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From the creators of Dark Souls, comes their latest entry. Based on a brand new mythology, and bringing some new gameplay mechanics into the mix, this game is set to be one of the favorites of 2022. Once again, gamers all over the world will prepare to die, die, and die again.
Like most of FromSoftware games, Elden Ring's story is not told in a typical way. Aside from the initial introduction to its world and mythology - as well as the player's place in it - via a starting cutscene, players are thrust into the world to explore and discover its lore on their own.
Most of the background story comes via item descriptions, or cryptic dialogue sequences from NPCs which provide a rich narrative background for all things players encounter, even though it's not necessarily spelled out. Often, it'll be up to the player to connect the dots, in order to fully grasp the arching story of the game's world.
Anyone familiar with Souls games will feel instantly at home when playing Elden Ring. A lot of the core mechanics found in previous games are present here - however, there are some welcomed and surprising changes. The introduction of the open world and a jump mechanic will add a level of verticality to the game that will feel refreshing. The reworking of miracles into incantations, and the way now some magics function, paired with armament skills, all lend themselves to a more fluid type of combat. You can still technically play the game exactly as you would play a Dark Souls game, but new classes and mechanics (stealth!) reward players with more satisfying combat, if they are willing to embrace the differences.
The ability to summon a spectral steed to traverse the open world is also something that's brand new to the series. Not limited to serving as a means of transportation, your steed can also be used during fights - basically creating an entirely new way to engage in combat or to avoid it. This added element adds a rather unique element of speed to fights - something that players will need to find the right balance to master. It looks cool, but it's hard to hit enemies sometimes, as you often fly past them and miss the swing of your weapon.
Elden Ring is a cross-generational game, with all that that entails. The visuals, while looking impressive thanks to strong art direction and design, will also have the limitations carried over from last generation. Next gen features such as raytracing and the like are not present in the game, for example.
With that said, the game still looks stunning at 4k. Its mature game engine is somewhat optimized, and allows one to run at high settings even at the locked 60fps the game requires. The PC version, however, does seem to have some underlying issues - the game will often suffer from a stutter, which appears to happen whenever some new shader asset is streamed; this seems to happen no matter what graphic settings you are running, so it's not likely due to the hardware itself. From a design perspective - enemy bosses continue to be cleverly designed and modeled to be visually unique, and the overall aestheic of the world/buildings that populate the world emote just the right tone of mystery and ominous danger that players have come to expect.
If you are a Dark Souls fan - play this game. You won't be dissapointed. If you are new to the series, or Souls-like games in general, I still think it's worth giving the game a shot, as long as you understand that the game is built around the idea of dying and losing progress quite often - which makes any significant progress made feel like a monumental victory.
The latest game in the Pokemon franchise, Pokemon Legends Arceus looks to write a new chapter in the series. Leaving behind the tried and true gameplay formula of the main series games, while still keeping the essence of "gotta catch them all," it is probably the biggest evolution the series has seen yet (in context).
Let's be honest, most Pokemon games tend to have a simple story (after all, it's the catching and batling that has always been their core) - Arceus is not necessarily different, but it does feel like this time around the developers sought to infuse a bit more storytelling and narrative into the game. It is not an epic story by any means, but it sure does have some charming moments.
The game starts with a common trope - a nameless protagonist is facing a being of light in a sort of limbo. At this point, the player is prompted to select what their character will be named and what they'll look like. After the initial selection, and some exposition by the being of light, the protagonist (who, based on his clothing, is from modern times) is sent through a rift to land in what appears to the past.
In this time, Pokemon are still mainly wild creatures, whom people misunderstand and even fear. The Galaxy expedition (yep - that Team Galaxy?) and its members have only recently begun to study and catalogue pokemon in earnest - in other words, for long-time fans of the series - you're basically at the very beginning of the creation of the Pokedex, and are going to play an integral part of it.
The protagonist, an oddity due to being from a rift, is given an ultimatum - pass the test or be left alone to try and survive in the wild - the test being one to see if you have what it takes to become a surveyor (Pokemon trainer, by another name) and become a member of the Galaxy Survey Corp.
If you've played Pokemon before - many of the gameplay elements you remember are still here. The main difference will be in how you go about doing them. Add to that a layer of open world design, and you truly have a Pokemon game that many fans have been waiting for. The sense of freedom and excitement (and even danger) of catching pokemon really begin to shine here. One could argue that the Pokemon Company is years late to the party, but hey, at least they have begun to change a bit.
First things first - the open world. A vast, expansive track of land to explore, populated with all kinds of pokemon to catch. The meta game remains - find each Pokemon. The way you do it now, however, is different. Not only is the fact that you now visually have to find each pokemon, all spread in different spawn areas (some being only discoverable at certain times of day), but the way you catch them is also different. For example, you can sneak around hidding in tall grass, spot a Pokemon and have to physically aim your pokeball at your targeted Pokemon, or you can choose to throw a pokeball with your own Pokemon to engage in combat and catch them during battle.
Even the mechanics of throwing pokeballs have additional layers, such as getting a higher chance to catch Pokemon if the ball is thrown from behind (and at their head), or while the Pokemon sleeps; different types of pokeballs change how you catch them as well - like heavy balls (don't travel far, but harder for Pokemon to get free) or wing balls (far flying balls that allow you to catch Pokemon that are flying!).
Pokemon battles have new additions that can change the feel and flow of combat. For one thing - a Pokemon no longer has to forget moves to learn new ones; you are able to change which moves a Pokemon will use through a menu (pre-battle), so you can customize your fighting pokemon before each battle. Additionally, moves can also be mastered. A mastered move allows you to apply two different effects: Agile and Strong styles. Each has their strengths and drawbacks (for example, Strong style enhances the move's power, but will increase your turn move order).
The next core gameplay element is the Pokedex. Each Pokemon entry has its own unique set of tasks to complete. While it is not necessary to 100% each entry, many die-hard Pokemon fans will find this part of the game an interesting past time, as they seek to catch, defeat, evolve, stun, etc. each Pokemon type in order to get those entries to perfect completion; while some can get borderline tedious, many are quite manageable and even challenging at times.
The game looks nice enough. Pokemon games are not known for pushing graphical boundaries, after all. The overall art direction of the game is solid, and the Pokemon designs are always fun. The open world is a bit sparse, full of simple textures and geometry - one assumes, mainly due to the limited power of the hardware, and the developer's unwillingness to push graphical boundaries - but it's all cohesive with the rest that it doesn't overtly distract from the experience. This is probably one of the best looking Pokemon games to date, if you are willing to overlook graphical shortcomings such as, pop-in, low LOD, no antialiasing, etc.
I think longtime fans, and even new fans will find something to enjoy in Pokemon Legends Arceus. It has just enough of the classic, and a lot of new things that will play well with modern gamers - it's a great evolution for the Pokemon franchise, even if we still wish, in our hearts of hearts, that it'd looked better.
The latest installment of the long running "Tales" series, this action JRPG excels at both visuals and gameplay; taking advantage of Unreal Engine to bring a game that will play well with modern gamers' sensibilities.
Tales games, while technically a series, are usually their own self contained stories unrelated to previous entries. Tales of Arise continues that tradition with a brand new story and world to dive into. The world setting (or worlds in this case), is the medieval world of Dahna and the more technological advanced world of Rena. These two worlds are locked together in similar orbit, which means they are visible in each others skies.
The Renans, it turns out, invaded Dahna 300 years ago, and took the entire population captive; a population which they currently use as slave labor and an energy source to fuel a contest that determines the new Renan "sovereign." What this means for Dahna - it has been divided into sections (by element), each ruled by one of the competing lords, as they push to collect the most energy to be crowned the victor.
You play as an amnesiac protagonist, who, as far as he can remember, has been stuck with a metal mask that cannot be taken off (think man in the iron mask). As the story unfolds, you'll find yourself involved in the Dahna resistance, meet new party members along the way, and go out into the greater world as you seek to take down each lord, in order to free your people.
The story might feel stardard fare early on, but as the game goes on, the layers are slowly peeled off to a more interesting core. Expect some emotional highs and lows in this epic story on the nature of freedom and redemption.
If you've previously played a Tales games, the gameplay will feel very familiar. That's not to say that nothing new has been added, but a lot of previous game's mechanics have carried over to this game - so you still have an action RPG at its core, with some new elements sprinkled in to give it a fresh coat of paint.
The new elements mentioned alter the feel of combat quite a bit - specially since now the game has a heavier emphasis on evading and countering attacks. Additionally, "boost strikes" add an extra element of control, as players are able to call in any party member to perform special combo attacks with, adding awesome flair to each fight. Chaining boost strikes, over limits, and artes make for very dynamic (and super coloful) fights. Combat in this game quickly became one of my favorite things. Instead of avoiding fights, I started seeking them out more and more.
True to RPGs, you'll still need to consider levels. While combat does rely more on twitch gameplay (evading damage/counters), you'll find that being lower level results in doing less and taking more damage. In other words, no matter how good you are at evading, you are not going to be able to take on enemies that are well above your level.
Equipment also plays a big role in combat. You'll need to constantly keep forging the latest weapons, as well as buying armor upgrades for your party, if you want to make it through the game without struggling. It should be noted that the game is generous at providing new armors via discoverable chests in each particular story section, but I don't suggest relying on that as a means of keeping all of your party fighting ready.
Tales of Arise makes use of Unreal Engine, which means it features a whole range of modern graphical options, yet the devs brought a unique flavor to the visuals thanks to a strong sense of art direction. The character models are well designed and visually impressive, with excellent use of polygonal geometry to add fine details to each character. Game textures are stylized to emote the feeling of an anime, rather than trying to be hyper realistic; showing fine details when necessary, but mainly leaning towards simpler shaders to achieve that anime look.
The gameworld itself is also highly detailed and varied. As one progresses through the game's regions, the player is treated to radically different environments, each showcasing their own unique styles. From arid deserts to snow covered towns, this game has numerous vistas that will impress. It stands as the best looking Tales game to date.
With all that said and done, is this a game worth playing? First, ask yourself two things - do I like JRPG games and anime? If any of those answers is no, I do not recommend you play this game, as it will dissapoint you in many ways. The game itself is very much a JRPG, and the story telling is very anime - tropes and all. If you are already a fan of Tales games, or JRPGs in general, then yes, pick this game up - its strong story and JRPG gameplay will be something you'll enjoy in the 60+ hours it'll take to beat. It's probably one of the better Tales games I've ever played.