and a tower defense game. And every time they’d say sounds great and proceed not to buy it. So this year, I decided to spend the big bucks and buy the 4 pack and gift them all the game. And you know what? They actually said, “why haven’t we played this sooner.”

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Now I’m no stranger to tower defense games. I remember when Bloons was all the rage back in high school. Orcs Must Die 2 used to be Jay and I’s go-to game to just chill. We used to see how many waves on endless we could get to. But Orcs Must Die 2 is only 2 player and after a while, you’ve killed so many orcs on the same few maps it’s time for a change.

Sanctum 2 is exactly like Orcs Must Die 2 if you’d like to use that as a reference. However, instead of killing Orcs your tasked with killing weird bug creatures and stuff. It was developed by Coffee Stain Studios, and yes those are the same people who brought Goat Simulator into our lives.  And much like Orcs Must Die 2, I’ve never played Sactum1 and probably never will.

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Each map starts with a character selection screen. There are 4 different characters to choose in the base game. Each one has a different primary weapon and special ability. I’ve taken a liking to Skye Autumn whos got an assault rifle and a double jump. Each player chooses their weapon towers for the match and is given a number of platforms and money. The general strategy for most maps is to create paths with the platforms that make the enemies run across your guns multiple times. It’s really a game of how long can you inconvenience the AI by blocking their path over and over again before they reach the core. The core has a health bar and when it’s dead it’s game over.  Each map has a set number of rounds that progressively get harder. We’ve had to do a few maps over and over until we worked out the correct way to path the enemies.

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We’ve been working our way through the game for a couple of weeks now. Mostly it’s been Jay and me, the game is perfectly manageable with 2 people but it really shines with 4. The few times we’ve played it as a group it’s been incredible. I’m not sure if the enemies scale with the group size but there are definitely some maps that would be a lot easier with 4 people. Last night, we arrived on a map called The End. I can only assume we’re close to beating the game. Good thing we bought all the DLC too because I’m not ready for it to end.

Backlogged: The Last Door- Season 2

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The Last Door: Season 2 took me longer to finish than the first season both in hours played and the time I took between each episode. Season 1 grabbed me and didn’t let go, the story was interesting with each episode leaving me with such a good cliff hanger I just had to know what happened. Plus, it was the first point and click game I’ve played in a while so the novelty also had a strong pull on my playtime. Season 2 on the other hand, had a good story but wasn’t nearly as compelling and I spread it out over a few weeks. It took me 7 hours in total to get through all 4 chapters. There were a few achievements I missed so there is more content there if I ever went back for a second playthrough.

I chose to both games of the series through Steam but they are also available on mobile devices.

Story

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I was a bit worried when season 2 was not a direct continuation from season 1. This season has us following Dr. Wakefield, Jeremiah Devitt’s psychologist as tries to unravel the mystery of where his patient’s disappearance. He consults with his colleague, Dr. Kaufmann, who has more knowledge about the occult circumstances of Devitt’s disappearance.

Episode 3 was by far my favorite. The setting, Elis Mor, was amazing. This was an island with weird rituals, creepy residents, and an ominous deep hole where a monster supposedly slept.

Gameplay

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Much like season 1, the gameplay in The Last Door – Season 2 does not get too in the way of the story. The puzzles aren’t easy but with a little thought, they can be solved fairly quickly. I did find myself running between rooms and areas frequently as I had missed a small detail or had a new idea for a solution.

I liked the inclusion of multiple areas and a map this time around. Each episode in the first game

When it comes to gameplay, Episode 2 was my favorite. It was filled with riddles and made me feel smart when I could figure them out without looking up a guide. Thanks for stroking my ego!

Episode 3 was by far the hardest for me. I will admit to looking up the solution for a particular part but that was only after a half-hour of running around trying objects with different things. I forgot that objects can be used with people as well. To be fair though, I probably wouldn’t have ended up figuring this out on my own and I wanted to keep progressing in the story.

Sound

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The Last Door would be a much less exciting experience without the fantastic soundtrack and sound design. I’m not usually paying enough attention to the sound for it to matter in most games but The Last Door does everything right in this category. There are intense moments that are heightened by the sound. The sound is also the only way for this game to really deliver jumps scares, which it does sparingly but in the right places.

Graphics

The art style The Game Kitchen chose for The Last Door works in a way I didn’t think it would. The low resolution actually makes some of the monsters and settings creepier. You can’t tell exactly what they are but your mind fills in the rest. I find that this works very well for this style of game.

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Final Thoughts

I found this season creepier overall than the first game but the story and mystery weren’t quite as compelling for me. The season did bring some nice changes from Season 1 in terms of gameplay. The story did start to get a little fuzzy towards the end of Episode 4 but I wasn’t disappointed in the ending. It was as close to closure as you can get with this type of story. A good thing too since there are no plans for a third season.

So if you’re looking for a horror game with a great story I cannot recommend The Last Door enough.

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Backlogged: The Last Door: Season 1

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I love horror. Across all media, it’s my favorite genre. My favorite kind of horror isn’t in your face slashers and monsters. It’s the psychological, creepy, unsettling horror that not only makes your skin crawl but makes you think as well. That’s exactly the kind of horror the Last Door is.

Originally released episodically, Season 1 provides the first 4 chapters of The Last Door. It follows Jerimiah Devitt after he receives a letter from an old boarding school friend Anthony Beechworth. Devitt arrives at the Beechworth Estate,  in Victorian-era Sussex, only to find that his friend has hanged himself. He discovers another letter instructing him to seek answers at his old boarding school which has been turned into an end of life care facility. There he remembers the events of him and 4 others conducting a ritual to see “beyond the veil”.  Throughout the game, Devvit sees a huge bird eye and there is a heavy emphasis on crows. There is another story with 2 psychiatrists talking about their patient Devvit. It is unclear whether this is taking place before, during, or after the events of the game.

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I didn’t think a game that looked like this could be unsettling. If there is a game that proves you don’t need fantastic graphics to convey a great story and have a great gaming experience it’s this one. The sound design makes the experience very immersive. In fact, the sounds are the scariest parts. The auditory jump scares they are placed sparingly and in just the right moments. The original music by Carlos Viola carries the game. The piano is haunting, sad, and creepy. Plus, there’s a different track for almost every room.

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Okay, that’s a little creepy
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And that…..

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Point and Click games are hit or miss for me. Sometimes the gameplay gets in the way of the story. It can be frustrating when I can’t figure out a puzzle but I want to continue the story. That isn’t the case here. The items and their use are very logical. There was only one time, in episode 4, that I had a hard time figuring out what to do next. after about a half an hour using objects on anything and everything, I ran to the internet for help. Turns out I had missed an entire area and a lightbulb had to be used with a dead deer to make a light for a photography darkroom. Other than that the puzzles were logical without being too easy.

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My favorite part of Season 1 was in episode 3. There’s an area that is covered in fog and throughout the episode, the characters tell you it cannot be traversed without a map. It turns out the map is actually a poem and you have to match the sound clues in the foggy area to lines in the poem to make it through. This section highlights the best parts, the sound design, and the writing.

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After the first 4 chapters, there are 4 mini-scenes in the extras.  They don’t give any answers to the original chapters and provide a lot of questions for the next season. I wan’t expecting these when I finished the game and clicked the extras menu. It was a nice touch.

It took me 5 hours to complete Season 1. That’s more time than I initially thought I would get out of it. I’m very much looking forward to playing through season 2 and seeing how the story plays out.

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Going West

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I left work on Thursday ready for the 3 day weekend ahead. I left earlier than usual because the place was dead. I do IT at a school and, trust me, no one wants to deal with a broken computer the day before a break. That’s what Monday is for.

I got home and went to boot up Trove only to find that I was getting a network error when I tried to log in. Shortly after, the launcher reported that the game was offline for some emergency maintenance. My plans for the evening were put on indefinite hold. So I went hunting around on my desktop for something else to play.

I settled on World to The West. I believe this game came from a Humble Bundle Monthly and I had no idea what to expect going in. From the few screenshots on the store page, it looked like a top-down RPG of some sort. As it turns out, this game is actually a standalone follow up to Teslagrad. I’ve played Teslagrad on the PS4 thanks to PS+. I didn’t get very far but it’s a solid Metroidvania.

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World to the West turns out to be less of an RPG and more of a puzzle game with a story.  So far I’ve played as 3 characters. There’s Lumina the teslamancer who can teleport a short distance,  Knaus the miner who can dig under the terrain to avoid enemies and crawl through small spaces, and Miss Teri the mercenary who can grapple onto ledges with her scarf and, uh, mind control animals. Ya, that’s something I didn’t see coming.

The story has Lumina accidentally getting teleported away from her family after messing with her parent’s machines. She ends up in an unknown location, runs around for a bit, and then promptly falls into a hole. Cut to chapter two where we meet Knaus who is trying to convince his mining operation that they are not, in fact, on the moon. This revelation is made after he and a group of others find a tree growing underground. After explaining this to the higher-ups he’s exiled to wanter the caves alone. Cut to chapter three and we meet Miss Teri. A daring mercenary hired to retrieve an ancient relic from a cave. Shortly after venturing out from the town Teri meets Knaus at a totem with 4 faces on it, two of which are theirs. At this point Knaus if following Teri and this is where the real heart of the game lies.

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There are totems throughout the world that serve as both save points and fast travel points. The catch is each character has to touch the totem before they can use it to fast travel. So if Teri reaches a totem using her special abilities then you have to find a way for Knaus to reach that totem using his abilities in order for him to use the fast travel. I like this concept as it makes you really pay attention to the environment.

I ended up switching between characters a lot. Sometimes there’s a key that one character can’t reach so I would have to switch to the other character, run them back o where I was and pick up the key for the other character to use.

Here’s what typically happens to me with puzzle games. I really enjoy the beginning where the game teaches you all the mechanics of the game.  I start to feel confident leveraging all the different parts to complete the puzzles, progressing at a good clip. And then the game throws a curveball where I’m stuck. Then I put it down and never come back.

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I’ve been attempting to get better at not quitting when games get complicated. I don’t think I’m far enough into World to the West to hit a major head-scratching challenge. I have run into a couple of areas where I ran around for a few minutes trying to figure out how to progress. This almost always came down to me missing something like a small side path or a key.

This game has great music. I don’t often pay attention to music in games but, when it’s good, it sticks out. Each area seems to have its own track. I find myself trying to complete a difficult area just so I can hear the next song.

I’m looking forward to playing more. The writing is quirky and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I want to see where this story goes and the core gameplay is enjoyable. Maybe next time I play it won’t be because the other game I want to play is down for emergency maintenance.