Tag Archives: reviews

Review – Golftopia

MinMax Games, headquartered in British Columbia, has a history of releasing small titles that feature old-school gameplay – about what you expect from a two-man development studio – and their latest title, Golftopia, is now available in Steam Early Access.

It’s a surprisingly ambitious golf simulator for a small studio, allowing players to build the course of their dreams – or nightmares. The game starts small, with a single plot of land that will allow for only a few holes, but it’s enough to learn the ropes of terrain editing and course layout, and start learning what works for the virtual golfers and what doesn’t.

After you’ve got a hole or two done, you can open the course and start getting feedback from golfers. I noticed right away that my opening hole, intended to be a challenging par 3 with a large green that golfers had to cross water to hit, was closer to ‘impossible’ than ‘challenging’ and necessitated some quick editing to make it playable. Fortunately, the terrain editing process is quick to pick up, even if it’s not quite as precise as I would have liked, and the hole was playable in no time.

The rest of my course, including a massive hole 2 that started high on a hill and wound its way down to a small green surrounded by sand. Eventually that hole also included a massive ring of fire for people to try to send their drive through and a bounce pad that added a ton of distance to any drive that managed to hit it – both huge crowd-pleasers.

Yes, while Golftopa CAN be played as a straight up golf course simulator, you can also add in a ton of weird and wild accessories if you choose. Some are less optional, including weed-destroying mortars and robotic drones that will eventually have to be deployed to keep the course clear as it expands.

That initial small plot of land, suitable for three holes, eventually gets outgrown and you’ll have to buy a neighbouring section to continue development. From three holes you grow to six, then nine, eventually completing a sprawling 18-hole course that might just be the envy of the golf world. That will depend on your customer base, which you’ll need to convert into fans that upgrade their memberships, allowing you to expand.

What I Loved:

  • easy large-scale terrain editing and course layout
  • runs well, even when the course starts to sprawl
  • tons of feedback available from golfers

What I Liked:

  • simple but charming graphics that will age well
  • golfers improve their skill over time
  • a lot of replay value for under $25

What I Disliked:

  • not always easy to tell what golfers dislike about a hole
  • information overload is entirely possible

What I Hated:

  • nothing

The Final Word:
Golftopia promises to allow gamers to design, build, and manage their own futuristic golf course, and – like my own golf game – it sometimes hits the mark, but also strays off into the weeds from time to time.

Review: Superliminal

Superliminal is a first-person puzzle game from Pillow Castle Games that asks you to look at things from a new perspective, then changes all the rules about perspective on the fly and demands you adjust your thinking to fit how this new reality works.

The bulk of Superliminal’s puzzles deal with forced perspective, using your perspective on the situation to manipulate an object’s size or changing the environment in striking ways based on how your view of it changes as you move around.

Picking up objects and increasing/decreasing their size by manipulating your perspective on them never really gets old, even though it’s used quite a few times during the course of the game. This isn’t a one-trick pony game, however, and you’ll need to master a few more perspective games if you want to succeed.

At times you’ll feel like a genius, when you realize how you’re supposed to view a problem and solve a tricky puzzle in seconds. At other times you’ll feel like an idiot as you struggle with something that seems simple, and, perhaps, even like an even bigger idiot when you realize later that the solution was staring you in the face the entire time and was even more simple than you’d thought.

There’s a storyline here about perspective and understanding that your viewpoint, while it’s what you can see, isn’t always what’s happening. As a patient of Dr. Glenn Pierce, you’ll explore your subconscious within sleep therapy – or at least that’s what’s supposed to happen. In a Portal-like twist you quickly discover there’s more at play here, but – as with so much else in this game – that is, perhaps, also a matter of perception.

If you’re big on abstract thinking, Superliminal is going to give you a couple of hours of fun. If you prefer to see reality stay the way it is, this might not be for you.

What I Loved:

  • some inspired puzzles using forced perspective
  • well-written dialogue kept a story that could have fallen flat moving along
  • mind-bending puzzle elements you’ve never seen before
  • rewarding rush for figuring out tough puzzles

What I Liked:

  • graphic style changes as plot changes, upping the tension
  • didn’t overstay its welcome at about three hours long

What I Disliked:

  • full exploration of some of the themes could have lengthened it without padding
  • some ‘try random stuff until it works’ puzzles

What I Hated:

  • nothing

Superliminal is available now on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One (version reviewed using code provided by the publisher).

Review: Ghost of Tsushima

Sucker Punch, a Sony first-party studio, is best known for action adventure games like Sly Cooper and inFamous but branched out for its PS4 swan song into a stealth action game called Ghost of Tsushima.

As Jin Sakai, a young samurai who takes on the task of freeing the island of Tsushima from the Mongols whose invasion kicks off the game, players will run through a formula that’s going to feel awfully familiar if you’re a fan of open world games. Assassin’s Creed, Red Dead Redemption, even some Far Cry – Sucker Punch’s final PS4 game is an amalgamation of most of the top open world games that came before it.

Missions, called Tales here, can be vital to advancing the story or simple filler and how long you’ll take to finish the game (I clocked in at about 32 hours after having completed a lot of side mission content) will depend on your tolerance for filler content. The main quests are interesting, varied, and tend to be well-written – though the game’s story itself doesn’t really get going until the last third or so – but the side missions quickly grow repetitive and become a slog to get through.

It’s worth noting that although the game has an open structure and you’re able to approach objectives like clearing out a stronghold in whatever way you wish, the story missions don’t seem to take into account what you actually do. If you fight your way through honorably ‘like a samurai’ instead of taking to the shadows and assassinating your way through, the dialog still reflects your loss of honor as though you took the shadowy path instead. Also, if you are free roaming and clear a base before taking on a mission you may be sent right back to it ‘to clear it of bandits’ only to find they’ve all been respawned for the mission.

That may be a glitch, however, as glitches have plagued the game early on in pre-release but it’s a problem that has improved with each patch. There’s been another patch released as I write this that I haven’t had the chance to check yet, so it’s possible the glitches and some framerate issues may be ironed out. Depending on the version that’s on the disc, this isn’t a game I’d recommend playing without doing the updates.

While the story can be a bit slow, the combat is anything but. As you move through the game you’ll learn new skills and sword stances, and you’ll need to flip between stances continually in order to get the most out of the combat system. I had hoped the combat would be like Bushido Blade, but it’s more like Dynasty Warriors with floods of enemies coming at you – but, as with most samurai flicks, they’re nice enough to hang back and only attack one or two at a time.

Unfortunately, while you’re in melee combat there will almost inevitably be an archer or two nearby firing arrows at you. Dodging these based solely on the audio cue will become second nature, as the camera – even when it pulls back for open area fights – is all-too-often hard to control while in combat, doubly so in close quarters. At its best, the combat is a choreographed dance that looks straight out of a Kurosawa film, but when it’s not working it feels a bit janky and disconnected as you fumble with the camera to try and keep an eye on nearby enemies, cursing the lack of a lock-on system.

Ghost of Tsushima is a visually stunning game, even on the base PS4, though the framerate suffers a bit there. The PS4 Pro runs a virtually locked 30 fps, but the base PS4 struggles to hit that consistently and the choppy up-and-down nature of the framerate hurts the responsiveness of the combat.

Sucker Punch created a super lush version of Japan with long flowing grass and dense foliage and use that as a replacement for the quest markers found in most games. Instead, the Guiding Wind will blow towards your objective, bending trees and grass in the direction you need to go, and sending tons of particles – leaves, sparks, flowers, etc.. flying as a clear signpost. It’s a stunning effect when you first accept a quest and the wind suddenly picks up, or when you flick the touch pad to trigger a reminder.

There’s a dedicated black and white mode for the game that fans have already dubbed Kurosawa mode, though playing in it means forsaking the lush colours so it won’t be for everyone. It’s a bit disappointing they didn’t take more from his films, particularly in the cutscenes which are rote ‘over the shoulder, static cam’ scenes shot exactly as they would be in any other video game. After all, if you’re going to imitate the style, why not imitate the best parts of it?

What I Loved:

  • Great visuals, especially the environment
  • Fun combat, even if it’s not especially deep
  • Guiding wind is a unique idea and well implemented

What I Liked:

  • Strong ending to the story
  • Some fun Ghost tools
  • Open world mission structure is familiar, but story missions are solid

What I Disliked:

  • Repetitive side missions
  • Some cutscenes, especially side missions, are poorly designed and shot
  • No ragdoll animations, so expect to see weird death animations
  • Little in the way of replay value

What I Hated:

  • Fighting the camera as much as enemies in close-quarters combat

The Final Word:

Ghost of Tsushima is a solid stealth action game, but with the glitches, repetitive missions, and shallow combat it’s not the slam dunk swan song title I’d expected from Sucker Punch. With the game launching at $79.99 Canadian for the cheapest version ($219.99 for the Collector’s Edition) I’d be tempted to wait for a sale or share the purchase with a friend unless you’re a HUGE samurai fan.

Ghost of Tsushima is available now on PS4, reviewed using a code provided by the publisher.

Review – Depth of Extinction

When Depth of Extinction hit PC in 2018 it was billed as a blending of a pair of classic games: FTL, a stellar roguelike, and X-COM, which is still one of the best turn-based strategy games of all time. FTL + X-COM is a tough billing to live up to, but – given the right expectations of a budget title like this one – Depth of Extinction somehow manages to be faithful to the legends it mashed together, even if it falls short of being truly amazing on its own.

Like FTL, Depth of Extinction tasks gamers with traversing a series of points on the map using their craft – this time a submarine, with each stop a different encounter: running into a merchant, finding enemies, or encountering an environmental hazard to name just a few. Not every node will need to be explored to clear the map, and on some of the larger maps a lack of fuel makes it impossible to explore them all – unless you’ve been lucky enough to gather up extra along the way.

Move to an encounter point and, if it’s an enemy-filled objective, you’ll disembark the sub and explore the area with your team of mercenaries – and here’s where the X-COM comparisons come in. The turn-based system and use of environmental cover will feel immediately familiar to XCOM vets, as will the ability to use overwatch to end your turn and provide covering fire on any enemies that move into the area. The combat is a bit basic compared to something newer like X-COM 2, Phoenix Point, or Gears Tactics, but you’ll still need to use careful movement and placement to ensure you can flank the enemy’s position while not getting surprised yourself.

Succeed in battle and you’ll gain experience to level up your characters in the class you’ve chosen from a list that includes the genre standards like snipers (Deadeye) and explosives (Wrecker). I found I was a huge fan of setting up a good Deadeye with my best weapon and Overwatch from a distance, then lure enemies into his range – just like in X-COM. It’s also a bit funny that there’s destructible cover, so when you’re moving from crate to crate, luring an enemy towards the ambush, every shot they take at you is destroying the very cover they’ll soon need…

The dialogue is well-written but the roguelike nature of the game, as with pretty much any roguelike, hurts the ability to tell a well-structured point-to-point story – the danger of giving players freedom. Personally, I’m willing to surrender a solid narrative to have the more creative freedom in character customization and deciding what missions to take and what to avoid, but I do wish I could have done more to customize my characters and make them a personalized squad.

What I loved:

  • Solid strategy action
  • Well-written dialogue
  • Diverse character classes and skills
  • All this for under $20?

What I liked

  • Great pixel-art style graphics – simple, but legible
  • Every bit the solid mashup of FTL and X-COM they claimed it would be

What I disliked:

  • Some repetition in missions
  • Inability to create my own characters or rename existing mercenaries
  • A ton of potential left unrealized

What I hated:

  • Nothing

The final word:
Depth of Extinction works surprisingly well for a small team targeting a mashup of two of the top games in their respective genres, doubly surprising when you consider it’ll only run you $18.99 Canadian.

Depth of Extinction is available on Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox One. Reviewed on Xbox One X using code provided by the publisher. A PS4 version, originally slated to release June 11th, has been delayed.

Review – SpongeBob SquarePants – Battle For Bikini Bottom Rehydrated

SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle For Bikini Bottom, released in 2003, is one of those ‘cult classic’ titles like Deadly Premonition, Dragon’s Dogma, or Earthbound that fans just won’t stop telling you about, even – or perhaps especially – if you’ve never played them. For the record, I never played the original Battle for Bikini Bottom.

I have played Deadly Premonition, Dragon’s Dogma, and Earthbound but no…I don’t want to talk about them.

Purple Lamp Studios has delivered us a masterpiece of a remaster with the Rehydrated version of Battle for Bikini Bottom, a gorgeous reimagining of the original game’s graphics that doesn’t – to my knowledge – touch the gameplay or design of the original. That adherence to the original is great for those oh-so-devoted fans of it, but I’m not sure how it’ll play (no pun intended) with today’s gamers. Game design has advanced a lot in the last 17 years, after all, especially in 3D platformers, and Rehydrated takes advantage of none of those advancements.

This feels like a 17 year old collect-a-thon platformer, even if it looks like a thoroughly modern title – and that means little to no holding your hand as to where to go or what to do next. That’s fine, and it’s a style of ‘let them do what they want and figure it out’ game design that’s increasing in popularity again these days, but modern games benefit from better designed signposting, elements that point toward what you should be doing even if they don’t insist you go do it right now.

Thankfully while some of the design elements feel a bit dated, the gameplay is still fun. As SpongeBob you can use an assortment of bubble powers and are the team’s best long-ranged weapon, but if that’s not particularly helpful for the situation you can switch to Patrick or Sandy and use their special abilities instead. The game does a good job of teaching you those abilities at the outset, and it also helps that you have only a few areas to explore at the start, unlocking more as you gather more Golden Spatulas. In a very ’17 year old game’ piece of design though, if there’s a spot you need to use Sandy, for example, you have to go back to the bus stop to change characters and then make your way back there again.

One thing that stood out to me is how little the game takes advantage of how well-written SpongeBob is. I mean there’s a reason it’s one of the most heavily meme’d and clipped shows out there – there’s a quote for literally everything under the sun, but the game uses just a few lines of dialogue for attacks or picking up collectibles and then repeats them AD NAUSEUM until you want to mute the game.

The game has a co-op mode, both same screen and online, to play what’s basically a Horde mode against a boss that was removed from the original game. I was able to play some same-screen with Andrea, who thought it was funny but not particularly fun, but wasn’t able to get into an online game with Brock – he’s busy getting ready for a move and the servers haven’t been available in pre-release.

This was my face, seeing these kelp beds for the first time. The graphical upgrade here over the 2003 original is sizable.

What I Loved:

  • Stellar graphics…and smooth framerates
  • Some great lines and good use of characters

What I Liked:

  • Trip down nostalgia lane for game design

What I Disliked:

  • So many sliding sections
  • Some game crashes/bugs
  • Nostalgia wore off quickly

What I Hated:

  • Repeating dialogue
  • Repeating dialogue
  • Repeating dialogue
  • Repeating dialogue

The Final Word: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is a fantastic remaster, but it’s also a stellar example of how sometimes a remake would have been the better choice for a new audience. Fans of the original game and of the series should check it out, but it’s not for everyone.

Reviewed on Xbox One X using code provided by the publisher.

Review – Tower of Time

Tower of Time is a classic-style roleplaying game (RPG) blended with more modern real-time combat that emphasizes tactics and positioning. It hit PC in 2018 and finally made the jump over to PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One recently.

Players spend the tutorial level as a child, exploring a bit of a ruined tower that has been inverted and smashed into the ground and ends with the player discovering you’re not yet ready to harness the power available here. The game proper opens with you returning years later with some friends to explore it in earnest and try to use that power to save the world, but in an interesting twist it takes you out of the gameplay and places you in an oversight role in control of your partners, Kane and Maeve.

At the game’s outset only those two are in the party, which allows players to have the innovative combat introduced at a bit of a slower pace. Exploration is in the classic three-quarter overhead isometric viewpoint familiar to fans of past RPGs like Baldur’s Gate or Diablo, with combat maintaining that perspective.

What changes is the passage of time, with real-time control over each of your party members augmented by the ability to slow time to a crawl to queue up commands when things get hectic. This is unnecessary early on with only a pair of party members to control, but you quickly gain a third and eventually have a roster of seven, of which four can be in the party at once.

Combat is intensely strategic, with the need to use each character’s skills not only to kill enemies but also to slow and harass them prior to engaging in direct combat. In most battles, enemies will spawn at set points around the map, often two or three at a time, and your group is not strong enough to handle them all at once so you’ll need to use skills to slow them down. One character can create temporary stone walls that can close off chokepoints, forcing enemies to backtrack, while another character drops traps to slow enemies down, and another can summon a tree-like guardian that’s surprisingly durable. Each skill is tied to a cooldown, so you can’t simply go all Bob the Builder and wall in enemies until it’s convenient to deal with them.

If that wasn’t enough, you’ll also need to constantly manage your group’s positioning – not only to move them out of the ‘bad things are about to happen here’ giant red dots that indicate an incoming attack, but also to break line of sight with enemies or make them choose alternate routes through the environment. If the battle hasn’t gone your way and a few party members have fallen, you can even use the environment to keep enemies pursuing you while you whittle away their health – a tactic from real-time strategy and massively multiplayer games called kiting.

The game isn’t all spent in the depths of the tower, however, with a hub area that contains buildings like a blacksmith and barracks. Along with the typical equipment crafting and enchantment, this area also allows you to manage your party upgrades – each skill has a skill tree associated with it to let you tweak them to how you want to play. The stone wall, for example, can be modified to be a longer half-wall that no longer blocks line of sight or ranged attacks, or to have a magical slowing effect added.

I had a blast fighting my way through the tower, running into difficulty spikes that forced me to learn new combat tactics, and winding my way through a storyline – told in a combination of in-game books and encounters with the Tower Avatar that often left me with more questions than answers.

What I Loved:

  • Great combat system with tons of strategy
  • Skill system adds depth and variety
  • Solid story

What I Liked:

  • Graphics are serviceable, with some high points to balance out the lows
  • Town management adds some ‘out of combat’ depth
  • Good character management/development
  • Well-done port to controller-based controls

What I Disliked:

  • Some minor performance issues

What I Hated:

  • Nothing

Tower of Time reviewed on Xbox One X using code provided by the publisher.

Review – The Last of Us Part II

Naughty Dog has evolved quite a bit over the years, starting out making a simple math-based educational game and some other Apple II titles before eventually trying their hand at a 3DO-exclusive fighting game. They hit real success with Crash Bandicoot, segued into the Jak and Daxter series, and finally hit megastar status with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune on the PS3.

After a trio of Uncharted games (and a Jak and Daxter Collection) they struck out into new territory again with 2013’s The Last of Us – another major hit. And now, after going back into the Uncharted well a couple more times, they’ve returned to the world of Joel and Ellie (and the mutant zombies) with The Last of Us Part II.

Not much has changed in the gameplay from the first game, and the loop of stealth-action-escape-stealth-action-encounter done returns largely unchanged. You’re not able to turn off the Listen ability, which gives Ellie a radar vision that Daredevil would be jealous of, even on the highest difficulties – but at least there are enemies that can’t be picked up by it. Ellie can jump now, something Joel wasn’t capable of for some reason, which expands environmental traversal quite a bit.

Enemy AI is solid in most situations. They’ll alert others and start a search if they find a dead body, and they’re surprisingly vocal – relaying ideas on where you might be hiding back and forth as they search. They’ll even check behind them every so often, aware that they have a blind spot and that you’ll likely be found there. Everyone seemed to have a name, including the dogs you’ll have to take down to avoid detection or – if that’s failed – being hunted down, and that certainly ups the realism.

You can even use the human and zombie enemies against one another, drawing them together so they’ll fight it out. Unfortunately, most of the time – though there are rare exceptions – you can’t use the chaos to simply slip by as, for all its talk about how awful this world is, the game doesn’t walk the walk and most of the time you’ll need to kill whoever is left, no matter who wins. And these kills are brutal – not as over the top as a Mortal Kombat fatality, but perhaps worse because they’re so firmly seated in reality. The fading gurgle of someone you just stabbed in the throat is haunting, even when you’ve heard it for the hundredth time.

I don’t want to spoil the story, and Sony actually forbids talking about anything past a certain point, but it ties back to the ending of the original, where Joel makes a decision with enormous ramifications to the world as a whole. Set four years after the events of that final day, Part II gives us an Ellie that’s older and still dealing with what she’s been through.

Really the only problem I have with the story is that Ellie doesn’t learn or grow at all. Even though she’s the main character this time out, she gets less development than she did as the secondary one in the first game. The game spends endless time preaching at you about how needless and awful violence is, and then sends you back out to murder another dozen people – and their dogs. I mean I get it, it’s an apocalypse story – but for all the time she spends moaning about having to kill people, maybe Ellie could just NOT kill someone occasionally? The game is releasing at a tough time for such a dark, brutal story, and the events in the world around us show how poor a job it does at working with some of the themes it touches on.

What I Loved:

  • Stellar graphics, especially on a PS4 Pro
  • Beautifully written dialogue, even if the plot loses the thread a time or two
  • Ellie has far more movement options than Joel did

What I Liked:

  • Good environments, with well designed puzzles
  • The ‘wide linear’ design keeps players from getting lost/distracted
  • Markedly better gameplay than the original
  • Killing time ‘playing’ the guitar using the touchpad

What I Disliked:

  • Almost no stealth option – Ellie complains about violence, but won’t shy away from it
  • Can’t shut off Listen ability this time out?

What I Hated:

  • Nothing

The Final Word: The Last of Us Part II feels like a movie about revenge – I spent a lot of time being preached at about themes of hate and obsession, then being carried along for the ride because I wasn’t allowed to make any meaningful decisions to affect the path of the story. And no matter how well-made it is, and it is, it’s not a movie I’d have chosen to watch right now.

The Last of Us Part II releases on PS4, June 19th. Reviewed on PS4 Pro using code provided by the publisher.

Review – Disintegration

Disintegration (available June 16 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One) is the latest work by the co-creator of Halo, Marcus Lehto, and independent studio V1 Interactive. Instead of diving back into the world of first-person shooters (FPS) however, Lehto has gone a different, more tactical path this time around.

As Romer Shoal, an ‘integrated’ human – basically a brain in a robot body – gamers will fly, shoot, and command their way through the campaign. Romer is a gravcycle pilot of some renown, though that didn’t translate into the kind of pinpoint controls I’d expected. Flying the gravcycle feels fine, if somewhat slower and less fun than I’d like, but I found the weapon controls inexcusably clunky – certainly not what I expected given Lehto’s history. Your weaponry does sport a solid feel to it though, especially when you start chewing up the scenery with those missed rounds, destroying walls, barriers, and other obstacles like they were nothing – and they do a pretty fair job on enemies you manage to hit as well.

The game gets some tactical depth via Romer’s ability to command his squadmates, but even that isn’t anywhere near what you’d call fleshed out. You get a single command – interact with [X] – for whatever you click on. Enemies get shot at by everyone you control, boxes get opened, objects get looked at…it’s all down to a one-button mechanic plus the ability to fire off special abilities on cooldowns, resulting in a bare bones tactical experience but nothing more.

What’s more, if your troops have spread out over the battlefield during the fight and you issue a ‘destroy this guy’ command, they’ll often leave cover and head over there for a good old fashioned beatdown – a decision that can have fairly devastating tactical disadvantages. If not for the ability to switch from active weapon systems over to a healing beam – if the mission assigned it to your inventory – that covers for these tactical blunders, your troops would have shorter lifespans than most celebrity marriages.

Fortunately if one of your squadmates does bite the dust, you can get them back in the action just by flying over their corpse to grab their head – you’re actually required to do this, thanks to a 30-second timer that ends the mission if you don’t help them out.

The campaign lasts 13-15 hours, with a couple interesting boss battles as high points alongside some good-to-great characters. Multiplayer will be the meat and potatoes of the title, and I had a good time with it in the beta but haven’t had the chance to give it an honest shot in retail so we’ll see how that experience transfers over.

What I loved:

  • great weapons ‘feel’ thanks to damage to environments and enemies
  • this is one weird world that raises good questions about our obsession with tech

What I liked:

  • well-written campaign storyline and characters
  • multiplayer has real promise based on the beta
  • great environment variety
  • upgrade system is basic but good

What I disliked:

  • tactical command options aren’t very tactical
  • no ability to set my mission loadout

The Final Word:
Disintegration has a solid premise and some fun moment-to-moment gameplay as the commander of a squad of troops but doesn’t live up to its potential.

Review – Crucible

There really was no more fitting name for Amazon’s new PC-exclusive free to play sci-fi third-person multiplayer shooter than Crucible, whether you go by the definition of a container in which substances are melted and blended together, or a test in which different elements collide and create something new.

Crucible mashes together components from multiple game genres into one sprawling battle royale (BR), multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), hero shooter, with player vs environment (PvE) elements stacked on top of the player vs player (PVP) ones. The result? Well, it IS something new, but the problem with jamming a bunch of weird disparate substances together in a crucible is that sometimes it blows up in your face.

First off, the good. Crucible has an incredibly creative roster of 10 ‘hunters’ to choose from, each with a ton of character. Every hunter has special abilities and weapons, which – in theory – lends itself to everyone being able to find a character or two that fits their playstyle. This aspect of the game reminds me a bit of Paragon, Epic’s MOBA that was shuttered after Fortnite exploded in popularity and necessitated more resources being thrown its way. The Rocket Racoon like Tosca was an early favourite of mine, but I quite liked the melee focused Drakahl and heavy weapon expert Earl as well.

Secondly…unfortunately that’s really all I can say about Crucible with a positive spin to it.

The gunplay is fine, with spot-on aiming but little in the way of real feedback from your weapons. Whether you’re using Tosca’s acid-spitting shotgun or Earl’s gigantic blaster, AI controlled enemies just wade slowly toward you swallowing up rounds until you drop them. Thanks to the need to level up your character (prior to the match you choose from a MOBA-like string of upgrades, then you’re automatically upgraded when you earn the necessary points during gameplay) the PvE aspect is the bulk of the gameplay, so the dev team at Relentless Studios needed to nail it and they missed the mark. It’s clunky, it’s slow, and – most damning of all – it’s boring.

Combat against other players is more entertaining, but it’s a short burst of something interesting sandwiched by long stretches of trudging through the environment to find another burst of action. The game has one map, and it’s sprawling in a way that would be fine with larger player counts but just doesn’t work with the low player counts of the three available modes: Alpha Hunters, a 2v2v2v2v2v2v2v2 (eight teams of two) battle royale; Harvester Command, an eight vs eight race to gather 100 resource points by controlling Essence harvesters; and Heart of the Hives, a four vs four bout where you need to eliminate large hive creatures and be the first to claim three hearts.

If you play as one of the slower characters every death means an excruciating walk back to the front lines, and after trudging back to the front as Earl in a game of Heart of the Hives (after the half-minute wait for respawn and then 10 second wait for the drop pod to finally land) only to get teamed up on and killed immediately, I was increasingly eager to check my Steam library for something else to play.

It doesn’t help that there’s no in-game voice or text chat to help build camaraderie or a community. There’s a simple ping system, but it’s far less functional than what you’ll find in Apex Legends or Fortnite, so communication with teammates is sparse or non-existent. Given this total lack of effort towards building any in-game friendships, it makes sense that Alpha Hunters ends with the winning duo then forced to fight each other to the death.

After all, Crucible isn’t about making friends.

Review – Moonlighter: Between Dimensions

Moonlighter was a solid, if somewhat under-appreciated game that explored the background elements of “normal” games – you not only did the exploring and adventuring, but you also sold off all that gear in your shop. A rather large portion of the game was spent in your shop, haggling with customers, and stopping shoplifters. You not only had to worry about building your power level to get into the more lucrative parts of the dungeons, you also had to make sure your shop was set up to sell off that high-end gear.

So how do you expand on that with DLC? If you’re the team at Digital Sun you drop in a new dungeon, 10 new enemies, five new minibosses, a slew of new weapons, a new set of armour, trick weapons – new weapons that sport amazing abilities but also incredible drawbacks, new rings, new shop upgrades, new customers, new storylines and new thieves after your shop’s goods…

Trick weapons are probably my favourite part of the whole expansion, which says a lot because – again – this includes an all-new dungeon, five minibosses, and all kinds of other weapons and armour. The weapons aren’t the most powerful, but they’re the most fun to play around with thanks to their abilities. The morning star fires off an are of effect (AoE) attack with every third strike, while one of the bows shoots arrows that all explode in an AoE. These aren’t incredibly overpowered weapons though, because they require a payment of health every time you use them – not great for those of us who like to spam that attack button.

Moonlighter: Between Dimensions is a fun expansion DLC for a great game that more people should experience. If you haven’t played it yet, grab the game and the DLC and get to it.