The story of Conan Exiles is one of two halves. On launch day (for Xbox One), we tried to give it a go straight out the gate and found it to be an extremely lag-ridden, buggy mess. In multiplayer players would drop out as soon as others joined and in single player things weren’t much better, with the game allowing you about five minutes of play before the sheer weight of everything which had to be loaded in around you caused a few seconds of lag for every second of normal gameplay. In short, it wasn’t something we were feeling too confident about as far as first impressions go.
One element which is yet to be explored in depth is the idea of religion, as you choose one of a handful of deities for your character to follow when creating them and each have their own altars with their own abilities. For example, if you character follows Yog, their shrine (the aforementioned fire pit) will let you cook human meat, which doesn’t spoil.
The combat is straightforward enough to be able to jump into easily, though the timing can be tricky as your character generally flinches when hit, and mashing attack at the wrong time can find you stuck in a loop of being pummelled to death. Fortunately your allies will generally (if they can be trusted) come to your aid, and the game is certainly enjoyed best as a co-op experience.
While everyone levels and learns recipes separately, crafting items for others isn’t an issue, meaning we were able to craft plenty of extra clothes and weapons in preparation for our game (before the team promptly threw themselves in a fire and wasted all that hard work...just watch the video).
As far as the endgame or wider story of the game goes, that remains to be seen. The in-game map feels quite vast and filled with different climates to explore once your party is ready to venture away from the comforts of home. Make sure you’re well prepared however, as hyenas and even dragons await you and will make short work of lone survivors.
Despite a shaky start, there’s a solid game to be enjoyed here - providing you’re happy to take the initiative and work a few things out for yourself. The soaring soundtrack feels like a cross between Jurassic Park and Mars from Holst’s The Planets Suite, adding to the sense of scale and grand adventure of proceedings. There’s still plenty of work to do before the full release in 2018, but in the meantime there’s no harm getting to grips with it, providing you think it’s worth £30, but all told it’s a yes from us.
This game is silly. Don’t get us wrong, we don’t mean that in a bad way, but you have to admit no one was calling for Nintendo’s iconic Mario franchise to collide with Ubisoft’s collective of crazed, rabbit-like creatures. What we’ve ended up with as a result of this unholy alliance however, is truly something special.
For many the setup isn’t that important, but the time and care put into it by Ubisoft really puts across what it meant to them to be able to work awithin the Mario universe.
Battles are where the action is of course, and while Beep-O is fine at the odd puzzle, it’s Mario and co. who you’ll be relying on to tackle the rabbids that went extra wacky during the transition. There are a few ever-so-slightly more sane rabbids on your own team, including Rabbid Peach, who constantly snaps selfies and admires herself to really inject her with personality.
Each character has access to different weapons and skills, but variety feels somewhat lacking, with the same skills having different names depending on the hero in an attempt to disguise what’s essentially a copy and paste exercise. What makes things more frustrating is that you might not unlock the character you really want until near enough the end of the game, though at least you can reset your skills at any time to tailor your team to the challenge at hand.
Speaking of which, challenge maps become available once you’ve completed each mode, these taking an existing level and throwing in different conditions like a one turn limit or added enemy variety. Some of these can be taken on in co-op as well, in a perhaps slightly underdeveloped mode which nonetheless manages to be a great time for players in the same room (there’s no online option).
Combat begs comparisons with fellow tactical, turn-based strategy game XCOM, and disappointingly misses the opportunity to poke fun (as far as we noticed), but, on the whole, it really feels quite different thanks to its more basic approach. For example, Mario and chums can dash through enemies during movement to deal serious damage and then attack with weapons, compounding the damage dealt in a way which also fits in with Mario's head-stomping pedigree. Things can even be further simplified by toggling ‘Easy Mode’ at the beginning of any skirmish, helping to make Kingdom Battle more accessible to all.
Combat begs comparisons with fellow tactical, turn-based strategy game XCOM, and disappointingly misses the opportunity to poke fun (as far as we noticed).
Enemies gain skills and health as you do, making the learning curve quite gradual, but there’s a fair amount more re-skinning going on as you progress. Despite that, when the different classes start to interact you suddenly find yourself being tested in ways you didn’t expect, making it all the more rewarding when you finally take all the units down for a victory.
In the end, there’s not much to complain about with Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. It could use more variety in a number of areas - namely abilities, weaponry and the cast of characters on both sides of the titular battle (there’s no shortage to draw from on that front, looking at the recent Mario Kart 8 Deluxe) - but, generally, this is an essential purchase for Nintendo Switch owners. An original game that’s of great quality both at home on the big screen and on the go. In fact, it’s so engrossing that at one point we may have missed our stop on the train… and couldn’t be happier about it.
Severed’s arrival on the Switch is a bit of a strange one. For starters, this being a game that requires a touch-screen to play means it’s one of the few titles in the Switch’s library that has to be played in handheld mode. It will display on a TV if you dock the console, but Sasha, that game’s one-armed heroine, remains completely immobile, no matter how much you manipulate the Joy-Cons.
Slicing off limbs isn’t just for sadistic kicks though, as collecting fallen body parts is key to levelling up Sasha’s abilities. With enough currency collected - be it arms, eyeballs, wings or jaw bones - you get to pick an upgrade from a simple skill tree. It may not be as dense or branching as other, more complicated RPGs out there, but the upgrades on offer in Severed’s skill tree are clear in what they do and what’s needed to unlock them, with everything feeling useful.
If you’re looking for something you can pick up and play on a commute to work or school, then Severed feels perfectly suited for such a job.
Triumphing over the bosses that wait at the end of areas also grants new abilities, such as being able to temporarily blind enemies during a fight or snatch away their buffs like speed or attack boosts. All these extra powers are displayed on your character as living armour, which is a nice way of showing the progress you’ve made. Some of them grant special access to previously inaccessible areas, but having the willpower to go back and unlock them depends on how tolerant you are of the game’s walking animation, which sees you sort of ‘transported’ between a map’s segments that are linked together to create larger, sprawling areas. This can get slightly disorientating if you move too quickly, and using the mini map in the top right of the screen actually felt like an easier, and more efficient way to get around.
During the early stages of the game, you’ll only be tackling one or two monsters at a time, but things quickly escalate and it’s not long before you’re facing three, sometimes four at once. Taking on this many is surprisingly difficult, especially if they’re packing the aforementioned buffs, as even the weaker ones with familiar attack patterns become a real challenge when backed up by their mates. Identifying the most serious threats and taking them out first is key to your success, otherwise it’s easy to end up overwhelmed and frustrated as you frantically try to fend off a barrage of attacks.
An indicator on the bottom of the screen tells you when an enemy is going to attack via a yellow bar, which, once full, means there’s one incoming. Some monsters take time to build their attacks, and can be kept out of a fight altogether if you keep jabbing away to interrupt them, while others deliver ones that can’t be stopped and must instead be blocked.
Battles are triggered by walking into white flames that are dotted periodically throughout the game’s maps, mostly in the dungeon areas. Once activated, you’re locked in until you either emerge victorious or are defeated, in which case you just respawn at the last autosave (usually only a few moments before) with full health, meaning there’s no real punishment for failure other than delaying progress. Dungeons also feature some light puzzles, but they mostly feel like an obligatory inclusion (because dungeons) and all involve simple, familiar mechanics.
Still, if you’re looking for something you can pick up and play on a commute to work or school, then Severed’s simple gameplay, coupled with some light RPG elements and a relatively low-price, means the game feels perfectly suited for such a job. Just be sure to pick up a screen protector.
A dark take on the Ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, Theseus is one of the most engaging virtual reality games we’ve played, despite having its share of problems.
Every single element of Theseus’ presentation is incredibly well considered.
Encounters with Asterion offer up more legitimate scares, the beast being a liberal interpretation of the fabled Minotaur. Conventionally a man with the head of a bull, you’ll instead meet a towering, skull-faced monster with a vertical maw of sharp teeth dominating its torso. The design is definitely Dark Souls inspired, which only serves to make him all the more an imposing physical presence, especially within the 3D realms of VR.
Initially the Labyrinth’s guardian, Asterion was consumed by a literal darkness and coerced into doing evil. Luckily for you, this corruption blinded the creature, making stealth the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over his head. There’s no fighting him, so you’ll need to take the time to creep when his back is turned and freeze when fixed in his gaze to avoid getting insta-killed.
You can battle his eight-legged offspring, though combat is the game’s weak link. Arachnophobes will be disheartened to learn spiders are the solitary enemy type, but can hopefully find solace in the fact they’ll get to stab and burn plenty of the blighters. Theseus fluidly switches between targets as you push the analogue stick in their direction and launch attacks with either his sword or, provided you have one to hand, flaming torch. There’s no real call for finesse here, just mash your way to victory.
Whilst the combat system won’t win any awards, it’s nonetheless exciting to see the choreographed fights play out right in front of you. The same applies to the final encounter, which isn’t anything special in terms of gameplay, but is spectacle enough that you likely won’t mind.
With an incredibly cinematic presentation - one that we find reminiscent of Guillermo del Toro’s work, specifically in its flair for presenting an engrossingly dark fantasy that incorporates elements of both Hollywood and art house - it’s perhaps no surprise that Theseus clocks in at about feature length. It’ll likely take two to three hours to complete, though returning for a second run to gather all of the collectibles and unlock the true ending is an enticing prospect.
If it wasn’t already clear, we adore Theseus’ understated narrative and grim aesthetic. The game draws positive comparisons to a lot of properties we love, but also maintains a strong identity of its own, really hitting a sweet spot in the process. As a result, in spite of the weak combat and linear progression, Theseus is an easy recommendation for PlayStation VR owners.
Lagging six months behind its Oculus Rift and HTC Vive counterparts, Arizona Sunshine has finally made its way to Sony’s PlayStation VR platform. Has the transition to weaker hardware sullied the acclaimed first-person shooter? Or has the extra development time made all the difference?
Vertigo Games have utilised everything at their disposal to comfortably accommodate the experience on console.
Outside of the DualShock 4's issues, aiming is pretty spot on with both the Move and Aim controllers; you’ll utilise point-and-shoot motions in an entirely natural way, satisfyingly lining up shots as if you were in a real 3D environment. Closing one eye and looking down the ironsights allows you to execute strings of carefully-crafted headshots against the intentionally docile and dozy enemy AI, but, in the event a horde springs to life and swarms, you’ll be forced into a spray-and-pray panic, which gets the job done, but at the cost of a chunk of your ammunition.
Ammo should be a limited resource, but if you explore environments thoroughly enough you can scavenge quite the stockpile. Opening up cars, drawers, cupboards and more via occasionally finicky, telekinetic interactions uncovers all sorts of strange hiding places, with certain ammo types being rarer finds than others. You’ll keep track of what you’ve accrued through the innovative, HUD-busting inventory system that sees you look down to inspect the bullets, grenades and firearms holstered on your belt before physically grabbing them to use them. While immersive, the main drawback of this is that, when playing seated, it’s all too easy to accidentally grab items when your arms are held close to your core, so you’ll need to keep them awkwardly outstretched.
You can carry up to four weapons at once, though you’ll find an abundance of them, so it makes sense to choose as diverse a range as possible - namely a shotgun, submachine gun, pistol/magnum and grenade launcher - to tactically meet differing situations head-on. You’ll also sporadically encounter stationary sniper rifle and machine gun emplacements, which offer up an empowering and gleeful temporary twist on combat, helped along by the protagonist’s excited exclamations that will no doubt mirror your own (if you're anything like the psychopaths we are…).
Though they are comparatively empowering, standard zombie encounters aren’t exactly emasculating. This is largely due to the aforementioned healthy levels of ammo, however the (mostly) bright and breezy setting and lead character sap any real sense of horror from the experience. That’s fine, especially with so many VR horror games already on the market, but in doing so it readily passes up on leveraging the genre that is perhaps virtual reality’s greatest asset.
Despite that, it’s still very frightening on the odd occasion you turn around and find a member of the undead ranks invading your personal space, with the resulting unnerved excitement only making us wish it happened more often. Upping the difficulty can draw you closer towards true horror by nixing ammo pickups and buffing zombies, should you desire that, while harsh checkpointing means you’ll actually be invested in staying alive and fear death that little bit more (or possibly just curse the devs).
Aiming is pretty spot on with both the Move and Aim controllers; you’ll utilise point-and-shoot motions in an entirely natural way.
Regardless of your skills, death is something that always comes in Arizona Sunshine’s Horde mode. This is exactly what it says on the tin, or the cassette, in this case, challenging you with surviving increasingly difficult waves of enemies that attack from all sides as you’re confined to a small central area. Playable alone or with up to three partners online, co-op is definitely the way to go, and not just to have someone watching your back. Thanks to the game’s motion control, interacting with players is often cause for hilarity - you might wave to greet one another, dance and fist-pump to celebrate a wave well defended, or even get weird and spend some time stroking each other's faces, locked in prolonged eye contact… Whichever way you play, there’s a relevant leaderboard to track your performance and give you something to strive towards.
While the level of interactivity in Vertigo Games' post-apocalyptic take on the sunny state of Arizona can leave a little to be desired (you can pick up axes, shovels and pans, but can't use them as melee weapons, for example), its nonetheless rich and immersive environments are a pleasure to explore. When combined with seriously satisfying shooting mechanics and entertaining co-op, both thanks to great motion control implementation when using the Aim and Move controllers, Arizona Sunshine takes mantle as one of the first full fat FPS experiences to reach PlayStation VR.
Following cancellation concerns and delays, RiME’s blend of puzzling and adventure finally makes its way to our screens; but does it earn a place alongside contemporaries like Journey, Ico and Zelda?
With all that style, is there any room left for substance? Well, the story itself is fairly basic; you're washed ashore, trying to find out why you’ve ended up there. At the end of each stage you run towards a giant keyhole shaped light: walk into it and you’re transported to a new island to uncover new parts of the story.
The cutscenes that play out in these stage breaks give some colour to the story, building a mystery around the recurring, distant figure who also happens to be wearing a red cape. In all honesty, you’ll see the ending coming from a mile off, but Tequila Works should be applauded for tackling the subjects of loss, death and recovery without using any form of dialogue.
Tequila Works should be applauded for tackling the subjects of loss, death and recovery without using any form of dialogue.
RiME is a puzzle-adventure, and the gameplay truly reflects that. The journey revolves heavily around vertical traversal, solving varying puzzles along the way. These puzzles range from platforming tasks to activate switches (you sing to them) or to reach new areas, pushing and pulling items, collecting orbs to open doors/awaken the sentinels and more.
It’s here that the Zelda influence really becomes more of a parody though; you’ll feel like you’ve played through these before, which, in combination with their relative ease (just follow the obvious clues and hints or the helpful fox) leaves little in the way of challenge. One of the stages is actually one huge puzzle quest, which drained the life from us as it slowly moved to a close, getting in the way of the story and wide-eyed-wonder (add the watching-paint-dry slow loading screens to this pile!).
Although the puzzle element of the game is lacking in originality, we still found ourselves enjoying RiME'sgameplay on the whole. This is largely in debt to the elegant visuals, but also down to a bold choice to create a combat-less game world, in which you'll simply jump, roll and sing. This really does help to convey the story of a child lost, trying to make sense of life and friendship and loss.
This sweet tale is underpinned by an absolutely triumphant score. There’s soaring strings, twinkling pianos and ambient noise that all sway and rise like the mighty in-game ocean. The way the music swells when you near the end of a stage is a trick that is definitely cheesy, but my God is it effective. Running up or down huge stone spiral stairs whilst violins and cellos surge is wholly engrossing, even if it does give more than a wink to Ico.
So, in summary, RiME is a difficult game to really put a number on. For every fantastic moment, there’s a technical issue like the infuriating camera shifts during platforming or a huge frame drop. The game begs to be played multiple times - to find all the collectables and positively explore every nook and cranny - but will most bother? At five to ten hours in its initial playthrough, it’s a great choice for the gamer with limited time, but is the £25-30 price point too rich a prospect? You’ll have to figure these questions out for yourselves, chums, but if you want my two penneth: get it when the price comes down.
Lords of the Fallen was the first attempt at aping From Software’s popular Souls series by developer Deck13 Interactive, but it fell significantly short of matching up. Seemingly undeterred and learning from their past transgressions, The Surge (uninspiring title and all) bucks all trends by proving, on this occasion, second time is in fact the charm.
When locked onto a foe you can focus on one of six body parts, namely the head, torso, or any arm or leg. The game's systems and your current circumstance will dictate where you choose to target; focusing unarmoured areas will lead to quick kills, perfect for when you’re near death and looking to avoid combat, but taking the inherent risk in prolonging a fight by pummelling an armoured section will offer up rewards. Successive successful strikes build your energy gauge, which, when filled to the illustrated mark, allows the player to launch into a cinematic finisher on low-health enemies to sever the battered limb and claim the weapon or armour adorning it as their own. While a weapon is immediately good to go, you’ll need to craft new armour using the piece as a base schematic, gathering the materials to do so by targeting the same relevant area on additional baddies and scrapping their gear for parts.
It’s a brilliantly novel system, essentially making combat a morbid shopping spree in which you cherry pick the bits you want and cut them off your co-workers. It fundamentally changes the way you play, and, as sadistic as it may sound, the varied and violent accompanying finisher animations never ceased to satisfy.
The limb targeting system is brilliantly novel, essentially making combat a morbid shopping spree in which you cherry pick the bits you want and cut them off your co-workers.
That said, it does have its drawbacks. The busy HUD that highlights limbs and their status can be obtrusive and make it somewhat difficult to spot the more subtle tells of an incoming attack, whilst enemies can also catch you with unavoidable damage as you come out of the uninterruptible animations (despite being immune during). While those foibles are annoying, especially when one hit can be enough to immediately kill you, we found Deck13’s solution to the inevitable question of “Why doesn’t Warren - just Warren - simply loot the dead?” more amusing than anything else; corpses spontaneously combust when they hit the floor, which, while avoiding undermining their own mechanics, ranks equally on the video game nonsense scale.
In spite of the issues, combat does a great job of conveying the mechanised and improvised nature of encounters, the tools (often literal, weaponised worker’s tools) at your disposal feeling weighty and impactful or fluid and graceful dependant on which class of weapon - each with their own proficiency level that increases with use - you opt for. While there are no ranged weapons, you do acquire a companion drone that requires energy to use, much like finishing manoeuvres, and can be upgraded to gain new abilities that increase its usefulness. While dealing no significant degree of damage, it's a tactical godsend, allowing you to draw single units from groups to engage them separately and avoid being overwhelmed, or knockdown aggressive targets to dictate the pace of a battle as a couple of examples.
With those winning strategies under your belt, you’ll be earning plenty of Tech Scrap, a resource gathered by defeating enemies and serving much the same purpose as Souls do in the series bearing their name. In a twist carried over from Lords of the Fallen, the longer you stay out in the field, the more you earn, with a growing multiplier goading you into taking risks you probably shouldn’t. In doing so, you put your entire pot on the line, as when you die (and you will die) all of the Tech Scrap on your person falls to the ground and you have but one brief chance to reclaim it - if you die again or let the 02:30 timer (which can be topped up by getting kills) deplete before retrieving it, it’s gone for good.
Better to be safe than sorry is a good mantra to adopt, frequently returning to the bonfire-like Medbays to make use of all that glorious Scrap, even at the cost of resetting your multiplier and repopulating the area. Medbays are much less prevalent than bonfires, with strictly one per area, but this is balanced out by the fact you can safely bank Tech Scrap to use at a later time and occasionally find Medstations to replenish your health and items out in the wild. You’ll use Scrap to upgrade your gear - and make sure you do so frequently, because needlessly hoarding it will be your downfall - via the game’s simplified RPG systems. Rather than allocating points to specific stats, you boost your Core Power, which allows you to equip more/better equipment by having the necessary juice to power it.
That might mean you don some fancy armour modules, or that you affix an additional implant, the latter offering one of a range of active and passive perks that range from carrying additional healing items, to earning more energy, to increasing your stamina and far more beyond that. The system allows you to respec to your heart’s content, experimenting with different loadouts to discover one that fits your play style and sees the pieces fall into place. You won’t be able to get too comfortable, however, as if you were to opt for an energy-focused, lumbering tank (for example) that wouldn’t serve you well in all walks, so you’ll need to be flexible and mix things up on those occasions.
The customisation system allows you to respec to your heart’s content, experimenting with different loadouts to discover one that fits your play style and sees the pieces fall into place.
Core Power also serves as a gating mechanic, with paths opened up by overcharging electrical systems where you meet the requirement. These often serve as satisfying shortcuts back to the warm embrace of a Medbay, with environments constantly looping back on themselves in a considered display of intelligent level design.
Areas hold all manner of secrets and loot-based rewards, compelling you to explore every corner of the world, but they aren’t seamlessly interconnected or nearly as sprawling and varied as those that inspired them. That’s not to say they aren’t good - great, even - but by openly drawing comparison to arguably the very best in the business, they begin to fall short.
With no map or objective markers, Deck13 place trust in their design and the intelligence of their players to be able to intuitively follow the game’s nonlinear progression, which sometimes requires you to backtrack to put new items and abilities to use. This makes any and all progress feel satisfyingly earnt, rather than something you just take as given. The same approach is adopted for side missions (delivered by fellow survivors in awkward conversational exchanges), whereby it’s entirely on you to peruse the end goal without any form of handholding; if you can’t find what you’re looking for, you quite simply don’t complete them.
Open spaces generally betray the location of a boss, with battles being disappointingly infrequent considering their consistent high quality. Fights are unforgiving, drawn-out affairs that will generally require a few trial and error deaths before everything clicks and you figure out their attack patterns, your optimum positioning, and your windows of opportunity. With no multiplayer to speak of, and, thus, no summoning a co-op partner for help, you have to ‘get good’ and surmount these significant obstacles independently.
Often large and imposing, transforming themselves and their stages in an intimidating display as battles progress, the mechanised bosses match up to many of the Souls series’ famed behemoths in terms of visuals and mechanics, but are less memorable thanks by and large to the accompanying soundtrack. An industrial sound that, while fitting, is totally generic unsuccessfully stands in for bombastic scores that inspire fear whilst mirroring a boss’ unique personality and movement.
Despite suffering some shortfalls, once you sink your teeth into The Surge’s innovative customisation suite and find what works for you, the game’s core pillars of combat and exploration become immensely rewarding to engage with. With the Souls series officially on hiatus, The Surge offers up a riveting equivalent with plenty of its own merit, though doesn't quite best what is, to borrow a phrase from Dark Souls’ own Oscar of Astora, a game so grossly incandescent.
When I sampled World to the West at EGX Rezzed this year, I found it to be a pretty, Zelda-inspired adventure that was pleasant enough, but not much more. As the wisest folks always say: “Don’t judge a book by its reader” and how right they truly are, chums, for World to the West is, in actuality, a charming adventure full of wonderful characters and rewarding exploration.
As you progress, you’ll find yourself taking in rugged deserts, cool blue waters, icy mountains, evergreen forests, a lavish village that houses the hilarious “Affluent Society” (the game pokes fun at the pompousness of the higher classes splendidly) and many more small settlements and habitats. You’ll also find yourself spending a great deal of time puzzle solving and adventuring in the vast underground network of passages and rivers. These pretty much double the size of the already generous map, so you’ll be glad to hear that totem poles scattered across the world act as fast travel points.
Going back to an earlier area with a new power will make you feel immortal, though, as you rip through a previously unreachable destination...
“What kind of puzzle solving and combat can I expect to encounter throughout my adventure?” I hear thee ask. Well, the puzzle solving takes on various forms; some require you to switch between all four characters to unlock an area, taking it in turns to figure out which character is built for each part, whilst others offer more basic puzzles such as getting a key, breaking down a barrier, etc. that require the ability of just one of your band of merry chums. On the whole, the puzzles are great fun to solve, although some will frustrate with their long-winded nature - spending hours searching for stone tablets might irk some folks, but we actually rather enjoyed it!
Going back to an earlier area with a new power will make you feel immortal, though, as you rip through a previously unreachable destination. Add to that the “eureka” moments that accompany many of the puzzles (often leading into an equally rewarding boss fight/new area to explore), and there’s a lot of fun to be had here.
Combat, however, can unfortunately be a little hit-and-miss. This is largely due to Lord Clonington providing so much joy with his bashing and smashing, that the others don’t quite carry the same fun factor. Knaus’ dynamite hitting in the second half of the game can be good fun, as can Lumina’s bolts of electric, but they both suffer dodgy aiming issues. We died many, many times trying to defeat both character’s bosses, and felt that the balance was tipped towards the AI because of these accuracy foibles.
The soundtrack is worth its own commendation, with the sublime underground exploration theme being a particular treat. An army of instruments sway from sleepy harps to acoustic guitars, whistles, flutes, drums and horns. The Lynchian 50s electric guitar that features on one number is a particular favourite here at PTC. Regardless of where you are in the game world, WTTW’s music and sound effects not only work, but excel at injecting emotion into the experience.
In summary, World to the West is an absorbing, delightful adventure that will appeal to many, not just genre enthusiasts. It’s perfect for those looking for a rich world to immerse themselves in, but not the associated time sink of 50 plus hours. A colourful, handsome visual veneer contains a fun, silly story, hilarious characters (play through Clonington’s Affluent Society trials for drink-out-the-nostrils laughter), lovely music, grand puzzles and a world of exploration that begs to be revisited. This game is a steal at £19.99 - in spite of a few minor bugs and issues (fingers crossed for a patch) - so don’t be foolish enough to let it pass you by!
If World to the West sounds like your thing, enter our giveaway to be in with a chance of winning a copy on Steam.
A Norse-themed narrative experience, FATED: The Silent Oath sees players assume the role of a mute, Viking protagonist, having traded their voice for their life to a mythical Valkyrie. When your clan find their homes ransacked and razed, you begin a journey through Ragnarök - the cataclysmic end times - in a story packed with familiar lore and eager to draw emotional response from the player.
Once you’ve surmounted the mostly laborious opening chapters, FATED blossoms into an honest to goodness adventure.
Not only does FATED improve from a gameplay perspective at the tail end, but by tightening its cast it allows them the space and time to develop, and, as a direct result, the character-driven story begins to take shape. It’s at this point the journey concludes, however, with an ending that succeeds in tugging at your heartstrings, if only because it’s inherently tragic. While many will find it unsatisfactory, we’d rather be left wanting more than wishing a flagging game was over, and we definitely wanted more.
In the end, FATED: The Silent Oath is a little too ambitious for its own good; developer Frima had good intentions, though ultimately crippled themselves by sticking to a feature length presentation. If roles were reversed - adventure had been the forethought with narrative occupying a background role - the game would have made a better impression, but as it is, it’s a story-driven game that falls just short of spinning an inspiring yarn. Considering its reasonable price (£7.99), occasional moments of excellence and will to experiment in a new medium, it gets a cautious recommendation in spite of its flaws.
Releasing in the same week as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the Nintendo Switch itself is a bold move. You could argue that there’s not necessarily a lot of crossover between the audience for BOTW and Wildlands, but there’s no doubt the game would have received a greater share of gamers’ attention had it released at a different time (this review would certainly have reached you sooner at least).
The drone is the real star of all the gear in your backpack, capable of scouting areas and quite easily marking everyone in sight. Once you’ve thrown a few update points into it to increase its range and implement a night vision camera, you’ll quickly find it comfortably encourages a more measured approach.
It’ll get a lot of use, as areas generally boil down to kill everyone and pick up some intel (either human or otherwise), before moving on to the next location to do it again. There’s a liberal spread of helicopters, which help you get between them quickly, though if you’ve made too much commotion the well-equipped UNIDAD (Bolivian special forces on the cartel’s payroll) will make your life difficult.
Areas generally boil down to kill everyone and pick up some intel, before moving on to the next location to do it again.
The map itself is vast, with 21 regions to explore across the largely mountainous countryside. As a result of being based on a real place, the variety of terrain is less varied and more realistic (read: a tad samey), with roads winding countless times to enable you to ascend some of its highest peaks.
This can prove tiresome if you’re tied to a car or truck, since the vehicle handling is far from refined here, so the sensible option is always to get hold of a chopper. Thankfully, as we mentioned earlier, they aren’t hard to get your hands on, especially once you unlock the perk which spawns one immediately nearby - you do need to be a bit careful to not spawn it inside a mountainside, however...
You’re slowly introduced to an arsenal of new weaponry on your travels, the order in which you unlock equipment depending on where you decide to visit first. The selection is deep but without a lot of character, as even customised weapons feel quite generic, and access to heavy weapons is available only where mounted gun placements are installed in enemy strongholds. If you’re looking for a fire-and-forget rocket launcher to take down that pesky enemy helicopter, then you’re going to be out of luck.
The sheer number of enemies you can come up against is quite staggering, sometimes 30 or 40 in a single compound, which continues to lead you down the road of being methodical rather than rash. To help you out with that, there’s a sync shot mechanic which lets you paint targets and then take them out simultaneously as a team, in what’s essentially a slightly more manual iteration of Splinter Cell’s mark and execute system. The result can be extremely satisfying, though enemies breaking line of sight or taking cover can throw a spanner in the works and shatter the power fantasy.
Throughout the course of the game your character isn’t fully fleshed out in their own right, but, while customisable, nor are they an avatar for yourself; this puts them in an awkward limbo between the two, as you listen to the team’s forgettable, but sadly not ignorable, banter between missions. To expect character development equivalent to that of an RPG might be unfair, but there is a freedom in how your character behaves and inhabits the world, so it’s disappointing to seem little consequence come of your choices in the long run - other than a couple of different endings, depending on your diligence.
Whether this is a game you’ll continue to enjoy weeks and months down the line largely depends on your enjoyment of crossing symbols off a map, as there are quite a few different collectables to gather. That doesn’t help Wildlands break the Ubisoft mould, but then there aren’t any particularly big risks on show here: there’s nothing equivalent to a charismatic villain in Far Cry, or compelling PvP option like The Division’s Dark Zone - though the latter is said to be coming as post-launch DLC.
All of this makes Wildlands feel a little archaic. It looks decent, and plays pretty well, but there’s nothing which truly inspires or feels like it moves the genre, series or Ubisoft’s catalogue forward. It feels like this game could just as easily have come out five years ago with slightly worse graphics and still not have made tremendous waves.
Developers are being pushed harder and further for depth, scale and storytelling every year, and we seem to have reached a stage where a game which is just fundamentally sound doesn’t really cut it any more. If that’s what you’re looking for then you’ll be pleased with a purchase of Wildlands, and for fans who’ve been following its development their expectations should be met, but with Horizon: Zero Dawn, Assassin’s Creed and even Just Cause in a similar ballpark - all of which offer more character - by comparison the game feels a little lifeless. Sticking closer to Ghost Recon's roots may well have served the series better.
What did you think of the game? Let us know in the comments.