Thursday, October 25, 2018
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Sunday, October 14, 2018
As far as I can tell, the makers of this game must have been big fans of films like "Blade Runner" and "Akira." Oddly enough though the game isn't set in the near future, but rather in the much more distant date of 2522. The player takes the role of Rion, a fourteen year old (sixteen in the overseas version) who wakes to find himself strapped down to an automated surgical table and a girl's voice calling to him in his head. Before fully coming to, he receives a double injection in his neck (one into each carotid artery) of a bright green and red substance called PPECs (Psychic Power Enhancement Chemicals designed to draw out latent psionic abilities in certain predisposed individuals). In Rion's case they work too well since he immediately frees himself of his restraints using telekinesis. Even so, psionics in Galerians aren't as impressive as in other video games such as Second Sight or Psy-Ops: A Mind Gate Conspiracy. Rion isn't capable of mind control and his psychic attacks take time to power up. Using them also depletes the PPECs accumulated in his body, necessitating more injections. Another complication is a "short out" mode that causes Rions life bar to deplete slowly, as well as reducing his movement speed. Survival is only possible by taking a pill called "delmetor" which stabilizes his condition. On the plus side, while in this degrading state the heads of lesser foes will pop like overripe tomatoes should they come face-to-face with Rion. One other nicety is an automatic aiming system since Galerians, like most PSX survival horror games utilize the notorious tank control movement system.
Personally, I found that the real challenge in Galerians comes from managing PPECs. They are finite, but enemies aren't. Rion also has the ability to read psychic imprints on various objects, which is used to tell parts of the story. Other than that it's pretty standard survival horror gameplay; finding items, solving puzzles, unlocking doors as well as fighting various enemy types in rooms and corridors. The game even has the biolabs, mansions, and city streets that the subgenre is known for. Is it fun?...kind of...the sequel, Galerians: Ash, doesn't appear to be so, although I can't say for certain because I never actually bothered to play it. I guess that says something about the original...
Sunday, October 7, 2018
Developed by Rebel Act Studios and published by Codemasters, Blade of Darkness (as it was initially called), is a third-person action adventure game with light RPG elements. The setting is fantasy, and offers players the initial choice of selecting one of four starting characters; a dwarf, a barbarian, a knight or a bounty hunter (who also happens to be the only female in the entire game!). Once the intro cutscene has concluded it becomes the standard walk, run, and jump tank controls with attacks being the only thing that consumes stamina. Blocking hits reduces the durability of shields until they eventually break (the better the shield, the more punishment it can take). It's also possible to throw weapons. Locking onto enemies works identical to the Souls series. Getting hit reduces HP and leaves visible wound textures on character models. Health can be recovered by consuming food or red potions found throughout the game. It also clears up those unsightly wound textures.
Still, the resemblance between Blade of Darkness and the Souls series is striking. In fact, I'm inclined to think that these two IPs have a similar degree of overlap as say Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil. That said, Blade of Darkness doesn't have much of an inventory system, nor are there magic spells that the player can cast. The story is also a lot more straightforward than the Souls series with a narrator giving context to each new zone, as well as conveying the bulk of the plotline. All the same, this is the most proto-Souls game you're likely to ever find...just keep in mind that video games have come a long way since when it released back in 2001.
Monday, October 1, 2018
Take Minecraft: Story Mode, there's really no story in vanilla Minecraft aside from the vague and tedious goal of slaying the Ender Dragon. Why not integrate Telltale's product directly into Minecraft and give the world's most popular digital sandbox a much needed narrative driven setting? A common gripe with Telltale products is the illusion of player choice. I understand that creating dialogue and visuals for every branch and outcome is a task that grows exponentially in terms of time, money and labour, but it doesn't have to be if the decisions the player makes influence gameplay rather than simply a truncated narrative arc.
Hypothetically speaking, suppose Telltale's Game of Thrones had a tactical RPG gameplay element built into it (similar to Shining Force, Vandal Hearts or Fire Emblem). Choices made by the player during conversations could factor into the combat segments in all sorts of interesting ways. Everything from enemy placement, unit types, and battlefield conditions to character stats, available movesets, or even objectives could be affected. This kind of thing has been done on a limited scale in the past by titles like Suikoden and Sakura Wars. So, why not expand on the concept?
Speaking of improving on the basic formula, a number of indie studios have done precisely that. Oxenfree strips away the uncanny valley that Telltale games suffer from by going with a simpler, yet more stylized visual presentation. The Council, while somewhat of an eyesore, adds in some board-game-like mechanics which adds another layer to what would otherwise be a somewhat shallow experience. At the very least you'd think Telltale would have added some crafting/exploration/survival mechanics to the later seasons of The Walking Dead. Instead all that the studio did was make some minor graphical improvements to "Telltale Tool," an inelegant in-house rendering engine that only remained viable as long as it did because of the blood, sweat and tears being fed into by the development teams (who in recognition for their hard work were fired en masse without proper compensation or warning). Stay classy Telltale execs...stay classy.