ReviewMango | ReviewMango http://www.reviewmango.com Your freshest source for gaming news, reviews, previews and editorials. Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:09:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rise of The Tomb Raider Xbox Exclusivity is Timed http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/08/14/rise-tomb-raider-xbox-exclusivity-timed/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/08/14/rise-tomb-raider-xbox-exclusivity-timed/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 16:15:57 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6450 Well, that quickly became old news. In response to the reaction against Rise of the Tomb Raider XBox exclusivity announcement at Gamercom 2014, Xbox boss Phil Spencer confirmed that Microsoft’s exclusivity deal is[...]

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Well, that quickly became old news.

In response to the reaction against Rise of the Tomb Raider XBox exclusivity announcement at Gamercom 2014, Xbox boss Phil Spencer confirmed that Microsoft’s exclusivity deal is limited in an interview with Eurogamer. Spencer declined to confirm the length of this exclusivity and wouldn’t speak on Square Enix’s behalf. He did compare the deal made with Crystal Dynamics to other Xbox One games such as Dead Rising and Ryse, which will also launch on PC.

Essentially Spencer washed his hands of the curiously worded announcements, stating it was not his responsibility:

I don’t own every iteration of Tomb Raider.  I don’t own them [Crystal Dynamics] building Tomb Raider on other platforms. I can’t talk about the franchise that way. I can talk about the deal I have…There are certain things I’m just not going to talk about because it’s a business deal between us and them. Obviously the deal does have a duration. I didn’t buy the IP in perpetuity.

While Spencer’s statement is valid, the whole debacle continues to fuel dissent across the gamer community.  Many angry gamers have accused publishers like Square Enix of selling out and alienating their customers. It would not be surprising to suppose that this affair has also convinced also some people not to by the title at all.

Hopefully developers and publishers alike will be more careful with how they word future press releases and statements.  But for the most part, it’s back to business as usual.

 Rise of the Tomb Raider is an action-adventure title coming exclusively to Xbox consoles during the 2015 holiday period. Duration of exclusivity and release dates on other consoles are yet to be announced.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider announced as an Xbox One Exclusive http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/08/13/rise-tomb-raider-announced-xbox-one-exclusive/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/08/13/rise-tomb-raider-announced-xbox-one-exclusive/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:58:46 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6431 In a surprising move during Microsoft’s Gamescom 2014, Crystal Dynamics announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider is to be released exclusively on the Xbox One. Below is the conference footage to prove it. To[...]

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In a surprising move during Microsoft’s Gamescom 2014, Crystal Dynamics announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider is to be released exclusively on the Xbox One. Below is the conference footage to prove it.

To add further validity to the announcement, Darrell Gallagher, Crystal Dynamics’ head of studio, also released the following open letter on Tomb Raider’s official tumblr explaining the decision to keep Lara Croft on solely on Microsoft’s gaming platforms:

Dear Tomb Raider Community,

As you may have seen, we’ve just announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox. We consider all of you to be the lifeblood of Tomb Raider and the work we do at Crystal. I’d like to give you some insight into this decision, and why we feel this is the very best thing for the Tomb Raider sequel we’re creating at the studio.

Tomb Raider in 2013 was a success due in large part to your continued support. Our goal has always been to deliver something truly special with Rise of the Tomb Raider. Today’s announcement with Microsoft is one step to help us put Tomb Raider on top of action adventure gaming. Our friends at Microsoft have always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider and have believed in our vision since our first unveil with them on their stage at E3 2011. We know they will get behind this game more than any support we have had from them in the past – we believe this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming, with the help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft.

This doesn’t mean that we’re walking away from our fans who only play on PlayStation or on PC. Those are great systems, with great partners, and amazing communities. We have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming to those platforms this December, and Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4.

We know that there are probably many more questions and concerns. Please do send them to us, and we’ll answer to the best of our ability. Meanwhile we’re going all out to try and make something truly special – the most ambitious Tomb Raider game ever built.

Despite the assurances put forward by Crystal Dynamics, the gamer community has been set ablaze with criticism for the decision. It has escalated to the point a petition to Square Enix has been made in the hopes of the decision being reversed. While it seems this is a definite confirmation that Rise of the Tomb Raider is a set exclusive, there are still gamers who cling to the hope that it could still be a timed one.

But let us know what you think below in the comments!

Rise of the Tomb Raider is an action-adventure title coming exclusively to Xbox One during the holiday 2015 period. 

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Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms – Preview (Early Access Impressions) http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/23/early-access-review-shadows-heretic-kingdoms/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/23/early-access-review-shadows-heretic-kingdoms/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:42:57 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6223 When I first opened this game, I played for 11 minutes. I had to go lie down afterwards. I tried again. 6 minutes this time. This game is sapping my[...]

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When I first opened this game, I played for 11 minutes. I had to go lie down afterwards. I tried again. 6 minutes this time. This game is sapping my strength. Then I played more and more, determined to find something that could justify the £23 (!!!) price tag. I didn’t. It’s not a horrendous game! It’s not even bad! It’s just unfinished. Clearly, because it’s in Early Access! Missing voice-acting, placeholder animations, the whole lot, explained by the game being in a Pre-Alpha state. This perplexes me beyond belief. But.. I’ll get to all of this later. There’s a game here (barely) that I need to talk about.

Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms is attempting to put a spin on the Diablo-style dungeon crawler. You’ve got your overhead camera, your loot fascination and your different character classes. The kicker is that you are all the characters at once – to some extent. You play as a ‘Devourer’; a summoned spirit of some description that has the ability to devour souls and create ‘Puppets’ that allow you to interact with the physical world. You switch between these different puppets (and yourself) to solve puzzles within dungeons and to access new areas since the Devourer occupies a different realm of existence. So what you’ve got is multiple character classes at once and a dual world mechanic. Maybe it is just because not much of the game is accessible in this Pre-Alpha but I did feel that all of these different states worked well together. I was worried it would get chaotic, but at least in this pre-alpha it works nicely. That’s… about all I can come up with for the positive side. Really. The core concept of this game is neatly packaged, thumbs up. But what possible critiques can I give to a game this early in development?

I’ve got just a few. The combat makes me sad. It is flaccid, weak. I picked a Warrior soul to devour and puppet, the Warrior comes with an AoE hammer smash attack. In any other game this would be an earth-shaking mighty blow that decimates enemies. In Shadows however, it feels like I’m swatting the floor with a mop, and that’s just depressing! Another thing, the Devourer and each puppet draws from a separate experience pool. So you will be running through each dungeon twice essentially, once for the puppet you want to level, then again for the Devourer. Why is that a thing? That shouldn’t be a thing. There are also no checkpoints, meaning you have to save for yourself, lest you are kicked back and forced to start an entirely new game. This game is flawed, true, but I can’t tell what flaws are a result of bad design or a result of the game’s unfinished state due to how unbelievably early this game is in its development.

Do you remember those discs you got in magazines? They were full of demos for new games? Why are demos a dying art? When a dev wanted to build hype for a new game, they just created one or two levels and polished it up. Nowadays? They release their game for full price in an unfinished state and promise you that “No, really! This game will be worth the money eventually!”. You know, Minecraft was worth the money it asked back in Alpha. Because in that state, it was already a vast sandbox full of creative tools. Shadows is a skeleton, hardly even that, it’s half a ribcage. Early Access is not the right program for this game.

My message to readers is DO NOT buy the game in its current state. There isn’t enough here to even tell you if there is a good game coming in the future. My message to the developers is, you made a bad choice with Early Access. You are potentially harming your game with this business model where a free demo bundled with one of your previous games would do a much better job. Excitement for a game can be generated in many more ways than squeezing money out of people for an unfinished product.

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Stronghold Crusader 2: System Requirements, Closed Beta and Final Speculations Prior to Release http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/23/stronghold-crusader-2-system-requirements-closed-beta-final-speculations-prior-release/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/23/stronghold-crusader-2-system-requirements-closed-beta-final-speculations-prior-release/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 06:47:35 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6305 With Stronghold Crusader 2 set to launch on September 2 2014 there’s little time left to speculate on how well the game could do in the light of its predecessor.  Since showcasing[...]

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With Stronghold Crusader 2 set to launch on September 2 2014 there’s little time left to speculate on how well the game could do in the light of its predecessor.  Since showcasing the game at E3 2014, Firefly Studios has really pulled out their guns to try and get more player on board.

Since my last article on the upcoming title, I’ve been interested in the content of subsequent information releases.  Finally departing from exploring their Arab-themed counterparts, the developers have introduced two medieval European AI, Richard the Lionheart and the Rat, who also happen to be iconic characters of the Stronghold franchise in general.  I’m also hoping that there will also be new AI opponents with a western background but that is probably unlikely.

Map sizes have also been a subject of interest and it’s great that not only is the map editor included (unsurprisingly) but will there be extra large map sizes at release.  On somewhat of an unrelated note, a personal peeve when I played Stronghold games is scrolling to the map’s edge.  In the original Stronghold Crusader moving past the map edge was impossible.  But in comparison, the amount of useless black space players could scroll into in other Stronghold installments was terrible.  I’m still not really sold on having the map edge depicted as a dotted line as shown in this title’s E3 2014 stage demo.  It’s also annoying that AI movement continues to appear clunky and I’m just going to have to conclude that it’s a limitation of programming and design.  In addition to the map discussions, I’ve found it strange that Firefly Studios had to make a big deal about the inclusion of  core gameplay units like the siege engineer.  I suppose it was necessary as legitimate developmental reasons initially caused these units to be scrapped. But it concerned me that the developers could be cutting out some of the mechanics and units present in the original.  I personally did not find fault in them, and hopefully these aspects have all been expanded on as expected of a good sequel.

Besides those issues I don’t have any other prospective criticisms for Stronghold Crusader 2.  From the footage seen in the stage demo I was impressed even with the small gameplay nuances such as the camera flexibility or the layout of the user interface (UI). The E3 demo has also made me interested in what the game has to offer.  I cannot wait to find out how the management of a keep’s economy and military works, which in turn has also made me curious about the variety of game modes, campaigns and co-op instances. The introduction of environmental hazards, such as locust swarms and desert tornadoes, has also made me excited which add more layers of complexity.  And aesthetically the game continues to look quite appealing, particularly with the environmental textures.  I also appreciate that the developers have also ensured that their game is rooted well in its historic era (that is the Middle East circa 1189), so the technology and terrain is faithful to the reality of that period.  So even though I believe the developers have hinted at DLCs forthcoming in the future, the base game for Stronghold Crusader 2 looks and feels as though it is packed with content.

Visually the game continues to boast a plethora of improvements and new buildings in comparison to the original. For example, veteran players can probably pick out here that mounted siege equipment now have their own wooden platforms.

The announcement commencing closed beta testing earlier this week has also made me hopeful for the title’s success, especially since watching the E3 demo.  The game is essentially feature-complete since it has entered this phase, and expectantly the period will be spent optimising the game’s performance on PC and tweaking gameplay.  Firefly Studios has continued to affirm their dedication to making Stronghold Crusader 2 a game that still retains all of the original’s positives:

Our stated goal with Crusader 2 was to create the best 3D Stronghold game yet and that’s exactly what we intent to deliver.  Everyone here at Firefly wants the playability of the 2D Stronghold titles within a 3D space…

But given their track record, the developers still have to prove that they are capable of creating worthy sequels.  And if memory also serves me correctly, beta testing for other Stronghold installments didn’t save them from how terrible they were. But this is where Stronghold Crusader 2′s new 3D engine, authentic castle simulation and real time destruction powered by Havok Physics gets interesting.  I appreciate that Firefly Studios has so far shown that they seem to be handling this sequel in respect to the first game to the point that they are doing their best to ensure that it can run on a variety of systems.  As such the minimum PC system requirements for Stronghold Crusader 2 are as follows:

  • Operating System: Windows® XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8 (latest service packs) with DirectX 9.0c
  • Processor: Intel Core2 Duo 2Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 2GB RAM
  • Video: NVIDIA® GeForce® 8800GT 512MB or AMD Radeon™ HD 2900XT 512MB or better
  • Storage: 6 GB available HD space
  • Internet: Broadband Internet connection

Stronghold Crusader 2 is a sim castle builder set for PC release on September 2 2014.  It will be available for purchase in physical copies and on Steam.

 

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Transistor – Review http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/16/transistor-review/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/16/transistor-review/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 12:08:04 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6194 Okay, so before anything else is said, let me just say this: Transistor is beautiful, fast-paced, and a definite must-have for gamers everywhere. Made by Supergiant, the makers of the[...]

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Okay, so before anything else is said, let me just say this: Transistor is beautiful, fast-paced, and a definite must-have for gamers everywhere. Made by Supergiant, the makers of the critically acclaimed Bastion, Transistor is a plot-driven RPG full of action and combat. By taking the familiar and successful elements of Bastion, adding a new and unique twist to them, and throwing them into a truly amazing world unlike anything I’ve seen, Supergiant has once again made a product that is almost more of a masterpiece than it is a game.

In a city known as Cloudbank, you play as Red, a famous singer known for her talent, and controversial pieces on the government. After an assassination attempt, from a group known as the Camerata, ends with an unnamed man taking the fall in your place, you gain possession of the sword used for the job: the Transistor. Now, with the voice of the man within the sword, and your voice completely gone, you must try to uncover what is happening, and how to stop it.

When first starting Transistor, there is no menu, nor credits. A small loading screen is immediately followed by the game itself, throwing the character directly into the fray. While it may sound a little chaotic, I personally love the idea. Game developers everywhere strive to make their games more and more immersive, but what better way to get the player into the action than getting rid of the main menu entirely. Nearly everyone just taps “A” like a lunatic to get to playing anyway, so just letting you out of the stables by skipping straight to the game is appreciated.

Turn()
After a short sequence solely there to completely screw with your mind (no specifics, spoilers and whatnot), you get to the meat of the game itself. Transistor totes a top-down, third-person combat mechanic. It’s a tad bit like Diablo, but the movement and combat is far more fluid, allowing fights to be a bit more fast paced. However, what really sets Transistor apart from just about any other game is its “Turn()” mechanic. At short intervals, you can go into a planning phase, where you can coordinate a mix of movement and attacks to devastate your foes. Normal combat exists, and is still very gratifying and rapid; but being able to stop the action at a moment’s notice, and coordinate a devastating chain of attacks, allows an otherwise overwhelming situation to become manageable, and helps you to turn the tables at almost any point in time. However, you are very limited in what you can do in this phase, and have to wait a decent bit of time before you can attack again at all, be it normally or while time is stopped, so there is a certain risk/reward situation here that forces you to be careful and not overdo it.

Customizing
Yet another aspect of Transistor that caught my eye was the combat customization. A wide array of moves can be collected throughout the game, by either discovery or leveling up. This alone offers a nice, regular reward. Leveling up was exciting, and gave me something to really look forward to; instead of just showing me a number that represented me being “better”, I gained whole new abilities, each bringing something different to the table. It makes things feel more tangible than simply increased skills, and really makes leveling a treat.

But what really makes Transistor’s combat unique is just how far the customization goes. Usually, one gained ability will be passive, while another is active, and so on and so forth. But when it comes to the moves gained in Transistor, each one has an ability for each category. By matching the move’s respective ability to the category best suited for you, your move set, passives, attacks, and effects, are all tailor-made to your preferences. You can even mix attacks together in order to enhance them with extra abilities (for example, a fast, short-range move, after enhancing it with a slow but long-range attack, will give you a fast and long range move). The level of custom fitting your moves to your design is something I have never seen taken as far as it is in Transistor. It may sound a little confusing written out like this, but trust me, I almost had as much fun just mixing and matching all the different goodies I had gotten from leveling as I did from actually playing the game. My only complaint I have about this mechanic, is the menu designed to use it.

When entering the menu for customization, every single attack you have is just thrown into your face. In order to see which attacks are where, you have to choose one of them, and “pretend” that you want to equip it. Basically, you have to lie to the game in order to see what moves are actually being used. Sure, the attacks equipped are highlighted in the first menu, but which one is equipped as a passive, or an attack, or an effect? Well, the menu has no answers for you, so it becomes a safari adventure to see what attacks are being used and where. It might sound unimportant, but when you get a brand spanking new attack, and are trying to find out how to use it, not actually being able to see if that one attack you got a while back (and promptly forgot about) is actually an attack, effect, or passive, and having to click “Install Move” just to see that you don’t actually want to install that move, but that other one you got from the very start of the game, gets a little tiring after the first few tries. Still, I feel like the genius of the customizing mechanic outweighs this, but to say that this clumsy menu is no biggie is a blatant lie.

Combat
Well, making the moves is fun enough, but how do they work in actual combat? Not bad, but not all that good either. The personalized moves let the combat feel comfortable, and is overall pretty fast-paced. But honestly, I wasn’t as blown away as I thought I would be. For one, most of your moves are a tad bit too slow. I mean, there are a ton of rapid attacks, but I feel like almost 60% of the moves aren’t fast enough to be very functional. A lot of your enemies are very fast, and with the fighting areas usually being relatively small, they tend to cover a lot of ground very quickly. Meanwhile, an attempt to do any injury while you’re getting bum rushed results in one hit on the enemy, and your face getting torn clean off. When in Turn(), just about all disfunctionality is gone, but unless combat was meant to be carried out entirely in this phase, I feel like many of these moves could use a good overhaul. Still, fighting is very fun, and makes up for this shortcoming by being extremely forgiving. When you “die” you aren’t sent back to your last checkpoint. Instead, you simply lose the right to use one of your moves for a while. Of course, when all equipped moves are gone (you are allowed 4 at a time), then you do actually die, but I feel like this is a pretty good trade-off. In fact, it almost feels like Supergiant knew that combat was a little shaky, and decided to balance things out by making death much less punishing. But whether or not this was the intention, this mechanic allows combat to remain fast and fun. It could have been better, but it is more than enough to keep the game interesting.

Plot
So, I have covered just about all mechanical aspects of this game that are worth mentioning, but what about the game itself? Is the story good? Well, to summarize in one word: absolutely. When it comes to indie games, I’ve seen plenty that go all out in an attempt to make a plot worth listening to, and honestly, I cannot confidently say that any of them have gotten close to the level that Transistor has. It is quite simply brilliant, throws you loop after loop, keeps you engaged and anxious to see what is coming up, and most of all, paints a world which is truly stunning. For the sake of preserving as much of the experience as I can, I’m not going to say anything about what actually happens, but talking about the world itself won’t do too much harm.

Environment
The world of Cloudbank is a lot like Tron. Everything is described with computer code, “random events” are programmed and preset, and people get to vote on what will happen and when. Even events such as whether or not it should rain are all determined through votes. Already, this concept is pretty impressive. However, Supergiant took it one step further. Most games would make sure that you were up to date by giving you an opening cut scene brimming with exposition, and technically, that is all fine and dandy. But with Transistor, you are left to figure things out on your own. The only exposition you get is a visual of a person’s conscious being downloaded into your “sword”; but when you see events such as, or similar to that, over and over again, you start to put the pieces together, and formulate for yourself what this world is. Basically, by feeding you small hint after small hint, Transistor shows you just enough for you to figure things out by yourself, allowing the full depth of the world to be retained. See, in a game where everything is just explained right from the get-go, the experience can (in some cases) be a little dulled. We already know what the world will be like, and are prepared for the subtle nuances and quirks that it has to offer, leaving just a little to be truly discovered for ourselves. But when you toss the player into an outlandish world with no explanation or preparation, they are almost forced to experience the awe, making it far more exciting.

In Conclusion…
All in all, Transistor is one of the more impressive games that I have played to date. It has a couple of issues here and there, but what game doesn’t. Plus, what it may slightly lack in combat and comprehensive menus, it majorly makes up for with an unforgettable plot, beautiful art style, amazing soundtrack, and an ending that’ll leave your jaw sufficiently dropped.

Transistor is out now for PC.

Summary

  • Customizable movesets unlike anything I’ve seen before
  • Leveling up is very rewarding
  • Fantastic AAA-level plot
  • Art and music both stunning
  • Combat could do with a little tweaking
  • Customization menu overwhelming and annoying

8.9/10

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Ascendant – Review http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/06/ascendant-review/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/06/ascendant-review/#comments Sat, 05 Jul 2014 22:37:16 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6238 Art and video games have a love-hate relationship. Many developers, and players, want games to be viewed in the same light as movies or music, and have them acknowledged for their creativity. This[...]

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Art and video games have a love-hate relationship. Many developers, and players, want games to be viewed in the same light as movies or music, and have them acknowledged for their creativity. This has been disputed time and time again by prolific opponents, and many players shun the concept as silly and simply unrequired. No matter how long the debate rages on, it’s impossible to dispute the fact that some games are made with nothing more than a pure, artistic vision. Some games are dragged down by this design philosophy, with the core gameplay suffering to make way for gorgeous visuals, and concepts completely outside the norm. Other games manage to use this sort of beautiful art design to create backdrops to excellently executed gaming experiences.

This is the challenge that Ascendant, a beat-em-up roguelike, has set for itself. As soon as the game begins, one thing is very clear: Ascendant is a beautiful game. The colors are vibrant and plentiful, with blues, oranges, reds, and greens combined in ways that give the game a very distinctive, and well-thought-out look. Using the four seasons as the inspiration for level design, each stage of the game has a distinct look and color pallete which, as stated before, is beautiful to behold. And though the soundtrack is simple in nature, the sounds present serve to enhance the visuals in a big way. Most of the music has a calm tone, which contrasts with the hectic nature of the hack and slash combat.

Putting you in the shoes of one of seven demi-god characters, you are tasked with raising yourself to full god status—hence the title. You do this by battling through the seasons of the year, going through both an early and late section of both. After you have completed these eight levels, you will progress through a final stage called ‘astral’. Astral is a fair degree longer than the previous levels, and will challenge your mastery of the game, easily providing the highest difficulty of the entire game. Once you manage to beat the game with a particular character, then that demi-god will be counted as ‘ruling the world’, and will grant an extra buff to the other gods as you play.

What makes Ascendant so special, even among the flood of games using the rogue formula, is that the meticulously crafted art approach is not just surface deep. In fact, in the brawler, the art is only its secondary strength. Ascendant really shines thanks to a set of rock solid combat mechanics that are easy to learn, but much more difficult to truly master.

Gameplay for Ascendant takes place on a two-dimensional plane, where you will platform around the randomly generated levels, slaying enemies to earn powerups and progress. At the end of each level, you will fight a boss character. Some of these bosses are notoriously simple, such as the goblin like Grunty at the end of stage one. Other bosses, as you will discover quite quickly, are far more difficult, and will push your knowledge of the movement and combat systems as far as possible. You will find yourself simultaneously dodging the attacks of the boss, dealing with the minions that often spawn with bosses, and trying to deal damage.

In some cases, you can have multiple potential bosses at the end of the level. This often makes the boss battle at the end of a stage feel like Russian roulette. If a simple boss is fought, the player will have more health remaining at the end of the conflict, and will thus have an easier time in the next level. Likewise, a more challenging boss is taxing, and escaping the fight itself is enough to make a player feel accomplished. If they manage to escape with more health though? Then the feeling of accomplishment is insurmountable as health is easily the most valuable resource.

It’s difficult to stress just how well the mechanics in Ascendant work. From the basic action of stringing together small combos on the ground, to the trickier and far flashier act of mixing melee with air juggles and magic to make your enemies your own personal playthings. Every nut and bolt within the game just feels right. Again, this is what is so impressive about Ascendant.

Happa Games, the developer, has even managed to make great use of an often fumbled aspect of the genre. Levels in Ascendant are procedurally generated. More often than not, this leads to levels feeling forced or unnatural, and ruins the flow of the game. In Ascendant, this is not the case; levels just feel right. Never do you walk into a room and feel like it was just created. Instead, it flows well, with enemies and rewards positioned in ways that make sense, and even manage to look good. After seeing many games fail at precisely this, it’s difficult to not give Ascendant praise for this seemingly small feat.

When talking about Ascendant, there isn’t a huge amount to be said. The game is beautiful both visually and technically. It is fun, difficult, and fair all at the same time. It suffers in very few points around the board. You will see the same enemies over and over again, with little changing aside from the aesthetic of the levels, which just boils down to some changed effects, and a new splash of paint. Across the staggering variety of weapons and spells, nothing truly feels unique and your play style will stay the same no matter what you are wielding.

Thankfully, in the end, these faults are minor, and one thing is very clear. Ascendant is the best entry in a genre that has been saturated constantly as of late, and anyone who appreciates both art and gameplay should play it. It is worth it.

Ascendant is out now for PC.

Summary

  • Mechanics are tight and precise
  • Beautiful art direction
  • Combat is fun, allowing you to feel both powerful and fallible all at the same time
  • Limited variety of enemies can get boring
  • Weapons boil down to stat changes and nothing more

8/10

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ReviewMango’s Best of E3 2014 http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/06/21/reviewmangos-best-e3-2014/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/06/21/reviewmangos-best-e3-2014/#comments Sat, 21 Jun 2014 14:41:04 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6079 Whereas last year’s E3 was largely dominated by new hardware announcements, this year has been “all about the games”. Having had some time to digest the deluge of information, we each[...]

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Whereas last year’s E3 was largely dominated by new hardware announcements, this year has been “all about the games”. Having had some time to digest the deluge of information, we each discuss and break down our favourites from this year’s show.

 

Seathe Linden

Out of everything showcased this year the one title I’m really yearning for is Hidetaka Miyazaki’s Bloodborne. Seriously, his games have created a whole new benchmark for games in general and in themselves are quite the works of art. Although I was pretty bummed that there were a few games announced this season that aren’t going to be released until next year like Rise of the Tomb Raider (another game I’m also looking forward to). Seriously what’s up with that?

But with there are plenty of other games that I can’t wait to play. The Assassin’s Creed games are my one guilty pleasure.  While the series is becoming dry for some players, I always enjoy exploring Ubisoft’s recreations of historical environments.  Not to mention that the multiplayer looks absolutely gorgeous in Assassin’s Creed: Unity. The gameplay footage for Batman: Arkham Knight, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Far Cry 4 was fantastic. And while I didn’t really see too much eye candy for these games, Mirror’s Edge 2 and Stronghold Crusader 2 are both games I’m keen to get my hands on.

It was also good to see that some companies learned from their mistakes from last year. After the X-Bone debacle, Microsoft resumed trying to satisfy their hardcore audience by focusing on promoting games which was a good call. Nintendo also had some pretty good games to showcase. Both the Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Warriors and the Legend of Zelda working title looked exciting, but that’s probably because I’m quite the sucker for that series. And with Bayonetta 2 looking swankier than ever, I might just be tempted to buy a WiiU.

Overall the promotion of capabilities of next-gen consoles was quite enthralling. For me at least, Microsoft’s announcement for the Master Chief Collection was pretty swell. But hopefully things won’t be too over-hyped this time around.

Callum Taylor

I don’t think there even is a “best” here. Looking back on all the coverage, I can only pluck one or two names that registered on my Intrigue-o-meter. The gamer community seems to unanimously agree that the focus on software as opposed to hardware was all around a good thing and that’s a sentiment I share. But was the software any good? We got more information on the yearly Call of Duty sequel, Advanced Warfare, which I find is becoming more and more desperate to find new ways to make the game fresh ever since it perfected the Arcade Twitch style of shooter back in CoD 4. Dying Light was also a stand-out contender with the Dead Rising/Mirrors Edge mechanics. The fact I haven’t heard of any controversy surrounding development is a good sign, no graphics downgrades and no console issues in sight. No Man’s Sky takes the prize for ambition if it really wants to follow through on the scale it claims the in-game galaxy will be, the blank-slate approach to player equipment and skills also looks like it will allow for any number of characters. A pleasing prospect for roleplayers, if it did not have some worrying information on the game’s website.

“Choose whether to share your discoveries with other players. They’re exploring the same vast universe in parallel; perhaps you’ll make your mark on their worlds as well as your own.”

Will this be asymmetrical multiplayer such as Dark Souls or are we looking at an MMO? Introverts never seem to catch a break.

However, the show wasn’t without hiccups. Ubisoft caught some flak when a promotional image for Assassin’s Creed: Unity showed 4 identical grizzled white dudes (who are actually the same character, Arno), prompting some gamers to ask the question ‘Why can we not play a female instead?’ and thus igniting discussions (read: arguments) over whether allowing the option of being a female is acceptable in forums across the web. Dead Rising 3 is going to have issues on the PC release, locked at 30fps, showing how much of an afterthought the port itself was. Debates as to which of the big 3 ‘won’ the whole of E3 too. But can anybody be called a winner when even the simple act of presenting a game in the works has quite a good chance of causing negative buzz through short-sightedness or neglect?

Nathan Hayman

Following on from the last two E3s, Ubisoft have continued their fine form, winning the show for me for the third year running. I was left gleaming when the likes of Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Far Cry 4 (two of my absolute favourite franchises) and The Division (which to me appears to be the next big step in the gaming industry) were shown to us. However, while these games left me feeling dread for a depleted bank account, the one game which completely blew my socks off was of course, the return to the Rainbow series, or more precisely the reveal of Rainbow Six: Siege.

This new version of Rainbow plays into everything I have ever wanted, a CQB, SWAT-like Ubisoft title. While the demo played to us was heavily scripted, even going as far to use include some ridiculous “gaming communication”, it left me wanting more, and then some. For me the next year is completely owned by Ubisoft, nothing Microsoft or Sony showed moved to the levels Ubisoft managed to push.

While I have covered my positives I feel its important to add my one major criticism of E3 this year – SONY. I wanted them to come out and persuade me to buy their PS4 platform (being a PC gamer) but they showed me NOTHING which made me think “I should go and buy a PS4″ (insert thinking cat meme here) – instead of focusing on third party devs (I’m looking at you Sony, and Microsoft) I think they should purely focus on their first party devlopers, leaving EA and Ubisoft the full limelight to show off their multi-platform titles.

Jason Dafnis

I’d be lying if I said that I followed this year’s E3 as closely as I wanted to (work and internship preparation have a nasty way of taking time away from dirt-poor gamers), but I will say that several showcased titles tickled my fancy. Heck, I’ll even tell you why. But as excited as I am for each of the following titles, I can’t help but play devil’s advocate; there was at least one aspect of each of the following games that nagged—and continues to nag—at my optimism.

UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END

In my opinion, Nathan Drake’s next foray will be the PlayStation 4′s killer app. Beautiful presentation (we already know that the E3 reveal trailer was made with in-game graphics) and a certain return of classic Uncharted gunplay will be enough to make me finally fork up the money for a new-gen system. I truly cannot wait to hear and see more of A Thief’s End.

BUT…

What if it doesn’t push the series far enough? A criticism of Uncharted 3 was that, while fun and attractive on the surface, it was a lot more of the same predictable pacing seen in its predecessors. Early last-gen games like Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots showed that a series can bridge the console generation gap with aplomb, but I’m still worried that franchise fatigue might follow Drake into the new gen.

LET IT DIE

I’ve been an avid fan of Suda51′s work since I first played No More Heroes. His work is so distinctive that once you become acquainted with its style, you can pretty accurately pick it out of a crowd. Lollipop ChainsawShadows of the Damned, and the No More Heroes series weren’t without their flaws, but their uniqueness made them some of my favorite titles from the last gen. Needless to say, I’m tantalized by the prospect of a next-gen Suda trip.

BUT…

Goichi Suda (A.K.A. “Suda51″) has a penchant for hitting the right notes in presentation or gameplay—but rarely both. Even with as little as we know about Let It Die, it’s safe to predict that there will be some damning flaw underneath a cool, interesting exterior. The question isn’t, “Will it fall short?”, but “How?”

NO MAN’S SKY

If what Hello Games tells us is true, they’ll give us the first game that allows us to truly explore the game world. Each of a variety of unique planets is procedurally generated and potentially uncharted, letting the player carve out their path and build their own understanding of the game world. On top of its core gameplay is a vivid, colorful art style that immediately catches the eye. No Man’s Sky might not have been the biggest game at E3 2014, but it certainly was the most interesting.

BUT…

I had to think pretty hard to come up with a “But…” for No Man’s Sky. The only concern I have is that the huge game world(s) may quickly lose their lustre under the pure weight of their own size. Countless open-world games have shown us that bigness for bigness’s sake can be as bad as limiting the player too much. It’s a con that we’ll only be able to quantify when the game releases, but there it is.

DEVIL’S THIRD

Former Ninja Gaiden developer Tomonobu Itagaki’s long-dormant Devil’s Third rounds out my non-all-inclusive list. First revealed in 2010, it has since adopted a new style and release console (it’s now a WiiU exclusive title, having been announced initially as a PS3 and Xbox 360 title). Its straight-up action track is what appeals to me: as of yet, we’ve seen no pretentious gameplay schticks or aloofness about the title. If it turns out to be as much ass-kicking fun as it looks like it is, Devil’s Third could turn out to be the WiiU’s MadWorld.

BUT…

Devil’s Third will be the first game from Valhalla Studios, a game development studio comprised of former Team Ninja members. While we’ve seen some great releases from these individuals in the past, there’s no telling if their work will come together as a cohesive whole. The game could easily fall apart by means of its own ambition if Itagaki isn’t able to maintain clear directive control.

Lucca RF

Last year I briefly mentioned it, and The Division still managed to captivate me this year. The Snowdrop Engine is creating some remarkable results, making what they showed one of the standout gameplay segments of the show for me. The weather effects, dynamic objects (paint cans exploding and splattering colour all over), and damage effects really bring the world to life. Add to that the kickass gadgets that we saw being used (taser trap, a drone that stuns enemies with strobe lights, an automated flamethrower turret, and what I can only describe as a “mini clusterbomb grenade”), and it looks to be shaping up pretty well.

No Man’s Sky hit a particular sweet spot for me: lush, colourful graphics, the promise of a theoretically infinite—yet seemingly interesting—universe to explore, and a mix of both wandering about and exploring the vast skies above—with a splash of spaceship dogfighting. If it can actually deliver on all this, and of course this is just a tease of what we’ll actually be able to do in the game, then it has the potential to be something truly big.

Being a huge Uncharted fan since back when Drake’s Fortune considerably brightened up the prospect of buying a PS3, I have a lot of confidence in Naughty Dog to do the same with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End on the PS4. While not surprising, I was extremely happy to see a slightly longer (if still quite uninformative) trailer at E3, than the teaser trailer we were previously shown. Graphically it looks fantastic (all shot in-engine, with Naughty Dog claiming that they don’t plan to employ CG cutscenes in the future), and retains the classic Uncharted vibe that makes the series stand out.

Overall, Ubisoft had the strongest showing for me, with The Division as I mentioned before, The Crew looking to add a hugely social—and open—world to the racing genre, Rainbow Six: Siege looking like a slick and polished special forces experience, and AC: Unity pushing the series’ graphical fidelity beyond even what Black Flag showed us. Of course it’s all rehearsed and we’re only treated to the good parts, but that’s the magic of E3: for a few days in the year, we can hope and dream about how these games could turn out.

Nathaniel Webner

There were a couple of things that I was really looking forward to seeing in this year’s E3. But I have to say that what I was looking forward to the most was news on truly innovative developments in the gaming world. With two new consoles just being born, this convention really defined where the gaming industry would be taking this new hardware. And it seemed to me, from what I have drawn, that how games are played is going to be changing in the upcoming months. With the numerous announcements on incoming AAA titles, came the overwhelming trend of combining single player and multiplayer in some pretty interesting ways. Of course, there are the obvious examples like Destiny, where even single player will, to an extent, involve player to player interaction, working together to meet a common goal without heavy multiplayer involvement (an idea that I think could work out very well, provided it’s not forced on gamers). However, even games such as Tom Clancys’ The Division show aspects of “multi-single player”, as players can team up in a sort of randomized co-op. This idea of single player/multiplayer crossover is defining the next gen consoles, and will be a common theme in the upcoming year. So being able to see that development all at once in E3 was truly phenomenal.

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Skyforge – The “Ascension Atlas” Breakdown http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/06/19/skyforge-ascension-atlas-breakdown/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/06/19/skyforge-ascension-atlas-breakdown/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 22:47:44 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6048 Following the commencement of the world-building of Aelion, Allods Online dives deeper into Skyforge with a formal introduction to the “Ascension Atlas”, a fancy name for the MMORPG’s combat and class manager. In[...]

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Following the commencement of the world-building of Aelion, Allods Online dives deeper into Skyforge with a formal introduction to the “Ascension Atlas”, a fancy name for the MMORPG’s combat and class manager. In advance, I have to say that this trailer felt more like a commercial and the more concrete information concerning this mechanic could be found on a post in the Skyforge forums.

I suppose that the term “Ascension Atlas” has an immersive quality about it. The developers have stated that the deities of Aelion are expected to both fight and constantly improve their combat abilities to adequately combat whatever monstrosities invade their planet. In many other games most skill trees feel tacked on, so it’s nice to see that the developers have let their leveling mechanic actually have some relevance to the overall lore of Skyforge. Additionally, players can only bind one player to a Skyforge account, but the bonus is that this account has access to all the classes.

But on to the actual details. First let’s take a closer look at the Atlas’ look, purpose and how to use it. Essentially the Atlas is a map of “nodes”, the term the developers have used to describe the dots on the diagram. Each node has a description, and all of them are visible from the beginning. Players can zoom in and out the Atlas interface for easy and convenient navigation.

The Atlas enables players to learn new skills, talents and unlock different classes. However, the developers have stated that at the “initial stage”, players will be able to choose from several classes and will have the ability to switch between them using a separate interface that is not connected to the Ascension Atlas. Whether this is a reference to playing Skyforge in its beta, or that the Atlas has to be unlocked later during in-game progression can only be clarified once the developers release more information.

Regardless and unsurprisingly, the Atlas is also a key instrument of character progression. For each unlocked node in the Atlas, players will receive “prestige points” that reflects the degree of character development. And obviously by participating in quests and various other activities, players can collect resources for the unlocking some of the Atlas nodes.

So far it has been confirmed that for leveling up in the Atlas there are three types of resources:

  • Rubies of Strength: increases maximum energy which in turn increases damage stats and unlocks new abilities.
  • Emeralds of Life: primarily increases defensive stats.
  • Sapphires of Knowledge: allows players to use secondary stats and learn new talents.

Additionally, abilities and talents are unique to their respective classes while stats remain a common attribute to a character regardless of how players may switch between classes. All stats gained are accumulated and saved, so should a player decide to stop playing one class and switch to another there will not be any progression loss.

Secondly comes a trickier aspect, how the Ascension Atlas itself is divided. The Atlas consists of two levels, the lower and the upper.

The “lower level” of the Atlas is dedicated to class development and where the resources stated above will be in most use. This is where skills and talents can be attained for a class. Once a class has been developed to a certain point, players will be allowed to learn a powerful ultimate ability, thus gaining access to the upper level. Below are two screenshots of this lower level to give a bit more visual context. Descriptions have been added for further clarification.

This screenshot depicts a self-contained cluster of the "lower level" of the Ascension Atlas. Once an ultimate ability has been unlocked in the "lower level", class progression will branch out and open new opportunities to refine a class' skills.

The “upper level” of the Ascension Atlas is dedicated to “global progression”. On this level other classes can be unlocked as well as “perks” in varying degrees of specialty. These special passive skills can be used by any class, unlike the class-specific abilities on the lower level. I am assuming that this described upper level consists of the golden clusters as depicted below.

On this screenshot, there is a perk the middle of the central cluster which increases critical chance, while the perk in the middle of the left cluster is the Paladin class.

A screenshot depicting the “upper level” of the Ascension Atlas.  For a guide, the perk middle of the central cluster increases critical chance, while in the far left cluster the perk in the middle unlocks the Paladin class.

But once again, this Ascension Atlas may look good in gamer theory but there is still the chance for it to completely flop or be drastically changed. Even with Skyforge’s showcase at E3 behind closed doors, the developers have admitted the game is still a work in progress and based on the results of the testing, parts of it can be changed or adjusted. Though I have to admit even if I didn’t get to actually see some actual footage the game looks pretty swell.

A photo capturing a "Skyforge" playthrough at E3.

A photo capturing a Skyforge playthrough at E3.

And aside from all the perks, abilities and stats, classes clearly play a key role in the variety within Skyforge’s experience. As the developers stated in the “Ascension Atlas” forum post:

We did not come to this decision lightly; we tried to create variety in gameplay by making each class completely unique. With this approach to character development, players will not have to spend a lot of time trying different classes or trying to pick a playstyle best suited to them.

Hopefully this also means that players could see a breakaway from the traditional MMORPG mould where endless hours are spent grinding characters up to a particular level. There will likely be some grinding involved, but hopefully it isn’t too tedious. And this also ties back to the aims of the developers trying to emphasize the uniqueness of each class and keep them balanced. It has been confirmed that there is no strict healing class so that should make gameplay interesting.

So far five classes have been named and confirmed by the developers. From left to right they are: Gunner, Paladin, Cyromancer, Beserker and Lightbinder. Unfortunately I could only find information for the Paladin and Cyromancer, but hopefully more details will be released in time.

Gunner Paladin Cyromancer Beserker Lightbinder

Perhaps this highlights the most promising aspect of Skyforge. The developers have always subtly hinted at maintaining the game through continuous improvement. Just as the developers stated there were thousands of worlds within this universe, there will be ten classes available at launch which in turn implies that there will be more classes to come. But once again it’s still a tossup as to how great these classes will be or if there will be microtransactions in order to get them.

Skyforge will soon be available on the PC. The game is currently accepting Beta sign-ups here.

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Modder uncovers original Watch Dogs E3 graphics effects in game files, PC downgrade appears confirmed http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/06/16/modder-uncovers-original-watch-dogs-graphics-effects-files-creates-pc-mod/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/06/16/modder-uncovers-original-watch-dogs-graphics-effects-files-creates-pc-mod/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 14:42:10 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6121 There’s been endless speculation that Watch Dogs‘ PC version underwent a significant graphical downgrade since the gameplay footage Ubisoft released at E3 2012 and 2013, and now it seems that there is conclusive[...]

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There’s been endless speculation that Watch Dogs‘ PC version underwent a significant graphical downgrade since the gameplay footage Ubisoft released at E3 2012 and 2013, and now it seems that there is conclusive evidence to prove this.

Guru3D member “TheWorse” posted his findings here, stating that:

I’m a very obsessed person, with many things mainly graphics.. After release and this stupid stuttering problems I started searching for fixes etc. Then I saw many threads talking about the engine when I realized it was based on dunia 2 so I tried to unpack the files which obviously not worked.. so after searching so much for the unpacker I found it, started playing with it and after a long time of testing I ended up getting the E3 Bloom from 2012 working.

Based on these findings, TheWorse has created a PC mod (which you can also download here, the link is below the screenshots) which adds a lot more than just the E3 Bloom to the game:

Included in this mod (not all features are available yet):

-Changes to the default fog values
-Enabled bokeh DOF for the main cameras
-Stuttering Improvements
-E3 2012 Bloom
-Performance Improvements
-Enabled Headlight Shadows
-LoD Changes
-Reflection changes
-Added 3 new cameras to the game(closer, normal, further)
-Rain changes(High quality rain drops, properly reacting to light, etc)
-LensFlares(WIP)
-Lighting changes(TESTING AND WIP)
-Civilians density changes

And many more things.. SOON.

It’s hard to deny that the game looks vastly better when these effects are put in place. See the gallery below for some images of the effects in action. For videos of the mod in action, see herehere, and here.

As expected, Reddit has already erupted in anger at this find, with many users theorising that the only logical explanation is that Ubisoft didn’t want a backlash from console gamers when they saw how good the PC version looked, leading to a significant graphical downgrade. An Imgur user has also compiled a large gallery of these effects here.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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State of Decay: Lifeline DLC – Review http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/06/16/state-decay-lifeline-dlc-review/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/06/16/state-decay-lifeline-dlc-review/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 02:31:01 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6066 Lifeline is the second DLC addition to State of Decay, but changes things up for a variety of reasons. First of all, you’re no longer just a group of random civilians[...]

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Lifeline is the second DLC addition to State of Decay, but changes things up for a variety of reasons. First of all, you’re no longer just a group of random civilians trying to survive in this hostile new world. Additionally, you’re no longer stuck in rural Indiana. Instead, you’re a military squad sent into the city of Danforth to find, protect, and extract a number of people whom the military believe may hold the key to solving the whole “living dead” issue.

Things kick off with you on a street leading into the city, and a horde of zombies shambling towards you. After taking them down, you and your two accompanying soldiers need to find a ride and haul ass to your new base and await orders.

Whereas previously you were free to move from base to base as you saw fit, in Lifeline you’re nailed down to one location. Admittedly, it’s quite a stronghold, with barbed wire fences running all around the perimeter (though zombies don’t have much of a problem scaling it), guard towers, and the ability to lay mines and distracting fireworks on the road outside. Base upgrading remains, although with some new additions – latrines reduce the risk of infection and illness spreading (if they’re kept clean), and a new workshop extension repairs guns to keep them from jamming in combat and generally keeps your weapons in good shape.

Initially you have the backing of HQ over the radio, allowing you to call in drone strikes, recon, and mortar barrages, although as things get progressively worse, these support abilities fall away. Thankfully you can find abandoned military equipment around the city, and subsequently turn them into outposts, allowing you to regain these useful (and immensely satisfying) capabilities.

Whereas previously, State of Decay was far more oriented towards melee combat (as gunshots draw zombies from the surrounding area), Lifeline is all about gunplay. Trying to stick exclusively to melee might not necessarily end up with you dead, but you can be damn sure that your companions will be. Zombies seem like they’ve gotten quite a boost in numbers and power, and the AI which is as brain-dead as the zombies has made a sad return – making for an unfortunate combination. If you can’t hold the horde back from your allies (they essentially need babysitting), you’ll find them at first cowering on the floor screaming for help, followed by them being ripped in half right before your eyes. It’s a grim sight, not just because, well, they got ripped in half, but because it’s a gut punch to your own survivability. Every member you lose is one that could break the camel’s back and lead to your base being overrun. And overrun it will be.

Every 30 minutes or so a supply heli will head your way, drawing a huge horde of zombies with it, and you’ll be under “Siege”. Several waves of zombies will relentlessly assault the base, and trust me when I say it’s not easy. It may start off relatively simple; you’ll have your drone strikes and a group of 5 or 6 to stand alongside you, but eventually you’ll lose someone, and the rest can fall like dominoes if you don’t stay on top of your resources (especially food, ammo, and medicine), and back them up in combat. If you’re not around when the siege begins it’s almost certain that you’ll lose at least one unlucky person, and the spike in difficulty can be quite frustrating as you progress, considering the limitations you have in defending your base; you would’ve thought that for such an important mission, and if they can still fly in heli after heli, that the military would do their best to defend their assets in the field—having a way to beef up the perimeter defences would be nice, or at least being able to position and command your allies during a siege might lead to less deaths, as it gets a little discouraging to see them fall one by one due to their own utter incompetence.

You can still swap between survivors in case your current character gets hurt or tired, although everyone carries individual stats; if you grind with one character from the start and turn them into a tooled-up killing machine, you’ll lose all of those skills upon dying (apart from their belongings, which you can salvage by returning to the location of their death with a different survivor—just to remind you of your failure). The game automatically switches you over to a different survivor (if there are any left, otherwise it’s game over), and you’ll need to start over with the grind. In this respect it pays to switch between people early on to give everyone a decent level of combat efficiency and loadout.

As mentioned before, missions primarily involve you heading out to rescue important people and then get them back to base alive, as well as ensuring that they survive one mandatory siege before they can board the evac heli. After a while these missions do get a little repetitive as they are essentially glorified fetch quests, so it would’ve been good to see some other primary missions to engage in. You will run into some other secondary missions involving a nauseating radio personality who tries to guilt trip the surviving population into becoming heroes and rescuing anyone who calls into her show, as well as a spec ops operative who has a peculiar mission and needs your help to complete it. Unfortunately these don’t really mix things up enough to make the world feel as alive as past games; the lack of any narrative direction in the Breakdown DLC beyond surviving and moving around gave it a sandbox, “make your own story” feel, but in this case the overall narrative is simply a little too weak to be engaging.

The new city is a great new backdrop to the situation, but that’s where the greatest problem lies, it’s just a backdrop. You never actually venture into the city, instead, you only ever drive around on the “Danforth beltway” which loops all the way around the skyscrapers and blocks just teasing you at the center. I feel like this is a huge missed opportunity, and can’t deny that when I realised every entrance to the city was blocked off by wreckage and wandering zombies, I was heavily disappointed. That’s not to say it’s all bad—the beltway lets you zoom around and means that finding a car to commandeer is never an issue, and stunt jumps are scattered all around adding a little more to the chaos, but overall this outer area is just too mundane to keep you hooked. The urban environment does add to the panic when you’re surrounded by a horde, as your options are a lot more limited than back in rural Indiana, though on the flip side you have plenty more places to scavenge for resources. Cars can also be loaded up with backpacks now (in all editions of the game), making supply runs easier, and allowing you to keep your allies at the base unless you really need to call them out.

Overall, Lifeline is a nice change of pace from what we’ve previously seen in State of Decay, but falls short in some vital ways. It’s buggy and unpolished, though still retains the charm that made me sink numerous hours into the previous games. The new military theme fits in perfectly with the core gameplay, although I feel that more could have been done with both the base building mechanics, mission variety, and useless AI. The new location is a refreshing change from rural Indiana, but ultimately disappoints by restricting you from entering the city center, allowing things to get a little too repetitive by forcing you to be a weaponised and glorified chauffeur to the people you’re out to save. Fans of the games will surely (at least to begin with) enjoy the new content and location, but I can’t help feel like Lifeline is a bit of a missed opportunity overall.

State of Decay: Lifeline DLC is out now for PC and Xbox 360. This review is based on the PC version.

Summary

  • New military focus makes a nice change from civilian survival
  • Ability to load bags into vehicles is hugely appreciated
  • New map is a nice change from the countryside..
  • ..but angers with its restrictions and boundaries
  • Brain-dead survivor AI makes an unfortunate return
  • Bugs and glitches are as abundant as ever

6.5/10

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