Ember

Awaken once more to a world in peril.

Ember is an impressive fantasy RPG in which, you, the last of the Lightbringers, must unite the three races and reawaken your dormant abilities. You were a great hero who was killed in a war many years ago, but have since been resurrected by a secretive order who believe you are the last hope for the world of Domus. You’ll need to learn much of the world, of who you were, and of the Embers. You won’t be alone, though. There are three others who will offer their services on the journey ahead. Each with their own area of expertise.

Character creation is incredibly fluid in Ember. The Lightbringer begins with balanced attributes and no particular specialisation, with each level offering the opportunity to spend two points in any of the four attributes you feel are most appropriate. Party members have their own classes which loosely define their roles and their attribute points can be automatically invested.

Or you can decide how best to develop each character.

Active and passive abilities are all tied to the equipment the characters are wearing. There are three possible active abilities and two possible passive abilities per character, with each piece of equipment providing something from a different pool of abilities. For instance, ranged weapons will always sample from a pool of abilities exclusive to that item class. You won’t find the same abilities on armour. In this way, you can create diverse character builds. I built my Lightbringer around heavy two-handed weapon damage with healing, while Coren, the Warrior, held the line with high health and several crowd control abilities. Later in the story you’ll even be able to buy these abilities via Runes which can be freely attached to your equipment.

Ember also features a myriad of crafting systems. Crafted equipment is generally superior to everything else (of an equivalent level) available anywhere else, while brewed potions are also surprisingly useful. Cooked food is often completely superior to potions in the earlier areas, too. It’s a really satisfying crafting system. It’s quite simple, it’s easy to manage, and the only drawback is that it’s quite confusing figuring out how you craft items until you reach the Farmlands. As that is the first place (that I’m aware of) that sells patterns and molds.

There are a range of quests to undertake, too. Everything from exploring dusty caves, to visiting cities, to hunting down villainous curs. Exploration is encouraged as there are many side quests, random events, and hidden treasures to discover. I was impressed by how freely I could explore the world around me from the moment I left the starting area.

I was equally as impressed by the number of things that could kill me.

I finished the main campaign with every side quest (that I know of) in just over twenty hours. I’d say this was a fair amount of time for the price paid. I’d also suggest that there is a fair amount of replayability in this title. It was a thoroughly enjoyable adventure that was a pleasure to experience. Oddly humorous at times, too. Ember is definitely one of the best purchases I’ve made this year and one that I can easily recommend. I wanted to record some footage of combat, exploration, and the like for just that reason. I’d like you to be able to see all of these things for yourself and make a decision based on whether you think it looks fun to play. I’ll admit, the footage leans a little heavily on combat- but there’s a lot of combat to be had!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

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Killer is Dead

I’ll see you on the dark side of the Moon.

Killer is Dead is a delightful hack and slash title featuring exhilarating combat, a unique creative direction (which reminds me of 80s/90s anime and manga), more dashing and (button) mashing than you can shake a reasonably sized katana at, and a story which makes less and less sense the more you learn about it. Until the very end. Then it becomes fairly clear as to where the story has been leading you with these character introductions, prompts, nightmares, and so on.

You’ll take up the mantle of an expert swordsman Mondo. Gifted with exceptional combat prowess, Gekkou (an ancient and powerful sword that feeds on Blood), the mysterious left arm Musselback, and the ability to gain strength from defeated foes. Each of these elements are later fully unlockable and upgradable via the character development system.

There’s also a really weird set of romantic side missions which unlock new weapons.

Or, more accurately, new modifications for the left arm Musselback. There are also costumes which Mondo can unlock along with modifications for the Musselback, but these are mostly received post-story completion and are quite pricey. However, the price is more than matched with the power of their upgrades. For instance, the Dark Booster modification allows you to use an unlimited amount of Blood. You’ll never run out. While the Ulti-Mondo costume unlocks a heightened, more deadly, more robust combat style. There are a lot of upgradable options to further Mondo’s abilities in certain ways by collecting a near-endless stream of Moon Crystals.

One thing I’ve been really impressed with is how fluid, enjoyable, and intense the combat feels. Initially you’ll only have to fight a few enemies at a time, but, as you unlock later Episodes and more side missions, the stakes get raised fairly high. However, the ability to dodge attacks within a fraction of a second and follow up with devastating counter attacks is always a pleasant experience. It’s one of the reasons I’ve really enjoyed this particular title- the combat never feels slow, stodgy, or laborious.

Another thing that I’ve been really impressed with is how easy it is to change from Episodes, to side missions, to romantic side missions, and even difficulty settings. If you decide on one difficulty but it’s too hard/too easy you can easily switch it up or down. You can continue the story or divert course. You can even farm Moon Crystals and Health/Blood upgrades if you want.

It’s refreshing to be so in control of how, where, and when you progress.

There are, as always, a few words of caution. I’ve not played this title without a controller and so I can’t say nor recommend the PC control system (as I’ve never used it). There are also a few times where I felt that some kind of minimap or area map would have been useful. The former is only a concern if you don’t have a controller, the latter is more a minor (personal) criticism. That said, I wouldn’t say it isn’t worth the money (even at full price)- as I got this in a Steam sale for an absolute steal at £2.99- and I’d gladly have paid the full amount. It’s an awful lot of fun if you enjoy a unique visual style, a quirky story, fluid combat, and some really interesting boss battles.

Needless to say I highly recommend this one!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Sacred 2

These caves are treacherous! You could be looking for the quest marker for hours in here…

Not that I went the complete wrong way for an hour, cleared the rest of the cave, and then realised the objective was behind where I was standing. Never. That said, I feel the map(s) could stand to be a little clearer at times. Or that the game could explain certain features (like holding Tab to open a full area map) better to help you get through those confusing, embarrassing, silly times.

Sacred 2 inherits much from the original Sacred. It’s an open world fantasy ARPG with surprisingly deep and varied character development, featuring several different classes, and two distinct story choices (to either be good or evil). Many of the mechanics return with a little more polish alongside a full 3D presentation. Voice acting remains (for each of the classes, some of the quest NPCs, and general commentary) and helps to flesh out the world of Ancaria. The Gold Edition also features two expansion packs which bring all sorts of extra goodies along for the ride (like the carrier imp, a new character class, new regions, and more).

Overall it’s a pretty solid title that will likely net you several hours of enjoyment if you like ARPGs.

One of the most intriguing developments for me is how the character classes vary. I took the atypical fighter in the Shadow Warrior (following the evil story) the first time I played and after I finished the main campaign (on bronze) I explored the other choices. I was curious to see what they would do differently and it’s quite extensive.

I don't think he/she's very happy with me...

I don’t think he/she’s very happy with me…

For instance, the Skills you learn vary from class to class. I wasn’t really expecting to start with a Dragon Mage and see options the Shadow Warrior hadn’t been able to select, yet, likewise for the Dragon Mage, there were things the Shadow Warrior had that he didn’t. It’s a small change (and somewhat expected) but it’s nice to see that there are unique benefits for each of the classes. Many of the standard choices like Armor Lore, Shield Lore, Constitution, Toughness, and so on are present for all of the classes (as far as I’m aware).

The Attributes don’t vary between classes, however.

These are the pretty standard self-explanatory choices that you’ll find in nearly every other RPG. Yet, combined with the Skills, and the Combat Arts (covered below), you have the opportunity to create vastly different builds. The character classes do have specific roles, however. Or sets of roles. Like the Seraphim can fight in close quarters or at range depending on how you build her.

Combat Arts are your magical or physical attacks (also your buffs) and they follow suit from Sacred to be almost exactly the same. You find runes, use them, level up the skills, but face increasing cooldowns/penalties every time you do. In Sacred 2 after investing a number of points in certain Skills you can also upgrade Combat Arts to make them more powerful. Adding area damage, life stealing, armour penetration, and other benefits. These are specific to the Combat Arts and so each have six choices of which you can choose three before the Combat Art is mastered.

There are a whole heap of quests and locations to explore, too. This is something that’s quite difficult to summarise as there are so many things to talk about, but, for me, the above is what really stands out and makes Sacred 2 great. That flexibility, character depth, choice, and the chance to replay the story again on increasing difficulty levels.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Sir, You Are Being Hunted

At least I know now why these robots are trying to kill me.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted throws you into a tense survival situation spread across five different islands. You’re tasked to gather food, gather supplies, avoid murderous robots, explore the various islands in turn, and hopefully find the teleporter fragments you need to return home. Pretty much every aspect of the adventure can be tweaked to your preferred approach when generating a new world. You could, if you wanted, have five islands with exactly the same region. You could also pick a profession that has weapons and ammunition from the start of the adventure.

One thing I feel that this title does well is it never gives you an overwhelming advantage.

The tools to survive do exist in the world and it is up to you to find them. The aforementioned professions adjust the difficult curve slightly but they aren’t professions in the sense of giving you a list of traits, abilities, skills, and so on. They’re closer to roleplaying a particular background or character type. (There are no traits, abilities, or skills present in the game.)

Which is where I find the most common comparison to Don’t Starve to not ring true. In Don’t Starve each character has a particular perk or affliction which will affect the game or change it entirely. Sir, You Are Being Hunted pretty much throws you an average everyday person and the professions only affect which items they start with. Therefore, if you’re looking for deep or varied character development you’re probably not going to find it here. That said- I think the lack of character development makes it more enjoyable. There are no advantages to be had except those you create for yourself. Likewise, as the world is generated each time you play, there is no chance to find a certain item in a certain place every time.

Tread very carefully and quietly.

Tread very carefully and quietly.

Stealth is the core mechanic. You will need to think carefully about how to approach a situation, which distraction items to use, and how you can get those fragments back to the boat and/or main island. Inventory management is key and you should only really carry what you absolutely need as you can never tell how big the fragment will be. These qualities come together to create an experience you have seen in other titles but never quite like this. Even down to the lack of being able to sell or purchase items. We’ve seen it before- but it works so well here.

Living off of the land and what you can find has never been quite as terrifying.

It’s quite difficult to explain as I think everyone will take something different away from the experience. The things you usually enjoy in other titles (such as exploration or gathering items) will likely be found in some way here. This makes it really accessible to a variety of gamers- regardless of skill level or previous experience(s)- but still provides a solid experience that can challenge you several times before you return home. Which is a pretty rare quality in modern games (in my opinion).

It has a certain charm to it that older gamers might appreciate. There are no Steam achievements (at the time of writing) and a lot of the content is measured by how much you want to do, how much you want to explore, what different character styles you want to attempt, and so on. It’s pretty much something you will get as much or as little out of as you want to.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Fairy Fencer F

Welcome to the world’s first herding fairies into a fenced location simulator!

Fairy Fencer F is an enjoyable, sometimes hilarious, other times poignant, JRPG adventure like those of my childhood. Travelling across a vast world, with a diverse cast of characters, and a fair number of Furies to find and unlock- there’s a lot to do. Each character comes with their own unique Fairy with which they can Fairize allowing them to access combat bonuses. Whether the bonuses are specific are generic is something I was never quite able to figure out, but, even if generic, they provide a massive boost to protection which is always nice.

To explain more about the specifics of the Fairies and the Furies is hard without spoiling the story a little.

However, there are plenty of other things to discuss! Like the characters who, while they lack classes, are actually quite diverse in their role(s) in combat. One thing I feel this title delivers by the bucketload is customisation and this is mostly, if not entirely, illustrated by the character options, within which you can build a particular character around what you want them to do. While there are two healer type choices (Tiara and Galdo) there’s no obligation to take a healer. Or even use them as a healer. Galdo has some great skills to make him a sort of thief with magical capabilities. While Tiara fills the role of offensive mage with almost staggering power.

Visually stunning with crisp, clear, vibrant colours.

Visually stunning with crisp, clear, vibrant colours.

Godly Revival allows you to take this one step further by combining your chosen Fury with an extra ability. Some are really amazing and can be used pretty much throughout the entire game (like post-battle healing), some are great to compliment a character’s existing skills, and others change the dungeons you’ll explore later down the line. Offering both bonuses and drawbacks.

All of the above comes together over the course of the main story to create interesting and different characters depending on what you want from them. I built Fang around a purely physical build and rarely used his magical attacks, while Tiara was the opposite, and Galdo fell somewhere between the two. It’s quite refreshing to be able to customise characters to this degree in a JRPG. The only negative I take from this is that, when it comes to new characters, they start with a low amount of WP. (WP is the means by which you upgrade character abilities.)

This means that characters you’ve had for much longer have much more capability than new ones. So you might need to take a gamble on a new one when you get them.

The story is actually a little more complex than you would first give it credit for. There’s also a New Game+ option once you’ve finished the story which may be required(?) for some of the late-game achievements and unlocks. For instance, I wasn’t able to find an S-Class Fury from any of the available quests. Though, I could have missed something. Also, to fully unlock a character’s combat capabilities will likely require New Game+ unless you want to do a lot of levelling on your first run. So there’s definitely a lot of content tackle if you enjoy that sort of thing!

To say I was impressed with this title would be somewhat of an understatement. It was a lot of fun, it made me laugh often, and there was a lot to do while it never felt particularly forced. I almost went straight into New Game+ after finishing it the first time as I didn’t want it to be over just yet.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Dragonball XenoVerse

Not even the mighty Dr. Gero could create something as amazing as this!

Dragonball XenoVerse puts you in the place of a Time Patroller on a mission to correct the timeline from the Dragonball series. While this may sound confusing to begin with it’s actually a pretty cool concept that involves alternate timelines, fighting the classic battles, facing the classic enemies, and doing all sorts of neat things with your character.

It’s not a fighting game, however. Not purely. It also features RPG elements such as distributing attribute points, finding/buying new equipment, having your own custom character, and choosing your skill set from a wide range of skills in the Dragonball universe. It features a really enjoyable combat system which (in my opinion) never gets old or feels stale. It’s quite amazing how I enjoy the combat now just as much- if not more- than when I first started playing. This title also features incredible graphical presentation which fits the universe perfectly.

Character creation consists of choosing the race of your character and deciding on their features. Until you clear the final Saga in the Time Nest (not including the secret Saga) you won’t be able to make any other characters, but, once you’ve finished the story, you can have up to eight. The different races are fun and all the staple choices are there- Namekians, Saiyans, Humans, Frieza Clansman, and so on. Each one has specific bonuses or better statistics in a particular area. Saiyans, as you would expect, have access to the Super Saiyan transformation (up to level two). Everyone else gets the Kaioken (up to x20).

The Super Saiyan transformation is by far the most useful, or the most overpowered, depending on how you see it, as it allows you to use Ki skills without any regard to cost. It does drain your Ki slowly as you use it- but it doesn’t stop you from firing a dozen Ultimate attacks in the process. You can either unlock or buy any of the transformation skills in Toki Toki City.

Toki Toki City is your base of operations and where you’ll be going between quests. You’ll find all manner of shops there to supply you with equipment, accessories, items, skills, and other goodies. You’ll also find a number of masters to train under who will teach you new techniques, unlock master specific bonuses, and provide master specific items. The Time Nest is also located here along with the Time Vault- both of which are useful in your timeline correcting activities. You can also level up while in town, change your skill set, change your equipment, and generally develop your character. Over time new things are unlocked in town, too. So always be sure to check back and see if anyone is selling anything new.

The core activities you’ll undertake are either completing the various Sagas in the Time Nest or participating in the many varied Parallel Quests. Both are fairly similar in their approach but they have different objectives, different conditions, and different rewards. Most Saga completions in the Time Nest will just award Zeni and experience. Parallel Quests reward a range of goodies including skills, items, transformations, and more along with the usual Zeni and experience.

There is a lot of content available in the base game along with DLC which (at the moment) expands into Dragonball GT. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience if you consider yourself a fan of the Dragonball universe that is only slightly marred by the randomisation, which makes unlocking everything quite a task, but doesn’t detract from the experience (in my opinion).

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Endless Space

You are now contractually obligated to populate the stars (efficiently)!

While the meat of the game is that of taking colony and scout ships across the galaxy looking for new star systems, new colonisation opportunities, or generally just to see what’s out there in hopes of finding the other player(s) there are several paths to victory to consider. You can win the game in a variety of ways including: a point victory, conquest via military power, achieving scientific excellence, diplomatic freedom, economic boon, and so on. These are things that you must always keep in the back of your mind as you can have as many as seven players with you. Either real players or AI controlled players (who thirst for blood).

Why is this so important? Well, the AI (and hopefully other players) will also be looking to achieve a victory of some kind.

There are so many things happening on this screen it's ridiculous.

There are so many things happening on this screen it’s ridiculous.

While it can be very relaxing to listen to ambient soundtrack and casually build your fleets of death, or research new technologies, you are on the clock as it were. There is little time to waste and with that comes the somewhat gruelling challenge and/or difficulty level to playing this kind of game for the first time. So, don’t feel too bad if you’re first shot goes awfully awry.

The bulk of your time will be spent colonising new worlds which is a two step process. The first is having a scout ship find the star system and the second is having a colony ship land, populate, and get the ball rolling. There are many different resources available in the game and some planets have better gains than others. There are also rare materials which can appear on planets (I do believe at random), as well as natural and unnatural anomalies which make some planets highly profitable or not so, and you have to think about the happiness of the population on each of your planets. Not every planet type is initially available at the beginning of a game so you’ll need to unlock some things through research to get that going on.

The four core resources are Food, Industry, Dust, and Science (FIDS for short). Food and Industry are star system wide while Science and Dust are empire wide.

What this means is that if a planet is producing a lot of Food (for population growth) or Industry (for building time reduction) it only affects that star system. While if a planet is producing good Dust (global currency) or Science (for research time reduction) it goes into the entire pool for the empire. So, rule of thumb, don’t produce more Food and Industry than you need and produce as much Dust and Science as you can. It takes a bit of time to get the hang of it but once you do you’ll be fine.

If you’re a fan of combat, as you really should be, as you never know what the other players will be doing, you can also spend some time outfitting ships with neat things.

Initially the number of ships you can have in a fleet, the variety of upgrades, and so on is all fairly small. But through research you can have many more ships and much more powerful upgrades as the game progresses. Therefore, regardless of strategy, research and use of Science is crucial. While all of your ships will have a Dust upkeep cost so that’s just as important. There is an awful lot to do with the fleets as well (such as assigning heroes) so that is a pretty big, encompassing, and viable strategy if you so wish.

Speaking of, heroes are individuals you can hire at different times in the game. I do believe that through military research you can get more in a shorter space of time. However, they’re not just for combat- they can be assigned to star systems as well. When covering a star system they have different benefits for you to invest in to those available when leading a fleet.

As you can probably tell the game is huge and has an incredible number of things to do. So, unfortunately, I can’t cover that all here- but I do recommend it. Highly.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie